July 15, 2012 archive

Jul 15

Let’s Talk ‘Decolonization’ by Unaspencer

I write today to, hopefully, start a dialogue and ongoing series about the concept of decolonization. I’m fairly new to the term. Some of the concepts have been in me for a while, but I did not have connection to a philosophy or political movement, much less a name. So, I’ll share my entry point and early thoughts about decolonization. I invite you to share yours.

When I left my house in Boston and headed to New York City to be present in Liberty Square last September, I was going as an “Occupier”, I suppose, since the action was called “Occupy Wall Street”. So many of us felt so strongly that the message about the deep layers of corruption in our economic and political systems resonated, that we didn’t even think about the word defining this burgeoning movement.

For me, the Occupy movement was connected to Arab Spring and the Encampanadas of Spain and even the Green movement in Iran. And Palestine.

Palestine. How could I even think for one moment that “occupying” was a good thing? Well, clearly, I didn’t think.

Jul 15

Happy Friday the Thirteenth or Not

Cross posted from Friday the 13th news dump at The Stars Hollow Gazette

If it weren’t Friday the Thirteenth, you’d think it was April’s Fool. It’s all the usual excuses by the CEO’s and the TBTF banks, “we are just finding it was this bad”

JPMorgan Fears Traders Obscured Losses in First Quarter

JPMorgan Chase, which reported its second-quarter results on Friday, disclosed that the losses on a soured credit bet could mount to more than $7 billion, as the nation’s largest bank indicated that traders may have intentionally tried to conceal the extent of the red ink on the disastrous position. [..]

If the trades, made out of the powerful chief investment office unit in London, had been properly valued, the bank said it would have lost $1.4 billion on the position in the first quarter.

Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive who has consistently reassured investors that the losses would be contained, announced that the bank lost $4.4 billion on the botched trade in the second quarter. So far this year, the bank says it has lost $5.8 billion on the trades in credit derivatives.  [..]

Since announcing the multibillion-dollar mistake, JPMorgan has lost $25 billion in market value.

Jamie Dimon finally admitting what we already knew but still not admitting that the real losses for the bank is closer to $30 billion. He is either the most incompetent CEO or he thinks that we’re all stupid to realize he knew about tis all along.

or  “but Timmy wrote a memo”

Barclays Informed New York Fed of Problems With Libor in 2007

A Barclays employee notified the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in April of 2008 that the firm was underestimating its borrowing costs, following potential warning signs as early as 2007 that other banks were undermining the integrity of a key interest rate.

In 2008, the employee said that the move was prompted by a desire to “fit in with the rest of the crowd” and added, “we know that we’re not posting um, an honest Libor,” according to documents that the agency released on Friday. The Barclays employee said that he believed such practices were widespread among major banks.

In response, the New York Fed began examining the matter and passed their findings to other financial authorities, according to the documents.

But the agency’s actions came too late and failed to thwart the illegal activities. By the time of the April 2008 conversation, the British firm had been trying to manipulate the interest rate for three years. And the practice persisted at Barclays for about a year after the briefing with the New York Fed.

Friday’s revelations shed new light on regulators’ role in the rate manipulation scandal. The documents also raise concerns about why authorities did not act sooner to thwart the rate-rigging.

The perp’s figured they were too big to indict and the Justice Department agreed.

In Barclays Inquiry, the Calculation in Making a Deal

The question needs to be faced in the wake of the bank’s admitted efforts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, known as Libor, the benchmark for countless interest rate determinations and approximately $450 trillion in derivative contracts.

If the Justice Department was looking for a textbook case of white-collar financial crime – including a conspiracy that was flourishing at the height of the financial crisis – this would seem tailor-made. As the facts released by the government make clear, there were two separate but overlapping schemes to manipulate Libor within Barclays. Yet the bank secured a nonprosecution agreement and agreed to pay a penalty of more than $450 million, a comparatively paltry sum for a bank that had more than £32 billion ($50 billion) in revenue in 2011. “The perception so far has been that the regulators have been toothless,” John C. Coffee Jr., professor of law and specialist in white-collar crime at Columbia Law School, told me this week. [..]

(The criminal division said its agreement with Barclays was reached in conjunction with the antitrust division.)

And this is why Richard Diamond and Jamie Dimon have nothing to worry about and the world is still being screwed.

 

Jul 15

LIBOR Effects on US Loans

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

LIBOR just keeps getting bigger by the day, like a wildfire.

Effect of Libor on US loans examined

by Shahien Nasiripour at The Financial Times

US lawmakers have raised concerns that the alleged manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, may have harmed households, raising the stakes on a scandal that thus far has been confined to Wall Street and the City of London.

There are at least 900,000 outstanding US home loans indexed to Libor that were originated from 2005 to 2009, the period the key lending gauge may have been rigged, investigators have said. Those mortgages carry an unpaid principal balance of $275bn, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bank regulator.

During periods when banks were allegedly attempting to push Libor higher, households with loans tied to the gauge may have paid higher rates than necessary. However, if the rate was manipulated lower, households may have benefited from paying below-market interest rates.

“I think the US government should be just as aggressive in getting to the bottom of this scandal as the United Kingdom has been,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, chair of the bank regulatory subcommittee on the Senate banking committee.

“This was not isolated to London, but affected tens of millions of investors, borrowers and taxpayers in our country as well,” Mr Brown added.

Libor Investigation Extended to US Mortgages, but What About TALF Loans?

by Yves Smith at naked capitalism

One area we hope will be investigated is the impact on TALF borrowing. Some of the loans were priced off Libor, raising the specter that the banks might have gamed the rates not just for advertising purposes, but to game these programs. From the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s website:

   The interest rate on TALF loans secured by ABS backed by federally guaranteed student loans will be 50 basis points over 1-month LIBOR. The interest rate on TALF loans secured by SBA Pool Certificates will be the federal funds target rate plus 75 basis points. The interest rate on TALF loans secured by SBA Development Company Participation Certificates will be 50 basis points over the 3-year LIBOR swap rate for three-year TALF loans and 50 basis points over the 5-year LIBOR swap rate for five-year TALF loans. For three-year TALF loans secured by other eligible fixed-rate ABS, the interest rate will be 100 basis points over the 1-year LIBOR swap rate for securities with a weighted average life less than one year, 100 basis points over the 2-year LIBOR swap rate for securities with a weighted average life greater than or equal to one year and less than two years, or 100 basis points over the 3-year LIBOR swap rate for securities with a weighted average life of two years or greater. For TALF loans secured by private student loan ABS bearing a prime-based coupon, the interest rate will be the higher of 1 percent and the rate equal to “Prime Rate” (as defined in the MLSA) minus 175 basis points. For other TALF loans secured by other eligible floating-rate ABS, the interest rate will be 100 basis points over 1-month LIBOR.

Note again that some of the loans were priced off one-month Libor, which per the Barclays disclosures, were among the maturities manipulated; these are clearly a place to start [..]

The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged

by Simon Johnson at The New York Times

In the aftermath of the Barclays rate-fixing scandal, the most surprising reaction has been from people in the financial sector who fully understand the awfulness of what has happened. Rather than seeing this as an issue of law and order, some well-informed people have been drawn toward arguments that excuse or justify the behavior of the Barclays employees.

This is a big mistake, in terms of the economics at stake and the likely political impact.

The behavior at Barclays has all the hallmarks of fraud – intentional deception for personal gain, causing significant damage to others.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission nailed the detailed mechanics of this deception in plain English in its Order Instituting Proceedings (which is also a settlement and series of admissions by Barclays). Most of the compelling quotes from traders involved in this scandal come from the commission’s order, but too few commentators seem to have read the full document. Please look at it now, if you have not done so already.

The commission’s order portrays a wide-ranging conspiracy (or perhaps a set of conspiracies) to rig markets, including, but not limited to, any securities for which the price is linked to a particular set of short-term interest rates.

This past weekend on Up with Chris Hayes, Chris and his panel guests discuss the rate rigging scandal.

Jul 15

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a 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.

Summer Aioli Feasts

Photobucket

Aioli is the quintessential Provençal condiment, a very pungent garlic mayonnaise that in its home country contains more garlic than the version below – which is already pretty garlicky. It’s easy enough to make, and wonderful with all sorts of vegetables, like greens, steamed artichokes and asparagus. All it requires of the eater is a taste for raw garlic.

Aioli (Provençal Garlic Mayonnaise)

The quintessential Provençal condiment.

Rouille

A variation that is generally served with bouillabaisse and other fish soups.

Steamed Cod With Favas and Aioli

This dish was inspired by leftovers, but its appeal makes it a candidate for a dinner party.

Summer Aioli Feast

This parade of simply cooked fish and vegetables keeps the spotlight on the rich garlicky mayonnaise.

Warm Chickpea and Green Bean Salad With Aioli

Flavorful liquid left from cooking the beans is used to thin out the aioli, making a pungent dressing for this salad.

Aioli Pan Bagnat or Stuffed Pita

A garlicky niçoise salad on a bun or in a pita makes for a filling but light meal.

Jul 15

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Jul 15

The World’s Biggest Starbucks

Among other useless skills and trivia picked up in my misspent youth, I know how to use a Research Library.

What lies behind the battle over the New York Public Library

Jason Farago, The Guardian

Saturday 7 July 2012

Libraries across America are facing swingeing budget cuts and uncertain futures. But here in New York, home to the second-largest library in the country, the future is now.

The hottest cultural controversy of this already hot summer concerns the New York Public Library (NYPL), and a plan to disembowel its main building – a plan that will slice open the stacks and “replace books with people”, in the words of the NYPL system’s CEO, Tony Marx. It’s enraged writers and professors, demoralized a staff already coping with layoffs, and called the entire purpose of the system into question.



Unlike the borough branches, the central library does not lend books. It’s a research institution, and compared to establishments of the same caliber – the Library of Congress, say, or the collections of Harvard and Yale – it is exceptionally open. You don’t need an academic affiliation. You don’t need to pay for a reader’s ticket. You don’t even need to come up with a convincing excuse to call up Walt Whitman’s manuscripts if you want to have a rifle through. Just fill out a call slip and you can have it in about an hour.

The new Central Library Plan, though, will move 3m books (about 60% of what’s now on site) out of the central facility, to be immured in some bunker in New Jersey. Researchers have been promised that they can summon these books with a day’s notice. But the library already promises that for books currently off-site, and it doesn’t really work that way; in practice, it takes closer to two or three days.



What will take the place of the books? Well, the closed stacks will be smashed open to make way for a smaller lending library, to supersede the large one across the street from the main facility which the NYPL plans to sell off. That worries not just researchers but architectural preservationists. The library, designed by Carrère and Hastings, is a masterpiece of engineering; unusually, the grand reading room sits at the top of the building, perched on stacks that were state of the art in their day.



A research library has a different mission from a lending library; it’s there to put everything, not just the most popular volumes, at our disposal. If you hit an intriguing footnote that references another publication, or if you find an irregularity in a text and want to check it against another source, all you have to do now is grab one of the library’s stubby golf pencils, write down the title, and it’s yours. That will soon be gone, and its effect on research will be brutal if not mortal.



The central library plan might not be irredeemable. Several advocates have proposed a sensible alternative that would keep most of the books in town. But the NYPL has shown no inclination to listen to its own users, or even to make its deliberations public, and that is the truly worrying thing. Replacing books with people may look accessible and anti-elitist. But the real popular gesture is to keep research free for all.

Instead, on the advice of some of the world’s most profitable consultancies and a board full of oligarchs, we are being told that what we really deserve is not a world-class library, but comfy chairs and blueberry muffins.

Jul 15

Cartnoon

My Favorite Duck

Jul 15

On This Day In History July 15

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.

Click on images to enlarge

July 15 is the 196th day of the year (197th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 169 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day 1789, Lafayette selected colonel-general of the National Guard of Paris

Only one day after the fall of the Bastille marked the beginning of a new revolutionary regime in France, the French aristocrat and hero of the American War for Independence, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, becomes the colonel-general of the National Guard of Paris by acclamation. Lafayette served as a human link between America and France in what is sometimes known as The Age of Revolutions.

National Guard, Versailles, and Day of Daggers

On 15 July, Lafayette was acclaimed commander-in-chief of the National Guard of France, an armed force established to maintain order under the control of the Assembly. Lafayette proposed the name and the symbol of the group: a blue, white and red cockade. On 5 October 1789, a Parisian crowd, composed mostly of rough women working in the markets selling fish, marched to Versailles in response to the scarcity of bread. Members of the National Guard followed the march, and when Lafayette said that this march is non-sense, the National Guard’s men openly defied his power and according to some sources, they said “We are going with you, or over you”, then Lafayette reluctantly led the National Guard army to Versaille. At Versailles, the king accepted the Assembly’s votes but refused requests to return to Paris. That evening, Lafayette replaced most of the royal bodyguards with National Guardsmen. At dawn, the crowd broke into the palace. Before it succeeded in entering the queen’s bedroom, Marie Antoinette fled to the king’s apartments. Lafayette took the royal family onto the palace balcony and attempted to restore order. The crowd insisted that the king and his family move to Paris where they were installed in the Tuileries Palace. At the balcony, King Louis simply appeared, and everyone started chanting “Vive le Roi!”. Then when Maria Antoinette appeared with her children, she was told to send the children back, afterwards, when she came out alone, people shouted to shoot her, but when she stood her ground facing almost certain death, no one opened fire. After several seconds and the lowering of rifles, people started to chant “Vive la Reine!” (“Long live the Queen”, now the crowd is including the Queen)As leader of the National Guard, Lafayette attempted to maintain order. On 12 May 1790, he instituted, along with Jean Sylvain Bailly (mayor of Paris), a political club called the “Society of 1789” . The club’s intention was to provide balance to the influence of the Jacobins. On 14 July 1790, Lafayette took the civic oath on the Champs de Mars, vowing to “be ever faithful to the nation, to the law, and to the king; to support with our utmost power the constitution decreed by the National Assembly, and accepted by the king.”

He continued to work for order in the coming months. On 20 February 1791, the Day of Daggers, Lafayette traveled to Vincennes in response to an attempt to liberate a local prison. Meanwhile, armed nobles converged around the Tuileries, afraid the unprotected king would be attacked. Lafayette returned to Paris to disarm the nobles.[89] On 18 April, the National Guard disobeyed Lafayette and stopped the King from leaving for Saint-Cloud over Easter.

Jul 15

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Where Obama failed on forging peace in the Middle East

 

By Scott Wilson, Sunday, July 15, 12:57 PM

It was their first meeting with the new president, and the dozen or so Jewish leaders picked to attend had made an agreement among themselves: No arguing – either with each other or their host.

The pledge would be hard to keep.

Five weeks earlier, President Obama had traveled to Cairo to ask for a “new beginning” between his government and an Islamic world angry about the United States’ wars in two Muslim nations and its perceived favoritism toward Israel. Now, he was calling in these influential Jewish leaders to explain his thinking on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.




Sunday’s Headlines:

Libor scandal – the net widens

Indian campaign confronts fear of baby girls

African Union urges speedy transition in coup-wracked Mali  

Wikipedia: Meet the men and women who write the articles

Haiti earthquake camps clearing out; problems now become hidden

Jul 15

Le Tour de France 2012: Stage 13

The Tour de France 2012, the world’s premier cycling event kicked off last Saturday with the Prologue in Liège, Belgium and will conclude on July 22 with the traditional ride into Paris and laps up and down the Champs-Élysées. Over the next 22 days the race will take its course briefly along the Northwestern coast of France through  Boulogne-sur-Mer, Abbeville and into Rouen then into the mountains of the Jura, Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees.

We will be Live Blogging Le Tour 2012 every morning at The Stars Hollow Gazette starting at 7:30 AM EDT. Come join us for a morning chat, cheer the riders and watch some of the most beautiful and historic countryside in Europe.

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Le Cap d’Agde 217 km

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux Cathedral is a commune in the Drôme department in southeastern France. The name of the city comes from the Gaul tribe of the Tricastini. Local historians incorrectly concluded that the name was derived from the Latin “Tricastinorum”, meaning three castles.

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux is a charming village in the Drôme Provençale, which nestles among vineyards, truffle oaks and fields of lavender, and manages to combine heritage, the land, authenticity and conviviality. Beneath it, the village’s former inhabitants have left behind a number of relics from the prehistoric age, from antiquity and the middle Ages. The mediaeval cathedral, a remarkable example of Roman architecture, is emblematic of the town, sitting majestically in the centre of the village. Inside the city walls, you will discover a host of attractions: mansions, charming little squares adorned with fountains and outdoor cafes. Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux is also a gastronomic delight, best known for its truffles, providing 60 per cent of France’s truffles to the market, as well as its wine (AOC wines from Grignan-les-Adhémar) and its many great restaurants. The influence of the village also goes beyond its walls – it’s also known for its children’s book festival, its soul jazz festival, its classical music festival – Les Musicales en Tricastin – and a film festival.

Le Cap d’Agde

Le Cap d'Agde Cap d’Agde is the seaside resort of the town of Agde, France, on the Mediterranean sea in the département of Hérault, within the région of Languedoc-Roussillon.  Cap d’Agde is one of the largest leisure ports on the French Mediterranean. Development as a tourist resort started in the 1970s before which time the only buildings at the Cap were small houses typically used for weekends by local people.

Set up at the beginning of the 1970s, the Cap d’Agde resort has become, in the space of 40 years, a leading example of a seaside holiday resort with today nearly 175,000 overnight stays. Created by the Interministerial Mission for Territory Management, headed by Pierre Racine, designed by architect Jean Le Couteur, in 2010 it saw its Port Saint-Martin district named Heritage of the 20th Century. Le Cap d’Agde is the emblematic resort of the town of Agde, founded 2,600 years ago by the Greeks of Phocee. A stategic place due to its location in the Gulf of Lion, Agde is situated between the borders of three areas of water: the Mediterranean Sea, the Herault River and the Canal du Midi. Its economy, for a long time centred around the sea and viticulture, is today primarily based on tourism, since it welcomes at the height of the summer season up to 300,000 people. Agde, which means good fortune – from its Greek name Agathe Tyche – has retained many traces that make up its rich heritage including the largest French collection of bronze antiques found in situ and collected together at the Ephebe Museum.

Jul 15

What We Now Know

What We Know: A historically low tax rate for the US

Statistics showed that in 2009, American paid the lowest federal tax rate in thirty years. Chris Hayes and his panel guests shared what they have learned this week. Some of Saturday’s Up with Chris Hayes guests were Mark Bittman (@bittman), food columnist for The New York Times and author of several books; James Carville, lead strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential election campaign, and political science professor at Tulane University; Katrina Vanden Heuvel (@katrinanation), editor and publisher of The Nation magazine; and L. Joy Williams (@ljoywilliams), political strategist and founder of LJW Community Strategies.

Share with us what you have learned this week.

Open Thread