The CFTC story

June 24, 2009

Some interesting facts I didn’t know:

  1. Sheila Bair tried to stop Wendy Gramm.
  2. Gramm went straight from CFTC chair to Enron’s board of directors.

From a great post at the HuffPo:

In the 1990s, the CFTC began allowing many privately negotiated derivatives, or so-called over-the-counter contracts, to escape regulation.

Wendy Gramm, CFTC chair from 1988 to 1993 and wife of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, supported a rule change in 1992 that loosened the energy trading industry for companies like Enron. Sheila Bair, then a commissioner at the CFTC and now director of the FDIC, cast the lone dissenting vote at the commission, saying the plan “sets a dangerous precedent.”

Five weeks later, after resigning from the CFTC, Wendy Gramm joined Enron’s board of directors. The gig was lucrative. According to the watchdog group Public Citizen, over the course of the following eight years, Enron paid her between $915,000 and $1.85 million.

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The neocons continue to criticize prez Obama for not denouncing the Iranian regime more forcefully.

The president, of course, has been very clear about not wanting to make it about us, and give the mullahs a scapegoat, which would actually hinder the demonstrators.  Every non-neocon analyst agrees with that.  Even Iranian tweeters.  It makes absolute sense to me.  I mean, duh!

Now Zakaria points out that they took the exact same line against George H. W. Bush when the Soviet Union started cracking.  Of course, Bush’s cautios and measured approach worked and has been vindicated by history.

And how did their Iraq adventure turn out?  Wrong again.

The insane thing is that news media keeps bringing these idiots in to stomp over every serious and constructive discussion.  In fact they give them awards!

Why?  I don’t know, and I’m not going to start a conspiracy theory.  We will find out eventually.

But I know this: They speak for the Israeli right and for the military-industrial complex, not for us.

And America is worse for it.

YouTube is making Gil Scott-Heron look bad.

I can’t wait for network TV to die already.

Zakaria: Greed is Good

June 14, 2009

Fareed Zakaria takes a step back and looks at the crisis like noone else has yet I think.  Spectacular article.

I love the name too:  It reminds me of how my neighbor used to tease me and call me “Alex P. Keaton” because I would always say ‘greed is good’ (even though I’m a proud progressive).

I’m becoming quite a fan.  His Sunday show is a must-see.   Just check out his recent one with Michael Lewis to understand Wall Street culture, or the Lula DaSilva interview to understand how a leftist government can actually be good for business.  I only wish it was one or two hours long and I would watch it throughout the week.

Here’s a passage from the article that shows great depth and historical perspective:

Each crisis convinced observers that it signaled the end of some new, dangerous feature of the economic landscape. But often that novelty accelerated in the years that followed. The 1987 crash was said to be the product of computer trading, which has, of course, expanded dramatically since then. The East Asian crisis was meant to end the happy talk about “emerging markets,” which are now at the center of world growth. The collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998—which then–Treasury secretary Robert Rubin described as “the worst financial crisis in 50 years”—was meant to be the end of hedge funds, which then massively expanded. The technology bubble’s bursting in 2000 was supposed to put an end to the dreams of oddball Internet startups. Goodbye, Pets.com; hello, Twitter. Now we hear that this crisis is the end of derivatives. Let’s see. Robert Shiller, one of the few who predicted this crash almost exactly—and the dotcom bust as well—argues that in fact we need more derivatives to make markets more stable.

I love this sculpture

Bansky sculpture

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Iran’s moment

June 14, 2009

The next day or two will have a profound significance on U.S. foreign policy for years to come.

It may be that an Israeli airstrike becomes inevitable, or on the other hand a Tiananmen-style massacre creates an internal crisis which forces the leadership to turn inward and lessen Iran’s impact as a player in the region.

Juan Cole has some great writeups, but to follow the latest developments you should checkout Andrew Sullivan‘s and Josh Marshall‘s blogs.  They are keeping close watch, with assists from their Farsi speaking readers and local bloggers.

Don’t bother watching the news networks, they’re asleep at the switch.

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these.  It just wasn’t fun anymore to watch them self-destruct.  But Limbaugh really merits one this week:

He calls on his dittoheads to boycott GM.

That’s, of course, preposterous and even treasonous, as we are talking about the jobs and lives of fellow Americans who happen to be in dire straits at the moment and who would have had it much worse had all of us (the taxpayer) not come to their rescue.

So this strikes me as just another nail in the GOP coffin as it will push Ohio, Indiana and other swing states even more towards the Democratic column.  That’s true even if Rush’s dreams come true (Obama’s policies fail miserably or there is another terrorist attack).

And all for what?  I see no upside for the party.  This won’t get them any additional votes, even in the South.  Maybe better ratings, if that.

In fact, if anything I think this will be helpful to GM (and the administration):

Say Rush gets 20% of his listeners (which total about 10-15% of American adults) on board with this.  That’s about a 2% loss of market for GM.  But every action has an opposite reaction, and if this gets even just 10% of the rest of the country to look at a GM car out of patriotism and solidarity (and perhaps disgust), that’s a gain of 9%.  Resulting in a net market gain of 7%

So thank you Rush!