Links 10/5/11

Too many important mortgage stories today that I should be doing as posts. Please forgive the brief commentary.

Zoo Story Frying Pan

Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe To Eat? Mother Jones (hat tip reader May S)

‘I’ Is a Window To the Soul Wall Street Journal (hat tip Marshall Auerback)

Moody’s Sees More European Downgrades Bloomberg

Felix Zulauf: expect more market turmoil than in 2008 Ed Harrison

Poll sees a new low in Americans’ approval of Congress Washington Post

Wolf: Grover Norquist’s Relationships Should Give People Pause (hat tip reader Robert M). I thought talking about Grover Norquist was tantamount to saying Lord Voldemort’s name out loud.

Wall Street Protesters Sue Over Bridge Arrests as Demonstrations Continue Bloomberg

The Reign of the One Percenters: Income Inequality and the Death of Culture in New York City TruthOut. This is really true. One of the reasons I wanted to live in NYC was it was (once) a vibrant and diverse city. It has become dramatically less so over time.

Occupy Wall Street, Powered by Big Labor Andy Kroll, Mother Jones

Corporate social-media engines track Occupy activists (hat tip reader Paul T). Notice how they are desperate to find an institutional agent provocateur. They seem unable to accept that opposition is broad based. And notice the scare mongering. Expect to see more of that.

Standstill over anti-Wall Street park protest to endure New York Legal [blog] Reuters (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Longest series of web site outages at BoA in thirteen years, says industry observer Associated Press (hat tip Lambert Strether)

BofA, Wells Fargo Accused of Charging Veterans Illegal Fees Bloomberg (hat tip Arthur)

Bank of America’s Countrywide May Face Fraud Suit After U.S. Housing Audit Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Secret Docs Show Foreclosure Watchdog Doesn’t Bark or Bite ProPublica. This is hugely frustrating. As with Magnetar, PP does a lot of digging and misses the real story. The frame here is to blame Treasury for a poor job of oversight and suggest they should have imposed penalties. But HAMP was a voluntary program and Treasury argued (and sadly, they have a point) that no one would have participated had there been penalties! The only thing Treasury can do (and here it has dragged its feet) it to claw back incentive payments. The better frame would be to criticize Treasury for cooking up such a lame, bank-skewed program in the first place, and to take the angle Nevada is pursuing, which is consumer fraud: the banks presented the program as operating along the lines defined by Treasury and systematically didn’t adhere to the program guidelines.

Judge rips firing contest of convenience store chain’s owner USA Today (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

BNY Mellon sued over currency rates Financial Times. Go Schneiderman!

Hungry Muppet to appear on “Sesame Street” Reuters (hat tip Lisa Epstein). Wow.

Justice Democrats take on big banks Matt Stoller, Poltico. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. rjs

    The Case for Using Predator Drone Strikes Against Wall Street Executives:
    From a secret Justice Department memorandum obtained by the Rude Pundit:
    Since it is now the policy of our administration to target American citizens for killing by missiles delivered by Predator drone aircraft, I am proposing an expansion of the program to include targets beyond our ongoing conflict with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. I propose that we now target executives and others in the finance industry who so far have not been prosecuted for potential crimes that forced the economy of the United States into a long-term decline. The legal authority for these actions rests with an earlier memo dealing with the targeting of [name redacted, but presumably Anwar al-Awlaki]. To summarize, targeting of American citizens may be done: 1. on foreign soil, even if no actual battles are occurring in that nation; 2. as long as there is an ongoing war; and 3. without regard to due process, as long as the administration is confident that the target has committed crimes against the nation.

      1. YankeeFrank

        Don’t worry Lambert, the DIY open source hardware community is working on drone technology. We should have our own drones within a couple years.

    1. alex

      Using drones is like experiencing life by watching TV. I like old-fashioned in-person community based action. Perhaps our French friends have some historical examples of a better way to do this.

  2. Stefan

    As it stands now, your Stoller link links to the last page of the article, not the first. May cause readers confusion.

    1. curlydan

      I’d prefer to call them “Big D” Democrats–you know, actually supporting policies that most Democratic politicians _say_ they support.

    2. YankeeFrank

      Don’t believe everything you read on twitter. Warren stated, in response to a question about occupy wall street — “no one understands better what the frustration is right now”, though, according to the Weekly Standard, it wasn’t clear whether she was referring to the protesters or herself.

      1. YankeeFrank

        I take it back, apparently she said the protesters should “obey the law”, as if somehow they aren’t? Pardon my french but fuck that. How about she says something about the cops following the law and not macing and arresting people illegally? She’s an Obama drone. To hell with her.

        1. robert57

          “Obey the law” was essentially the same message delivered by this administration to frame the protesters in Egypt, while they were being trampled and clubbed.

  3. anonymous

    “Wolf: Grover Norquist’s Relationships Should Give People Pause”:

    I despise Grover, too, but a lot of this is anti-Arab/anti-Muslim stuff.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Also posted on Wolf’s website:

      Once again, justice has been served. The killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki is major step in holding those responsible for the shooting at Fort Hood, the attempted Christmas Day attack in Detroit in 2009 and the attempted car bombing in Times Square last year. Al-Awlaki also was responsible for the radicalization of dozens of other individuals through his propaganda and hate speech against the United States. While his death is a major triumph against those who seek to use American technology and innovation against us, we must remain vigilant in our pursuit of those radicalized here in America through the teachings of men like Al-Awlaki.

      Oh, so ‘radicalizing others’ is now a capital offense?

      Great! Probably our Dear Peace Laureate is now combing through NC posts to find new targets for his drone-based cultural cleansing.

      Wolf’s charming ignorance of grammar [garbled syntax of 2nd sentence … mirroring Odiobama’s shaky command of the language] accurately reflects the intellectual level of the fascist reptiles who rule us.

      Grover Norquist should be proud to be slimed by a thug like Wolf.

      1. Crazy Horse


        The (President of the United States of America*) by the powers vested in him by virtue of being head of State, has the absolute right to assassinate anyone anywhere in the world whom the President deems to be a threat to the State either through their words or actions, without trial or publication of evidence, regardless of race, creed, or citizenship.

        (*fill in the blank with any sovereign nation)

        President Obama is either incredibly arrogant or incredibly stupid in establishing such a doctrine. According to his doctrine, the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have the absolute right to assassinate him with a remote control drone while he is playing golf. If we were to apply the Obama Doctrine to the past 30 years it would extend the right of assassination to every country in Central America, most of Latin America and the Middle East, and any country with substantial oil resources with the possible exception of Canada.

        I vote for arrogance rather than stupidity. Who needs international law or moral standards of behavior when you spend as much as the entire rest of the world on your military and “homeland security” establishment?

        1. Blissex

          «Who needs international law or moral standards of behavior»

          it is actually that piece of paper, the USA Constitution, the one designed to delimit the power of government, and the USA Constitution does not contain any language limiting its applicability only to USA citizens or residents.

          Murder by presidential decree is still murder under the USA Constitution whether the victim is a USA citizen in the USA or not.

          Because otherwise if the USA President can decree the murder of USA citizens abroad, he can also take without compensation their foreign property, for example.

          But USA voters are delighted that some brown skinned nobodies they don’t care about are being murdered “just in case” some of them may be guilty of something, because “better safe than sorry” and “you cannot be too safe” at somebody else’s expense, and damn that old stupid piece of paper.

  4. christofay

    What about this Rep from Virginia Wolf reference in today’s posts “Wolf: Grover Norquist’s Relationships Should Give People Pause.” If he is a R and taking a hard, well, easy, look at the disgusting Grover, then he needs study and perhaps support.

    I was going to say I am or would be a Warren/Brown Masssachusetts Demo, but Lambert just harshed my mellow by reporting that Warren supports the forces of oligarchy against the Constitutionalists protesting against the oli. so I have to say I am a Brown Massachusetts demo.

  5. john newman

    Re Reign of the One Percenters

    In the last twenty five years I’ve watched Manhattan be transformed to a career theme park for the super rich. Everyone else there, myself included, is just some guy in a Mickey Mouse suit. If your corporation is not paying for the tickets all the rides are way too expensive, but there are enough corporations with enough kids that there are always lines at the better rides. Just look at ticket prices for the Yankees or the Knicks, or movie prices for that matter.

    Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey are becoming real cultural centers, but Manhattan thinks Madison Avenue is culture.

    1. Moopheus

      When I left a few years ago, Brooklyn seemed well on its way to becoming a mini-Manhattan. It hadn’t completely lost its soul, it was definitely in danger. But then, I left at the peak of the bubble madness, maybe it is better now.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        Brooklyn, especially as seen with the Atlantic Yards project and the Park area, is still “on the way”…but the path to travel on that way is still about a hundred thousand miles until you get to the State of Rich, White, Carnal Disneyland that is Manhattan.

    1. Jim

      Has Mr. Ratigan volunteered to donate his inventory of adtime to politicians? Does he not appreciate the relationship between what MSNBC charges for 30-second ads on his program and his salary?

      So long as the broadcast and cable networks are able to charge as much as 700K for a 30-second ad, there will be big money in politics.

      And Mr. Ratigan, by virtue of charging pols for 30-second ads, is contributing to the problem.

      1. mk

        Dylan’s report on occupy wall st that I saw, it was all about him, his opinions, he preached to protesters, never asked them any questions. He called himself a “reporter”, but I heard no facts reported in that segment. He’s a carnival barker, playing for ratings, nothing more. Can’t be taken seriously, I put him in the same camp as fox liar news and sarah palin fake candidate.

    1. They didn't leave me a choice

      By what criteria were the countries chosen to be displayed in those charts? If it’s countries that use the euro, what are, for example, UK and Sweden doing there, on the other hand, if it’s EU members, where are the eastern Europe?

      Also, why are the charts so minimally informative compared to how much “activity” they have. They could have just listed the direct debts those countries have on Greece and maybe added some useful information like how large those loans are in relation to the loaners GDP or what the trade balances between the countries are. You know, actual background data instead of glittering graphics.

      This “infographic”, I’m afraid, is pretty damn useless as anything else but a curiosity. I have to dispute the claims that the chart would be either well done or that it explains the entirety of anything. All it manages to do is raise more questions about why so much data, like for example what are the private banks exposures to Greek loans. Without that kind of data this chart is rather useless as an awareness raiser.

  6. Herman Sniffles

    One of the things I’ve been expecting but haven’t seen yet is a class action suit against the banksters (servicers?) for wrongly ruining people’s credit. If you’re foreclosed on, your credit is pretty much vaporized. If the foreclosure was fraudulent, your credit was destroyed illegally. Try finding a job, car loan, rental, etc, with a 500 score. It ain’t easy.

  7. Hugh

    Approval of Congress is at 14%. So what is the lesson that our kleptocratic politicians draw from this? The Republicans think these numbers will be irrelevant once a GOP Presidential candidate has been chosen and the Democrats see them as a call to greater bipartisanship and compromise. There’s your problem right there. With parties so out of touch with voters and so in touch with those who own them, I am surprised that there are still 14% of Americans out there voicing support.

  8. paper mac

    Re: “Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe To Eat?”

    My original training was as a toxicologist. I’ve never been involved in the regulatory side of things, but my impression was always that GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) status was typically only granted to (a) materials which have traditionally been consumed by humans for decades, if not centuries or millenia, or (b) materials around which there is effectively zero scientific debate concerning their safety. Neither condition has been met here (a. is obvious, b. would be excluded after a thirty second search of the literature). I didn’t realise the FDA was actually openly ignoring its own designation requirements, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I wonder if some people will be more prone than others to incorporate genetic information from the genetically modified foods we eat.

      Will this give rise to the next species to replace us?

      1. ambrit

        No, but will probably clear the deck for the next ‘sapient wannabe.’ Who ever said humans were guaranteed domination over the universe? {With a due apology to Believers. Who ever said God was all for Man alone. Didn’t God create all the other animals too? If you’re a Believer, how can you accept anyone telling God what to do? We’ll leave those pesky inerrantists for a later debate.}

  9. financial matters

    BNY Mellon sued over currency rates Financial Times. Go Schneiderman!

    “”The Taiwan dollar trade also was detailed by federal prosecutors. In its suit, prosecutors alleged that a BNY Mellon trader recognised the manipulation, sought guidance from management and was “explicitly told to use the artificial range of the day”.

    The justice department requested an immediate injunction against BNY Mellon’s practices, alleging that the bank “continues to reap substantial profits by exploiting [its clients]” and that “it is highly probable that [the bank] will continue this fraudulent conduct”.

    Because of the expansive powers under the Martin Act, the New York action also seeks damages on behalf of investors in funds managed by companies including TIAA-CREF, ABN Amro, Citigroup, PNC Financial Services, HSBC and Fidelity Investments. New York is also pursuing claims on behalf of investors in funds managed by the World Bank and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, a US government agency that backstops the private pension plans of more than 44m Americans.””

  10. M Jane Ross

    This is eye-opening, sad and brilliant! A group associated with the #occupywallst invites anyone to add their picture and their brief story of how the economic crisis is affecting them to a Tumbl blog. Moving, incisive, visual as well as literary, inclusive. These (mostly young) people are putting a face to inequality and despair in the US. Their stories are heartbreaking. I hope our representatives in Congress see this!

  11. aletheia33

    current OWS working documents being made accessible to all who wish to have a hand in forming the movement’s self-articulation:

    the charter doc. may not be accessible today for those who want to join in working on it, but they are trying to find a new way to keep it open (had to shut it down due to interference). meanwhile it’s worth reading. list of those involved at the end. note this is “in support of OWS”, does not say it’s officially to be issued by OWS.

    for reliable tweets on OWS and the work on the economic charter, from ralph meima, director of the marlboro college graduate school (he is with OWS in nyc right now), go to!/marlboromba

  12. ScottS

    Re: Standstill over anti-Wall Street park protest to endure

    Money quote:

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday said “this is the place where you can come to express your views, protesting is fine but you don’t have the right to go and, without a permit, violate the law.”

    You need a permit to violate the law! That’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time. Explains how those bankers have gotten away with it all this time — they got permits.

    Re: Longest series of web site outages at BoA in thirteen years, says industry observer

    Good job, Anonymous!

    Re: Hungry Muppet to appear on “Sesame Street”

    WTF is “food insecurity”? Is that anything like hunger or starvation? Someone dig up George Carlin. This isn’t even political correctness anymore, it’s Orwellian.

  13. Jeff

    If you expect the courts and regulators to protect you from
    genetically modified food, think again:

    The Revolving door:

    Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice
    As President Obama’s Solicitor General, Kagan took Monsanto’s side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case.

    In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, Monsanto tried to get the Supreme Court to force genetically engineered alfalfa onto the market without an evaluation of the crop’s environmental impact. Geertson Seed Farms made the case that the USDA should have considered the fact that GE alfalfa would permanently contaminate their GE-free alfalfa seed.

    As Solicitor General, Kagan was supposed to represent the interests of the American people in matters that came before the Supreme Court. Instead, she went to bat for Monsanto.

    Kagan joined a Supreme Court that includes a former Monsanto lawyer, Clarence Thomas.

    learn here:

  14. Francois T

    Stoller’s article is good.
    What is even more revealing though is the swarming of trolls in the comments section; all variations of the zillion times refuted talking point about the conspiracy of Fannie-Freddie-Barney Frank-CRA being the SOLE responsibles of everything bad that happened to the real estate market.

    Two very frustrating aspects of this phenomenon are 1) the fuckers never seem to die fast enough. They repeat and repeat and repeat again the same bullshit, as the good students of Propaganda 101 a la Goebbels and Beria that they are. 2) the big banks have these trolls at the ready and on the cheap.

    It is past due time that we reduce the big banks to the status of utilities with regulations galore and limited compensation. The free-marketers can yell all the freak they wish, the simple fact is that banks are NOT private enterprises, but, by definition, wards of the State.

    A more substantive argument for tight regulations of the banking system is that even very robust and complex systems do harbor parts that are very tightly regulated. Case in point: the cell. It is very fault-tolerant, indispensable unit of complex life, yet, its main subsystems are very controlled, for obvious reasons.

    I have yet to hear or read a cogent argument (not a talking point…an argument!) as to why banks, as a subsystem of the economy should not be very tightly controlled.

    1. Frank Revelo

      You need to distinguish the depository and lending sides of banking. Nationalize the first (deposit go straight to the US Treasury for safekeeping), cut the second free of government interference entirely. Banks would presumably securitize their loans as much as possible, with the equity tranche backed by bank capital (debt and/or equity) and the remaining tranches backed by at-risk investor capital. When banks go bankrupt, no different from a venture capital fund going bankrupt.

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