December 2011 archive
Dec 02 2011
Dec 01 2011
Our regular featured content-
These featured articles-
- Monopolies by ek hornbeck
- Thursday is new Jobless Day by ek hornbeck
- Eric Holder Wants Us To Protect MTV by TheMomCat
- MA Attorney General Sues 5 Major Banks & MER by TheMomCat
This is an Open Thread
Dec 01 2011
Today we reach the thrilling conclusion of Crusader Rabbit’s first Crusade, Crusader vs. the State of Texas. There are 195 Black and White Episodes broadcast between 1950 and ’51, divided into 10 Crusades. The next group is titled ‘Crusader vs. the Pirates’ and has 20 Episodes which seem to be complete (for the moment) on YouTube. Rather than launch straight into another month of that tomorrow I hope to have some more Looney goodness before another installment of Duck Dodgers Season 2 this weekend.
As always your suggestions about future directions are encouraged.
Dec 01 2011
It’s a fundamental fact of economics that corporations and wealthy individuals do not aspire to free market competition which reduces their margins of profit and forces them to work hard to reduce the “uncertainty” that some upstart will out innovate them. Instead they prefer the predictability of commercial monopolies enforced by the coercive power of a state monopoly of violence. This is in fact one of the main themes of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.
As Lord Cutler Beckett put it- “It’s just good business.”
Thus it comes as no surprise to me, and I’m sure to Glenn Greenwald either, that in the age of the Internet, when ownership of a Press is practically free (ok, $15 a month but consider how much you spend on coffee, cable, or cell phone), establishment “journalists” celebrate a culture of secrecy accessible only though their personal contacts and Rolodexes.
It’s not as if they’re particularly bright, or prescient, or even good writers. What else do they have to sell?
In economics this is called ‘raising barriers to competition’, on the Internet we call it ‘gatekeeping’.
So Cohen, as a journalist, must be furious about this systematic lack of accountability, transparency and democracy. After all, journalists – as they tirelessly tell everyone – are steadfastly devoted to those values; transparency for political officials is their North Star. Surely, nobody who would devote themselves to this profession would celebrate a President who drenches his entire foreign policy in secrecy – beyond any mechanism for democratic accountability – and who fights numerous covert wars without even any clear legal basis for doing so?
(I)t’s simply a given that war with all of these Muslim countries, including Iran, is necessary and inevitable – despite the fact that none is attacking the U.S. or threatening to do so. Warring against all these countries is America’s imperial responsibility and exceptionalist right. The only question, then, is whether the wars will be fought (a) democratically, legally and out in the open, or (b) in secret, with no legal basis or democratic accountability. Cohen, the journalist, chooses (b).
As usual, American journalists are the leading proponents not of transparency but of secrecy, not of accountability but of covert decision-making in the dark, not of the rule of law but the rule of political leaders. As Cohen’s Washington Post namesake put it: “it is often best to keep the lights off.” That, with some exceptions, is the motto not only of The Washington Post but of American establishment journalism generally. That’s what NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen meant when he said that the reason we got WikiLeaks is because “the watchdog press died.” With some exceptions – some of this we have learned about from whistleblowers leaking to reporters, who then publish it – the American media does not merely fail to fulfill its ostensible function of bringing transparency to government; far beyond that, it takes the lead in justifying and protecting extreme government secrecy. Watching a New York Times columnist stand up and cheer for multiple covert, legally dubious wars and an underground foreign policy highlights that as well as anything one can recall.
It is indeed so very baffling. This is one of those bizarre mysteries of life: I find that the more you ponder it – as I’ve been so diligently doing ever since it was raised so powerfully by Jon Chait – the more inscrutable it actually becomes. Why in the world would any liberals possibly not find President Obama as dreamy as those long-time leading lights of liberalism, Jon Chait and Andrew Sullivan, do? There is no rational reason whatsoever for this disenchantment, this refusal to reverently stand and cheer for this great President. Why some liberals insist on complaining is such a deep and impenetrable puzzle that it makes one’s head hurt trying to understand it.
Dec 01 2011
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 1 is the 335th day of the year (336th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 30 days remaining until the end of the year
On this day in 1990, the Chunnel makes breakthrough. Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years.
The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel,” was not a new idea. It had been suggested to Napoleon Bonaparte, in fact, as early as 1802. It wasn’t until the late 20th century, though, that the necessary technology was developed. In 1986, Britain and France signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a tunnel running between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France.
The Channel Tunnel (French: Le tunnel sous la Manche), (also informally known as the Chunnel) is a 50.5-kilometre (31.4 mi) undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent near Dover in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is 75 metres (250 ft) deep. At 37.9 kilometres (23.5 mi), the Channel Tunnel possesses the second longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world. The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is both longer overall at 53.85 kilometres (33.46 mi), and deeper at 240 metres (790 ft) below sea level.
The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, Eurotunnel Shuttle roll-on/roll-off vehicle transport-the largest in the world-and international rail freight trains. The tunnel connects end-to-end with the LGV Nord and High Speed 1 high-speed railway lines. In 1996 the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Ideas for a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802, but British political and press pressure over compromised national security stalled attempts to construct a tunnel. However, the eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and opened in 1994. The project came in 80% over its predicted budget. Since its construction, the tunnel has faced several problems. Fires have disrupted operation of the tunnel. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers have attempted to use the tunnel to enter Britain, causing a minor diplomatic disagreement over the siting of the Sangatte refugee camp, which was eventually closed in 2002.
Dec 01 2011
In case you missed it (I strongly suspect you did), Yves Smith of naked capitalism appeared as a guest on the PBS News Hour to discuss why there have been so few prosecutions of ceo’s or bankers in the recent banking scandal.
The other guests are:
Lynn Turner is a former chief accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He’s now a managing director at the consulting firm Litinomics.
Anton Valukas is a former U.S. attorney. He’s now in private practice and issued a bankruptcy report examining the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Mark Calabria is a former Republican staff member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He’s now at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute.
In Aftermath of Financial Crisis, Who’s Being Held Responsible?
The full transcript is here.
Dec 01 2011
One of the architects of the audit of the Federal Reserve was former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) who is running for his old house seat. He appeared with Keith Olbermann to discuss the Bloomberg report on the secret no strings, 0% interest $7.7 trillion had out to the banks that they also reaped another $13 billion in profits. As Rep. Grayson points out it is far worse than even the Bloomberg report.
So what does the Obama administration have to say about this? Apparently not a lot. The president is too busy raising campaign money from those who benefited most from this bailout. Obama’s minions on Twitter and in so-called “progressive” blogs have rushed in to defend him against any appearance that he sides with the banks. They ignore the history of the president’s part in the dilution of the Dodd/Frank regulations which has yet to take affect. So here is a brief refresher to keep this based in reality.
Way back at the beginning of Barack Obama’s administration and in the aftermath of the 2008 Wall St/Banking meltdown, financial reform had strong bipartisan support. The original Dodd-Frank Bill contained a provision for regular audits to the end the secrecy of the Federal Reserve. It was introduced in the House by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep, Ron Paul (R-TX) with strong support from on the Senate side from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). However, the amendment was opposed by not only Wall St. and the Federal Reserve, it was also opposed by the Obama administration so strenuously that Obama threatened to veto the entire Dodd/Frank bill if the audit was included. That amendment failed and a second one was crafted for the one time audit which was just as adamantly opposed by Obama and company.
Deal Killer? White House Takes Aim At Fed Audit Provision
by Brian Beutler | May 4, 2010,
Possibly today, but if not today then soon, the Senate will decide whether or not to follow the House’s lead and adopt a provision requiring government auditors to open up the books at the Federal Reserve. The measure enjoys a great deal of popularity on both the left and the right, but is so fiercely opposed by powerful interests that it could nonetheless become a stumbling block in the way of financial regulatory legislation.
Right now Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is trying to round up 60 or more votes to overcome a likely filibuster and include an “audit the Fed” provision in the Senate’s bill. There are just a few small obstacles: the White House, major financial institutions, and the Fed itself. Their resistance is fierce–but the measure is so popular that killing it will be difficult for them and that, in their eyes, threatens to put a grenade at the center of efforts to to tighten the rules on Wall Street. [..]
That’s why, according to the Wall Street Journal they’ll “fight to stop it at all costs.” The White House is hoping to cut off “audit the Fed” in the Senate, so that they’ll have a stronger hand when House and Senate negotiators meet to iron out the differences between their regulatory reform bills. If the Senate bill does not include Sanders’ amendment, then the House will be in a weak position vis-a-vis the Senate and White House and the provision could be easily stripped.
If Sanders prevails, then the White House will be all but out of options and President Obama will likely be left with the choice of vetoing the legislation, or signing it and raising the ire of very powerful people. Stay tuned.
Sanders’ amendment for a one time only audit prevailed and was conducted this past year that has revealed a massive handout to banks. We now know why the Federal Reserve and the banks didn’t want this audit. The question now is what is going to be done to prevent the Federal Reserve from dong this again. It’s fairly obvious what the president’s policy is, he sides with Wall St and the banks, the 1%.
Dec 01 2011
By Shahien Nasiripour in New York
Ten leading US lenders may have unlawfully foreclosed on the mortgages of nearly 5,000 active-duty members of the US military in recent years, according to data released by a federal regulator.
JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America this year reached legal settlements in which they agreed to pay damages to nearly 200 service members who claimed that their homes had been improperly seized.
Data released last week by the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks, shows that 10 lenders – including BofA, but not JPMorgan, which was not part of the study – are reviewing nearly 5,000 foreclosures of homes belonging to service members and their families to see if they complied with the law.
Pat Garofalo reported this at Think Progress:
Back in April, JPMorgan Chase, which was not one of the 10 banks that the OCC examined, agreed to a $56 million settlement over allegations that it had overcharged members of the military on their mortgages. Chase Bank has even auctioned off the home of a military member the very day that he returned from Iraq. Two other mortgage servicers agreed in May to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on servicemembers.
Even without the banks illegally foreclosing, military members have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. Last year alone, 20,000 members of the military faced foreclosure, a 32 percent increase over 2008. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked with ensuring that military members are treated fairly by financial services companies – a job that is obviously necessary – but Republicans in Congress have, so far, refused to confirm a director for the agency, leaving it unable to fulfill all of its responsibilities.
Up Date: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an investigation into military foreclosures under a NY State consumer protection law, the Martin Act, that gives him broad powers to investigate fraud.
Also, Congress is getting on the bandwagon, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, will be requesting hearings. From David Dayen at FDL:
It looks like even Congress is getting involved, or at least a few of them, because systematic illegal foreclosures on everyday people can be ignored, but systematic foreclosures on members of the military cannot. Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, will request a hearing on the matter. Brad Miller, who has actually been great on this issue and who sees it as a lever to open up a host of inquiries on foreclosure fraud, had a great statement yesterday:
It is hard to see this as anything except a flagrant disregard for a law that has been on the books continuously since the First World War. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is very clear: if you’re in harm’s way in our nation’s military, you can devote your whole energy to our nation’s service without worrying what’s happening in a courthouse back home. And if you have a claim against someone in our military, you can wait until they get home and can defend themselves.
The SCRA is not some obscure legal technicality that might just have escaped the attention of mortgage servicers. Those servicers are all affiliates of the biggest banks, but they’re huge and specialized. Servicing mortgages is all they do, and they really don’t have that many laws to keep up with. They have got to have known what the law required, and consciously decided that they could just ignore it, the same way they apparently decided it was okay to file false affidavits in legal proceedings.
The continued failure to pursue criminal charges in the face of flagrant violations of the criminal law is destroying Americans’ faith in their government and democracy. In a democracy, no one is too big to prosecute.
Schneiderman is doing the job that we would expect Eric Holder to be doing. Just where is Mr. Holder? We know where the president is, campaigning.
Dec 01 2011
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
Week before last we talked about the downstairs portion of the house in which I lived when I was young, and tonight we shall talk about the upstairs and other structures and the grounds outside of it. The downstairs was pretty opulent, but the upstairs were more spartan.
That is not to say that upstairs was not nice, but built at considerably less expense than the downstairs. You need to read the piece from a couple of weeks ago to get the flavor of downstairs.