Banks: why would anyone believe bad things about them?


CITIGROUP is lucky that Muammar el-Qaddafi was killed when he was. The Libyan leader’s death diverted attention from a lethal article involving Citigroup that deserved more attention because it helps to explain why many average Americans have expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The news was that Citigroup had to pay a $285 million fine to settle a case in which, with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust.

It doesn’t get any more immoral than this. As the Securities and Exchange Commission civil complaint noted, in 2007, Citigroup exercised “significant influence” over choosing $500 million of the $1 billion worth of assets in the deal, and the global bank deliberately chose collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s, built from mortgage loans almost sure to fail. According to The Wall Street Journal, the S.E.C. complaint quoted one unnamed C.D.O. trader outside Citigroup as describing the portfolio as resembling something your dog leaves on your neighbor’s lawn. “The deal became largely worthless within months of its creation,” The Journal added. “As a result, about 15 hedge funds, investment managers and other firms that invested in the deal lost hundreds of millions of dollars, while Citigroup made $160 million in fees and trading profits.”

Citigroup, which is under new and better management now, settled the case without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.

October 31, 2011 Posted by | economy, politics/social, republicans, social/political | 4 Comments

Mano Singham’s Web Journal: The crazy anti-science people

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Mano Singham’s Web Journal: The crazy anti-scie…, posted with vodpod

October 31, 2011 Posted by | evolution, humor, political humor, republicans, science | Leave a comment

My non-English speaking friends (as a first language) might not get this

October 31, 2011 Posted by | humor | Leave a comment

Republican Halloween

(hat tip: Jerry Coyne)

October 30, 2011 Posted by | political humor, politics, republicans | 2 Comments

Banks, foreclosures, denial and Will…

Workout notes My hips and legs are a bit sore (13 then 10 miles on hilly courses) and so I gave myself the day off, sort of.
I did lift weights and added some knee strengthening exercises:

Rotator cuff
Hammer row: 3 x 10 with 200
pull downs: 2 x 10 with 140, 1 x 10 with 145
Bench press: 10 x 135, 2 x 155, 1 x 175, 1 x 185 (ugly but legal; it killed my shoulder), 6 x 155, 8 x 155
Incline press: 2 sets of 10 x 125
military press: seated: 15 x 40 dumbbell, 14 x 40 dumbbell (started to lose control with left arm), standing 5 x 45 dumbbell
curls: 1 x 12 with 25 lb. dumbbell, 10 x 52 (EZ curl bar), 5 x 62 with EZ curl bar
Sit ups: 40, 40, 30
lunges: 2 sets (front, back; 10 reps each)
One legged squats (Smith machine): 15 x 45 each leg, 10 x 95 each leg
abduction: 3 sets of 10 with 180
adduction: 3 sets of 10 with 180
push back: 3 sets of 10 with 110
leg press: 2 sets of 10 (working on the proper resistance)
leg extensions: 2 sets of 10
leg curls: 2 sets of 10

Long term plan: do a upper/lower weight workout once on the weekend, and a leg only once during the week.
I’ll probably add “stair master” miles or a trail loop too.

I watched a great game (Wisconsin vs. Ohio State) last night; it appeared that the Buckeyes had them when they were up 26-14 with 6 minutes to go. But Wisconsin rallied to take a 29-26 lead with a minute to go. So with 30 seconds OSU hit a long touchdown pass (50 yards) off of a scramble. OSU wins 33-29.

Then I watched Stanford come back to beat USC in 3 overtimes. Ho-hum.

Then there is the WTF game: Iowa State humiliates Texas Tech 41-7 at Texas Tech! Lets see:
Texas creamed Iowa State in Ames, Oklahoma destroyed Texas, Tech knocked off OU, and then ISU destroys Tech. I love it. 🙂
Then there is Arizona State bombing USC, who whipped Notre Dame, who destroyed Purdue who beat Illinois, who beat Arizona State. 🙂

And what am I doing now? Watching the Rams lead the Saints 24-14 with 3:43 to go in the game; one of the Saints TD’s came on a recovered fumble. This one isn’t over; not at all. But the Saints are 82 yards away and have only 3 minutes.

Oh my; interception return by the Rams…31-14!!! I should have gone to the game. 🙂
Yep the Rams won 31-21.

Other non-sports related posts
George Will isn’t happy with Mitt Romney being the front runner for the GOP nomination; he calls him a Dukakis like candidate:

The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance. […]

A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said that using Troubled Assets Relief Program funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.

Last week in Ohio, Romney straddled the issue of the ballot initiative by which liberals and unions hope to repeal the law that Republican Gov. John Kasich got enacted to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Kasich, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is under siege. Romney was asked, at a Republican phone bank rallying support for Kasich’s measure, to oppose repeal of it and to endorse another measure exempting Ohioans from Obamacare’s insurance mandate (a cousin of Romneycare’s Massachusetts mandate). He refused. […]

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

(emphasis mine)

Now I want to be clear: George Will is one of those “serious” conservative pundits who is taken seriously, but, to my recollection, almost never right about anything!!! Of course, Paul Krugman mocked Mr. Will here:

I sometimes like to say that modern conservatism isn’t an attempt to turn the clock back to the Gilded Age, it’s an attempt to roll things back to before the Enlightenment, with all that godless talk about numbers and evidence and all that. Doesn’t sound that silly now, does it?

Never mind Darwin — let’s go after Newton!

But that is what being conservative is about isn’t it? You don’t have to actually be correct or to back up your arguments with evidence and data. All you have to do is to repeat platitudes that a number of people believe.

Paul Krugman is an anti-Will. Yeah, he is derided as a Hippie and a liberal ideologue, but he gets things right.

Yes, he sometimes makes some unpopular statements. For example, he notes that defense spending can have a Keynesian effect…even if conservatives acknowledge this and liberals don’t like it. But he calls out the conservatives for their “disinformation in depth” strategy:

Columbia Journalism Review has a takedown of a “study” from American Enterprise Institute purporting to show that inequality hasn’t increased, after all. What’s striking is the way AEI doesn’t even resort to the usual practice of concocting misleading numbers; it just flat-out lies about what various other peoples’ research, like Robert Gordon’s work, actually says. […]

What I found myself thinking about, however, is the way the inequality debate illustrates some typical features of many debates these days: the way the right has a sort of multi-layer defense in depth, which involves not only denying facts but then, in a pinch, denying the fact that you denied those facts.

Think about climate change. You have various right-wingers simultaneously (a) denying that global warming is happening (b) denying that anyone denies that global warming is happening, but denying that humans are responsible (c) denying that anyone denies that humans are causing global warming, insisting that the real argument is about the appropriate response.

In short, rather than argue on merits, they attempt to confuse the debate.

Speaking of debate: the Social Security discussion is often confused. Yes, Social Security has a dedicated revenue stream. So if right now, Social Security is paying out more than it takes in (from that stream), then one must count the “trust fund” (which has been raided to pay for other things). If, on the other hand, you count Social Security as just any other government program and a part of the budget, then it makes no sense to say that it is running a deficit:

I’ve written about this repeatedly in the past, but here it is again: Social Security is a program that is part of the federal budget, but is by law supported by a dedicated source of revenue. This means that there are two ways to look at the program’s finances: in legal terms, or as part of the broader budget picture.

In legal terms, the program is funded not just by today’s payroll taxes, but by accumulated past surpluses — the trust fund. If there’s a year when payroll receipts fall short of benefits, but there are still trillions of dollars in the trust fund, what happens is, precisely, nothing — the program has the funds it needs to operate, without need for any Congressional action.

Alternatively, you can think about Social Security as just part of the federal budget. But in that case, it’s just part of the federal budget; it doesn’t have either surpluses or deficits, no more than the defense budget.

Both views are valid, depending on what questions you’re trying to answer.

What you can’t do is insist that the trust fund is meaningless, because SS is just part of the budget, then claim that some crisis arises when receipts fall short of payments, because SS is a standalone program. Yet that’s exactly what the WaPo claims.

OWS: one reason people are angry at Banks

Sometimes banks WANT to foreclose because it is more profitable for them to do so than to accept an offer:

I was given the following letter by a friend who received it in the mail from a local real estate agent. I have redacted the names and places at the agent's request, but it is a powerful statement of why we are Occupying Wall Street.

Oct. 20, 2011


The home at XXXXX was foreclosed upon on Oct. 4, 2011. I want to explain what happened in the 271 days that I had this property on the market as a short sale. A short sale is when there is more money owed on the home that it is worth.

I brought XXXX bank 17 offers over a 9 month period in which they turned them all down. I even had an all cash offer where a buyer said he would close in 7 days with no inspections. The bank’s goal was to foreclose and wipe out the lender in second position. With the second gone, their profit margin is greater. The negotiator at XXXX bank made it quite clear that they do not concern themselves with what happens to property values in a neighborhood when they foreclose. It is strictly a numbers game to the guy sitting behind the desk.

The bank gave the listing to an agent in a city who has nver sold a property in your county.




XXXXX Realtors

The home in question, which is now abandoned and for sale, was owned by a fully-employed surgeon who got into financial trouble when his wife died after a long and expensive illness and with probate, he missed some payments. He could have done a short sale and paid off the mortgage, but the bank- one of the nation’s largest – saw an opportunity to profit from his loss. Now he is houseless and well as a widower.>

The Free Market is not always the cure for what ails us, no matter how hard conservatives preach from its gospel.

October 30, 2011 Posted by | economy, knee rehabilitation, Mitt Romney, NFL, politics, republicans, republicans politics, shoulder rehabilitation, social/political, training, weight training | 2 Comments

Illinois vs. Penn State 2011

(photos from yahoo)

The game was played in snowy conditions.

It was a bruising, hard hitting affair.

Defense and turnovers kept the score down; though Illinois won the battle of field position during the first half, they couldn’t convert on Penn State miscues. Penn State missed a field goal (43 yards) and fumbled. But whereas Illinois got inside the 5, a penalty on a potential touchdown (good call…this one) cost heavily, and then a dropped snap on the field goal attempt lead to the first of two interceptions.

Poor special teams play was to cost Illinois heavily.

Eventually, in the third quarter, a stop on 4’th down gave Illinois the ball and the Illini got the first touchdown of the day to take a 7-0 lead.

But in the 4’th quarter: a blocked punt set Penn State up with the ball at about the 25 yard line. The Illinois defense held and so Penn State kicked a field goal to close to 7-3 with about 6:30 to go.

Illinois drove the ball a bit and eventually punted; Penn State had the ball at their own 20 with 3 minutes to go.

Then the Nittany Lion offense came to life; passing to a receiver that the just got back helped them move down the field…and then a questionable pass interference penalty set them up. PSU scored on a run with 1:08 to go to go up 10-7.

But Illinois had all of their time outs left and used them to drive. Illinois got the ball down to the 34 yard line with 18-19 seconds left and then a long run up the middle on first down picked up 9 yards.

So Illinois tried a 42 yard field goal (a tough kick under these conditions)

The ball bounced off of the right upright.

Yes, there were questionable calls and non-calls (a helmet to helmet hit on the Illini quarterback that was not called), the questionable pass interference and a questionable interception when it appeared that the Illinois receiver had the ball on while sitting on the ground.

But special teams were terrible: botched hold on one field goal, the miss, and a blocked punt. This has been an Achilles heel all year long. And when you notice that the offense has scored 28 points TOTAL over the past three games…that isn’t going to get you anywhere.

The victories this season: I-AA team (FCS), a good Sun Belt team (Arkansas State), an above average MAC team (Western Michigan), a middling to bad Northwestern team, a terrible Indiana team…and a good Arizona State team. Three of the victories were by 3 points apiece.

As far as the other game; Navy vs. Notre Dame wasn’t a contest:

Navy is reeling right now.

October 30, 2011 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

Some have a different view of those having economic trouble. A law firm which represents banks and mortgage services that foreclose on homeowners have a Halloween party. In 2010:

[…] a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation.


Other images on other topics

Herman Cain voters?

October 29, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, economy, Herman Cain, humor, political humor, political/social, religion, social/political | Leave a comment

Mc-Not-Again 10 miler

I know; the last two years I finished the 30. Today I signed up for the 10.

Upshot: I walked my fastest 10 mile loop in a long time (since 2006?): 2:27. The knee felt great for the first 2:20 or so. Funny how that works; when it comes to walking I have about 2:30-2:40 in my knee; running I have about 1:20-1:25 or so.

The day was chilly (just above freezing; 33-34 F or about 1 C) and I started off in the back of the pack. I got to Tanner’s pass right at 12 minutes; way fast for me. Totem Pole came at 36 minutes, the first creek crossing at 49 and Golf Hill at 57; the bridge at 1:14. I felt ok much of the way; after Tanner’s pass I was mostly by myself, except for brief periods into and out of Heaven’s Gate. I traded place with a black spandex clad MILF with VPLs for a while; I even went down (caught myself with my hands though) and then reached the bridge at 2:01 and the final water crossing at 2:08.

This was the way that 50K’s used to feel, at least in terms of effort. However I wouldn’t have lasted 50K at this effort today and though I felt fine when I finished, my knee was finished for the day. It wasn’t in pain per se, but fatigued.

In all, I feel good about this one.

October 29, 2011 Posted by | hiking, knee rehabilitation, time trial/ race, walking | 1 Comment

Screaming Pumpkin Half…er…DNF Marathon

Well, if there were a half marathon option at this race, I’d be feeling ok. But there wasn’t; there was the 1/4 marathon, the relay and the full marathon. I signed up for the latter and dropped out half way.

I actually started my third (out of 4 loops) but turned back about .5 miles into it. It was the right knee again; it was hurting in EXACTLY the way that it hurts at the same place that it did during my build up training walks and it hurt at about the same distance that it usually starts to hurt. It wasn’t severe pain and I felt it behind the knee, as usual.

I just didn’t want to feel it for another 3 hours or so; the pain was enough to make it “not fun”.

So, until I make my knee stronger with squats, step ups and extensions, my limit for walking will be 2:30 to a half marathon. I won’t think about signing up for a marathon until I can make 20 miles in training with no knee pain without NSAIDS.

Funny: had there been a half marathon option I would have signed up for it and I would have felt ok about the result. There is something about “finishing what you started”.

Since it is a prediction marathon, I didn’t wear a watch. But I did start with the 6.55 mile racers; I didn’t walk very fast and it took about 1:32 to walk the first 1/4. I wasn’t remotely taxed; my guess is that lap 2 was perhaps 4-5 minutes slower.

So when I dropped, I wasn’t that tired at all.

As far as the event itself: it takes place on (approximately) the Illinois Valley Strider half marathon course; it is a series of 6.55 mile loops. About half of the course is road and half is gravel road (sort of gravel; more like crumbly asphalt). It IS hilly but, to be honest, I like this course. It is pretty and has a bit of everything.

What is weird is that people start the marathon and the marathon relay at different times, so for at least the first 3 hours or so, there are people at different parts of the course going in different directions at all times. But the course IS easy to follow; you do have to pay a moderate amount of attention. Unless you are fast, you will get passed several times, and if you are fast, you will pass people several times. There is a variety of paces out there because of the “start time optional” nature of the course.

I would have enjoyed it had my knee been strong enough to meet the challenge.


AFTER a lot of weight training for the appropriate muscles…and next time I’ll be prepared.

A few photos:

Beth is the attractive one; she is a multi-time ironwoman.

Beth and a friend

I told you that I like women’s butts

The sign says: Dick Cheney Hunting Partner


Not enough light for this spandex shot.

October 29, 2011 Posted by | marathons, Peoria, Peoria/local, time trial/ race, training | 4 Comments

This Cartoon Makes a Point on Superficial Judgements

October 28, 2011 Posted by | economy, political humor, politics, politics/social | Leave a comment