November 30, 2011 archive

Nov 30

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Nov 30

The Obama Primary Challenge That Is

Salon.com’s news editor, Steve Kornacki, lamented yesterday that “Obama won’t face a credible primary challenge”, going on about how the closest thing to a liberal challenge he has comes from Republican candidate Buddy Roemer.  While it is true that many liberals aren’t seeing any “viable” candidates materialize on the left, Kornacki isn’t telling us why that is: the failure of supposedly liberal pundits to report on candidates who are actually running.

And therein lies the catch-22 bloggers like Kornacki can’t seem to escape from.  They complain about Obama, but they refuse to use the public voice they’ve been given to alter the political landscape.  Pundits influence public opinion simply by reporting on someone or something.  And they pass up opportunity after opportunity to do so when they fail to do their journalistic duty.

Because there is a Democrat trying to get himself on the ballot to challenge Obama from the left in next year’s primaries: Aldous Tyler is seeking the nomination to run for president as a liberal Democrat.  His platform hits all the right notes, including opposition to war, taxation of the wealthy, a sustainable energy policy, cleaning up the environment, and restoring and protecting the safety net, among other positions.  Tyler also favors heavily regulating Wall Street and corporations.

So why aren’t supposedly liberal bloggers and pundits giving Aldous Tyler any coverage?  Kornacki writes that “[t]he depths of liberal despair over his presidency are often overstated“, meaning that bitch as they might about Obama, far too many who claim to be liberal aren’t dissatisfied with his policies enough to want to be rid of him – and having so thoroughly bought into the Big Lie that Republicans are just so much worse than any Democrat no matter what the evidence disproving that notion, they fear that any challenge might weaken Obama to the point that the GOP nominee might manage to cheat his way to victory next year.

But it’s Obama’s fault that he is even in such a precarious political position in the first place.  Having made big promises only to cold-bloodedly refuse to even try to deliver on so much as one of them, and after literally adding insult to injury by dissing his party’s official base, it’s no wonder that his campaign is looking a lot more like Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s lackluster, doomed efforts than, say, Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election drive.  So coming out of a primary challenged beaten up and vulnerable isn’t exactly a legitimate excuse not to cover challengers, especially ones from the left of the political divide.

Isn’t it time to break the self-imposed media blackout on left-wing challenges to Obama?  If Democrats are truly fed up with him, and are seeking alternatives, it only makes sense for those blessed with public voices, such as Steve Kornacki, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, or Ed Schultz to use their gifts to report on people like Aldous Tyler.  The media might lament the lack of candidates, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  They only need to be reported on objectively, so voters can render their own decisions.

Nov 30

Cartnoon

Crusader Rabbit, Crusader vs. the State of Texas- Episode 14 of 15

Nov 30

On this Day In History November 30

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.

November 30 is the 334th day of the year (335th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 31 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1886, the Folies Bergère in Paris introduces an elaborate revue featuring women in sensational costumes. The highly popular “Place aux Jeunes” established the Folies as the premier nightspot in Paris. In the 1890s, the Folies followed the Parisian taste for striptease and quickly gained a reputation for its spectacular nude shows. The theater spared no expense, staging revues that featured as many as 40 sets, 1,000 costumes, and an off-stage crew of some 200 people.

In 1886, the Folies Bergère went under new management, which, on November 30, staged the first revue-style music hall show. The “Place aux Jeunes,” featuring scantily clad chorus girls, was a tremendous success. The Folies women gradually wore less and less as the 20th century approached, and the show’s costumes and sets became more and more outrageous. Among the performers who got their start at the Folies Bergère were Yvette Guilbert, Maurice Chevalier, and Mistinguett. The African American dancer and singer Joséphine Baker made her Folies debut in 1926, lowered from the ceiling in a flower-covered sphere that opened onstage to reveal her wearing a G-string ornamented with bananas.

The Folies Bergère remained a success throughout the 20th century and still can be seen in Paris today, although the theater now features many mainstream concerts and performances. Among other traditions that date back more than a century, the show’s title always contains 13 letters and includes the word “Folie.”

Located at 32 rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement, it was built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret. It was patterned after the Alhambra music hall in London. The closest métro stations are Cadet and Grands Boulevards.

It opened on 2 May 1869 as the Folies Trévise, with fare including operettas, comic opera, popular songs, and gymnastics. It became the Folies Bergère on 13 September 1872, named after a nearby street, the rue Bergère (the feminine form of “shepherd”).

Édouard Manet‘s 1882 well-known painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère depicts a bar-girl, one of the demimondaines, standing before a mirror.

The painting is filled with contemporaneous details specific to the Folies-Bergère. The distant pair of green feet in the upper left-hand corner belong to a trapeze artist, who is performing above the restaurant’s patrons.

The beer which is depicted, Bass Pale Ale (noted by the red triangle on the label), would have catered not to the tastes of Parisians, but to those of English tourists, suggesting a British clientèle. Manet has signed his name on the label of the bottle at the bottom left, combining the centuries-old practice of self-promotion in art with something more modern, bordering on the product placement concept of the late twentieth century. One interpretation of the painting has been that far from only being a seller of the wares shown on the counter, the woman is herself one of the wares for sale; conveying undertones of prostitution. The man in the background may be a potential client.

But for all its specificity to time and place, it is worth noting that, should the background of this painting indeed be a reflection in a mirror on the wall behind the bar as suggested by some critics, the woman in the reflection would appear directly behind the image of the woman facing forward. Neither are the bottles reflected accurately or in like quantity for it to be a reflection. These details were criticized in the French press when the painting was shown. The assumption is faulty when one considers that the postures of the two women, however, are quite different and the presence of the man to whom the second woman speaks marks the depth of the subject area. Indeed many critics view the faults in the reflection to be fundamental to the painting as they show a double reality and meaning to the work. One interpretation is that the reflection is an interaction earlier in time that results in the subject’s expression in the painting’s present.

Nov 30

Dr. Doom:

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Italy’s Debt Must Be Restructured

Author: Nouriel Roubini, EconoMonitor

November 29th, 2011

Even if austerity and reforms were eventually to restore debt sustainability, Italy and countries in a similar position would need a lender of last resort to support them and prevent sovereign spreads exploding while they regained market credibility. But Italy’s financing needs for the next twelve months alone are not confined to the €400bn of debt maturing. At this point most investors would dump their entire holdings of Italian debt to any sucker – the ECB, European Financial Stability Facility, IMF or whoever – willing to buy it at current yields. If a lender of last resort appears, Italy’s entire debt stock of €1,900bn will be soon supplied.

So using precious official resources to prevent the unavoidable would simply finance the exit of others. Moreover, there is no official money – some €2,000bn would be needed – to backstop Italy, and soon Spain and possibly Belgium, for the next three years.



If, as appears likely, Italy remains stuck in an uncompetitive recession and is unable to regain market access in the next twelve months, then even if such large official resources were mobilised, they would be wasted on financing investors’ exit and thus postponing an inevitable debt restructuring that would then be more disorderly.



Italy’s public debt needs to be reduced now to at worst 90 per cent of GDP from the current 120 per cent. This could be done by offering investors the choice to exchange their securities either for a par bond – with a longer maturity and a low enough coupon to reduce the net present value by 25 per cent – or for a discount bond that has a face value reduction of 25 per cent. The par bond would suit banks that hold bonds to maturity and don’t mark to market. There should be a credible commitment not to pay investors who hold out against participating in the offer – even if this triggers the payment of credit default swaps.

With appropriate regulatory forbearance, it would allow banks to pretend for a while that no losses had occurred and thus give them more time to raise fresh capital. Since about 40 per cent of Italy’s public debt is held by non-residents, a debt restructuring will also imply some burden sharing with foreign creditors.

The bottom line is that it will take at least $2.666 Trillion to bail out the Euro which considering we just spent $7.7 Trillion bailing out the Too Big To Fail banks doesn’t seem out of line as an estimate.

Also bondholders will have to take a 25% haircut.  Too bad, so sad.

Nov 30

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.

A friend is a gift you give yourself.

–Robert Louis Stevenson



Texture

Nov 30

Lynn Margulis (1938- 2011): Midichlorian truther

Lynn Margulis is best known for postulating in 1966 the theory of endosymbiosis, the theory that eukaryotic cells (having nuclear DNA and nucleically differentiated organelles) resulted from the symbiotic fusion of smaller and more primitive prokaryotic cells.  Both mitochondria and chloroplasts, critical metabolic organelles in animal and plant eukaryotic cells, for example, are thought to be descended from independent prokaryotic lineages.  While her hypothesis was roundly rejected the over the first 15 or so submissions, the theory of endosymbiosis is now one of the most important ideas advanced in evolutionary biology in the last century.  As Richard Dawkins put it:

I greatly admire Lynn Margulis’s sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy. I’m referring to the theory that the eukaryotic cell is a symbiotic union of primitive prokaryotic cells. This is one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology, and I greatly admire her for it.

While I cannot do justice to the topic, several things do stand out to even a blockhead like me.  

Nov 30

Protect Internet & SOPA Will Break the Internet

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What you need to know about the dangers of passing these bills and how it will destroy the Internet.

The video above discusses the Senate version of the PROTECT IP Act, but the House bill that was introduced TODAY is much much worse.

It’ll give the government new powers to block Americans’ access websites that corporations don’t like. The bill would criminalize posting all sorts of standard web content — music playing in the background of videos, footage of people dancing, kids playing video games, and posting video of people playing cover songs.

This legislation will stifle free speech and innovation, and even threaten popular web services like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

America Censorship has a great infographic on how SOPA will block you from the Internet.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is leading the charge to stop the passage of these bills appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to explain how catastrophic to Internet and your rights that these bill are.

Along with Sen. Wyden, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (go figure) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi strongly oppose passage. Sen. Wyden has started a petition and will read the names on the Senate floor should these bills come to the floor for a vote (I have signed). We at The Stars Hollow Gazette and Docudharma urged you to sign Sen. Wyden’s petition (sign petition) and contact your Senators and House Representative telling them to vote against these bill. You can do that here

Congress needs to hear from you, or this bill passes

Nov 30

Late Night Karaoke

Nov 30

Shit Is Fucked Up And Bullshit (Updated Links)

As I write this #occupyphilly and #occupyla are being raided by police with reporters “happily” obliging the police order to be in a “designated media zone”.  I’m gonna call’em “Free Speech Zones”.

OccupyLA/OccupyOakland:

http://www.ustream.tv/occupyoa…

OccupyPhilly:

http://www.livestream.com/occu…

You can take your pick of watching the Occupy Wall Street protest nearest you using this easily searchable index:

http://piratepartyofnewyork.or…

Oh, and we also have every branch of the military in support of the occupy movement being hosted by us pirates:

http://occupymarines.org/

http://occupy-army.org/

http://occupy-navy.org/

http://occupy-airforce.org/

Nov 30

NY Judge Rejects SEC/Citibank Mortgage Fraud Fine

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Bloomberg News is reporting that a NY Federal Judge has rejected the $285 million settlement that Citibank had negotiated with the SEC over $1 billion in mortgage securities fraud that would also have exonerated the bank of guilt. Citibank Citibank had led investors to believe that the mortgage investments were safer than they actually were, leading to a financial loss of around $700 million.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff rejected the settlement in an opinion released today. The judge has criticized the agreement for permitting New York-based Citigroup to settle without admitting or denying liability in the matter. [..]

“In any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth,” Rakoff wrote in the opinion.

Rakoff consolidated the case with another SEC suit involving former Citigroup employee Brian Stoker and scheduled the combined case for trial on July 16, 2012. The parties may try to reach a revised settlement, which must be approved by Rakoff to take effect.

From Think Progress:

The “judge wrote that there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth about the financial markets. He set a July 16 trial date for the case.”

The SEC should have fined them twice the losses, not that it would have deterred Citibank from doing it again.  

Nov 30

Surprise: The Banks, The Treasury Department And The Federal Reserve Lied

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As if we didn’t know that they were all lying through their teeth on the extent of the bank bail out in late 2008, we’ve just never been sure of the price tag of all those lies. Now due to the dogged diligence of Bloomberg News, we have a better picture if what was handed out to the banks with no strings, $7.77 TRILLION. TARP, a mere $750 billion, was just 2% of that and who could forget the squawking from Congress that went on about that paltry sum.

Meantime the Federal Reserve has been fighting to keep the details of the largest bank bailout in US history buried from the public:

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse. [..]

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

“TARP at least had some strings attached,” says Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, referring to the program’s executive-pay ceiling. “With the Fed programs, there was nothing.”

Bankers didn’t disclose the extent of their borrowing. On Nov. 26, 2008, then-Bank of America (BAC) Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis wrote to shareholders that he headed “one of the strongest and most stable major banks in the world.” He didn’t say that his Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm owed the central bank $86 billion that day.

As expected, Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, one of the chief architects of this hand out, fought limiting the size of banks. David Dayen at FDL points this out from the article:

   On May 4, 2010, Geithner visited (former Sen. Ted) Kaufman in his Capitol Hill office. As president of the New York Fed in 2007 and 2008, Geithner helped design and run the central bank’s lending programs. The New York Fed supervised four of the six biggest U.S. banks and, during the credit crunch, put together a daily confidential report on Wall Street’s financial condition. Geithner was copied on these reports, based on a sampling of e- mails released by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

   At the meeting with Kaufman, Geithner argued that the issue of limiting bank size (Kaufman and Brown were working on a simple bill to cap bank size) was too complex for Congress and that people who know the markets should handle these decisions, Kaufman says. According to Kaufman, Geithner said he preferred that bank supervisors from around the world, meeting in Basel, Switzerland, make rules increasing the amount of money banks need to hold in reserve. Passing laws in the U.S. would undercut his efforts in Basel, Geithner said, according to Kaufman.

Not only have the banks and the regulators lied, they continue to lie. From Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

I get really offended by the bogus accounting, such as the “banks paid back the TARP” or “the Fed lost no money on its lending facilities,” which this story annoyingly has to repeat out of adherence to journalistic convention. This is all three card Monte. So what if the banks paid back loans when the central bank has goosed asset prices vis super low interest rates? That’s a massive tax on savers. And we have the hidden subsidy of underpriced bank rescue insurance. Ed Kane estimates that’s worth $300 billion a year for US banks; Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England has pencilled the annual cost as exceeding the market cap of big banks (and that was in 2010, when their stock prices were higher than now).

The Fed is most assuredly going to have losses. It hoovered up a ton of Treasuries and MBS to shore up asset prices at time when interest rates were already low. The central bank intends to sell them when interest rates rise, to soak up liquidity. Buying when interest rates are low and selling when rates are high guarantees losses. As an old Wall Street saying goes, it’s easy to manipulate markets, but hard to make money from it.

This would not have happened if Glass-Steagall had still been in place. If these details had been known, they would have gone a long way into reinstitution of that law which, for most of the last century, separated customer deposits from the riskier practices of investment banking.

It is long past time that both Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner resign. If they don’t do so voluntarily, President Obama should demand they do. I won’t hold my breath.

BTW, so far this morning, not a peep from the traditional MSM about this revelation.