Saturday, January 29, 2011

FCIC Blames Government, Wall St Execs

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, established to investigate the economic collapse, released its final report. Not surprisingly (because we all knew who was to blame) they found the crisis could have been avoided, but those who could have done something ignored the warnings and failed to act. Frankly, the names of Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner come up far too often for comfort. Not to mention that of Citigroup/Citibank, who are spotlighted more than a number of times as a primary culprit.

Quoting from the report:

"In November 1999, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), which lifted most of the remaining Glass-Steagall-era restrictions...The New York Times reported that Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill hung in his office a 'hunk of wood - at least 4 feet wide - etched with his portrait and the words 'The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall.'...John Reed, former co-CEO of Citigroup acknowledged to the FCIC that, in hindsight, 'the compartmentalization that was created by Glass-Steagall would be a positive factor,' making less likely a 'catastrophic failure' of the financial system."

In other words, Citi, by admission of Weill and testimony of Reed, is solely responsible for the removal of legislation in 1999 that could have prevented the economic collapse. Go figure, but we, the American taxpayers, had already figured out what the FCIC has ultimately concluded. Fully thorough but understandable, the report is nonetheless frightening in its scope of what did happen...and what very well could have happened.

(Read the full report here.)

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State We Are In

In his Constitutionally-obligated State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama expressed pointedly that the government must unite to freeze spending…and invest in winning the future by spending. Specifically, the touted-since-Eisenhower critical areas of education and the sciences. However one balances that particular ledger – because you cannot simultaneously contain and allocate spending – the president explicitly targeted earmarks. Examining the record of the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress, he certainly must have been speaking directly to his own political party.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, perhaps that was the intention. Even so, neither party is innocent.

Sampling the top ten Congressional earmark “offenders” for both chambers in each fiscal year between 2008-’10, Democrats outpaced Republicans in total number of and total cost for earmarks IN EVERY YEAR. In the House of Representatives, Democrats ranked in the top ten 22 times to the Republicans 8 in both categories over the three year period. The story is similar in the Senate, where Democrats ranked in the top ten 24 times to the Republicans 6 in total earmarks and 19 to 11 in total cost over the three years. In total, Democrats ranking in the top ten from both chambers attached 6,960 earmarks at a cost of nearly $10.2 billion, compared to Republicans ranking in the top ten who attached 2,214 at a cost of nearly $6.6 billion. Those are only the totals for the top tier Congressional members over the past three years; it stands to reason that with the president addressing the issue of cutting earmarks Democrats, more so than Republicans, undoubtedly raised a silent stink. Figuratively, if not literally.

Little surprise that Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) oppose Obama’s call to veto any legislation containing earmarks, both consistently ranking high in pork barrel politics. Business as usual in politics generally and Washington, D.C., especially. (Excepting Thad Cochran, R-MS, who unabashedly led all Congressional Republicans three years running in an exorbitant, if not enthusiastic, charge for earmarks in the Senate, finally topping both categories overall in number of and cost for earmarks in fiscal year 2010. *Sarcasm alert* Congratulations Senator!)

The biggest head scratcher by far is the call to lead the way in innovation, particularly in the context of energy – whether so-called “clean” or not – and technology. Amazing if not bizarre that in the 21st century we still talk of oil exploration (have we already forgotten the BP oil spill?), coal mining (how many hours lost watching the Chilean miner rescue?) and train travel (otherwise disguised as “high-speed rail”). Fossil fuels and trains? Really? Trains, the technology whose expansion is allegedly necessary – at the cost of billions – for the transportation needs of the American people…if we were still living in the 19th century. Scientists have split the atom, developed unprecedented information sharing through the Internet, and mapped the human genome, yet we still utilize the energies and technologies of old repackaged as innovatively new. As if some cyber-warped steampunk surrealism substituting for reality looking to the future through the past.

From where are the innovations to come by such backward-thinking futurism, in order to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world”? Nowhere, if we continue using the terms and technologies of our ancestors. (I am STILL waiting for my self-guided flying car scientists…)

As President Obama noted, the United States is indeed at a “Sputnik moment.” With the partisan divide alone in addressing our economic woes and the threats to national security, the state of the union makes that very clear. 

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bankers (& Their Lawyers) Bankrupting the Bankrupt

A completely unscientific poll of occupied barstools shows that Americans are feeling abandoned, helpless and broke. All because of the economy, and the failure of government in their opinion to properly address the issue. Unemployment still hovering over 9%? A $14 trillion deficit, meaning even more from American taxpayers to pay if off? All while the very entities that single-handedly caused the problems in the first place attempt to recoup their “losses” through licentious litigation and added account fees.

For the St. Louis metro area alone, Bank of America and Citibank have filed an unprecedented amount of lawsuits targeting account holders. Citibank – represented in ALL cases by Berman & Rabin, a self-proclaimed leader specializing in creditor’ rights headquartered in Kansas City – is the worst offender, with 2,283 cases filed in St. Louis City/County over the last two years. That is a 325% per year increase from the 2,421 lawsuits filed over the previous nine years starting in 2000; respectively, 1,142/year over a two year period vs. 268/year over a nine year period. No other financial institution that received taxpayer money even comes close to those amounts. Bank of America’s total has actually decreased in totality, from 4,564 lawsuits between 2000-’08 (507/year) to 1,272 lawsuits between 2009-’10 (636/year) – a modest 25% per year increase. Separately, each of these financial giants received approximately $45 billion in federal bailout funds – a combined $90 billion.

The number of lawsuits is telling, and for one reason: Americans are sick and tired of egregious account terms, strong-arm tactics and wholly rampant corporate greed, and collectively as individuals stopped paying their accounts in protest.

In the midst of all this, the banks obviously have not understood the anger:

U.S. Bank May End Free Checking

If you are able, I strongly urge leaving the credit grid as soon as possible and stop giving your hard-earned money to these assholes. When they are finally allowed to collapse under the weight of their own arrogant hubris – as they should have earlier – only then might they learn a lesson. The lesson that Americans are tired of feeling abandoned, helpless and broke, particularly at the hands of Wall Street.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Non Gradus Nihil

An FYI to publishers, established or otherwise, and any budding writer:  there is no such creature as a volunteer writer. While the term “freelance” – used by the most reclusive of the species, in an effort to interact with the fewest humanity has to offer – may connote free labor, it is not the case. Like the taxman, grave digger and private escort, writers like to be paid. Preferably in cold, hard cash. Sort of like a, private escort. (In our own way, we are all whores to the business.)

What is the thinking behind this modest sampling of far too many of these type ads, quite obviously placed by those of the most unscrupulous nature? Not to mention the writer so willing to compromise their craft for so little compensation (i.e. none) ? These are real ads calling for writers:

Conservative Writer/Journalist/Contributor (Freelance Volunteer) 
A soon to be launched conservative online magazine funded by a prominent anonymous donor, is seeking writers...Contributors will be unpaid, however, may be able to gain notoriety in the world of conservative politics...Those writers contributing to the website will be given special consideration for such paid positions in the event such a magazine comes to fruition.

"...funded by a prominent anonymous donor"? Then they can probably afford to pay their writers, pivotal components to anything coming to fruition.

Journalist/Writer (Volunteer)
We are looking for people who are interested in journalism or writing stories for our website and newsletter. You will be required to travel in different communities to obtain community stories...

Required to travel? For no pay? Thanks, but no thanks.

Article Writers Wanted Urgently!!! $1 Per 500 Words
I need articles writers to begin immediate. Rate is 1USD for 500 words and $0.5 for 250 words. Please kindly submit a sample of your work while bidding. this will enable me to judge the quality of your Job. Daily payment. Please Bid if you are capable of delivery 6 articles daily. If you can deliver 10 that will be preferable. Kindly be honest with your bid, no bluffing. Happy Bidding.

$1 Per 300 Words
I need to hire 2 writers to complete 30 articles each in 3 days. 10 articles per day and the project should be completed within 3 days..Articles must be 300+ words. All articles must pass copyscape 100%, be unique and well written.. They must be accepted in If articles do not pass copyscape, are not well written or do not get accepted in ezine, you will not be paid.. Payment will be through paypal only..Payment will be made daily for every 10 articles. Bid with samples or links to your articles in ezine..Thanks

Articles @$3/500 Words Urgent
Minimum 10 articles(500 words) per day i need minimum 4 writers. should be copyscape passed. payment via paypal/GAF (No escrow please) daily payments after review this is an urgent assignment so if you are busy with other assignments, kindly dont bid. articles sholud be copyscape passed and no plagarism should be there. thanks have a nice bidding.

Urgent? Really? From the typos and grammatical errors, apparently they urgently need editors as well. Guess what...I won't be bidding. I'll be busy on other assignments. Ones preferably paying a decent rate.   

©2011 Steve Sagarra