Month: June 2011

Please, God, Let This Be True!

There are now rumors that Timothy Geighner will be resigning as Treasury Secretary after the debt ceiling dispute is resolved:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has signaled to White House officials that he’s considering leaving the administration after President Barack Obama reaches an agreement with Congress to raise the federal debt limit, according to three people familiar with the matter.

First, let me note that this is an interesting contruct, “according to three people familiar with the matter.”

Since when do reporters say how many anonymous sources that they are quoting?

The fact that Geithner has been the longest serving and worst of Obama’s economic advisers, (When you consider that Larry Summers is in the mix, it’s pretty mind boggling) it doesn’t bode well for whoever will replace him.

My suggestion would be to stop giving Wall Street a blow job, and appoint someone up to regulation, but the ‘Phants will filibuster them, so recess appoint someone who who has a history of pursuing fraud and abuse, though Republicans are suggesting that Obama, “Bring a CEO on board.”

So will Obama do the right thing, both politically and policy wise, or will he elect not to disturb the status quo, and engage in another pointless attempt to appease the Republicans?

I’m not an optimist.

The Mess that Michelle Rhee Left Behind

The Washington Post has a fascinating profile of respected school principal Bill Kerlina, who quit to bake cupcakes (really):

Bill Kerlina won a plum assignment when he was hired away from Montgomery County in July 2009 to become a principal in Northwest Washington. Phoebe Hearst Elementary was a small, high-performing school, right across the street from Sidwell Friends.
He grew to love its students, teachers and — for the most part — its parents.
“If I could lift that school up and put it in a functional school system, it would be perfect,” he said.
Instead, he said, the dysfunction he encountered in D.C. public schools led him to quit this month, fed up and burned out.
Principals in the District and other cities leave all the time, for a range of reasons. At least 20 of the District’s 123 public schools will have new leaders when classes begin in late August.The churn is especially heavy at low-performing schools. A 2010 study showed that nearly two-thirds of Chicago’s struggling schools had three or more principals in the past decade.
But Kerlina, a baby-faced 39, is leaving Hearst, not a struggling school in a poor neighborhood. He’s also leaving education altogether after 17 years — to go into the gourmet cupcake business.

Usually, resignations and firings unfold in silence, with officials citing privacy laws and educators reluctant to burn bridges. But a series of interviews with Kerlina offers a rare view of D.C. reform from an insider talking out of school.

He said he is quitting a system that evaluates teachers but doesn’t support their growth, that knuckles under to unreasonable demands from parents, and that focuses excessively on recruiting neighborhood families to a school where most students come from outside the attendance zone.

Generally, people on the way out doen’t talk, but in his case, he’s leaving the biz, so describes the dysfunction in detail:

  • Teacher “accountability” with evaluations, but no meaningful training for teachers to be able to actually meet these standards.
  • Lack of support of principals when dealing with excessively demanding parents.  (Not so sympathetic on this one, as my wife and I are pretty demanding about getting our kids special ed needs addressed.)
  • That he was pressured to whiten his school.

Here is the money quote:

Kerlina signed on just as Rhee was rolling out the IMPACT evaluation system, which called for five classroom observations to assess criteria such as clarity of presentation, content knowledge and ability to teach children with varying skill levels. Some teachers would be held accountable for student growth on standardized tests. Those with poor evaluations were subject to dismissal.

It was a major change.Kerlina said he was surprised when he heard it would not be tried on a pilot basis, which was standard practice in Montgomery. He said he came to believe that the initiative offered virtually no provisions to help teachers improve.

“The reform, in my opinion, is getting rid of people,” he said.

It’s been very clear for a long time that Michelle Rhee was doing pump and dump on the DC Public Schools, she had no plan whatsoever on early childhood education, and her goal was to fire black administrators and teachers in the hope of bringing white students into the school, to create a bump in the test scores.

This is not education reform, this is private equity style asset stripping writ on the public schools.

Greeks Approve Suicide Pact

You know, I was in the car, talking with my son about Greece, and I said that the Greek parliament had approved their own suicide pact by approving the austerity program demanded by the ECB and IMF.

My son, ever the precocious almost 11-year-old, asked me why it was a suicide pact, and I explained that austerity causes the economy to contract, which makes you less able to repay your debts.

I said that it was like demanding a salary cut so that you can better pay your debt.

My son did not understand this at all.

I explained that it was because they are stupid, and by “they” I mean the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Angela Merkel.

Charlie did not find this a satisfying answer, and, truth be told, I don’t find it a particularly satisfying answer.

OCC Gives Another Monica to the Banks

How bad is this one?

It’s so bad that even Timothy Geithner’s Treasury Department finds it excessive:

The Treasury Department has unexpectedly allied with state regulators and consumer groups in their bid to force the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to dial back its preemption standards.

The Obama administration sent a letter to the OCC this week objecting to a proposal that said Dodd-Frank left preemption standards mostly unchanged. But Treasury said the OCC was ignoring Congressional intent.

“Although Congress adopted a specific preemption standard in Dodd-Frank, the OCC’s rule articulates a preemption standard that is broader than the language of the Dodd-Frank standard,” Treasury General Counsel George Madison wrote to the OCC.

It is relatively unusual for federal agencies to weigh in on another regulators’ proposal, but even more rare in this case. The OCC is nominally a bureau of Treasury, but the administration has only limited oversight of the agency.

At issue is language used by the OCC to preempt state consumer protection laws. The agency has said it can preempt laws that “obstruct, impair or condition” the business of banking.

But those words were not part of the 1996 Barnett Supreme Court decision, which Dodd-Frank said should be the preemption standard.

In a proposal issued May 26, the OCC dropped the controversial language, but still said its previous rulings stood intact.

In his letter, Treasury’s Madison said that did not make sense.

“The proposed rule validates all prior preemption determinations, including those based on its deleted ‘obstruct, impair or condition’ standard,” Madison wrote. “In our view, this position is contrary to Dodd-Frank.”

Madison said the OCC was trying to ignore the law.

(Emphasis mine)

The fact here is that the head of the OCC’s term ended some time ago, and Obama has allowed the position of the Comptroller of the Currency to remain unfilled, he has not even proposed a successor, and allowed Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh to continue in office when a recess appointment could put someone in place who might actually be interested in, well, you know, regulating.

Seriously, recess appoint someone who is not a corrupt sellout.  Having the Treasury department call them names is not a proactive solution.

This is What Qualifies for Good Economic News

The fact that homer prices in May fell year over year, but they rose month to month:

Finally, perhaps some good news on housing values.

On Tuesday, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, a closely watched measure of home prices, posted a rise for April, the first in eight months.

The index increased 0.7 percent, reflecting increases in prices in 13 of the 20 cities tracked. That compared with a 0.8 percent decline in March, when the index hit a new low.

But analysts said it was unclear that a sustained rebound in the housing market was under way, noting that sales were typically stronger in the spring.

David M. Blitzer, the chairman of the index committee at S.& P. Indices, called the April increase a welcome shift from previous months. “However, the seasonally adjusted numbers show that much of the improvement reflects the beginning of the spring-summer home buying season,” he added in a statement. “It is much too early to tell if this is a turning point or simply due to some warmer weather.”

It’s the warmer weather, but we have papers trumpeting this because they are desperately trying to pander to your realtors who buy ads in your paper.

The fact that home prices rose a bit in April relative to March isn’t news.

Thing about it: The last time home prices rose in the Case-Shiller index was 8 months ago, and 8 months back from April is …… August …… Naah, nothing seasonal here.

Silly Developing Nations, Don’t You Know that the IMF is for White People?

So, Christine Lagarde has been appointed the new head of the IMF.

What striking about all this is how the powers that be have insisted that they need to have a European in charge, because of the current crises in the Euro zone.

Gee, no one ever said that when it was Indonesia, Mexico, Korea, Malaysia, etc., but once it’s the Euro’s head in the noose, suddenly we need to institute a affirmative action for white people legacy admissions program for the window office at a major international financial agency.

Not Enough Bullets

Just who do you think that the World Bank would hire as their treasurer? Why it would be the chief risk officer for Lehman when it collapsed:

The World Bank has appointed Madelyn Antoncic as its new vice president and treasurer.

Ms Antoncic served as Lehman Brothers’ chief risk officer from 2002 to 2007 and following the collapse of the bank, stayed on for a year as managing director and senior advisor at the Lehman Estate, helping to maximise value for creditors.

Having begun her career as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, she has worked for Goldman Sachs in various posts (including head of market risk management), and for Barclays Capital, before joining Lehman Brothers in 1999.

In her new role, Ms Antoncic will be responsible for maintaining the World Bank’s standing in financial markets and for managing an extensive client advisory, transaction, and asset management business.

Seriously, in the self dealing nepotistic and moronic world in which they live, there is literally nothing that a bankster can do,* that can prevent them from being given high profile high prestige jobs.

There are indications that she was opposed to Lehman’s high risk strategy, but she chose to stay, and get a do-nothing government relations position.

If she, as chief risk officer, was unwilling to leave when she saw what was going on, and she was frozen out, any organization that hires her as treasurer has absolutely no credibility at all.

It’s like putting Charlie Sheen in charge of your chastity and sobriety department.

This is why not prosecuting was such a bad idea. Like bad pennies, people like this keep coming back to do even more harm.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

*As long as you are white anyway. See the fall of Raj Raj Rajaratnam as an illustration.

Un-Dirtyword Believable!

So, Michelle Bachmann, everyone’s favorite dose of batsh%$ insane, went to her home town of Waterloo Iowa, and invoked fellow Waterloo resident, John Wayne.

Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.

The problem is that the John Wayne that we all know from his film oeuvre, Marion Robert Morrison, was born in Winterset, Iowa, hours away from Waterloo.

The only famous John Wayne from Waterloo, was John Wayne Gacy, who began his history of abuse and violence in Waterloo before moving to Chicago and expanding to mass murder.

There is a part of me that is beginning to think that Bachmann does things like this because she so loves to play the victimhood card.

Say something mind-bogglingly stupid or deranged, and when people notice, complain that the media is out to get you, and your supporters get even more riled up.

Of course, Occam’s razor would indicate that it’s just stupidity and lunacy,

This is Weird, But Not Unexpected

Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge David Prosser, after having admitted calling the Chief Justice of the court a “bitch”, and threatening to “destroy” her, with his excuse being that she was, after all a bitch”, and now he is alleged to have choked a fellow justice:

Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.

“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley’s version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.


The conversation grew heated, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a source said.

Bradley felt Prosser “was attacking the chief justice,” the source said.

Before leaving, Prosser “put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold,” the source said.

“He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck,” the source said.

The source said the act “was in no way playful.”

But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser.

“She charged him with fists raised,” the source said.

Prosser “put his hands in a defensive posture,” the source said. “He blocked her.”

In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley’s neck.

It’s telling that Bradley has public with her statements, and Prosser is using proxies to put forward his story, which is pretty much of a repeat of his “the bitch had it coming” defense.

I know, yadda yadda yadda, innocent until proven guilty, but his defense seems particularly lame, particularly given his admittedly unprofessional and abusive behavior, I’m disinclined do believe the report that he choked her in self defense, though I’m sure we’ll be seeing that all through the right wing media.

Thanks to my Reader(s)

Yes, Google™ Adsense™ has a few bugs

I’d like to thank everyone who reads my blog.

I’ve gotten enough page views, and click throughs, to get some money from Google™ Adsense™.

I’m not sure that I got a whole bunch of click throughs, because, after all, I get ads, supporting Wal-Mart, for Glen Beck, and for speculators, which would not appear to be a good match for my typical reader.

So, if anyone out there knows of a better ad network, I get something like $8/month on about 4000 page views a month, tell me.

In any case, my latest check will go to taking my family out to dinner.

My standard Google™ Adsense™ disclaimers below:

Please note: once again, that I do not vet, nor do I endorse any ad that appears on my site, and I reserve the right to mock both the ads that appear on my site, as well as the advertisers.

Also, please note, this should be in no way construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google Adsense

This is a Big F%$#ing Deal

H/t Good Girls Finish Last for the rainbow Empire State Building

The New York Senate just voted to approve gay marriage in the state.

For all those who were for it, this is something to be proud of.

For those who opposed it, and in particular those in the religious community who carved out a specific right to use God as an excuse for bigotry, blasphemy* by any sane standard, you are evil small people who history will view as evil and small people.

*I would note that I consider the right to blaspheme to be one of the most basic human rights, I am merely pointing out their hypicrisy.

Senators Call for OCC Head’s Removal

After pimping for the big banks for the past few years, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh has finally become so blatant that 3 Senate Dems called for his removal:

On Tuesday, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh said regulators are in danger of going too far to curb risk-taking by big banks.

Now, some Democratic senators are calling for his head.

Three Senate Democrats – Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Carl Levin of Michigan and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – have publicly called for the White House to replace Mr. Walsh, a Republican, following his speech in London Tuesday.

The lawmakers were particularly rankled by Mr. Walsh’s statements that bank capital requirements – the cushion banks hold against future losses — are already “exceedingly high” and that regulators should be cautious about much more they require the largest banks to hold, something foreign and U.S. regulators are now negotiating.

“Mr. Walsh’s latest comments provide further evidence that he is not interested in leading an agency charged with ensuring the safety and soundness of our financial institutions,” Mr. Reed said in a statement. Mr. Reed, a senior member of the Senate Banking panel which oversees the OCC, went on to call for the Obama administration “to fundamentally re-think the OCC’s leadership and ensure that American taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s misdeeds.”

Mr. Levin, who leads an investigative committee that investigated the 2008 financial crisis, said it is “past time for the president to nominate new leadership at the OCC to protect American families and businesses from the excesses of Wall Street.”

When Yves Smith wrote, “OCC Gives Banks Another Blow Job,”  she was spot on.

It was past time to ditch him, and for that matter, to ditch the whole OCC,  in January 2009, but he he’ll keep Walsh, for the same reason that Timothy “Eddie Haskell” Geithner is Obama’s secretary of the treasury.

Matt Taibbi is a Genius

Just go read his takedown of Michelle Bachmann:

It could happen. Michele Bachmann has found the flaw in the American Death Star. She is a television camera’s dream, a threat to do or say something insane at any time, the ultimate reality-show protagonist. She has brilliantly piloted a media system that is incapable of averting its eyes from a story, riding that attention to an easy conquest of an overeducated cultural elite from both parties that is far too full of itself to understand the price of its contemptuous laughter. All of those people out there aren’t voting for Michele Bachmann. They’re voting against us. And to them, it turns out, we suck enough to make anyone a contender.

Just go read it.

It’s nothing new, but it is a cogent, and eminently readable, synthesis of what we do know.

More Evidence That We Live in a Feudal Society

This time, it’s the credit report bureaus who are practicing Droit du seigneur* on us without lube:

The credit rating bureaus, whose reports influence everything from credit cards to mortgages to job offers, have a two-tiered system for resolving errors — one for the rich, the well-connected, the well-known and the powerful, and the other for everyone else.

The three major agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, keep a V.I.P. list of sorts, according to consumer lawyers and legal documents, consisting of celebrities, politicians, judges and other influential people. Those on the list — and they may not even realize they are on it — get special help from workers in the United States in fixing mistakes on their credit reports. Any errors are usually corrected immediately, one lawyer said.

For everyone else, disputes are herded into a largely automated system. Their complaints are often electronically ferried to a subcontractor overseas, where a worker spends, on average, about two minutes figuring out the gist of the matter, boiling it down to a one-to-three-digit computer code that signifies the problem — “account not his/hers,” for example — and sending a dispute form to the creditor to investigate. Many times, consumer advocates say, the investigation translates to a perfunctory check of its records.

“The legal responsibility of the credit reporting agencies and of the creditors is well established,” said Leonard Bennett, a consumer lawyer in Newport News, Va. “There is a requirement that they do meaningful research and analysis, and it is almost never done.”

For the rest of us, it’s all just serfdom.

*Droit du seigneur is the apparently mythical practice of granting the lord of the manor the right to deflower new brides on their wedding night.

I Know That I Should Not Feel Good About This, But I Do

Corporate crook and right wing newspaper magnate Conrad Black has been sent back to prison:

After nearly a year of fighting to remain free, Conrad M. Black is going back to prison.

Mr. Black, the onetime newspaper baron, received a new jail sentence on Friday from a federal judge in Chicago for his remaining convictions on charges that he defrauded his investors. Judge Amy St. Eve imposed a three-and-a-half-year sentence on Mr. Black, although prosecutors say he will get credit for the more than two years that he has already served in federal prison.

The resentencing of Mr. Black stems from a federal appeals court decision in October that upheld two of Mr. Black’s 2007 convictions, for mail fraud and obstruction of justice, even though it reversed two other convictions for fraud. Mr. Black had been out on bail since last summer pending the appeal.

You have to understand, this guy was not just a right winger with a chain of newspapers, he also strip mined the papers, axing reporters and journalistic quality, when he ran them, so I imagine that the only people out there happier about this than I am are current and former employees of the publications he used to manage.