Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for October, 2011

David vs. Goliath^ 7.5

Posted by Charles II on October 31, 2011

Goldman Sachs has assets of $933B. The Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union has assets of $30m.

This makes Goldman 31,000 times larger than Peoples Federal Credit.

Let’s assume David was 5 feet tall.

To keep the Goldman/People ratio the same as the Goliath/David ratio, Goliath would have to be 155,000 feet (29 miles) tall. Since in the book of Samuel, he was roughly nine feet tall, that means Goldman is Peoples^7.5

Now here’s the rest of the story:

The trouble began three weeks ago when the occupiers suddenly found their donation buckets filling with thousands of dollars, way more than needed for their pizza dinners. Suddenly, the anti-bank protesters needed a bank. Citibank and Chase certainly wouldn’t fit. So OWS opened an account at the not-for-profit Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union. Peoples has a unique federal charter – designated to open accounts for low-income folk from all over NewYork…

Goldman Sachs had also joined up with the Peoples bank… giving the credit union $5,000 toward the little bank’s 25th anniversary celebration dinner. …

When a Goldman exec saw its gilded name next to Occupy Wall Street, the financial giant expressed much displeasure. In fact, my sources say, Goldman threatened legal action unless the credit union gave up the $5,000 and reprinted the invite sans the Sachs moniker….

But there’s a lot more at stake in this battle than a $5,000 donation gone wrong. Underneath, it’s a battle royal for control of tens of billions of dollars in government mandated “community reinvestment” funds.

In 2008, the US Treasury handed Goldman Sachs a check for $10bn from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (Tarp)…Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson transformed investment bank Goldman into a commercial bank overnight….

But there was a catch: Goldman would have to return a chunk of the public’s billions in the form of loans for low-income customers and members of its “community”, as required by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977. Problem: Goldman has, it seems, no low-income customers, nor a “community”. Goldman was directed to find poor people and a community and hand over some cash.

So Goldman looked down from its riverfront tower in lower Manhattan and discovered Peoples….

For the big money-center banks, the CRA is good deal. They pay some blood money into community banks and offload their low-income customers. …

The billions of dollars in CRA funds (Citibank alone committed $115bn over ten years) have given community banks tremendous political authority at the local level….

Goldman has so far only passed out its legally-required CRA funds with an eye-dropper: the $5,000 for Peoples (now withdrawn), and a few other dabs here and there. The big cash investments from the Goldman fund are dangling, hoping to lure only those community banks and low-income funds that will dance to Goldman’s tune.

These Community Reinvestment funds ultimately come from public pockets, so why should the titans of Wall Street be allowed to bully community credit unions, which are answerable to their members, not Goldman’s partners?

With additional reporting by Arun Gupta, founding editor of the Occupied Wall Street Journal

Goldman Sachs is a political action committee and fixer/briber-extraordinaire, not a bank. And Peoples, which declined to cave into Goldman’s pressure, is a nest of angels.

Posted in banking, financial crisis | 1 Comment »

Oakland: Longshoremen Call For General Strike

Posted by Charles II on October 31, 2011

Via Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton, the Longshoremen agreed to join Oakland’s general strike.

This is serious business, folks. As mentioned in a previous post.

Posted in General strike, Occupy movement | 3 Comments »

The PhD Movie

Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011

Well, the trailer, anyway:

Posted in Just for fun | Comments Off on The PhD Movie

Washington Post and Lori Montgomery Squarely on the Side of the 1%

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 30, 2011

Just in case it wasn’t clear before.

The WaPo’s Lori Montgomery did another Pete Peterson Special Hit Job on Social Security today:

Last year, as a debate over the runaway national debt gathered steam in Washington, Social Security passed a treacherous milestone. It went “cash negative.”
For most of its 75-year history, the program had paid its own way through a dedicated stream of payroll taxes, even generating huge surpluses for the past two decades. But in 2010, under the strain of a recession that caused tax revenue to plummet, the cost of benefits outstripped tax collections for the first time since the early 1980s.

Here’s what Ms. Montgomery won’t tell you, courtesy of Dean Baker:

News outlets generally like to claim a separation between their editorial pages and their news pages. The Washington Post has long ignored this distinction in pursuing its agenda for cutting Social Security, however it took a big step further in tearing down this barrier with a lead front page story that would have been excluded from most opinion pages because of all the inaccuracies it contained.

The basic premise of the story, as expressed in the headline (“the debt fallout: how Social Security went ‘cash negative’ earlier than expected”) and the first paragraph (“Last year, as a debate over the runaway national debt gathered steam in Washington, Social Security passed a treacherous milestone. It went ‘cash negative.'”) is that Social Security faces some sort of crisis because it is paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. [The “runaway national debt” is also a Washington Post invention. The deficits have soared in recent years because of the economic downturn following the collapse of the housing bubble. No responsible newspaper would discuss this as problem of the budget as opposed to a problem with a horribly underemployed economy.]

This “treacherous milestone” is entirely the Post’s invention, it has absolutely nothing to do with the law that governs Social Security benefit payments. Under the law, as long as their is money in the trust fund, then Social Security is able to pay full benefiits. There is literally no other possible interpretation of the law.

As the article notes the trust fund currently holds $2.6 trillion in government bonds, so it is nowhere close to being unable to pay benefits. The whole point of building up the trust fund was to help cover costs at a future date when taxes would not be sufficient to cover full benefits. Rather than posing any sort of crisis, this is exactly what had been planned when Congress last made major changes to the program in 1983 based on the recommendations of the Greenspan commission.

The article makes great efforts to confuse readers about the status of the trust fund. It tells readers:

“The $2.6 trillion Social Security trust fund will provide little relief. The government has borrowed every cent and now must raise taxes, cut spending or borrow more heavily from outside investors to keep benefit checks flowing.”

This is the same situation the the government faces when Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson or any other holder of government bonds decides to cash in their bonds when they become due. In such cases it “must raise taxes, cut spending or borrow more heavily from outside investors.” The Post’s reporters and editors should understand this fact.

Go read the whole of Baker’s takedown of Montgomery’s piece. It may save your retirement.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Boooooring. Old news. He’s probably a liberal.

Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011

Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian:

The former chief prosecutor for the US government at Guantánamo Bay has accused the administration he served of operating a “law-free zone” there, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the order to establish the detention camp on Cuba.

Retired air force colonel Morris Davis resigned in October 2007 in protest against interrogation methods at Guantánamo….

Davis said that the methods of interrogation used on Guantánamo detainees – which he described as “torture” – were in breach of the US’s own statutes on torture, and added: “If torture is a crime, it should be prosecuted.”

Davis, an expert on the law of war, and former judge advocate for the US Air Force, said that prisoners at Guantánamo have “fallen between” the conventions and rules governing prisoners of war. He questioned the notion of a “war on terror”, saying: “Prisoners of war are supposed to have been captured on the battlefield. Abducting people off the streets of Indonesia and other places far from Afghanistan is pushing the envelope on what is a battlefield. The whole world is in essence the battlefield.”

Professor Thomas Keenan, the head of the Bard College human rights programme, which staged the conference, said: “The president campaigned on a pledge to close down the jail at Guantánamo Bay, and to end the use of military commissions to try its inmates. How is it possible that, two years after he was elected, there are still more than 150 prisoners there, and this November, one of them will go on trial before one of those very commissions?”

I don’t think this is boring, old news, or that Col. Davis is a left-wing ideologue. I think it’s an indictment of both the Bush and the Obama Administrations that should be forwarded to the International Criminal Court.

Posted in civil rights, Guantanamo, Obama Administration, terrorism | 2 Comments »

Privacy is inherent to a free society

Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011

Tara Smith of Aetiology produced what I would call a very, very important post. Some excerpts:

For those who haven’t run across that yet, National Geographic has decided to eliminate pseudonyms and force everyone with a blog remaining here (which is already dwindling) to blog under their real names. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, there’s a new unfortunate case study (short version: “EpiGate”) showing how blogging under one’s real name can lead to serious threats and potential loss of employment, among other things.

I blog under my own name (obviously), but if I were starting out now, I probably wouldn’t make that choice again. … I don’t enjoy being harassed. Long-time readers will note that it’s rare that I write about HIV denial, even though that was such a main topic of this blog once-upon-a-time that it even culminated in a journal article. It’s just tiring to be harassed personally by deniers–and even moreso to have my colleagues and administration bullied.

And this is just what’s happened to my colleague, EpiRen. He managed to tick off an online bully; said bully then called EpiRen’s superiors, who gave him a choice between his blogging and his employment. Not surprisingly, EpiRen eventually ended up pulling his public blog and Twitter feed, to the detriment of anyone who wanted a good source of public health information on the internets.

These things aren’t just theoretical. HIV denier Andrew Maniotis showed up, unannounced, at my work office one day a few years ago. The recently-arrested “David Mabus” showed up at an atheist convention. While using a pseudonym doesn’t always protect you–certainly many pseuds have been outed by those willing to do the detective work–it at least offers you some measure of protection from threats, both online and off.

Privacy is a fundamental human right. The ability to write under pen names was essential to the American Revolution. And, as figures from Samuel Clemens to Pauline Phillips, from Charles L. Dodgson to George Kennan demonstrate, people who write under pen names are neither cowards nor freaks. They just believe that privacy is healthy. It’s the thugs and bullies and authoritarians who want to deny that basic human right.

Posted in civil rights, privacy | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

The Wilson Rag

Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011

Echidne linked this one at Eschaton.

It’s nice. Give it a spin around the block and see if it’s not a ride you like.

Posted in Just for fun | Comments Off on The Wilson Rag

So, is God a murderer?

Posted by Charles II on October 28, 2011

As yet one more tragic misstep in the misguided “right-to-life” movement, Mississippi is on the threshold of declaring through a Constitutional Amendment that life begins at conception, often thought of as the moment when the sperm fertilizes the egg.

This makes miscarriage murder. It makes many forms of birth control illegal. If a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, she could be forced choose between dying or being charged with murder if she has an abortion.

The terrible irony is that something like 10-15% of pregnancies naturally end in miscarriage.. Many, many more conceptions do not implant. Mississippi is about to declare God to be a mass murderer.

Ectopic pregnancy occurs in 2% of pregnancies. It causes 9% of all pregnancy-related deaths. It is not possible to save the fetus. This is a clear case when the mother’s life is at stake, and there is nothing to be gained by denying her an abortion.

Many kinds of birth control involve preventing a fertilized egg from implanting. As mentioned, nature does this on its own quite often. But methods like the IUD and the Pill prevent implantation.

There is another interesting legal implications of Mississippi’s proposed Constitutional amendment. Should a human clone ever be produced, it would not be a human being. It would be “legal”, in the sense of adhering to an unconstitutional (not to mention insane) law, to re-introduce slavery, since clones are not conceived.

Come to think of it, one identical twin might not be human, since there’s one conception, but two beings. One is just a…clone. And once again, God is to blame.

This is not a pro-life amendment. It is blind narcissism.

The forces of sanity are weak in Mississippi. We can help our brothers and sisters through Vote No on But time is short. There is just over a week until the vote.
Added: here is a link describing the precise legal definition of “conception.” According to Philip Peters, Jr. of UC Davis, conception occurs within about 48 hours of fertilization, while implantation requires about two weeks from insemination.

Added: The language of the amendment does explicitly include clones as human beings. It’s kind of hard to see how this works, since there’s no real moment of conception when John-sub-1 is split from John. Cells split all the time. What’s the difference between a cloned cell and a shed cell?

Posted in abortion, Law of Unintended Consequences | 1 Comment »

The Eurozone rescue explained

Posted by Charles II on October 28, 2011

Tom Meltzer of The Guardian has the full explanation in simple terms.

Posted in China, Europe, financial crisis | 3 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on October 28, 2011

Princess Mia graces us with her presence.

Posted in Friday Cat Blogging, guest cats | 3 Comments »

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