• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    katiebird on Serial: Cold Turkey
    r u reddy on Ditto, Mr. Edsall
    Mr Mike on Happy Thanksgiving!
    Mr Mike on Happy Thanksgiving!
    Sweet Sue on Happy Thanksgiving!
    katiebird on Happy Thanksgiving!
    katiebird on Serial: Cold Turkey
    Sweet Sue on Happy Thanksgiving!
    riverdaughter on Serial: Cold Turkey
    katiebird on Serial: Cold Turkey
    riverdaughter on Serial: Cold Turkey
    riverdaughter on Serial: Cold Turkey
    katiebird on Serial: Cold Turkey
    katiebird on Serial: Cold Turkey
    riverdaughter on Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean Joe Biden John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Keith Olbermann Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare occupy wall street OccupyWallStreet Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    November 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    30  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Ferguson and the brokenness of America’s “Justice” System
      There isn’t much to say that others haven’t, but let’s go through it anyway: There was never any chance that Darren Wilson would be charged; the prosecutor acted as defense attorney, not as prosecutor; A grand jury, for all intents and purposes does what the prosecutor tells it to; Doing the announcement at 8pm at [...]
  • Top Posts

Thursday: Things that shouldn’t need to be said but…

1.) Susie Madrak found this post by George Lakoff that I think everyone in the left blogosphere should read and commit to heart.  It’s about the Santorum Strategy and what is really going on with the Republican primary.

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called “independents,” who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future.

I think I’ve said this before (I’ll see if I can find the links to my posts about it) but it bears repeating because the A list bloggers don’t seem to be getting it: the reason why the Republican primary is dragging on is because it works in the Republicans favor.  It changes the national dialog and keeps the issues that Republicans want to talk about out there in the media all the way to August.  Don’t be surprised if there is a brokered convention.  They *want* the whole nation sitting on the edge of its seat waiting to see who the Republicans crown.  That means they can talk about deficit reduction, entitlement reform and women’s reproductive rights for a long, long time. By the time they are done, the general public will believe that reducing the deficit at all costs is the most important thing in the world and that no one should pay for anyone’s health insurance, much less birth control.  If you made the stupid lifestyle decision to be born human and indulged in living, putting your body at risk, that’s YOUR problem. Romney and Santorum are in this together for this tag team event and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republicans have already issued primary voters their votes in advance.  It only looks like chaos to the lefty bloggers sitting smugly at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.  But come August, the Democrats, who should have been championing Occupy Wall Street without trying to co-opt it (see more on this below) are going to be scrambling to control the message.  Never underestimate the Republicans’ desire to win.

PS: I need a job, George.  Call me.

2.) Lefty bloggers are wasting their time talking about Sarah Palin.  If Democrats need independent women’s votes, maybe they should stop assuming that Palin is the cause of their defection from the Democratic party.  She’s not.  There are just as many of us out here who are independent liberals who are Democrats in Exile, who do not give a flying fuck about what comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth.  Frankly, we’re turned off by the Palin bashing, not because she’s a viable politician (she’s not) but because she’s a human being and we’re just tired of the left using Palin as the dumping ground for their current round of misogyny.

Can we move on from Palin already?  She disgraced herself last year during the  Gabby Giffords shooting episode and before that when she teamed up with her chum, Glenn Beck.  Palin had a choice after 2008.  She could have become a legitimate politician on the right, and still not to our tastes, or she could have become a hack.  She chose the latter.  Let’s move on.

Palin is not relevant in this election season.  OBAMA is relevant this election season.  Nothing Palin tells women who have flocked to her, and this woman is not one of them, is going to persuade them to vote for a Republican.  What might persuade them is the persistently lagging economy and anger at Obama for doing such a lousy job as president.  We could have had a V8 but we got watered down tomato juice instead.

The rest of us independent liberals are shopping around for a third party.  I would advise the Democrats to stop touting Lilly Ledbetter as the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Not only is this stupidly deceptive, women are not fooled.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.  Even we can figure out that there is still no fairness in our paychecks, if we are lucky enough to still have them.  And instead of being proactive about reproductive rights, the Democrats are not making a full throated defense of them against the Republican juggernaut.  We are going to remember who took down Rush.  It wasn’t president Obama.

By the way, if some of this diatribe about Palin sounds like something the Republican right wing nut cases are saying, it’s because even those vile mouths of Sauron have a point.  Stop being dicks, Democrats.  You’re playing right into their hands.

I’m still hopeful for a third party candidate.  The two major parties are busy talking amongst themselves and leaving the voters out of it.  They are leaving the American electorate on the table.  Some decent politician could see this as an opportunity of a lifetime and consider running as an Independent New Deal Democrat.  Think about it.

3.) When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.  The reason why the Republicans are pulling out all of the stops over paying for women to have sex is because they are working for insurance companies.  Insurance companies do not want to have to pay for this.  They are going to pass the costs onto someone.  Are you kidding?! Did you think the CEO of United Healthcare is going to take a cut to his bonus just because some broad in Washington wants to have sex?  Please.

The argument that Democrats are making that this will actually save insurance companies money doesn’t ring true to me.  Right now, all of the women who aren’t covered by the birth control mandate are bearing the costs by themselves.  That is saving the insurance companies money.  The vast majority are already preventing unwanted pregnancy related expenses for the insurance companies.  But let’s say that the companies end up paying for some unexpected surprises.  The cost of a pregnancy is already factored into the negotiations the insurance company has made with doctors and hospitals.  There’s a flat fee for an uncomplicated delivery.  That could easily be eclipsed by 10 years of oral contraceptives.  And now, they are going to be covering millions of women that they previously didn’t have to cover.  Of course it’s a hit to their bottom line.

If the Democrats were smart, they would have adopted the message of Occupy Wall Street and associated the insurance companies with the 1%, which they are.  They are trying to make a profit at the expense of your health.  They are collecting much more in premiums than they will ever pay out to you.  It’s immoral.  They’re making money hand over fist and giving themselves huge bonuses at your expense.  It’s immoral.  They’re greedy bastards and they’re making you feel dirty for asking for something that should be your right as a premium paying individual.  It’s immoral.

But Democrats are not smart.

3.) Speaking of the morality of Occupy Wall Street, the way that Democrats participated in muting the occupy movement (temporarily) may come back to bite them in the ass.  As I have noted before, the Republicans have a moral worldview and the Democrats do not (will try to find link to my post on this.  Must make better tags.  Sigh.).  You may not like the Republicans’ worldview but there’s no question that any American you ask can explain what it is.

What the Democrats currently have is everything on the table on a slippery slope and no backstop.  Not a winning formula.  They could have let the Occupy movement build momentum and then coasted to a win on its slipstream.  They could have said, “Hey, those dirty fucking hippies have a point!  The 1% *are* greedy fucks who are destroying the American middle class.  Maybe we should redefine what it means to be successful.  Maybe we should make the system more fair and help everyone achieve their goals so that America is number one again in innovation and prosperity.  Maybe we need to treat hard working Americans with more respect and champion their free speech rights.  Maybe we should stand up with them and labor against the soul destroying corporate class. Maybe we should force bankers to be good American citizens.”

But the Democrats did none of these things.  In fact, the Democrats were ultimately behind the DHS riot police interventions and the FBI surveillance and the infiltrations.  Oh, no, you say?  Well, who the hell else is in charge of the executive branch these days?

So, you gotta ask yourself, why is it that the Democrats would be more willing to engage in a strategy to enforce learned helplessness in anyone who wants to change the conversation and redirect it away from the ubiquitous Republican austerity message machine?

Who are the Democrats working for?  Hint: it’s not for you.

4.) Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs, now joins the ranks of the unemployed, possibly forever, after he immolated himself on the Op/Ed page of the NYTimes.  I hope he has a stash to fall back on.

I believe Smith.  I think he was what he says he was and do not question his descriptions of business as usual in the hallways of Goldman Sachs.  Let’s not forget that Jon Corzine was once a top executive at Goldman Sachs and look what wonders he did for the muppet investors of M. F. Global.  Or the Democratic base for that matter.  He has a habit of taking what is not his and giving it away to the undeserving.

Anyway, lest any of us in the pharma research forget, it was Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan who coordinated the merger mania that lead to Pharmageddon and all of the jobs we have lost in the past several years.  They do not care that what they are doing to the research industry is destroying it and is going to result in a vastly reduced portfolio of new drug therapies in the future.  All that is important is extracting the last bits of wealth from these ailing industries for the big shareholders and gigantic bonuses for themselves.  The ruined lives and careers that are left in the wake of these restructurings and mergers do not matter to them at all.  We’re losers, muppets and carrion.

This is not going to stop as long as executives are rewarded for short term planning.  It’s really not their fault that they behave the way they do.  It’s what they get paid for.  When we stop rewarding them for it, they’ll stop destroying us and not a second before.  It is stupid and foolish to expect them to act like decent human beings when they don’t have to.

So, what are Democrats planning to do to make sure the incentives are directed towards long term investment and prudent risk and financial stability?  Fuck if I know.

5.) Last but not least, I was looking at the lineup for the Reason Rally and while I am impressed by the great speakers who are going to be big draws for the Humanist, Freethought, Skeptics and Atheist movement, I was a little disappointed to see that many of them are not American.  If the Reason Rally organizers are trying to get attention for their voting bloc, it would be a good idea to ask Dawkins to serve more as MC, rather than headliner and let the American superstars take center stage (Dan Barker, Greta Cristina, Adam Savage etc.).  Otherwise, this rally is going to backfire.  You can already see the spin the Republicans are conjuring up.  Don’t fall into their trap.  I know that the rally attendees are going to be good, hard working, patriotic Americans who want reason to prevail over superstition.  That is what you need to work with.  The last thing you want is an international lineup of eggheads, much as I like Dawkins.  You need to have speakers who can connect with their audience, who come from a genuine place in the American experience and who lead Americans to a better way.  Sort of like this guy, Jerry Dewitt, former Pentacostal-Dominionist pastor and current executive director of Recovering from Religion, who in the span of 12 minutes manages to honor Tim Tebow, Christopher Hitchens, Thanksgiving and Christmas in a genuine, uplifting, positive  and non-theistic way:

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Recovering from Religion is an organization that is helping clergy and other believers make a transition away from more oppressive religious sects.  Dewitt says he gets a lot of inquiries from conservative Christians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses because these communities tend to isolate their members so when a believer tries to get out, they lose much more than their religions.  They lose their families, community, sometimes their jobs, and they lose their identities.  Dewitt calls it “identity suicide”.  It’s a hard transition to make but people of good conscience who can no longer bear living a lie need a place to go where they will find acceptance and help.  Imagine Jinger Duggar trying to escape her captors and looking for a safe mental haven.  That’s what Dewitt is trying to provide.  So, if you are looking for a place to make a charitable contribution this year, consider donating to Recovering from Religion.  For every person who comes out of the spell, there is one more American who can help set the country back on the right track.  I think this is a mission that is worthy of our support and may even cough up a few bucks myself from income tax return.

By the way, I am astonished by the number of freethought meetings and organizations there are in the reddest states of the union.  I’m talking about Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska.  These people are very active and they are posting their meetings and media podcasts all over youtube.  Here in NJ?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  I guess that’s because New Jerseyans already feel comfortable as godless heathens and don’t feel the need to organize. I think they’re wrong.  The suburbs of central Jersey are sometimes indistinguishable from the bible belt.

A series of unfortunate misallocations

Jon Corzine’s Mulctuary Money Management MF Global is still in the news.  Is it possible that the only banker we are likely to see doing a perp walk is the former Democratic governor of New Jersey?  There’s some kind of weird karma here.  Anyways, Mr. Poe, er, sorry, Jon Corzine’s firm has something like $28 million bucks on hand deposited with J.P. Morgan chase.  The Baudelaire orphans, er, clients of MF Global are trying to get access to this money, which may be all they can recoup, but Chase says they don’t have to give it to anyone.  Oh, wait, three hours ago, a judge ruled that MF Global can use this money to pay its trustee and operating expenses.  So, there you go.  The answer to whether the clients are screwed definitively.

In the meantime, federal regulators haven’t decided yet whether the misallocation of funds was legal or not.  It may have been perfectly legitimate for Corzine to put client’s money up as collateral against losses on risky sovereign debt bets.

Regulators now have a full picture of money transfers in the final days of bankrupt brokerage MF Global, and are working to sort out which transactions were legitimate, a top official told Reuters on Wednesday.

“We are far enough along the trail that we know where all the money went. Now it’s just finding out which ones of those transactions are legitimate and which ones of them are illegitimate,” said Jill Sommers, who is heading the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s review of MF Global.

“We certainly don’t want to lead anyone to believe we don’t know what happened. We do know, and we see where all the transactions went,” she said.

In an interview, Sommers told Reuters that just because money was transferred out of a customer account to the broker-dealer account “doesn’t mean it was illegitimate.”

It turns out that the transfer of the money from client accounts to the broker-dealer account required a permission slip from the clients.  And once they track down all of those permission slips, the $1.2 billion dollar losses will be legal.

Good luck with that.

I’m going to make a prediction that MF Global didn’t ask anyone for permission.  I’m going to bet that the movers and shakers just decided amongst themselves that they would allocate the funds and that things would just turn out for the best.  No need to ask the clients.  After all, that’s what they were paid to do.  They were the professionals, they were the experts. Clients don’t have the experience and knowledge of how the machine works to understand how these transactions work.  It’s much better to just trust our own judgement about this.  The clients may disagree and, if given the choice, might even try to stop us, but we are wiser than they are.  Besides, there’s a great opportunity here to make a killing.  Our clients would be upset if we *didn’t* do it.  Let’s go with throttle up!

It’s not like Jon Corzine doesn’t have a history of substituting his own judgement for that of other people who put their trust in him. If you want to know why the money from MF Global is missing, it’s because he made a decision without consulting the people who actually count- his clients.  He’s done it before and he got away with it so why shouldn’t he just do it again?  In fact, this might be a real test of integrity and loyalty for Barack Obama because Jon Corzine practically delivered the nomination to him on a silver platter:

It had to be Corzine.  California wasn’t cooperating, Pennsylvania’s delegates weren’t all onboard either.  Those two states could have been problematic and upset the narrative.  Moreover, sparing them the choice of taking the dive and going against their voters or upholding state law requiring the delegate vote  on the first ballot according to the state primary results meant that the voters wouldn’t really have anything to complain about.  California is a big state.  It could have generated a lot of complaints.  But Corzine could be counted on to deliver for his buddies on Wall Street.  It was only one small little state that gets a lot of ribbing but it has a wealth of delegates.

People may be wondering when I’m going to get over it.  It just makes me a tiresome “malcontent”.  Isn’t that right?  What can I say?  My standards are very high when it comes to the electoral process.  A vote is a sacred thing.  And when someone or someones who you trust misallocates your votes, it’s just as much of a theft as when they misallocate your money.

On of the first things a malevolent party does when it wants to take hold of power indefinitely is mess with the vote.  They screw around with the ballots that get lost or destroyed or they flood the ballot boxes with a few thousand extra votes or they change votes using erasable ink pens.  So many different ways to make sure that the voters’ true intentions are thwarted.  And now we have all of those voting machines…

Stealing is stealing and Jon Corzine is a repeat offender.  I guess that makes Barack Obama the recipient of stolen goods.  He doesn’t even have the benefit of ignorance as to where the goods came from.  That makes him a conspirator.  Anyway, that’s the way I see 2008.  Fraud, theft and arrogance.  We’re all paying for it and like the unfortunate clients of MF Global, we’ll have no justice until someone is held accountable.

Over 1000 comments on the NYTimes article on science majors dropping out

Typical lab stuff.

This goes back to the article posted in the Times yesterday about Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (it’s just so darn hard). Typical of the Times, the editor has chosen to highlight a lot of educator comments that go something like, “Well, of course it’s hard.  You have to study and stop whining and then you will get a BIG reward with a generous salary!!”

The *reader* recommend comments prefer comments like this one from someone I probably know (she lists her location as NJ.  No, it isn’t me):

To be a scientist, one has to have an employer. For many reasons, it’s not possible to do science out of your garage or house.

There aren’t a lot of openings for scientist. Or in other language, there aren’t enough jobs for scientists, compared to the people who have science degrees and wish to be employed.

It’s hard for these students who get through the STEM program and realize they won’t get a job in science, because there really aren’t a lot of jobs. They have degrees in science, but no jobs.

I’m saying this many ways because while it’s a simple concept, the people who publish articles like this one don’t seem to understand the simple concept.

No jobs in science. No jobs (or very few) for for people who want to be scientists.

And yet, ome people still do not understand what she is trying to say for some reason. To be fair, the top comment for both highlight lists is this one from a person who has obviously been there:

Even when students do stick with science degrees, what are their career opportunities? I have a PhD in biology, I’m working on my third post-doc, and i have multiple publications in high profile journals. I’m currently on the job market for tenure-track professor positions, and the situation is bleak! This is a horrible job market, and it is made worse by the compression of leftover PhD’s who couldn’t find jobs during their last 1-4 years of searching. At this rate, the US is going to lose a large chunk of an entire generation of scientists. And I’m not talking about undergrads, I’m talking about highly trained scientists with PhD’s! For the most part, our training has been paid for by US tax dollars, which are going to waste when these scientists drop out of science and choose other careers. When state governments slash education funding in response to the current economic climate, this has a huge ripple effect throughout academia. In addition, NSF funding has been stagnate for years, which further reduces levels of science hiring at Universities. While I agree with the goals/aims of STEM, these programs are diverting NSF money away from research, which only makes the problem worse. I think that the biggest issue isn’t a lack of students ‘sticking with’ science degrees, but the lousy job prospects available when they graduate

Yup, pretty much.  That one has 837 recommendations.

I love the ones from people who have apparently never had to get a job by giving a 45 minute presentation on their entire life’s work  that say that scientists should stop focussing so much on money.  We should just do it for the love of it.

What’s love got to do with it?  Sure, we love it.  We were the ones who stuck it out didn’t we?  But most of us didn’t sign up for anorexia and the life of a monk on some barren skellig.  We have to eat and prefer a family life.  When was the last time we told an accountant to prepare tax returns and balance company accounts for the love of it?  Or how about teaching?  Yes, you say you love teaching and developing little minds and everything.  But if you don’t do it for below poverty wages and give up any hope of providing for your own children, how can we really evaluate your commitment?   See how that works?  Take what ever your profession is and ask yourself if you would do it for a temporary post doc salary for 3 or 4 years after your 5-7 years in graduate school.  Would you do your work for $37,000/year if you had a PhD in your subject?  For how long?  Now add three years of calculus, two semesters of calculus based physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, microbiology, biolchemistry and hours and hours of labs where failure is the norm, not the exception.

Didn’t think so.

That’s what it’s like for the science major right now.  And those are the ones who are lucky enough to get jobs.  The ones who have the years of experience it takes to actually do the research are getting laid off in droves.  It’s really bad in the Northeast because scientists tend to gravitate to other scientists as spouses and when both parents are getting laid off…

Did you ever get the feeling that there is a small evil group to which no one we know belongs who is sitting on a giant mountain of money and would rather strangle innovation in its infancy rather than spend even one shilling more than they think the whiny peons in the labs are worth?  The money for research in both industry and academia has dried up so thoroughly that it can’t possibly be an accident or coincidence.  There is plenty of work to do on some very challenging and difficult projects.  And there are plenty of people who would be more than willing to do them.  The problem is that there is no money.  Anywhere.  Why is that and why is the Obama administration letting them get away with that?  It’s not like when the spigots get turned back on that everyone will suddenly be able to catch up really quickly with the work.  Biology and nature doesn’t work like that.  A cessation in research means a real gap in the flow, one that can’t be made up quickly.  And by the time the money comes back in, the more experienced among us will have learned our lesson, downsized, and gotten new jobs making a lot less money in another field while the new scientists who come after will have to reinvent the wheels and work for a lot less money in a field that no one appreciates.

{{sigh}}

The only thing worse is not having an opportunity to do what you love.  In the 21st century, we have reverted back to the days when only the wealthy and self-funded can afford to dabble in science.  The joy of discovery for those of us who are not independently wealthy is becoming a dream:

Yes, it really can be this fun.  S%^&, maybe the problem is we’re not supposed to be having fun at work.  It should be dreary, miserable and for low pay or it’s not the American way.

*****************

Speaking of Occupy events, what is it about the midwest that makes them have the cleverest stunts?  These guys really go out of their way to piss people off.  Chicago is particularly good at this.  Is it because they don’t really have a place to hang out that they have turned to infiltration?  It would make a good research topic.  What makes occupier stunts successful?  Is it leadership or invention born of necessity?  Anyway, if you haven’t seen this one yet, check it out (H/T Susie Madrak):

**************

Atrios points to a Reuters articles that  reports that Corzine’s brokerage firm, MF Global, sent out snail mail checks to depositors who requested their money when they heard rumors that the firm was in trouble.  The checks went out after MF Global went into bankruptcy.  Anyone want to guess why the checks were mailed instead of wired?  Anyone want to guess what the “MF” in MF Global really stands for?

*************

If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out Nate Silver’s recent deconstruction of the 2012 election using some updated models.  The bottom line is that if Romney is the nominee for the GOP, Obama looks like toast.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise because next year looks like another change election.  Since there isn’t much difference between Romney and Obama, it’s not that hard to change presidential parties while sending a message to the Democrats that voters expect more from them.  Keeping that in mind, the Democrats *could* get out in front of voter sentiment for change and Change! their own nominee.  Oh sure, it seems unthinkable now (although the rest of the electorate has been thinking it for about a year now) but give them a couple of months and a nice double dip to the recession and they may think that Obama doesn’t look nearly as shiny as he once did.

**************

Moving on…

Speaking of MoveOn, I am going to delete any comment that directs readers to a petition.  It has come to my attention recently that if you sign petitions like the one I did for an occupy event lately, you may start getting a lot of annoying spam email from MoveOn.  If you want spam from MoveOn, I assume you already know how to get on their mailing list.  I don’t like the idea that they are using petitions regarding occupy events to get your email address.  I’ll be paying close attention to the people who are doing this because it feels devious to me and I don’t like it.  If you’re using my blog as an email address collection bot, you will be moderated.

Friday, Friday! Gotta get down on Friday!

Let’s take a turn around the internet , shall we Miss Bennett?

Someone, beside *me*, really has it in for Jon Corzine.  The story about MF Global has been on the frontpage of the NYTimes every day this week.  In some cases, there have been several stories per day.  The one from yesterday was especially negative, not only for Corzine but for what his relationship with Obama says about the president’s judgement (remember that his judgement was Obama’s selling point in 2008).  Earlier this year, Gary Gensler, the head of the CFTC was proposing a rule to restrict the very same kind of trading that Corzine’s MF Global was doing and like Brookesley Born back in 2000, Gensler was overruled, this time by Corzine himself and a bunch of his lobbyist dudes.

As a former sovereign debt trader at Goldman Sachs, Mr. Corzine wagered that the European regulators would backstop any default. So even as dark clouds circled over Europe, he sensed an opportunity. Starting in late 2010, MF Global began to accumulate short-term sovereign debt of countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal.

MF Global financed these purchases through complex transactions known as repurchase agreements. In these, the bonds themselves were used as collateral for a loan to purchase them. The interest paid on that loan was less than the interest the bonds paid out, earning the firm a profit from the spread.

While that practice is quite common, the C.F.T.C. wanted to crack down on such lending in those instances when customer funds were used. The C.F.T.C. proposal would have also banned the use of client funds to buy foreign sovereign debt.

It is unclear whether the firm used client funds to purchase the risky bonds of Italy, Spain, and other debt-laden European nations, but experts say it is not unusual for such transactions to be paid for with customer money.

A person close to MF Global said the firm did not use client funds to finance these trades.

Leading the government’s effort to curtail these arcane practices was Gary Gensler, the chairman of C.F.T.C., who had worked for Mr. Corzine at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Gensler pushed for the proposed change in October 2010, and planned to bring it to a vote this summer.

MF Global has four outside lobbyists in Washington, tiny by Wall Street standards. But it was Mr. Corzine who marshaled the firm’s response to the proposal, lobbying most of the agency’s five commissioners directly. One commissioner said he visited with Mr. Corzine in MF Global’s headquarters, and acknowledged being impressed by the Wall Street titan, said a person with direct knowledge of the meeting who asked for anonymity because the meeting was private.

The C.F.T.C. polices the markets for futures trades. Staff members there often do not have a Wall Street pedigree.

Mr. Corzine’s background in finance made him highly credible, agency officials said.

Mr. Corzine’s efforts culminated on July 20, as the agency was preparing for a vote on the proposal. That day, MF Global executives were on four different calls with the agency’s staff. Mr. Corzine himself was on two of those calls.

One of the calls was with Mr. Gensler. Both men are active Democrats, and served on financial panels together recently.

Shortly after the calls, Mr. Gensler, aware that he could not push the vote through, decided to delay the proposal indefinitely.

In Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Gensler comes off as one of the few good guys in Obama’s administration who has a background in finance and knows how players like Corzine work.  In a recent brief interview with CNBC when asked whether there were other Wall Street firms with a sovereign debt crisis, Gensler just smiled and said nothing.  Gensler wasn’t able to do much better than Born against Wall Street’s lobbying arm with the rest of the CFTC board.  The good thing is that the rule isn’t dead, it’s just delayed.  The bad thing is that Barack Obama was prepared to make Jon Corzine his Treasury Secretary if Geithner resigned.  Come to think of it, why *didn’t* Geithner resign?  Did the risky trades at MF Global scare Obama off?

As of last night, Corzine had lawyered up with a criminal defense lawyer and this morning, he resigned from MF Global.  What kind of influence he personally had with Obama’s White House may make for some interesting election year fireworks.  And let’s not forget OccupyWallStreet who may just help ignite some true voter pushback on the Obama administration.  Call me crazy but my tinfoil antenna are starting to pick up signals that the opinion makers are starting to be embarrassed by Obama and are concerned that according to the models they are running, he can’t win against Romney next year.  Nate Silver suspects that Obama may be toast.

**********************

Good news!  Our national unemployment rate is down to 9%!  Isn’t that amazing?  Don’t tell anyone from Sanofi, Novartis, Amgen and Merck.  Let it be a surprise.

Also, don’t be surprised when the government is forced to revise that number upwards.

Meanwhile, in another bit of, er, good(?) news, the New York Times reports that the reports of increasing poverty are greatly exaggerated and anyways, poverty is not that bad these days.  You get food stamps!  See, if you’re not actually starving and suffering from kwashiorkor, you’re not really poor, even if you were solidly middle class last year.  This year, I will have paid more in taxes than required to support a family of four above the poverty level, next year I am at the poverty level. Good to know that impending homelessness, healthcarelessness and food stamps are not as bad as I think they will be.

**********************

In the battle of the pundits, David Brooks squares off against Paul Krugman.  David, who is really Wormtongue in disguise, constantly points out that if you have a college education, you’re doing pretty well during this recession compared to the great unwashed masses who only have high school diplomas.  THOSE people can’t get jobs because they are unqualified.  Truly successful people have college educations.  Oh, wait, Steve Jobs dropped out of college after his Freshman year.  Well, surely he’s an exception.  Wait, Bill Gates also dropped out.  And so did Mark Zuckerberg.  Jeez, does anyone in Silicon Valley have a Bachelor’s degree?? Yes!  Steve Wozniak has one.  He got it after he became a millionaire at Apple from designing the Apple II.

But surely, SURELY, they are exceptions, no?  Actually, David, none of my friends with multiple advanced degrees are doing very well right now.  Oh, there’s plenty of work to do.  It’s just mostly unpaid.  The people who need the help the most can’t find the funds and these are not greedy entrepreneurs of the kind that Brooks would admire.  They’re just not getting funded.  Well, it’s only cancer and other diseases.  But I will be sure to tell my friends at Sanofi, Merck, Novartis and Amgen that they are fully employed and prosperous because they graduated from college.  Let’s not let reality get in the way.

Paul Krugman, on the other hand, says the educated are not getting jobs.  He says this because he looks at all those graphs and correlations and mathematical thingies that David Brooks probably didn’t study when he was in college.  And Krugman is living in the middle of pharmageddon central.  All he needs to do is stick his head out the window to hear the agonizing cries of the chemistry PhD at the Frick lab only a few blocks down the road who cannot find a job.

That’s why Krugman is a god and David Brooks is still just a Wormtongue, whispering sweet distractions into the moneyed class’s ears so that they don’t have to feel, well, *anything* really, while he tells the rest of us that we’re worthless without a college education.  And the college educated trudge all the way to the unemployment office.  “Hi-ho, Hi-ho, it’s off to un-work we go”

************************

And now for our musical interlude for all the high school graduates out there:

The NY Times wonders why Corzine’s MF Global wasn’t checked

MF Global embezzled, I’m sorry, misallocated funds from its depositors to cover bets it made that Greece would be bailed out by the ECB and German and French taxpayers.  You’d think that the brokerage houses would have learned from 2008 and the NY Times editorial says that most of them have (I’ll believe that when I see it).  But somehow, Jon Corzine’s brokerage was allowed to operate in a highly leveraged condition.  The editorial board just can’t wrap its head around this:

Another reason that Mr. Corzine’s bets may have gone so wrong — and another echo of the financial crisis — is that American regulators did not rein in the firm. MF Global was highly leveraged, with liabilities at the end of June of $44.4 billion and equity of only $1.4 billion.

In a research note published on Tuesday, Steve Blitz, a senior economist with ITG Investment Research, pointed out that MF Global was one of the firms designated by the Federal Reserve as a primary dealer in United States Treasuries. After the havoc of high leverage in the financial crisis, how is it possible that the Fed allowed MF Global to operate with so much leverage? Are the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other relevant regulators fully monitoring the risks at other broker dealers?

Meanwhile, self-regulation is clearly not the answer. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a self-regulatory agency for brokerages, recently warned MF Global to shore up its capital to cushion against its increasingly risky positions. Whatever the firm did, if anything, clearly wasn’t enough.

Are the authorities monitoring the risks?  Well, obviously, they weren’t monitoring this one.  How can that be?  What possible motivation could there be for averting one’s eyes from the MF Global’s collapse and unacceptable risk taking?  I mean, did they own Jon a favor or something?

Jeez, it’s like some kind of allegorical morality play.  “In this scene, Everyman is thwarted by the rich banker from Goldman-Sachs.  Which cardinal sins does he represent?  Anyone?  Bueller?”

Let’s not forget some of the delegate accounts from Denver where the Hillary delegates who tried to vote for her on the first ballot were cornered, screamed at, harassed in hotel lobbies, and threatened that they would lose their jobs if they didn’t change their votes before the roll call.  Here’s a few just to get a feel for how bad it was.  (I talked to some personally when I was in Denver and these accounts sound pretty accurate):

ARKANSAS: “I was so angry at the sham of a roll call that I just wanted it to be over… ” “the last time I felt such unbearable group pressure was on a jury”   ” Obama representatives yelling, you’ll be sorry” to “hold outs”.  It was brutal.”

An alternate kept calling out that the state voted 70% for Hillary yet recorded its 47 delegate votes for Obama – “how could that be?”

*

CALIFORNIA: Chris Stampolis reports “I cast my signed vote for Hillary this morning.  It will be added to the roll call count for California”.  Except, we may never know how California voted…

Delegate Ray Panko reports that, “The California vote was about 230+ for Obama to 160+ for Clinton which did not reflect the state vote.  The process was completely controlled by the DNC and the Obama campaign. They had us all vote at breakfast. They took our votes and tallied them. They did this to see how close the numbers would be between Obama and Clinton. The aim was to prevent the public from seeing the closeness of the race. California passed because the Obama/Dean,Nancy Church(DNC) told it to pass. It was a sham, show, farce, gimmick.

Overall, the process was reprehensible.  Each delegation was told a different story. No one was told the actual rules of the DNC which say delegates are required, in good conscience, to vote on the first ballot a vote that reflects the will of the voters who sent them to the convention. Gloria Allred was prevented from speaking to the California Hillary delegates to inform them of this rule and that it applies regardless of whether or not the candidate releases us or not.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

People understood that pledged delegates would do what they came to Denver to do – vote for one of the nominees to reflect the votes of those who sent them.  We expected there to be respect for the 18 million votes and Hillary’s historic candidacy.  We even thought that Super Delegates would be allowed to do their job – to select the electable Democrat.   But that was not to be.  Instead, the roll call turned into one chaotic caucus rigged to be sure that the final vote would never be known, without any sublety or reverance for the sanctity of the vote or individual obligations.”

A Super Delegate reported that “CA “passed” without ever recording its votes because the Hillary delegation stood firm and had the vote been given accurately, Hillary would have been temporarily ahead in the roll call”.

Clinton delegate and LA attorney Gloria Allred grabbed a napkin from the tables at the California delegation breakfast and wore it as a gag to protest not being allowed to speak at the breakfast.  “I was not elected to be a potted plant,” Allred said through her gag, holding up DNC rules that say delegates must vote as they are elected. Californnia had 204 delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton, versus 166 for Obama.”

*

NEW HAMPSHIRE: “What thugs they are.  They make it clear that they really do not need us and have no intention of doing anything about the unity they mouth.”   “Our state voted strongly for Clinton but was threatened that funds would be withdrawn. The state cast its votes for Obama”.

NEW JERSEY:  “We overheard delegates from our state which had voted strongly for HRC saying that they understood DNC funding for local races in their state would be dependent on a unanimous delegation vote”.
A delegate was told “he needn’t worry about his vote – the totals for New Jersey were irrelevant, that the delegation was going to announce as unanimous”.

NEW YORK: “My guess, with no inside information at all, is that no-one expected her votes to melt away or be driven away – that the BOs would be gracious enough to let her have her votes and she would then nominate by acclamation.  That she did, but they had snarked away her delegates for maximum humiliation value”.

*

PENNSYLVANIA: An elderly weeping delegate who wanted to vote for Hillary was consoled by several fellow delegates who said they were all sent to Denver by their friends and neighbors to vote for Hillary but, “no-one seemed to care”.

OHIO: Flo Gurwin  After watching the convention proceedings in Denver, I certainly do believe in HIS change–his ability to continually change his mind.  I do not trust him.  I think he’s a snake and the scumbags surrounding him leave little doubt in my mind that he is not the sort of person I want for my president.”

*

TEXAS: Frances Morey: “I was less than enthusiastic about the impeachment of Bush AND Cheney because Pelosi would have been next in line for the Oval Office”. She also noted that “going into this convention Obama was flat-lining in the polls. If there is a bounce to follow we know who is responsible–The Clintons”.

“This morning I got my credential and was directed to go to another room. There I showed my badge and my id and indicated my presidential preference on a sheet next to my name and signed my name. This is the state tally sheet. Texas delegation officials, Boyd Richie’s staff and volunteers, have total control of this. They will use this tally sheet to report the Texas delegation totals for todays roll call vote at the Pepsi center later today.”

Blanche Darley, wearing a button saying ObamaNation Scares the Hell out of Me, on the impact of HRC’s speech: “We love her, but it’s our vote …we don’t trust or like him…”

Nata Koerber: “Hillary has a life-time of service to the Democratic Party and has done everything required and then some to encourage support of Obama. The responsibility of uniting the Party lies squarely in the lap of Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, Obama’s preferred choice for VP.”

A HRC pledged delegate, realizing that it did not matter how his delegation voted, announced that “it is obvious that the Obama campaign has no regard for the Clinton delegates or voters, that they were making it clear that Obama does not feel he has to treat us with even minimal respect.”

You can read more delegate accounts at Alegre’s Corner.

The bankers bought the superdelegates, the state parties, and Obama himself.  They own him.  He does their bidding.  And there was no one who symbolized that ownership more than Jon Corzine himself when he unanimously gave away the entire state of New Jersey’s delegates to Obama who lost the state by 10 points.  New York went right after we did and that put an end to the most rigged primary season and roll call vote in Democratic party history.

It’s no mystery why the Obama administration charged with oversight and regulation turned a blind eye to what Corzine’s fund was doing.  That’s the way the system was set up to work.

D’uh.

Corzine headed fund misallocated customer money??

Dorothy Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s mother, died today at the age of 92.  Dorothy Rodham’s early life reminds me of my grandfather’s.  She grew up in a working class house, raised by her punishingly strict grandmother after her father sent her away.  She longed for a college education but girls like her were unlikely to get one.  Her life took a different path.  You can read more of her biography here.  We send our condolences to Hillary and her family.

*******************************************************************

MF Global, a brokerage firm recently run by Jon Corzine, filed for bankruptcy yesterday after it failed to close a deal with another brokerage firm to take it over.  The deal was scuttled when $700 million in customer deposits went missing.  Originally, it was thought nearly a billion was missing but some of that money later trickled in.  What happened to the $700 million?:

Regulators are examining whether MF Global diverted some customer funds to support its own trades as the firm teetered on the brink of collapse.

The discovery that money could not be located might simply reflect sloppy internal controls at MF Global.

Ahh, yes, the “internal controls”.  Does Sarbanes-Oxley apply to brokerage firms or does it just apply to every other corporation from CEO down to the glasswashers where every penny must be accounted for in mind numbing detail?  Oh, wait!  Here’s another article about Goldman-Sachs partners having extraordinary power over their internal controls and compliance and maybe *that’s* why Corzine got carried away (not that he did anything wrong).  It’s like the hazards of confidence  of people who believe in their own (godlike) abilities, the confidence in this case attributed to sitting on a pile of Goldman-Sachs cash and influence.  But what if you’re not at Goldman-Sachs anymore?  Where do you get the confidence to override your internal controls…?  Did I mention that Corzine was betting against the Sovereign debt crisis in Europe?  Yeah, he totally expected no countries to default and that the ECB and countries like Germany would bail everybody out.  Sure, go ahead and place a bet on all those bonds.  The European taxpayers will cover you.  How many other Wall Street firms did the same thing?  Well, we’ll all find out shortly.

But the investigation, which is in its earliest stages, may uncover something more intentional and troubling.

In any case, what led to the unaccounted-for cash could violate a tenet of Wall Street regulation: Customers’ funds must be kept separate from company money. One of the basic duties of any brokerage firm is to keep track of customer accounts on a daily basis.

Wait!  Didn’t Bank of America just transfer some of it’s shadier assets to the FDIC covered customer bank accounts side of its ledger sheet?  That sounds like mixing monies to me and sticking taxpayers with the responsibility to cover potentially catastrophic losses but maybe I’m just being one of those uninformed cotton-headed-ninny-muggins people who don’t really understand the glory of what the banking class is trying to accomplish.  

Jeez, you would have thought that Corzine, former governor of NJ who treated us New Jerseyans so tenderly by solving the property tax problem, oh wait, he didn’t actually do that.  Well, Corzine who was so respectful of New Jerseyans’ voter enfranchisement.  S%&#!  He was the one who gave away ALL of our delegates to Obama at the 2008 convention wasn’t he?  (the Obama contingent are rolling their eyes and can’t believe the rest of us haven’t gotten over that because after all, it was just hard ball politics.  OK, when it happens to YOUR votes, we’ll just tell you to suck it up and quit whining.  I mean, it’s only your vote.  It’s not like it actually counts for anything, as the Obama administration has proven again and again.  And again.)

So, what did Corzine do here?  Not that we’re claiming that Jon Corzine did anything wrong or anything because that would be slander or libel or something we never prosecute anymore and, anyways, there’s no proof!  No proof whatsoever that he did anything the least bit out of the ordinary.  Yep, he was just sitting quietly, with his hands neatly folded in his lap not bothering anyone…

When he arrived at MF Global — after more than a decade in politics, including serving as a Democratic United States senator from New Jersey — Mr. Corzine sought to bolster profits by increasing the number of bets the firm made using its own capital. It was a strategy born of his own experience at Goldman, where he rose through the ranks by building out the investment bank’s formidable United States government bond trading arm.

One of his hallmark traits, according to the 1999 book “Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success,” by Lisa Endlich, was his willingness to tolerate losses if the theory behind the trades was well thought out.

He made a similar wager at MF Global in buying up big holdings of debt from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Ireland at a discount. Once Europe had solved its fiscal problems, those bonds would be very profitable.

But when that bet came to light in a regulatory filing, it set off alarms on Wall Street. While the bonds themselves have lost little value and mature in less than a year, MF Global was seen as having taken on an enormous amount of risk with little room for error given its size. By Friday evening, MF Global was under pressure to put up more money to support its trading positions, threatening to drain the firm’s remaining cash.

Hmmm, it sounds to me like Corzine risked a little too much, had to cover his bets and found that he had insufficient funds to do so, but that’s just my uninformed interpretation.  And if he dipped into his customers’ accounts to take out a temporary loan?  Just enough to tie him over until the next paycheck?  I’m sure everything was going to turn out fine.  It’s not like he was supposed to have enough collateral around, because that might have been in that finance industry reform bill that got watered down to tincture of remedy status.  It seems like the other banks have been howling screams of pain over their obligations to cover their bets.  It sounds so onerous that I thought maybe that weak tea of a bill might have been too much.  Apparently not.

By late Sunday evening, an embattled MF Global had all but signed a deal with Interactive Brokers. The acquisition would have mirrored what Lehman Brothersdid in 2008, when its parent filed for bankruptcy but Barclays of Britain bought some of its assets.

But in the middle of the night, as Interactive Brokers investigated MF Global’s customer accounts, the potential buyer discovered a serious obstacle: Some of the customer money was missing, according to people close to the discussions. The realization alarmed Interactive Brokers, which then abandoned the deal.

Later on Monday, when explaining to regulators why the deal had fallen apart, MF Global disclosed the concerns over the missing money, according to a joint statement issued by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Regulators, however, first suspected a potential shortfall days ago as they gathered at MF Global’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, the people briefed on the matter said. It is not uncommon for some funds to be unaccounted for when a financial firm fails, but the magnitude in the case of MF Global was unnerving.

[…]

But the firm has yet to produce evidence that all of the $600 million or $700 million outstanding is deposited with the banks, according to the people briefed on the matter. Regulators are looking into whether the customer funds were misallocated.

With the deal with Interactive Brokers dashed, MF Global was hanging in limbo for several hours before it filed for bankruptcy. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a number of exchanges said they had suspended MF Global from doing new business with them.

It was not the first time regulators expressed concerns about MF Global.

MF Global confirmed on Monday that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the S.E.C. — had “expressed their grave concerns” about the firm’s viability.

Presumably, the regulators let the customers know when they first had “grave concerns” about the firm’s viability so they could reconsider where they put their funds… or not.  “Grave concerns” sounds pretty ominous. Well, it’s not like his customer’s desires should have any bearing on what Corzine actually did with their money.  It’s just not his way.  I seem to recall that he was accused of playing with the NJ state workers’ pension funds but let’s not cast aspersions until I find some links that aren’t in virulently conservative Republican sites.  Still, the pensions are in trouble and this latest information about how Corzine plays fast and loose with money does make one wonder…

And people wonder why OccupyWallStreet has become so popular.

Hey!  Here’s a blast from the past.  Remember when Jon Corzine was at the Democratic National Convention giving away all of his state’s delegates to a candidate that lost the state primary by 10 points?  Memories, it brings a tear to the eye.  Sobbing, actually.  It’s a good thing that Corzine knows people in high places who owe him *big* favors.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 472 other followers