"If you're focused, why are you reading this."
"Instead of just worshiping gods and idols, perhaps we should encourage the fruits of those faiths. Nature, is the true key to our survival as men. We all seem to attribute these things to our respective higher entities. If we focused more energy on caring for the gifts we were given, we would find a true point of unity."
"Perhaps Nature was meant 2 be natural & not in such order. Perhaps men were meant to be animals & the true method of power means having no emotion. Survival of the fittest is defined by living without personal attachments. If that's true, I was never meant 2 rule the world, just to live & love with all my soul. And if this is all fact, than I am content with just that. Perhaps ignorance on some level, is bliss."
A few short months ago Goldman Sachs was deemed too big to fail, and allowed to sink its fangs into the public vein. Not only did it receive direct assistance from lowly tax-payers like you and I, the gaggle of Goldman alumni that run the Treasury Department and implemented the Troubled Asset Relief Program funneled tens of billions to insurance giant AIG to assure that it could cover about 13 billion in Goldman's losses. Goldman paid back the TARP loans -- because caps on executive pay are a form of socialism, of course -- but is still making hay on the public dime, specifically on the sale of $28 billion worth of subsidized debt courtesy of the FDIC.
But today, as the New York Times put it, "up and down Wall Street, analysts and traders are buzzing" about the fact that Goldman is reporting "blowout profits" to the tune of $3.4 billion in the 2nd quarter. In a masterful bit of understatement, the Washington Post notes that "the New York investment bank profited from turmoil in the financial markets, the absence of former rivals and the continued support of the federal government."
It's good for Goldman's shareholders and great for its traders -- according to the WaPo, "Goldman said it set aside $6.65 billion for employee compensation in the second quarter." But for everyone else? Not so much. And not only because of the costs borne by the public, not only for the moral hazard this kind of crony capitalism represents, not just for the unfairness inherent in the pervasive reverse socialism we're seeing these days, but also because of the lessons that support has left unlearned. Protected from the fallout of their bad bets, Wall Street's casinos are open for business again. Just this week, Bloomberg reported that Morgan Stanley was trotting out another "collateralized debt obligation" backed by shaky loans that's again getting a AAA rating (if you have no idea what that means, see my piece from last October titled, "How Wall Street's Scam Artists Turned Home Mortgages Into Economic WMDs").
Now, let's just consider for a moment what's supposed to happen when businesses make catastrophic decisions, take on too much risk and get burned (never mind bringing down much of the global economy with them, as in the present case). We were told that if any of these "money center" banks failed, we'd end up living in a Mad Max-like dystopia, but let's think for a moment what other scenario might have played out had we just let the fuckers face the music.
As large banks continue to nurse their wounds -- many self-inflicted -- some of the Washington area's less exposed community bankers are using the financial chaos to draw in new business, even by pursuing new branch locations in the midst of the recession.
Alexandria-based family bank Burke & Herbert Bank & Trust, which has $1.9 billion in assets, saw $45 million in new deposits during one two-week period last fall. It hopes to lure more by opening new outposts.
Here's the CEO, E. Hunt Burke:
"Show me any bank that's in trouble, and I can show you some place they took a risk and got caught, whether it be in subprime loans, or by getting too heavy in housing developments that dried up," Burke said. "Burke & Herbert didn't follow any of those paths."
The bank said that as of July 1, it had increased its reserves for potential loan losses to $11.3 million, from $9.9 million at that date last year. Loans delinquent for 90 days or more, otherwise declared as uncollectible, accounted for 0.5 percent of the bank's total loans, up from 0.09 percent at the end of 2006.
I'm sure Alexandria-based Burke & Herbert is a dreadfully dull business and working there is nothing like the high-flying life on the Street, with its multi-million dollar bonuses and attendant Masters of the Universe lifestyle. But banking is supposed to be dull and bankers are supposed to be boring and cautious. Instead of keeping Wall Street's hustlers in caviar on the public dime, we should have put a few banking giants into receivership and sold off their good assets in an orderly manner to staid, dull community-based banks like Burke and Herbert -- banks that would fulfill the core function of a banking system: taking deposits and lending money to people who have a good chance of repaying it.
I'm not one to fall on my knees and pray to the Gods of Capitalism™. I think of it much as Churchill regarded democracy: as the least bad system around. But it is supposed to be efficient at allocating resources, and in classical economic terms, we have created a market failure by handing trillions into the hands of irresponsible actors.
With the exception of Goldman's shareholders and employees, we're all big suckers today.
Once again, North Korea has reminded us that you don’t need Twitter to organize a big rally — just a dose of old-school Stalinism.
In Pyongyang, thousands of marchers packed a square today to denounce newly imposed U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The Associated Press said demonstrators chanted “Let’s smash!” while punching their fists in the air; the regime also threatened to unleash a “shower of nuclear retaliation” on the South in the event of a U.S. attack.
Today marks the anniversary of the 1950 outbreak of the Korean War (or as North Korea remembers it, “June 25, the Day of the Struggle against U.S. Imperialism”). Nearly six decades later, tensions are running high on the peninsula: North Korea is prepping for another long-range missile test, and Pyongyang has imposed a “no-sail zone” off its east coast. According to press reports, the North Koreans may also be planning to pop off some short- and medium-range missiles during an upcoming set of military exercises.
Last night, President Barack Obama extended sanctions imposed one year ago by his predecessor, George W. Bush. In a statement, the president said, “the existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” That executive order — which declares a “national emergency” because of North Korea’s nuclear posturing — keeps in place certain restrictions on commerce with North Korea that otherwise would have been lifted in 2008.
Meanwhile, the United States is mulling whether to intercept a North Korean ship that is suspected of carrying weapons to Burma. In a press conference yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said a decision had not yet been reached on whether to “hail and query” the North Korean vessel, the Kang Nam.
“That is a decision I think we will likely take collectively with our allies and partners out there and make a determination about whether we choose to hail and query this particular ship and, if we make that decision, when and where to do so,” he said. “But that is not a decision that’s been made yet, and I don’t get the sense that it is imminent. So I would urge everybody just to take a deep breath and to not hyperventilate about this particular ship. We are in this for the long run.”
GOP Activist Makes Controversial Remarks
Written by Robin Hinson
Saturday, 13 June 2009 22:48
Friday's gorilla escape at Riverbanks Zoo prompted a prominent Republican to make some controversial remarks about First Lady Michelle Obama.
In an article posted on the website, www.fitsnews.com, Rusty Depass, a former chair of the State Election Commission, commented on the gorilla escape on www.facebook.com.
The post says quote, "I'm sure it (referring to the ape), is just one of Michelle's ancestors...probably harmless."
ABC Columbia News attempted to contact Depass, but he did not return our phone calls.
ss, but he did not return our phone calls
Police made a gruesome discovery earlier this week while getting ready to tow a heavily-ticketed van – a decomposed body in the back seat.
It was that of a missing man, and now his family wants to know to how officers could ticket the vehicle numerous times -- and never notice what was inside.
Jennifer Morales, who didn't want her face filmed by CBS 2 HD cameras, wondered how her father's body could go unnoticed for so long.
"I'm shocked. I'm surprised, um...," Morales said.
The daughter of 58-year-old George Morales wants everyone to remember her handyman father in a different way, not as a decomposed body found in a van under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on Wednesday. He'd been dead a month, in a van with four parking tickets.
"If you see an abandoned vehicle, you don't report it? You wait a month?" Jennifer Morales wondered.
Morales' daughter said her father left their apartment in Washington Heights on May 5 in a van owned by a friend. George Morales was headed for Long Island, but he just vanished.
His daughter suspects George Morales, who suffered from diabetes and heart problems, may have felt ill, and pulled off the road for a nap. A window was cracked. The odor became overpowering. After the car was ticketed each Monday for a month, a marshal, about to tow the van, noticed a body in the back seat.
"If you see a car has already three to four tickets and you just slabbing more, at least call 9-1-1 and say there's a car here that's not moving," Jennifer Morales said.
When he was found, his daughter said, he was not covered with a blanket or coat, but was in plain view of anyone who looked inside. She wondered: what if there was a person inside a car who was ill and needed help?
Jennifer Morales said it should be a lesson to all traffic agents and police officers: don't ticket without looking inside.
The NYC Medical Examiner's office has told the family it appears George Morales died of a heart attack. There was no word from police as to why tickets were repeatedly issued without taking a look inside.
As she describes it, Beth Jacobson and her fellow loan officers at Wells Fargo Bank “rode the stagecoach from hell” for a decade, systematically singling out blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages.
These loans, Baltimore officials have claimed in a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo, tipped hundreds of homeowners into foreclosure and cost the city tens of millions of dollars in taxes and city services.
Wells Fargo, Ms. Jacobson said in an interview, saw the black community as fertile ground for subprime mortgages, as working-class blacks were hungry to be a part of the nation’s home-owning mania. Loan officers, she said, pushed customers who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime mortgages. Another loan officer stated in an affidavit filed last week that employees had referred to blacks as “mud people” and to subprime lending as “ghetto loans.”
“We just went right after them,” said Ms. Jacobson, who is white and said she was once the bank’s top-producing subprime loan officer nationally. “Wells Fargo mortgage had an emerging-markets unit that specifically targeted black churches, because it figured church leaders had a lot of influence and could convince congregants to take out subprime loans.”
Ms. Jacobson’s account and that of the other loan officer who gave an affidavit, Tony Paschal, both of whom have left Wells Fargo, provide the first detailed accusations of deliberate racial steering into subprimes by one of the nation’s top banks.
The toll taken by such policies, Baltimore officials argue, is terrible. Data released by the city as part of the suit last week show that more than half the properties subject to foreclosure on a Wells Fargo loan from 2005 to 2008 now stand vacant. And 71 percent of those are in predominantly black neighborhoods.
Judge Benson E. Legg of Federal District Court had asked the city to file the additional paperwork and has not decided whether the lawsuit can go forward.
Wells Fargo officials have declined detailed interviews since Baltimore filed suit in January 2008. In an e-mail statement on Friday, a spokesman said that only 1 percent of the city’s 33,000 foreclosures have come on Wells Fargo mortgages.
“We have worked extremely hard to make homeownership possible for more African-American borrowers,” wrote Kevin Waetke, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “We absolutely do not tolerate team members treating our customers or others disrespectfully or unfairly, or who violate our ethics and lending practices.”
City and state officials across the nation have investigated and sometimes sued Wells Fargo over its practices. The Illinois attorney general has investigated whether Wells Fargo Financial violated fair lending and civil rights laws by steering black and Latino homeowners into high-interest loans. New York’s attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, raised similar questions about the lending practices of Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, among other banks.
The N.A.A.C.P. has filed a class-action lawsuit charging systematic racial discrimination by more than a dozen banks, including Wells Fargo.
At the heart of such charges is reverse redlining, specifically marketing the most expensive and onerous loan products to black customers.
The New York Times, in a recent analysis of mortgage lending in New York City, found that black households making more than $68,000 a year were nearly five times as likely to hold high-interest subprime mortgages as whites of similar or even lower incomes. (The disparity was greater for Wells Fargo borrowers, as 2 percent of whites in that income group hold subprime loans and 16.1 percent of blacks.)
“We’ve known that African-Americans and Latinos are getting subprime loans while whites of the same credit profile are getting the lower-cost loans,” said Eric Halperin, director of the Washington office of the Center for Responsible Lending. “The question has been why, and the gory details of this complaint may provide an answer.”
The affidavits of the two loan officers seem to bolster Baltimore’s lawsuit. Mr. Paschal, who is black and worked as a loan officer in Wells Fargo’s office in Annandale, Va., from 1997 to 2007, offers a sort of primer on Wells Fargo’s subprime marketing strategy by race.In 2001, he states in his affidavit, Wells Fargo created a unit in the mid-Atlantic region to push expensive refinancing loans on black customers, particularly those living in Baltimore, southeast Washington and Prince George’s County, Md.
“They referred to subprime loans made in minority communities as ghetto loans and minority customers as ‘those people have bad credit’, ‘those people don’t pay their bills’ and ‘mud people,’ ” Mr. Paschal said in his affidavit.
He said a bank office in Silver Spring, Md., had an “affinity group marketing” section, which hired blacks to call on African-American churches.
“The company put ‘bounties’ on minority borrowers,” Mr. Paschal said. “By this I mean that loan officers received cash incentives to aggressively market subprime loans in minority communities.”
Both loan officers said the bank had given bonuses to loan officers who referred borrowers who should have qualified for a prime loan to the subprime division. Ms. Jacobson said that she made $700,000 one year and that the company flew her and other subprime officers to resorts across the country.
“I used to joke that ‘I’ll pay for your kids to go to private school if you give me clients,’ ” Ms. Jacobson said in the interview.
Loan officers employed other methods to steer clients into subprime loans, according to the affidavits. Some officers told the underwriting department that their clients, even those with good credit scores, had not wanted to provide income documentation.
“By doing this, the loan flipped from prime to subprime,” Ms. Jacobson said. “But there was no need for that; many of these clients had W2 forms.”
Other times, she said, loan officers cut and pasted credit reports from one applicant onto the application of another customer.
These practices took a great toll on customers. For a homeowner taking out a $165,000 mortgage, a difference of three percentage points in the loan rate — a typical spread between conventional and subprime loans — adds more than $100,000 in interest payments.
The accusations contained in the affidavits, which were given to Relman & Dane, a civil rights law firm working with the City of Baltimore, have not drawn a specific response from Wells Fargo. But city officials say the conclusion is clear.
“They confirm our worst fears: that this is not just a case based on a review of numbers and a statistical analysis,” said the city solicitor, George Nilson. “You don’t have to scratch your head and wonder if maybe this was just an accident. The behavior is pretty explicit.”Both sides expect to appear in court at a hearing in the case in late June.