May 11, 2011 archive

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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Wednedsay is mishima’s well deserved day of rest

these featured articles-

From last night, our after hours special feature with Keith Olbermann-

The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is an Open Thread

Feta and Grape Leaves

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

New general strike over Greek austerity program


05.11.11, 06:57 AM EDT

The general strike suspended all train and ferry services, grounded flights between noon and 4 p.m. and disrupted Athens public transport. All radio and television news broadcasts were suspended as journalists walked off the job for the day. The Thursday editions of newspapers were not being published, and news websites were not updating their content.

“Every day that passes, (the government) takes back what the working class has won through blood and struggles all these years,” retiree John Pavlidis said.

Greek unions say the protracted austerity, amid a two-year recession and unemployment at around 15 percent, is unfairly targeting the less well-off.

A statement from the country’s largest union, the GSEE, said Wednesday’s strike expresses “strong protest at the unjust and cruel policies that have caused a surge in unemployment … violated labor rights, and squandered public wealth, while failing to insure an exit from recession.”

In Athens’ port of Piraeus, Greece’s biggest, striking ferry electrician Athanassios Sidiropoulos said the government was trying to scrap rights won over the course of decades by working classes.

“All seamen should have pension and healthcare rights, collective labor contracts, healthcare contributions,” he said.

An opinion poll commissioned by the private Mega TV station and published Tuesday said 71 percent of the public oppose the government’s handling of the economic crisis, compared with 66 percent in February.

Sing along with Mitch.

Rajaratnam Guilty on all 14 counts!

Galleon’s Rajaratnam Found Guilty

By PETER LATTMAN, The New York Times

May 11, 2011, 10:50

Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire investor who once ran one of the world’s largest hedge funds, was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy on Wednesday by a federal jury in Manhattan. He is the most prominent figure convicted in the government’s crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street.

The government built its case against Mr. Rajaratnam with powerful wiretap evidence. Over a nine-month stretch in 2008, federal agents secretly recorded Mr. Rajaratnam’s telephone conversations. They listened in as Mr. Rajaratnam brazenly – and matter-of-factly – swapped inside stock tips with corporate insiders and fellow traders.

“I heard yesterday from somebody who’s on the board of Goldman Sachs that they are going to lose $2 per share,” Mr. Rajaratnam said to one of his employees in advance of the bank’s earnings announcement.

“One thing we know, this is very confidential, someone is going to put in a term sheet for Spansion,” he told a colleague, referring to a proposed acquisition of a technology company.

“So yesterday they agreed on, at least they’ve shaken hands,” a tipster told Mr. Rajaratnam about an upcoming deal involving another publicly traded business. “So I think, uh, you can now just buy.

Galleon brought Mr. Rajartnam great wealth. Forbes magazine pegged his net worth at $1.3 billion. He owns a second home in the wealthy suburb of Greenwich, Conn., and a condominium at the Setai Hotel in Miami Beach. During the trial, Mr. Rajaratnam’s former friends told the jury about lavish vacations including, for his 50th birthday, chartering a private jet to fly dozens of family and friends for a safari in Kenya.

Under Federal sentencing guidelines Rajaratnam is liable for at least 5 years per count (not that he’s likely to serve that).


“Superhero movies are like fairy tales for older people,” continues Lee, whose voice envelops the listener with a raspy, lilting warmth. “All those things you imagined –if only I could fly or be the strongest — are about wish fulfillment. … And because of that, I don’t think they’ll ever go out of vogue.”

This is from article in today’s WaPo on Stan Lee’s take on super-hero films. The article is, as usual, puerile and unenlightening which is not the author’s fault who I know writes to the general standards of the WaPo that is militantly middle-brow-superficial. Still Lee’s insights say a lot.

Let me parse what he said just a little. First of all “fairy tales” are not just for children. I think it’s been pretty well-proven by now that these tales are the remnants of ancient teaching stories that go back millenia in one for or another. The most obvious of these stories (or collection of stories) are the Mahabharata, the Illiad and Odyssey, and the Bible are stories crafted over time to have resonance with children, average adults, and those that aspire to or have achieved a higher state of consciousness. These themes can be shown to have deep resonance in the human psyche. None of these stories were “wish fulfillment” stories though some contain elements of wish fulfillment. The modern super-hero myth, like the fractured modern version of fairy tales aimed at children, has no depth of wisdom. At best, as Lee later explains in the article the heroes have “personality” i.e., they are just like you and me with the usual life difficulties. This is a device to connect us viscerally with the characters and it works–but it is not wisdom it’s just a device.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Going Crackers for Homemade Crackers


Homemade Whole Grain Crackers

There are plenty of whole-grain crackers on store shelves, but none taste as good to me as those made at home. You can use a mix of grains and flours to make them, including gluten-free varieties like millet, buckwheat and rice flours, and top them with any number of seeds, herbs or spices. They’re quick to mix together and very easy to roll out.

Crackers are a great destination for sesame seeds, an excellent source of copper and manganese, and high in lignans, a type of fiber that may help lower cholesterol.

Sesame Crackers

The recipe has been tweaked over the years to produce a wholesome, rich, nutty flavor.

Buckwheat Crackers With Sesame

Perfect with smoked salmon, these crackers have an earthy, nutty flavor.

Olive Oil Crackers

Top these crackers with a Middle Eastern spice mix – or make your own.

Cheddar Cheese Crackers

A healthier version of those ubiquitous yellow-orange squares.

Gluten-Free Rice and Millet Flour Crackers

Use a little butter to make these crackers; with only olive oil, the crackers will be too dry.


Feed the Kitty

Graveyard Whistling

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The fact of the matter is that most, if not all, of the mega-banks are insolvent.  The paper they base their balance sheets on is suitible mostly for lining litter boxes and wrapping fish and ultimately, when the write downs come, they’re going to shoulder the brunt of it because now that they own over 50% of all assets there’s simply no place else they can steal from.

Yesterday I mentioned the continuing decline in real estate, more from the Wall Street Journal today-

Home values fell 3% in the first quarter and 1.1% in March, according to Zillow, which says prices have fallen 57 consecutive months. CoreLogic (CLGX) this week reported that home prices have fallen for eight months in a row.

The Realtors’ trade group, which measures resales using median prices where half sell for more and half sell for less, says existing-home prices rose in 34 out of 153 metropolitan statistical areas in the first quarter compared to a year ago. The data also shows four double-digit increases – including Buffalo, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt. – and 118 price declines.

NAR also makes it clear that distressed-home sales, which typically command a discount around 20%, continue weighing on prices. In the first quarter, the median existing home price came in at $158,700 nationwide, down 4.6% from a year earlier. Distressed sales made up 39% of the first-quarter’s sales, up from 36% a year ago.

This has some economists pushing back their estimates of when the battered market will see prices strike the long-awaited bottom and begin recovery.

Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, now believes prices won’t hit bottom before next year and expects they will fall by another 7% to 9%.

Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics, said prices could fall by as much as 10%, down from his previous forecasts of around 5%.

Others are even more pessimistic. “The real-estate market is dead money until at least 2014,” says Michael Pento, a senior economist with Euro Pacific Capital. “There is just too much supply.”

Banks lied about the value of these mortgages in the prospectuses for the securities they re-sold to investors, exposing them to Trillions of Dollars of Civil Liability and Criminal Fraud charges.

Deutsche Bank Accused Of Massive Mortgage Fraud, Sued for $1 Billion By U.S. Government

Shahien Nasiripour, The Huffington Post

05/ 3/11 04:42 PM ET

The Justice Department is seeking damages three times the amount HUD has already shelled out for defaulted mortgages with allegedly fraudulently-obtained government insurance, plus additional penalties for each mortgage that broke federal rules.

While private investors have thus far faced a long, slow war battling lenders and connected Wall Street firms to buy back toxic mortgages investors claim were sold to them fraudulently, the government’s suit is fairly straightforward. As part of the FHA program MortgageIT participated in, lenders are required to annually certify that they check basic records like borrowers’ incomes, credit history and employment record. The lenders also are required to review loans that quickly default to guard against sloppy lending practices, and act in the government’s best interests because taxpayers are bearing the risks for potentially poor loans.

“These companies repeatedly and brazenly breached the public trust,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. “This lawsuit sends them — and other lenders — the message that they cannot get away with lies and recklessness. They cannot casually assign the prospect of being caught to the cost of doing business.”

Claiming Fraud in A.I.G. Bailout, Whistle-Blower Lawsuit Names 3 Companies


Published: May 4, 2011

The lawsuit, filed by a pair of veteran political activists from the La Jolla area of San Diego, asserts that A.I.G. and two large banks engaged in a variety of fraudulent and speculative transactions, running up losses well into the billions of dollars. Then the three institutions persuaded the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to bail them out by giving A.I.G. two rescue loans, which were used to unwind hundreds of failed trades.

“To cover losses of those engaged in fraudulent financial transactions is an authority not yet given to the Fed board,” said the plaintiffs, Derek and Nancy Casady, in their complaint, filed in Federal District Court for the Southern District of California.

The lawsuit names A.I.G., Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank as defendants, but not the Fed.

Will "False Claims" Lawsuit Against AIG, Goldman, Deutsche, BofA, SocGen on Fed Funding Lead to New Round of Embarrassing Revelations?

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The case focuses on allegedly fraudulent representations made by AIG and the various major dealers in the course of obtaining the financing. But the part I find interesting is the Fed’s evident non-compliance with the requirements of this section, particularly the fact that the central bank lent 100% against the face value of the AIG CDOs, between taking out the CDS and then lending the bailout vehicle Maiden Lane III the funds to buy the CDOs. Interestingly, the SIGTARP investigation missed this issue. If this was at all considered, the argument may have been that the AIG equity in MLIII was tantamount to a discount, but the lawsuit argues that notion is bogus. Since AIG was broke, any money for the AIG equity came from the outside (in fairness, it’s a bit more complex, thanks to reserves set aside over the collateral dispute).

The suit argues that the initial loan was made under false premises, since the loan was secured by all assets of AIG, when the assets were already pledged (all the regulated subs have prior claims on them, both to creditors and policy-holders). The understanding, as depicted in various less-than-official accounts, like the Andrew Ross Sorkin Too Big Too Fail, is that the loans were secured by the equity of the subs. Fine in theory, but in practice, that isn’t what the loan document says, and as important (although not argued in the case) is the amount of the loan was based on what AIG needed to stay afloat, not on any effort to find a market value of the assets pledged and discount that.

In addition, the notion that it was acceptable to lend against stock appears to be based on the discount schedule that the Fed posts and revises from time to time as to the types of collateral that are accepted for lending and the various discount rates established for them. But note that schedule is for depositary institutions. The Fed acted as if it could simply lend against the same assets held by non-depositaries, but the language of the germane section does not appear to support that idea.

And then there are Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.

Investors count cost to banks of Greek default

By Tracy Alloway, Megan Murphy and David Oakley, Financial Times

Published: May 10 2011 19:17

Financial markets are pricing in the once unthinkable. Worried by the possibility that Greece could restructure its debt, investors are gauging the likely impact on European banks that hold its bonds. Some, it has emerged, could be exposed to billions of euros in losses

The question of who would suffer in the event of a writedown being imposed on Greek bondholders has acquired extra urgency as analysts digest different scenarios should Greece be unable to return to the bond markets next year.

A 50 per cent writedown, or haircut, on the value of Greek bonds, which some commentators believe is a possibility, would cost BNP €1.7bn.

At Dexia, the Franco-Belgian bank, its €3.5bn banking exposure represents a sizeable 39 per cent of the bank’s tangible net asset value, Morgan Stanley estimates. A 50 per cent haircut would lead to the group taking a €1.3bn hit.

Commerzbank of Germany and Société Générale in France are also exposed, both holding about €2bn-€3bn of Greek sovereign debt. In total, non-Greek banks hold 11 per cent of outstanding Greek debt, UBS says, the International Monetary Fund and European nations that took part in last year’s Greek bail-out having similar exposure.

The European Central Bank is estimated to hold 20 per cent through direct purchases of Greek bonds, making it Greece’s second-biggest investor. Widening the central bank’s exposure to take account of its financial liquidity operations paints a starker picture.

JPMorgan analysts estimate that including lending by the ECB to Greek banks raises its notional exposure to nearly €200bn. Using that figure, they calculate the ECB can withstand a haircut of up to 30 per cent before taking losses. “A hypothetical Greek debt restructuring exceeding that haircut would be damaging especially if Ireland followed suit,” JPMorgan says.

For Greek banks, a 50 per cent haircut in a hard restructuring would lead to about €25bn in losses, JPMorgan says, leaving only €4bn of equity to cushion the Hellenic banking system.

It is only a question of when, and not if, there will be another global financial crisis and another leg down in the Greatest Depression.  My bet is that it will come just in time to completely doom Obama’s re-election prospects.

For which he has no one to blame but himself.

The Luck Of Jad Peters

As read by Keith.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

There are plenty of people in the world whose lives are governed by rote and routine. Such people will never be happy dealing with me, because I don’t conform.

–John Elder Robison

Ornament  1

Late Night Karaoke

Torture Advocates Out From Under Their Rocks

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It seems that since Osama bin Laden’s demise that the torture advocates, architects and apologists have come out of hiding and are all over the MSM touting the success of waterboarding.

Top architect and advocate, Dick Cheney, emerged from his undisclosed location to appear on Fox with Chris Wallace touting that waterboarding isn’t torture. I won’t insult our readers with the sickening video of this war criminal. You can view in the article at Think Progress.

. . . former Vice President Dick Cheney stridently defended Bush era torture programs, calling harsh interrogation tactics “the most important steps we took that kept us safe for 7 years.” He also advocated reinstating waterboarding, telling Wallace that enhanced interrogation “worked, and provided absolutely vital pieces of information.”

Cheney resurrected an old GOP talking point in insisting that waterboarding was not torture, despite testimony of people like CIA Director Leon Panetta to the contrary. “It was a good program, it was a legal program, it was not torture,” Cheney maintained.

Many former Bush administration officials have falsely credited torture tactics with leading to the raid on Osama bin Laden, but Cheney went further by insisting that torture was the key policy that has kept the country safe for a decade after the September 11th attacks.

Guest blogger Lawrence Rafferty at law professor Jonathan Turley’s site wrote that despite all the rationalization by these criminals “Torture is still Torture, and it is Still Illegal.”:

This entire week the torture enthusiasts have been back on all of the news channels exclaiming their happiness that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” worked.  Of course, they are talking about waterboarding and other methods of torture. Why are Michael Mukasey, John Yoo and other members of the George W. Bush administration once again declaring that torture is good policy and that it was successful in helping to get Osama Bin Laden?


The Bush Administration officials seem to be attempting to rewrite history by claiming their illegal torture techniques aided in the search for Bin Laden.  In former Attorney Gen. Mukasey and Prof. Yoo’s cases, they are both asserting that torture is effective and that is legal.  That’s right.  According to the Torture Twins, Mukasey and Yoo, they claim that waterboarding is legal.  Although I agree that President Obama has done the country a disservice by not prosecuting the officials who authorized and carried out the torture during the Bush administration, by no means does that inaction make waterboarding legal.  I guess if the Bush apologists keep saying it enough, they hope that Americans will believe them.  Mukasey and Yoo both sold out their souls for their jobs and their President.  I hope they can sleep at night.

Not only should the Obama administration be pursuing the prosecution of CIA officers who did the torture, they should be prosecuting those who gave the orders.

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