July 18, 2012 archive

Jul 18

On This Day In History July 18

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.

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July 18 is the 199th day of the year (200th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 166 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who first took office in 1933 as America’s 32nd president, is nominated for an unprecedented third term. Roosevelt, a Democrat, would eventually be elected to a record four terms in office, the only U.S. president to serve more than two terms.

Roosevelt was born January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, and went on to serve as a New York state senator from 1911 to 1913, assistant secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1920 and governor of New York from 1929 to 1932. In 1932, he defeated incumbent Herbert Hoover to be elected president for the first time. During his first term, Roosevelt enacted his New Deal social programs, which were aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression. In 1936, he won his second term in office by defeating Kansas governor Alf Landon in a landslide.

Election of 1940

The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the 22nd Amendment after his presidency) since George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, and both Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive term. FDR systematically undercut prominent Democrats who were angling for the nomination, including two cabinet members, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and James Farley, Roosevelt’s campaign manager in 1932 and 1936, Postmaster General and Democratic Party chairman. Roosevelt moved the convention to Chicago where he had strong support from the city machine (which controlled the auditorium sound system). At the convention the opposition was poorly organized but Farley had packed the galleries. Roosevelt sent a message saying that he would not run, unless he was drafted, and that the delegates were free to vote for anyone. The delegates were stunned; then the loudspeaker screamed “We want Roosevelt… The world wants Roosevelt!” The delegates went wild and he was nominated by 946 to 147 on the first ballot. The tactic employed by Roosevelt was not entirely successful, as his goal had been to be drafted by acclamation. The new vice presidential nominee was Henry A. Wallace, a liberal intellectual who was Secretary of Agriculture.

In his campaign against Republican Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt stressed both his proven leadership experience and his intention to do everything possible to keep the United States out of war. In one of his speeches he declared to potential recruits that “you boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war.” He won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states. A shift to the left within the Administration was shown by the naming of Henry A. Wallace as Vice President in place of the conservative Texan John Nance Garner, who had become a bitter enemy of Roosevelt after 1937.

Jul 18

Cartnoon

On Topic – Childhood – Parents (3:39)

Jul 18

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Looking Back

Jul 18

Late Night Karaoke

Jul 18

Meet Your Billionaire Owners

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission opened the flood gates for millions of dollars of donations to political campaigns with virtually no oversight and no control. The Court sent the message that it was up to Congress to require disclosure of donations to political campaigns. So far, that has not worked out so well. But some members if the traditional and nontraditional media have taken the matter into their own hands and made public the names of the largest donors to mostly the coffers of the GOP and their radical agenda.

Most of those donors are billionaires who have only their own wealth and self-interest at heart over the needs and rights of the 99.9%. Yeah, damned some of those puny millionaires, too.

ProPublica, an independent, non-profit investigative internet news site along with PBS’ Frontline did an expose of one of those billionaires, formerly one of the most secretive, Sheldon Adelson. The article takes a look at Mr. Adelson’s casino holdings in Macau and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act:

Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau’s hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.

Adelson pushed his chips to the center of the table, keeping his nerve even as his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2008.

The Macau bet paid off, propelling Adelson into the ranks of the mega-rich and underwriting his role as the largest Republican donor in the 2012 campaign, providing tens of millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP causes.

Now, some of the methods Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators, according to people familiar with both inquiries.

Internal email and company documents, disclosed here for the first time, show that Adelson instructed a top executive to pay about $700,000 in legal fees to Leonel Alves, a Macau legislator whose firm was serving as an outside counsel to Las Vegas Sands.

The company’s general counsel and an outside law firm warned that the arrangement could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is unknown whether Adelson was aware of these warnings. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars American companies from paying foreign officials to “affect or influence any act or decision” for business gain.

Federal investigators are looking at whether the payments violate the statute because of Alves’ government and political roles in Macau, people familiar with the inquiry said. Investigators were also said to be separately examining whether the company made any other payments to officials. An email by Alves to a senior company official, disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, quotes him as saying “someone high ranking in Beijing” had offered to resolve two vexing issues – a lawsuit by a Taiwanese businessman and Las Vegas Sands’ request for permission to sell luxury apartments in Macau. Another email from Alves said the problems could be solved for a payment of $300 million. There is no evidence the offer was accepted. Both issues remain unresolved.

Steve Engelberg, managing editor at ProPublica, talks with Rachel Maddow about the reporting in a new ProPublica/Frontline PBS collaboration looking into the questionable dealings behind the Macau-based casino fortune of big-money Republican donor Sheldon Adelson

Jul 18

The Fraud of the Financial Fraud Task Force

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force is the umbrella group for the RMBS (Residential Mortgage-Backed Security) Task Force. Remember that task force that was so gleefully announced by President Obama in his State of the Union address in January, appointing New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to participate? Yeah, that one. It’s been under the radar for the most part and as yet has inadequate staff no office space or even a phone number.

The gang at FireDogLake has been relentless in tracking down what he FFETF and the RMBS have and haven’t done. My FDL contributor massacio has been a wizard at uncovering new releases that claim the groups are making progress when in reality the Obama DOJ is refusing to go after the big fish:

Like every one else who is following the refusal of the Obama Administration and its cowardly prosecutors to investigate Wall Street for crimes in the run-up to the Great Crash, I figured this was just a name given to a collection of prosecutors around the country who were already working on fraud cases.

The official website of the FFETF confirms this. [..]

I’ve gone back through February looking at the press releases, and this is a fair sample of the work of the FFETF. There is not a single case related to fraud in the creation, sale or operation of real estate mortgage-backed securities, the frauds that led to the Great Crash. The FFETF is a random collection of people working on cases that can be tied to financial fraud.

The FFETF and its 20 subpoenas and its 50 or more personnel and whatever else we hear from them are a sham. Wall Street has nothing to fear from the FFETF and its co-chair, Eric Schneiderman.

Richard (RJ) Eskow points out that Wall St. has nothing to fear from these task forces or for that matter from Attorney General Eric Holder:

Confidential sources say that the President’s much-touted Mortgage Fraud Task Force is being starved for vital resources by the Holder Justice Department. Political insiders are fearful that this obstruction will threaten Democrats’ chances at the polls. Investigators and prosecutors from other agencies are expressing their frustration as the ever-rowing list of documented crimes by individual Wall Street bankers continues to be ignored. [..]

A growing number of people are privately expressing concern at the Justice Department’s long-standing pattern of inactivity, obfuscation, and obstruction. Mr. Holder’s past as a highly-paid lawyer for a top Wall Street firm, Covington and Burling, is being discussed more openly among insiders. Covington & Burling was the law firm which devised the MERS shell corporation which has since been implicated in many cases of mortgage and foreclosure fraud. [..]

But there’s no evidence that Mr. Holder’s Justice Department has mounted a serious effort to investigate bank crime. Its first, much-touted “coordinated effort” to crack down on mortgage fraud turned out to be a PR trick, not a law enforcement effort, which the Columbia Journalism Review described with the headline, “The Obama Administration’s Financial-Fraud Stunt Backfires.” That’s not the kind of press a President wants to see repeated in an election year.

“Democrats have been having good luck painting Romney as the candidate of the one percent,” said one observer. “But that could change quickly with a few bad headlines.”

While nobody we spoke with was willing to raise the subject of a Holder resignation, they did insist that time was running out for the Attorney General to show concrete results.

Without criminal investigations and indictments, bankers will continue to commit crimes. The LIBOR scandal, which implicates a number of leading banks, proves that. The Justice Department’s inaction is putting the world economy at risk by allowing bankers to continue their reckless and illegal behavior.

The clock is ticking on many of these case since there is a five year statute of limitations under federal law for civil charges. There is now mounting evidence that Obama administration is letting that statute of limitations expire on the criminal charges, too. David Dayen at FDL News reports that he spoke with Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, concerning the Justice Department stonewalling prosecutions of securitization abuses. He asked Miller about the coalition of housing advocates charging the Justice Department with stonewalling the investigation and denying it critical resources:

Miller, who at one point was a potential choice to be the executive director of the working group, said that he had not personally spoken with anyone involved in the task force since he missed out on the position in late February/early March. But as an interested observer, he made a few points. “It does appear that the task force is really not doing anything that the various agencies weren’t doing already,” Miller said. “They’re just saying they are doing it as part of this task force.”

And Miller added something else, that members of the various agencies associated with the working group have acknowledged this in conversations with members of Congress. Miller cautioned that he hadn’t heard this from agency officials personally, but that other members have. [..]

Miller also noted that the statutes of limitations, at least on criminal fraud claims, have almost certainly run out. “I said a few weeks ago that the clock on the statute of limitations was ticking like Marisa Tomei’s biological clock in My Cousin Vinny,” Miller said. “If there have not been extensions worked out in private negotiations, and if the law is that the statute runs from occurrence rather than discovery, it’s probably the case that most statutes have expired.”

And unless we forget our erstwhile Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, maybe up to his ears in the multi-trillion dollar LIBOR fraud:

The flames of the Libor scandal have been creeping up under the feet of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Evidence showed that the New York Fed found out about the rate-rigging from Barclays and other banks in 2007, when Geithner was still the bank President. This appeared to display regulatory impotence in the face of massive fraud. Geithner had to respond. And he did with a classic version of CYA. [..]

Geithner passed the documents around to anyone who wanted them last night. If there can be something less than the bare minimum, a two-page document to the Bank of England – not the banks implicated in the rate-rigging over which the NY Fed has control, but some other regulator – would be it. He didn’t speak out publicly, he didn’t use his regulatory power over the banks he had authority and in defense of the stateside financial products calculated using the Libor benchmark rate, he just wrote a memo.

The memo says that the Bank of England should “eliminate the incentive to misreport” Libor on the part of the banks. So there’s no doubt in the minds of the regulators that there was misreporting going on.

Timmy’s excuse for doing nothing now is that he did nothing then

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will release on Friday documents showing it took “prompt action” four years ago to highlight problems with the benchmark interest rate known as Libor and to press for reform, an official at the regional U.S. central bank said on Wednesday.

As early as 2007, the New York Fed may have discussed problems with the setting of the London Interbank Offered Rate with Barclays Plc, the British bank currently at the center of the Libor scandal and investigation

Well, Timmy did send a memo.

Jul 18

Le Tour de France 2012: Stage 15

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.

Stage 15 Towns: Samatan and Pau

Samatan

Samatan is a commune in the Gers department in southwestern France. This is the first time Samatan has been a stage town for Le Tour.

Samatn, Fr From its many hills, Samatan, at the gates of Gascony and Toulouse, offers a great view on the Pyrenees with the pikes of Arbizon and Midi de Bigorre in the background. Its harmonious landscape, green and relaxed, is scattered with small woods and isolated farms in the huge check-board of the fields. This is why Samatan logically turned to green tourism with an emphasis on gastronomy and trekking.

The town has been equipped since the 1980S by a holiday village on the banks of a now renowned lake. It comprises a hotel nd adining rooms with a panoramic view over the lake. 2012 is an important year for the holiday centre as the lodgings will be entirely refurbished while the outside greens have been renovated in the respect of environment. Among the novelties, a spa has been added to the many activities on offer while access for the disabled has been improved.

Pau

 Pua is a commune on the northern edge of the Pyrenees, capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département in France. The site was fortified in the 11th century to control the ford across the Gave de Pau. It was built on the north bank, equidistant from Lescar, seat of the bishops, and from Morlaàs, and became the seat of the viscounts of Béarn. Pau was made capital of Béarn in 1464. During the early 16th century, the Château de Pau was made more habitable by Gaston III, count of Foix and became the residence of the kings of Navarre, who were also viscounts of Béarn.

In 1188, Gaston VI assembled his cour majour there, predecessor of the conseil souverain and roughly equivalent to the House of Lords (but predating it). Gaston VII added a third tower in the 13th century. Gaston Fébus (Gaston III of Foix and Gaston X of Béarn) added a brick donjon (keep).

Pau was birthplace of Henry IV of France. His mother, Jeanne d’Albret, crossed into France to ensure her son would be born there. The baby’s lips were moistened with the local Jurançon wine and rubbed with garlic shortly after birth. When Henry IV left Pau to become King of France, he remarked to local notables that he was not giving Béarn to France, but giving France to Béarn.

Napoleon III refurbished the château and Pau adding streets of Belle Époque architecture, before the fashion transferred to Biarritz. Pau is still a centre for winter sports and equestrian events, with a steeplechase. King Charles XIV of Sweden, the first royal Bernadotte, was also born in Pau.

Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln stayed in Pau in the late 1870s, toward the end of her life.

Pau Porte des Pyrénées is a territory of 250,000 men and women with a strong sense of common identity based on peace, sharing and passion. It is a natural outdoors sports destination with the Eaux-Vives Stadium, a golf course, trails for walking and rambling… Nature is everywhere in the town, in its numerous parks and gardens or its plots of land maintained by the sheep. It is also a cultural destination with the Chateau de Pau, its light show and outdoor nightime spectacles in its gardens.  Royal land, the city was the birthplace of Henri IV and Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte who became King of Sweden. It is also the land of good cheer with many homegrown produce: the Jurancon wines, la poule au pot, foie gras, sheeps’ milk cheese. Finally Pau makes the most of an innovative global economy: geosciences, food processing, aeronautics, horse breeding and Pau Broadband Country, the first high speed network in France. Pau has everything on offer to tempt you to stay either for a day, a weekend or your whole life so you can adopt brand Pau Porte des Pyrénées!

The bikers took the today off in the city of Pau. Stage 16 tomorrow will start in Pau  

Jul 18

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