Thursday, May 13, 2010

Last Call

Steven D flags this Reuters story on a study of banks, minorities, and lending.

Or the complete lack of it.
"Paying More for the American Dream IV" was compiled by seven non-profit groups including the California Reinvestment Coalition, the New York-based Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project and the Chicago-based Woodstock Institute using data for 2006 to 2008 provided by lenders under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

The report covers seven cities: Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio and Rochester, New York.

According to the study, prime lending in communities of color from 2006 when the foreclosure crisis began to 2008 -- the most recent year for which data are available -- decreased 60.3 percent compared to 28.4 percent in largely white areas.

"The financial crisis has led to significantly reduced access to mortgage credit for all borrowers and communities," the report states. "In neighborhoods of color, however, where the foreclosure crisis has taken an especially severe toll, access to prime, conventional mortgage loans has declined precipitously -- to a much greater degree than in predominantly white neighborhoods."

The report also examines the lending patterns of America's four top banks: Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Wells Fargo.

While all four banking groups increased their prime refinance lending to white neighborhoods from 2006 to 2008, the report found that only Citigroup increased lending to minority communities -- though by far less than to white areas.

"The explosion of unaffordable, destabilizing credit in more recent times and the ensuing foreclosure crisis have served to magnify existing obstacles to fair credit access for millions of homeowners who now find their credit ruined," the report said.

"Systemic change is needed to address the major discrepancies... to ensure that families and communities can recover from the foreclosure crisis and have equal access going forward."
Lending dropped 60% in minority neighborhoods.  Even after the bailout, which was supposed to increase lending.  Instead of course banks kept the taxpayer money, invested it in the market, played the same rigged casino games, made a mint, paid the government back and told the rest of us peons to piss off.

And people wonder why I still believe racism is a massive problem in the US.

Meanwhile In The Financial Regulation Bill Arena

The Senate today passed a couple of amendments to the Dodd bill making things a hell of a lot tougher on the credit ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's.  DDay has the roundup on the Franken Amendment:
The clerk has called the roll on the Franken amendment, which would end the conflict of interest in the rating agency process by creating a new agency in the SEC to assign initial ratings of securities. Earlier, Senate Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd came out against the measure, fearing unintended consequences from it. Defending the “crackdown” on the credit rating agencies in the base bill – which really don’t amount to much, and by Dodd’s own admission don’t get rid of the conflict of interest – Dodd said “I like the idea where it’s (the Franken amendment) going, but I don’t know if it’s sound.” He preferred more study (great, a study, where good intentions go to die) of the problem.

The amendment still has a shot at passage, with members of the Banking Committee like Tim Johnson and Chuck Schumer supporting, as well as at least two Republicans, Roger Wicker and Chuck Grassley. We’ll have to see.

…Carl Levin closed out debate by reading some of the emails gleaned from his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations about the rating agencies clearly trading triple-A ratings for the promise of more business and more money. Just so you understand which side people are on who vote against this amendment.

…The problem of the rating agencies is precisely what Andrew Cuomo is investigating in New York right now.
The amendment passed 64-35. Good job, Al.  That's the good news.  Here's the bad.
One of the most far-reaching pieces of the Senate's Wall Street reform bill has powerful enemies. The White House doesn't like it. FDIC chief Sheila Bair doesn't like it. Obama adviser Paul Volcker--the patron saint of financial reform--doesn't like it. And neither do a number of key Democrats, including Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd. All of them say that a controversial proposal to force financial firms to spin off their derivative-trading desks into separate entities goes too far.

But they may have gotten themselves stuck with it--at least for now. With their assent, the plan was authored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who designed it to guard her left flank against a somewhat formidable primary challenge, and has been boasting of it on populist grounds for weeks. And that according to Republican and Democratic Senate sources, has led Democrats to quietly agree to postpone any changes they decide to make to her proposal until after this Tuesday's election has passed, to avoid embarrassing her in front of voters.

"I got a pretty good idea that it won't be dealt with before Tuesday," Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said last night, in response to a question from TPMDC.

Democrats will hold a special caucus meeting this afternoon, where they could make a final decision on how to proceed.
In other words, the Dems can't kill Lincoln's derivatives legislation until after she wins the primary next week.  Then they can bury the thing for good.  They never had the intention of passing  it, looks like.  But they couldn't kill it without getting rid of Blanche.

What, you thought Miss Senator Wal-Mart was going to really, really limit the massive derivatives market?  I didn't.  A nice bait-and-switch for the voters of Arkansas.  Problem is, Brian Beutler just blew the lid off this one 5 days before the election.

Have fun, Blanche...

Oil's Well That Doesn't End Well For This Oil Well, Part 11

As I've said before in this series, the rate of flow from this disaster in the Gulf is being estimated at a fraction of what some scientists are saying is the true rate of spillage. The Village is finally starting to ask questions about the numbers, and if it turns out that the scientists were right and the official government numbers are wrong, Obama and the Democrats are going to pay dearly at the polls.
The world has finally seen directly the turbulent plume of oil, gas and water billowing from a sliced steel pipe on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. But new video clips, released by BP Wednesday afternoon, haven't clarified one of the central unknowns in this crisis: Exactly how much oil is leaking into the gulf?

It's clearly a lot -- anyone can see that. But experts say that, without a meter, it's impossible to estimate the flow, particularly since it's a mixture of oil, gas and water.

"Anybody who can tell you how much oil is coming out of that thing is likely lying to you," Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said after reviewing the video.

But BP could use established scientific methods to measure the flow if it chose to do so, said Rich Camilli, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. One technique, for example, would use sonar in a manner quite similar to sonograms used in medical diagnostics, he said. Or BP could use the containment dome that was lowered to the sea bottom as a kind of measuring device.

"More information is always better. Right now there's only a very sketchy idea as to what the flow rates are. It's important to have very accurate numbers, if nothing else to scale the response for the oil slick," Camilli said. 
And right now it's looking like both BP and NOAA are playing hot potato with the how much.  It could be that the situation is hopeless, and that The Powers That Be are trying to lowball as not to cause panic. If there really is no way to cap this gusher and BP has to go with Plan Z, that is the long, slow laborious process of drilling a new well to take the pressure off the blowout that could take months, complaining about the number is a pointless exercise.

You know, except for the fact that Gulf state Republicans are going to brutally savage incumbent Democrats this fall should the truth be that Obama and the federal government was lying to the public.  If I'm Obama, I want that number, I'd want that number public, and I'd want it around BP's neck like a concrete albatross.

Otherwise it's going to be hung on Obama...and rightfully so.

[UPDATE]  Hey look, NPR is reporting that there could be 70,000 barrels of oil a day coming out of that pipe a day...that's 2.94 million gallons, give or take.

Not good news, folks.  That's an Exxon Valdez every 4 days.  And it's been 3 weeks.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Oliver Willis does it again, folks.  Introducing the Liberal Drudge.

He is our hero.  He will save us.  And nice pants, Rand. *snerk*

A Good Ol' Kentucky Horse Race

With only a few days to go until the Kentucky Senate primaries, on the GOP side, Rand Paul continues to crush Trey Grayson.  The latest poll from SurveyUSA has Paul up 49-33%, which is about right for the double digit lead Paul's had for months now.

But it's the Democratic primary that's the horse race.  Jack Conway has narrowed Dan Mongiardo's lead to just one point in the latest Louisville Courier-Journal poll.
Jack Conway appears to have closing speed.

Two months ago, Conway trailed in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll by 18 points.  Last month he closed the gap to three points.  His Derby horse may have finished in 8th place in the Kentucky Derby, but he and Daniel Mongiardo may be headed toward a photo finish.

Daniel Mongiardo and Jack Conway are in a virtual dead heat, with Mongiardo leading by one point, three other candidates gobbling up 13% of the primary voters and 12 percent still undecided.
In other words, Conway, the progressive, might actually pull this off.   Turnout for the Louisville mayoral race could bring out a lot of Dems from Conway's home turf.  It's going to be close.  If you're registered for either primary however here in the Bluegrass State, GO VOTE ON TUESDAY.

I'm Taking What They're Giving Cause I'm Working For A Living

NY Times reporter Catherine Rampell has a sobering look at our economy.  The jobs we've lost just aren't coming back.  And that's the crux of a much bigger problem.  A lot of people are missing the point on this article.  I've been saying that these jobs aren't coming back for a while now, that's a known issue.  It's how people are reacting to this new normal that is the key.
For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade.

The phasing out of these positions might have been accomplished through less painful means like attrition, buyouts or more incremental layoffs. But because of the recession, winter came early.

The tough environment has been especially disorienting for older and more experienced workers like Cynthia Norton, 52, an unemployed administrative assistant in Jacksonville.

“I know I’m good at this,” says Ms. Norton. “So how the hell did I end up here?”

Administrative work has always been Ms. Norton’s “calling,” she says, ever since she started work as an assistant for her aunt at 16, back when the uniform was a light blue polyester suit and a neckerchief. In the ensuing decades she has filed, typed and answered phones for just about every breed of business, from a law firm to a strip club. As a secretary at the RAND Corporation, she once even had the honor of escorting Henry Kissinger around the building.

But since she was laid off from an insurance company two years ago, no one seems to need her well-honed office know-how. 
So you want to know why there's so much anger out there?  Older workers are still unemployed, while those with newer skills can find jobs.  Older workers, the younger baby boomers, still run this country.  And they are pissed.
Ms. Norton is reluctant to believe that her three decades of experience and her typing talents, up to 120 words a minute, are now obsolete. So she looks for other explanations.

Employers, she thinks, fear she will be disloyal and jump ship for a higher-paying job as soon as one comes along.

Sometimes she blames the bad economy in Jacksonville. Sometimes she sees age discrimination. Sometimes she thinks the problem is that she has not been able to afford a haircut in a while. Or perhaps the paper her résumé is printed on is not nice enough. 
Nobody likes to think it's their fault.  it's always Somebody Else's Problem.  People like Cynthia Norton are looking for an explanation, a reason...someone to blame for this mess.  People searching for a reason, when that reason is justifying why the problem isn't my fault, will often find one.
Ms. Norton has spent most of the last two years working part time at Wal-Mart as a cashier, bringing home about a third of what she had earned as an administrative assistant. Besides the hit to her pocketbook, she grew frustrated that the work has not tapped her full potential.

A monkey could do what I do,” she says of her work as a cashier. “Actually, a monkey would get bored.”

Ms. Norton says she cannot find any government programs to help her strengthen the “thin bootstraps” she intends to pull herself up by. Because of the Wal-Mart job, she has been ineligible for unemployment benefits, and she says she made too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid last year.

If you’re not a minority, or not handicapped, or not a young parent, or not a veteran, or not in some other certain category, your hope of finding help and any hope of finding work out there is basically nil,” Ms. Norton says. “I know. I’ve looked.” 
There are a whole hell of a lot of Cynthia Nortons out there, folks.  They're getting the crap end of the stick for arguably the first time in their lives.  And they see, well, minorites, and the handicapped, and young parents, and veterans, and people in other certain categories getting benefits, and they are really, really pissed off about it.

If you read between the lines, Rampell's article explains the Tea Party, the growing backlash against immigrants and minorities and anyone who's not Joe Average White Guy.  It all comes down to jobs and change, and for a whole hell of a lot of baby boomers, there's too much of the latter and none of the former.

And they'll be damned if they're going to let that happen without a fight.  The War for the Status Quo is well and joined...

Rock You Like A...Cyclone

The big news here in Cincy this morning is that our triple A hockey team, the Cincinnati Cyclones, came back from down 3 games to none to win four straight over the Reading Royals to advance to the Kelly Cup finals.
Cincinnati Cyclones center Barret Ehgoetz collected a first period goal and Robert Mayer turned away all 25 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory over the Reading Royals on Wednesday night.

The Cyclones complete their comeback from a 0-3 deficit in the best of seven series to win in the full seven games, having won four straight.

With the victory, the Cyclones advance to the Kelly Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons and will play the Idaho Steelheads for the ECHL championship.  The Cyclones become only the sixth team in pro hockey history to rally from a three games to none deficit to win a best of seven series in the playoffs.  Cincinnati has now gone the distance in all three of the USA Collision Centers postseason rounds to advance.  A full press release on the dates of the games and times will follow shortly.

This was the sixth time in the Kelly Cup playoffs that the Cyclones won a game when a loss would end their season.  In elimination games over the four seasons under Weber, Cincinnati is 9-2.
In a city with the oldest MLB franchise in the country and the Bengals always the talk of the town, it's nice to see the hottest franchise in the city is completely on ice.

Go 'Clones!

If It's Thursday...

Jobless claims this week down a smidge to 444k, continuing claims up a smidge to 4.6 million.

Treading water is not going to bring 8.2 million jobs back.  (Well, after last month, maybe 8.1 million.)  Still a long way to go.

The Return Of Somebody Else's Problem Fields

The Village is certainly doing a number on Arizona and Lake Palin, and it proves that the cynical Republican worldview of "I got mine, screw you" is at the heart of it all.
Even after the recent — and highly publicized — oil spill in the Gulf Coast, that’s the overwhelming sentiment from the public, with six in 10 Americans supporting more offshore drilling, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

In addition, a majority believes that the potential economic benefits of offshore drilling outweigh its potential harm to the environment.

Those aren’t the only striking results from this survey, which was conducted after several significant and newsworthy events:
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans back Arizona’s new controversial immigration law;
  • After the failed car bomb in Times Square, 58 percent of respondents say they’re worried this country will experience another terrorist attack, the highest percentage on this question in almost five years;
  • And in the wake of the federal government’s fraud charges against Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, a clear majority thinks that the biggest concern about the financial reform legislation moving through Congress is that it won’t go far enough to rein in Wall Street’s perceived excesses. 
Some pretty amazing results there in the full poll.  60% want more drilling, 53% say the benefits outweigh the harm.  Really?  I suppose if you live in Indiana or Colorado or Montana, offshore drilling is fine.  It's not like you have to worry about your state's tourism and fishing economies being destroyed by a patch of black and red goop the size of Massachusetts and growing and putting potentially thousands, maybe millions of Americans out of work in the middle of a massive recession that only now beginning to recover.  "Hey that's a real shame about those destroyed beaches and stuff.  But hey, let them pay the price, not us.  We get 100% of the benefit.  I got my cheaper gas.  Screw you East coast guys.  You're not real Americans anyway."

This despite the fact that 87% of Americans believe there will be some impact on our economy because of this.  They don't care.

Meanwhile, 64% favor Arizona's immigration law, while 66% believe it will lead to discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos who are here legally.  Folks, that means mathematically there are millions of Americans who think racial profiling is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for this law.  And I'm betting a very, very large majority of the group of people who believe both that the law needs to be supported and that the law will lead to discrimination and profiling are white.  "Hey, you know that's too bad that legal Latinos are going to be harassed and stuff, but frankly I don't care.  But hey, let them pay the price, not us.  We get 100% of the benefit.  I want the illegal ones outta my country.  I got my cheap labor.  Screw you Latinos.  You're not real Americans anyway."

Spoken only like somebody who's never been singled out for skin color.

Maybe that explains the 51% who approve of racial profiling to stop terrorism, and the 52% who want to give up civil liberties in order to prevent another attack.  "Somebody else will pay the price, not me."

It's somebody else's problem.  And as long as the people paying the price aren't "Real Americans in the heartland" then it doesn't matter how high that price gets for those "others".

[UPDATE] Over at Balloon Juice, mistermix finds a McClatchy-Ipsos poll that shows a slightly higher percentage of people support cops detaining people who can't prove they're in the country legally (67%), including 55% of Democrats.  It gets worse.
While the Democratic Party generally is regarded as more sympathetic to illegal immigrants' plights, 46 percent of Democrats said they favored the law for Arizona and 49 percent said they'd favor the law's passage in their own states. 
Not all racists are Republicans, I've known that for quite a long time.  One must be reminded of it from time to time.

[UPDATE 2Bob Cesca has more on this.
Hey, Americans support all of this despite the erupting tragedy in the Gulf. As long as this is the case, Republicans -- 28 percent of whom want to drill because of the disaster -- will continue to attend these kinds of events. If an enormous oil spill and a global climate crisis won't change minds, I'm feeling kind of hopeless about the effort.
If anything, the enormous oil spill is making the wingnuts even more rabidly anti-environmental.  At some point soon you will see Republicans seriously begin to ask why anyone should pay for the cleanup, because God will take care of it.


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