Link 4/4/09

BBC

PhysOrg. I assume cat owners know this already, but better to be safe than sorry. Poinsettias and birds of paradise are also toxic

CNN

Bill Moyers Journal (hat tip Laborboy). Bill Black does not mince words on the topics of fraud and Timothy Geithner

Francesco Guerrera, Financial Times

Bloomberg. No wonder Timmie is so nice to banks. He sees what is in store for ex Treasury secretaries who play nicely with the finance sector

Huffington Post

Wall Street Journal. How credit card cuts are hurting small businesses. We first wrote about this last year. And the banks are vicious. The latest story I heard was about a businessman who was late on a single payment by two days due to a processing error (he scheduled the payment on time, but mistakenly from an inactive account). The bank, Advanta, despite the customer having a very good FICO, a perfect payment history and a clear record of paying from the other account, took him straight from a special life of balance rate of 5.99% to 34.99%. This is appalling given the massive subsidies banks are getting, both direct and indirect (super low funding rates), and those who suffer those abuses have no leverage (yes, I understand a rate increase, but to 35% for a customer with a heretofore clean record?)

(hat tip reader Olin). On the nickel and diming variant of banks behaving badly toward credit card customers

Ambrose Evans Pritchard

Victor Shih, Wall Street Journal Asia (hat tip reader Michael).

There is considerable evidence, however, that even if the stimulus manages to produce some positive headline numbers, it is likely to fall short on its ultimate aim of creating employment and jump-starting private consumption. This result is not accidental; it is the outcome of a political system dominated by state planners, large state corporations and local officials.

Antidote du jour. The first from Jesse:

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26 comments

  1. Richard Kline

    Yeah, baby! That Bill Moyers – William Black exchange should be on distribution list to every email inbox in the world. There it is in words of few syllabless, Where We Are as of Today, and How We Got There. Black’s solution paragraph is apt, concise, and workable. But I don’t think Barack Obama has that much sense or spine in him. So, Bo Prez, prove me wrong, hey? Start acting like a man and an executive, not a panicked lackey, and start on it today!

  2. Independent Accountant

    YS:
    I read the Summers story. It’s another example of corrupt “experts”. It reminded me of the fate of US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia (SA). As long as they push SA’s agenda, i.e., the Israelis are at fault, Islam is a religion of peace and whatever other nonsense the Saudis want pushed, the ambassadors end up making millions of dollars a year after leaving government service. There are Saudi funded think tanks all over the country. The Saudis endow university professorships and buy academics too!
    Charles Freeman (CF) recently gave up on his quest to head the NIC. I applaud this. In my opinion, CF was a Saudi stooge. Imagine, a Saudi stooge running the NIC. CF says the Israeli lobby opposed his nomination. You betcha. So? Why wouldn’t it oppose putting ANOTHER Saudi stooge in the US government?
    University accounting departments are full of Big 87654 endowed chairs of accountancy. I consider how rarely accounting professors attack the Big 87654. Is there a connection? Perish the thought. “Experts” nauseate me.

  3. Richard Kline

    So what is to be done? Many’s the good solution that has been bruited about. Every time Joe Stiglitz or James Galbraith for two open there mouth, solutions issue. I’ve seen more substantive discourse here in comments at NC then in the entirety of the MSM on it, to say nothing of any senior agent of the Federal Government. The problem isn’t a lack of functional solutions to The Crisis of Our Times, it’s a continuance of the perpetration of the crime. What is the biggest obstacle to resolution? That those tasked with resolution to the economic crisis refuse to as much as _touch_ an efficacious solution with their laser pointers but spend all day and every night in bed with the perpetrators that then be assuaged. While double charging the endless joyride on the public’s credit card, interest.

    So the first step to a solution is to solve the first problem: Son of Moloch must die, and Geither and Summers have gotta go. And NOW! Keep the first demands simple, that’s experience talking: you can judge results best that way.

  4. Independent Accountant

    YS:
    Thanks for the Black interview. I’ve said similar things for years. Our government has been captured by the banksters is the bottom line.

  5. Anonymous

    Larry Summers speaking fees are nothing compared to the allegations that he sold CDO’s for DE Shaw to sovereign wealth funds and foreign banks.

    Former hedge fund manager David Goldman covered this last month, here:

  6. RED

    I urge everyone to watch the Bill Moyers Journal interview with Bill Black.

    Then make a sign “NOT ANOTHER DIME” and go and protest at your local town hall. Doesn’t matter if nobody else joins you – You’ve stood up for yourself as an American.

  7. Anonymous

    As a preparation for possible nationalization I think that Congress should enact legislation asking the Selective Service System to begin a Special Skills Registration for those with skills in certain financial skills.
    Having them serve their country under military law solves a whole host of problems :)
    pls

  8. yoyomo

    And I guess there are no Israeli stooges in the Obama administration, perish the thought! Let me see; Rahm Emanuel, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and on and on.

    It must be nice having the president surrounded by the right kind of people, wouldn’t want any stray thoughts to wander into view.

  9. brushes9

    Now, I'm really confused. David Brooks says that it is a question of "Greed and Stupidity," while Bill Black is citing criminal fraud and cover up.

    Bill Black remains on the margins, while David Brooks, after his failure of analysis on Iraq and WMD, remains behind his bullhorn and in line for future promotions.

    It is clear as the nose on our faces that Black's analysis is sound, but what deeper problem is represented by the continued popularity of spokesmen such as Brooks?..

    ..But the systematic and well-funded corruption of science, language and, so, all rational discourse in America.., well, in Thinktankistan.

    So, don't be surprised and frustrated when people can't understand the words coming out of your mouth, in fact, when they react defensively and in anger at what you say, even "educated" people.

    Predictions of social unrest, by Gerald Celante and others, are nonsense. Mobs will be whipped up, their will be riots, but they will all be as significant as suicidal shootings sprees and will only fund and promote better weapons and tactics programs for law enforcement.

    Our economic crisis is a symptom of the corruption and manipulation of language and psychology, communicated massively.

    Fortunately, Yves knows this as does Dean Baker, Robert Kutner and James Galbraith. I take courage from these people that my instincts and analysis, while contrary, still serve me well.

  10. Anonymous

    brushes9: So, don’t be surprised and frustrated when people can’t understand the words coming out of your mouth, in fact, when they react defensively and in anger at what you say, even “educated” people.

    “Incredible, isn’t it.”

  11. brushes9

    I forgot to cite my most powerful ally, here in Thinktankistan, George Lakoff of Berkeley and of the Rockbridge Institute. He is a linguist, operating opposite to Frank Luntz.

    The link below takes you to Lakoff’s free publication, “Thinking Points,” but you can also find his speaking engagements on youtube by googling his name.

    Also, here is Newsweek quoting George Lakoff 3/28/09:

    “Using the word “legacy” to describe phenomena that are causing financial carnage is “crazy,” according to George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics, because “legacy typically suggests something positive.” More insidiously, the word is frequently deployed to deflect blame. Legacy financial issues are, by definition, holdovers from prior regimes. Word sleuths advise me that “legacy” derives from an ancient Indo-Aryan root meaning “it wasn’t my fault, and I should still get a bonus this year even though we lost billions of dollars.””

  12. Erser

    April 3 –

    “William K. Black tells Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL that the tool at the very center of mortgage collapse, creating triple-A rated bonds out of “liars’ loans” — loans issued without verifying income, assets or employment — was a fraud, and the banks knew it. And while there is no law against liars’ loans, Black points out that there are, “many laws against fraud, and liars’ loans are fraudulent. […] They involve deceit, which is the essence of fraud. Only the scale of the scandal is new. A single bank, IndyMac, lost more money than the entire Savings and Loan Crisis.”

  13. Anonymous

    So what exactly would you do to this man’s credit line?

    From the WSJ article:

    “I’m almost living paycheck to paycheck,” says Mr. Diamond, 55 years old, who is considering filing for business bankruptcy.

    The guy has apparently been in business for years and is running the kind of business that is liable to be hit in hard times. He’s so hopelessly behind that he has to use a credit line of a few thousand dollars to make day to day expenses.

    If I were a bank I’d cut off his credit in a heartbeat.

    So let’s take the violin ensemble to a more fitting situation, eh?

  14. Uncle Billy Vs. Mont Pelerin

    This is just getting picked up now? I pointed out the whole Summers/D.E. Shaw/Roubini business a couple of years ago on CR and harped on it for weeks (in measured, reasonable tones, of course). It’s nice to see people are finally waking up… but… only now?? The entire country is getting played like a cheap harmonica.

  15. Anonymous

    What’s Glenn Greenwald doing up there with Black and Goodman for goodness sake? While his commentaries on torture and civil liberties are generally praiseworthy, he’s about as outside the system as Larry Summers. Can never forget his utter synchophancy respecting the 2006, in-coming Democratic Congress and the prospect of their aggressively opposing the war in Iraq, something they were elected to do. Raising doubts about their willingness to assert themselves at his blog at the time, I was told that I was “destructive”. And in 2008, by that time no stranger to main stream media and all the while attempting to pass himself off as fundamentally anti-establishment, Greenwald supported the election of that nemisis of the financial world – you know the one that was so unwilling to accept its contributions – bankster and AIPAC Stephin Fetchit, Barak Obama. There were genuine anti-system choices available in 2008, but Glenn just couldn’t manage the integrity to see that far.

  16. Yves Smith

    Anon of 1:03,

    The article doesn’t support your assessment. Diamond is living paycheck to paycheck NOW. He was able to support employees, no trivial feat. (You might ask why he didn’t have more personal savings, but that may reflect personal spending, being cleaned out by a costly divorce, etc. Unlike other countries, US law does not favor owners keeping savings in the business, at least for small businesses. Best to pay all the “profits” out as a bonus to the owner, otherwise you face double taxation).

    You assume he was a chronic user of credit cards to support his business. If so, that would have meant he had chronic shortfalls, and over the years those would have ballooned (ie, he’d keep sucking down more credit). Can’t tell for sure, but that does not seem to be the case. For as many employees as he had, his credit line wasn’t all that large.

    While the story is not definitive, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Businesses that have inventories routinely use credit to finance them (is there a single US public company with a debt free balance sheet?). Typically, the inventory items are bought in large lots to obtain better prices and then sold gradually. The lumpiness means financing the large uses is a legit usage of financing.

    So cut the credit, suddenly the company’s whole business model is toast. It can’t buy at its old order sizes. Smaller purchases of inventory items may not be economic (ie cost per unit may be considerably higher). And smaller inventory purchases (and ability to carry finished goods) may also mean smaller product range, which could make the business uncompetitive from a customer standpoint. There may also be a fixed level of selling costs (minimum number of sales people, or minimum costs with outsourced customer service) that also means a smaller sized operation isn’t viable.

    And that’s before considering that customers are probably slower to pay these days too…..

  17. Bruce Webb

    Poinsettias and Easter Lilies and Pets

    Poinsettia toxicity seems to be a myth. Per the ASPCA anyway. It can cause some gastric upset but won’t kill your cat.

    Easter Lilies are the real deal. ASPCA vets say that as little as one leaf can cause renal failure in cats.

    How dangerous are winter
    and spring holiday plants to pets?

  18. IF

    The Moyers/Black interview is rather depressing. Nothing is being fixed. So why should the future look any better than the recent past? Several of my friends think the bottom is in and it is uphill from here. I can’t share their view and wonder, if I am becoming a tinfoil hat man. I don’t know why there is more outrage. Maybe people are doing too well, even now? And there is this inherent belief to strike it rich one day with some kind of lucky trick. Did people in the US ever believe in “old fashioned” saving? I guess the gold hoarders (and deflationistas?) do.

    I don’t know, depressing thoughts on a Saturday morning.

  19. ggm

    Yves,

    If you have time, can you comment on this exchange between Moyers and Black?

    ——————————-
    WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, certainly in the financial sphere, I am. I think, first, the policies are substantively bad. Second, I think they completely lack integrity. Third, they violate the rule of law. This is being done just like Secretary Paulson did it. In violation of the law. We adopted a law after the Savings and Loan crisis, called the Prompt Corrective Action Law. And it requires them to close these institutions. And they’re refusing to obey the law.

    BILL MOYERS: In other words, they could have closed these banks without nationalizing them?

    WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, you do a receivership. No one — Ronald Reagan did receiverships. Nobody called it nationalization.

    BILL MOYERS: And that’s a law?

    WILLIAM K. BLACK: That’s the law.

    BILL MOYERS: So, Paulson could have done this? Geithner could do this?

    WILLIAM K. BLACK: Not could. Was mandated—

    BILL MOYERS: By the law.

    WILLIAM K. BLACK: By the law.
    ——————————–

    I ask because there seems to be significant push back coming from people in the industry over this claim.

  20. Anonymous

    Yves,

    If you have time, can you comment on this exchange between Moyers and Black?

    I ask because there seems to be significant push back coming from people in the industry over this claim.

    ——————————-

    Banking law requires seizure of troubled banks under 12 U.S.C. 1831o.

    It shouldn’t surprise you that Treasury violates the law. Treasury and the Fed are run by political appointees who violate the law if it suits their agenda. For example, Paulson issued an illegal notice allowing banks to deduct some losses otherwise prohibited by law. California’s tax board is in the process of issuing regulations to reject following the notice.

    Geithner is proposing to have the Fed and FDIC act illegally under the PPI program by making undercollateralized nonrecourse loans and guarantees thereof. These are in substance gifts, not loans, and the FDIC and the Fed don’t have authority to make them.

    Treasury, the FDIC, and the Fed will keep violating the law until Congress stops them, and Congress won’t do that until they are afraid of the voters.

  21. Anonymous

    Regarding the “Chase Credit Card Monthly Fee Class Action Lawsuit”, I happen to hold a low fixed interest Chase card and was subjected to the new fee but, very much to my surprise, and according to a letter of March 19, the bank decided it had “incorrectly sent a change of terms notice” and is now crediting my ‘account for the $10 monthly…service charge(s)’.

    Since I cannot imagine the bank so easily reversing course: Did the class action ultimately prevail?

  22. Jmd

    The Moyers interview makes me wonder how the Great Left is viewing its agent of change…pretty sad stuff, can anyone in the Administration even read? Reports were that an entourage of 500 went to Europe for G-20 and NATO. Might they have considered using their time in a productive way. Tragic. Geithner and Summers MUST GO.

  23. Richard Kline

    Regarding Bro’ Diamond let us not be the hard judges, here, yet (even if this _is_ in the shillmeistering WSJ). Plenty of folks who have done no wrong are going to go down hard in this one, friends, though no falut of their own, and especially at the retail level. Demand drops and like a duck full of No. 9 shot your business does in nose low. Now, if one’s business model was built on the assumption that prime of 400 bps or less was, like, ferever, then that’s your look out. But most retail businesses, as opposed to mega-lever shops, do not have the luxury of such fantasies. Particularly if Bro’ D.’s line was small, he didn’t run his outfit that way. Maybe a body doesn’t need to swoon in sympathy, but aspersions need not be cast at the drowning man clutchin’ straw. And, btw, most bankers would cut his life line in a trice that they save their own pinstripe tokhusus [is that the right plural?], which is exactly why we need a government nonprofit, basic lending outfit for those who can cut expenses and qualify: so that we can, instead, cut Bro’ Banker off and let _him_ tread water on his own merit instead.

    And dearieme, you can have a chuckle on my nickle any day; this was one from the heart. It’s just . . . sad, to watch someone holding so many cards with so many choices play them all stupid wrong for the Man to show he belongs in the club. Sad. And the guy’s younger than _I_ am.

    Regarding George Lakoff, I have very much liked his work since back in the day he was ‘linguist’ linguist before he became a psycholinguist, at which he is rather good as well. Now over the last year, he got all in on the Democrat’s Shall Save bandwagon *aiiy-yaiii-yiiiii* But like Krugman, evidently the Righteous Shall Come leaf they were smokin’ appears to have finally worn off, and they see Barack Obama as the center right, bought and sold, shill for the man, suit-for-rent-or-hire his policies always said he had every intent to be, with just a li’l green ribbon in his lapel. And on the subject of Summers, look no one here has been in any doubt regarding who and what he is—but he’s become the Go to Guy for the serving President in the last few months, there’s the problem. Let’s just shorten that title to ‘Go,’ as in “Time to go,” “Got to go,” “Don’t go away mad; just go away,” and “Don’t bother to blow, just bottle up and go.” That man continues to perpetrate the financial crime of the century, and from a better perch for his handlers than ever.

  24. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Regarding scientists studying plant stress, forget it.

    Study, instead, how a vegetable feels while being chewed to death by a kid who doesn’t want to in the first place, but is forced to by his mother.

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