August 2, 2012 archive

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Our regular featured content-

These featured articles-

This special feature-

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an cialis generico fermo deposito Open Thread

The Stars Hollow Gazette

How To Lose a Slam Dunk

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What was should have been an open and shut case against a mid-level executive with Citibank over the banks’s sale of risky collateralized debt obligations (CDO) somehow was lost by Security and Exchange Commission lawyers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission had accused Brian Stoker, a former midlevel Citigroup executive, with negligence related to his role in creating exotic mortgage securities known as collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s. In a lawsuit filed last October, the government said that Mr. Stoker, who prepared sales materials for C.D.O.’s, knew or should have known that he was misleading investors by not disclosing that Citigroup helped select the underlying mortgage securities in the C.D.O. and then placed a large bet against it.

The jury rejected the S.E.C.’s case, concluding that Mr. Stoker was not liable under the securities laws. In addition to handing up its verdict, the jury also issued an unusual statement.

lasix plus This verdict should not deter the S.E.C. from investigating the financial industry, to review current regulations and modify existing regulations as necessary,” said the jury’s statement, which was read aloud in the courtroom by Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who presided over the two-week trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Citibank has already entered an agreement to pay $285 million to settle a civil suit filed by the SEC about the CDO’s. As part of the agreement, Citibank would not have to admit to any wrong doing. Judge Rakoff has rejected that deal and told the parties to prepare for a trial. That ruling is being appealed.

Mr. Stoker’s lawyer depicted him as a “scapregoat” who was merely doing what he was told. Stoker knew full well that the CDO’s were very risky but failed to warn investors who lost over a billion dollars, but he was following instruction from the higher ups. Seriously? The Nuremberg defense is now acceptable?

As Yves Smith observes the SEC showed abject incompetence in prosecuting Stoker:

The SEC’s performance in the case at issue, SEC v. Stoker, was such a total fail that the odds are high that any motivated member of the top half of the NC readership would have done a better job of arguing this case pro se than the SEC did. Even though this case was argued before a jury (ooh, scary! They might go into My Eyes Glaze Over mode on CDO details), the basic issues were simple. The CDO squared that Citigroup director Brian Stoker marketed to investors was presented as having its assets selected by an independent asset manager. This is crucial. Just as investors in mutual funds understand they are hiring a fund management firm, and they compete on track records, so to were managed CDOs sold on the notion that the managers were serving the interests of the investors. And this is particularly important for CDOs, since the fact that the final asset list is made available shortly before closing makes it pretty much impossible for investors to evaluate a CDO on their own even if they had the skills and motivation. [..]

So what did the SEC’s strategy appear to be? This seems to have been a parallel to the approach in the Goldman suit against Goldman’s Fabrice Tourre: to target an non-executive and get him to roll the higher ups. But Tourre and Stoker were both enough made men to be willing to fight. Stoker had a $2.2 million guarantee for 2007. Guys like that do not want to lose their access to the industry meal ticket.

So what was Stoker’s defense? That he was being scapegoated, and Citi should really be on trial. Huh? In prosecutions, whether other parties are being charged is irrelevant. The question at hand is: did the party on trial engage in the conduct in question or not? Saying, “I was only the car driver in the robbery, I didn’t enter the convenience store” does not get you off of being an accessory to a crime. It’s pretty bloomin’ obvious that Stoker misrepresented the deal to investors. He had held securities industry licenses; he knew what the standards were.

It’s fairly obvious from day one of this entire case against Citibank that the SEC was trying very hard to let them off the hook. It is past time that the SEC was staffed with people who are more willing to regulate the banks and up hold the law. I have some heavy doubts that will ever happen under this administration or any other, now or in the future.

Humans Did It

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A skeptical physicist ends up confirming climate data

by Brad Plumer

Back in 2010, Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist and self-proclaimed climate skeptic, decided to launch the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project to review the temperature data that underpinned global-warming claims. Remember, this was not long after the Climategate affair had erupted, at a time when skeptics were griping that climatologists had based their claims on faulty temperature data.

Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wrote Anthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United Statse that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 – and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.

So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” And, today, the BEST team has released a flurry of new papers that confirm that the planet is getting hotter. As the team’s two-page summary flatly concludes, “ enter site Global warming is real“.

While Prof Muller admitted that global warming was very real, he was still a skeptic as to its cause. Until now:

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic

by Richard A. Muller

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, cialis generico venda em portugal it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

(Richard A.) Muller’s research was intended to prove the opposite. The physicist and his team even took the most common arguments raised by climate deniers, putting them to the test to see if skeptics’ claims had merit. It’s why the Kochs got out their checkbook in the first place.

But Muller is now telling his benefactors what they don’t want to hear (a.k.a., the truth): the climate crisis is real and it’s caused by human activity. Whether humanity chooses to deal with the reality of the crisis remains to be seen, but we can’t say we weren’t warned.

On This Day In History August 2

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

August 2 is the 214th day of the year (215th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 151 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America-Independence Day-is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.

The Declaration justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural rights, including a right of revolution. Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, a sweeping statement of individual human rights:

   We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language” and “the most potent and consequential words in American history”.

After finalizing the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as a printed broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The most famous version of the Declaration, a signed copy that is usually regarded as the Declaration of Independence, is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Although the wording of the Declaration was approved on July 4, the date of its signing has been disputed. Most historians have concluded that it was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed. The sources and interpretation of the Declaration have been the subject of much scholarly inquiry.

The famous wording of the Declaration has often been invoked to protect the rights of individuals and marginalized groups, and has come to represent for many people a moral standard for which the United States should strive. This view was greatly influenced by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and who promoted the idea that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

Cartnoon

5 x Five – Colbert Report on Unions – Factory Workers (2:05)

Significant Error

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Bank official admits economists were to blame for recession

A top economist at the Bank of England has admitted that his profession should share the blame for the financial crisis and recession.

By Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor, The Telegraph

12:01AM BST 01 Aug 2012

Andy Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank (of England), said economists misled policymakers in the years before the crisis by promoting a “blinkered” view of the world based on the assumption their theories were unfailingly correct.



He said the error was not driven by economists seeking financial gain but “the quest for certainty”. But their error was to think of the assumptions used to build economic models as cast-iron laws.

“A concept gets formalised and then gets socialised and then believed as an almost theological doctrine,” he said. “The notion of not knowing, of imperfect information, of uncertainty, got lost from economics and finance for the better part of 20 or 30 years.

“I think one of the great errors we as economists made was that we started believing the assumptions of economics, and saying things that made no intellectual sense. We started to believe that what were assumptions were actually a description of reality, and therefore that the models were a description of reality, and therefore were dependable for policy analysis.

“With hindsight, that was a pretty significant error.”

(h/t Naked Capitalism)

Just in case you think this will have any effect on faith cult not science voodoo academics-

Greenspan – I was wrong about the economy. Sort of

Andrew Clark in New York and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Thursday 23 October 2008

A long-time cheerleader for deregulation, Greenspan admitted to a congressional committee yesterday that he had been “partially wrong” in his hands-off approach towards the banking industry and that the credit crunch had left him in a state of shocked disbelief. “I have found a flaw,” said Greenspan, referring to his economic philosophy. “I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

It was the first time the man hailed for masterminding the world’s longest postwar boom has accepted any culpability for the crisis that has engulfed the global banking system.



“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” said Greenspan.

They have learned nothing at all.

Who To Listen To

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

July 30, 2012, 9:03 am

One thing that’s striking in Portes’s discussion – and something I very much agree with – is the irrelevance of formal credentials. As we’ve debated how to deal with the worst slump since the 1930s, a distressing number of economists have taken to arguing on the basis that they have fancy degrees and you don’t – or in some cases that well, you may have a fancy degree too, and even a prize or two, but in the wrong sub-field, so there.

But all this counts for very little, especially when macroeconomics itself – or at any rate the kind of macroeconomics that has dominated the journals these past couple of decades – is very much on trial.

Late Night Karaoke

My Little Town 20120801: The Gang

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.

My maternal grandmum married John Mackey, a really nice man who had been a doughboy during World War I.  She had been widowed for many years (my grandfather died years before I was born) and John had been married briefly decades before, so he was essentially a bachelor.

John had a little candy store on Main Street in Hackett where he sold candy, cold soft drinks, flashlight batteries, and sundries.  He never made any money with the store because he gave so much stuff away to kids (like me).  He lived in the back of the store until he married my grandmum.  He had a little pension for serving in World War I and also a black lung pension for being a coal miner for years.

The store was the gathering place for the old men in town.  He had an awning over the storefront and several benches and chairs under it.  He also had chairs and tables inside for winter and he had a pot bellied coal stove in the store.  At the time coal was readily available for the consumer market in Hackett.

Like a Blowtorch Burning

Steadily increasing child poverty is exposing the moral bankruptcy of America’s political and economic systems and has ominous implications, for as child poverty increases, it’s igniting a destructive chain reaction of cause and effect, with dire long-term consequences for the stability of American society.  

Jillian Berman, “One In Four Young U.S. Children Living In Poverty” . . .

Children who are poor before age 6 have been shown to experience educational deficits, and health problems, with effects that span the life course.  Elevated rates of child poverty could have dire consequences for the country down the line, for child poverty is a leading indicator of a country’s future, nearly all of the social problems that we worry about are heavily correlated with child poverty.

They don’t realize it now, they probably never will, but through their relentless pursuit of policies that only benefit the top one-percent and punish everyone else, the alleged elites of this psychotic system are ensuring their own destruction.  The deceit traffickers in that cartel of criminals that used to be Congress can keep bulldozing piles of cash to the rich, they can keep building more prisons, they can keep militarizing the police, they can keep expanding surveillance, they can keep criminalizing dissent, but none of that’s going to matter when time runs out, when they have no legitimacy left, when poverty has become so pervasive that nothing can contain the bitterness of tens of millions of people betrayed by their own government.  And then betrayed again.

Week in and week out.

Month after month.

Year after year.  

Full Moon, Blue Moon, Lughnasadh

Cross posted by The Stars Hollow Gazette

August is here and tonight we a graced with the first of two full moons and the first harvest festival of the Wiccan year, Lughnasadh.

August 31 will be the last Blue Moon, the second full moon in a single month, until July 2015. A “blue moon’ occurs approximately every 2.7 years. On rare occasions, as in 1999, it happens twice. Joe Rao at Space.com explains the term “blue moon” its origins and some interesting astronomical lunar trivia:

Blue Moon The phrase “once in a blue moon” was first noted in 1824 and refers to occurrences that are uncommon, though not truly rare. Yet, to have two full moons in the same month is not as uncommon as one might think. In fact, it occurs, on average, about every 2.66 years. And in the year 1999, it occurred twice in a span of just three months.

For the longest time no one seemed to have a clue as to where the “blue moon rule” originated.

It was not until that “double blue moon year” of 1999 that the origin of the calendrical term “blue moon” was at long last discovered. It was during the time frame from 1932 through 1957 that the Maine Farmers’ Almanac suggested that if one of the four seasons (winter, spring, summer or fall) contained four full moons instead of the usual three, that the third full moon should be called a blue moon.

But thanks to a couple of misinterpretations of this cryptic definition, first by a writer in a 1946 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, and much later, in 1980 in a syndicated radio program, it now appears that the second full moon in a month is the one that’s now popularly accepted as the definition of a blue moon.

Blue Moon/New Moon

While we’ve assigned the name blue moon to the second full moon of the month, it seems that we have no such name for the second new moon of the month. Nonetheless, these opposing phases seem to be connected with each other. For if two new moons occur within a specific month, then in most cases, four years later, two full moons will also occur in that very same month.

Tonight the moon becomes full at 11:27 PM EDT and st 9:58 AM on August 31. The moons also have names that originated from our Native American brothers and sisters:

Aug. 1, Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, such as Lake Champlain, is most readily caught. A few tribes knew this moon as the Full Red Moon because when the moon rises, it appears reddish through sultry haze (in 2012, The Old Farmer’s Almanac gives this moniker to the full moon of Aug. 31). Other variations include the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Aug. 31, Full Corn Moon.  Sometimes also called the Fruit Moon; such monikers were used for a full moon that occurs during the first week of September, so as to keep the Harvest Moon from coming too early in the calendar.

LughnasadhThe first two days of August are also the Wiccan holiday of Lughnasadh,or Lammas, the first of three harvest festivals celebrating the bounties of Mother Earth. The name is derived from the Irish god, Lugh, who dedicated the festival to his foster mother who died clearing a forest for planting. It marks the beginning of the harvest when apples are ripe, wheat and corn are ready to harvest. Herbs and flowers are ready to be picked and dried and fruit are prepared for preserving, seeds are gathered for Spring planting. To celebrate, a fire is lit and the table is spread with the bounties of the harvest and decorated with seasonal flowers. The first wines and beers are placed in pitchers and dinner is grilled meat and vegetables from the garden seasoned with fresh herbs.

It’s raining here tonight, so our celebration will be postponed until tomorrow night. We are hoping for a glimpse of the moon as the storms move out of the area tonight.

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Our regular featured content-

These featured articles-

This special feature-

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an Open Thread

The Stars Hollow Gazette