January 24th, 2010


Regulations? We Dont Need No Stinking Regulations...

Elizabeth Warren: Pass A Consumer Protection Agency Or Forget Regulatory Reform

If the financial reform bill doesn't establish an effective and independent consumer protection agency, Congress would be better off passing nothing at all, Elizabeth Warren warned on Friday.

Warren, one of the country's foremost consumer-right's advocates and the congressionally-appointed watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said her chief concern is that financial regulatory reform legislation will suffer the same fate as health care reform -- with noble principles either scaled down or negotiated away. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency, she said, is not optional.

"The CFPA is the heart of what makes regulatory reform work," Warren said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "The consumer credit market is where the biggest abuses were. It is where families will be most directly affected and it is where the American people will see change. CFPA is how to make clear that regulatory reform is for them, and that it isn't a game among insiders.

"We just can't pass a regulatory reform bill that acquiesces to the industry on every front and where everything is so watered down that nobody has to take a hard vote," she said.

"It's not ok to weaken the agency so much that, while everyone can vote yes and pretend to support consumers' right to a fair deal, nothing really changes. I want a strong agency, and if there's not going to be a strong agency, then I at least want to see an up-or-down vote on it. Let's see a vote."

And if it fails?

"Shame on them," Warren declared.

The remarks are a shot across the brow to Democratic lawmakers, particularly Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who recently floated the idea of dropping the CFPA as a way of winning bipartisan support for the bill. Dodd is a strong CFPA supporter himself, but the difficulty of corralling the 60 votes needed to beat back a Republican filibuster has compelled him to consider concessions. Dodd is said to be offering Republicans a consumer protection program that would be tucked inside another regulatory agency, rather than being independent.
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Free Market 2.0 Needs a New Patch. Error "Regulation" File Not Found.

The Minds Behind the Meltdown
How a swashbuckling breed of mathematicians and computer scientists nearly destroyed Wall Street

On Thursday, President Barack Obama proposed new rules to curb a number of Wall Street's risky—and highly profitable—trading activities. One target: The secretive trading operations within banks that use large doses of leverage, or borrowed money, to make huge bets on the market. Wall Street says the regulations are unnecessary, and since the financial crisis struck, most banks have cut back on these trading outfits. But when the downturn first hit in the summer of 2007, several of them were among the first to suffer, and collectively they lost billions over a matter of days.

In his new book, "The Quants," Wall Street Journal reporter Scott Patterson suggests how this new breed of mathematicians and computer scientists took over much of the financial system—and the damage they inflicted in the 2007 meltdown.

At Morgan Stanley's investing powerhouse Process Driven Trading on Monday, Aug. 6, founder Peter Muller was AWOL, visiting a friend near Boston. Mike Reed and Amy Wong manned the helm, PDT veterans from the days when the group was nothing more than a thought experiment, its traders a small band of young math whizzes tinkering with computers like brainy teenagers in a cluttered garage.

On Wall Street, they were all known as "quants," traders and financial engineers who used brain-twisting math and superpowered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market. Instead of looking at individual companies and their performance, management and competitors, they use math formulas to make bets on which stocks were going up or down. By the early 2000s, such tech-savvy investors had come to dominate Wall Street, helped by theoretical breakthroughs in the application of mathematics to financial markets, advances that had earned their discoverers several shelves of Nobel Prizes.

PDT, one of the most secretive quant funds around, was now a global powerhouse, with offices in London and Tokyo and about $6 billion in assets (the amount could change daily depending on how much money Morgan funneled its way). It was a well-oiled machine that did little but print money, day after day.

That week, however, PDT wouldn't print money—it would destroy it like an industrial shredder.

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Bronx men to file $2M suit against city after cops arrested them for 'crack' that was really candy

Source: NY Daily News

A drug bust of two Bronx men wasn't all it was cracked up to be - and now they're looking for a sweet payday from the city.

Cops accused Cesar Rodriguez and Jose Pena of having crack cocaine in their work van, but it was only coconut candy, they said Friday.

Charges were dropped after tests showed they were telling the truth, but the two men plan to file a $2 million suit against the NYPD.

"I spent five days in jail for possession of coconut candy," said Rodriguez, 33, an ex-con who works as a plumber's assistant.

He and Pena were parked near an Arthur Ave. bodega Jan. 15 when two police officers asked to search their green Chevy Venture van, the men said.

The cops found pieces of the crystalline candy - known as crema de coco and sold in bodegas across the city - in a plastic baggie.

Officer Anthony Burgos of the 48th Precinct arrested the duo for drug possession despite their insistence they were guilty only of a sweet tooth, Rodriguez said.

"I kept telling him it is candy," he said.

Rodriguez and Pena were locked up on a Friday night and didn't see a judge for arraignment until that Sunday, said their lawyer, Neil Wollerstein.

Pena was released after arraignment, but Rodriguez couldn't make the $5,000 bail a judge imposed because of a prior armed robbery conviction. He wasn't let go until this Thursday, the lawyer said.

"This all could have been avoided if they believed us and tasted the candy," said Pena, 48, a father of four boys who works with Rodriguez. "I thought my life was over."

Wollerstein said cops ignored proper procedure.

"They could have called for a field test [on the substance] and let these men go," he said as the notice of claim was filed with the controller's office.

"Either these two officers failed to follow procedure and were completely incompetent or they intentionally arrested these men for possession of coconut candy."

Stephen Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney's office, confirmed all charges were dropped.

"This wasn't a narcotic substance," he said.

The NYPD declined to comment.

The confection at the center of the case is widely available. It comes shaped like a rod and wrapped in plain cellophane.

Rodriguez said he crumbled his into pieces and put it in a Hello Kitty sandwich bag so it would be easier to eat while driving.

He got hooked on the sweet because his grandmother used to make it - and has no plans of quitting his habit.

"It just melts in your mouth," he said. "I eat this every day, and I'm not going to stop because of what I've just been through."

Chile's Billy Carter?

Every world leader, it seems, has that one member of the family he'd rather not see getting too much press. Jimmy Carter had Billy. Hamid Karzai has Ahmad Wali. Bill Clinton had Roger.

Behold, Miguel "El Negro" Piñera, the brother of Chile's new president:

I managed to get this iPhone shot of Miguel, a night-club owner, respected musician, and notorious party animal, at Sebastian Piñera's victory party Sunday in Santiago. Let's just say that, among the well-heeled crowd dressed in a seeming uniform of khaki pants and pastel-colored polo shirts, Miguel stood out. Here he is at an earlier event, enthusiastically receiving what is apparently some kind of traditional Chilean dessert:

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LOLOLOL I've been saying this forever (Negro Pinera = Billy Carter of Chile). Nice to see my observations getting publicity xD
Also, por favor, read the comments. They are hilarious (the ones that talk about how fuckin dysfunctional the Pinera family is)

Republicans coming out for marriage equality

Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, is the latest high-profile Republican to declare support for marriage equality for gays and lesbians.  Her daughter, Meghan, has been a vocal supporter for more than a year.

Sure, Republicans are still more likely to resist marriage equality.  In fact, late yesterday Senator McCain’s office felt the need to issue a statement reassuring voters he’s still opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples.  But just in the last year a number of notable conservatives have made the case that supporting loving couples should be a non-partisan issue.  They include:

Vice President Dick Cheney, who, while he responds to the marriage question with the somewhat oblique “freedom means freedom for everybody,” has not challenged the understanding that he supports full marriage rights for gays and lesbians.


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' how to disappear completely
  • schmiss


VP Biden: I Don’t Think Beau Wants to Run for Senate

In an interview with a columnist in his home state of Delaware, Vice President Joe Biden confirms what many Democrats have been buzzing about for weeks: Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden does not want to run for his father’s old Senate seat.

At the end of a wide-ranging conversation with the Delaware News Journal’s Harry F. Themal, the vice president brought up the race to fill his Senate seat.

Here’s the exchange, as recounted by Themal:
Biden: "If you run into Beau, talk him into running; he respects you."

Themal: "I don't think he wants to run, though."

Biden: "I don't think he does either. I know he doesn't want to. ... I'm so proud of the job he's done [as attorney general]."

Themal: "Would you campaign for him [against Republican Mike Castle]?"

Biden: "Hell, yes. I told him I'd give him my sixth-born grandchild."
If Beau Biden takes a pass, it would strike a major blow to Democratic efforts to hold on to the blue-state Senate seat.

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., is mounting a strong challenge for the seat, which is now held by Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., a former Biden aide who filled the seat with the understanding that he would not run for a full term.



If Judges Think Corporations Are People, They Probably Think Fetuses Are, Too

Last week, the Supreme Court's overturned established law and ruled that, since corporations are people and money is speech, corporations can run commercials for their favored candidates. Legal scholars worry that Roe v. Wade is next on conservatives' agenda.

Pro-choice advocates are worried about two things when it comes to the Supreme Court's ruling in this case: the court's willingness to abandon decades of established legal precedent (stare decisis); and the court's decision to pick a legal question not explicitly presented to them by the case to overturn a law they'd apparently already made up their minds about. These very things are, when it comes down to it, exactly what anti-abortion advocates are cheering.

Josh Gerstein gets them all on the record in Politico:

"Yesterday's Roberts court decision, which exhibited a stunning disregard for settled law of decades' standing, is terrifying to those of us who care deeply about the constitutional protections the court put in place for women's access to abortion," said Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We are deeply concerned. ... Yesterday's decision shows the court will reach out to take an opportunity to wholesale reverse a precedent the hard right has never liked."

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Study: Boys Who See Porn More Likely To Harass Girls

Boys exposed to porn are more likely to indulge in casual sex and less likely to form successful relationships when they grow older, according to research carried out in a dozen countries.

The report, Harms of Pornography Exposure Among Children and Young People, also found that young boys who see pornography are more inclined to believe there is nothing wrong with pinning down or sexually harassing a girl.

Michael Flood, who carried out the study at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, said: “There is compelling evidence from around the world that pornography has negative effects on individuals and communities.

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I'm curious about your opinions, ONTD_P

JL: Annoyed J. Law

VP’s Office: Biden Was Talking About Ted Kaufman, not Beau Biden

An update to this post:

The vice president’s office contacted ABC News to say that Vice President Joe Biden was talking about convincing his interim replacement, Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., to run for a full term -- not, as the News Journal reported, his son, Beau.

A spokeswoman for the vice president provided this transcript of the conversation, and played me the audio of the vice president’s end of the conversation. The audio confirms the transcript below:

VP to Harry Themal: Always a pleasure of seeing you buddy. Talk Ted into running, if Beau doesn’t. Talk him into running – he respects you. I wish I had the power of appointing Senators. I’d appoint him from Maryland if he wouldn’t do Delaware.

Harry Themal: "I don't think he wants to run, though."

VP: No I don’t think he does either. I know he doesn’t. I’m so proud of the job he’s done. God.

Harry: Would you campaign for him?

VP: Oh hell yeah, man. I tell you what – I was joking if Beau didn’t run – I told him I’d give him my 6th-born grandchild. And you know, he said ‘I have enough of those.’ Alright, buddy, thanks. (Call ends).


That would explain the grandchild comment.

Ex-US Commerce Secretary Mosbacher Dies In Houston

Robert Mosbacher Sr., a Houston oil multimillionaire who served as U.S. Commerce secretary under his close friend, President George H.W. Bush, died Sunday at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He was 82.

Mosbacher died after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer, family spokesman Jim McGrath.

The Texan was a powerful Republican fundraiser who served at the top echelons of Bush's presidential campaigns and most recently served as a general campaign chairman for 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

As commerce secretary, Mosbacher helped lay the foundation for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Together we shared a journey that led to the presidency, the mountaintop of American politics, and there we worked together to help America more fully embrace the world around us and compete in the newly emerging global markets that the waning Cold War made accessible," Bush said in a statement. "No doubt, he will be remembered as one the most effective commerce secretaries in our nation's history."

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RIP sir.

Did Gavin Newsom Sacrifice His Career for Gay Rights? by Michael A. Jones

In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was considered one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party. Forget talk of being Governor -- there was talk of even one day seeing a President Newsom. He was young, well-funded, and had a history of being a successful businessman. And it only helped that the world thought he was pretty fine to look at, too.

But then, immediately after the State of the Union address in 2004, Gavin Newsom made the bold move to try and recognize same-sex marriages in San Francisco. The move made him a hero to LGBT people the country, if not the world, over. But the support he had among the Democratic Party establishment? Well, it may have just come toppling all around him.

Earlier this week, Newsom spoke to Maureen Dowd, and drew a roadmap of his political popularity over the past few years. If you listen to Newsom, you get the sense that the point at which his popularity started to fall was when he made the decision to champion same-sex marriage, suggesting that the Democratic Party punished him for being ahead of the curve on marriage equality.


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' jules
  • schmiss

(no subject)

Thought experiment

What states might look like if, as with Congressional districts, their borders were periodically redrawn to reflect population changes.

This map is by Neil Freeman from FakeIsTheNewReal.org. It's based on a division of the country into 50 state units with more-or-less equal population -- 5 to 6 million apiece -- and preserving existing boundaries where possible. (As with the new state of "Missouri.") I love many of the other state names -- Lincoln, Joaquin, Tombigbee. My childhood home would have been along the border of Coronado and Mojave. In a reapportioned Senate each of these units would have two votes.

In the same spirit of "zero-based governance," also consider H. Res. 1018, introduced this week in the House of Representatives, calling on the Senate -- please! -- to drop the recent aberrational practice of applying the filibuster to all legislation, and instead to reserve it for rare, emergency use. Or, as its authors put it, "Requesting the Senate to adjust its rules to reflect the intent of the framers of the Constitution by amending the Senate's filibuster rule, Rule 22, to facilitate the consideration of bills and amendments." Worth a shot!


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Further analysis here

My state is basically the same, I don't really like that we're taking on parts of Iowa and Wisconsin though. Would you like your new states ONTD_P?

Obama summoned for jury duty in Chicago

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) - President Barack Obama will be skipping jury duty after being summoned in Illinois.

A White House official said Sunday that the president has alerted the court he won't be able to make it.

Obama was summoned for jury duty at the Bridgeview courthouse in suburban Chicago starting Monday. The summons had arrived at the Obama home on Chicago's South Side.

With his first State of the Union speech set for Wednesday, Obama has a busy week ahead.

The president is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

  • ameonna

Yeah, this sounds right.

They are paid a fortune for their ability to make complex decisions about where to invest millions of pounds every single day.

But perhaps the job of an investment banker is not quite as difficult as it might seem.

A chimpanzee in Russia has out-performed 94 per cent of the country's investment funds with her portfolio growing by three times in the last year.

Moscow TV reported how circus chimp Lusha chose eight companies from a possible 30 to invest her one million roubles - around £21,000.

Lusha the monkey in her stage act for a Moscow circus. Lusha has outperformed almost all of Russia's investment funds with her stock picks.

'She bought successfully and her portfolio grew almost three times. She did better than almost the whole of the rest of the market,' said editor of Russian Finance magazine Oleg Anisimov.

He questioned why so-called financial whizz-kids are still receiving hefty perks for their expertise .

'Everyone is shocked. What are they getting their bonuses for? Maybe it's worth sending them all to the circus.'

The money-wise ape was given cubes representing different companies and asked: 'Lusha where would you like to invest your money this year?'

Pausing briefly to think, she then picked out her eight cubes.

Lusha's top picks included banks where shares soon rose a stunning 600 per cent after large-scale support from the Kremlin to weather the crisis.

She missed out on telecommunications which scored a 240 per cent profit, but went for mining companies, up 150 per cent.

The Russian media heaped more scorn on the investment experts saying: 'Lusha made all serious analysts look like clowns.'

One broker hit back: 'If the experiment had taken place a year earlier, the monkey would not have had enough money to pay for her bananas.'

And her trainer Svetlana Maksimova admitted: 'Money questions should be decided by financiers and politicians. If monkeys get into it, our economy will collapse at once.'

But Pavel Trunin, the head of monetary policy department at the Institute for the Economy in Transition in Moscow, said enviously: 'It shows that financial knowledge does not play a great role in giving forecasts to how the market will change.

'It is usually a matter of more or less successful guessing. And the monkey got lucky.' The monkey, owned by legendary Russian trainer Lev Dorov, split her investments between state-owned corporations and private companies.

Source has started working on Shakespeare, starting with "A Comedy of Errors."

I heard about this on NPR's Wait Wait first.

Also, you guys, the Daily Fail needs a copy editor. I fixed a bunch of typos from the source while I was bolding, and wondered if they had Lusha type up the article, 'cause, seriously, pathetic.
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