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Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:03 PM


Weekend Economists Ask: "What Were They Thinking?" March 16-18, 2012

I first heard Christine Lavin's songs in New Hampshire. My voice teacher was enamored of her witty doggerel. She didn't have much of a voice, but she used it to the max. What she has is a sharp-to-the-point-of-cutting way with words.

"What Was I Thinking" (the first time I heard it) was about the perils of blind dates. I remember one telling chorus to the verse relating the dinner date: "What was I thinking? I'm taking up drinking, and thinking of ending my life!"

Now that both Christine (and I) have reached "grandmother age", she's turned the tune to political ends:

For a continuous looping of some of her hits, go to Chistine Lavin radio:


Christine Lavin (born January 2, 1952) is a New York City-based singer-songwriter and promoter of contemporary folk music. She has recorded numerous solo albums, and has also recorded with other female folk artists under the name Four Bitchin' Babes. She has also put together several compilation albums of contemporary folk artists, including her latest JUST ONE ANGEL, 22 singer/songwriters singing Christmas/Hanukah/Solstice/New Year's songs including actor Jeff Daniels, Grammy-winners Janis Ian and Julie Gold, and the Guitar Man Of Central Park David Ippolito.

She is known for her sense of humor, which is expressed in both her music and her onstage performances. Many of her songs alternate between emotional reflections on romance and outright comedy. Two of her more famous songs include "Sensitive New Age Guys" and "Bald Headed Men."

One of Lavin's songs, "Regretting What I Said to You When You Called Me 11:00 On a Friday Morning to Tell Me that at 1:00 Friday Afternoon You're Gonna Leave Your Office, Go Downstairs, Hail a Cab to Go Out to the Airport to Catch a Plane to Go Skiing in the Alps for Two Weeks, Not that I Wanted to Go With You, I Wasn't Able to Leave Town, I'm Not a Very Good Skier, I Couldn't Expect You to Pay My Way, But After Going Out With You for Three Years I DON'T Like Surprises!! Subtitled: A Musical Apology" is notable for having the longest known song title.[citation needed] It is the eighth song on her 1984 album Future Fossils, and is 3:04 (3 minutes and 4 seconds) long.

In her youth, Lavin was a cheerleader in Peekskill, New York, and she still has impressive baton-twirling skills; she often ends a concert by twirling a glow-in-the-dark baton with the house lights turned off as she leaves the stage.

Lavin worked at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, New York, until Dave Van Ronk convinced her to move to New York City and make a career as a singer-songwriter. She followed his advice and accepted his offer of guitar lessons. She has lived in the City ever since.

Lavin was the original host of "Sunday Breakfast" on WFUV in New York City.

Lavin was a founding member of the Four Bitchin' Babes when they were formed in 1990.

In recent years Lavin has been known to host knitting circles before her shows, inviting any knitters, hookers (people who crochet), or other crafters to join her.---http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_Lavin

Her official website can be found at: http://www.christinelavin.com/index.php?page=home

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Reply Weekend Economists Ask: "What Were They Thinking?" March 16-18, 2012 (Original post)
Demeter Mar 2012 OP
Demeter Mar 2012 #1
dixiegrrrrl Mar 2012 #77
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #2
bread_and_roses Mar 2012 #72
Demeter Mar 2012 #82
hamerfan Mar 2012 #3
Po_d Mainiac Mar 2012 #16
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #24
Demeter Mar 2012 #4
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #10
Demeter Mar 2012 #5
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #6
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #12
Demeter Mar 2012 #7
DemReadingDU Mar 2012 #8
girl gone mad Mar 2012 #9
Po_d Mainiac Mar 2012 #17
Demeter Mar 2012 #56
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Demeter Mar 2012 #62
DemReadingDU Mar 2012 #63
dixiegrrrrl Mar 2012 #79
Po_d Mainiac Mar 2012 #70
Demeter Mar 2012 #11
mbperrin Mar 2012 #35
Tansy_Gold Mar 2012 #13
girl gone mad Mar 2012 #14
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #15
Po_d Mainiac Mar 2012 #19
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #25
Po_d Mainiac Mar 2012 #30
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #34
Po_d Mainiac Mar 2012 #39
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #40
Fuddnik Mar 2012 #20
Demeter Mar 2012 #23
bread_and_roses Mar 2012 #54
Demeter Mar 2012 #18
Tansy_Gold Mar 2012 #71
Demeter Mar 2012 #21
girl gone mad Mar 2012 #27
Demeter Mar 2012 #33
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #32
Demeter Mar 2012 #36
Ghost Dog Mar 2012 #38
Demeter Mar 2012 #41
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Demeter Mar 2012 #22
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Demeter Mar 2012 #46
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xchrom Mar 2012 #50
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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:13 PM

1. Here is one of her "dating" songs



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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 09:58 AM

77. Wow..thank you for introducing me to her.

She has a lovely voice, marvelous cutting humor.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:17 PM

2. LEAP/E2020: The five devastating storms in summer 2012 at the heart of the world geopolitical swing


- Public announcement GEAB N°63 (15 mars 2012) - ... Global systemic crisis – The five devastating storms in summer 2012 at the heart of the world geopolitical swing

In its January 2012 issue, LEAP/E2020 signalled the current year as that of the world geopolitical swing. The first quarter 2012 has, to a large extent, started to establish that an era was in fact coming to an end with, in particular, the Russian and Chinese decisions to block any Western attempt at interference in Syria (1); their stated desire, associated with India (2) especially, to ignore or circumvent the oil embargo fixed by the United States and the EU (3) against Iran; the increasing tensions in relations between the United States and Israel (4); the acceleration of the policy of diversification out of the US Dollar led by China (5) and the BRICS (but also by Japan and Euroland (6)); the premise of change in Euroland’s political strategy at the time of the French electoral campaign (7); and the intensification of actions and statements fuelling the rising strength of trans-bloc commercial wars (8). In March 2012, we are far from March 2011 and the “hustling” of the UN by the USA/UK/France trio to attack Libya. March 2011 was still the unipolar world of after 1989. March 2012 is already the post-crisis multipolar world hesitating between confrontations and partnerships.

Thus, as anticipated by LEAP/E2020, the handling of the “Greek crisis” (9) has quickly caused the disappearance of the so-called “Euro crisis” from the media headlines and market participants’ concerns. The mass hysteria maintained by the Anglo-Saxon media and the Eurosceptics during the second half of 2011 on this subject hasn’t lasted long: Euroland is increasingly asserting itself as a sustainable structure (10); once again the Euro is in vogue in the markets and for emerging countries’ central banks (11), the Eurogroup/ECB functioned effectively and private investors will have to accept a haircut of up to 70% on their Greek assets, thus confirming LEAP/E2020’s 2010 anticipation which then spoke of a 50% haircut when almost no-one imagined such a possibility without a “catastrophe” signalling the end of the Euro (12). Ultimately, markets always yield to the law of the strongest… and the fear of losing more, whatever the students of ultra-liberalism may say. It’s a lesson which political leaders will jealously guard because there are other haircuts to come, in the United States, in Japan and in Europe. We will come back to this in this GEAB issue...

... Contemporaneously, and that contributes to explaining the gentle euphoria which feeds the markets and many economic and financial players these last few months, due to it being an electoral year and from the need to make a good impression at all costs against a Eurozone which isn’t collapsing (13), the US financial media have given us a remake of the “green shoots” story from the beginning of 2010 and the “recovery” (14) from the beginning of 2011 in order to paint a picture of an America “exiting the crisis”. However, the United States at this beginning of 2012 really resembles a depressing scene painted by Edward Hopper (15) and not a glowing 60s chromo in the style of Andy Warhol. Just as in 2010 and 2011, the spring will for that matter be the moment of the return to the real world.

In this context all the more dangerous, as all the players are lulled by a dangerous illusion of a “return to normal”, in particular of the “restarting of the US economic engine” (16), LEAP/E2020 considers it necessary to alert its readers to the fact that summer 2012 will see the shattering of this illusion. In fact, we anticipate that summer 2012 will see the crystallization of five devastating shocks which are at the heart of the current process of world geopolitical swing. The black clouds which have been accumulating since the beginning of the crisis around economic and financial issues have now been joined by the dark clouds of geopolitical confrontation.

Therefore, in LEAP/E2020’s view, five devastating storms will mark the summer of 2012 and thus accelerate the process of world geopolitical swing:

. US relapse into recession against the background of European stagnation and BRICS slowdown
. dead end for the central banks and interest rate increases
. storm on the foreign exchange and Western sovereign debt markets
. Iran, the war « too far »
. new crash in the markets and financial institutions...

/More... http://www.leap2020.eu/GEAB-N-63-is-available-Global-systemic-crisis-The-five-devastating-storms-in-summer-2012-at-the-heart-of-the-world_a9601.html

- Posted same here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/11168635

(Comment from Demeter - cf. SMW Friday - http://www.democraticunderground.com/11168536 :

66. If you don't mind, GD, I will repost this on the weekend thread

It's seminal.)

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Response to Ghost Dog (Reply #2)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 07:20 AM

72. There's a hopeful note way at the bottom -

in a "note" in fact (#7)

Now, I don't grasp about 2/3 of the article (don't have a clue what BRICS is, for instance) - but I follow the general outlines. In the first paragraph is this item on the list:

the premise of change in Euroland’s political strategy at the time of the French electoral campaign (7)

The note at the bottom is:

(7) Namely the end of social-liberalism which had taken the place of European social democracy during these last two decades; and the return of the “social market economy” at the heart of the Rhineland model, the historic continental European model. From the Slovakia of the new Prime Minister, Fico to the France of the future president, Hollande (this isn’t a political choice but the result of our anticipations published from November 2010 in the GEAB N°49) via the Italy of Mario Monti and a Germany where conservatives and social democrats must, from now on, take the European path together, as they must to obtain the majority necessary for the ratification of the new European treaties, one sees the contours of Euroland’s future economic and social strategy taking shape: reinforced progressive taxation, social solidarity, economically effective, the financial sector put under control, customs vigilance,… in short: a high speed distancing from the Anglo-Saxon model in vogue amongst the European continent’s elite for the last 20 years.

(my emphasis added)

Those all sound like good things to me - though not quite sure to what exactly they refer by "social solidarity" - amid and between the countries, maybe?

Of course, "Iran, the war « too far »" seems a great dark shadow (and I'm not sure exactly what the "<< >>" means) - all I know is that the seeming drum-beating here in US is very scary.

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Response to bread_and_roses (Reply #72)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 12:06 PM

82. BRICS is Brazil, Russia, India, China--Developing nations, they call them


Notice how they carefully exclude all the rest of South and Central America especially Venezuela and Cuba, although Russia is on its second or third reincarnation...and China is a phoenix, repeatedly up from the ashes for millenia...while India has entirely different social parameters and this is their first attempt at Western style.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:21 PM

3. What were they thinking in Dearborn, MI?


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Response to hamerfan (Reply #3)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 08:26 PM

16. Back at ya

911 Operator: 911, What is your emergency?

My huntin buddy is dead. I think he had a heart attack!

911 Operator: Are you sure your buddy is dead?

Load boom is heard by by 911 operator
Yup, I’m sure now.

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #16)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:46 PM

24. That be so.


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:29 PM

4. Concerns rise over eurozone fiscal treaty


EU officials insist that rejection in any one country would not be significant, since the treaty can go into effect even if as few as 12 eurozone members ratify


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Response to Demeter (Reply #4)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:47 PM

10. When Irish Eyes Are Hopeful


... Two years ago, Ireland received a $67.5 billion bailout package from European governments and the International Monetary Fund. Ireland’s banking system has stabilized for the most part, but the country is still coping with a budget deficit clocking about 10 percent of gross domestic product and the government is likely to cut its 1.3 percent growth forecast for 2012. On top of that, Kenny’s government will soon hold a Yes-No referendum on the European Union’s new fiscal treaty, which mandates tight deficit rules. If Ireland votes No, the country would be cut off from any additional support from the euro zone’s bailout fund—a worrisome scenario because the economy may yet need more financial help.

Burton took a break from the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at a Midtown Manhattan restaurant to discuss Ireland’s crucial referendum vote and the outlook for the economy. Here are the edited excerpts:

When will your government schedule the referendum on the fiscal treaty, and are you confident voters will sign off on this?

There have been two major polls showing support. But I should caution that referenda in Ireland are very difficult to call. People understand this is a big issue and will contemplate the vote seriously. As for the timing, it will be late May or early June—or late June or early July. We need to have this vote by October. (Ireland’s school-entrance exams are held in mid-June.)

If voters say No, what are your thoughts on Ireland remaining in the euro over the long term?

A Yes vote will secure Ireland’s future in the euro zone. The EU has had an enormous positive impact on Ireland. As for the debt treaty, we are already doing a lot of heavy lifting (on fiscal policy). The IMF and other regulators check our revenue returns on a daily and weekly basis. At the end of every quarter, a team arrives and goes over our books in great detail...

/more... http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-16/when-irish-eyes-are-hopeful

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:31 PM

5. Standard Chartered banker detained in China


A banker with the UK lender has been detained by police as part of a probe into a wealthy client who allegedly stole money from a state-owned bank


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:37 PM

6. Friday evening ZeroHedge snapshot: "Where "The Money" really is..."



/... http://www.zerohedge.com/

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Response to Ghost Dog (Reply #6)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:55 PM

12. Re. "You are here" (for the sake of your eyeballs/


attention spans (regulars & familiars excepted, sure)):


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:41 PM



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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:44 PM




Too funny, thanks for the laughs! I think we all need a few smiles.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:47 PM

9. More signs of a bumpy Chinese landing

So, the many meetings of the leaders of China have came to an end and the Shanghai stock market celebrated by falling 2.6% yesterday. There are a few things wroth noting from the past two days.

As mentioned early on, Wen Jiabao has made it clear that GDP growth target for the year would be 7.5% instead of 8%. And just to recap, the inflation target is 4% yoy, and the M2 target is 14% yoy. Curiously, even though we have long known that the growth target will be lowered, the market did not like this. Bear in mind that 7.5%, if achieved, would be a very decent growth.

There is a possibility that China is already growing less than 8%. J.P. Morgan certainly is declaring that a hard landing has already begun, via Bloomberg:

“If you look at the Chinese data, you should stop debating about a hard landing,” Mowat, who is based in Hong Kong, said at a conference in Singapore yesterday. “China is in a hard landing. Car sales are down, cement production is down, steel production is down, construction stocks are down. It’s not a debate anymore, it’s a fact.”

read more: http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2012/03/more-signs-of-a-bouncy-chinese-landing/

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Response to girl gone mad (Reply #9)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 08:36 PM

17. The Chinese are accustomed to rough landings


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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #17)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:08 AM

56. China will ensure tankers can haul Iran oil I BET THEY WILL; THANK YOU, CHINA!



China, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, will take steps to prevent European trade sanctions disrupting shipments from the Persian Gulf nation, said tanker operator China Shipping Development Co. The government has discussed ways of helping shipping companies get insurance once sanctions against Iran kick in on July 1, General Manager Yan Zhichong told reporters in Hong Kong today. The ministry of transport and National Development Reform Commission has had special meetings on the issue, he said.

“The attitude is clear -- we must make sure that the volume of our shipments will not drop,” Yan said. “The government regards it as a very important issue.”

China may nominate an insurer to cover oil shipments from Iran to ensure that supplies can continue, Yan said. European Union sanctions on Iran threaten to disrupt oil shipments because about 95 percent of the world’s tankers are insured against risks such as oil spills by the 13 members of the London-based International Group of P&I Clubs, according to Andrew Bardot, its secretary and executive officer.

China Shipping Development had a fleet of 72 tankers at the end of last year. The company is part of state-controlled China Shipping Group Co., the nation’s biggest sea-cargo carrier after China Ocean Shipping Group Co. China Shipping so far hasn’t had any disruptions in its cargos from Iran, Yan said. The Asian nation is underwriting some oil shipments, according to the International Energy Agency.

About 22 percent of Iranian oil exports go to China, according to U.S. Department of Energy estimates. The Asian nation opposes trade restrictions against Iran and said oil sanctions aren’t “constructive,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Jan. 26, citing comments from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs....

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Response to Demeter (Reply #56)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:13 AM

57. Iran’s Crude Oil Exports to Fall 50% on Embargo, IEA Says



Iran’s oil exports will probably decline by 50 percent when European sanctions take full effect in July, the International Energy Agency said. Shipments will fall by at least 800,000 barrels a day, David Fyfe, head of the IEA’s market and industry division, said by phone from Paris, citing discussions with market participants. Iran exported just below 2 million barrels a day last month, compared with 2.6 million in November, the IEA, adviser to 28 industrialized nations, said in a report today. Iran’s oil minister said exports haven’t decreased.

“It’s likely Iran will be casting around to try and find buyers for 800,000 barrels to 1 million barrels,” Fyfe said. “That sets the floor of what potential reductions in Iranian exports might be. It could be much bigger than that.”

... Oil sales earned the Persian Gulf country, the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries’ second-biggest producer, $73 billion in 2010, accounting for about 50 percent of government revenue, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Saudi Arabia is OPEC’s biggest exporter. Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi rejected the IEA’s estimates and said the government has reduced its dependence on oil revenue. Neither production nor exports have fallen, and the country expects at least as much oil income this year as in 2011, he said in an interview in Kuwait.

“We are exporting according to what we are supposed to do within OPEC,” Qasemi said. “The world is large enough and it is full of customers.”

Almost all buyers of Iranian crude will cut purchases because of sanctions, the IEA said. While there currently may be no physical supply disruption, European insurance companies have already announced the suspension of coverage for tankers calling at Iranian ports, according to the report....Iranian crude production fell 1.5 percent to 3.38 million barrels a day in February, the least in at least three years, the IEA said...While some European countries halted imports, India and South Korea increased purchases. Chinese imports fell 50 percent to 275,000 barrels a day in January because of a price dispute, which has now been resolved, according to the report. Some of Iran’s buyers have been able to secure discounts, the IEA said.

The 27 members of the European Union approved a ban on the purchase, transport, financing and insurance of Iranian oil on Jan. 23. Pre-existing contracts are exempt until July 1. The measure still has to be implemented by the European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm, before it becomes binding. The U.S. blocks access to its financial system for transactions with Iran’s central bank.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #57)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:14 AM




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Response to Demeter (Reply #58)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:15 AM

59. Iran Deleted From the World's Banking Computers



"Iran is being deleted from the world banking system Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) computers as of Saturday at 1600 UTC. Once the SWIFT codes for Iranian banks are deleted, Iranian banks will no longer be able to transfer funds to and from other worldwide banks, turning Iranian international commerce into a barter operation. SWIFT is taking the action at the request of EU members to comply with international sanctions against Iran due to its program to develop nuclear weapons. The effect will be to drastically hinder Iran's ability to execute international business transactions."

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Response to Demeter (Reply #59)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:22 AM

60. Will SWIFT ban on Iran strangle Spain?



With the upcoming EU electronic banking transactions ban on Iran, the Islamic Republic might face a crude economic pinch. However, in an attempt to pressure Tehran, technocrats in Brussels might actually be leading Spain to the scaffold.

­SWIFT, the world's biggest electronic banking system, is preparing to cut off Iranian financial firms, including the country's Central Bank, blacklisted by the EU. The move is part of the European plan to impose an embargo on Iranian oil this summer over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The EU and US are hoping to force Iran to the negotiating table by targeting its oil revenues.


But the measure is expected to backfire on average Europeans, particularly in Spain, which imports over 1.5 million barrels of oil from Iran daily.

“Even assuming that the case against Iran is strong, the sanctions right now, exercised by countries like Spain, Greece or Italy, will damage those countries more than it will damage Iran,” journalist Miguel-Anxo Murado told RT.

While countries like France and Britain can easily ban Iranian oil because they are not dependent on it, the EU’s most economically battered states – Spain, Greece and Italy – will feel the effect of the sanctions most.

“Of course we can’t refuse. The pressure from the US, Britain and France is huge,” Murado acknowledged.

Spain is Europe’s second largest importer of Iranian oil after Italy. When the EU-imposed sanctions on Tehran come into force this July, a good share of Spaniards may find driving a car an unattainable luxury. One way or another, Spain has until July to find alternative sources of crude supplies. The country has already promised to switch oil imports as it continues to buy Iranian oil, albeit in lower quantities. In addition, Spain's biggest refiner Repsol has repeatedly declined to comment on the details of its oil purchases. In late January, Repsol also announced it had started the long-awaited exploration of offshore oilfields near Cuba. However, any positive benefits felt from that venture will not materialize for several years. Petrol prices in Spain used to be among the lowest in Europe. Now prices are rising as the looming oil embargo is expected to push them even higher. In a healthy economic situation, a rise in oil prices might be problematic. But coming at a time when Spain is on the brink of a second recession, it’s proving a nightmare for the population. One year ago, Spain already had to reduce the speed limit from 120 km/h to 110 km/h in an effort to save up to €2.3 billion a year in oil costs. Today, with unemployment soaring at 22.8 percent, Spain has found itself in really dire straits.

RT’s Sara Firth spoke with people at a gas station in Valencia and most of them, if not all, seem to be petrified by the prospect of further spikes in gas prices.

“It's terrible that we should pay for decisions taken in Brussels, it's not known whom they are taken for but certainly not for ordinary people,” one of them told RT.

Spanish citizens said if the already high prices go even higher, people won’t be able to afford gasoline. THAT'S NOT A BUG, IT'S A FEATURE. Attempts to calm fears about a rise in prices have been made, with Saudi Arabia saying it has enough oil to make up for the loss of Iran’s supplies when the embargo comes into force. But countries like Spain will still be paying the price of lost trade with Tehran and the cost of replacing oil contracts with the Islamic Republic, which have in fact increased since the EU-backed Libyan war...Moreover, the prospect of military standoff with Iran is causing huge concern among oil traders and economists. Energy Expert Adolfo Jumenez Regulio told RT that “while there is no war – price escalations due to sanctions can be corrected. The problems will come if there is a war with Iran – then you could see a real crisis.”

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Response to Demeter (Reply #60)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:37 AM

62. A Tale of Two Tales What Real World? By Fred Reed



As I listen to American fury against uncoöperative Afghans, to Congress furiously denouncing Pakistan for anemic aid in conducting the current wars, I sometimes wonder whether the US is playing with a full deck. The anger arises I suspect because the US and the rest of the world work from very different premises. They believe in, as we say, distinct narratives.

The American narrative holds that the United States is a light to the world, the freest, richest, most productive country the world has ever seen, the greatest military power, the most prolific producer of technology and of Nobel laureates. America is a force for freedom and democracy, a champion of human rights, a land of universal opportunity with liberty and justice for all. The Unites States is what all countries could be if they accepted our values. History supports this view. In a raw continent, American energy and free enterprise carved a paradise from a wilderness. This narrative, the belief that America is special among nations, favored by God, pervades the culture. Those old enough will remember that Superman fought for “truth, justice, and the American way.” Underlying all of this is a profoundly moral view of America's place in the world. The United States does not fight, like the French, for glory or like the English, for empire, or like the Russians, to steal watches from the wounded. America fights against Evil, whether in the form of communism, terror, Islam, socialism, or the growing threat of enslavement by Chinese communism. These evils are real, Americans believe, immediate, and threaten us with tyranny. The narrative of the US military springs from the national narrative. American soldiers are brave, wholesome young men selflessly sacrificing to overthrow brutal dictators, to defeat terror, and to give the oppressed peoples the benefits of democracy. This actually happened in Japan, Germany, and Iraq, asserts the narrative. Sure, a bad apple among GIs may occasionally commit an atrocity, but these are isolated incidents and blown out of proportion by a leftist press.

Quite different is what might be called the World Narrative, held around the globe with differing intensities and emphases. It holds the US to be an endlessly aggressive military power that is out of control, hypocritically speaking of democracy and freedom while supporting dictators and overthrowing elected governments. America is arrogant, crassly materialistic, crime-ridden, vulgar, racially unjust, the world's only avowed practitioner of torture, economically exploitative, imperialistic and intolerant of other cultures. The military form of the World Narrative holds that America savagely attacks weaker nations in pursuit of oil and empire, that it uses overwhelming technological superiority to butcher peasants armed with rifles, that atrocities are routine, that it employs Stalinist nocturnal raids to terrorize populations, that killing of children is common. The World Narrative is closer to the truth. It is easy to compile a long list of dictatorships supported by the US, and anyone who has covered wars knows that atrocities are what militaries do. America supports Saudi Arabia and Israel, both with horrible records on human rights. It would also be easy to show that many countries that accuse the US of misbehavior commit or have committed similar crimes. This doesn't occur to these countries. Peoples see everybody's warts but their own.

The peculiar isolation in which Americans typically live shelters the national narrative. Americans are geographically isolated in that they can go nowhere without passports, (NOT EVEN CANADA, ANY MORE--DEMETER) which few have; linguistically isolated in that almost none speak a second language; and temporally isolated since few have even a rudimentary grasp of history. Add an odd lack of curiosity, apparently based on a belief that the superiority of America is such that other places are not worthy of study. The result is a closed system. This might be of minor interest if it did not affect American policy. But it does. The US operates in a world that doesn't quite exist. Think of a blind man who by error enters the wrong house. He bumps into furniture and can't find the bathroom because things are not where he thinks they are.

Consider the war to take over Afghanistan—which is what it is. The American Narrative, relentlessly moral, says that the US is there to fight Terror, to defeat Al Qaida, to save the Afghan people from repressive domination by the Taliban. The government in Kabul represents the Afghan people and is allied with the US in ridding the country of extremists. The Caspian hydrocarbons have nothing to do with it. The GIs fight to give Afghans a stable democracy, law and order, and equal rights fo women. This is the sort of moral mission that the Narrative demands. In the real world, one might as well give art lessons to a boar hog. By contrast, the Afghans predictably see the US as an invading army of brutal infidels—a word we see as faintly amusing but they don't—who bomb and kill, kick in their doors at three a.m, humiliate the men in front of their families and insult their women. A very little of this, a very few dead children, can arouse a whole lot of hatred, but the American Narrative doesn't allow of this truth. Consequences ensue. Note that in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, as in Pakistan, as in Viet Nam, the national armies supposedly on America's side are never ready. Despite billions of dollars spent in training them, somehow they are always years away from being able to take over. They desert, coöperate with the enemy, sometimes murder GIs. By contrast, the enemy fights tenaciously.

The Americans are baffled and outraged. “We are here to help these people, to protect them against the evil (communists, Al Qaida, Iranians, or whatever). Where is their gratitude? Why don't they do their share?”

When you recruit citizens of a country to kill their own people in the name of a widely hated puppet government, their enthusiasm is likely to be exiguous. But since the American Narrative insists that the US seeks only to end the dominion of Evil, opposition to America becomes inexplicable. In war after war, those attacked fail to act as the US expects. The Iraqis should have welcomed the American soldiers who were bringing them democracy and defeating an evil dictator. This fits the Narrative. That people don't like being invaded, having their cities devastated, their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers in the army killed—this does not fit the Narrative of unalloyed American virtue. It merely determines events.


Fred's Biography - As He Tells It - Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times. His website - www.fredoneverything.net..

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Response to Demeter (Reply #62)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:43 AM

63. Oh, Fred, I like to read him

But there are so many blogs and forums nowadays, it's hard to read everything every day.
Thanks for the reminder about Fred.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #62)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:15 AM

79. Can't argue with him at all.

Thanks for introduction and the link.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #56)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 09:41 PM

70. And the trade medium will not be the U$D

This may well be the waterfoul d'noire that upsets the dollar dominance.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:51 PM

11. The PIIGS Strike Back



So, as I suspected would happen, the push-back against the suicide pact continues. This week Spain managed to convince the EU that it should be allowed to loosen its deficit targets for this year a little in return for a greater push in 2013.

Eurozone finance ministers have given unemployment-ridden Spain more wiggle room in cutting its big deficit, signalling that new, tighter rules against overspending in the currency union retain some flexibility for hard-hit countries.

The ministers from the 16 other states that use the euro said Spain had to make further cuts worth 0.5% of gross domestic product, which indicates that the country is now expected to slash its government deficit to around 5.3% of GDP this year from about 8.5% last year.

That is still below the 5.8 % deficit target Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy announced earlier this month, but significantly softer than the 4.4% deficit the country had originally promised to its partners in the euro.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who also chairs the meetings of eurozone finance ministers, said it was “of the utmost importance” that Spain brought its deficit down to below 3% of GDP – and back in line with European Union rules – by 2013.

Well at least we are seeing a little reality creeping into the crisis, but an attempt to cut 3.2% of GDP in government spending against a very depressed private sector while maintaining a trade deficit still utter delusion. I would suggest that, once again, you prepare for a disappointing outcome followed by more requests for leniency because the Spanish economy has not behaved “as expected”.

At the same time that Spain has been pushing for some leeway, so has Ireland. The Irish government has been asking for an adjustment in terms of €31bn worth of promissory notes issued by the government in 2010 connected with restrucutring of Anglo Irish Bank. The Irish government appears to have attempted to use the upcoming referendum on the fiscal compact as a leverage over Europe to get a better deal.

Given the economically delusional policies of the Europe’s central bureaucracy I am not surprised at all by the rebuke from Olli Rehn.

“I actually wonder why this has to be asked at all, the principle in the European Union and the long European legal and historical tradition is, in Latin, pacta sunt servanda – respect your commitments and obligations.”

Which brings up the question of exactly what the Eurocrats think is the commitment and obligation of the elected government of Ireland? To set policy and deliver services to the Irish people for the betterment of their lives, or to guarantee that the international lenders of funds to commercial banks, even the unsecured ones , get their money back ? The promissory notes are an outcome of the failed bailout of the Irish banking system that started in September 2008 when the government unconditionally guaranteed the deposits and bonds of the Irish-owned banks. Since that time the Irish taxpayer has been on the hook for their losses. Even a brief glance at some of the associate documentation of the original deal tells you that it was a completely one-sided deal with Irish citizens taking responsibility for the failings of European banking regulators including responsibility for financial instruments that should have been written off on day one.

Anglo is one of the financial institutions covered by the Irish Guarantee Scheme for financial institutions (“the Guarantee Scheme”), which was adopted under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act, 2008 (hereafter the “Act”), and approved by the Commission under State aid Rules on 13 October, 2008.

The liabilities covered under the Guarantee Scheme were those liabilities existing at close of business on 29 September, 2008 or at any time thereafter, up to and including 29 September, 2010, in respect of the following: (i) all retail and corporate deposits (to the extent not covered by existing deposit protection schemes in the State or any other jurisdiction); (ii) interbank deposits; (iii) senior unsecured debt; (iv) asset covered securities; and (v) dated subordinated debt (Lower Tier 2), excluding any intra-group borrowing and any debt due to the European Central Bank arising from Eurosystem monetary operations.

Despite its coverage under the Guarantee Scheme, the impact of the global financial crisis on the Bank as well as difficulties that arose with regard to its corporate governance, led the Irish Government to announce on 21 December, 2008, its intention to make a capital injection of €1.5 billion into Anglo. The Commission issued State aid approval for the proposed recapitalisation on 14 January, 2009.9

For more on that point I would advise you to watch this video in which a member of the ECB, Klaus Masuch, is unable to provide a valid answer to an Irish journalist as to why this deal ever occurred.



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Response to Demeter (Reply #11)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:23 PM

35. Thanks for the clip. I have never heard an intelligent banker yet.

When we have guest speakers in our economics classes, I always ask one of the bankers, "Why do we need banks, anyway?" and you will see the same sort of fumbling about, money creation, wealth, investment, mumbo-jumbo.

Who would die if we had no banks at all?

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:57 PM

13. Ann Arbor's own

I first heard this song in a little shop in Jerome, Arizona and bought the CD on the spot.

"Regretting what I said" is on the same disk.



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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 07:57 PM

14. White House Pours One Out for All the Dead Journos, Waterboards the Living

I'm in no mood to be swarmed so I'll stick hide this devastatingly important piece from gawker here in the ghetto.

The most recent article from The Nation's Jeremy Scahill profiled the imprisonment of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye. For covering American cluster bomb strikes in Yemen and the radicalization of Yemeni citizens and their support for Al Qaeda, Shaye has been beaten and tortured, imprisoned for two years and, at America's request, seen a presidential pardon from Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh indefinitely tabled.

You'd think that more bloggers would be furious about this. Extending a blithe imperial hand across the globe to support the torture and imprisonment of journalists is exactly the sort of half-assed fascism they were rabid about back when George W. Bush was exporting America's headaches to our Dracula in Cairo, Hosni "Drown People in Barrels of Shit" Mubarak.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. The Obama administration's boot-stomping journalists and whistleblowers is one of those polite misdeeds seemingly everyone prefers to ignore, like walking onto an elevator only one man is occupying and noticing that someone has farted. In fact, this topic was brought up in an even more dramatic fashion three weeks ago. And nobody really cared.

Back then, ABC News White House Correspondent Jake Tapper challenged White House Spokesman Jay Carney after what would normally have been a few inoffensive words of remembrance for journalists recently killed in Syria. Here's a condensed excerpt of the transcript, from Tapper's blog:

TAPPER: The White House keeps praising these journalists who are—who've been killed—
CARNEY: I don't know about "keep"—I think—
TAPPER: You've done it, Vice President Biden did it in a statement. How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court? ... There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don't want it in the United States.
CARNEY: ... I think we absolutely honor and praise the bravery of reporters who are placing themselves in extremely dangerous situations in order to bring a story of oppression and brutality to the world. ... As for other cases, again, without addressing any specific case, I think that there are issues here that involve highly sensitive classified information, and I think that, you know, those are—divulging or to—divulging that kind of information is a serious issue, and it always has been.
TAPPER: So the truth should come out abroad; it shouldn't come out here?
CARNEY: Well, that's not at all what I'm saying, Jake, and you know it's not.

Both on video and in print, it comes off like a politely irritated squabble, but after translating it from Sanitized Beltway Elite Discourse into English, it reads like two guys saying, "Hey, fuck you, buddy!" Which they probably are. Carney doesn't want to have to duck bottles heaved at him from what he thinks should be a sympathetic outlet (broadcast TV news—i.e. nice haircuts talking to the elderly), and Tapper doesn't need to sit there and be fed a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit about journalistic bravery from an administration that's used a WWI-era anti-spy measure to muzzle more whistleblowers in three years than every preceding administration combined.

read more: http://gawker.com/5893564/white-house-pours-one-out-for-all-the-dead-journos-waterboards-the-living

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Response to girl gone mad (Reply #14)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 08:12 PM

15. . ((broadcast TV news—i.e. nice haircuts talking to the elderly)) .


That's haRSH.

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Response to girl gone mad (Reply #14)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:03 PM

19. Do as we say, not as we do

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #19)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:54 PM

25. Source (link) please?


I'd love to reproduce these...

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #30)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:21 PM

34. Too cool.


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Response to Ghost Dog (Reply #34)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:35 PM

39. and sad

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #39)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:50 PM

40. That's real.


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Response to girl gone mad (Reply #14)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:06 PM

20. Scahill was on Democracy Now! yesterday.

He said that the call to Saleh tp withdraw the pardon, was not made by a White House staffer, but by Obama himself.

In today's episode, the Administration wants to restore military aid to Egypt, despite their lack of democracy and human rights violations.

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Response to Fuddnik (Reply #20)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:14 PM

23. I have NEVER had such a case of "Voter's Remorse" as I have these days


but what were the options? I sincerely doubt Hillary would have told the banksters to screw themselves, either...her daughter married one, for chrissakes.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 08:17 AM

54. There are no options in that system

Look at the pusillanimity of Labor for a perfect illustration. The political system offers us no options - just, as one writer described Labor's rush to endorse Obama, a choice between "a slow strangulation" or "a promised guillotine."
( http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/03/16 )

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 08:53 PM

18. Illinois' lost decade CHI-TRIB EDITORIAL



The sorry spirals of a corrupt governor and his broke, broken state

Ten years ago — it was March 19, 2002 — Illinois Democrats nominated Rod Blagojevich as their candidate for governor. The percentages should have humbled him: 37 for Blagojevich, 34 for former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas, 29 for former Attorney General Roland Burris. But rampant scandal under Republican Gov. George Ryan had chased him into retirement, and tipped Illinois Democratic in the Nov. 5 general election. On the night of that victory, an emboldened Blagojevich solemnly declared: "Illinois has voted for change." Change didn't come. On Dec. 7, 2011, a federal prosecutor would crisply synthesize Blagojevich's tenure as governor: "He was corrupt when he took the oath of office. He was corrupt until the day he was arrested." For his serial felonies, U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate 40892-424 reports Thursday to a penitentiary in Colorado. Barring the unexpected, he must serve the minimum 85 percent of his 14-year sentence. On that schedule, he would be released in 2024 — when he is 67 years old....Beyond the devastation Blagojevich's choices have wrought for himself and his family, he also wrought havoc on Illinois. Building on the similarly soul-crushing misdeeds of his predecessor, Ryan — U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate 16627-424 — Blagojevich left this state broke and broken. What could have been a decade of smart economizing and smarter services instead devolved into indebtedness, chagrin and corruption:

During Illinois' lost decade, Blagojevich perfected the terrible borrow-and-spend ethos that has rendered state government insolvent — unable to pay bills as they come due. With help from his legislative enablers, Blagojevich accelerated Illinois' downward spiral. He committed Illinois to spend money it did not have on health care expansions and other popularity projects that its taxpayers could not afford. Today state government has nearly $200 billion in debts, overdue bills and unfunded obligations. The distinction of America's worst state credit rating and the wastefully high interest payments that come with it? All yours, Illinois. We cannot quantify what's likely the biggest part of each citizen's burden here: But every time an employer locates elsewhere rather than buy into Illinois' debt overhang, every time a young family moves to a state with more job creation because Illinois' future looks bleak — when those things occur here, they quietly depress the value of homes, the inflow of revenues and the promise of growth.

Worse still is the twisted ethos of governance as a pastime-to-be-exploited that Blagojevich & Co. perpetrated — and that some of his survivors perpetrate to this day. You've read before our belief that citizens of this state are cheated as much by favors as by fraud. That for every Illinois pol who tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat, many others exploit citizens for personal or political gain. That the proven cost of conniving and clout in Illinois ranges from whose children get the choice jobs, too whose children get tuition waivers at state universities, to whose children get incinerated in the van wreck.

The lost decade, the legacy of Blagojevich and Ryan too, has wrongly convinced many citizens they can do nothing to end the Illinois culture of political sleaze, so why try? The crooks and opportunists still in government appreciate that resignation. Just as they appreciate how we apathetically let them gerrymander their districts, and shroud public business in official secrecy, and rig lavish pensions for themselves and their cronies. They appreciate, too, how we let them reject meaty recommendations from the blue-ribbon Illinois Reform Commission that would have trimmed their power.


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Response to Demeter (Reply #18)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 12:05 AM

71. My native state. How sad. How tragic. n/t

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:09 PM

21. Italy Said to Pay Morgan Stanley $3.4 Billion



When Morgan Stanley (MS) said in January it had cut its “net exposure” to Italy by $3.4 billion, it didn’t tell investors that the nation paid that entire amount to the bank to exit a bet on interest rates.

Italy, the second-most indebted nation in the European Union, paid the money to unwind derivative contracts from the 1990s that had backfired, said a person with direct knowledge of the Treasury’s payment. It was cheaper for Italy to cancel the transactions rather than to renew, said the person, who declined to be identified because the terms were private.

The cost, equal to half the amount to be raised by Italy’s sales tax increase this year, underscores the risk of derivatives countries use to reduce borrowing costs and guard against swings in interest rates and currencies can sour and generate losses for taxpayers. Italy, with record debt of $2.5 trillion, has lost more than $31 billion on its derivatives at current market values, according to data compiled by the Bloomberg Brief Risk newsletter from regulatory filings.

“These losses demonstrate the speculative nature of these deals and the supremacy of finance over government,” said Italian senator Elio Lannutti, chairman of the consumer group Adusbef.

The transaction may prompt regulators to push for greater transparency and regulation of how governments use derivatives, said the head of the European Parliament panel that deals with market rules.



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Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:03 PM

27. One Half of Italy's New Sales Tax Receipts Go Directly to Morgan Stanley in New York

Last edited Sat Mar 17, 2012, 12:32 AM - Edit history (1)


Jesse's take:

Complex derivatives deal from the 1990s backfires on Italy.

Bankers win. The people pay.

One of my less scrupulous bosses once told me, "The way I like to win a race is to punch the other guy in the stomach and then yell, 'Let's race.'"

And I replied, "Well that may be all well and good, but if the guy you punch is Italian or Greek, I would not stop running at the finish line."

He was a Irish lad, who having enjoyed a temporary run of luck, was left terribly over his head, pretty much in everything. And as you might suspect, he ended badly, and took a lot of his type, whom he had gathered into his contrivances, down with him. Its the little things that make life worth living.

No wonder the American derivatives dealers are leaving Europe.

The bad news is that they are coming home.

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Response to girl gone mad (Reply #27)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:18 PM

33. Currency Wars: Are American Derivatives Dealers Leaving Europe?



Or possibly being invited to leave?

It is probably nothing, but I could not help but notice that Mr. Greg Smith, who has famously resigned from Goldman Sachs and company, was

"an executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa."

Perhaps in addition to the anger he felt in the spoiled climate of his firm, Mr. Smith was also disgusted that the greed of Goldman had gotten their wings clipped, and gotten them effectively tossed off the continent.
There is no more disgruntled employee than one who works hard, and see the foolish decisions of his management needlessly ruin it. I remember talking to traders and brokers in the 1970s who cursed the foolish greed of the higher ups that had driven the public from the markets and left them scratching for a living.

And just the other day, we had the somewhat terse, and very quiet, announcement from the CFTC that the CME was vacating their license to be a clearing broker for derivatives in Europe located in the City of London:

March 13, 2012

CFTC Vacates CME Clearing Europe Limited Registration as a Derivatives Clearing Organization

Washington, DC—At the request of CME Clearing Europe Limited (CMECEL), pursuant to Section 7 of the Commodity Exchange Act, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued an Order on March 13, 2012, vacating the registration of CMECEL as a derivatives clearing organization.

Is the European leadership doing something behind the scenes to clamp down on the rampant speculation and fraud in the paper derivatives market that has almost wrecking their economy?

Probably too good to be true.

But I am also thoughtful about the recent moves in Germany and Switzerland to audit and even repatriate their gold from the States where much of it has been kept in trusting custody these many years, fearing that perhaps it has been re-hypothecated. AND DON'T FORGET VENEZUELA!

All a part of the currency war, perhaps. And it is notoriously hard to see what's what when the fog of war descends.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #21)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:17 PM

32. You're busted, Demeter. So busy posting, you take too little time to read the SMW, even.


Cf. http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1116&pid=8608 - (Same article, posted Fri Mar 16, 2012, 01:17 PM GMT).

Take deep breaths. Count to ten. Relaaaax.

(Cf. also: If women ruled the world....).... :BUNKER:

... That latter theme, btw, has much to do with what I see going down, or having gone down, in UK, recently, AnneD and others might like to know. More to follow...

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Response to Ghost Dog (Reply #32)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:25 PM

36. Busy? You Said It


You haven't lived until you've had a small cat in her carrier, a bunny with the equivalent of AIDS in a special bunny stroller, a Beagledor, the Kid with her portable DVD player, our hysterical neighbor (who keeps the bunny), all crammed in a half-bath, with the radio blasting minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow progress of the twisters while the tornado warning is extended....and extended...

and the neighbor is suffering from PTSD from living 20 years in California (earthquake, 2 wildfires, and various other events) and wants me inside with the door shut because she feels threatened...


and I'm trying to keep it cool because the last thing I need is the Kid catching the hysteria fever....

and 6 hours later I'm out throwing papers..

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Response to Demeter (Reply #36)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:34 PM

38. The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You.


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Response to Ghost Dog (Reply #38)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 11:13 PM

41. It's more like this


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Response to Demeter (Reply #41)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 11:46 PM

43. I'm sorry.


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 09:12 PM

22. Christine shares a secret crush with the Kid (and her mother)


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:02 PM

26. This Is Your Defense of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street?



I found the Bloomberg editorial response to Greg Smith’s resignation letter from Goldman Sachs to be so terrible that ironically I think it is a more damning criticism of the current destructive culture on Wall Street than Smith’s original piece. The editors at Bloomberg basically try to paint Smith as naive and stupid...


Yes, Mr. Smith, Goldman Sachs Is All About Making Money

Apparently, when Greg Smith arrived at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) almost 12 years ago, the legendary investment firm was something like the Make-A-Wish Foundation -- existing only to bring light and peace and happiness to the world.

Smith, who was executive director and head of the firm’s U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, does not go into details in his already notorious op-ed article in Wednesday’s New York Times, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” But one imagines Goldman bankers spending their days delivering fresh flowers to elderly shut-ins and providing shelters for abandoned cats. Serving clients was paramount. “It wasn’t just about making money,” Smith writes. “It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization.”

It must have been a terrible shock when Smith concluded that Goldman actually was primarily about making money. He spares us the sordid details, but apparently it took more than a decade for the scales to finally fall from his eyes.

He says that Goldman has changed. “Culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients.” And he warns: “Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist.” It’s tragic that Goldman is losing an employee who realizes that you need customers to stay in business.

And what an employee! He worked at Goldman as an intern in college and worked there continuously until today. “I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world.” Then there was being “a Rhodes Scholar national finalist” and “winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics.”

then conclude by saying:

We have some advice for Smith, as well as the thousands of college students who apply to work at Goldman Sachs each year: If you want to dedicate your life to serving humanity, do not go to work for Goldman Sachs. That’s not its function, and it never will be. Go to work for Goldman Sachs if you wish to work hard and get paid more than you deserve even so. (Or if you want to make your living selling derivatives but don’t know what a derivative is, as Smith concedes in passing that he didn’t at first.)

Goldman and other investment banks do perform an important role in our economy, and Goldman bankers -- most of them, at least -- can hold their heads up high. But it is not charity work. Goldman’s clients are mostly very well-off. Smith’s lament that the bank no longer serves their needs above and beyond its own does not tug at our heartstrings.

This is the heart of the problem with Wall Street right now. The editors at Bloomberg apparently don’t understand the basic principles by which a good service exchange is supposed to work. This client-company relationship should not be a competition, ideally it should be mutually beneficial arrangement.

How the system is supposed to work is that Goldman Sachs would do the best financially by helping their clients do their best. There should not even be a question about putting the clients’ needs above Goldman’s or Goldman’s needs above the clients. Their goals for the most part should be mutually interdependent and self re-enforcing. It should be a a symbiotic relationship not a parasitical one. There is a very real difference between making money providing an expensive service and running a con.

Smith seemed more than willing to help make a lot of money in exchange for providing clients with a good service, Smith was complaining that Goldman was basically ripping people off. Smith’s criticism is that Goldman was not providing its clients what they paid for, the best possible financial advice, and was also using their trust to trick them out of their money.

This Bloomberg editorial suggests it is incredibly stupid to ever expect a Wall Street company to actually try to provide you with the service that you pay them for. If this is truly what the elite business world thinks this is not only an acceptable but expected way to treat paying clients, then Bloomberg makes Smith’s point for him.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #26)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:07 PM

28. Comment from DWBartoo


This is most excellent analysis, Jon.

And as the government of this United States, as well as Goldman Sachs, apparently sees nothing wrong with what Goldman Sachs is doing, not merely, to their “clients” but to “the people” through those actions which Mr. Smith, did not “see”, the ones that the President has termed, for lack of a “too-big”, applicable word, merely “immoral” … perhaps, it would, now, be timely to remind that government, that not only does that government derive its just powers ONLY from the consent of the people, the “governed”, but IT, the government is morally bound to act in accordance with moral principle and what is right, not wrong, for all of “the people” whom it purports to “serve”, not just a self-selected, “astute” monied elite?

Bloomberg does, indeed, make Smith’s “point”. And that point should stick in the minds, not merely of the Big Boyz and Gurlz screwing around with eye-gouging footsie for-plays on Wall Street, but also in the CONSCIENCE of those morally and legally charged with regulating the sordid affairs which give rise to issues that impact upon all of civil society.

If the regulators can’t, or won’t, keep “it” clean, ought they not at least strive to keep it fair … it being class war, after all, not just a heavy-breathing lust for money … whatever the cost to “muppets” or suckers … or marks … or johns …?

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Response to Demeter (Reply #28)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:08 PM

29. And one from workingclass


Our job is not to moralize or even analyze. Our job is to totally destroy Goldman (and Bloomberg). It’s them or us.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #29)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:10 PM

31. And a third from textynn


Goldman Sachs doesn’t need real customers because it’s in the suck-money-from-taxpayers business. They put together a team, bought the White House, and they run it, while owning the money system at the same time.

I saw a cartoon during the Health Care Reform BS that I will never forget. Two lobbyists were talking. The second one says to the first one,”I don’t think we even need a patient.” Well, that’s GS. They don’t need anyone because they “do” Wall Street and the Government provides them with endless money to “do” them with. Why they have to take it from Seniors is beyond me. Aren’t they just printing it by the bushel. Why do they also have to grab from working people??

This is no recession, it’s a procedure, and the BushBomma Imperial Presidency is on board.

Goldman Sach’s is the Money Changers for the Wall Street Cluster Fuck that the OnePercent are doing on the people. They are simply consolidating every single inch of real property. Might as well be caterpillars moving across our lands. Your kids will pay rent by the night with the price changing daily like gas prices. They will pay for water by the bucket full because the OnePercent will own everything.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Fri Mar 16, 2012, 10:32 PM

37. Carry on, Weekenders


I'm retiring to my fainting couch

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Fri Mar 16, 2012, 11:26 PM

42. Why Larry Summers lost the presidency of Harvard / Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe



Some people still think Larry Summers got fired from being the president of Harvard because of the ridiculous comments he made about women in math (see my post about this here) or because of the comments he made about Cornel West. Actually, the truth is something worse, and for which he should actually be in jail. It’s also something that makes Harvard look bad, so maybe that’s why it’s less known.

The subtitle of this post is: Why Larry Summers shouldn’t be made head of the World Bank.

I was inspired to write this by being disgusted at continued rumors that he could get yet another prestigious job. It’s like this guy can’t fail spectacularly enough! Let’s give him another chance!

Let’s set the record straight: Summers was directly involved with defrauding the U.S. Government (see below) and Russia. He admitted to not understand conflict of interest issues (see below). It is particularly appalling, knowing these things, that he would be considered for the World Bank head, which presumably requires nuanced understanding of such issues.


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 12:34 AM

44. Ghost Dog is the only one that can clean up Wall Street

And all he needs is a sledge hammer and a couple properly placed firecrackers. Mother Nature's moving way too slow on this one, and needs some help

A wave higher than Nelson's Column and travelling faster than a jet aircraft will devastate the eastern seaboard of America and inundate much of southern Britain, say scientists who have analysed the effects of a future volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.

A massive slab of rock twice the volume of the Isle of Man would break away from the island of La Palma and smash into the Atlantic Ocean to cause a tsunami - a monster wave - bigger than any recorded, the scientists warned yesterday.


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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #44)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:15 AM

46. That would be entirely too easy


God's not doing massive miracles any more....the line is busy, can you hold?...

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Response to Po_d Mainiac (Reply #44)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:20 AM

47. Damn. Now I'm busted.


That's the plot of the James Bond-type thriller I'm supposed to be working on...

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:13 AM



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Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:33 AM

48. Bill Black: (Re) Occupy Greece



Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives.


While the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement set its sights on occupying a financial center, Germany has accomplished the vastly more impressive feat of occupying an entire nation – Greece. Germany has experience at occupying Greece having done so during World War II. The art of occupying another nation is to recruit a local puppet to do the dirty work required to repress the citizens. Germany used several puppets, most notoriously the murderous Ioannis Rallis, to (nominally) rule Greece and terrify the Greek people during World War II. (After Germany’s defeat, Rallis was executed for his treason.)...This time around, Germany has been far more successful in recruiting and using a puppet to (nominally) rule Greece and terrify the Greek people before the German occupation. It was able to put its puppet, Lucas Papademos in place and have him “request” that Germany reoccupy Greece. Papademos is not elected. He is in power because his elected predecessor, George Papandreou, announced that Greece would hold a plebiscite on whether to agree to the terms of a deal on Greece’s sovereign debt that would have the effect of surrendering Greece’s remaining sovereignty and consigning the Greek people to an even deeper depression. The inevitable German reaction to the plebiscite was: Democracy in Greece – inconceivable! Germany threatened to destroy Greece’s economy if there were a plebiscite. Germany’s extortion led to the collapse of Papanderou’s elected government and Papademos’ appointment as Greece’s de facto prime minister...Papademos is a banker and shares the theoclassical economic views that caused the global crisis and then led the ECB and many European leaders to adopt austerity strictures that have hurled the Eurozone back into recession. He has been wrong about the most important economic issues of his time. His economic dogmas, track record of failure, and disdain for democracy and the Greek people made him the perfect puppet to the Germans. For reasons that pass all understanding he is called a “technocrat. His record of economic policy failure demonstrates that “faux shaman” would be a more accurate label.

Germany and Papademos have ended Greece’s political sovereignty, but Greece gave up its economic sovereignty long ago when it adopted the euro. Two aspects of national economic sovereignty were inherently lost with nations that gave up their own currency and adopted the euro. A member nation could no longer have a monetary policy and it could no longer revalue its currency. The designers of the euro required a measure sharply curtailing the member nations’ remaining economic sovereignty. The demand that the euro nations surrender the last vestige of their economic sovereignty was deliberate. The euro’s designers viewed national economic sovereignty as the gravest threat to the euro’s success. Their great fear was that inflation could lead to a weak euro, so they adopted the “Stability and Growth” Pact to sharply limit the member states’ ability to control their fiscal policies. The Pact forbade member nations from running material budgetary deficits even during a severe recession or depression... The European Central Bank (ECB) was created with a single mandate – preventing even benign inflation. It was directed not to try to counter even severe recessions, mass unemployment, and extreme poverty. It was not even designed to function as a lender of last resort. But the equally important aspect of the ECB was not written into its charter – but understood by everyone. The ECB would be subservient to Germany’s economic views (with an ever diminishing French fig leaf). Germany’s economic view was that hyper-inflation always lurked around the corner and the ECB must act like a eternally vigilant raptor. The nations of the periphery had no realistic hope of influencing ECB policies. There were three key implications for nations that adopted the euro and surrendered economic sovereignty by giving up their sovereign currency. First, the member nations gave up their only reliable means of recovering from a serious recession or depression. Second, the member nations rendered themselves defenseless to devastating attacks by the bond markets if they fell into economic crisis. Third, the nations of the periphery placed their political sovereignty at grave peril should they fall into economic crisis.

The proven tool kit for recovering from a serious recession includes three policies. The policies are not mutually exclusive. They are typically used in conjunction. A nation that retains its economic sovereignty can speed its recovery from a severe recession by adopting a stimulative fiscal policy, a stimulative monetary policy, and by devaluing its currency. A nation that adopts the euro cannot use any of these methods. The Stability and Growth Pact allows nations to run only a tiny budgetary deficit that is grossly inadequate to replace the lost private sector demand...A nation that has a sovereign currency whose value floats and whose debts are denominated in its own currency makes an exceptionally poor target for currency attacks. It always has the capacity to repay debts denominated in its own currency, so it makes an even worse target for attacks by the credit markets. A nation that uses the euro is not an issuer of a sovereign currency. It uses another entity’s currency. Its sovereign debts, therefore, are inherently denominated in another currency – typically the euro. When a nation falls into recession or a debt crisis the debt markets produce a vicious cycle. As the sovereign debt increases the rating agencies cut the ratings, which raises the interest rate on the sovereign debt, which increases the debt costs, which leads to further rating downgrades. Note that when the credit rating agencies downgraded the United States the credit markets proceeded to loan vast sums to the U.S. at even lower interest rates. The credit markets rightly view the U.S., in no small part because it has a sovereign currency, as a “safe haven.”

The dynamics of sovereign currencies drive the deficit hawks to distraction. They eagerly await the day, and invent fictional debt ratio “tipping points”, when the credit markets will adopt their Austrian economic views and refuse to lend to the United States. Even Japan’s financial leaders, still able to borrow vast amounts at virtually zero interest rates despite long having one of the highest debt ratios in the world, are so Austrian in their economics that they are unable to understand their monetary system. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) scholars have repeatedly demonstrated analytical and predictive success in explaining the inexplicable (from the dominant theoclassical economics perspective)...The result of the destruction of economic sovereignty is that a nation that adopts the euro and sinks into a severe recession can be forced into an unrecoverable spin. The euro system had no means to deal with such a death spiral that would lead to default and forced withdrawal from the euro. The default of one member nation on its euro debt would cause the debt costs of other euro members trapped in recessions to spike and could lead to a series of defaults and withdrawals from the euro. The only established institution to assist way out lay outside the euro system, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF provides loans to nations and demands austerity, privatization, and deregulation in return. Austerity makes recessions worse and deregulation is one of the causes of financial crises, so IMF loans often prove destructive to the recipient nations. The IMF was unwilling to take on the loss exposure of becoming a dominant lender to the periphery. This forced the European Union (EU) and ECB to create a fund that worked in conjunction with the IMF to lend to euro members that went into crisis. The EU lent to periphery nations under austerity, privatization, and deregulatory terms that were even more destructive than those imposed by the IMF. Theoclassical economic dogma has forced the Eurozone back into recession and much of the periphery into depression. This is one of the most destructive and spectacular “own goals” in history...The ECB’s theoclassical dogma leaves only one means of escaping a severe recession or depression – ending the European safety net and slashing working class wages such that every member state in economic difficulty becomes a major net exporter of goods and services. This is why we call the dogma the “New Mercantilism.” Adam Smith, of course, was motivated to write largely by his desire to expose the folly of mercantilism. Economics is the only “science” I am aware of that has deteriorated dramatically in its predictive ability over the course of 150 years. The ECB’s dogma is premised on a fallacy of basic logic (and is economically illiterate and vicious). One nation’s export is another nation’s import so we cannot all be net exporters. The success of one nation (Germany) in becoming a net exporter in part through substantial reductions in working class wages does not prove that the periphery can emulate its “success” by slashing working class wages. Indeed, the more Germany becomes a net exporter the harder it is for the periphery nations to become net exporters.




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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:47 AM

49. How a Whistleblower Halted JPMorgan Chase's Card Collections



No sooner did Linda Almonte show up for work on November 30, 2009 than was she escorted out the door by security at JPMorgan Chase's Credit Card Litigation Support Group in San Antonio. A midlevel Chase executive who oversaw business process execution employees, Almonte says she was fired after just six months on the job for challenging her superiors about the accuracy of the bank's credit card records. Colleagues first learned of her dismissal later in the day when operations manager Jason Lazinbat, Almonte's former boss, gathered bank staff in a conference room and announced she was no longer with the bank. Under no circumstances, Lazinbat warned, were staffers to communicate with Almonte, recalls Carole McGinn, a quality control worker who spent 14 years at Chase. The account was confirmed by second employee, who requested to speak anonymously.

"It was an unusual statement," McGinn says. "Other people had left the bank, and we were not told" to cut off contact with them.

The contentious nature of Almonte's departure was a prelude to a series of events that serve as a cautionary tale for the banking industry. The former mid-level staffer eventually filed a whistleblower suit and complaints with regulators that accused Chase of a range of lapses over three years. They include: failure to reconcile the inconsistent past-due balances generated by the bank's computer systems; pressure from management to collect delinquent debts even in the absence of complete or accurate records; and robosigning of affidavits that brings into question the legal integrity of Chase's claims against tens of thousands of consumers. Many of Almonte's accusations are backed by internal bank documents and current and former employees. What's more, they've forced Chase to cease operations in a collections unit that had previously generated billions of dollars in annual revenues.

...Almonte charged in her wrongful termination suit that Chase fired her for resisting its efforts to sell faulty credit card debts. Chase, in its defense of the suit, made no effort to contest Almonte's allegations about the inaccuracy of its records or to proffer alternative explanations for her firing. Instead, it argued that it could release employees at will under Texas law and was within its rights to sell credit card accounts whose documentation was problematic or missing, as long as it informed buyers...Almonte proved persistent, however. She contacted a number of regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission, expanding on allegations from her wrongful termination suit. She also discussed her complaints with officials from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees nationally chartered banks, including Chase. The OCC dispatched enforcement staffers to the bank's San Antonio facility for two months late last year as part of a still ongoing investigation, as American Banker previously reported....A now defunct website, Legalmorass.com, took up Almonte's cause. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times also mentioned her suit in stories on bank documentation problems. Her attorney, Bruse Loyd of Jones, Gillaspia & Loyd, L.L.P, successfully opposed Chase's attempts to get her case dismissed in court. By then Almonte says she was nearly broke and living with her family in a motel as a result of her inability to find another job in banking. Almonte settled her suit with Chase last April on undisclosed terms and agreed to stop talking about her case.

But Almonte's efforts appear to have prompted the bank to order its in-house collections lawyers to undertake top-to-bottom reviews of "reconciliation," the process by which the bank was supposed to ensure that its legal filings matched the its internal records. That's according to a former Chase attorney who spoke on condition of anonymity. The bank had never undertaken such reviews before. When pressed by lawyers in the field for an explanation, senior officials at Chase's New York headquarters stated that the OCC was making inquiries about Almonte's allegations, according to the former Chase attorney. The reviews concluded that Chase's in-house legal work was solid, this person adds. Former members of the bank's litigation support staff agree. However, they add that the serious problems existed elsewhere. Namely, in the bank's back-offices and with outside collections firms, which had limited access to Chase's internal records and financial incentives to recoup as much as possible from consumers. Instead of focusing solely on those areas, Chase around the middle of last year fired Gail Siegel, who had formerly run its internal collections litigation teams, bank sources say. Then, around the time it settled with Almonte, Chase ordered its in-house and contract law firms to drop outstanding card-related litigation altogether.

Virtually overnight, Chase mothballed a legal operation that had been producing several billion of dollars in legal judgments a year and more than $1.2 billion in recoveries. Over the next few months, Chase also fired the lead attorneys in most of its satellite offices.


JPMorgan Chase's annual report, filed with the SEC last month, made no reference to its 11-month litigation hiatus or any impact on earnings.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #49)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 07:51 AM

51. OCC Probing JPMorgan Chase Credit Card Collections



JPMorgan Chase & Co. took procedural shortcuts and used faulty account records in suing tens of thousands of delinquent credit card borrowers for at least two years, current and former employees say. The process flaws sparked a regulatory probe by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and forced the bank to stop suing delinquent borrowers altogether last year. The bank's errors could call into question the legitimacy of billions of dollars in outstanding claims against debtors and of legal judgments Chase has already won, current and former Chase employees say. For the banking industry at large, the situation at Chase highlights the risk that shoddy back-office procedures and flawed legal work extends well beyond mortgage servicing.

"We did not verify a single one" of the affidavits attesting to the amounts Chase was seeking to collect, says Howard Hardin, who oversaw a team handling tens of thousands of Chase debt files in San Antonio. "We were told by superiors 'We're in a hurry. Go ahead and sign them.'" Hardin left the bank in 2010 to work in a different industry. Chase declined repeated requests to discuss details of its consumer debt collection activities.

Company documents, court filings, and interviews with seven current and former employees reveal that Chase's credit card litigation operation was allegedly plagued by unreliable external attorneys, management's disregard for accuracy, and patchy technology. The bank's computer systems frequently disagreed about how much debtors actually owed, several of the Chase sources say. The employees' stories corroborate allegations made by Linda Almonte, a former mid-level business process executive in Chase's San Antonio-based Credit Card Litigation Support Group. Dismissed in November 2009 after six months on the job, Almonte filed whistleblower complaints and a wrongful termination suit claiming that she was fired for objecting to the sale of credit card debts with erroneous balances. Almonte's complaints drew the attention of the OCC, former Chase employees say, and led to the April 2011 shutdown of a formidable collections operation that generated several billion dollars of legal judgments every year...

The root of Chase's card collections failures was more machine than man. Chase maintains a patchwork of computer systems that don't always communicate well, according to former employees who used them. Meet TSYS, TCSF and RMS. TSYS is what outsiders assume a global bank's customer data system looks like. Licensed from Total Systems Services Inc. and managed by Chase, it's the modern and versatile system that consumers ultimately talk to when they check their credit card balance online. TSYS only handles current accounts, however. When customers stop paying credit card bills, their accounts are passed to TCSF, for collections and litigation, and eventually to RMS for charge-offs. Each of Chase's systems handles its own tasks just fine. The problem employees faced is that TCSF and RMS can only talk to each other through TSYS, and each of the systems operates by its own rules. This means that when presented with the question of how much a customer owes, each might spit out a different answer. "I came across that on a regular basis," says Carole McGinn, who retired in 2010 from the credit card litigation support group in San Antonio. The discrepancies were usually minor, she and three other employees say, but payments by heavily delinquent borrowers would throw the records seriously out of whack. "There was no way to reconcile those balances that I knew of," says McGinn, who worked at Chase for almost 15 years. To overcome this problem, Chase's business process staff reviewed records in multiple systems and reconciled the accounts manually...


"This is not an accident anymore," Almonte now says. "The same people who created this problem at Chase are still in charge. They aren't going to fix it unless they're forced to."

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Response to Demeter (Reply #51)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:29 AM

61. J.P. Morgan Chase's Ugly Family Secrets Revealed By Matt Taibbi



In a story that should be getting lots of attention, American Banker has released an excellent and disturbing exposé of J.P. Morgan Chase's credit card services division, relying on multiple current and former Chase employees. One of them, Linda Almonte, is a whistleblower whom I've known since last September; I'm working on a recount of her story for my next book...

One of the things we were promised by the lawmakers who passed the Dodd-Frank reform bill a few years back is that this would be a new era for whistleblowers who come forward to tell the world about problems in our financial infrastructure. This story now looms as a test case for that proposition. American Banker reporter Jeff Horwitz did an outstanding job in this story detailing the sweeping irregularities in-house at Chase, but his very thoroughness means the news may have ramifications for Linda, which is why I'm urging people to pay attention to this story in the upcoming weeks.

The Cliff's Notes version of the story goes something like this: Late in 2009, Chase's credit card services division sold a parcel of nearly $200 million worth of credit card judgments to a debt collector at a discount. This common practice in the credit-card industry is a little like a bookie selling the outstanding debts of his delinquent gamblers to a leg-breaker for 25 cents on the dollar. If the leg-breaker gets half the delinquents to pay, the deal works out for both sides -- the bookie gets 25 percent of money he wasn't going to collect, and the leg-breaker makes a 100 percent profit. In the case of credit cards, of course, you're selling the debts to collection agents, not leg-breakers, but aside from that unpleasantly minor distinction the process is the same. The most valuable kinds of sales in this world are sales of credit card judgments, in other words accounts in which the debtor has already been successfully brought to court. That, ostensibly, is what this bloc of accounts Chase sold in 2009 involved...Almonte came to Chase in the summer of 2009 as a mid-level executive in the credit card services division's offices in San Antonio, and was quickly put in charge of preparing the documentation for this enormous sale of credit card judgments. When Chase regional offices from places like southern California and Illinois began sending in the papers for these "judgments," Almonte very soon found out that something was seriously wrong.

From Horwitz's piece:

Nearly half of the files [Linda's] team sampled were missing proofs of judgment or other essential information, she wrote to colleagues. Even more worrisome, she alleged in her wrongful-termination suit, nearly a quarter of the files misstated how much the borrower owed.

In the "vast majority" of those instances, the actual debt was "lower that what Chase was representing," her suit stated.

Linda subsequently found an enormous range of errors. Some judgments, she told me, were not judgments at all. In some cases, she said, Chase actually owed the customer money. When she brought these concerns to her superiors, what do you think their response was? They told her and others to shut up and just sell the stuff anyway. Her boss, Jason Lazinbat, allegedly told her "she had better go along with the plan to sell the misrepresented asset." Think of the consequences of this: because Chase was so anxious to make money off this debt sale, countless credit card borrowers would now have collection agents chasing them for money they did not owe. The debt-buyer, too, was victimized by being sold accounts it could not collect on. It is almost impossible to estimate how many man-hours of pointless court proceedings would be lost because of this decision. Anyway, when Linda refused to go along with the sale, she was fired. This was in November of 2009. She then went through a post-firing odyssey that is an epic tale in itself: her many attempts to get any of the major bank regulators interested in this case were disturbingly fruitless for a long time (although the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is apparently looking into it now), and she struggled to find work in the industry. She has been repeatedly harassed and has gone through all sorts of personal hardship as a result of this incident. She filed a whistleblower claim with the SEC as part of the new whistleblower program created by Dodd-Frank, but so far there's been no progress there....And there were other stories...suffice to say that the picture Linda painted of life inside Chase reminded me a little of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle: they were putting just about everything into those sausages. When I was writing it all up for my book I went through a period where I was waking up nights, seized with the urge to close every credit account I had – her story makes you think that most credit card companies are essentially indistinguishable from giant identity theft operations....In the meantime, please check out Horvitz's piece. It should give everyone who has a credit card pause.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:59 AM

50. g'morning -- great thread

i don't know how one gets a headache while they are sleeping -- but

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Response to xchrom (Reply #50)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 07:54 AM

52. Dehydration or Sleep Apnea are two good ways


Muscles that didn't or couldn't relax is another, weather is a fourth, when the barometer makes the sinuses explode in pain...hope you feel better soon.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #52)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 08:02 AM

53. I think it's the weather - it's off and on - rain & sun.

Oh well - I'll live.

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Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:03 AM

55. Whistleblowers Reaping Rewards in U.S. Mortgage Suits



Troubled homeowners are not the only ones set to get a financial lift from the U.S. government’s $25 billion landmark mortgage settlement. Whistleblowers who were instrumental in revealing epidemic mortgage abuses, some of whom risked their careers to do so, are getting multi-million-dollar payouts, court documents show.

Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly, two Georgia mortgage brokers, are among the handful of whistleblowers whose stories are coming into focus. Bibby and Donnelly said they started noticing in 2005 that lenders were charging veterans hidden fees on mortgage refinancing — a violation of the government’s Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loans program. The pair, who worked for U.S. Financial Services Inc., a mortgage brokerage firm in Alpharetta, Georgia, said they became suspicious when lenders told them not to show an amount charged for attorneys fees on loan documents, but instead add the sum to the charge shown for “title examination fee.” After lenders ignored their concerns, Bibby and Donnelly hired an attorney and filed a whistleblower suit. The suit remained under seal to give the government time to investigate. Bibby and Donnelly had to keep mum for more than five years and try to find ways to avoid charging the hidden fees. “For both our families being hushed for such a long time and holding this inside was unbearable,” Donnelly said in an interview. “It puts a lot of stress on you.” The wait paid off in the form of a $45 million government settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. that became public this week. Bibby and Donnelly and their attorneys will receive 26 percent, or $11.7 million.

The case is one of five whistleblower suits settled for a total of $227 million as part of the broader $25 billion deal with five lenders over foreclosure abuses, according to court documents filed this week. Details of the cases are emerging slowly as suits are unsealed and prosecutors disclose settlements. The complaints were brought under a whistleblower provision in the U.S. False Claims Act, which allows private individuals with knowledge of wrongdoing to bring suits on behalf of the government and share in the proceeds of any settlement.

Of the five settlements outlined in court documents this week, the largest was for $95 million. U.S. Attorneys in North Carolina and South Carolina said on Monday that five banks – Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial – agreed to pay the amount to address allegations they participated in a nationwide practice of failing to obtain the required mortgage assignments, documents used to transfer ownership of loans. The lenders also used false assignments to submit Federal Housing Administration insurance claims, prosecutors said. The whistleblower in the case, Florida homeowner Lynn Szymoniak, will receive $18 million. She gained national attention last year when CBS’ “60 Minutes” profiled her role in uncovering the robo-signing of foreclosure documents by large lenders. While trying to save her own home from foreclosure, according to the “60 Minutes” report, Szymoniak used her legal training to research other mortgages and discovered that a “Linda Green” had signed thousands of mortgage documents, in varying signature styles. Multiple employees in a mortgage document “sweat shop” in Georgia were using the name Linda Green to recreate missing mortgage assignment documents for the banks, the report said. Szymoniak declined to comment. Bill Nettles, the U.S. Attorney in South Carolina, said the $95 million settlement sparked by Green’s discovery also provided a strong return for taxpayers, considering the annual budget for his office is $10 million. Prosecutors said the $95 million payment is only a partial settlement, indicating other banks could be under scrutiny. Nettles would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an ongoing investigation...Two of the other settlements outlined this week – for $75 million and $6.5 million – appear to be related to an investigation into whether Bank of America and its Countrywide Financial unit knowingly made FHA-insured loans to unqualified borrowers. Prosecutors in New York said in February they had reached a $1 billion settlement with the bank over these practices, but have not yet filed court documents....Court documents have not been filed in the fifth case, which resulted in a $6.2 million settlement...MORE

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 10:44 AM

64. Well, the Kid wants to go out in the delicious Spring Air


So I guess I'll be back later...carry on, valiant Weekenders.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #64)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 03:24 PM

66. Beware, son II Facebooked that he was attacked by huge misquitos yesterday.

(You get everything 24 hours after we do, LOL)

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Response to kickysnana (Reply #66)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:32 PM

67. Yeah, the bugs are out


Flies and gnats, at least.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 12:02 PM

65. Everyone have a safe and sane St. Paddy's Day.

I know it's warm out, but please refrain from running around the neighborhood drunk and naked.

Well, if you do, post pics here tomorrow.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:37 PM

68. Corporate Malfeasance – And Why It Corrupts By John Perkins



malfeasance n. intentionally doing something either legally or morally wrong which one had no right to do. It always involves dishonesty, illegality, or knowingly exceeding authority for improper reasons. Malfeasance - Synonyms: MISCONDUCT, MISBEHAVIOR, MISDOING, WRONGDOING http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/malfeasance

---For several decades we have empowered politicians and corporate leaders to create a system that is scandalously wasteful, overtly reckless, and we now know – ultimately self-destructive. It is hard for us to admit that we have been hoodwinked. But that is exactly the case. We have been hoodwinked by both the modern-day robber barons and by the very governmental bodies that are charged with preventing such malfeasance. Corporate malfeasance is thriving and we continue to see on a daily basis corporate executives taking advantage of workers and consumers alike. As I've written in my books, more than any other single factor, today's tycoons exemplify the mutant form of capitalism we have misguidedly embraced and been infected with – the exploitation of the many by the few. We accept as "natural" that the CEO's of Fortune 500 companies become as rich as the Gilded Age tycoons simply because they operate under the mantle of publicly traded companies that are supposedly scrutinized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We witnessed massive bailouts at the end of the Bush presidency and at the start of the Obama presidency and yet we accept the fact that roughly half the profits made by investment banks were distributed to the senior partners – not to the employees or the stockholders. The Wall Street Journal cited in February that banks could double payouts to shareholders in 2012 alone. According to the story, Credit Suisse analysts expect payouts to reach an "average of 47% of earnings in 2012, up from 23% last year."

Ironically the banks positioned to receive these double digit earnings include some of those we bailed out with our tax dollars in the previous year, such as Goldman-Sachs, JP Morgan and US Bancorp. While this all makes for a potentially stronger rally on Wall Street, it does nothing to help citizens struggling on a daily basis to maintain their homes, their health insurance, and their jobs.

One of the earliest robber barons noted in my book was J.P. Morgan. He set a course years ago that has been followed by many of today's billionaires – of mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations, deals that heap riches on those who mold them but wreak havoc on competitors, workers and local economies. These transactions empower a few individuals with control of resources and markets; the CEOs who end up at the top of the conglomerates are in positions to exert excessive influence over government officials, the press, and buying trends. Because such deals are made on paper- in board rooms, law offices, and at investment banks - they seldom produce tangible goods or services or create new jobs. These paper transactions have played an ever-increasing role in the U.S. economy in recent decades and are a major contributor to the failing of our economy. The March 26, 2012, Forbes Billionaires issue states, "This year, we've counted 1226 billionaires, an all-time high." Those 1,226 billionaires are worth a record $4.6 trillion. The average wealth of a Forbes billionaire is $3.7 billion. Yet, in our country, the U.S. billionaires call for lower taxes on corporations while the middle-class continues to bear the heaviest tax burden when they can least afford it. Those with money and power go to great lengths to cheat our system.......

You and I can make a difference by supporting institutions that call for corporate restructuring and accountability. I urge you to take all this seriously, become more aware of the roles corporations play in our destinies and those of our children. Please support the initiatives of organizations like Corporate Accountability International - http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/ , and The Center for Corporate Policy - http://www.corporatepolicy.org/action/take.htm .

John Perkins- NYTimes best-selling Author - www.johnperkins.org.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sat Mar 17, 2012, 06:40 PM

69. Federal jobless aid ending for 80,000 S.C. residents



Extended federal unemployment benefits are being phased out for almost 86,000 jobless workers in South Carolina despite the state's high 9.3 percent jobless rate. About 6,500 people will lose extended unemployment benefits starting in April. The remaining 79,000 jobless South Carolinians who now are getting extended jobless benefits will lose them at the end of the year, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce said Thursday.

Starting in January, workers who lose their jobs in South Carolina will qualify only for 20 weeks of unemployment checks. During the worst of the Great Recession, workers could get up to 79 additional weeks of jobless checks – for a total of 99 weeks of benefits – while they searched for a job. The state's falling unemployment rate triggered the loss of extended benefits. Jobless workers in seven other states also lose their extended benefits.

'I'm a little surprised,' said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner. 'You've got a lot of rural areas in the state, some of which have the highest unemployment rates in the country.'

Many of those rural counties still are suffering double-digit jobless rates; some had double-digit jobless rates before the Great Recession. The loss of extended benefits could mean workers in those depressed counties will move to more urban areas, where jobless rates are falling, to look for work, Vitner said.

South Carolina is among seven states where the falling jobless rate 'triggered' the loss of extended federal benefits, Employment and Workforce spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said. The others are Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin.


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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 08:52 AM

73. Foreign millionaires fled Zurich after tax change


The region of Zurich, the home of Swiss banking, has lost nearly half its foreign millionaires two years after scrapping special tax breaks, official figures published on Friday showed.

Of the 201 foreign residents who benefited from the tax breaks which the canton scrapped in early 2009, 97 have decamped to more favourable tax regimes, the region's tax services department said.

Those departures represent a loss of 12.2 million Swiss francs ($13 million) in tax revenues last year, however that figure is more than recouped by the higher tax bills charged to the high-earners who decided to stay on.

Switzerland has come under pressure from its neighbours -- many of which have depleted state coffers -- as well as from some of its own citizens over its flat rate tax system that has attracted the wealthiest to claim residency in the country.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 09:01 AM

74. awesome grilled steak dinner w/ friends last night....followed by ... morning?

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Response to xchrom (Reply #74)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 09:45 AM

75. Sunday morning, pouring buckets of (muchly needed) rain

Pizza at the Fatman's last night, and one of the waitresses bought a ring right off my hand. Then came home to find I'd received a message from someone who visited my Etsy store and wants to know if I can send Angel Feathers to Australia.

This particular week-end economist is trying to figure out how I can (afford to) quit my (pathetically low-paying) day job and put that time to use on my other stuff. I know I will never be able to afford to retire like most of my acquaintances or even my parents and grandparents, but if I'm going to have to work for the rest of my life I would like to be able to do it at something from which I derive at least some enjoyment.

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Response to Tansy_Gold (Reply #75)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 09:55 AM

76. that all sounds very, very good!

how wonderful that the waitress liked your ring and bought it like that.

that's quite the compliment.

i hope you can get your stuff to Oz -- that seems doable on the surface to me.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:02 AM

78. Goldman Sachs Board Must Act on Smith Op-Ed, Ex-Partner Writes


Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS)’s directors must investigate a former employee’s allegations about a change in the firm’s culture, Jacki Zehner, who was a partner when she left the firm in 2002, wrote on her blog.

Zehner said she doesn’t know Greg Smith, the derivatives salesman whose New York Times op-ed piece blamed Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohn for fostering a “toxic and destructive” environment, causing Smith to quit last week. Zehner, who worked at Goldman Sachs for 14 years, wrote that she’s heard from “many people” in the past few years that the firm is emphasizing profits over character.

“These are very serious accusations from a credible person in my view and I hope it does indeed provide a ‘wake-up’ call to the board of directors,” wrote Zehner, who was the first female trader promoted to partner and is married to a former partner. She is now CEO and president of Women Moving Millions, a non- profit supporting the advancement of women and girls worldwide.

“It is the board that is accountable to shareholders and before they take another paycheck I hope they ask a heck of a lot of questions and get honest answers,” Zehner, 47, wrote in her March 16 commentary.

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Response to xchrom (Reply #78)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 12:01 PM

81. Betcha a weekend they don't


and as a result, a glorious implosion occurs. It will take down the political system, too.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 11:56 AM

80. Ladies and gentlemen of the thread, I am wiped


I'm going to leave this thread to your amusement. The summer lethargy set in...all this good weather is baffling, and it's supposed to continue. It doesn't even go down at night anymore....I didn't need a sweater until 11 PM last night. Lows in the 50's, highs in the 70's and 80's for the foreseeable future....

The daffs, forsythia, and primroses have popped open last night. I saw them as I threw papers.

Rumor has it that the paper has a year or less to live. I have mixed feelings about that....mostly inconvenience. There's no cause for grief, that's for sure.

I have decided that I've been stuck in the grief process over a number of things (not just deaths)...so I'm going to work on being happy that some things and people have ended....so that I can fill in the vacancies with new, living people and ventures.

Vitality is a learned response in our society, not a natural one. There are so many people trying to frustrate and deprive other people to death. The deprivation can be food, shelter, medical care, education, or love, respect, purpose, and accomplishment. That's in essence what the women's movement was all about: seeing that we get the vital nutrients for living.

We women are tasked with trying to keep our children vital...we don't always think about doing the same for ourselves. Take some time for that, ladies. Spring will help get us going. It's been a hard 10 years or so.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #80)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 01:39 PM

83. Snow on the mountain and wise words

Temperature when I left for the coffee shop was 43, and there is snow on Superstition Mountain.

Demeter is right. This is the season of renewal, and we must focus on our own rebirth into the sun, into the warmth, into the life.

And the dreams that are my life,
The life that I give to my dreams,
I will not let them go.
I will hold them to me,
In my heart and my soul
And treasure them beyond gold.

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Sun Mar 18, 2012, 04:54 PM

84. For those with Link TV,

I caught an awesome speech by Economist Richard Wolff.

They're in fundraising mode, and have a lot of good stuff on. Howard Zinn, The Corporation, Gashole, Chris Hedges and more.



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