Saturday, July 31, 2010

BIS Gold Swaps: Commercial Banks Swapped Customers' Gold for US Dollar, According to Financial Times

and GATA, Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, casts a doubtful eye.

This blog reported on the mysterious transaction between the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the entity (or entities) that could only be a central bank, or so it seemed at that time. Now, UK's Financial Times reports it was with commercial banks in need for US dollar.

Gold in BIS swaps said to have come from looted bank customers' deposits (CHRIS POWELL, 7/30/2010 GATA Daily Dispatches)

"If you want to believe the Financial Times, the 346 tonnes of gold swaps recently undertaken surreptitiously by the Bank for International Settlements were a matter of the BIS' requiring three of the world's biggest banks to pledge gold as collateral against U.S. dollar deposits placed with them by the BIS so the BIS could earn a little interest. According to the FT, the banks also needed to raise cash and so were glad to obtain it by collateralizing the BIS' deposits with gold.

"The FT's latest account of the transaction, published Thursday and appended here, is surely the account the BIS would like the world to settle for as curiosity about the swaps is increasing and raising concerns about the grotesque unaccountability of central banks. And as the mouthpiece of the financial establishment, the FT surely was only too happly to convey this unofficial official story. But it's a doubtful story and raises questions of its own.

"For why would the BIS deposit money with banks considered so shaky that they would have to be required to pledge gold to secure the deposits? Wouldn't U.S., British, German, or French government bonds provide sufficient income and security for the BIS' funds? The BIS' annual report suggests that the bank already holds such bonds:

"By depositing money at the three banks -- HSBC, Societe Generale, and BNP Paribas -- according to the FT -- was the BIS really hoping to earn get premium yields from the great business those banks have done lending on condominiums in Florida, Nice, and Madrid?

"And remarkably, according to the FT the gold obtained by the BIS as collateral from the three banks didn't really belong to the banks at all. Rather, as the GATA Dispatch suggested sarcastically three weeks ago (, the gold was essentially looted from the three banks' own gold depositors." [Emphasis is mine. The article continues, with the Financial Times article appended.]

The Bank for International Settlements has positioned itself as the central bank of the world's central banks in recent years, as the bank has become wholly owned by the central banks. Its board of directors are the central bankers of the world. And it wants to earn a favorable rate on its US dollar holding of slightly under $15 billion (346 tonnes of gold times $1200 per ounce). Its balance sheet is SDR 265 billion at 30 September 2009, which is about US$400 billion (US$1 = SDR 0.6585380000 as of July 30, 2010, IMF), so $17 billion represents 3.75% of the balance sheet.

This central bank of the central banks has two representative offices, one in Hong Kong and another in Mexico City. A very peculiar choice of locations, wouldn't you say?

Whenever I see the name "BIS", my eyes always skip the middle letter.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake - Clinton Wedding Part 2

FAA already set up a "no-fly" zone over the estate where Ms. Clinton is to marry her long-term boyfriend on Saturday.

NY Police is already arresting people for "trespassing".

The father of the groom is now able to attend the wedding.

What a happy day it will be for everyone.

"Instarefi" Coming Our Way?

Automatic refi as a housing market stimulus. They sure are creative. A political coup right before the November election, with probably little substance. Perfect for the Washington politicians, isn't it?

Zero Hedge reports:

Already Bought A 3D LCD In Anticipation Of QE "Instarefi" 1.999? You May Want To Consider A Refund (Tyler Durden, 7/29/2010 Zero Hedge) [Emphasis is mine.]

Earlier today we noted that the biggest buzz on Wall Street is the recent suggestion by MS and ML's Harley Bassman that the GSEs should provide some form of autorefi program to take borrowers to market rates. As this would impact a vast majority of the 37 million of mortgages outstanding backed by the government, not only would this housing stimulus have a huge impact on consumption appetites, but it would be a political coup as all of a sudden the administration would find tens of millions of giddy homeowners who are paying far less monthly, and quite satisfied with the way Obama has handled things. It is thus likely that this program will take off shortly (if at all) just before the mid-term elections to neutralize all the pent up discontent focused on the administration. Yet there may be less than meets the eye. As Market News points out, over the past 24 hours Wall Street has gone into overdrive analzying the consequences, both positive and negative, of such a move. Below are the conclusions.

First, here is how the pricing action in various MBS tranches occurred:

Premium MBS bonds went down in price because this refi concept stoked speculation that primary mortgages with higher rates will get paid off soon and the higher coupon MBS that backed those mortgages would be called back. This paper would be replaced with lower coupon MBS that would then be backing primary mortgages at lower rates.

And here is the prevailing Wall Street sentiment on what seems quite certain to become the Treasury's latest stimulus:

Many mortgage analysts said the concept sounded good but there would be many hurdles to cross before this could get done.

Still, mortgage strategists at Credit Suisse said the idea is "appealing in principal" but there are many barriers. Some of these are:

1) Program would have to be structured as a refinance not a modification because the former costs investors and the latter costs Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie;

2) Eligibility decisions would have to be simple to execute "en masse" and in some cases government might be "over-subsidizing;"

3) In order to use the current system, the housing agencies would have to "indemnify" lenders against put backs;

4) Refi costs would have to be rolled to get around borrower cash constraints;

5) Might have to be origination fees and loan level pricing adjustments (LLPAs) would have to be dropped, reduced or rolled in;

6) Agencies might end up charging higher guarantee fees to compensate for higher Loan-to-Value or LTV;

7) Assuming all borrowers with 6% or higher mortgage and current LTV>80% from '05-08 are refied might create $750 billion in lower coupons and Fed's balance sheet might have to called upon again, with likely opposition in Washington;

8) MBS market would be disrupted again as tradeable float taken from market;

9) It could take 6-9 months to process the loans. They estimate $10-15 billion in incremental annual savings for homeowners, much less than other estimates in Street.

Citigroup mortgage strategists said the chance of this program coming to fruition was "remote" and highlighted the costs.

Citi says a program that would refinance all GSE loans with a 5.75% or higher coupon into a 4.50% coupon could provide about $30 billion in stimulus from consumers.

But It would also cause a $30 billion premium loss to the GSEs retained portfolio, raise Treasury borrowing costs by $5-10 billion ayear as yields rose, and mortgage rates might rise by 100 bps.

Citi says the rise in mortgage rates would be due to higher Treasury yields, higher negative convexity, higher implied volatility and massive gross issuance which would be a significant short-term problem.

The "free lunch" refi programs that some are advocating "are actually very expensive and would result in more indigestion than thegovernment can stand," the Citi said in a research report.

They also reminded that 90% of the loans that would be allowed to refinance are not delinquent loans. Delinquent loans are getting betterand more appropriate help from other government programs.

Mortgage strategists at Nomura Securities said the odds of such a plan are only 10% if there is no double dip in the economy. If there isa double dip, the odds rise to about 30%.

If the plan was adopted, most mortgage investors would suffer "meaningful" losses in the short-term.

However, the $1.3 trillion in mortgage securities owned by Treasury and the Federal Reserve would suffer less because their costs are lower, they are not marked to market and any losses would be offset by the interest the government has already received, Nomura said.

But Nomura also pointed out that if such a plan was instituted because of a double dip in the economy, the effect on bond yields and mortgage spreads would likely be reduced.

And the government might convince originators to reduce primary/secondary spreads to more normal levels.

Because of these factors, Nomura thinks primary mortgage rates would only rise to 5.00-5.25% which is still attractive.

Finally, Nomura says mortgage investors might complain about government interference in private affairs, but the government could make a few good arguments of its own.

For example, where would the markets be now if the Treasury and Fed had not bought $1.3 trillion MBS foster lower mortgage rates.

And the government would indeed be helping people who are not delinquent and are still making their mortgage payments at much higher than current market rates.

That might sound like a pretty admirable plan if a double dip ensues.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake - Clinton Wedding

$11,000 for the cake
$15,600 for Portaloo trailers with porcelain toilets and marble interior
$500,000 just for the flowers

All in all, $5 million, give or take.

Ms. Chelsea Clinton is marrying Mr. Marc Mezvinsky (he's a Goldman Sachs banker) on Saturday. The most extravagant affair of the year for the ruling class of the United States.

Under ObamaCare, Doctors Will Be Required to Report How Fat You Are

Another gem, this one from February 2009 stimulus bill, which President Obama threatened us with catastrophe if Congress didn't pass.

Starting 2014, health care practitioners will be required to report your height, weight, and BMI (body mass index) electronically to the national database, and that information will be available on a national exchange so that the community organizing groups have access to the record to help improve your health.

Here comes the fat tax, based on your BMI! An April Fool's Day joke by someone may turn out to be not much of a joke after all. I am sure the government will hand out subsidies, not tax, to certain racial minorities (and union members, probably).

Obesity Rating for Every American Must Be Included in Stimulus-Mandated Electronic Health Records, Says HHS (7/15/2010 CNS News)

"( – New federal regulations issued this week stipulate that the electronic health records--that all Americans are supposed to have by 2014 under the terms of the stimulus law that President Barack Obama signed last year--must record not only the traditional measures of height and weight, but also the Body Mass Index: a measure of obesity.

"The obesity-rating regulation states that every American's electronic health record must: “Calculate body mass index. Automatically calculate and display body mass index (BMI) based on a patient’s height and weight.”

"The law also requires that these electronic health records be available--with appropriate security measures--on a national exchange.

"The new regulations are one of the first steps towards the government’s goal of universal adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by 2014, as outlined in the 2009 economic stimulus law. Specifically, the regulations issued on Tuesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. David Blumenthal the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology [aka Electronic Health Record Czar], define the "meaningful use" of electronic records. Under the stimulus law, health care providers--including doctors and hospitals--must establish "meaningful use" of EHRs by 2014 in order to qualify for federal subsidies. After that, they will be subjected to penalties in the form of diminished Medicare and Medicaid payments for not establishing "meaningful use" of EHRs.

"Section 3001 of the stimulus law says: "The National Coordinator shall, in consultation with other appropriate Federal agencies (including the National Institute of Standards and Technology), update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan (developed as of June 3, 2008) to include specific objectives, milestones, and metrics with respect to the following: (i) The electronic exchange and use of health information and the enterprise integration of such information.‘‘(ii) The utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014."

"Under this mandate in the stimulus law, Secretary Sebelius issued a regulation--developed by Dr. Blumenthal--that requires that all EHRs keep track of a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) score. Body Mass Index is a ratio between a person’s weight and height, and is used to determine whether or not someone is overweight or obese. It is the preferred method of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for measuring obesity." [The article continues.]

And you ask why Americans are feeling down? It's not just because of the economy.

Mortgage Brokers to Be Fingerprinted and Registered

like criminals, like sex offenders released after a jail term. You gotta be kidding, right?

No. This is all thanks to the Federal Reserve, who will have even more non-transparent power to regulate and legislate under the Donk bill, aka Dodd-Frank financial "reform" bill.

Mortgage brokers to be fingerprinted and registered
(7/28/2010 Reuters via Yahoo Finance)

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mortgage loan originators will have to be fingerprinted and sign up to a central registry to do business in future, according to final rules issued on Wednesday by the Federal Reserve and other regulators.

"The rules are part of the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008, also called the S.A.F.E. Act.

"They were issued by the Fed, Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, Office of Thrift Supervision, Farm Credit Administration and National Credit Union Administration. [They all will be subsumed under the Federal Reserve.]

"Mortgage brokers came under tough scrutiny in the wake of the 2007-09 financial crisis, with some lawmakers and regulators sharply critical of underwriting standards and practices that were seen as so loose they helped foster a housing price bubble.

"The S.A.F.E. Act specifies that mortgage brokers who are employees of agency-regulated institutions must register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry,

""As part of this registration process, residential mortgage loan originators must furnish to the registry information and fingerprints for background checks," a joint release from regulators said.

"The final rules take effect on October 1 and it is anticipated that the registry could start accepting registrations as early as January 28, 2011.

"Industry sources say that thousands of brokers have gone through mandatory education, credit checks and state and federal testing in order to retain the right to handle mortgage originations.

"The process has thinned the ranks of brokers, who may be even fewer soon given talk of a 30 percent fail rate on testing, said Bob Moulton, president of Americana Mortgage Group in Manhasset, New York.

""It cleaned up the industry," said Moulton, who nonetheless cautioned that he felt credit availability for mortgage lending has been reduced as a result of uncertainty caused by U.S. financial regulatory reform."

Mortgage brokers DID NOT cause the 2007-09 financial crisis (which is on-going, as far as I know). It was 1) easy money from none other than the Federal Reserve; 2) securitization and leveraging by the big Wall Street banks that caused it, coupled with lax enforcement of regulation by the government (the current and the past).

Big Wall Street banks needed the raw material, i.e. mortgage loans whether it was subprime, alt-A, or prime, and a ton of them, to craft MBS (mortgage-backed security), CDO (collateralized debt obligation) based on MBS, and further permutation of the original material such as CDS (credit default swap) on MBS and CDO, and CDO made up of those CDS.

Do those TBTF (too big to fail) Wall Street bankers also get fingerprinted and registered? How about the officials at the Federal Reserve, present and past? Do they get fingerprinted and registered? How about the members of Congress, who turned the other way as long as they got preferential treatment and campaign money? Do they get fingerprinted and registered?

Instead, they go for small flies, the lowest in the food chain.

How is fingerprinting and registering the mortgage brokers and maintaining the national database supposed to prevent the future financial "crisis"?

This is a sick joke.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

OT: The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowing in the Wind

how many times can a man turn his head,
and pretend that he just doesn't see?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind.

Millionaire Whistle-Blower Program in Dodd-Frank Financial "Reform" Bill

Irony and cynicism are not lost, at least not to me.

Another gem has been unearthed from the Dodd-Frank (or Donk) bill of financial "reform", now a law of the land. CNBC reports:

The Hypocrisy of the Millionaire Whistle-Blower Program (7/27/2010 CNBC)

"Under a little noticed provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill, the government will pay bounties that could amount to millions of dollars to whistle-blowers who bring evidence of fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The odd thing is that just a few years ago, similar payoffs in securities fraud cases were regularly occurring-but they were illegal.

"Four years ago, a grand jury indicted the Milberg Weiss law firm for making illegal payments to lead plaintiffs in numerous securities class action cases from 1981 to 2001. The firm had been paying a portion of its attorney's fees to the lead plaintiffs in the cases.

"The government alleged that this "kickback" created a conflict of interest between the lead plaintiffs and the rest of the class members, ultimately reducing the payout to the victims in the cases.

"The Milberg Weiss partners all pled guilty. Two of the partners went to jail.

"The new Dodd-Frank whistle-blower award will allow people who give information to the government to collect rewards that can amount to up to 30 percent of the recovery from the resulting SEC case. This will reduce the amount of money available for distribution to victims of the securities fraud-just as the Milberg Weiss kickbacks allegedly reduced the payouts to the victims in the class-action suits.

"One of the strongest justifications for outlawing kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in class actions is that the payments seemed to be part of the class-action extortion racket, in which plaintiff's lawyers would file class-action suits any time a company's stock dropped. Having a ready-made set of paid-off lead plaintiffs made this task all too easy." [The article continues.]

But now since the government will be making the kickback, I mean, "incentive" payment, why it will be all dandy. Extortion racket? What are you talking about? The government in the business of extortion racket? (Have you read Smedley Butler yet?)

This "incentive" payment immediately brought up in my mind the "incentive" payment that the US military made to people in Iraq and Afghanistan to supposedly ferret out "terrorists". And we know who those "terrorists" mostly turned out to be, don't we? Instead of "terrorists", we imprisoned farmers, goat herd, anyone, who were turned in by someone who needed money, who held some personal grudge against them.

Another sublime irony is the whistleblowing by Wikileaks. Wikileaks has disclosed what a racket and an uncontrollable mess the whole Afghan war waged by the US and its NATO allies has been. Instead of rewarding the whisleblower, the US government is going after them. Bradley Manning is locked up in Kuwait for his whistleblowing - disclosing the video of the US military in Iraq gleefully shooting the civilians.

This is getting too rich. Rat out a fraudulent bankster and be a millionaire! But don't you dare rat out the government, or you will get 50 years in jail!

Israel Trains German Air Force on Afghan Drones

Irony is not lost on participants, but Germany is now a "very, very good friend, if not the best friend of Israel today in the world".

German drone pilots eye Afghanistan... from Israel
(Dan Williams, 7/27/2010 Reuters AlertNet)

"EIN SHEMER AIR BASE, Israel, July 27 (Reuters) - As World War Two raged in the years before Israel's founding, colonial British planes were scrambled here to fend off German forces. Now the German Luftwaffe is back, preparing for a far more remote fight with the modern equipment and expertise of the Jewish state established after the Nazi Holocaust.

"Worried by insurgent ambushes on its soldiers in Afghanistan and return fire that sometimes kills civilians or local allies, Germany last year ordered a small fleet of Israeli Heron spy drones designed to provide real-time images above a battlefield.

"That has brought German jet pilots to coastal Ein Shemer air base for accelerated retraining on the unmanned propeller planes, already daubed with their flag and Iron Cross emblem.

"...Israel is a pioneer of combat drones, having deployed them in Lebanon in the Palestinian territories. Heron's manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), says it is also used by Canadian, French and Australian forces in Afghanistan.

"Yet the fact Israeli know-how may now be saving German military lives offers up a unique historical irony lost on none.

"The Defence Ministry in Berlin declined to allow the Luftwaffe trainees to be interviewed about such symbolism, but one of them described how they took time off to visit the central Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Dressed in civilian clothes while in Israel, trainees on an earlier course stood at attention for annual commemorations in April of the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide.

"As a Jew, I felt very proud at this specific moment," said Tomer Koriat, deputy director of the IAI training programme, who praised the Germans' mastery of the Heron within intensive courses lasting just three-and-a-half weeks.

"All of us have learned that today we are talking about another Germany than what we used to know ... A very, very good friend, if not the best friend of Israel today in the world."" [The entire article at the link above.]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wikileaks' Massive Leak on Afghan War

Wikileaks made the secret military documents on War in Afghanistan available on Sunday. They leaked these documents to three major newspapers, who all have the special section titled "The War Logs" on their sites:

New York Times (US)

Der Spiegel (Germany)

Guardian (UK)

Those papers who didn't get the "leak" downplay (e.g. Telegraph UK, Washington Post).

Here's the headlines and snippets from the Washington Post coverage of the leak:

Leak itself gains more attention than contents
Experts say documents shouldn't alter approach
Wikileaks' revelations aren't anything new
This was all secret?

Here's's Justin Raimondo, "Bradley Manning's Gift" (7/26/2010):

"They said the huge cache of classified documents – including 250,000 diplomatic messages passed from US embassies around the world to Washington – was a fantasy, “boasting” by Pfc. Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst who gave Wikileaks that video of US soldiers laughing and shouting “good shot!” as they mowed down Iraqi civilians. The “hi tech” media, especially Wired magazine, did everything they could do discredit and smear him, including spreading rumors about his alleged sexuality. Now, with the release of over 91,000 internal US government communications, intelligence analyses and incident reports via Wikileaks, the motive behind the determined effort to smear Manning and shut down Wikileaks is all too apparent.

"The Guardian provides a helpful interactive map, in which you click on a location and read the “incident report.” Of course, you’re reading a selection of what the Guardian editors consider important, but it looks to me like their news judgment isn’t bad at all, because the first one I clicked on was an intelligence report detailing meetings of the Taliban with Osama bin Laden in Quetta, Pakistan, and in villages on the border with Afghanistan. So, bin Laden is not only alive, but they know where he is. I guess when Hillary was hectoring the Pakistanis about the whereabouts of bin Laden, the subtext was: “If we know, then you must know, too!”

"A good number of the incident reports are those that detail civilian casualties, which don’t seem to have been reported by our own “embedded journalists”: the title of this one, “Five in car, including toddler, machine-gunned by patrol,” is typical of what the reader has in store. Here’s another: “Special forces wound two, kill six, including young girl, plus donkey and chickens.” There are hundreds of such reports, detailing slaughters both horrifying (“56 civilians killed in NATO bombing”) and pathetic (“Practice shell kills child and 10 sheep, injures shepherd”).

"What’s particularly bad, from the perspective of the Obama administration officials charged with selling this war to the American people, is the dramatic portrayal of the sheer chaos enveloping our military effort, such as this one, entitled “Border police high on opium’ in shoot-out.” Oh, and by the way, the Taliban is apparently armed with portable heat-seeking missiles – a fact the administration has been covering up."

In "Notes in the Margin", Mr. Raimondo says:

"The release of the logs also brings into focus the Manning case, and its importance – really, at this point, its centrality – to all those opposed to our foreign policy of global intervention. Bradley is sitting in a jail in Kuwait, right now, being interrogated and, who knows, perhaps even tortured, within an inch of his life. This is intolerable. He is a hero, not a traitor: he is giving us the truth about what we’re doing in Afghanistan, and around the world. We should thank him for this priceless gift by working tirelessly to free him.

"Enveloped in a cloak of secrecy, our rulers get away with murder – literally – committing their crimes in the dark, until someone like Pfc. Manning shines a light on the truth. Now is the time for the American people to take up that cry, and declare: Not one more dime, not one more life!

"Hands off Wikileaks! Free Bradley Manning!"

AIG Bailout Money Went To These 32 Entities in These 15 Countries via Goldman Sachs

So Goldman Sachs revealed on Friday where the AIG bailout money went, upon a threat of subpoena from Senator Chuck Glasslay, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee.

It was reported by MSM like USA Today and New York Times, but these articles don't tell us exactly who got the money. USA Today's article has a few well-known names like Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, and an unfamiliar name like DZ AG Deutsche Zantrake Genossenschaftz Bank.

But who are the other 29, and where are they located? Inquiring minds want to know.

NY Times article has a link to the site of the Senate Finance Committee, and the link to this "list" is buried in the announcement. So I went there, got the names of 32 entities who received US taxpayers' money via Goldman Sachs via AIG bailout, and looked up where they are located. I couldn't verify all of them (ones with ? marks), but you'll get the idea.

And here's the result. It is an international rescue operation. It includes big banks, re-insurers, pension funds, hedge funds or some kind of Special Purpose Companies across the world, though mostly in Europe. Most prominent are UK firms, followed by Dutch and Irish.

  1. DZ Bank AG Deutsche Zentrale-Genossenschafts Bank (Germany)
  2. Banco Santander Central Hispano SA (Spain)
  3. Rabobank Nederland-London Branch (The Netherlands)
  4. ZurcherKantonalbank (Switzerland)
  5. Dexia Bank S.A (Belgium)
  6. BGI INV FDS GSI AG (??? AG indicates Germany)
  7. Calyon-Cedex Branch (Credit Agricole, France)
  8. The Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (Hong Kong)
  9. Depfa Bank Plc (Ireland)
  10. Skandinaviska Enskilda Bankensweden (Sweden)
  11. Sierra finance plc (?? plc indicates UK)
  12. PGGM Pensioenfonds (The Netherlands)
  13. Natixis (France)
  14. Zulma finance plc (?? UK)
  15. Stoneheath Re CRDV G (?? Many small re-insurers are headquartered in Cayman Islands)
  16. Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan (Canada)
  17. Venice finance plc (?? UK)
  18. KBC Asset Management NVD Star Finance (Ireland)
  19. MNGD Pension Funds LTD (Managed Pension Funds Limited, a member of State Street Groups, US)
  20. Shackleton Re Limited (?? Another re-insurer in Cayman Islands?)
  21. Infinity finance plc (UK)
  22. Legal & General Assurance (UK)
  23. Barclays Bank PLC (UK)
  24. GSAM Credit CDO LTD (Looks like a Goldman Sachs SIV in UK.)
  25. Signum Platinum (Cayman Islands)
  26. Lion Capital Global Credit I LTD (?? Singapore??)
  27. Kommunalkredit Int Bank (Cyprus)
  28. Credit Linked Notes LTD (?? Credit linked note is A security with an embedded credit default swap allowing the issuer to transfer a specific credit risk to credit investors. This must be some kind of SIV set up by SPC (Special Purpose Company). Maybe another Goldman thing.)
  29. Ocelot CDO I PLC (Ireland. Issuer of Credit linked notes, affiliation unknown – there is a mention of Calyon in their press release. Calyon changed its name to Credit Agricole, a French bank)
  30. Hoogovens PSF ST (?? Name is Dutch.)
  31. Hypo Public Finance Bank (Ireland)
  32. The Royal Bank of Scotland (UK)

So Goldman sent money to its London operation (No. 24)...

Another Vacation for One-Half of the First Family

Mrs. Obama and her youngest daughter will be vacationing in Spain, and will meet Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia. (I hope she brings decent gifts instead of junky trinkets like Hollywood movie DVD and iPod, but I'm not very hopeful.)

The One-Half First Family will be needing 30 rooms in a 5-star hotel in Spain's Costa del Sol region.

If they have an audience with the king and the queen of Spain, I suppose they are discharging the official duty (thus paid by the US taxpayers).

Mr. Obama and the other daughter won't be joining them.

Mr. Obama will be attending his birthday bash (cum $30,000 a plate fundraiser) thrown by his Chicago friend and real estate magnate billionaire Neil Bluhm.

No information about the schedule of the daughter who's not going to Spain.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama's Pay Czar Is Paid by BP, and He Manages $20 billion BP Oil Spill Escrow Fund

Talk about "conflict of interest".

I have written about Kenneth Feinberg, President Obama's Pay Czar who has been put in charge of dispensing the BP's $20 billion escrow fund (which is still EMPTY, by the way), and wondered aloud why he seems to be more accommodating to BP than to the 'small people'.

Here's one guess: it is because he draws his salary from BP.

In the July 19, 2010 article, AP writer Frederic J. Frommer reports on the speech that Feinberg gave at the Economic Club of Washington D.C., in which Feinberg encouraged people in the Gulf region who have been negatively affected by the BP oil spill to settle. In the very last sentence, the writer throws in a piece of information I don't think I've seen anywhere else:

"Feinberg, who is being paid by BP, declined to provide his salary. "That's something between me and BP," he said."

Ummm, excuse me?

Mr. Feinberg, as Obama's Pay Czar ("Special Master for Executive Compensation", if you prefer), is being paid by the Treasury Department for his work of "regulating" executive compensation at big Wall Street banks and non-bank financial companies like AIG. (He doesn't seem to do any of that except for a few isolated cases, but that is for my later post.)

He was appointed by Obama to this Pay Czar position, in which he is only answerable to the president. But he has to be paid somehow for his service. So what did the administration do? Have Timmy Geithner hire him at the Treasury Department, of course. (That's how political appointees at the White House are paid, by the way - by creating 'positions' in the executive branch departments and agencies even if they only work for the White House.)

Mr. Feinberg's partner in his law office, Mr. Michael Rozen, has also been active in promoting the escrow fund. Wonder if Mr. Rosen also draws his salary from BP.

(H/T dovp2549)

Hurray for Britain! "Britain Plans to Decentralize Health Care"

so reports New York Times in its July 24, 2010 article:

Britain Plans to Decentralize Health Care
(Sarah Lyall, 7/24/2010 New York Times)

"LONDON — Perhaps the only consistent thing about Britain’s socialized health care system is that it is in a perpetual state of flux, its structure constantly changing as governments search for the elusive formula that will deliver the best care for the cheapest price while costs and demand escalate.

"Even as the new coalition government said it would make enormous cuts in the public sector, it initially promised to leave health care alone. But in one of its most surprising moves so far, it has done the opposite, proposing what would be the most radical reorganization of the National Health Service, as the system is called, since its inception in 1948.

"Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

"The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.

"In a document, or white paper, outlining the plan, the government admitted that the changes would “cause significant disruption and loss of jobs.” But it said: “The current architecture of the health system has developed piecemeal, involves duplication and is unwieldy. Liberating the N.H.S., and putting power in the hands of patients and clinicians, means we will be able to effect a radical simplification, and remove layers of management.” " [Emphasis is mine. The article continues.]

Just when the US is about to exert unprecedented government and bureaucratic control over health care, Britain is going the opposite way of cutting the government and bureaucratic control and "putting power in the hands of patients and clinicians".

Way to go, Mr. Cameron. I still don't think much of your "community organizing" idea with your "Big Society" thingy (please don't ape Obama), but I do like your health care reform idea of giving the power back to patients and practitioners. I like your Chancellor of Exchequer's idea of 25% haircut of government spending, too, although I don't think much of the tax increase part of his budget.

Even though I'm not British or living in Britain, I nonetheless feel somehow encouraged by the news like this. There's a sense that things will get better for Britain, that things may be starting to move in the right direction, that there is a spring in the steps, so to speak. In other words, there is "hope", maybe.

Alas, that sense is currently sorely lacking in the former British colony across the Atlantic.

Now, let's see what Obama's recess appointee (as the head of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services) Dr. Donald Berwick, who is in love with the British health care system as it stands now, is going to do. He wanted to copy the British system. I dare him to copy the new British system that may emerge soon.