Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story | Politics | Rolling Stone

Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story - Rolling Stone
"If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet's biggest oil producer and Russia as the world's biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we've begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wells Fargo settles with Fannie Mae for $591 million | Real Estate | NewsObserver.com

Wells Fargo settles with Fannie Mae for $591 million - NewsObserver.com
"Wells Fargo will pay more than half a billion dollars to mortgage giant Fannie Mae to settle a disagreement over bad loans sold by the bank before the financial crisis.
The San Francisco bank announced Monday that it had reached a $591 million agreement with Fannie Mae to cover all mortgages sold before 2009. After the mortgages went sour, Fannie Mae sought to force Wells Fargo to buy them back, claiming their quality was misrepresented."
"The agreement with Wells Fargo marks the latest in a string of settlements between major banks, Fannie Mae and the government regulator that oversees Fannie, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Nearly a year ago, Charlotte-based Bank of America agreed to pay $10 billion to settle claims with Fannie Mae. The deal included $3.6 billion in cash and required the repurchase of more than 30,000 loans.
Fannie has also entered into similar agreements with SunTrust Banks, CitiMortgage, J.P. Morgan Chase, Flagstar, PNC and HSBC Bank in settlements that totaled a combined $2.36 billion."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

$1B/year climate denial network exposed - Boing Boing

$1B/year climate denial network exposed - Boing Boing:
"In Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, a scholarly article published in the current Climatic Change , Drexel University's Robert J. Brulle documents a billion-dollar-per-year climate-change denial network, underwritten by conservative billionaires operating through obfuscating networks of companies aimed at obscuring the origin of the funds."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Deutsche Bank to pay $1.9 billion over mortgage securities - Business - The Boston Globe

Deutsche Bank to pay $1.9 billion over mortgage securities - The Boston Globe
"Deutsche Bank agreed Friday to pay about $1.9 billion to settle claims that it had misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the quality of home loans bundled into mortgage-backed securities, becoming the latest big bank to reach a settlement with federal housing regulators.
The bank, based in Germany, is the sixth entity to reach a settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which had sued 18 banks and financial institutions in September 2011. The agency says the institutions misled Fannie and Freddie before the financial crisis over the creditworthiness of borrowers and the quality of the loans that were packaged into securities. The agency is seeking to recoup some of $196 billion that Fannie and Freddie had spent buying up the private-label mortgage-backed securities."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Madoff: I helped feds nab JPMorgan | New York Post

Madoff: I helped feds nab JPMorgan | New York Post
"Bernie Madoff, one of the world’s most reviled fraudsters, helped regulators ding JPMorgan Chase.
The 75-year-old felon boasted in an email made public Friday that he provided “key information” to the Treasury’s Inspector General’s office that, presumably, was relayed up the chain of command and eventually used by Manhattan prosecutors in their expected $2 billion criminal action against the bank."
"JPMorgan was Madoff’s primary bank for more than 20 years.
On Dec. 11, it was learned that JPMorgan could face as much as $2 billion in penalties from a criminal action brought by Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara for willfully turning a blind eye to Madoff’s scam.
JPMorgan is one of a number of banks, including HSBC and UBS, ensnared in government probes over their roles in the massive fraud, sources point out."

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Europe Sets Big Fines in Settling Libor Case - NYTimes.com

Europe Sets Big Fines in Settling Libor Case - NYTimes.com
The settlement was the largest combined penalty ever levied by the European competition authorities and is the first time that American banks have been fined in a set of interest rate scandals that have also drawn scrutiny from regulators in Britain and United States. Those regulators still have their own investigations underway.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bill Gates Imposes Microsoft Model on School Reform: Only to Have the Company Junk It After It Failed | Alternet

Bill Gates Imposes Microsoft Model on School Reform: Only to Have the Company Junk It After It Failed | Alternet
"Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, Bill Gates declared in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.     
“At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.”
Adopting the Microsoft model means public schools grading teachers, rewarding the best and being “candid”—that is, firing those who are deemed ineffective. "If you do that,” Gates promised Oprah Winfrey, “then we go from being basically at the bottom of the rich countries to being back at the top."  
The Microsoft model, called “stacked ranking,” forced every work unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.
Using hundred of millions of dollars in philanthropic largesse, Bill Gates persuaded state and federal policymakers that what was good for Microsoft would be good for the public schools system (to be sure, he was pushing against an open door). To be eligible for large grants from President Obama’s Race to the Top program, for example, states had to adopt Gates’ Darwinian approach to improving public education. Today more than 36 states have altered their teacher evaluations systems with the aim of weeding out the worst and rewarding the best."

"This month Microsoft abandoned the hated system.

On November 12, all Microsoft employees received a memo from Lisa Brummel, executive vice-president for human resources, announcingthe company will be adopting “a fundamentally new approach to performance and development designed to promote new levels of teamwork and agility for breakthrough business impact.”

Brummel listed four key elements in the company’s new policy.

    More emphasis on teamwork and collaboration.
    More emphasis on employee growth and development.
    No more use of a Bell curve for evaluating employees.
    No more ratings of employees."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

JPMorgan and Uncle Sam Now Partners in Pillaging of America: Ritholtz | Breakout - Yahoo Finance

JPMorgan and Uncle Sam Now Partners in Pillaging of America: Ritholtz - Yahoo Finance
"It's really about $2 or $3 billion if you back out various components," says Barry Ritholtz ofRitholtz Wealth Management. It's not clear exactly how the money will be distributed, but based on the details from the previously announced $4 billion settlement between JPMorgan, the Justice Department, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it illustrates the squishy nature of the punishment. That $4 billion, which is included in the $13 billion being bandied about, includes $1.5 billion in loan forgiveness and $500 million in mortgage adjustments. JPMorgan was unlikely to see much if any of this $2 billion with or without a deal."
"Stranger still is the remaining $2 billion being split between giving JPMorgan credit for demolishing abandoned houses and issuing new loans for low and moderate income income borrowers. In other words, JPMorgan is going to be forced to do more business with high-risk borrowers as punishment for offering mortgages for unqualified would-be homeowners.
The Justice Department reserves the right to pursue criminal charges against bank officials, but the clock is ticking on the statute of limitations. Ritholtz says the absence of a credible threat regarding criminal charges all but legitimizes the settlement as a one-off charge in business as usual for JPMorgan.
Ritholtz draws a parellel to the settlement and the reltationship between a gambler and a bookie. The message according to Ritholtz is that "Uncle Sam is now your partner. You're going to have to cut off a little vig to the Fed, but you still get to rape and pillage."

Even pro-business Swiss look at limiting CEO pay - Matthew Lynn's London Eye - MarketWatch

Even pro-business Swiss look at limiting CEO pay  - MarketWatch
"On Sunday, Switzerland will hold a referendum that if passed, would force companies to limit the highest salary they pay to 12 times the lowest. According to the polls, the vote is on a knife-edge and could easily go either way. Business groups are issuing the predictable dire warnings about an exodus of managerial talent if the law gets passed , with dire consequences for the giants of Swiss industry."
"But, in fact, the Swiss might be doing a world a favor. The gap between what the people running companies and the people working for them earn has exploded. And yet there is very little evidence that companies are better run, or more productive, or make more money for their shareholders, as a result. If the Swiss call time on what looks increasingly like a racket, they may well set a useful example for the rest of the world.
Switzerland is no one’s idea of a radical nation. A more sober, right-wing, low-tax and small-government country it would be hard to imagine."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Munich rejected Steve Ballmer and kicked Microsoft out of the city - Feature - TechRepublic

How Munich rejected Steve Ballmer and kicked Microsoft out of the city  - TechRepublic
"Munich says the move to open source has saved it more than €10m, a claim contested by Microsoft, yet .. the point of making the switch was never about money, but about freedom."
"If you are only doing a migration because you think it saves you money there's always somebody who tells you afterwards that you didn't calculate it properly," ..

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This Man Was Sentenced to Die in Prison for Shoplifting a $159 Jacket: This Happens More Than You Think | Alternet

This Man Was Sentenced to Die in Prison for Shoplifting a $159 Jacket: This happens more than you think - Alternet
"At about 12.40pm on 2 January 1996, Timothy Jackson took a jacket from the Maison Blanche department store in New Orleans, draped it over his arm, and walked out of the store without paying for it. When he was accosted by a security guard, Jackson said: “I just needed another jacket, man.”
A few months later Jackson was convicted of shoplifting and sent to Angola prison in Louisiana. That was 16 years ago. Today he is still incarcerated in Angola, and will stay there for the rest of his natural life having been condemned to die in jail. All for the theft of a jacket, worth $159.
Jackson, 53, is one of 3,281 prisoners in America serving life sentences with no chance of parole for non-violent crimes. Some, like him, were given the most extreme punishment short of execution for shoplifting; one was condemned to die in prison for siphoning petrol from a truck; another for stealing tools from a tool shed; yet another for attempting to cash a stolen cheque."
"The ACLU's report, A Living Death, chronicles the thousands of lives ruined and families destroyed by the modern phenomenon of sentencing people to die behind bars for non-violent offences. It notes that contrary to the expectation that such a harsh penalty would be meted out only to the most serious offenders, people have been caught in this brutal trap for sometimes the most petty causes.
Ronald Washington, 48, is also serving life without parole in Angola, in his case for shoplifting two Michael Jordan jerseys from a Foot Action sportswear store in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2004. Washington insisted at trial that the jerseys were reduced in a sale to $45 each – which meant that their combined value was below the $100 needed to classify the theft as a felony; the prosecution disagreed, claiming they were on sale for $60 each, thus surpassing the $100 felony minimum and opening him up to a sentence of life without parole."
"Until the early 1970s, life without parole sentences were virtually unknown. But they exploded as part of what the ACLU calls America's “late-twentieth-century obsession with mass incarceration and extreme, inhumane penalties.”
The report's author Jennifer Turner states that today, the US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for non-violent sentences has been ruled a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK is one of only two countries in Europe that still metes out the penalty at all, and even then only in 49 cases of murder."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

For JPMorgan, $4.5 Billion to Settle Mortgage Claims - NYTimes.com

For JPMorgan, $4.5 Billion to Settle Mortgage Claims - NYTimes.com
"The checks from JPMorgan Chase just keep on coming as the nation’s largest bank works to move beyond its mortgage-related troubles.
On Friday, JPMorgan reached a $4.5 billion settlement with a group of investors over claims that the bank sold them shaky mortgage-backed securities that imploded later, leading to large losses.
The multibillion-dollar payout is separate from the tentative $13 billion settlement that JPMorgan reached with the Justice Department over the bank’s questionable mortgage practices in the run-up to the financial crisis. That deal could be announced as early as next week, according to people briefed on the settlement."

Sales at Wal-Mart, Macy’s hint at two consumer realities - The Washington Post

Sales at Wal-Mart, Macy’s hint at two consumer realities - The Washington Post
"When assessing how Americans are feeling about their economic well-being, there are a couple of powerful indicators to consider: Macy’s and Wal-Mart.
Although lots of other companies represent pieces of the economic picture, those two retailers sell a broad variety of household goods for nearly the full spectrum of consumers. Upper-income folks are more likely to shop at Macy’s — which also owns the tonier Bloomingdale’s — while lower-income shoppers often depend on Wal-Mart.
Right now, the two companies are telling us something that’s been apparent for a while but is growing clearer month by month: The wealthy in America seem to be doing all right, but everybody else remains very cautious."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Contra Costa has suffered steepest home-price drop among large U.S. counties - Capitol Report - MarketWatch

Contra Costa has suffered steepest home-price drop among large U.S. counties - MarketWatch
Among the most populous U.S. counties, Contra Costa County in Northern California saw the largest drop in home values in recent years, according to government data released Thursday.
Contra Costa County’s median property value during the 2010-to-2012 period was about $392,900, down $141,500, 0r 26%, from a median of $534,400 over the 2007-to-2009 period, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Those results compare with a U.S. drop of about $17,300, or 9%, to $174,600 over the same time period.
Among the country’s 50 counties with the largest populations, eight of the top 10 price drops were in California counties. California, of course, is the most populous U.S. state and home to numerous communities that were hit particularly hard when the housing bubble burst. The two non-California counties in the top 10 were Miami–Dade County in Florida and Nevada’s Clark County, of which Las Vegas is the county seat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Congressional Approval Sinks to Record Low

Congressional Approval Sinks to Record Low
" Americans' approval of the way Congress is handling its job has dropped to 9%, the lowest in Gallup's 39-year history of asking the question. The previous low point was 10%, registered twice in 2012."
2008-2013 trend: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

Billionaire Wealth Doubles: Wealth of Billionaires Doubles Since Financial Crisis

Billionaire Wealth Doubles: Wealth of Billionaires Doubles Since Financial Crisis
"Billionaire wealth has doubled in the past four years since the financial crisis, says a report from Wealth-X. The combined wealth of billionaires has doubled from $3.1 trillion to $6.5 trillion.
The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is larger than any country on Earth except the United States and China, reported CNBC."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Most Americans for Raising Minimum Wage

Gallup: Most Americans for Raising Minimum Wage
"With momentum building at the federal and state level to increase hourly base pay, more than three-quarters of Americans (76%) say they would vote for raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour (it is currently $7.25) in a hypothetical national referendum, a five-percentage-point increase since March. About one-fifth (22%) would vote against this."

Trend: Raising the Mimimum Wage

Feds seek $864M from BofA over Countrywide loans

Feds seek $864M from BofA over Countrywide loans
"Federal prosecutors want Bank of America to pay about $864 million over losses incurred by the government after it bought thousands of home loans made by Countrywide Financial during the housing boom.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara made the request in documents filed late Friday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

A jury in October found Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide in 2008, liable for knowingly selling thousands of bad home loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between August 2007 and May 2008."

Monday, November 04, 2013

SAC Capital Agrees to Plead Guilty to Insider Trading - NYTimes.com

SAC Capital Agrees to Plead Guilty to Insider Trading - NYTimes.com
"... federal prosecutors announced that Mr. Cohen’s firm, SAC Capital Advisors, had agreed to plead guilty to insider trading violations and pay a record $1.2 billion penalty, becoming the first large Wall Street firm in a generation to confess to criminal conduct. The government has also forced SAC to terminate its business of managing money for outside investors.
Insider trading at SAC was “substantial, pervasive and on a scale without precedent in the history of hedge funds,” said Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan. His office has criminally charged eight former SAC employees; six have pleaded guilty."

Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2 billion in Risperdal settlement - The Economic Times

Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.2 billion in Risperdal settlement - The Economic Times
"Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion in criminal and civil fines to settle accusations that it improperly promoted the antipsychotic drug Risperdal to older adults, children and people with developmental disabilities, the Justice Department said on Monday.

The agreement is the third-largest pharmaceutical settlement in U.S. history and the largest in a string of recent cases involving the marketing of antipsychotic and anti-seizure drugs to older dementia patients. It is part of a decade-long effort by the federal government to hold the health care giant - and other pharmaceutical companies - accountable for illegally marketing the drugs as a way to control patients with dementia in nursing homes and children with certain behavioral disabilities, despite the health risks of the drugs. "

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Great Voucher Fraud | Alternet

The Great Voucher Fraud | Alternet
"Despite the best efforts of “school choice” advocates to spin the effectiveness of vouchers, decades of accumulated evidence paints a different story: Vouchers do not improve educational outcomes, they take money away from struggling public schools, they’re cash cows for institutions offering questionable education, they aid students already attending private institutions and they ignore the needs of special-education students."
"Voucher advocates have become adept at employing several lobbying arms, all of which have the ability to curry favor with certain types of legislators.
Powerful groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children and other far-right groups that hate public services provide a rich funding stream for the voucher movement.
Organizations like these talk about helping children. But their real goal is to crush teachers’ unions and shift education from the public to the private sector, opening up potentially billions for rapacious for-profit firms that would love nothing better than to “Walmart-ize” American education.
Joining them are fundamentalist Christians, who believe public education is “godless.” They seek tax support for their network of private independent schools, many of which teach Bible stories in place of science, offer discredited “Christian nation” views of history and are stridently anti-gay and anti-woman.
The Catholic bishops provide the final piece of the puzzle. Catholic schools have been in steep decline for decades, as more and more parents realize their children can get a good education in local public schools (schools that are free of the ultra-conservative dogma that saturates many Catholic institutions). Unable to control their unruly U.S. flock, the bishops are essentially seeking a taxpayer-funded bailout of a private school system that fewer and fewer Catholic parents see as necessary."
Consider Wisconsin’s private school voucher program, which at 23 years and counting makes it the oldest of its kind in the United States. In 2011, a study found that students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program scored proficient or advanced on standardized tests at a rate of 34.4 percent in math and 55.2 percent for reading, but students in Milwaukee Public Schools scored proficient or advanced at a rate of 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading on the same assessments, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
The results have been equally unspectacular elsewhere. An analysis of Louisiana’s voucher program, released in May, found about 40 percent of third through eighth graders receiving vouchers scored at or above their grade level on statewide tests in English, math, social studies and science; by comparison, 69 percent of all third through eighth grade students statewide scored at or above grade level on those tests.
Likewise, a 2003 study of Cleveland’s then eight-year-old voucher scheme showed the program failed to boost the academic performance of the students taking part in it. The analysis, conducted by independent researcher Kim Metcalf of Indiana University, found that students participating in the program are doing no better academically than their public school counterparts."
Alan B. Krueger, a professor of economics and public policy, analyzed data presented in 2002 by Harvard University Professor of Government Paul E. Peterson, a voucher advocate, that found black students in the voucher schools scored 5.5 points higher on standardized tests than their counterparts in public schools.
Krueger’s own study of the data, however, showed no academic gains for African-American students in the voucher plan, reported Education Week. In analyzing the data, Krueger concluded that Peterson had erred by omitting too many children from the statistical sample. He also found that allowing a parent or guardian to state a child’s race led to children of mixed race being omitted from the sample when they should have been included. Including the omitted children, Krue­ger found a gain of only 1.44 percentile points on standardized tests, a figure that is not statistically significant."

The Irony and Limits of the Affordable Care Act | Dissent Magazine

The Irony and Limits of the Affordable Care Act | Dissent Magazine
"A larger irony is that the ACA is about as far from a government takeover of health care or the “final leap to socialism” (as Michele Bachmann sees it) as one can imagine. Such hyperbole is now about a century old. In 1917 insurance executives raised the fear of “Prussian” or “Bolshevik” medicine. In the 1940s the American Medical Association fabricated a quote from Lenin—“socialized medicine is the keystone in the arch of the socialist state”—to punctuate its Cold War campaign against public health insurance. During the early debate over Medicare in 1961, Ronald Reagan warned that “you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” These scare tactics usually worked. The power of southern segregationists in Congress doomed much of the New Deal’s timid universalism. Deference to the AMA virtually immobilized health reform in the 1940s and 1950s. Job-based coverage emerged as the next-best bet, while public policy retreated to occasional efforts to mitigate its failures—most notably with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Since then efforts to appease health care industry interests and avoid the “socialized medicine” label have routinely turned good intentions into bad policy or legislative shipwrecks. Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s now-infamous 2009 memo “The Language of Healthcare” set out the basic talking points that would later pepper Ted Cruz’s filibuster: any public program or option is a slippery slope to “government takeover” and national health systems (insert Canadian or British horror story here) that stifle innovation, encourage malingering, and ration care—either by forcing patients to wait or by pulling the plug."
"In terms of coverage, efficiency, and equity, the ACA is a far cry from a single-payer system. Some hope that it might push us along that path (either through its sheer failure or by incremental tinkering with its provisions), and some fear that it might block the way (by marginalizing the remaining uninsured or simply poisoning the well for future reformers). In either case, the ACA is better than nothing and it has already had a real impact. Health care costs are falling. While slower spending is largely attributable to a slow recovery from a long recession, it also reflects the rollout of some of the ACA’s cost-containment provisions and the response of private insurers to the threat (and now the reality) of modest health reform. And the uninsured are finding coverage. Thanks to the ACA’s requirement that insurers allow children to stay on their parents’ plan until they are twenty-six, the uninsured rate among young adults has fallen for two consecutive years. None of the economic calamity predicted (or pined for) by congressional Republicans has come to pass. The law actually imposes little obligation, cost, or uncertainty on employers. Ninety four percent of firms affected by the ACA’s employer mandate already provide coverage voluntarily. There is no empirical evidence that the ACA is a “job killer” or that employers are gaming the mandate (now pushed off to 2014 anyway) by ducking under the fifty-worker threshold or cutting workers back to part-time status. The promise for the future is substantial. The combination of insurance regulations and state exchanges provides coverage options for millions of uninsured Americans. Most of those finding insurance via the ACA will qualify for subsidies that reduce the costs of that coverage. And the ACA will enhance the health security of those who are already covered by checking the capriciousness of private insurers and providing a softer landing for those who lose a job or job-based coverage."

"But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In the rush to defend the ACA (and the larger ideal of a robust public sector) against the GOP’s suicide caucus, we are smearing a lot of lipstick on a pretty ugly pig. This is a timid law that will likely show timid results in the long run. Real health reform–like that proposed in 1948, 1965, 1972, and 1992—demands that we confront three problems studiously avoided (and in some respects made worse) by the ACA."
"At the root of our ongoing health crisis (both the unconscionable rate of uninsurance and a level of spending nearly double the OECD average) is our reliance on jobs as a means of distributing and paying for health coverage. This is an historical accident, which began as an ad hoc arrangement to evade Second World War-era wage and tax regulations by offering employees non-monetary compensation."
"The ACA’s second major flaw is its deference to the states on key aspects of eligibility and access....Despite the fact that the expansion will be paid for largely with federal dollars (full federal funding through 2016, no less than 90 percent after that), fully half of the states have passed on meaningful participation (twenty have turned the idea down flat and five more are undecided). Not surprisingly, the states that have thumbed their nose at the ACA are among the nation’s poorest and—with a midwestern inroad–closely follow the contours of the old Jim Crow South. According to a recent analysis by the New York Times, state-level recalcitrance will leave two-thirds of poor blacks, two-thirds of single mothers, and half of all uninsured low-wage workers ineligible for Medicaid and therefore unable to afford coverage offered by the insurance exchanges. This regional unevenness blunts the ACA’s impact by limiting its reach where is most needed. It leaves the fate of a federal law in the hands of fickle and deeply partisan state legislatures."
..."the ACA’s third major flaw: its inability or unwillingness to displace private insurance. In this respect, one baseline assumption of health reform has remained unchanged since the 1930s: we already pay for national health insurance, we just don’t get any of the benefits. As a consequence of incremental timidity, we spend as many public dollars on health care as any of our democratic and industrialized peers. We then spend as much again in private dollars–for a per capita bill more than double the OECD average—and claim precious little (widespread insecurity, lousy health outcomes, and high costs) in return."
" ...any reform that simply lards new coverage options onto the old system of private insurance will be hard pressed to realize any real efficiencies or savings in the long haul. Propping up the current health care system—or pushing more people into it via individual or employer mandates—does nothing to address the administrative waste, actuarial complexity, or naked profiteering that created our health care crisis in the first place."

Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not | Susan Faludi | The Baffler

Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not | Susan Faludi | The Baffler
"Since its unveiling this spring, the Lean In campaign has been reeling in a steadily expanding group of tens of thousands of followers with its tripartite E-Z plan for getting to the top. But the real foundation of the movement is, of course, Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, billed modestly by its author as “sort of a feminist manifesto.” Sandberg’s mantra has become the feminist rallying cry of the moment, praised by notable figures such as Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Marlo Thomas, and Nation columnist Katha Pollitt. A Time magazine cover story hails Sandberg for “embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971.” Pretty good for somebody who, “as of two and a half years ago,” as Sandberg confessed on her book tour, “had never said the word woman aloud. Because that’s not how you get ahead in the world.”
"Beneath highly manicured glam shots, each “member” or “partner” reveals her personal “Lean In moment.” The accounts inevitably have happy finales—the Lean In guidelines instruct contributors to “share a positive ending.” Tina Brown’s Lean In moment: getting her parents to move from England to “the apartment across the corridor from us on East 57th Street in New York,” so her mother could take care of the children while Brown took the helm at The New Yorker. If you were waiting for someone to lean in for child care legislation, keep holding your breath. So far, there’s no discernible groundswell."
"But there seems to be little tangible cross-class solidarity coming from the triumphalists, despite their claims to be speaking for all womankind. “If we can succeed in adding more female voices at the highest levels,” Sandberg writes in her book, “we will expand opportunities and extend fairer treatment to all.” But which highest-level voices? When former British prime minister Margaret (“I hate feminism”) Thatcher died, Lean In’s Facebook page paid homage to the Iron Lady and invited its followers to post “which moments were most memorable to you” from Thatcher’s tenure. That invitation inspired a rare outburst of un-“positive” remarks in the comment section, at least from some women in the U.K. “Really??” wrote one. “She was a tyrant. . . . Just because a woman is in a leadership position does not make her worthy of respect, especially if you were on the receiving end of what she did to lots of people.” “So disappointing that Lean In endorses Thatcher as a positive female role model,” wrote another. “She made history as a woman, but went on to use her power to work against the most vulnerable, including women and their children.”
"In the 1920s, male capitalists invoked feminism to advance their brands of corporate products. Nearly a century later, female marketers are invoking capitalism to advance their corporate brand of feminism. Sandberg’s “Lean In Community” is Exhibit A. What is she selling, after all, if not the product of the company she works for? Every time a woman signs up for Lean In, she’s made another conquest for Facebook. Facebook conquers women in more than one way. Nearly 60 percent of the people who do the daily labor on Facebook—maintaining their pages, posting their images, tagging their friends, driving the traffic—are female, and, unlike the old days of industrial textile manufacturing, they don’t even have to be paid or housed. “Facebook benefits every time a woman uploads her picture,” Kate Losse, a former employee of Facebook and author of The Boy Kings, a keenly observed memoir of her time there, pointed out to me. “And what is she getting? Nothing, except a constant flow of ‘likes.’”
Losse quit in 2010 to become a writer—of her own words, not her boss’s. Earlier this year, she wrote a thought-provoking piece about Lean In for Dissent, “Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning In?” The winners, she noted, are not the women in tech, who “are much more likely to be hired in support functions where they are paid a bare minimum, given tiny equity grants compared to engineers and executives, and given raises on the order of fifty cents an hour rather than thousands of dollars.” These are the fast-growth jobs for women in high technology, just as Menlo Park’s postindustrial campuses are the modern equivalent of the Lowell company town. Sandberg’s book proposed to remedy that system, Losse noted, not by changing it but simply by telling women to work harder:
Life is a race, Sandberg is telling us, and the way to win is through the perpetual acceleration of one’s own labor: moving forward, faster. The real antagonist identified by Lean In then is not institutionalized discrimination against women, but women’s reluctance to accept accelerating career demands.
For her candor, Losse came under instant attack from the Sandberg sisterhood. Brandee Barker, a Lean In publicist and former head of public relations for Facebook, sent Losse the following message: “There’s a special place in hell for you.”
"When asked about women’s representation at the company during media appearances for her book tour, Sandberg was vague. “We’re ahead of the industry,” she told one interviewer, noting that a woman heads Facebook’s “global sales” and another is “running design,” before briskly changing the subject."

In U.S., Fewer Believe "Plenty of Opportunity" to Get Ahead

In U.S., Fewer Believe "Plenty of Opportunity" to Get Ahead
" Fewer Americans believe there is "plenty of opportunity" to get ahead in America today than have said so across three previous measurement points over the last 59 years. A bare majority (52%) say the country has plenty of economic opportunity, down from 57% in 2011 and more substantially from 81% in 1998."
Trend: Some people say there's not much opportunity in America today -- that the average person doesn't have much chance to really get ahead. Others say there's plenty of opportunity and anyone who works hard can go as far as they want. Which one comes closer to the way you feel about this?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

'The Daily Show' and the Wall Street 'Witch Hunt' - NYTimes.com

'The Daily Show' and the Wall Street 'Witch Hunt' - NYTimes.com
I was wondering why nobody was taking on the sycophancy of the CNBC "financial journalists" to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
Until now.
Must watch!
Watch Jon Stewart tear down the argument that the Jamie Dimon was forced to buy Bear Sterns and Washington Mutual:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The media can't stop sucking up to Alan Greenspan | New Republic

The media can't stop sucking up to Alan Greenspan | New Republic
"...anyone who’s paid attention to the economy the past few years knows how ridiculous it is to fete Greenspan, the main architect of the policies that led to the Great Recession. If we lived in a just world, we would put him on trial, not on television. And his penalty should be to scrounge up the funds to pay JPMorgan Chase’s $13 billion fine with the Justice Department."
"After all, that fine penalizes JPMorgan Chase for duping investors into purchasing mortgage-backed securities it knew were stuffed with garbage loans. And nobody in America duped more people—investors, homeowners, you name it—into buying bad loans than Alan Greenspan. While chairing the Fed, Greenspan was in a perfect position to inform Americans about the unsustainability of the housing bubble and the overall threats to the financial system. But his allergy to regulation and unshakeable belief in the virtues of the free market led him to ignore the bubble and its risks, infusing investors and consumers with confidence that the run-up in home prices was perfectly normal. If misleading the public about the safety and soundness of the housing market is a crime, Greenspan is guilty. And he deserves some manner of punishment for that, not a week full of deference and respect."
 "...Greenspan willfully ignored the forces operating under his nose. He knew that brokers were selling not only ARMs, but no-documentation “liar’s loans” and other dodgy products to unsuspecting subprime borrowers. Fed Governor Edward Gramlich gave a speech on the challenges of subprime just three months after Greenspan encouraged everyone to go into adjustable-rate loans. By September of that year, the FBI warned of a mortgage fraud “epidemic,” particularly from this new breed of suspect mortgage brokers. Advisors warned him on multiple occasions to do something about the growing problem, to guard against overall risk and protect consumers from harm.
But instead of tamping down the irrational exuberance in the housing markets, Greenspan encouraged homeowners to seek out precisely the types of products being fraudulently peddled by unscrupulous brokers. This fed the securitization machine and inflated the bubble. At the time, the Federal Reserve had consumer protection responsibilities for mortgages, but Greenspan did absolutely nothing to stop the rotten lending that would eventually implode the housing market. In addition, Greenspan lauded securitization in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee in 2005, saying it “does not create substantial systemic risks.” Only after he left the Fed, in 2008, did Greenspan decide that securitization was the culprit for the crisis. Greenspan pursued no regulatory avenues to deflate the bubble, nor did he bother to speak publicly about the dangers. Like a good Ayn Rand acolyte, Greenspan simply believed that lending institutions would act in their self-interest and never engage in destructive behavior. “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” Greenspan admitted to a House panel in 2008. That mea culpa was short-lived; he returns in his new book to an antipathy for regulation and a belief in the righteousness of the free market."

US CEOs break pay record as top 10 earners take home at least $100m each | Business | theguardian.com

US CEOs break pay record as top 10 earners take home at least $100m each 
"For the first time ever, the 10 highest-paid chief executives in the US received more than $100m in compensation last year, and two took home billion-dollar paychecks, according to a leading annual survey of executive pay."
"All told, the top 10 CEOs in this year's poll took home over $4.7bn between them, and for the first time ever, none earned less than $100m.
"I have never seen anything like that," said Greg Ruel, GMI's senior research consultant and author of the report. "Usually we have a few CEOs at the $100m-plus level but never the entire top 10."
Father Seamus Finn, a corporate governance expert at Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, said the numbers were "ridiculous".
"It's an amazing number. Who knows how compensation committees come up with them?"
Finn, who has campaigned against what he sees as excessive remuneration at companies including Goldman Sachs, said boards often argued that they would lose talent unless they paid top management huge sums.
"But I've seen no evidence of that," he said. "These huge pay deals are seldom linked to shareholder returns.""

Sunday, October 20, 2013

4 in 5 in USA face near-poverty, no work

4 in 5 in USA face near-poverty, no work
"Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream."
"Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63% of whites called the economy "poor.""
"The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150% of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79%."
"Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15% of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41% of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks."
"In 2011, that snapshot showed 12.6% of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person's lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.
The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17% risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23% during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8% to 17.7%.
Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79%, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.
By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76% enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.
By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85% of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity."

HSBC hit with $2.46-billion judgment in U.S. class action | Reuters

HSBC hit with $2.46-billion judgment in U.S. class action | Reuters
"A unit of British bank HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) was hit with a record $2.46 billion final judgment in a U.S. securities class action lawsuit against its unit, formerly known as Household International Inc."
"The suit was filed in 2002 and alleged that Household International had violated securities laws by fraudulently misleading investors about the quality of its loans." 

JPMorgan Said Reach Record $13 Billion U.S. Settlement - Bloomberg

JPMorgan Said Reach Record $13 Billion U.S. Settlement - Bloomberg
"The tentative pact with the Department of Justice increased from an $11 billion proposal last month and would mark the largest amount paid by a financial firm in a settlement with the U.S. The deal wouldn’t release the bank from potential criminal liability, at the insistence of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, according to terms described by a person familiar with the talks, who asked not to be named because they were private."
"The agreement, which isn’t yet final, includes $4 billion in relief for unspecified consumers and $9 billion in payments and fines"
"The FHFA accused JPMorgan and its affiliates of making false statements and omitting material facts in selling $33 billion in mortgage bonds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Sept. 7, 2005, through Sept. 19, 2007. Those two firms, regulated by FHFA, have taken $187.5 billion in federal aid since then.
The regulator said executives at JPMorgan, Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns Cos., which were acquired by JPMorgan in 2008, knowingly misrepresented the quality of the loans underlying the bonds, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan."
"JPMorgan has paid more than $1 billion to five different regulators in the past month to settle probes into botched derivatives trades that lost more than $6.2 billion in 2012. It also settled unrelated claims it unfairly charged customers for credit-monitoring products.
The bank faces an investigation into its hiring practices in Asia. It’s also the subject of a probe by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into claims it abetted Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, a person familiar with that matter said.
The six biggest U.S. banks, led by JPMorgan and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp., have piled up more than $100 billion in legal costs since the financial crisis, a figure that exceeds all of the dividends paid to shareholders in the past five years, Bloomberg data show."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Study estimates nearly 500,000 Iraqis died in war

Study estimates nearly 500,000 Iraqis died in war - latimes.com:
"In a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers concluded that at least 461,000 "excess" Iraqi deaths occurred in the troubled nation after the U.S.-led invasion that resulted in the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein. Those were defined as fatalities that would not have occurred in the absence of an invasion and occupation."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Big Banks Manipulate Every Market They Touch

Big Banks rig every market they touch  | The Big Picture

"The big picture is simple:
  • The big banks manipulate every market they touch
  • The government has given the banks huge subsidies … which they are using for speculation and other thingswhich don’t help the economy. In other words, propping up the big banks by throwing money at them doesn’t help the economy
  • The big banks own the D.C. politicians … so Congress and the White House won’t do anything unless the people force change"

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work

Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work
"Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup's new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace. In other words, about one in eight workers -- roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied -- are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations."
"The bulk of employees worldwide -- 63% -- are "not engaged," meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. And 24% are "actively disengaged," indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers. In rough numbers, this translates into 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why U.S. Health Care Is Obscenely Expensive, In 12 Charts

"U.S. leads the world in health care spending, but we don't live very long, and going to the doctor is so expensive that we don't do it very often. So where is the money going?
Not toward obesity-related diseases or unnecessary tests and treatments,  .. From Lipitor to childbirth to colonoscopies -- everything just costs a whole lot."

Infographics by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P. - NYTimes.com

Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P. - NYTimes.com:
While both parties have extreme elements, he suggested, only in the G.O.P. did the extreme element exercise real power. “The extreme right has 90 seats in the House,” Mr. Echevarria said. “Occupy Wall Street has no seats.”

Moreover, business leaders and trade groups said, the tools that have served them in the past — campaign contributions, large memberships across the country, a multibillion-dollar lobbying apparatus — do not seem to be working.

World likely to have 11 trillionaires within two generations: Credit Suisse - The Tell - MarketWatch

World's wealthiest 0.7% hold 41% of the world’s wealth: Credit Suisse 
Two-thirds of the world’s adults have wealth of less than $10,000, while the wealthiest 0.7% hold 41% of the world’s wealth.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The JP Morgan apologists of CNBC | Felix Salmon

Great piece by Felix Salmon and awesome interview of Alex Pareene of Salon on CNBC!

The JP Morgan apologists of CNBC | Felix Salmon:

"The whole segment is well worth watching, but the tone is perfectly set at the very beginning:
Maria Bartiromo: Alex, to you first. Legal problems aside, JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today. You believe the leader of that bank should step down?
Alex Pareene: I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say “Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.”

"This is a very strong point by Pareene — and it’s a point which was well taken by Barclays. When the UK bank was fined $450 million last year for its role in the Libor scandal, its CEO duly resigned. After all, a $450 million fine is prima facie evidence that the CEO really isn’t in control of his bank.
But $450 million is a rounding error with respect to the kind of fines that Dimon is now talking about paying — $4 billion, $11 billion, $20 billion, who knows where this will stop. Tim Fernholz has a good roundup of all the various things that JP Morgan is in trouble for; Libor manipulation is at #5 on his list of seven oustanding investigations — on top of another four settled investigations. If Libor manipulation alone was enough to mean the end of Bob Diamond, it’s hard to see how Jamie Dimon should be able to survive this tsunami of litigation.
Unless, it seems, you work for CNBC. In which case you just ignore Pareene’s question, and get straight onto the important stuff:
Duff McDonald: It’s preposterous. The stock’s touching a ten-year high. It’s a cash-generating machine.
Maria Bartiromo: Should we talk about the financial strength of JP Morgan? The company continues to churn out tens of billions of dollars in earnings and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. How do you criticize that?
This view — that profits cleanse all sins, and that so long as you’re making money, nothing else matters — is not normally expressed quite as explicitly as it was here. After all, there are licit and illicit ways of making money, and surely if your profits fall into the latter category, you should not be able to remain comfortably ensconced as a celebrated captain of industry. Besides, banksshouldn’t be obscenely profitable: they’re intermediaries, and in an efficient economy their profits should be quite easily competed away. When bank profits are high, that’s a sign that the bank in question is extracting rents from the economy, rather than helping it to grow.
The rest of the interview is a glorious exercise in watching CNBC anchors simply implode in disbelief when faced with the idea that JP Morgan in general, and Jamie Dimon in particular, might be anything other than a glorious icon of capitalist success. In the world of CNBC, the stock chart tells you everything you need to know, while the New York Times is a highly untrustworthy organ of dissent and disinformation.
Eventually, Bartiromo asks Pareene, with a straight face, who would be the best CEO of JP Morgan “from a shareholder perspective”. Since, clearly, the shareholder perspective is the only one that matters. Except, of course, it isn’t. JP Morgan’s balance sheet shows assets of $2.4 trillion and liabilities of $2.2 trillion, leaving $200 billion in total stockholder equity. Sure, the shareholders matter — but even in terms of the balance sheet they only matter about 8.6%. And in terms of the systemic importance of JP Morgan to the nation as a whole, its shareholders matter even less. The country was seriously damaged by JP Morgan’s lies and misrepresentations about its mortgages — much more than it would be damaged if the share price went down instead of up. And the public has every reason to want the individuals running JP Morgan to be held accountable when it gets into serious regulatory trouble over and over again.
Right now, the banks aren’t lending money to homeowners — the government remains the only game in town, when it comes to mortgages, and that isn’t healthy at all. JP Morgan’s shareholders might be happy with Jamie Dimon, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should be. Jesse Eisingerwants the banks executives to face personal charges; whether that happens or not, it still behooves them to take responsibility for the long series of egregious errors that JP Morgan has made. Shareholders might not want to see Dimon go. But if JP Morgan does end up paying an 11-digit fine, then resignation would surely be the honorable thing to do."

Merck CEO rewards workers with pink slips - Al Lewis - MarketWatch

Merck CEO rewards workers with pink slips - MarketWatch
"Kenneth Frazier, the chief officer executive of Merck & Co. MRK -0.78%  , makes $15 million a year firing people.
On Tuesday, as Americans awoke to a partially shuttered government and a confusing new health care system, he put out a press release promising to lay off 8,500 more people. On top of a previously announced plan to slash 7,500 employees, this represents a 20% trim to Merck’s current workforce of about 81,000."
"Merck will be “better positioned to drive innovation,” Frazier said.
The fewer brains one applies to a complicated problem like human suffering, the better, he would have us believe. And the smaller the sales force, well, you know, the bigger the sales."
"“Today’s announcement further underscores that we are committed to improving our performance in the short term while also investing for the long term,” Frazier said in the release.
Investing for the long term? Doesn’t he mean divesting for the long term? A very bleak long term?"

UN Report: Hunger Affects 1 In 8 People Around The World

UN Report: Hunger Affects 1 In 8 People Around The World
"In their latest report on food insecurity, the U.N. agencies estimated that 842 million people were suffering chronic hunger in 2011-13, or 12 percent of the world's population, down 17 percent from 1990-92."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Housing Market Is Heating Up, if Not Yet Bubbling

Housing Market Is Heating Up, if Not Yet Bubbling - ROBERT J. SHILLER - NYTimes.com

Robert Shiller's piece in New York Times 

"We asked the respondents how much they thought home prices would rise both in the next year and in the longer term — each of the next 10 years.
The short-term expectations were somewhat high, with respondents saying they anticipated a 5.7 percent increase, on average, in the next year. (That’s close to the implied home price appreciation of 5.6 percent in the home price futures market at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.)
These projections were much higher than those in 2011, when respondents anticipated only a 1.6 percent increase, and somewhat above those of 2012, when the expectation was 4.0 percent. Still, in 2004, just before the peak in home prices, short-term expectations were far loftier, at 8.7 percent.
What’s more, long-term expectations in the current survey remained relatively modest, at 4.2 percent a year for the next 10 years. At that rate, if consumer inflation is modest, at, say, 2 percent a year, real prices would rise only about 2.2 percent annually, and we wouldn’t return to the December 2005 peak in real home prices until 2031."
"In reading the most recent answers, I see no signs that home buyers have learned the lesson I tried to convey in the second edition of my book “Irrational Exuberance” in 2005. That message was that existing-home prices have shown virtually no tendency to trend upward in real, inflation-corrected terms over the last century. While land is limited, it’s only a small component of home value in most places. New construction often brings down the value of older homes, which wear out and go out of fashion, dragging down prices.
IT’S as if people are applying to housing an idea described by Frederick Lewis Allen in his 1931 book, “Only Yesterday.” Before the stock market collapsed in 1929, he said, people thought that “every crash of the past few years had been followed by a recovery, and that every recovery had ultimately brought prices to a new high point. Two steps up, one step down, two steps up again — that was how the market went.”
Well, people have certainly been right that there will always be steps up and down. Unfortunately, there is no certainty that the ups will outnumber the downs."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The CEO Who Didn’t Know Too Much - WSJ

The CEO Who Didn’t Know Too Much - MoneyBeat - WSJ
"At BofAa there is a rare glimpse into how those executives slip away from culpability. Mr. Moynihan ran a major division, served on credit committees and integration committees and eventually was tapped to become CEO, but in recalling one of the biggest and transformational deals in the bank’s history, his memory was painfully short.
When presented a financial report, Mr. Moynihan is unsure if he’s seen it or if the numbers are correct. He asks the questioner to direct the question to whoever prepared the report.
“Somebody reported to somebody that reported to me would have been the people working on this,” Mr. Moynihan said. “This is very small part of what they did. I was on the steering committee, I was one of the direct reports, but it was not something that I was involved in day-to-day.”
On and on it goes like this. Dates are forgotten. Documents are sketchy. Decisions were made by someone else. Discussions? What discussions. The transcript is a tangled and frustrating mess of amnesia."
"..., there is something disturbing about Mr. Moynihan’s inability to recall even the most basic information about the Countrywide deal and its integration. For instance, when asked if he knew that Countrywide Bank originated all of the mortgages for Countrywide Financial, Mr. Moynihan said, “I don’t recall that, no.”
Big banks seem to place a premium on forgetfulness. They settle fraud cases stemming from the financial crisis for billions of dollars and hope investors will forget, if not forgive."
"Since Mr. Moynihan ascended to the role of chief executive in 2010, Bank of America has paid out more than $50 billion in settlements, the vast majority of them tied to its mortgage business or those of Countrywide."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

JPMorgan in talks to settle government cases for $11 billion, person says - The Washington Post

JPMorgan in talks to settle government cases for $11 billion, person says - The Washington Post: "JPMorgan Chase is in talks to pay state and federal authorities $11 billion to resolve investigations into its sale of shoddy mortgage securities during the financial crisis, a person familiar with the talks said Wednesday."
"Yet it amounts to a sliver of the losses incurred by investors who purchased mortgage securities that turned sour when the housing market crashed in 2008."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

JPMorgan Set to Pay More Than $900 Million in Fines - NYTimes.com

JPMorgan Set to Pay More Than $900 Million in Fines - NYTimes.com
"JPMorgan Chase is expected to pay more than $900 million in fines to government authorities in Washington and London and make a rare admission of wrongdoing on Thursday, a pact that will settle a range of investigations over a multibillion trading blunder the bank suffered last year"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

46.5 million Americans living in poverty

Poverty rate 15% 
us poverty rate 091713
"Years after the Great Recession ended, 46.5 million Americans are still living in poverty, according to a Census Bureau report released Tuesday."
"But taking a wider view reveals a larger problem: Income has tumbled since the recession hit, and is still 8.3% below where it was in 2007."
"This long-term decline in income is troubling to economists, especially as the middle and lower classes have fared considerably worse than the rich. Since 1967, Americans right in the middle of the income curve have seen their earnings rise 19%, while those in the top 5% have seen a 67% gain. Rising inequality is seldom a sign of good social stability."
 "The recession also pushed many more people into poverty. In 2010, the poverty rate peaked at 15.1%, and has barely fallen since then. This is the first time the poverty rate has remained at or above 15% three years running since 1965."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How Goldman Sachs Made Money Mid-Crisis - Businessweek

How Goldman Sachs Made Money Mid-Crisis - Businessweek
"Of Lloyd Blankfein’s 3 hours and 28 minutes before the U.S. Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations on the afternoon of April 27, 2010, the most memorable moment came when Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, for the umpteenth time, held up an e-mail that had been written nearly three years earlier by two of Goldman Sachs’s (GS) most senior traders. The e-mail described a Goldman-underwritten collateralized-debt obligation, or CDO, as “one sh-‍-‍-y deal.” It was the end of a long day, and as Levin bore down on Blankfein, he wanted to know if it was ethical for Goldman to sell a security that its traders thought was bad while Goldman, as a principal, bet against those very same securities in order to make a profit.
It was not the chief executive officer’s finest response. He winced. He perseverated. He parsed. He looked uncomfortable. Finally, he lamely defended Goldman’s behavior. “In the context of market-making, that is not a conflict. What the clients are buying, or customers are buying, is—they are buying an exposure. The thing that we are selling to them is supposed to give them the risk they want.”
"..Goldman driving down the price for many illiquid and hard-to-value mortgage securities at a time when the firm had implemented its “big short”—thereby sticking it to those who were exposed. A range of Goldman’s counterparties, from Bear Stearns to American International Group (AIG), have argued subsequently that in 2007 Goldman began manipulating the price of these illiquid securities, knowing full well that it alone was in a position to benefit because of its short position. Competitors contend that Goldman’s marked-down prices exacerbated their financial problems by forcing them to lower the value of these securities on their books, vastly reducing their equity and calling into question their financial viability."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top 1% take biggest income slice on record

Top 1% take biggest income slice on record 
"The top 1% of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3% of total household income in 2012, which is their biggest slice of total income in more than 100 years, according to a an analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Paris School of Economics at Oxford University.
The richest Americans haven't claimed this large of a slice of total wealth since 1927, when the group claimed 18.7%."
"..the top 1% of earnings posted 86% real income growth between 1993 and 2000. Meanwhile, the real income growth of the bottom 99% of earnings rose 6.6%."

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Why Is One-Sixth of U.S. on Food Stamps? - Real Time Economics - WSJ

Why Is One-Sixth of U.S. on Food Stamps? - Real Time Economics - WSJ
"Food-stamp use grew 2.3% in June from a year earlier, with nearly one-sixth of the U.S. population receiving benefits."

Labor Recovery Leaves More Workers Behind - WSJ.com

Participation rate at lowest level since 1978 - WSJ.com

"The long, slow recovery in the U.S. job market is leaving ever-more Americans on the sidelines—and complicating the calculus for Federal Reserve policy makers weighing when the economy can get by with less help."
"At the recent pace of hiring, the economy won't get back to prerecession levels of employment, adjusting for population growth, for more than eight years.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell not because people found jobs but because they gave up looking. "
"As a share of the population, fewer Americans are working or looking for work than at any time in the past 35 years."
"The share of the population that is working or looking for work—a measure known as the participation rate—fell to its lowest level since 1978, when women were still under-represented in the workforce and manufacturing accounted for more than a quarter of private-sector jobs."

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Yale Professor Robert Shiller: Is this Housing Boom Going to Last? I Think Not - YouTube

Yale Professor Robert Shiller: Is this Housing Boom Going to Last? I Think Not - YouTube:
Yale Professor Robert Shiller says, “People who were thinking about buying a house last year are kicking themselves.  Prices are up 12% in a year.  As the market tightens, the attractiveness diminishes, but it’s still attractive.”  Professor Shiller, who is one of the founders of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, sees two big possible headwinds for housing.  One is the Federal Reserve ending or “tapering” its $85 billion a month bond buying program.  Shiller contends, “I think people were really surprised at how much the mortgage rate reacted to the Fed merely talking about tapering off this bond buying program.  Just the talk pushed up interest rates the better part of a percent.”  The other headwind, Dr. Shiller says, “We might slip into another recession.  China, India, Brazil and Russia are all slowing down.  People are getting edgy about that may be just as big of a risk as the pull-back of Fed stimulus.”  Dr. Shiller goes on to say, “The really big question on everybody’s mind is-is this something big, this home price boom over the last year.  Is this boom going to last 9 years?  I think not.

'via Blog this'

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs | Strike! Magazine

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs | Strike! Magazine
"Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up? That the world would keep on turning if you weren’t doing that thing you do 9-5? David Graeber explored the phenomenon of bullshit jobs ... – everyone who’s employed should read carefully…"
"In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it."
So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).
But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

"How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.  Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.