Daily Archive: 02/08/2012

Feb 08 2012

“Anybody hurt, guys?”

That’s what you’ll hear one cop say on the video at 2:33 after the cops violently grab a man from his car, throw him on the ground, one puts his knee in the man’s ribs, another kicks his face.   Except the driver was not in any medical condition to hurt anyone.

Of course, there is always the possibility that one cop could have sprained his ankle or pulled a hamstring when he kicked a defenseless man.  Or perhaps the other cop could have twisted his knee while planting it into a defenseless man’s ribs.  It could happen, ya know.

Adam Greene is on his stomach as a pack of police officers pile on him, driving their knees into his back and wrenching his arms and legs. One officer knees him in the ribs; another kicks him in the face.

“Stop resisting,” officers on the video yell, but Greene, his face pushed into the pavement, hasn’t resisted. He doesn’t even move — maybe can’t move — because he’s gone into diabetic shock caused by low blood sugar.



Do not move

Do not move

Hands up

Hands up

Do not move

Hey, driver, do not move

Stop resisting, motherfucker

Stop resisting, motherfucker

Video shows officers beating motorist in diabetic shock

Feb 08 2012

Spelunking

You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not over excited by Matt Taibbi’s latest which I think entirely misses the point.

After all, this is a man who celebrated Schniederman’s appointment as a  victory instead of just another sell out which we are seeing right now in Obama’s cave on birth control is the only mode this administration knows.

Sophisticated snark?  Never bought that for an instant Matt.

He does make several points that I’ll repeat to save you the agony of plowing through the source

Goldman’s numbers, to me, offer a hilarious counterpoint to Sherman’s piece. The bank’s earnings in total for last year were $4.4 billion, down some 65% off of last year’s numbers. Its revenues for the year were down 26%. Despite these bummerific numbers, Goldman reduced bonuses and compensation by only 21%, down to $12.2 billion, certainly a number to weep over. If the era of outsized bonuses is over, how come the biggest banks aren’t even cutting them to match revenues, much less profits? One could even interpret Goldman’s numbers as a major increase in the size of the bonus pool, relative to earnings.

But what about other banks? Well, Citigroup also saw a drop in revenues for the year (although its net income actually went up, from $10.6 billion to $11.3 billion). But what was most concerning was the bank’s crappy fourth quarter, when it suffered an 11% drop in earnings.



(N)ow Wall Street is being threatened with a return to those “quaint” days of loaning money and supervising bond issues and such.



Look, the financial services industry should be boring. It should be quaint. Let’s take the municipal debt business. For ages, it was a simple, dull, low-margin sort of industry, in which banks arranged municipal bond issues and made small but dependable profits as cities and towns financed improvements and construction projects.

That system worked seamlessly for decades, until people like Sherman’s interview subjects suddenly decided to make the business exciting. You know what happens when you make municipal debt exciting? Jefferson County Alabama happens. Or, on a macro level, Greece happens.

When making a few points on mere bond issues stops being enough, and you have to cook up crazy swap schemes and indices to bet against those schemes, ingenious scams allowing politicians to borrow billions of dollars that they will never in a million years be able to pay back, you might end up getting a few parks, schools, and subways in New York.

But what you get everywhere else is a giant clusterfuck that costs the rest of us years and even more billions of tax dollars to remedy.

This is what the protests are all about – it’s anger that Wall Street has been profiting from an imaginary economy that leaves bankers overpaid, but creates damage everywhere else. Sherman doesn’t get this.

Matt doesn’t seem to get it either.

Why are we supporting Republican policies again?  You’ll have to speak a little louder, I’m a mite deaf in that ear.

Feb 08 2012

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: What We Learned From Planned Parenthood: Fighting Back Works

In 2010, when the right-wing echo chamber succeeded in destroying ACORN-a group Bill Moyers described as “more devoted to helping poor people become their own best champions” than any group he’d ever covered as a journalist-Senator Bernie Sanders offered this warning:

“These same forces drummed Van Jones out of the White House. The rightwing echo chamber is now two-for-two, and no one should have any illusions that it won’t be back.”

Sanders’ words proved prescient. Since 2010 Planned Parenthood-along with organized labor-has been a prime target of a well-funded and relentless effort by Republicans to dismantle and destroy progressive institutions. While the right might employ different tactics depending on the target, the goal is the same: take down progressive groups that have institutional strength.

Nancy Goldstein: Proposition 8 Is Unconstitutional. What’s Next for the Anti-Gay Law?

Today’s decision overruling Proposition 8 is deeply satisfying. The randomly assigned three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Court went beyond finding, 2-1, that Prop 8’s amendment of California’s state constitution failed the rational basis test and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Judge Reinhardt’s 128-page decision also skewers the claims of Prop 8’s proponents to be protecting marriage, revealing their alleged concerns as nothing more than sheer mean-spirited prejudice tricked out as paternalism. To wit, “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

This is rousing stuff and one of the biggest losses that anti-equality supporters have ever suffered. “Even though this is a narrow decision that applies only to California, it will return us to same-sex marriage in an important state – one that has 40 million people and a disproportionate influence on the politics and culture of the country,” says Dale Carpenter, law professor at the University of Minnesota.

Michelle Chen: Two Years After Haiti’s Earthquake, Women Are Still Shattered by Sexual Exploitation

It’s been two years since hell paid Haiti a visit, but for countless women, terror still stalks the ruins. The scars of the January 2010 earthquake are etched on their bodies, in an ever-widening pattern of sexual exploitation.

A crisis of gender-based violence and exploitation is festering–and foreign aid efforts are still failing to protect survivor communities from harm, or to make the criminal justice system more accountable.

Ilyse Hugue: The Evil Brilliance of Komen’s Karen Handel

This morning, Karen Handel resigned as the vice president of public policy of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Handel had spent the last week at the epicenter of the controversy around Komen’s decision to withdraw support for Planned Parenthood and several progressive groups were circulating petitions to call for her dismissal. Handel’s very public resignation letter shows a political acumen and sophisticated grasp of cultural narrative that seems to have eluded Komen generally and their CEO, Nancy Brinker, through this entire debacle. [..]

This morning, Karen Handel resigned as the vice president of public policy of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Handel had spent the last week at the epicenter of the controversy around Komen’s decision to withdraw support for Planned Parenthood and several progressive groups were circulating petitions to call for her dismissal. Handel’s very public resignation letter shows a political acumen and sophisticated grasp of cultural narrative that seems to have eluded Komen generally and their CEO, Nancy Brinker, through this entire debacle.

Vandana Shiva: The Seed Emergency: The Threat to Food and Democracy

Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis – and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.

New Delhi, India – The seed is the first link in the food chain – and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty – and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty.

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved – and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.

Pat Lamarche: Roseanne Barr Joins Other Green Party Candidates

Comedic innovator, proud grandma and self-proclaimed domestic goddess Roseanne Barr has announced her candidacy for President of the United States as well as for Prime Minister of Israel.  Although some have argued that the former is so dictated to by the latter that holding both offices is unnecessarily redundant.

In less than 48 hours since Barr submitted her paperwork to the Green Party, a quick web search has yielded more than seven hundred links featuring news stories or commentary.

Many of the articles – like the one that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor – question Barr’s sincerity as she throws her hat into the ring.

And the wild fire of speculation on whether this was just another of Barr’s shenanigans or a true bid for the nomination representing the nation’s hundreds of thousands of Green Party members isn’t unique to the media outlets across the land, but in the discussion topic of rank and file greens as well.

Feb 08 2012

Haircuts

6 pm tomorrow.

Oh, so not the haircut you thought I was talking about.

How about this-

Banks Paying Homeowners to Avoid Foreclosures

By Prashant Gopal, Bloomberg News

Feb 7, 2012 12:00 AM ET

As lenders shift their focus to sales, they are finding that some borrowers would rather risk repossession while they wait for a loan modification, according to Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade journal. In a loan modification, the monthly payment, and sometimes principal, is reduced to help prevent seizure. Homeowners facing foreclosure may live rent-free for years before they are forced out.

“That’s why the banks have got to pay the big bucks,” Cecala said. “The real question is why is the bribe so big? Is that what it takes to get somebody out of their home?”



Cecala of Inside Mortgage Finance said he wonders whether lenders are making big payments on properties with underlying title problems. Evan Berlin, managing partner of Berlin Patten, a real estate law firm in Sarasota, Florida, said representatives of a large bank told him the incentives are primarily given to borrowers when it doesn’t have the proper paperwork needed to win its foreclosure case.

Because that’s where the money is-

Greece, Troika Work on Final Rescue Draft

By Marcus Bensasson, Maria Petrakis and Natalie Weeks, Bloomberg News

Feb 7, 2012 9:45 AM ET

Adding to pressure on Papademos and political leaders jostling ahead of the elections, the biggest public-sector and private-sector union groups, ADEDY and GSEE, held a 24-hour general strike today, shutting down government services, courts, schools and ferry services. Dockworkers and bank employees also walked off the job while a walkout by culture ministry workers forced the closure of museums and other tourist attractions.

“What is taking place isn’t a negotiation,” GSEE president Yannis Panagopoulos said in an e-mailed statement. “It’s raw, cynical blackmail against a whole people.”



The troika argues that lower wage costs is among reforms necessary to boost competitiveness in the country. Those opposed say the cuts would deepen the country’s recession, now in its fifth year.

Antonis Samaras, the head of the second-biggest party, New Democracy, has indicated he will oppose measures that will deepen the country’s downturn.

Guarantees from Greek political leaders such as Samaras, who leads in opinion polls, are key to securing the funds from the EU and IMF. International lenders want assurances that whoever wins the next election will stick to pledges made now to receive financing.

The rescue blueprint includes a loss of more than 70 percent for bondholders in a voluntary debt exchange that will slice 100 billion euros off 200 billion euros of privately-held Greek debt and loans that will probably exceed the 130 billion euros now on the table. A formal offer for the debt swap must be made by Feb. 13 to allow all procedures to be completed before the March 20 bond comes due.

Creditors are prepared to accept an average coupon of as low as 3.6 percent on new 30-year bonds in the exchange, said a person familiar with the talks, who declined to be identified because a final deal hasn’t been struck yet.

The End of Wall Street As They Knew It

By Gabriel Sherman, New York Magazine

Published Feb 5, 2012

To understand how radically Wall Street is changing, you have to first understand how modern Wall Street made its money. In the quaint old days, Wall Street tended to earn its profits rather boringly by loaning money, advising mergers, and supervising bond issues and IPOs. The leveraging of the American economy-and the supercharging of the financial industry-began in earnest in the early eighties. And banks have profited from a successive series of financial bubbles, each bigger and more violent than the one preceding it. “Wall Street did a really good job convincing people it was really complicated and they were the only ones who could do it and it justified paying them millions of dollars,” a former Lehman trader explained. Credit was the engine that powered the explosion in bank profits. From junk bonds in the eighties to the emerging-markets crisis in the nineties to the subprime mania of the aughts, Wall Street developed new ways to produce, package, and sell debt to willing investors. The alphabet soup of complex vehicles that defined the 2008 crash-CLO, CDO, CDS-had all been developed to sell more credit. “If you look at the past 25 years, the world economy was going through a process of leveraging,” a senior Citigroup executive said. “Debt has grown faster than economic growth. The banking industry was at the epicenter of facilitating the growth of credit creation. It drove every business.”



After the big investment banks went public, the sense of restraint that sometimes could hold back private partnerships from taking on too much risk-it was their own money-was removed. Bank earnings and ever-rising asset values allowed them to borrow ever-larger amounts of money, which in turn juiced ever-greater profits. Banks, which had previously made their money advising corporations and underwriting securities, essentially became giant hedge funds (in 2007, Morgan Stanley held $1.05 trillion in assets supported by just $30 billion in equity). The triumph of the Wall Street system was the exploitation of the real-estate boom: Real estate enabled the biggest credit bubble ever conceived-and a bust of similar magnitude, which some shrewd traders also took advantage of. “The mortgage mess is the biggest financial mess we’ll see in our lifetime,” Jamie Dimon told me.

And without real estate to fuel growth, many on Wall Street know it’ll be a long time before there is ever a profit center like it again. “The number of houses being sold is 25 percent of what it was,” a former Lehman trader says. “You don’t have the mortgages behind it. Essentially the pump has stopped working. All the IPOs, the mergers-everything is slowing down. And the number of new homes will never jump back to what it was. If you look at history, the past 50 years have been incredible. Never has there been a period of time of so little disease and so few wars and such growth of such absurd wealth.”



(R)ecently, hedge funds have fared just as poorly as the banks. The bad economy plays a role in this, of course. But just as important is the fact the hedge-fund industry is almost as overbuilt as the housing and credit markets that drove its profits. In 1990, there were 610 hedge funds in the world. In 2000, there were 3,873; in 2011, there were 9,553, according to a report by Hedge Fund Research. All these funds are chasing fewer surefire trades. “When markets are panicked and there’s global risk fear, the markets move in the same direction,” one analyst at a Manhattan hedge fund says. “It’s just a lot harder to make money.” The easy, obvious plays are oversubscribed, which shrinks margins.



“We used to rely on the public making dumb investing decisions,” one well-known Manhattan hedge-fund manager told me. “but with the advent of the public leaving the market, it’s just hedge funds trading against hedge funds. At the end of the day, it’s a zero-sum game.” Based on these numbers-too many funds with fewer dollars chasing too few trades-many have predicted a hedge-fund shakeout, and it seems to have started. Over 1,000 funds have closed in the past year and a half.



On Wall Street, the misery index is as high as it’s been since brokers were on window ledges back in 1929. But sentiments like that, accompanied by a full orchestra of the world’s tiniest violins, are only part of the conversation in Wall Street offices and trading desks. Along with the complaint is something that might be called soul-searching-which is, in itself, a surprising development. Since the crash, and especially since the occupation of Zuccotti Park last September (which does appear to have rattled a lot of nerves), there has been a growing recognition on Wall Street that the system that had provided those million-dollar bonuses was built on a highly unstable foundation. Disagreeable as it may be, goes this thinking, bankers have to go back to first principles, assess their value in the economy, and take their part in its rebuilding. No one on Wall Street liked to be scapegoated either by the Obama administration or by the Occupiers. But many acknowledge that the bubble­-bust-bubble seesaw of the past decades isn’t the natural order of capitalism-and that the compensation arrangements just may have been a bit out of whack. “There’s no other industry where you could get paid so much for doing so little,” a former Lehman trader said. Paul Volcker, whose eponymous rule is at the core of the changes, echoes an idea that more bankers than you’d think would agree with. “Finance became a self-justification,” he told me recently. “They made a lot of money trading with each other with doubtful public benefit.”

Pobrecitos.  Que lastima.

Feb 08 2012

On This Day In History February 8

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.

February 8 is the 39th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 326 days remaining until the end of the year (327 in leap years).

On this day in 1828, Jules Gabriel Verne is born in Nantes, Brittany in France. He was a French author who pioneered the science-fiction genre. He is best known for novels such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before air travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He is the third most translated individual author in the world, according to Index Translationum. Some of his books have been made into films. Verne, along with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells, is often popularly referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”.

Literary debut

After completing his studies at the lycée, Verne went to Paris to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré, he began writing libretti for operettas. For some years his attentions were divided between the theatre and work, but some travellers’ stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles revealed to him his true talent: the telling of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent an air of verisimilitude.

When Verne’s father discovered that his son was writing rather than studying law, he promptly withdrew his financial support. Verne was forced to support himself as a stockbroker, which he hated despite being somewhat successful at it. During this period, he met Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, pére, who offered him writing advice.

Verne also met Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. They were married on January 10 1857. With her encouragement, he continued to write and actively looked for a publisher.

Verne’s situation improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the most important French publishers of the 19th century, who also published Victor Hugo, Georges Sand, and Erckmann-Chatrian, among others. They formed an excellent writer-publisher team until Hetzel’s death. Hetzel helped improve Verne’s writings, which until then had been repeatedly rejected by other publishers. Hetzel read a draft of Verne’s story about the balloon exploration of Africa, which had been rejected by other publishers for being “too scientific”. With Hetzel’s help, Verne rewrote the story, which was published in 1863 in book form as Cinq semaines en balloon (Five_Weeks_in_a_Balloon Five Weeks in a Baloon). Acting on Hetzel’s advice, Verne added comical accents to his novels, changed sad endings into happy ones, and toned down various political messages.

From that point, Hetzel published two or more volumes a year. The most successful of these include: Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1869); and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. The series is collectively known as “Voyages Extraordinaires” (“extraordinary voyages”). Verne could now live on his writings. But most of his wealth came from the stage adaptations of Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1874) and Michel Strogoff (1876), which he wrote with Adolphe d’Ennery. In 1867 Verne bought a small ship, the Saint-Michel, which he successively replaced with the Saint-Michel II and the Saint-Michel III as his financial situation improved. On board the Saint-Michel III, he sailed around Europe. In 1870, he was appointed as “Chevalier” (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur. After his first novel, most of his stories were first serialised in the Magazine d’Éducation et de Récréation, a Hetzel biweekly publication, before being published in the form of books.

In his last years, Jules Verne wrote a novel called Paris in the 20th Century about a young man who lives in a world of glass skyscrapers, high-speed trains, gas-powered automobiles, calculators, and a worldwide communications network, yet cannot find happiness and comes to a tragic end. Hetzel thought the novel’s pessimism would damage Verne’s then booming career, and suggested he wait 20 years to publish it. Verne put the manuscript in a safe, where it was discovered by his great-grandson in 1989. It was published in 1994.

In 1905, while ill with diabetes, Verne died at his home, 44 Boulevard Longueville (now Boulevard Jules-Verne).

Feb 08 2012

Another day in the Veal Pen

Waiting for slaughter.

Today I’m going to pick on the National Council for La Raza which you may remember fondly as a Hispanic empowerment group on the forefront of Immigration Reform.

Having completely and totally failed at changing the Obama Administration’s worse than George W. Bush deportation policy (MSNBC, not exactly a hotbed of rumor and innuendo), La Raza has now attempted to gather the shreds of credibility that remain to sell out once again in defense of the Obama Bankster Bailout: Robo Signing Edition.

This did not escape my notice over at The Great Orange Satan-

Attorneys General: It’s Time to Close the Deal

by NCLR

Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 11:58 AM PST

Details of a $25 billion robosigning settlement have begun to emerge and if the reported details are accurate, there is much to celebrate.



Clearly, $25 billion is not enough to repair all of the damage done to our homes and the economy, but that is why the robosigning settlement is only part of the solution. One of the most important deals struck in the negotiation is on the releasing of future legal claims. This means that the AGs and the Department of Justice can continue to pursue civil rights, origination, and securitization claims. In fact, the financial crimes task force, investigations underway by AGs in California, Nevada, and Massachusetts, and the Department of Justice’s landmark settlement with Countrywide give us every reason to believe that the march toward accountability is off to a good start. The robosigning settlement should be the next step. It is time to deliver the first installment of relief for homeowners that have not a moment to lose.

Is this the policy of La Raza?

If so it’s remarkably short sighted nor does it seem to match the policy goals of your organization.

This is a ridiculously small amount of money to cover over $700 Billion in lost value and most of it comes not from banks, but from the same taxpayers that bailed them out.

This is a horrible settlement on every level.  Supporters should be ashamed.

by ek hornbeck on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 01:50:53 PM PST

NCLR Policy on AG Settlement

NCLR’s policy goal is to maximize relief for families in the timeliest fashion possible.  As we noted in the blog post, we agree that $25 billion is will not meet demand or atone for all the harms caused by the financial crisis. However, it is an important first step at a time when we really need momentum. The deals preserves the ability of the Department of Justice and the state Attorneys General to continue pursuing financial criminals and holding them accountable.  It would be short-sighted, and quite frankly irresponsible, to walk away from $25 billion and drag out negotiations for another six months or a year, while millions of families continue to slip toward foreclosure.  The settlement is not perfect and advocates will have to remain vigilant.  NCLR will continue our drumbeat for justice and meaningful relief for the millions of Americans who have been victimized by improper lending practices.

by NCLR on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 07:50:06 AM PST

Oddly enough it’s the very same Janis Bowdler that Yves Smith cites today-

(S)ome core constituencies aren’t buying what the Administration is selling:

Aides to President Barack Obama have in recent weeks courted civil rights groups and borrower advocacy organisations, scheduling meetings and calls in an attempt to gain support for the expected settlement and muffle criticism from key political allies…

The meetings have occasionally served as a “gripe session”, as one participant called them, because many of Mr Obama’s most ardent supporters have criticised the pending deal’s terms for the degree of relief provided and the extent of the release from legal claims it provides for banks desperate to minimise mortgage-related liability…

Janis Bowdler, a housing expert at the National Council of La Raza, the largest US Hispanic civil rights group, said the settlement would be a good start for the White House as it seeks to prove it is doing all it can for homeowners.

“Wrapping up the settlement now is the right thing to do, but it’s only going to be a win for them politically if they follow up with the financial crimes task force,” Ms Bowdler said…”Otherwise, if this is it, and they’re satisfied with just $25bn, I don’t think that will be enough to convince voters that they were doing all they could to fix the housing market.”

Oh, they plan to do more: put some small and maybe even mid sized players in stocks in the town square, the closer to the elections, the better. As we know all too well, the Administration only wants to appease voters, not fix the problem. What it seems to fail to recognize is the the housing market is in such distress that token measures and gimmickry are unlikely to do the trick.

La Raza.  A sold out failure on every level.  Exactly as influential as Planned Parenthood.

DHinMI called me dangerous and edgy.  Well, I am.