Sunday, May 31, 2009
Progressives, liberals, and pro-choice activists need protection from right wing crazies.
This From Joe. My. God.
Monday, June 01, 2009
This Week In Holy Crimes
Over the last seven days...
Minnesota: Rev. Donald Dean Budd convicted of two counts of felony sexual misconduct.
Utah: Pastor William J. Blanscet charged with exposing himself over a webcam to who he thought was a 13 year-old girl.
Pennsylvania: Pastor Guy Carlton Jones sentenced to three years in state prison for attempted sexual conduct with an 8 year-old girl. Bonus: Jones was convicted of raping an 8 year-old girl in 1991.
California: The Catholic Diocese of Monterey agrees to pay man $1.2M for years of sexual assaults by two priests. The diocese never reported the assaults to the police and the priests went on to abuse others, including the plaintiff's brother.
Idaho: Pastor Reuben Elmer Floyd Jr. sentenced to 10-25 years in prison for child molestation.
North Carolina: Pastor Tommy Wheeler charged with multiple felony sex offenses for molestation of 15 year-old girl.
Louisiana: Youth pastor Jeremy Little sentenced to 24 years in prison for drugging and molesting young boys.
Kentucky: Pastor Richard Wilson Bridges charged with stealing $50,000 from his church.
South Africa: Pastor Muzi Kunene convicted of murdering his real estate agent. Bonus: His church says he will "remain an inspiration." Extra bonus: Kunene founded Christians For Truth, an anti-abortion lobby group.
This week's winner:
New York: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese is blackmailing lawmakers who attempt to extend the statute of limitations on child molestation, telling a gathering of legislators (according to one Assembly member who was present), "If it passes, we will close a parish in each of your districts and we will tell your constituents that it was your fault." Extending the time limit allowed to report attacks is predicted to cost the Catholic Church hundreds of millions in judgments in New York state. The Child Victims Act will likely be voted on before the close of the current session at the end of June.
Monday, May 25, 2009
This from Joe. My. God. -- another run down of "Holy Crimes"
This Week In Holy Crimes
Over the last seven days...
Florida: Imam Yasser Mohamed Shahade arrested for sexual assault of 13 year-old boy.
Israel: Rabbi Elior Noam Hen charged with ritualistic burning and cutting of toddlers because they were "possessed by the devil." One child is in a permanent vegetative state. Rabbi Hen has fled to Brazil, who has agreed to extradite him back to Israel.
Colorado: Pastor Don Armstrong charged with 20 felony fraud counts for stealing $300K from his congregation. Bonus: Armstrong started his church because his old one supported gay marriage and appointed gay clergy.
Florida: Pastor Garry Souffrant, his wife and his brother all charged with 59 felony counts for laundering $7M in cocaine profits and for mortgage fraud. Bonus: Pastor Souffrant bought 12 houses and a Rolls Royce Phantom with his loot.
Alabama: Pastor Billy Paul Masters charged with sexual abuse of child under 12. Bonus: Masters was on probation after spending six years in prison for the same crime.
Tennessee: Pastor Michael James charged with statutory rape.
Arkansas: Pastor Jason William Dubwig sentenced to five years in prison for incest with his adopted daughter.
New York: Pastor Merton Parks pleads guilty to possession of child pornography.
California: Pastor Daniel John Pedroza pleads guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, penetrating a minor with a foreign object.
Florida: Pastor Darrell Gilyard pleads guilty to lewd conduct and lewd molestation for sending explicit text messages and fondling 14 year-old girls.
This week's winner:
Ireland: The Commission To Inquire Into Child Abuse releases a 3000-page, €70M report detailing the sexual and physical abuse of over 2500 boys at the hands of priests and nuns at numerous Catholic schools. Among the atrocities are naked beatings, rape, and gang rape. Only a few of cases will result in hearings for criminal charges as the Commission has been "overwhelmed past its capacities" to prosecute.
The conservative Colorado Springs pastor who broke away from the Episcopal Church to form a new Anglican congregation in May 2007 now is accused of stealing $291,000 from Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish.
The Rev. Don Armstrong was indicted on 20 counts of felony theft by an El Paso County grand jury Wednesday. He surrendered to authorities Thursday but was soon free on bond, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Armstrong's spokesman did not return calls Friday.
Police and a special prosecutor conducted a two-year investigation into allegations of Armstrong's financial wrongdoings at the church.
In the indictment, Armstrong, 60, is accused of using the Clarice Bowton Trust, a scholarship fund for new ministers, to pay his own children's college expenses, including rent and tuition bills.
The trust was activated after Bowton's death in the late 1970s, and its terms were never amended.
The indictment further states that Armstrong's use of the trust was eventually questioned by a trust officer, who terminated its distribution to the church as of December 2001.
Once Armstrong's access to the trust was cut off, the indictment said, the pastor began using the general funds of the church to pay for his son's and daughter's educations. Court records say Armstrong siphoned $291,000 from the church and the trust over a 7 1/2-year period.
When Armstrong left the Episcopal Church, he said the split was over theological differences, such as his opposition to gay marriage and the church's ordination of openly gay clergy.
But Colorado Episcopal Diocese officials countered that they believed Armstrong, who had been Grace's pastor for 20 years, had left to escape reckoning for embezzlement uncovered by diocesan officials. The diocese notified police of its suspicions in May 2007.
In fall 2007, an Ecclesiastical Court in Denver found Armstrong guilty of financial and pastoral misconduct that included theft of almost $400,000.
Armstrong also was removed from active ministry in the Episcopal Church. The diocese would not comment further Friday.
In 2007, Armstrong affiliated his parish with the theologically conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America.
Armstrong and his group kept possession of Grace Church and St. Stephen buildings on Tejon Street until an El Paso County judge ruled March 24 that the pastor must surrender the $17 million property to the diocese around April 1.
Armstrong and followers then moved to a new house of worship, St. George's Anglican Church on Fieldstone Road. Officials there issued a statement Friday expressing full support for Armstrong and belief in his innocence, according to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.
Convocation of Anglicans in North America Bishop Martyn Minns said Friday that the indictment was a painful but necessary step in Armstrong's journey of publicly proving his innocence.
The case will be prosecuted by Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut because the El Paso County DA at the time the case was opened had been a parishioner of Armstrong's and recused himself.
Electa Draper: 303-954-1276 or email@example.com
If the country ever gets around to ending life tenure for Supreme Court Justices, I hope we add a provision ending it for Washington Post columnists too. Or at least ending it for Robert Samuelson. Today, again, we see another extremely misleading op-ed from him on the fiscal health of Social Security.
Here’s a good rule of thumb – anytime you see an op-ed whining about entitlements that uses the phrase “Medicare and Social Security,” it’s safe to stop reading. Samuelson’s is no exception.
This isn’t news, but let’s repeat it for the one millionth time. There is no Social Security crisis. None.
Medicare and Social Security’s fiscal outlooks are completely different. There is no Social Security funding emergency – even after the latest trustees report. Assuming historical rates of growth, there is no shortfall whatsoever for 75 years. Even under more conservative or pessimistic economic assumptions, extremely modest tweaks eliminate the modest shortfall entirely.
And finally – Social Security is not going “bankrupt.” Even assuming 2037 is the magic date, and assuming low growth and no tinkering before then, Social Security will still be able to pay 75% of scheduled benefits.
To lump Social Security together with the more problematic Medicare shortfall (which should be addressed through national health care reform) is blatantly misleading. It’s like saying the combination of a Big Mac and a jelly bean is an extremely high-calorie meal.
But that’s exactly what Samuelson is doing. In fact, Michael Lind had a Salon column a while back outlining all the rhetorical tricks that dishonest Social Security skeptics make. It’s as if Samuelson read that column, and decided to use them all.
For instance, here’s Lind:
The anti-Social Security lobby always presents the "unfunded liabilities" of "entitlements" in scary dollar terms, rather than as percentage points of GDP. Here's why: Over the next 75 years, the Social Security shortfall at most hovers around 1 percent of total U.S. GDP over that same period.
One more time – there is no Social Security crisis, no matter how much people like Robert Samuelson dislike the level of Social Security benefits.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Why the regional feds are up in arms
22 May 2009
A number of presidents of regional Federal Reserve banks and senior staff have recently expressed dissent from the official line taken by the US authorities in managing the banking crisis.
This development may surprise central bankers in other countries, used as they are to enforcing conformity among officials of their organisation to the official line. It would be astonishing, for example, if several governors of euro-area central banks were to suddenly challenge Jean-Claude Trichet's handling of the crisis or the crisis management policies of governments of euro member states. Collective responsibility and cover-ups are the watchwords in Europe.
The heads of the district fed banks are particularly concerned with the inequities and inefficiencies arising from official protection of banks deemed too big to fail.
Hoenig speaks out -
In April, Tom Hoenig, president of the Kansas City Fed, said that actions that had been taken in an attempt to protect the largest US institutions from failure risked "prolonging the crisis and increasing its cost."
Support for firms considered too big to fail had provided them with a competitive advantage and subsidised their growth with taxpayer funds. They were, he said, not only too big but also "too complex and too politically influential to supervise on a sustained basis without a clear set of rules constraining their actions."
To those who might be surprised at such forthright criticism from a senior official, he reminded his listeners that the 12 regional banks were set up by Congress "specifically to address the populist outcry against concentrated power on Wall Street." He added: "Its structure reflects the system of checks and balances that serves us well at all levels of government, and it is the reason I am here today able to express an alternative view."
- Lacker protests
A few weeks later another senior Federal Reserve official also asserted that the implicit guarantee that the government would step in and save those institutions deemed too big to fail was a key cause of the current economic malaise.
Speaking at the Asian Banker Summit in Beijing on 11 May, Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Richmond Fed, said that the existence of the financial safety net created incentives for too-big-to-fail institutions to pay little attention to some of the biggest risks.
"Their tendency to underprice such risk exposures reduces market participants' incentive to prepare against and prevent the liquidity disruptions that are financial crises, thus increasing the likelihood of crises."
It was, Lacker said, "worth noting that some large firms that appear to have benefited from implicit safety-net support were heavily involved in the securitisation of risky mortgages."
Lacker said that the implicit belief that some institutions were too big to fail had built up over the years in response to a series of events and government actions involving large financial institutions.
- and Stern maintains his criticism
Gary Stern, the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve has also been a vociferous critic of the Fed's bank bailouts. Writing with Ron Feldman, the senior vice president for supervision, regulation and credit at the Minneapolis Fed, for a book entitled Towards a New Framework for Financial Stability (published by Central Banking Publications), Stern said that the Fed was right to come to Bear's rescue, but criticised the decision to expand its safety net as "not subtle or implied." "Uninsured creditors of other large financial firms may now have heightened expectations of receiving government support if these firms get into trouble," he said.
More recently, in a statement to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban affairs on 6 May, Stern returned to the subject: "If policymakers do not address TBTF [too big to fail], the United States will likely endure an inefficient financial system, slower economic growth, and lower living standards than otherwise would be the case."
Gary Stern is retiring as he turns 65 in a few months, the mandatory retirement age for senior officials in the reserve banks.
Contrary to public perception, the 12 regional Fed banks are not government agencies. Nor are they private banks. Each is owned by member commercial banks
Thursday, May 21, 2009
By BOB DAVIS
Steep declines in the economies of three of the U.S.'s biggest trading partners -- Mexico, Japan and Germany -- underscored the severity of the global recession and put pressure on major industrialized nations to revive moribund global trade talks.
On Wednesday, Mexico became the latest country to report a plunge in output. The country's gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 21.5% in the first quarter, the worst performance since the 1995 peso crisis led to an International Monetary Fund and U.S. Treasury financial rescue. This time, Mexico has insulated itself somewhat by arranging a $47 billion IMF credit line in advance.
Mexico's decline followed by a day Japan's report that its economy contracted in the first quarter at a 15.2% clip, its worst performance since 1955. Last week, Germany said its first quarter decline in GDP, an annualized 14.4%, was the worst since 1970.
Tourists enjoy at the nearly empty pool of the Hotel Gran Caribe Real in Cancun.
All three countries depend on exports to the U.S. But they have nose-dived as U.S. consumers cut back purchases of autos, electronics and other goods mass produced abroad. For the first three months of 2009, U.S. merchandise imports declined about 30% to $352.5 billion compared with the same period a year earlier. Mexico's ties to the U.S. are particularly strong because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and Mexican auto production in the first quarter fell 41% from the year before.
Most forecasters and governments see signs that the current quarter will be better than the first, and the rise in global stock markets suggests investors believe the worst is past. Still, the decline in output overseas reduces the market for U.S. exports and opportunities for investment.
The U.S. economy contracted at a 6.1% annual rate in the first quarter. Federal Reserve officials said Wednesday that they anticipate only "a gradual recovery," beginning in the second half of this year. They foresee unemployment, now at 8.9%, will rise above 9% and stay there through 2010.
The recession's depth is bound to increase pressure to revive the stalled Doha Round of trade talks. Germany intends to raise the issue when leaders of industrialized nations meet in July.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
In addition, there has been another round (or two) of disappointments from the Obama folks -- "new boss, same as the old boss".
At least the FDIC didn't take over any banks today (last I looked).
Monday, May 11, 2009
This Week In Holy Crimes
Over the last seven days...
Connecticut: Pastor Yves Jerome convicted of raping 14 year-old girl.
Hawaii: Pastor Manuel Taboada confesses to molesting 11 year-old girl.
Maryland: Rabbi Jacob Aaron Max convicted of sexual assault. Bonus: Max is 85.
New York: Rabbi Israel Weingarten convicted of sexually abusing his daughter repeatedly over a ten year period.
Australia: Father Kevin Phillips charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
Missouri: Pastor Robert M. Black busted in internet sting for attempted sex with a 13 year-old girl.
California: Pastor Timothy Ryan Jamison pleads guilty to molesting 4 year-old boy.
Ontario: Lou Ann Soontiens wins $2M judgment from Catholic Church in nation's largest ever individual settlement for sexual abuse. Soontiens was impregnated by her priest at age 14. Settlements are pending for 17 other women.
Arkansas: Pastor David Pierce rearrested as charges for sexual indecency with a minor rises to 54 counts.
Indiana: Pastor Charles S. Miller confesses to possession of child pornography.
This week's winner:
California: Pastor Anthony Ireland charged with four counts of raping prostitutes at knifepoint. Ireland claims the sex was consensual and that he is only guilty of not paying the prostitutes because they ran away after the sex with his knife at their throat. Ireland's attorney: “When a prostitute negotiates payment for sex and doesn’t get paid, is that rape?”
Friday, May 8, 2009
What's this country coming to?
Of course, the fact our big banks need additional BILLIONS in bailout money -- this after rigging the "stress tests" in their favor -- restores my "confidence" in "The Masters of The Universe".
On Friday, May 8, 2009, Westsound Bank, Bremerton, WA was closed by the Washington Department of Financial Institutions and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed
Thursday, May 7, 2009
" Most people are familiar with the direct consequences of a water shortage. People go thirsty, plants and other flora don't get the hydration they need to survive, and food production becomes impaired. But there are also related or secondary consequences that can have an dramatic economic or sociological impact. In "Shaved Heads Keep Barbers Idle as Drought Sears California," Bloomberg highlights some of them.
The drought in California’s Central Valley is so severe that it’s drying up money for haircuts.
One customer waited six months to get a $10 haircut, then asked to have his head shaved so he could wait another six months, said Armando Ramirez, a barber in Firebaugh.
“People come in and say, ‘Hey Armando, how about I give you a dollar for a cut, it’s all I have,’” said Ramirez, 63, who has owned his shop for four decades. “Saturday is supposed to be my busiest day, but I’m lucky if I get one customer before I go to lunch.”
Businesses are casualties of the three-year drought that is forcing farmers to leave hundreds of thousands of acres fallow in the Central Valley, the semi-arid agricultural region running 400 miles (600 kilometers) down the middle of the state. The drought may cost the valley 35,000 jobs and $959 million in lost revenue this year, said Richard Howitt, chairman of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.
“I’ve never seen a drought this bad,” said Bob Diedrich, who has been farming near Firebaugh, 140 miles southeast of San Francisco, since 1973. “It’s putting a chokehold on us.”
Diedrich laid off all five of his full-time workers in anticipation of receiving no water this year to irrigate the 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of land where he grows almonds and tomatoes. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in February cut off water deliveries to Central Valley farmers for the first time in 15 years because reservoir levels were low. The reservoirs collect rain and melted snowpack from the Sierra Nevada for transport to farm irrigation systems.
Farms hire workers for planting, picking, sorting, packing and other jobs. Most wages are spent locally, so when fields aren’t cultivated it hurts stores and other businesses, and a multiplier effect rolls through the economy, Howitt said.
“Our mom-and-pop shops are hurting,” said Hope Morikawa, director of the Hanford Chamber of Commerce, 30 miles south of Fresno, which has lost dozens of its 700 members this year and began offering its services for free.
Stacey Marshall can look out the window of her women’s clothing boutique in Hanford and see four empty storefronts.
“We’ve lost the scrapbook store, a cigar store and the bakery,” said Marshall, whose sales are dropping at a rate of about 13 percent this year. “The wine cellar and Boogie’s, a restaurant, closed.”
Rainfall in February and March eased the shortage, said Wendy Martin, drought coordinator for the California Water Resources Department, “bringing us back from the edge of disaster.” Still, Martin said she thinks this drought may rank among the state’s worst.
Third Dry Year
Snowpack runoff is forecast to be 66 percent of average in the year ending Sept. 30, following years of 58 percent and 51 percent, said Elissa Lynn, senior meteorologist for California’s Water Resources Department. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in February, asking residents of the world’s eighth-biggest economy and the most populous U.S. state to cut water use by 20 percent.
In the heart of Central Valley, half of the 30 communities in Fresno County had unemployment rates above 20 percent in March, when the state rate was 11.5 percent.
Farmers in the Westlands Water District, which includes Fresno County and part of Kings County, are planting about 200,000 acres, down from 500,000 in wetter years, said Sarah Woolf, spokeswoman. It’s the largest agricultural irrigation district in the U.S., she said.
Almonds, cotton, beans, grapes, tomatoes and other crops are raised in the area about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Fresno County grew $5.35 billion of produce in 2007, said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for California’s Food and Agriculture Department.
Hunger Amid Plenty
California’s agricultural output ranks highest among U.S. states. Now some Central Valley residents are going hungry.
“People don’t have enough to eat, and there are no jobs,” said Phyllis Baltierra, 74, the community services coordinator in Firebaugh, where unemployment is 28 percent. More than 1,000 people showed up for a food giveaway in March, compared with 200 in July or August, she said.
“We’re down to bottom here,” Baltierra said. “People are moving in with each other because they can’t afford to live by themselves.”
Mayor Robert Silva is helping organize food drives in nearby Mendota, where 85 percent of jobs are related to agriculture and unemployment exceeds 40 percent.
“My community is suffering,” Silva said. “There are a lot of tragedies going on here.”
Loss of Customers
Di Amici Cafe, the only coffee shop in Mendota, sells espresso drinks and wrap sandwiches to 60 customers a day, down from more than 200 when it opened in January 2008. Sam Rubio, 25, who left medical school to open the business, said he may have to consider closing.
Ramirez, the barber, said he tried to sell his business earlier this year but didn’t find any takers.
“You couldn’t even give it away,” said Ramirez, who works one day a week at his sister’s beauty salon more than an hour away to earn some extra cash.
A few businesses are benefiting from the downturn. At Castaway Concepts, a consignment clothing store in Hanford, more people are bringing garments to sell and more customers are buying them, said Jan Gray, the owner.
“My sales are really up,” said Gray, 53. “The economy has been a plus to me.”
For the rest of the story, please go to Jesse's Cafe Americain.
You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
Morpheus in The Matrix
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
"Civil war" - all about recognizing marriages performed elsewhere.
"May 05, 2009
Marion Barry Warns Of "Civil War" Over Same-Sex Marriage
After accidentally voting FOR marriage equality today, then calling for a second vote because he wasn't paying attention, former DC mayor and current City Councilman Marion Barry said that a "civil war" may erupt in the nation's capitol over same-sex marriage. Pandemonium ensued in the council's building after the vote and police and security had to removing screaming evangelicals.
"All hell is going to break lose," Barry said while speaking to reporters. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this." Barry made his remarks a few hours after a group of same-sex marriage opponents, led by black ministers, caused uproar in the Wilson Building after the Council voted 12 to 1 to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. They caused such a ruckus that security guards and police had to clear the hallway. The protesters shouted that council members who voted for the bill will face retribution at the polls. Although he has been a longtime supporter of gay rights, Barry said he voted against the bill to satisfy his constituents in Southeast Washington. "What you've got to understand is 98 percent of my constituents are black and we don't have but a handful of openly gay residents," Barry said. "Secondly, at least 70 percent of those who express themselves to me about this are opposed to anything dealing with this issue. The ministers think it is a sin, and I have to be sensitive to that."Four times married. Convicted crack addict. Three times indicted for tax evasion. One DUI arrest. He is a "moral politician." "
Monday, May 4, 2009
THROW THE BUMS OUT - ALL OF THEM Senate Millionaires Kill Mortgage Assistance for Citizens Michael Collins
THROW THE BUMS OUT - ALL OF THEM
Senate Millionaires Kill Mortgage Assistance for Citizens
The United States Senate took a swipe at the spirit of May Day in a spectacular show of callous indifference when it voted down a bill to provide limited assistance to citizens at risk for losing their homes. The final vote was 45 in favor, 51 opposed to Senator Richard Durbin's (D-IL) mortgage assistance bill. The original version of the bill covered some but not all of those requiring assistance. The final version was even more restricted. It applied to only homeowners currently in foreclosure as a result of actions prior to the start of 2009.
While their avarice knows no bounds, their memory suffers.
Apparently these multimillionaire aristocrats of the Senate "gentlemen's club" haven't been watching the news. The International Monetary Fund declared that the United States is in a depression almost three months ago. Delinquency and foreclosure rates around the country are rising at spectacular rates. Unemployment has jumped by 3.3 million in the last five months. Economic growth has declined at a rate of 6.3% in the first quarter of 2009.
What part of economic crisis can't they understand? Apparently all of it.
Memo to stingy Senators: Workers and their families are in serious trouble or about to be in trouble. That means they lack the money to pay for their homes (also known as shelter, a basic human need). These citizens did nothing to bring on this crisis.
You, the members of the Senate, are largely to blame and you know it.
One of the most revealing remarks came from Democrat Ben Nelson (D-NE) who said:
“Do I want to have my rate go up so that somebody else might be able to cram down” their mortgage payment?" asked Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who voted against the bill. Associated Press, Apr. 30, 2009
Nelson has never been regarded as the sharpest tool in the shed but he's set a new standard for ignorance with this remark. Nelson was worth at least $7.0 million as of reporting in 2008. Obviously he needs to skimp on every penny to stay afloat. He'll offer no breaks for financially strapped citizens on the brink of ruin even if they are in trouble as a result of his support of Wall Street welfare. The bill would have no impact on his or anybody else's mortgage rate unless they qualified for help. In those cases, the rate would go down.
The Durbin bill offered a reasonable change in bankruptcy law that would allow those in foreclosure to ask (simply ask) bankruptcy judges to invoke a "cramdown." In that process, the bankruptcy court would set a lower interest rates and longer terms on loans. This takes the case out of foreclosure and allows citizens to keep their homes and the lets banks collect the money owed at a lower rate over an extended period. (See this for a real cramdown to benefit all citizens)
The Durbin bill provided limited options since it presumed that homeowners at risk had the money to get in bankruptcy court; that the courts would be able to handle all those in need; and that the judge would accept the request for a cramdown to keep people in their homes. But the bill might have helped as many as 1.7 million homeowners.
Even with those limitations, Sen. Durbin was forced against the wall and had to negotiate the bill to a lower level of protection. The final bill rejected by the Senate. Associated Press reported: "The latest proposal would have restricted eligibility to homeowners already in foreclosure whose lender had not offered better terms. Homes would also have to be worth less than $729,000 and apply to mortgage loans originated before 2009." Apr 30, 2009
Durbin's last stand would have provided protection some homeowners but now there's no protection for anyone.
William K. Black is the chief fraud investigator who untangled the 1980's Savings and Loan fiasco. His comments on the current economic meltdown are instructive and assign blame:
William K. Black: 'We need some chairmen or chairwomen … in Congress, to hold the necessary hearings (on banking fraud) and we can blast this out. But if you leave the failed CEOs in place, it isn't just that they're terrible business people, though they are. It isn't just that they lack integrity, though they do. Because they were engaged in these frauds … they're not going to disclose the truth about the assets." Bill Moyers Journal, Apr 3, 2009
Senators, you allowed changes in banking regulations that turned Wall Street in to a big casino for the "in crowd" and wiped out millions of small investors and retirement funds.
You failed to monitor the new freedoms you gave the banks and Wall Street after you stripped away citizen protections in law since the Great Depression.
You created the current depression.
And now, you're so stingy you won't even help a few of the many people victimized by the massive corporate fraud schemes, Ponzi schemes according to Black.
Is there any reason why even one single Senator of the 51 who voted down this assistance should remain in office to complete his or her term?
Is there any reason to hold back from recalling them where allowed or demanding their resignations in every state that they represent?
I can't think of one. Can you?
By Helaine Olen
For more than two decades, as income inequality increased and job security decreased, Americans lapped up personal finance columns, books, and television shows. We thrilled to stock tips and swooned at sensible strategies for using dollar-cost averaging to invest in no-load index funds. Buy and hold, my friends! The annualized gain for the S&P 500 stock index over time is more than 10 percent! You, too, can turn into the millionaire next door. Carpe diem, folks! Seize the financial day!
The advice proffered by the vast majority of analysts, would-be gurus, and television pundits came down to one word: stocks. Some, like CNBC's infamous Jim Cramer, advocated stock-picking strategies. Others encouraged mutual funds. But very few—at least of those that could get publicity via mainstream outlets—doubted the efficacy of the market.
That our personal finances weren't fully ours to seize didn't seem to occur to many of us until recently, when the stock market plunged almost 40 percent in a mere year, housing went into free fall, and the unemployment rate began to climb perilously toward double digits. All these facts suddenly left the personal finance industry facing a conundrum of its own making. The backbone of the self-help complex is the idea that you can do it. You. Singular. But what happens when you lose your job and can't find a new one before your six months of recommended emergency savings runs out? Or a good chunk of your retirement income is in the form of a pension from your former employer—and that employer is named Chrysler? What then?
"Personal finance has come to substitute for the role government should play for people," observes Nan Mooney, author of (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents. "In the past 20 years the myth of the person succeeding on their own has gotten bigger and bigger. This myth is dangerous. It tells you if you can't balance everything and you are in debt, it is your fault."
Sounds harsh, but if you are laid off and at the end of your resources, what other message can you take away from people like mega-personal finance guru Suze Orman, who continues to argue that people's main problem with money is ... emotional. (Orman also urges people to invest for retirement in the stock market, while admitting the bulk of her savings is in municipal bonds.) Or Jean Chatzky of everywhere from NBC's Today show to Oprah's couch, who helpfully tells people in her latest book, The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times, "Overspending is the key reason that people slip from a position of financial security into a paycheck-to-paycheck existence." (Note: Italics original to Chatzky.) Chatzky forgets to mention that studies have demonstrated the problem most likely to land one in bankruptcy court isn't an addiction to designer clothes but, instead, overwhelming health care expenses.
All in all, these might not be the right messages just now. While Orman's book, no doubt propelled by her continuing celebrity and television show, remains at the top of the New York Times best-seller list, Chatzky's book is languishing listless, a very different fate than the one met by her last book, which was released in a different era—2006, to be precise.
In the current economic climate, a new group of au current advisers is coming to the fore. Many of them, like Peter Schiff, received their initial boost of fame by predicting various aspects of the current meltdown and are now trying to make money by telling people how to survive and thrive in the post-crash world. Schiff's Crash Proof, currently in its 11th printing, urges consumers to buy gold to hedge against coming hyperinflation. At the other end of the spectrum is Martin D. Weiss' recently published The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide. Weiss, a Florida-based investment adviser, advocates that many people should cut their stock losses and sell off, as we are entering a period of deflation.
Online gurus are also seeing spikes. ITulip.com's Eric Janszen says he received 12,000 new subscribers last year. George Ure, a business consultant who runs the free site UrbanSurvival.com and the subscription site Peoplenomics, makes predictions about future events based on a linguistics theory applied to Internet postings and has seen an increase of more than 20 percent in unique visitors year over year. Nonetheless, it's not looking like the new gurus will be any more helpful than their more conventionally minded peers. After all, the online world has been abuzz with accusations that many of Schiff's personal clients suffered losses of between 40 percent to 70 percent in 2008.
Which leads to another question: What's next for personal finance? The past two years have demonstrated over and over again that bad things can happen to good savers and investors. Very few of us have the wherewithal to fund both retirement savings and a large enough emergency fund to sustain us through a bout of unemployment lasting, say, more than a year. No one, it turns out, really knows what an individual stock, mutual fund, or commodity like oil or precious resource like gold will be worth in six months, never mind six years.
Nonetheless, personal finance is unlikely to crawl away and die anytime soon for a simple reason: We think we need it. "We're kind of screwed but we don't have a choice but to take care of ourselves because no one else is helping," admits MSN's personal finance columnist, Liz Weston.
A number of personal finance gurus have been moving, some ever so slowly, over toward the idea of pressuring the government for change. Weston, who has written extensively about what should be and isn't in pending congressional legislation putting brakes on the credit card industry, is begging her readers to contact their representatives about the plan. Others have gotten more ambitious. Schiff used his burst of fame to endorse presidential candidate Ron Paul. Weiss is currently circulating a petition to stop further bank bailouts.
Me, I'd settle for a few mea culpas from our finance gurus. After all, I am aware I owe my gold-loving dude an apology. Unfortunately, I know the planner assigned to the case won't be eating crow any time soon. I recently received a copy of his latest book in the mail. It's all about how if you can just identify your money archetype, financial success will be yours. Oh, and one other thing. The press release quotes him as advising, "Don't rush out to buy gold."
Friday, May 1, 2009
Causes of the Crisis
James K. Galbraith | May 01, 2009 | Commentary
Editor’s note: These remarks were delivered to a meeting of the Texas Lyceum in Austin on April 3, at a debate between University of Texas professor James Galbraith, an Observer contributing writer, and former Majority Leader Richard Armey, chief instigator of the recent Astroturf “tea party" protests. Armey had begun his remarks by noting that his rule in life was “never trust anyone from Austin or Boston,” and proceeded to declare his allegiance to the “Austrian School” of economics, a libertarian view that regards public intervention in private markets as socialism.
It is of course a pleasure to be with you today. I was born in Boston, and I am proud of it. And I have lived 24 years in Austin—and I’m proud of that.
Leader Armey spoke to you of his admiration for Austrian economics. I can’t resist telling you that when the Vienna Economics Institute celebrated its centennial, many years ago, they invited, as their keynote speaker, my father [John Kenneth Galbraith]. The leading economists of the Austrian school—including von Hayek and von Haberler—returned for the occasion. And so my father took a moment to reflect on the economic triumphs of the Austrian Republic since the war, which, he said, “would not have been possible without the contribution of these men.” They nodded—briefly—until it dawned on them what he meant. They’d all left the country in the 1930s.
My own economics is American: genus Institutionalist; species: Galbraithian.
This is a panel on the crisis. Mr. Moderator, you ask what is the root cause? My reply is in three parts.
First, an idea. The idea that capitalism, for all its considerable virtues, is inherently self-stabilizing, that government and private business are adversaries rather than partners; the idea that freedom without responsibility is a viable business principle; the idea that regulation, in financial matters especially, can be dispensed with. We tried it, and we see the result.
Second, a person. It would not be right to blame any single person for these events, but if I had to choose one to name it would be a Texan, our own distinguished former Senator Phil Gramm. I’d cite specifically the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act—the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act—in 1999, after which it took less than a decade to reproduce all the pathologies that Glass-Steagall had been enacted to deal with in 1933. I’d also cite the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, slipped into an 11,000-page appropriations bill in December 2000 as Congress was adjourning following Bush v. Gore. This measure deregulated energy futures trading, enabling Enron and legitimating credit-default swaps, and creating a massive vector for the transmission of financial risk throughout the global system. When the Washington Post caught up with me at an airport in Parkersburg, West Virginia, a year ago to ask for a comment on Gramm’s role, I said very quickly that he was “the sorcerer’s apprentice of financial instability and disaster.” They put that on the front page. I do have to give Gramm some credit: When the Post called him up and read that to him, he said, “I deny it.”
Third, a policy. This was the abandonment of state responsibility for financial regulation: the regulation of mortgage originations, of underwriting, and of securitization. This abandonment was not subtle: The first head of the Office of Thrift Supervision in the George W. Bush administration came to a press conference on one occasion with a stack of copies of the Federal Register and a chainsaw. A chainsaw. The message was clear. And it led to the explosion of liars’ loans, neutron loans (which destroy people but leave buildings intact), and toxic waste. That these were terms of art in finance tells you what you need to know.
Subprime securities are inherently unsafe and should never have been permitted. They are based on loans to borrowers who cannot document their income and who may have bad credit histories, and they are collateralized by houses with fraudulently inflated appraisals, rated by agencies that did not examine the loan files. Writing in The Washington Post, Richard Cohen described one case, of Marvene Halterman of Avondale, Arizona:
At age 61, after 13 years of uninterrupted unemployment and at least as many of living on welfare, she got a mortgage. She got it even though at one time she had 23 people living in the house (576 square feet, one bath) and some ramshackle outbuildings. She got it for $103,000, an amount that far exceeded the value of the house. The place has since been condemned. ... Halterman’s house was never exactly a showcase—the city had once cited her for all the junk (clothes, tires, etc.) on her lawn. Nevertheless, a local financial institution with the cover-your-wallet name of Integrity Funding LLC gave her a mortgage, valuing the house at about twice what a nearby and comparable property sold for. ... Integrity Funding then sold the loan to Wells Fargo & Co., which sold it to HSBC Holdings PLC, which then packaged it with thousands of other risky mortgages and offered the indigestible porridge to investors. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service took a look at it all, as they are supposed to do, and pronounced it ‘triple-A.’”
The consequence of tolerating this and like behavior is a collapse of trust, a collapse of asset values, and a collapse of the financial system. That is what has happened, and what we have to deal with now.
Can “stimulus” get us out?
As a matter of economics, public spending substitutes for private spending. It provides jobs, motivates useful activity, staves off despair. But it is not self-sustaining in the absence of a viable private credit system. The idea that we will be on the road to full recovery and returning to high employment in a year or so therefore seems to me to be an illusion. And for this reason, the emphasis on short-term, “shovel-ready” projects in the expansion package, while understandable, was a mistake. As in the New Deal, we need both the Works Progress Administration, headed by Harry Hopkins, to provide employment, and the Public Works Administration, headed by Harold Ickes, to rebuild the country.
The desire for a return to normal is very powerful. It motivates both the ritual confidence of public officials and the dry numerical optimism of business economists, who always see prosperity just around the corner. The forecasts of these people, like those of official agencies such as the Congressional Budget Office, always see a turnaround within a year and a return to high employment within four or five years. In a strict sense, the belief is without foundation. Liquidation of excessive debt is now, and will remain for a time, the highest priority of American households. That is in part because for the moment they want to hold on to cash, and therefore they do not wish to borrow, and in part because with the collapse of house values, they no longer have collateral to borrow against. And so long as that is the case, there can be no strong recovery of private spending or business investment.
The risk we run, in public policy, is not inflation. It is lack of persistence, a premature reversal of direction, and of course the fear of large numbers. If deficits in the trillions and public debt in the tens of trillions scare you, this is not a line of work you should be in.
The ultimate goals of policy are not measured by deficits or debt. They are measured by the performance of the economy itself. Here Leader Armey and I agree. He spoke with approval, in his remarks, of the goals of 3 percent unemployment and 4 percent inflation embodied in the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978. Which, as a 24-year-old member of the staff of the House Banking Committee in 1976, I drafted.
We went out at 4-0, came back when it was 5-4, I checked later when it was 9-4 (I think) -- figured it was a game to lose.
Imagine my surprise when I learned the Yanks won 10-9 - on a base hit by Posada in the ninth.
I missed a heck of a game.
| This is a good sized bank. Perhaps more to come?|
From the FDIC: FDIC Creates Bridge Bank to Take Over Operations of Silverton Bank, National Association, Atlanta, Georgia
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) created a bridge bank to take over the operations of Silverton Bank, National Association, Atlanta, Georgia, after the bank was closed today by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). ...
Silverton Bank did not take deposits directly from the general public nor did it make loans to consumers. It was a commercial bank that provided correspondent banking services to its client banks.
Silverton Bank had approximately 1,400 client banks in 44 states, and operated six regional offices. It provided a variety of services for its clients, including credit card operations, clearing accounts, investments, consulting, purchasing loans, and selling loan participations. Since the FDIC created a new bank to take over the operations of Silverton Bank, there is not expected to be any meaningful impact on the bank's clients.
At the time of its closing, Silverton Bank had approximately $4.1 billion in assets and $3.3 billion in deposits, all of which are expected to be within the FDIC's insurance limits.
The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be $1.3 billion. Silverton Bank is the 30th bank to fail in the nation this year and the sixth in Georgia. The last FDIC-insured institution to fail in the state was American Southern Bank, Kennesaw, on April 24