Posted: December 5, 2012 Filed under: Bailout Blues, Banksters, Big Pharma, Corporate Crime, corporate greed, Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Policy, Egypt, FBI raids, Foreign Affairs, Gaza, home foreclosure fraud, Israel, morning reads, science, Violence against women | Tags: Bank of America, Bryan Moynihan, domestic violence, Jovan Belcher, Kasandra Perkins, Merck, Milky Way, Voyager 1
After spending last night watching Lost in America...it made me think about Skippy, the manager at the Der Wienerschnitzel and those frozen fries, you know, the importance of details that make you great at your job. (If you forgot the scene I am talking about, the manager of the hot dog joint tells Albert Brooks just how wonderful his wife, Julie Hagerty, is…because of her attention to details, she noticed he had served “frozen” fries…with bits of ice inside of them.)
I wonder if Bank of America’s Bryan Moynihan, had such an attention to detail, but according to this article by Matt Taibbi, it looks like attention to detail is obviously not essential to a CEO…snark. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan Apparently Can’t Remember Anything | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
Thank God for Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. If you’re a court junkie, or have the misfortune (as some of us poor reporters do) of being forced professionally to spend a lot of time reading legal documents, the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.
In this long-awaited interrogation – Bank of America has been fighting to keep Moynihan from being deposed in this case for some time – Moynihan does a full Star Trek special, boldly going where no deponent has ever gone before, breaking out the “I don’t recall” line more often and perhaps more ridiculously than was previously thought possible. Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he’ll have to get back to you.
Yes, the key to holding a top executive position is being able to recite the phrase, “I don’t recall,” over and over again. I am not a fan of Matt Taibbi, but this article did make me laugh.
Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo on Tuesday, prompting the Islamist leader to leave the building, presidency sources said.
Officers fired teargas at up to 10,000 demonstrators angered by Mursi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution on December 15. Some broke through police lines around his palace and protested next to the perimeter wall.
The crowds had gathered nearby in what organizers had dubbed “last warning” protests against Mursi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the demonstrators chanted.
“The president left the palace,” a presidential source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. A security source at the presidency also said the president had departed.
Since this is a “fluid” situation, I will update this story down below in the comments.
Like a house of cards, things in the Mideast are precariously unstable…let’s move on to a topic that has some strength behind it. I am talking about those little plastic pieces that always seem underfoot, Legos: How tall can a Lego tower get?
Building Lego towers is a competitive business – this one in Prague, at 32.5m, may be the tallest to date
It’s not just children who like to build towers with Lego – the internet is alive with discussion on how many Lego bricks, stacked one on top of the other, it would take to destroy the bottom brick. So what’s the answer?
There has been a burning debate on the social news website Reddit.
It’s a trivial question you might think, but one the Open University’s engineering department has – at the request of the BBC’s More or Less programme – fired up its labs to try to answer.
“It’s an exciting thing to do because it’s an entirely new question and new questions are always interesting,” says Dr Ian Johnston, an applied mathematician and lecturer in engineering.
The article goes into some detail on how the test were conducted, so if you are interested…check it out. I will go ahead and spoil it for y’all…just how tall is this mighty tower of legos?
The average maximum force the bricks can stand is 4,240N. That’s equivalent to a mass of 432kg (950lbs). If you divide that by the mass of a single brick, which is 1.152g, then you get the grand total of bricks a single piece of Lego could support: 375,000.
So, 375,000 bricks towering 3.5km (2.17 miles) high is what it would take to break a Lego brick.
That is one big ass tower of plastic.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a “magnetic highway” at the edge of the solar system, a surprising discovery 35 years after its launch, the experts behind the pioneering craft said Monday.
Earlier this year a surge in a key indicator fueled hopes that the craft was nearing the so-called heliopause, which marks the boundary between our solar system and outer space.
But instead of slipping away from the bubble of charged particles the Sun blows around itself, Voyager encountered something completely unexpected.
This is amazing…think about how far Voyager has gone.
The craft’s daily radio reports sent back evidence that the Sun’s magnetic field lines was connected to interstellar magnetic fields. Lower-energy charged particles were zooming out and higher-energy particles from outside were streaming in.
They called it a magnetic highway because charged particles outside this region bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the bubble, or heliosphere.
“Although Voyager 1 still is inside the Sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway,” said Edward Stone, a Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
We got ourselves all excited for NASA’s Mars press conference today, even though we already knew it wasn’t about life on the red planet, but what we should have been paying attention to was happening nearly 11.5 billion miles away in the heliosphere. The Voyager 1 spacecraft has encountered a new region of our solar system. What’s even more exciting is that NASA scientists believe this region is the final barrier between Voyager and interstellar space. That’s so much more impressive than chlorine on Mars.
The Voyager 1 spacecraft is now so far out into space that light from the Sun takes over 34 hours to reach it. NASA debated whether this new region should still be considered part of our solar system, but project scientist Edward Stone makes the call by saying, “Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway.”
The scientists believe that Voyager will pass out of the solar system within the next two months or so. I’ve got one more space link for you this morning, it is about our Galaxy the Milky Way, New estimate suggests Milky Way mass of 1.6 trillion suns
Panorama of Milky Way from the inside: a mosaic of multiple shots on large-format film, comprising all 360 degrees of the galaxy from our vantage point. More about this image here. Image Credit: Digital Sky LLC via Wikimedia Commons
Our home galaxy the Milky Way is thought to be approximately 100,000 light-years wide and about 1,000 light-years thick. You often hear the estimate that the mass of our galaxy is equal to several billion suns, but some estimates have ranged up to twice that high, or even higher. Now some astronomers are suggesting a mass for the Milky Way of 1.6 trillion suns. The estimate isn’t just for stars but also includes the mass of our Milky Way’s invisible dark halo. It’s based on the first-ever measurement of the proper motion, or sideways motion along our line of sight, of a small galaxy satellite galaxy to our Milky Way. Ken Croswell reported on the role of this small galaxy – called Leo I – yesterday (December 3, 2012) in Scientific American.
There is a lot of information in that article, be sure to go and read the whole thing.
The rest of today’s post will be in link dump fashion…
An Amazing New Use for Ecstasy- Helping women deal with PTSD after rape.
Big Pharma Company Mocked Patients Who Got “Jawbone Death” from Drug: “Ma Toot Hurts So Bad” – Merck couldn’t care less about the patients…as long as they could make more money.
Noam Chomsky: What the American Media Won’t Tell You About Israel -Decades of hell in Gaza.
New research shows corrosion may accelerate failures at Fukushima Daiichi- Great…and guess what? There is nothing that can be done about it.
Be sure you read these couple of links on the NFL murder suicide this past weekend:
Jovan Belcher: Murder is Domestic Violence [by @QuadCityPat] | Angry Black Lady Chronicles
If you only read one thing about the Kasandra Perkins murder- Feministe
Regarding privacy in America…Laptop seizures by US government highlight 9/11-era climate of fear | Glenn Greenwald
And lastly, a bit of history…. Disability history month: Was Tamerlane disabled?
Tamerlane – derived from his nickname Timur the Lame – rose from obscurity to become a 14th Century conqueror of nations, who piled high the skulls of his enemies. It was quite a feat at a time when physical prowess was prized, writes Justin Marozzi.
Think of the greatest conquerors of all time and chances are you’ll quickly list Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. It is rather less likely, unless you come from Central Asia or the Muslim world more widely, that you’d spare a thought for Tamerlane.
Yet in many ways this Tartar warlord, born near Samarkand in 1336 in what is now Uzbekistan, outshone both the Macedonian king and the Mongol warlord.
Lots of links, I know…but it is a busy time of the year, and if you can’t take it all in one shot…come back during the day when you have the time. And be sure to share the things you are reading about today…
Posted: November 30, 2012 Filed under: Bailout Blues, Banksters, Egypt, Foreign Affairs, Political and Editorial Cartoons | Tags: BP Oil, GOP, John Boehner, laugh riot, Liz and Dick, NHL
My internet is running so slooooooow tonight. In fact, I could not even get the comic pages to load properly. So because of these technical problems, the post is going to be very short.
The first cartoon is funny, but I think the color is a bit off. Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Boehner Ball
He needs to be orange…
On to Congress…Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » GENIUS IQ TEST
If that IQ cartoon is too small, click the link up top to see the larger image.
What is on the GOP Christmas list?
Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » 1950s Christmas
For those of us who love hockey, this next cartoon is perfect. Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Wonderful Life
This next one is for Dakinikat: Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Illegal Department
And the last cartoon for you…Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Egypt President Morsi
Alright, now for something real funny, ‘Feel My Pudgy Hands Now!’… And Other Incredible Lines From Lindsay Lohan’s Awful Liz & Dick Lifetime Movie
Did you miss Sunday night’s premiere of Lifetime’s maudlin movie Liz & Dick? The Elizabeth Taylor biopic starring Lindsay Lohan created something of a Twitter frenzy with its general horribleness… and unintentional comedy.
Most reviews of the movie boiled down to one concrete point: “Liz & Dick is the best comedy of the year!” And that’s because the acting and the dialogue were, shall we say… so awful it’s good.
A la Tommy Wiseau‘s much-loved stinkerThe Room, this Lohan debacle contained an endless stream of terrifically terrible one-liners.
Luckily, for comedy’s sake, Vultureput together a two-minute compilation of the biggest doozies of the night.
From Lohan shouting “Feel my pudgy hands now!” to her overacting through Liz Taylor’s alcoholic musings — “Who’s the prettiest girl in the world? It’s Minnie Mouse!”
I missed the show, but from the video it looks like it was a laugh riot. Go to that link and watch it…but don’t do it while you are eating or drinking.
This is an open thread, have a wonderful evening!
Posted: October 24, 2012 Filed under: Bailout Blues, Banksters, investment banking | Tags: BOA, DOJ, FHA, FNMA, hustle loans, Subprime mortgages
The DOJ has filed a lawsuit against BOA on so-called “hustle mortgages” that accuses the lender of selling bad mortgages to Fannie and Freddie. I’m going to follow this, believe me, because it represents a ‘big deal’ for any one that does research in banking, lending, or moral hazard. I’m not a lawyer–nor do I play one on TV–so the finer parts of the law are not in my knowledge ballpark. However, I expect this to influence both lending behavior and the willingness of larger banks to merge with banks in bad shape. The latter is a trick used by regulators to deal with a problem bank. Bank of America is basically being sued over mortgages originated through a Countrywide program called the “hustle mortgage”. It supposedly continued the program after its merger to Countrywide.
This is the first civil fraud suit brought by the Department of Justice concerning mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For the sixth time in less than 18 months, this Office has been compelled to sue a major U.S. bank for reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The fraudulent conduct alleged in today’s complaint was spectacularly brazen in scope. As alleged, through a program aptly named ‘the Hustle,’ Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill. As described, Countrywide and Bank of America systematically removed every check in favor of its own balance – they cast aside underwriters, eliminated quality controls, incentivized unqualified personnel to cut corners, and concealed the resulting defects. These toxic products were then sold to the government sponsored enterprises as good loans. This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated.”
FHFA Inspector General Steve A. Linick said: “To prevent fraud, conducting quality reviews and complying with underwriting standards are critical. Countrywide and Bank of America allegedly engaged in fraudulent behavior that contributed to the financial crisis, which ultimately falls on the shoulders of taxpayers. This type of conduct is reprehensible and we are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to hold all parties accountable.”
SIGTARP Special Inspector General Christy Romero said: “The complaint filed today alleges serious and significant misrepresentations that Bank of America made before and during the time taxpayers invested $45 billion in TARP funds in the bank. SIGTARP and its law enforcement partners will investigate allegations of wrongdoing by TARP recipients, particularly conduct that results in substantial losses to the government and taxpayers.”
Are we beginning to see the DOJ move on the banksters? Has this got anything to do with the stampeded to Romney by all things Wall Street?
The Bank of America lawsuit is the sixth brought against a major U.S. bank by the Justice Department in less than 18 months over what Bharara called “reckless mortgage practices in the lead-up to the financial crisis.”
This month, the government sued Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the biggest mortgage lender and servicer, over claims the San Francisco-based bank made reckless loans that caused losses for a federal insurance program when they defaulted. The complaint alleges misconduct over more than a decade related to the bank’s participation in a Federal Housing Administration program and follows similar cases against other lenders including Citigroup Inc. (C) and Deutsche Bank AG. (DB)
A state and federal task force is investigating misconduct in the bundling of mortgage loans into securities before the housing bust. The group’s first legal action was this month, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. lender, over defective mortgage loans underlying securities, a suit he said would act as a template for other such cases. The bank has denied wrongdoing.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac losses totaled more than $1 billion, Bharara said. The Justice Department’s complaint was brought under the federal False Claims Act, which allows for triple damages.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have operated under U.S. conservatorship since 2008, when they were seized amid subprime mortgage losses that pushed them toward insolvency.
“Bank of America has stepped up and acted responsibly to resolve legacy mortgage matters,” Larry DiRita, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, said in an e-mailed statement. “The claim that we have failed to repurchase loans from Fannie Mae is simply false. At some point, Bank of America can’t be expected to compensate every entity that claims losses that actually were caused by the economic downturn.”
The government said in the complaint that Bank of America “systematically removed every check” in the issuance of mortgages and then sold the “flawed” mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Both relied on Bank of America’s assurances that the mortgages they purchased complied with their standards, the U.S. said.
According to the complaint, Countrywide initiated “the Hustle” in 2007 just as mortgage loan defaults were increasing nationally and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were tightening their loan purchasing standards to reduce risk. The Countrywide program did just the opposite, the U.S. said.
This suit is based on information from a whistle blower and has been in the works since February.
According to court records, Wednesday’s case was originally filed under seal in February by Edward O’Donnell, a Pennsylvania resident and former executive vice president at Countrywide Home Loans who had worked there between 2003 and 2009.
In that complaint, O’Donnell said Countrywide and later Bank of America dismissed his “numerous” objections to the Hustle, and that he became “one of the lone voices” in his division pointing to escalating loan quality issues and defaults.
O’Donnell could not immediately be reached for comment, and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Grab your bowl of popcorn. This should be interesting.
Posted: June 10, 2012 Filed under: 2012 elections, Austerity, Bailout Blues, campaign financing, collective bargaining, corporate money, Diplomacy Nightmares, Discrimination against women, Egypt, Foreign Affairs, Global Financial Crisis, Labor unions, morning reads, Russia, Spain, Syria, Violence against women, Women's Rights, worker rights | Tags: Egyptian Elections, Happy Birthday Prince!, Muslim Brotherhood, Purple Rain
Hopefully you have woken up to a glorious June morning…wherever you may be. Here in Banjoland, we are expecting rain, which I wish would just hurry up and get here…hearing that rumbling in the distance and feeling the hot humid air outside is getting to be a real drag.
I don’t want to lie to you, this morning’s reads are not lighthearted, there is just too much madness going on in other parts of the world.
Like the distant sounds of thunder, I can feel the pounding of despair in my chest, and not being a loner…I guess I have to share it with you.
First let me make this observation…am I the only one who finds irony in the name of the horse that won on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes? Union Rags…yup, that about explains it. The unions, as in labor unions, are in rags.
Funny that it was BIG money that put them there. The Kochs’ Double Whammy
If any doubt was left about the power of big money in our politics, the Wisconsin election destroyed it. Charles and David Koch goosed Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign with $10 million through their front group Americans for Prosperity, $1 million through the Republican Governors Association, and more from members of the “million-dollar donor club” of financial titans that meet regularly at Koch-hosted secret summits. Meanwhile, the official campaign of Democratic opponent Tom Barrett raised about $4 million. Is it any wonder that Walker climbed steadily in the polls and ultimately won?
I know that is not news for our readers…but I wanted to connect the horse’s name with the FAIL we saw in Wisconsin.
Now, on to the world news. According to Reuters: WRAPUP 7-Eurozone agrees to lend Spain up to 100 bln euros
Euro zone finance ministers agreed on Saturday to lend Spain up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to shore up its teetering banks and Madrid said it would specify precisely how much it needs once independent audits report in just over a week.
After a 2 1/2-hour conference call of the 17 finance ministers, which several sources described as heated, the Eurogroup and Madrid said the amount of the bailout would be sufficiently large to banish any doubts.
“The loan amount must cover estimated capital requirements with an additional safety margin, estimated as summing up to 100 billion euros in total,” a Eurogroup statement said.
From Spain to Egypt…Egyptian women protesters sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square This is very disturbing.
Egyptian women have been vocal protesters against the post-Mubarak regime, despite continuing sexual harassment at marches and gatherings. Photograph: Amel Pain/EPA
A mob of hundreds of men assaulted women holding a march demanding an end to sexual harassment in Cairo, as attackers overwhelmed male supporters and molested several of the marchers in Tahrir Square.
Some victims said it appeared to have been an organised attempt to drive women out of demonstrations and trample the pro-democracy protest movement.
Earlier in the week, an Associated Press reporter witnessed around 200 men assault a woman who eventually fainted before others came to her aid.
Friday’s march demanded an end to all sexual assaults. Around 50 women participated, surrounded by a larger group of male supporters who joined hands to form a protective ring around them. The protesters carried posters and chanted. After the marchers entered a crowded corner of the square, a group of men waded into the women, heckling them and groping them. The attackers chased the the marchers as they tried to flee. Several women were cornered against railings and groped, according to reports. Eventually, the women found refuge in a nearby building.
“After what I saw and heard today I am furious at so many things.” wrote Sally Zohney, one of the event’s organisers on Twitter.
You remember the image of the woman being stomped on by men back in December? If I say two words, my guess is you will remember…blue bra.
In a defining image of state violence against women, soldiers dispersing a protest in December were captured on video stripping a woman’s top off and stomping on her chest, as other troops pulled her by the arms across the ground. That incident prompted a march by 10,000 women through Cairo.
In contrast, the small size of Friday’s march could reflect the fear felt by women in the square.
“Women activists are at the core of the revolution,” said Ahmed Hawary, who attended Friday’s protest. “They are the courage of this movement. If you break them, you break the spirit of the revolution.”
What kind of revolution is it when Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister under Mubarak, could be Egypt’s next president ?
The unexpected appearance of Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister in the runoff of Egypt’s first post-revolutionary presidential race owes much to support from business tycoons and other backers of the old regime.
The candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, 70, gained enormous popularity during the final stretch of the race by appealing to weary Egyptians’ desire for a return to the stability of the old Egypt. But even some supporters acknowledge that he also drew on money and expertise from a vast network of Mubarak’s former supporters, whose National Democratic Party is now banned.
…Shafiq finished second in the first round of balloting and faces the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi in a presidential runoff next weekend. A victory by Shafiq would be seen as a defeat by many who took part in the wintertime revolution last year that ousted Mubarak.
What kind of revolution is it when the other choice is just as depressing, I am talking about the Muslim Brotherhood:
As Brotherhood looks to rollback women’s rights, Egypt women fight back
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), have condemned the resurrection of the National Women’s Council (NWC) in recent months, arguing that it has no legitimacy in the current political dynamic facing Egypt.
However, the governmental council’s chief Mervat Tallawy, has again lashed back against the conservative Islamic group, accusing it of attempting to undermine women’s rights, including divorce and custody rights.
The Brotherhood has fought back, arguing that the council is a remnant of the Hosni Mubarak era and should be disbanded.
“They are trying to take away rights that women attained in compliance with Islamic sharia,” said Mervat Tallawy, head of the National Council for Women, in comments published by Reuters news agency, adding that criticism of the council was an attempt to erode female rights.
The Brotherhood said in response on its website that the institution was “a weapon of the former regime to break up and destroy families.”
“They do not want a national institution for women,” Tallawy told Reuters in an interview. “They have said that the international (women’s) agreements are imperialistic and part of a foreign agenda.”
Muslim Brotherhood still can’t win backing of Egypt’s revolutionaries
At the hastily arranged meeting, Brotherhood representatives promised to meet the demands of Maher and other revolutionary figures in exchange for their endorsement of Mohammed Morsi, the Brotherhood candidate running against Shafik, Maher said. But when he asked for specifics, the negotiations collapsed in what has become an intractable problem for the Brotherhood: It still has not won the endorsement of its candidate from largely secular revolutionaries, even though they loathe the idea that Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister, could win.
The back-and-forth negotiations have come to define the period between last month’s first-round balloting and this week’s run-off. Political parties have called their followers into the streets in hopes of recreating the sense of unity that led to the fall of the Mubarak regime. But the elections and the taste of political power has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the parties to unite enough to ensure that a Mubarak holdover doesn’t retake the presidency, this time in a democratic election spurred by their movement.
The disparate revolutionary groups cannot agree on who speaks for them and what they want. And the Brotherhood cannot agree on what it needs to do to win the revolutionary vote.
From Egypt to Syria…U.N. observers in Syria see gruesome evidence of a new massacre. No this is not the same massacre from the end of May by the way…
Bullet-pocked homes and bloodstained walls. Shell casings littering the ground in a ghost town still smoldering from the onslaught.
A United Nations observer team on Friday finally reached the site of Syria’s latest apparent massacre, a now-abandoned farming village where opposition activists accuse pro-government forces of killing dozens of civilians this week in an artillery bombardment and grisly door-to-door executions.
“Young children, infants, my brother, his wife and seven children … all dead,” said a grieving man in a video distributed by the U.N. “I will show you the blood. They burned his house.”
UN officials said they could smell burning corpses in the village UN observers see burned corpses, scattered body parts at site of Syria massacre .
Bullets and shrapnel shells smashed into homes in the Syrian capital overnight, as troops battled rebels in the streets, in the heaviest fighting yet in Damascus. The violence marked an increased boldness among rebels in taking their fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad to the center of his power.
For nearly 12 hours of fighting that lasted into the early hours Saturday, rebels armed mainly with assault rifles fought Syrian forces. U.N. observers said rebels fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the local power plant, damaging parts of it and charring six buses, according to video the observers took of the scene.
Syrian forces showed the regime’s willingness to unleash elevated force in the capital: at least three tank shells slammed into residential areas in the central Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, an activist said. Intense exchanges of assault-rifle fire marked the clash, according to residents and amateur videos.
At least 42 civilians were killed in violence around the country outside Damascus on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist group. Among them were 20, including nine women and children, who died in heavy, pre-dawn shelling in the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising against Assad began in March 2011. The group’s figures could not be independently confirmed.
In a Daraa mosque, a father stood over his son killed in the shelling, swaddled in a blanket.
“I will become a suicide bomber!” the father shouted in grief, according to an amateur video of the scene.
Later Saturday, tens of thousands of Daraa residents buried the slain from the shelling. They sang, danced and paraded the dead in coffins around a large square, giving the mass funeral the appearance of a mass wedding party, according to footage of the scene.
These people are going through unbelievable trauma and fear, and it is taking it’s toll on the survivors.
“The heart of this revolt is the poor, jobless youth in the countryside. But that is gathering strength in other places, in Aleppo, in Damascus and even the Kurdish regions,” said Syria expert Joshua Landis.
“The psychological state of the people, after watching these massacres, is so far advanced. People are ready to do whatever it takes. They are frightened; it could come next to them.”
Back in the village where the latest massacre occured…
Saturday, U.N. observers in Syria ostensibly to monitor the cease-fire issued the first independent video images from the scene of the reported massacre in Mazraat al-Qubair.
The video, taken in the U.N. visit a day earlier, showed blood splashed on a wall pockmarked with bullet holes and soaking a nearby mattress. A shell punched through one wall of a house. Another home was burnt on the inside with dried blood was splashed on floors.
One man wearing a red-and-white checked scarf to cover his face, pointed at a 2008 calendar adorning a wall, bearing the photo of a lightly-bearded, handsome man.
“This is the martyr,” the resident, sobbing. He sat on the floor, amid strewn colorful blankets, heaving with tears.
It was not immediately clear if he was a resident of the village or related to the man in the photograph.
“They killed children,” said another unidentified resident. “My brother, his wife and their seven children, the oldest was in the sixth grade. They burnt down his house.”
After the observers’ visit, U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said the scene held evidence of a “horrific crime” and that the team could smell the stench of burned corpses and saw body parts strewn around the now deserted village, once home to about 160 people.
She said residents’ accounts of the mass killing were “conflicting,” and that the team was still cross checking the names of the missing and dead with those supplied by nearby villagers.
The UN says civil war ‘imminent’ in Syria, which seem to me to be a huge understatement…the West urges sanctions
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council on Thursday that a full-blown civil war in Syria was “imminent,” while international mediator Kofi Annan said it was time to step up the pressure on Damascus to halt the violence.
“The Syrian people are bleeding,” Ban told reporters after addressing the Security Council. “They are angry. They want peace and dignity. Above all, they all want action.”
“The danger of a civil war is imminent and real,” he said, adding that “terrorists are exploiting the chaos.”
Russia however is unyielding In Its Stance on Syria, Russia Takes Substantial Risks
The international deadlock over Syria has, in a dreadful way, provided balm for old grievances in this city. After years of fuming about Western-led campaigns to force leaders from power, Russia has seized the opportunity to make its point heard.
This time, its protests cannot be set aside as they were when NATO began airstrikes in Libya or when Western-led coalitions undertook military assaults in Iraq and Serbia. Instead, the international community has come to Russia’s doorstep.
On Friday, a top State Department official visited Moscow, presumably seeking to persuade the Kremlin to reconsider its stance and contribute to an effort to engineer a transition from the rule of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a longtime Russian ally. In remarks after the meeting, Russia’s top negotiator was implacable, telling a reporter that Moscow’s position was “a matter of principle.”
Russia’s Lavrov calls Syrian conflict ‘alarming,’ but shuns action
Russia has growing concerns about the conflict in Syria, but it will continue to oppose the outside use of force, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“The situation in Syria is becoming more alarming,” Mr. Lavrov told a news conference Saturday, during which he pushed Russia’s proposal for an international conference on the crisis. “An impression is being created that Syria is on the verge of a full-scale civil conflict.”
It appears that a couple of Russian citizens where involved in some of the violence last week.
He said two recent attacks had put Russians in the capital, Damascus, in danger: a bus carrying Russian specialists came under fire Saturday, and a grenade attack took place Friday on a building where Russians live. There were no injuries, he said.
Despite growing concerns that the situation may be spinning out of control, Russia, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, “will not sanction the use of force,” he said. Russia has previously blocked proposed U.N. resolutions to impose sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Lavrov said Russia’s resistance to intervention is “not because we are protecting Assad and his regime, but because we know that Syria is a complicated multi-confessional state, and because we know that some of those calling for military intervention want to ruin this and turn Syria into a battleground for domination in the Islamic world.”
Well, that should be enough to get the party started…
This week Prince celebrated his 54th birthday…and since he is one of my top 5 favorite musicians, I have to share it with you. Happy 54th Birthday, Prince
Happy Birthday, Prince!
Like the little black dress and kissing in the rain (under an umbrella, lest we muss our hair), his Royal Badness is ageless, timeless and eternally sexy.
As he continues to tour and sell out arena across the land join us in a collective “ow-ah!” to celebrate The Beautiful One’s 54th year!
So here are a couple of videos for you to enjoy. First is a comedy sketch from Dave Chappelle, called Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories. Charlie Murphy is Eddie Murphy’s brother…so, here is a true story about a time back in 1985…Dave Chappelle – Prince Vs Charlie Murphy – YouTube
I have tried to embed this video, but if it is not working please go check it out at the link above.
And here is a video of Prince performing at the Superbowl in Miami in 2007:
See y’all When Doves Cry….I’ll be wearing Diamonds and Pearls, a Raspberry Beret and driving a Little Red Corvette!
Posted: May 11, 2012 Filed under: Bailout Blues, Banksters, Equity Markets, financial institutions | Tags: Credit Default swaps, financial innovation, financing outside of TRACE, securitization
Okay, this is wonky. I’ve been avoiding writing about securitization for awhile because it can even get the best of people that know financial markets. You may remember that some one asked me where the next bubble lurked and I said commodities. Now, that’s actually a dangerous place for a bubble because commodities are things you eat and things that make your house light up and your car run. The housing bubble pretty much wiped out middle class wealth in the west. What would a commodities bubble burst do in the right markets? Well, think Mad Max or at least The Grapes of Wrath. Conversely, it could lead to a massive drop in key prices like that of oil. Imagine that one!
Here’s some interesting finds from FT Alphaville on the securitization of commodities. It’s titled “The subpriming of commodities” for effect.
It’s always been common practice for commodity inventory to be financed by banks by being pledged as security for the loans in question.
The problem comes if such enterprises, instead of using the inventory for general business purposes, are encouraged to stockpile for the sole purpose of liquidity provision and the opportunity to punt on the underlying commodities themselves. It’s a process which arguably artificially pumps up demand for the underlying inventory.
Bundle all those loans together, meanwhile — ideally into a product that can be sold to buyside investors seeking exposure to commodities — and suddenly you’ve got a direct source of funding for an ever-more speculative game.
When it comes to the larger players, meanwhile, this arguably transcends ‘trade finance’ even further — especially if it involves the setting up of a large number of special purpose vehicles to accomplish the process.
Here, for example, are the thoughts of Brian Reynolds, chief market strategist at Rosenblatt Securities, regarding what’s going on:
A little more than a year ago we picked up on a trend that we termed the “sub-priming” of commodities. Wall Street has been increasingly been doing structured finance deals wrapped around commodities, and this has added a bid for them while also making them vulnerable to downdrafts.
We know that many equity investors think (or at least hoped) that, after the disastrous record of wrapping pipeline and telecom assets in the 1990’s and sub-prime housing in the last decade, financial market reforms such as Dodd-Frank would have eliminated structured finance as a macro driver. When Dodd-Frank was proposed it envisioned standardized derivatives being placed on exchanges and clearinghouse. We felt it would encourage more non-standardized, exotic, and opaque structures to be created, and in the two years since it was enacted that’s what seems to have happened.
Important trends indeed. Yet, as Reynolds also notes, they’re also very hard to quantify given they mostly occur off-balance sheet:
This process is virtually impossible to quantify. We know that’s a disappointment to equity investors who are used to dealing with voluminous information, but that’s the nature of structured finance. Many structured finance deals are private in nature. As such most people, even those in the credit markets, did not know the full extent of the structuring going on in the 1990’s or the last decade until those firms, which were trapped by “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs), such as Enron, WorldCom and Citigroup, became forced sellers. But over the last year we’ve heard more and more anecdotal evidence of Wall Street increasingly structuring commodity deals, such as structured notes and swaps and even using commodities as collateral.
In Reynold’s opinion — even though he’s not a commodity expert per se — this activity significantly increases the risk of a sharp drop in oil in the coming year, especially since structured finance transactions usually come with caps and floors, which act as important support and resistance levels.
That’s an interesting analysis for oil or copper. However, what happens if the commodities in question happen to be food? The only place this used to happen significantly was the gold market. Actually, it’s understandable for oil too. But is Wall Street so hungry for financial innovation that they’re willing to bet the world’s food supply on it? Yes, of course. They’ve already done it several times. History teaches us that it drives the prices up to unreasonable and unsustainable levels that take all kinds of people down when prices collapse.
Here’s an interesting bit on a contango that happened in the wheat market that already led to a food price crisis in 2007-2008. This one had the Goldman Sachs brand all over it. Last year, a similar situation occurred with the Oil Market and the same player.
On Monday, April 11, Goldman Sachs told its clients to sell commodities, and the market reacted with a $4 tumble in the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil and sell offs in other commodities.
On Thursday, April 14, the leaders of the “BRICS” nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), meeting in Sanya, China, continued to press for a new world monetary system that has a much lower reliance on the dollar, and called for stronger regulation of commodity derivatives to dampen excessive volatility in food and energy prices.
We are in another commodity price run up, like that experienced in the 2005-2008 period. Such commodity price frenzies have devastating consequences for the world’s poor who, in some instances, already spend half of their income on food. Today, in the U.S. itself, the rise in the price of gasoline to more than $4 per gallon threatens an economy still struggling to free itself from the still lingering effects of the last bursting bubble.
It appears that the Western economic systems have become ever more volatile over the past decade. That is, bubbles, followed by severe contractions, are appearing more often and with increased severity. This is in stark contrast to the dampening of the business cycle we observed, and celebrated, in the 1980s and 1990s. So, what changed?
In Harper’s last July, Fredrick Kaufman wrote an article entitled The Food Bubble, which explained the reasons for the run up in agricultural commodity prices just prior to the ’08 financial meltdown and worldwide recession. The popular business media gave the article short shrift. But, most of what Kaufman observed as the causes of the commodity price run up in the ’05-’08 period is now being repeated, a short three years later.
I’m finding all this interesting as I watch Jamie Dimon squirm on the big hedge loss reported by JP Morgan. That’s the $2 billion mark to market loss that makes me thing we’re on the verge of 2007 redux. Specifically, the market concentration is incredible because “the whale” created a huge problem for tons of hedge funds. Also, the regulator appeared to be asleep at the switch. You remember are old friends the Credit Default Swaps?
99 per cent of all CDS trades live in an information warehouse called DTCC, to which the regulators of the banks have access in however much detail they want!!! What kind of regulator doesn’t go and look at the that, when the mere public, aggregated info shows this?
Go check out the accompanying graph.
Anyway, I’m not going to get long winded and all financial economist on you, but sheesh, how many times does history have to repeat itself in markets before we get some one to do something useful? I’m just reminded of all the little canaries that died on the way to the big 2007 blow up that people ignored. How many canaries have to die this time out before we get another big one