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Exclusively Rescuing the Selective

April 1, 2009

According to this article in the WSJ, Treasury’s Very Private Asset Fund,, Geithner is only going to work with a select few private investors as part of his Pippy Longstockings Plan.

The investment community was already suspicious last week when Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled his plan, announcing that Treasury would select four or five companies as “fund managers” to purchase toxic securities. Given that the whole idea is to create a liquid market for these assets, we’d have thought Treasury would encourage as many players as possible.

But the bigger shock was when Treasury released its application to become a fund manager, a main rule of which is that only firms that already have a minimum of $10 billion in toxic securities under management can apply. Few hedge funds, private equity players or sovereign wealth funds come near this number. The hurdle would bar many who specialize in the very distressed assets that the Obama Administration is trying to offload from banks.

Hedge Fund Intelligence recently estimated total assets under management at Avenue Capital Group at $16.4 billion, King Street Capital at $15.8 billion, Fortress Investment Group at $13.7 billion, and Elliott Associates at $12.8 billion. Presumably, the portion of these portfolios devoted to toxic assets is significantly smaller. “It’s difficult to imagine why most firms would even bother to apply now,” one hedge fund manager told us.

Treasury rules also say the $10 billion limit must be comprised of commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities that are “secured directly by the actual mortgage loans, leases or other assets and not other securities.” This is another way of saying that they must be “first tier” assets, for instance collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). But what many private players instead deal in are “CDOs squared” or CDOs secured by other CDOs, which would not count toward the requirement. This, too, will make it harder to take part in the program.

It used to be Standard Oil that sucked out our lifeblood. Maybe it still is, under the guise of banking and Ne0-Liberal Capitalism. The tentacles again oppressively spread across the nation, sticking the suckers with their bigger suckers. Then there are those who pretend to vanquish the monster in the guise of government’s technocratic saviors. They are not saviors. Obama and Geithner are ever defenders of the status quo, of the ever gated community.

It sucks.

No worries, the BBC says there are already too many of us. We have exceeded the Earth’s limits

And here is another take on what we might expect from tomorrow’s G20 meeting

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    April 2, 2009 6:53 am

    Interesting revelation about Summers in Harvard’s Crimson from a whistleblower who says she was fired for questioning Summers management of Harvard’s endowment:

    But only a few months later, Mack says she was fired after she raised concerns to University officials about managers’ qualifications and possibly irresponsible usage of financial instruments that could have contributed to the recent and sudden decline in Harvard’s endowment.

    In an e-mail sent May 30, 2002 to Marne Levine, chief of staff for then-Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, Mack detailed her concerns regarding what she deemed HMC’s “frightening” usage of derivatives and statistical modeling techniques, as well as the Company’s lack of a timely and portfolio-wide risk management system, high employee turnover rate, and low level of productivity in the workplace, specifically among managers.

    According to documents and e-mail records, all provided by Mack, Levine had initially assured Mack that their correspondence would remain confidential. But on July 1, HMC chief Jack R. Meyer called Mack into a meeting, in which she was presented with copies of her e-mails, according to a letter sent to Levine and Summers by Mack’s attorney.


    Ultimately, Mack says she reached an out-of-court settlement with Harvard over her firing because her lawyers felt that the University did not want to attract media attention from the dismissal, and that the case could be dragged out over a long period, making it difficult to litigate.

    Summers should not be advising the President on the economy or anything else. This story adds to the burden of proof. We’ll have to see if any mainstream media picks it up. So far it is only covered by the University and the blogs.

  2. cometman permalink*
    April 2, 2009 7:11 am

    Just caught a bit of talk radio on the morning car ride. Supposedly it’s a sports talk radio station but the host can’t help spewing right wing garbage. The guy must hope that everybody gets their take on the news only from him because what he was saying was so ridiculous as to be almost beyond belief for anyone who had seen the actual news. He was talking about the protests going on right now – the G20 stuff and these tea parties I’ve heard about that are supposed to happen. He was very critical of Obama. So far so good. But then he starts talking about all the ‘anarchists’ who are protesting and how they are on Obama’s side. WTF? And then he starts talking about all the damage Obama is doing and how he’s going to ruin the country. But not because of all the money he’s giving to the bankers. Evidently we are on the road to perdition not because we are giving trillions to a bunch of crooks, but because Obama and the Dems want to limit business and entrepreneurs somehow. He was saying business people should just take their money and pack it in because with the upcoming changes they won’t be able to make money anymore. Didn’t catch the specifics of what he was ranting about but I’m assuming it was the proposed tax changes for the wealthy which would require them to pay the same tax rate as they did under Reagan and Bush 1. I can only assume that even though the republican presidents hadn’t gotten around to lowering taxes enough back then they were still American heros while Obama is a traitor for doing the same thing. Just amazing the spin this clown could put on things. But the scary part is that the rightwing nutjob was encouraging his listeners to get riled up at Obama and get organized against him.

    Seems like the right is able to get the crazies riled about things that are patently false while the left can’t get people riled about the stuff that’s actually true. Very frustrating.

    This clown also said that according to Jake Tapper, Obama gave the Queen of England an Ipod filled with among other things some of Obama’s political speeches. WTF? Obama already pissed off the Brits by giving Brown a bunch of American movie DVDs as a gift as if they couldn’t buy them themselves. Now an Ipod? With his own speeches? Obama seems kind of tone deaf in the political gift dept.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 8:14 am

      You raise a really important point here – why is it that the moderates and the contemporary left are less willing to be riled by the truth? The right is easily riled by fantasy, because they still believe the crap they heard in Sunday school and still hear on Faux News.

      Could it be a mutual and nationwide general loss of critical thinking? Something else?

      • cometman permalink*
        April 2, 2009 8:41 am

        Really wish I knew the answer. But I think you’re fairly close with the saturation of stupid provided by Sunday school and the corporate media. It really is pervasive and difficult to counter when people are brought up hearing that kind of garbage every day. My family to my great chagrin goes to a baptist church filled with stupid James Dobson Focus on the Family materials. Only sermon I ever saw there the idiot minister was preaching on the merits of a theocracy – Xtian of course, the Muslim were obviously evil in his mind. But they also watch Fox which I don’t understand. The reason I pay such close attention to the news is because my folks always got the daily newspaper and always watched the 6 o clock news. But Cronkite not the crap that’s on now. Can’t fathom why they switched to Fox, but I suspect it has something to do with the church and the fact that Fox caters to a similar audience that Dobson does. Really ticks me off when the folks visit and they turn on Fox at my house, especially since it isn’t on my channel list and they actually have to go searching for it to get it on the screen.

  3. cometman permalink*
    April 2, 2009 7:27 am

    More encouraging news on Mary Jane legalization front. In Connecticut the legislature’s judiciary committee voted to decriminalize possesion of small amounts for adults:

    On a groundbreaking vote, the legislature’s judiciary committee decided Tuesday night to decriminalize marijuana possession for adults 18 and older who have less than half an ounce of the drug.

    Under a compromise, the marijuana laws would not change for anyone under 18, and the amount that would be decriminalized was reduced from less than 1 ounce to less than half an ounce. The possession of small amounts would no longer be a crime and would instead be an infraction with a maximum fine of $250 that could be paid like a speeding ticket.

    Still needs to pass the full legislature and a likely veto by the republican governor to become law, but it’s a start.

    On a side note, republican Lawrence Cafero claimed:

    He also reminded middle-aged legislators that they should know that marijuana today is far more potent than the drug that was available in the 1970s.

    “What is the message that we as a legislature will send when we decriminalize marijuana?” Cafero asked. “That sends a wrong message.”

    I missed the 70s but sampled lots of jibbah from the 80s 90s and 00s and never lost my mind over it. Mostly just a pleasant buzz. And definitely never got nearly as wasted as in my younger salad days when I’d drink a lot, fall down, and forget what happened. So I’m thinking that 70s stuff must have been some real schwag. No wonder everybody was doing coke back then like in Saturday Night Fever :)

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 8:07 am

      He must have been a loser. In the 70’s there was amazing thai stick dipped in hash oil floating around along with the usual lighter weight Mexican. There were also some amazing Hawaiian blends and specialties from Northern California. Ah, them were the daze. :) Glad to know that legalization is spreading in popularity. It’s time.

  4. cometman permalink*
    April 2, 2009 7:31 am

    So hey, now that you’ve got something up and we have a few comments, should I let people know this place is here or do you want to do some more decorating and figuring out how it works first? Looks like I can handle the text and links and stuff. That doesn’t seem different than soapblox. Still can’t figure out the pics and vids yet though although I haven’t tried to post a diary yet.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 8:02 am

      I think we have the hang of the basics now, so yes, go ahead and spread word. The diary post function is much like “blogger” style blogs with buttons for controls. For photos I find uploading to my flickr acct and then pasting in the url using their photo button works. Then I go in and add size in edit mode after posting.

      • cometman permalink*
        April 2, 2009 8:43 am

        Just posted a note at FSZ. We’ll see if anybody shows up.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 8:25 am

      P.S. I like your icon. Nautilus man! I picked a similar photo for the site icon. It’s like a squid in a nice armored tiger suit. :)

  5. Stemella permalink*
    April 2, 2009 8:19 am

    Stiglitz has a relatively new Op-ed in the NYT Obama’s Ersatz Capitalism

    It’s nothing we haven’t read from him before in more detailed pieces, but it is good to be reminded so succinctly what we are dealing with regarding Obama’s team – Wall St. on the March.

    What the Obama administration is doing is far worse than nationalization: it is ersatz capitalism, the privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses. It is a “partnership” in which one partner robs the other. And such partnerships — with the private sector in control — have perverse incentives, worse even than the ones that got us into the mess.

    So what is the appeal of a proposal like this? Perhaps it’s the kind of Rube Goldberg device that Wall Street loves — clever, complex and nontransparent, allowing huge transfers of wealth to the financial markets. It has allowed the administration to avoid going back to Congress to ask for the money needed to fix our banks, and it provided a way to avoid nationalization.

    But we are already suffering from a crisis of confidence. When the high costs of the administration’s plan become apparent, confidence will be eroded further. At that point the task of recreating a vibrant financial sector, and resuscitating the economy, will be even harder.

  6. jacksmirkingr3venge permalink
    April 2, 2009 8:44 am

    I remember like it was yesterday when the Discount Window turned into the TAF…..our tax money goes to the highest asker.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 2, 2009 9:06 am

      Hey jack. Thanks for stopping in.

      Have you had a chance to do any hell raising this week in NYC? Post some pics if you’ve got any.

      • jacksmirkingr3venge permalink
        April 3, 2009 9:17 pm

        Nope……today will be the day!

        • Stemella permalink*
          April 4, 2009 8:43 am

          Thanks for getting out there. Hope it’s a good turn out. Pinches unite!

          Small protests on Wall St from yesterday got a little coverage here

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 9:42 am

      Hiya Jack

      I gave you author status, which means you can post to the front page and edit your own stuff. Feel free. The posting rulz are different for wordpress, but after you learn the buttons to push it’s pretty quick and ez.

  7. cometman permalink*
    April 2, 2009 9:15 am

    Speaking of the media not telling the whole story and making people dumber, Russell Mokhiber mentions that the latest PBS Frontline program about health care was a whitewash of what the reporter had wanted to convey:

    Last year, former Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid made a great documentary for the PBS show Frontline titled Sick Around the World.

    Reid traveled to five countries that deliver health care for all – UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan – to learn about how they do it.

    Reid found that the one thing these five countries had in common – none allowed for-profit health insurance companies to sell basic medical coverage.

    Frontline then said to Reid – okay, we want you to go around the United States and make a companion documentary titled Sick Around the America.

    So, Reid traveled around America, interviewing patients, doctors, and health insurance executives.

    The documentary that resulted – Sick Around America – aired Monday night on PBS.

    But even though Reid did the reporting for the film, he was cut out of the film when it aired this week.

    And the film didn’t present Reid’s bottom line for health care reform – don’t let health insurance companies profit from selling basic health insurance.

    They can sell for-profit insurance for extras – breast enlargements, botox, hair transplants.

    But not for the basic health needs of the American people.

    Instead, the film that aired Monday pushed the view that Americans be required to purchase health insurance from for-profit companies.

    I saw Sick Around the World and it was really a great program that took an honest look at these other healthcare systems. They pointed out the good and bad points in all of them, but the program gave the impression that despite the faults some of them had, they were still way better than ours and seemed to suggest that we could take the best aspects and use those to create a better nationalized system for ourselves. Didn’t catch the new program yet but from Mokhiber’s description it sounds like the producers twisted the reporter’s original intent to make the show much more insurance company friendly.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 9:49 am

      Pravda in America. I wonder if we’ll ever know how much whitewashing there’s been. I missed the frontline program and hope it will be re-aired. The healthcare system in the room is the biggest elephant in this country’s room. I’m starting to think they won’t do a damn thing to fix it until the last of the boomers die off under the current system. The middlemen of the for profit want to squeeze as much out of that mega generation’s demise as possible. Maybe by the time Gen x and y get to be senile a better system will be in place. Meanwhile at least 5 million more unemployed have been added to the ranks of the multi million uninsured.

  8. cometman permalink*
    April 2, 2009 10:07 am

    There’s a new award for excellence by independent media awarded by Ithaca College called The Izzy in honor of I F Stone. This is the second award created in his honor recently, following Harvard’s I F Stone Medal which was first presented last year . The first Izzy recipients were Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman who are very deserving if you ask me.

  9. cometman permalink*
    April 2, 2009 10:40 am

    While republican scumbag Ted Stevens was allowed to walk yesterday by Obama’s Justice Dept., justice is being delayed for a couple other prominent cases which reek of political persecution.

    While Stevens is free, Paul Minor has not been exonerated although Priscilla Owens, a judge who is a favorite of right wing hacks like Karl Rove, has recused herself from the case:

    Once-prominent attorney Paul Minor, jailed on charges of bribery, has alleged that his prosecution was politically motivated and timed to Mississippi’s gubernatorial elections. He has also alleged that there was direct involvement by former Bush White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove.

    The United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear an appeal of the case today. Scheduled to serve on the three-judge panel were Judges Will Garwood, Priscilla R. Owen, and Catherina Haynes. This morning, however, only hours before oral arguments were to be presented, Judge Owen recused herself from the case.

    In August of last year, Raw Story reported on Judge Owen’s possible conflicts of interest, including connections to former Bush White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove:

    Rove had a longstanding interest in Owen’s career, beginning in 1994, when Owen hired him as a campaign consultant in her successful bid for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court, paying him $250,000 for his efforts. Rove helped Owen raise over $900,000 for that campaign.

    Jim Moore, a long-time Texas journalist who has chronicled Rove’s career in several books, including Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, explained the unique relationship between Rove and Owen in a Wednesday phone interview.

    “He did everything for her. He created her career. He handpicked her to go to the Texas Supreme Court when he was trying to take over the Texas Supreme Court,” said Moore. “He was looking for people to groom and raise money for and have in his pipeline. Rove went and plucked her out of obscurity. She was an unknown lawyer in Houston.”

    And Don Siegelman, who was jailed on trumped up charges with Rove’s fingerprints all over them, is still waiting for a review of his case from the new Justice Department:

    Siegelman said he supports Holder’s decision (Re: Ted Stevens)but added, “I hope that [Holder] will take a look at some of the other cases that are buried on his desk.”

    Among the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the Siegelman case was the continued legal advising of a Bush DOJ political appointee to her subordinates handling the case after she recused herself from involvement with the prosecution. At the time her husband was campaigning in support of a Republican opponent of Siegelman’s.

    As Raw Story has reported, Siegelman was targeted by Republican opponents just weeks after first taking office in 1999. A bribery investigation into his appointment of a campaign contributor to a state board ultimately led to a 2006 conviction and a seven year jail sentence. Siegelman is out of prison now while he waits the results of an appeal.

    The political campaign to convict Siegelman is said to include former senior Bush advisor, Karl Rove, who has also been accused of smearing a Republican attorney who named Rove as a party to the investigation and conviction of Siegelman.

    Meanwhile, Karl Rove is still a free man raking in the bucks for TV appearances and it doesn’t appear that Obama or Holder have any intention of going after Rove for his misdeeds. Maybe I just don’t understand the inner workings of Justice, but it sure would have been nice to see Holder take a look at these other two cases before letting Stevens walk. And maybe actually taking a look at Rove while they were at it.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 2, 2009 12:01 pm

      And don’t forget bugman from the ceee-ment hot tub hell of Sugarland Texas, Mr. Tom Delay. Still free and mutating.

      Another reason to never return to Texas if at all possible.

      No justice, all illusion.

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