Links 9/3/11

Sacramento PD: Man arrested for chomping on snake McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

German Farmer Captures a Famous Runaway New York Times (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Lenders suspend Greek bail-out talks Financial Times

Murdoch family divided as News Corporation crisis comes to a head Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

More of the Same in a Mortgage Plan New York Times. The lede is remarkably annoying: “Washington has already made Herculean efforts [to help borrowers].” If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Iowa Democrats Turn On Progressive Activists After Grassley Town Hall Huffington Post

Americans think unions hurt non-union workers by a 56-34 margin Gallup

Iowa Says State AG Accord Won’t Release Banks From Liability Bloomberg (hat tip Lisa Epstein), Note the headline makes a much bigger statement than the piece itself.

Pouring the Red Ink Down the Sink Counterpunch (hat tip reader Carol B)

Lots of Vitriol for Fed Chief, Despite Facts New York Times. Looks defensive and planted

U.S. Sues Big Banks Over Home Mortgages Wall Street Journal

FHFA Files Suit Against 17 Banks Dave Dayen, FireDogLake

Dismal Jobs Report Puts Policy Makers on the Spot New York Times

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Foppe

    Apple employees impersonating police officers with the help of SFPD; Apple employees searching the house of someone suspected to have iPhone 5 without any officers present (they waited outside)

    The bizarre saga involving a lost prototype of the iPhone 5 has taken another interesting turn. Contradicting past statements that no records exist of police involvement in the search for the lost prototype, San Francisco Police Department spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield now tells SF Weekly that “three or four” SFPD officers accompanied two Apple security officials in an unusual search of a Bernal Heights man’s home.

    Dangerfield says that, after conferring with Apple and the captain of the Ingleside police station, he has learned that plainclothes SFPD officers went with private Apple detectives to the home of Sergio Calderón, a 22-year-old resident of Bernal Heights. According to Dangerfield, the officers “did not go inside the house,” but stood outside while the Apple employees scoured Calderón’s home, car, and computer files for any trace of the lost iPhone 5. The phone was not found, and Calderón denies that he ever possessed it.

    In an interview with SF Weekly last night, Calderón told us that six badge-wearing visitors came to his home in July to inquire about the phone. Calderón said none of them acknowledged being employed by Apple, and one of them offered him $300, and a promise that the owner of the phone would not press charges, if he would return the device.

    The visitors also allegedly threatened him and his family, asking questions about their immigration status. “One of the officers is like, ‘Is everyone in this house an American citizen?’ They said we were all going to get into trouble,” Calderón said.

    1. attempter

      I don’t understand. Government is supposed to be protecting us from gangsters like these, not abetting them. A guy in the other thread was just saying so.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        Unless agents are vigorously and constantly carroted and sticked by their principal, the agents will do whatever they want to do, not necessarily what they are “supposed” to do. Same as it ever was…

        1. exp(-y/r) = å exp(-2n/r) / 2n+1

          “We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow” – Ted Bundy

    2. apple fanboi

      Apple has more capital than exxon so naturally they can do what they want to anyone. They aren’t bound by things that bind lesser mortals like laws, morality or decency.

      Now run along and play on your Ipad.

    3. KFritz

      Almost every po’liceman in the SF Bay Area wants to work for Apple or Google security after they pension off the force. Of course, they’ll do what the nice people from Apple “ask” them to do!

  2. Anon

    The FT supports Robert X. Cringeley’s points (see yesterday’s links) on reducing interest rates on existing mortgage debt through refinancing as a spur to economic recovery (and to remove the existing perverse incentive for banks to do nothing to address the housing slump):

    One leading possibility is to encourage refinancings of loans backed by Fannie and Freddie at today’s lower interest rates. Since this would require a loosening of loan standards, it will be easy to criticise the administration for inconsistency: sue the banks for sloppy practices, then tell your own agencies to waive their rules on loan-to-value ratios.

    That charge, if it comes, will be misconceived. Holding institutions accountable for mistakes made in good times is one thing. Emergency action in bad times to ­prevent a new recession is another. There is no inconsistency: the government can and should do both.

  3. Richard Kline

    What I have found most significant/interesting in the Federal suit for fraud in the sale of MBSs is the end number that’s gotten little play: $20,000,000,000. That’s twenty billion dollars, what the Feds are said to be seeking from the total of 17 parties they’ve taken action against. That sounds like a lot of dough . . . but it’s not, and that’s the real point of these suits, to me. Of course the number will be bargained far down even if the Guvmint suits pursue this action. And that, too, is a big if. Consider: this could be ‘news’ for the next, oh, 13 months as the wheels of jurisprudence grind slowly, only to finally be dismissed sometime after the 2012 election, or settle as ‘inadvertent’ for pennies on the putative claim.

    The actual sums of MSBs pushed on the market by the iBank consortiums are, of course two orders of magnitude greater than the recompense being sought. Those MSBs were rotten to the core. At the merest minimum, they lacked the documentation to be valid securities, as we see increasingly dragged into public view on other fronts. They were designed in ways that hid their risks by the worst tranches being stuffed in storage lockers out of sight, making what was offered, the best slices, seem inaccurately sound. The parties selling them didn’t reveal to prospective buyers either what they, the sellers, knew of the securities shakiness nor even that others in the securities markets were betting heavily against this trash and even working to crash portions of what was sold.

    At a minimum, the liability of those being sued by the government is vastly higher. If the sellers had to buy back all the ‘product’ they pushed on others, they couldn’t possibly to it. So settling all that for even the full $20B is an incredibly lenient ‘penalty’ which would in fact insulate those sued from the fatally higher costs that they should have to pay. And of course, the ‘investing’ speculative public stuck with the trash is angry, and the wider public ‘suspects something’ even if not bothering to put the picture together, so the optics of doing nothing are bad for the Feds, too. But to me, this is a media operation meant to vaccinate those ‘pursued’ against 99% of their real liability, to show that the Bamacrats ‘really care.’ Which they do: they really care about forming a human shield to protect the banksters and other oligarchs from any substantive justice for their greed and crimes.

    And the last kicker?: The Fed will effecitively _give_ the money to pay the fines, if any, at the end of the day, in effect funding the perpatrators to vaccinate themselves against criminal liability. Civil liability? Let the emptors sue: the banksters will just be supplied with more money from the Fed to bleed the litigants to death in court, or down to trivial compensation.

    We’ll know we have a _serious_ Federal action when we have criminal indictments against senior management, nine-figure hard clawbacks sought by regulators—not in court but by regulators—and a move to ‘take down’ the worst perps. But this present action? It’s a smokescreen set by the cops to conceal the getaway of the criminals involved.

    1. lambert strether

      Civil penalties are a cost of doing business, and $20 billion is chump change.

      We need to see bankster CEOs in orange jumpsuits doing the perp walk. If Schneiderman gets that done, he can run for President and win, as long as he stays away from small planes.

      1. Three Wickets

        The $200 billion is the booked value of the securities, not the amount of the loss nor the amount being sought in the suit. They will probably settle on a combined figure of $20-30 billion across all the banks. Peanuts. This action may also interfere or preempt the 50 state AG settlements. Would be travesty in the end if BofA for instance ended up paying less than $8 billion total across all these suits. Not sure at this point if the FHFA suit is supposed to punish the banks or actually help them control or minimize the collective damage.

    2. rd

      The FHFA suit for $100B+ just for what is on the books of Fannie Mae etc. is a clear indicator that the $20B settlement proposed by Tom Miller and Co. is cynical and fraudulent. It is so small that it virtually constitutes a bribe for future support of the negotiators’ political ambitions.

      In the end, we may see a much smaller settlement of the FHFA case just to keeps the banks solvent. That would be acceptable to me if a fundamental condition is wholesale firing of the executive pool in those entities with personal disgorgement of a bunch of the wealth from their extraction of money from their employers.

      I understand that entities may be systemically important and their failure would be devestating, but nobody is irrepelaceable and we should be able to swap out the people throughout the system who caused it to become unstable.

      I am also hopeful that the ongoing investigations begin to expose many of the enablers such as accountants and lawyers that are aiding and abetting fraudlent securitizations and foreclosures. These people should, at a minimum, be losing their licenses and ability to work at the field that they have undermined.

    1. Sufferin' Succotash

      But then this sort of thing has been going on for the past 40 years. Too many Democrats have figuratively been running away from George McGovern because he was clobbered in the ’72 election. Contrast that with the Republicans who didn’t run away from Barry Goldwater after he got clobbered in the ’64 election. Result? One party stands for something, the other stands for zip. Is it any mystery why the party that stands for something keeps the upper hand?

    2. sleepy

      I joined that Iowa progressive group last month–not so much because they frazzled Romney into whining that corporations are people too–but because they gave representative Deb Wasserman the same treatment.

      No wonder the state dems are miffed.

  4. aletheia33

    “The 50-state attorney general group investigating mortgage foreclosure practices won’t release banks from all civil, or any criminal, liability in a settlement, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.”

    isn’t that the same guy who said “we will put people in jail” a few months ago? wonder what they’ll make him do next.

  5. Jim Haygood

    Gotta love the product placement (guy in Old Navy sweatshirt) in the moose photo. Hope the big guy at least got some birch limbs to munch out of the deal.

    Perfect blue/orange complementary color scheme too [brown being dark orange], with the moose’s brown coat echoed in the brown window frames.

    Kudos to the candid photographer.

  6. Ep3

    Re: unions hurt non union workers.

    Of course they do yves. It’s common sense. Without the ability to suck up to the boss and curry favoritism, unions provide strict ground rules for employees to follow. For instance, I believe it is quite popular in the maquiladoras for the women to sleep with the male supervisor to gain promotions and insure they have a job. Plus, such open work rules that a non union job has allows for a coworker performing the exact same job to receive a larger pay raise based upon subjective evidence (such as hiring your spouse and giving them a raise that then benefits you as well).

    1. Rowlf

      When did the first generation of wimpy managers show up? The old school managers that I worked with from the 1960’s and 70’s used to smile at the unions and then put a leash on them, often using the union structure to prevent discipline problems from arising. Now management cowers at the idea of a unionized workforce. What happened?

      I came from the floor, so I have a hard time ignoring what me eyes see and believing all the propaganda. I feel like Ijon Tichy in the novel The Futurological Congress.

  7. barrisj

    There is an excellent article in a recent issue of Armed Forces Journal(h/t Moon of Alabama) which cogently and pointedly critiques the DOD under the “leadership” (or not) of Wm Gates:

    The author of the piece, Bernard Finel, is especially critical of how Gates failed to rein in leading senior flag officers who openly (and in many instances, contemptuously) campaigned against civilian policy decisions and weren’t called to account by Gates (Gen. McCrystal was sacked by Obama). Among the more salient points raised are these:

    Civil-military relations under Gates were more dysfunctional than any time since the early days of the Civil War. Though it may seem hyperbolic to some, the reality is that the accumulated transgressions of civil-military norms by senior military leaders far outstrip the misconduct of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

    During the Gates years, senior military leaders intervened in domestic politics; actively lobbied for policy preferences; waged sophisticated information operations against the American public; blocked the development of alternative options requested by the president and sought to punish those in uniform who were willing to respond to presidential requests; and created command environments in which contempt for civilian leaders was widespread. And Gates was either absent or an accomplice in most of these transgressions.

    Clearly, civil-military relations in the U.S. are not problematic in the same way they can be in countries such as Turkey and Pakistan, but by well-established American standards and norms, the last several years have been extraordinary, and not in a good way.

    The shift in civil-military relations certainly predates Gates’ tenure. In September 2004, then-Lt. Gen. David Petraeus wrote a widely publicized op-ed in the Washington Post praising progress in Iraq. Even if this argument wasn’t contradicted by his private efforts to dramatically change the American approach in Iraq, the decision to publish this commentary mere weeks before a presidential election in which Iraq was a major issue should have raised eyebrows. Indeed, had the op-ed instead given full voice to Petraeus’ criticisms of the conduct of the war, he would have been immediately cashiered. But since his views were politically convenient for the Bush administration, his career, if anything, received a boost.

    When Gates came into office to oversee the Iraq “surge,” he either further encouraged Petraeus in his manipulation of domestic opinion or at least countenanced it. Petraeus made very effective use of access. Friendly reporters and pundits were given better access. They received VIP treatment, including face time with the general and access to at least some classified briefings. This access was valuable in increasing the profile of these friendly analysts and reporters, creating an unhealthy back-scratching relationship.

    By boosting the credentials of Petraeus’ supporters, the general was able to shape the public debate on Iraq. Combined with extensive media appearances by Petraeus himself and aggressive lobbying of congressional opinion, the manipulation of domestic opinion was a sophisticated, multifaceted campaign. .

    All in all, a most fascinating read, as there has been virtually no MSM takedown of runaway military types who seemingly defy their subordinate roles to civilian (indeed, Presidential) leadership in a manner that provoked the Truman sacking of McCarthur. Bush allowed “my generals” to simply dictate policy in Iraq and Obama seemingly is falling in as well re: Afghanistan, despite a hesitant demarche in troop strength. Gates’ appointment by Obama as his SecDef was his first major mistake, and signaled to the military that “you’re the boss”: McCrystal took that to the limit and Obama had simply no choice but to give him the sack. An effective SecDef would have had McCrystal knuckled down well before the Rolling Stone article, indeed would have instituted a roll-back of Bush/Cheney-era permissiveness extended to self-promoting, self-aggrandising generals and admirals to subvert civilian primacy.

    1. Mark P.

      [1] Truman finally fired MacArthur because the latter tried to escalate the Korean War with — as MacArthur later explained — 30-odd atomic bombs “strung across the neck of Manchuria” and “a belt of radioactive cobalt spread from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea.”

      So what today’s military leadership is doing is a whole littler league than that.

      The truth is, generals have frequently played politics because it’s frequently a necessary part of the job. Petraeus has been a skilful player. The weakness and incompetence of current US civilian leadership, which doesn’t push back at the military leaders and lets them get away with it, is the problem.

      I suppose we could bring Rumsfeld back – no civilian timidity about slapping down the military chiefs there.

      [2] Also, it’s Robert Gates who was DOD chief and Bill Gates who runs (ran) Microsoft. You lose credibility when you link to an article that you haven’t mentally processed sufficiently so that you grasp who the subject of the article was.

  8. Francois T

    Hmmm! Lotsa good links today. Let’s see:

    1) “Washington has already made Herculean efforts [to help borrowers]”

    Well…yes! “[To help borrowers} getting obliterated into nonexistence, so the much-touted “recovery” can, at last, begin. Muhahahahahahaha!

    2) Iowa Democrats Turn On Progressive Activists After Grassley Town Hall Huffington Post.

    Like Lamberth said: The way of the Whigs. The Democrass, the Party of Everything, where Nothing happens because there’s always Something. “It’s one of those things!”

    2) Americans think unions hurt non-union workers by a 56-34 margin Gallup

    Say what? Americans, Unions and Think in the same paragraph.

  9. SR6719

    In Elia Kazan’s film “The Arrangement”, Eddie becomes sick of his own persona in the family and in his work. He therefore resolves to “suicide” this official Eddie, this conformist version, to find out what his buried double is like, that double of which this “real” Eddie is merely the empty outer shell. Gradually, then, he strips out all the elements of his conventional life: his job, his wife, his status, his sexuality, and even his father, of whom he rids himself in the end, and the house, which he burns down. Once all the marks of identity are swept away, all the terms of the ordered “arrangement”, what is left? Nothing. He returns to a meaningless conformism, into which he settles like his own shadow – or like a man who has lost his shadow.

    The dream of identity ends in indifference.

  10. rps

    Goldman Sachs targeted as ‘Jaws’ joins battle over banking crash
    “He is known as “Jaws”, the perfect nickname for a lawyer entangled in a lawsuit filed against a massive investment bank that has been dubbed a “vampire squid”…..Jacob Zamansky”
    ‘splains Blankfein hiring Weingarten [who has] “close ties to the department of justice, where he has previously worked in its public integrity section.” I guess that makes Weingarten an OxyMoron

  11. Mark P.

    If Yves has already linked to this one, I missed it. Some folks bringing the latest suit against the banksters are using the ‘R’ word. As in RICO —-


    ‘Thirty-two Plaintiffs have filed a multi-count Complaint in the Circuit Court for Palm Beach County, Florida against JPMorgan Chase Bank and Chase Home Finance, LLC …

    ‘The 29-page Complaint alleges several causes of action including violations of the Florida RICO Act, and requests temporary and permanent injunctive relief on a national level to halt all Chase-related foreclosure activity in the eight (8) separate states in which the Plaintiffs reside.

    ‘The Complaint alleges a pattern of criminal activity on the part of JPMorgan Chase Bank and Chase Home Finance in connection with the institution of both judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, including but not limited to the filing and recording, in the public records, of forged and fraudulent documents; fraudulent collection activities; intentional misuse of the MERS system; and the intentional misrepresentation, in foreclosures across the United States, that Chase is the “successor in interest” to Washington Mutual Bank when in fact Chase itself has affirmatively represented, in multiple Federal court filings in different states, that it is NOT the successor in interest to WaMu, and only purchased certain defined assets and liabilities from the FDIC as Receiver for WaMu.’

    More via the link.

  12. MountainHome

    The government are the criminals who steal from the people. I wish the average Joe/Jane 6-Pack would wake up to what is happening to them. Good article.

  13. Francois T

    Re: Americans believe Unions hurt non-union workers.

    One can immediately spot the colossal stupidity of such an (let’s try to be polite here) “argument”. Given there are only 7% of the total private sector workforce that is unionized, pray tell how these workers can hurt non-union workers so bad?

    Also, if onw really wants to know why this economy suck to no end for ordinary people, please consider this totally stunning and unprecedented data point:

    “Between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, real national income in the U.S. increased by $528 billion. Pre-tax corporate profits by themselves had increased by $464 billion while aggregate real wages and salaries rose by only $7 billion or only .1%. Over this six quarter period, corporate profits captured 88% of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1% of the growth in real national income. …The absence of any positive share of national income growth due to wages and salaries received by American workers during the current economic recovery is historically unprecedented.”

    So, all of you right wing and sold out trolls, come to Daddy-Francois and explain to the multitudes what is so awesome about these facts? What is the point of having corporations keeping everything, workers not getting anything? What good does it provide to the economy and the American society?

    This is why the USA is doing so bad and shall do much worse: there is no moral compass and shared purpose that motivate the citizenry. I hear pundit after pundit, professor of small and big business pontificates about the extreme evil of unions (the repugnant Bill Dunkelberg of Temple School of Business comes to mind right away) while corporate stooges and their minions unctuously profess the unlimited merits of unlimited profits as the only way for (an eventual) economic growth that may, of course, never come back, so rotten are the political institutions, the extreme corruption of our electoral process (thank you Supine Court for Citizens United) and the abandonment of the rule of law (big banks control fraud crimes anyone?).

    I tremble to think of what fall 2011 and full year 2012 will bring. It could be very ugly.

    1. rps

      Ah, the golden nugget of truth. We are living a fraudulent Depression enforced upon the majority of the population. The hostile top 1 percent created a fake economic depression as seen in the tripling of their wealth. Massive deprivation for the majority and obscene wealth for the few.

      Economic Class warfare has been violently waged upon the majority.

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