July 26, 2012 archive

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Britain’s Second Recession Deepens

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As Atrios said, not at all unexpected when “you put the put a bunch of evil skimmers and the stupidest f#%$ing man on the face of the planet in charge of your economy.”

Britain’s economic output collapsed by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2012 as the country’s double-dip recession extended into a third quarter [..]

The first double-dip recession since the mid-1970s – when the UK was beset by high inflation and rising unemployment – meant GDP in the second quarter of 2012 was 0.8% lower than in the same three months of 2011. [..]

The news will come as a fresh blow to the chancellor, George Osborne, whose deficit reduction plans have been thrown off course by the poor performance of the economy. Output has declined in five of the last seven quarters. [..]

The data shocked City analysts. Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said the figures were “a very nasty surprise indeed”. And Labour were swift to criticise the chancellor. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, tweeted that the 0.7% contraction was a “disastrous verdict on George Osborne’s failed plan”.

The reason for Osborne’s sticking to his austerity guns is the AAA rating from the same discredited ratings agencies that rated Lehman Brothers and AIG as safe investments right before their crash in 2008. His policy has just exacerbated Britain’s “deep-rooted economic problems”

In his response to today’s terrible GDP figures (the economy shrunk by 0.7% in the second quarter), George Osborne wisely resisted blaming the eurozone, the weather or the Jubilee for the third successive quarter of contraction. Instead, he dwelt on the UK’s “deep-rooted economic problems”. Britain has many long-term problems – an economy too dependent on finance, a lack of long-term investment, and persistently high levels of youth unemployment – but the charge against Osborne is that he has made them worse, not better. [..]

At times of recession, when consumer spending is depressed and businesses are hoarding cash, the state must act as a spender of last resort and stimulate growth through temporary tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending. Yet it is precisely this option that Osborne has rejected at every turn, dismissing well-intentioned critics as “deficit deniers”. Today’s figures are his reward. [..]

While Osborne’s arbitrary targets are of little economic importance they are of immense political significance. Should he abandon his debt rule, the UK could lose its AAA credit rating. Standard & Poor’s, for instance, has previously warned that our top rating is conditional on Osborne meeting his fiscal mandate. But why should we listen to the discredited agenices that rated Lehman Brothers and AIG as “safe investments” days before the crash? The answer is simple: we shouldn’t. But this doesn’t alter the fact that Osborne did. Having adopted the UK’s credit rating as his metric of success (he once boasted that we were “the only major western country which has had its credit rating improve”) he can hardly change tact now.

The Cameron government should be fired and sent packing to a special asylum for treatment of “Austerity Insanity.”

Climate Change Is a Hot Commodity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Amidst the worst drought in 50 years, Up host Chris Hayes discusses climate change on the price of food. Joining Chris are:

Bryn Bird, second-generation farmer in Granville, Ohio at Bird’s Haven Farms.  She is also a field outreach coordinator for Rural Coalition;

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” and syndicated columnist for King Features;

Josh Barro (@jbarro), contributor to Forbes.com with “The Barrometer;”

Stacy-Marie Ishmael (@s_m_i), adjunct professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, former editor of “FT Tilt;”

Gary Gensler (@cftc), chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission since May 2009. Gensler previously served as the under-secretary of domestic finance at the Treasury Department.

On This Day In History July 26

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

July 26 is the 207th day of the year (208th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 158 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. Franklin (1706-1790) put in place the foundation for many aspects of today’s mail system. During early colonial times in the 1600s, few American colonists needed to send mail to each other; it was more likely that their correspondence was with letter writers in Britain. Mail deliveries from across the Atlantic were sporadic and could take many months to arrive. There were no post offices in the colonies, so mail was typically left at inns and taverns. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin, who had been postmaster of Philadelphia, became one of two joint postmasters general for the colonies. He made numerous improvements to the mail system, including setting up new, more efficient colonial routes and cutting delivery time in half between Philadelphia and New York by having the weekly mail wagon travel both day and night via relay teams. Franklin also debuted the first rate chart, which standardized delivery costs based on distance and weight. In 1774, the British fired Franklin from his postmaster job because of his revolutionary activities. However, the following year, he was appointed postmaster general of the United Colonies by the Continental Congress. Franklin held the job until late in 1776, when he was sent to France as a diplomat. He left a vastly improved mail system, with routes from Florida to Maine and regular service between the colonies and Britain. President George Washington appointed Samuel Osgood, a former Massachusetts congressman, as the first postmaster general of the American nation under the new U.S. constitution in 1789. At the time, there were approximately 75 post offices in the country


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The Correspondents Explain – Political Parties – The Tea Party (2:47)

Foolish Reassessment of Settledness

Adapted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Because the big problem is not the U.S. obsession with guns, violence, and fame or a corrupt conventional media establishment and cowardly politicians; it’s people who dress up in fishnet stockings and teddies.

Frank-N-Furter, it’s all over

Your mission is a failure

Your lifestyle’s too extreme

I’m your new commander

You now are my prisoner

We return to Transylvania

Prepare the transit beam

Madness takes its toll.

‘Well, someone’s lying.’

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Geithner Raked Over the Coals in House Committee About Libor

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Wednesday July 25, 2012 9:35 am

Barney Frank operated as Geithner’s lawyer through all of this, saying that the 2008-era financial regulators were all Bush appointees. But that’s not the point; none of those regulators had access to documentary evidence of the commission of fraud.

Here’s the backstory. When Geithner ran the New York Federal Reserve Board, they failed to inform US regulators that they had an admission of guilt from a Barclays employee that the Libor was being rigged. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department had to build their case without the direct evidence of rigging that Geithner and his staff knew all about.

Geithner denied this today. He claimed that he did everything he could. “We took the initiative to bring those concerns to the attention of the broader U.S. regulatory community, including all the agencies that have responsibility for market manipulation and abuse,” he said in testimony.

Well, someone’s lying. And Geithner’s claim that he didn’t know about rate rigging until 2008, when the NY Fed acknowledged in documents that they had evidence in 2007, doesn’t make him a credible witness. Not to mention the fact that the NY Fed set the payouts for the AIG bailout, and the TALF lending facility, using Libor as a benchmark.

If there were any justice in the world, Geithner would be dead to rights. He had documentary evidence of fraud, and he didn’t send it up the chain to the authorities. In fact, he continued to use the fraudulent rates in the NY Fed’s everyday business.

N.Y. Fed quiet on Barclays’ admission of rigging Libor

By Jia Lynn Yang and Danielle Douglas, Washington Post

Published: July 24

Geithner, who was then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, did not communicate in key meetings with top regulators that British bank Barclays had admitted to Fed staffers that it was rigging Libor, according to people familiar with the matter.

Instead, regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department worked largely without the Fed’s help to build a case against Barclays. That work has culminated in a massive scandal rocking the banking industry on both sides of the Atlantic.

Still, the Fed proceeded to use Libor as a benchmark to determine how much insurance giant American International Group would pay back the government during its bailout. The measure also was used in the fall of 2008 to set the interest rate for the emergency lending program called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF.

“That number [Libor] determined how the taxpayer would be compensated,” said Neil Barofsky, who was the chief watchdog of the financial system’s $700 billion bailout. “That’s putting the Federal Reserve’s imprimatur on a rate it has suspicion to think was fraudulent. The Federal Reserve’s use of that and Treasury’s use of that in the bailout sends a powerful message to the market: ‘Hey don’t worry about this, we’re endorsing it.’ ”

He added that the Fed’s response can be measured by the fact that no one has reformed Libor.

Libor is critical because it is used worldwide to set the rates for trillions of dollars’ worth of mortgages, student loans, auto loans and many other financial contracts. It was an especially important metric during the financial crisis because it was a key indicator for the health of the banking industry.

SIGTARP: Taxpayers still exposed as AIG shrinks CDS portfolio

By Jon Prior, HousingWire

July 24, 2012

Taxpayers are still owed more than half their original investment in American International Group even as its non-insurance business operates without a consolidated banking regulator, according to the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

AIG still has $30.4 billion from the original $67.8 billion TARP investment outstanding as of July, which is on track to actually earn a return, SIGTARP said in a special report (.pdf) Wednesday.

“For more than two years, AIG has had no consolidated banking regulator of its non-insurance financial business,” SIGTARP said in its report.

Despite the regulatory uncertainty, AIG continues to bet on the mortgage market. From December 2010 through March 31, it doubled its commercial mortgage-backed securities and private-label mortgage bond holdings to $28.4 billion.

New York Fed Faces Questions Over Policing Wall Street


July 24, 2012

(T)he JPMorgan debacle and the interest-rate investigation have raised questions about the New York Fed. They highlight how the regulator is hampered by its lack of enforcement authority and dogged by concerns that it is overly cozy with the banks.

Mr. Geithner is expected to face questions from lawmakers on Wednesday about the rate-rigging inquiry that has ensnared more than a dozen big banks. In June, Barclays agreed to pay $450 million to authorities for manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

(T)he New York Fed, which knew Barclays had been reporting false rates at the time, did not stop the actions.

And when Mr. Geithner briefed other American regulators about Libor in May 2008, he did not disclose the specific wrongdoing, according to people briefed on the meeting. In later briefings, New York Fed officials did warn their counterparts about “allegations of misreporting.”

“The regulator has an obligation to make a criminal referral if it suspects a crime may have occurred,” said Bart Dzivi, who served as special counsel to the Federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. “How this doesn’t rise to that level, simply boggles the mind.”

My Little Town 20120725: Gardening

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 rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

I have written about Ma’s garden before and shall not repeat that.  If you want to read them, you can look here, here, and here.  What I want to talk about tonight is that I have begun harvesting from my own garden recently, and just Monday got the first large tomatoes and purple hull peas.  I had been collecting cucumbers for a while.

I garden in a rather unconventional style.  For starters, I HATE to hoe and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  I do not mind tilling, but my soil was still nice and loose this year and did not even have to do that.  At least with tilling, you do it once and are finished for the year.

I had a bit of trouble getting the garden started this year because it was wet in the spring (not as bad as last year).  I finally did get it in, though, and my philosophy has changed considerably since I first started gardening living alone.