Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 22 September

by Fran Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:03:49 PM EST

On this date in history:

1931 - Birth of Fay Weldon, a British novelist, short story writer, playwright, and essayist whose work has been associated with feminism.

More here and here


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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:04:45 PM EST
In Slovenia, the ruling centre-right coalition is set to be replaced by a coalition of Social Democrats and liberals. (Results in my diary.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:22:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EurActiv.com - EU faces pressure from overseas biofuel-makers | EU - European Information on Trade & Industry

A decision by a key European Parliament committee last week to beef up sustainability criteria for agrofuels and tilt the Union's biofuel policy towards non food-based biofuels due to concerns over rising commodity prices has irritated top biofuel-exporting nations Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil. Background:

On 23 January 2008, the Commission put forward proposals aimed at boosting the use of biofuels in transport fuels to 10% by 2020 amid growing concern over rising oil prices, energy security and climate change. 

But subsequent concerns about rising food prices and biodiversity loss as land is diverted to biofuel production, as well as questionable CO2 reduction values, led to calls for the reduction or outright rejection of the target. 

In September 2008, Parliament's Industry and Energy Committee, which has the lead on the dossier, approved a report drafted by Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes, which while confirming the 10% target by 2020 specifies that at least 40% of this goal must be met from "non-food and feed-competing" second-generation biofuels or from cars running on green electricity and hydrogen (EurActiv 12/09/08). 

They also backed strict "sustainability criteria", including an obligation for biofuels to offer at least 45% carbon emission savings compared to fossil fuels and a series of social and environmental criteria.

The main bone of contention in the report adopted by the Parliament's Industry and Energy Committee on 11 September is that it would require 40% of the EU's 10% biofuel goal to be met from "non-food and feed-competing" second-generation biofuels or from green electricity and hydrogen, while also demanding that agrofuels offer at least 45% carbon emission savings compared to fossil fuels - a figure that would rise to 60% in 2015. 

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:10:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French Senate remains a rightist bastion - International Herald Tribune

PARIS: The opposition left won 23 new seats in the French Senate on Sunday, a larger than expected advance, nearly complete results indicated. But the left could not gain control of the chamber, a longtime bastion of the right.

Ballots were cast by delegates of city councils as well as some lawmakers and regional counselors in the indirect voting for a third of the 343 seats in the upper chamber, which has been controlled by the right for a half-century. About 50,700 delegates were eligible to vote.

The Socialists and their allies won at least 23 new seats in the voting for 114 seats, including two snatched from the right in Corrèze, the one-time political fiefdom of former President Jacques Chirac. Results from overseas regions were not included.

It seems possible that the Senate could move to the left when the other half is renewed, in 2011. Which would be an interesting change in France's political balance.

It also shows how the PS actually wins most elections  except the presidential one : the PS is not geared to, nor able to, generate a popular leader supported by the rest of the party.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 08:15:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Think Spain: Army officer dies in third ETA car bomb attack of weekend (September 22, 2008)
An ETA car bomb attack on a military academy in Santoña last night has left one person dead and around eight others injured, including several passers-by.

...

A warning call from an ETA representative was made to the offices of the DYA traffic agency in San Sebastián around half an hour before the bomb went off - insufficient time to evacuate the building.

...

This attack follows two others on Saturday night/ Sunday morning in Vitoria and Ondarroa, the second of which left several people injured, including a number of innocent bystanders.



A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:36:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For those that are asking for a summing up of the current PS race to leadership, here is a fun, if cynical, summing up. It's in French, and I'm at work and on IE, so I won't translate right now. But it confirms my perception (and is from a PS member) that this is not about ideology, but personnality struggles.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:03:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
WORLD
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:05:23 PM EST
The Associated Press: South Africa's Mbeki resigns after power struggle

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) -- South African President Thabo Mbeki says he has formally resigned, effective as soon as a new president is chosen.

Mbeki spoke in a nationally televised address Sunday. A day earlier, his African National Congress had called on him to resign. He is leaving before his second and last constitutionally allowed term expires next year.

Mbeki lost the final battle Saturday in a long power struggle with African National Congress president Jacob Zuma.

Parliament will convene in the coming days to select an interim president before elections, which are scheduled for next year. Baleka Mbete, the speaker of the National Assembly and chairwoman of the ANC, is expected to take over.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:07:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Power struggle"?? That's laying it on sensationally thick - typical perspective on an unstable African country from the western press...

Yes, Zuma and Mbeki have been struggling for top-dog position since Mbeki made Zuma his deputy president. It got worse when Mbeki discharged Zuma based on the pretext of Zuma's involvement of the corrupted arms deal - which, to this day, has not been proven in court, because Zuma has made delay tactics a new form of art. It reached fever pitch when Zuma was picked over Mbeki as the party's president.

Yet Mbeki's decision to resign has nothing do with a direct power struggle, but is the fall-out of a historical (and controversial I must add) court's decision in the Zuma trial on September 12. According to the judge, Mbeki intervened in the judiciary system to make sure Zuma got recharged. That's a massive faux-pas for a president. Zuma now wins, because Mbeki and the NPA were too blinded with determination to get rid of Zuma using the courts and made blunders to get their way. The NPA has announced they will appeal the judge's decision, but the damage already has been done.

Obviously AP puts this crucial bit of information on the very end:

The Associated Press: South Africa's Mbeki resigns after power struggle

Although Mbeki's removal came more quickly than many people expected, South Africans had been anticipating a shift from Mbeki to Zuma at least since last December, when Zuma defeated the president in an election for the ANC leadership.

Mbeki fired Zuma as his national deputy president in 2005, after Zuma's financial adviser was convicted of trying to elicit a bribe to deflect investigations into the arms deal.

Initial charges against Zuma were withdrawn, but the chief prosecutor said last December that he had enough evidence to bring new ones. A judge threw out the new charges last week and implied they were the result of political interference.

by Nomad on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:00:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scandal-hit Olmert formally resigns | U.S. | Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert handed his resignation to President Shimon Peres on Sunday but the scandal-hit premier could stay in office for weeks or months until a new government is formed.

"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert submitted his resignation to me tonight," Peres told reporters at his Jerusalem residence.

Olmert, who faces criminal indictment in corruption probes, said earlier at the weekly cabinet session he was stepping down "in accordance with good governance" and history would judge the achievements of his administration.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:10:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paulson says bailout needed to shield economy | Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson took his case for an unprecedented $700 billion bailout of financial markets to the American people on Sunday, saying it was needed to prevent further damage to an already fragile economy.

"This is not something that we wanted to do. This was something that was very necessary," Paulson said on the NBC Sunday program "Meet the Press."

"We did this to protect the taxpayer."

The sweeping Bush administration plan would have the Treasury buy up bad mortgage-related debts from financial institutions to try to stem the worst financial storm since the Great Depression.

Paulson said U.S. authorities were pressing other governments to take similar actions.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:12:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / In depth - Global markets roar in approval

Stock markets around the world roared their approval on Friday, staging huge rallies as the US authorities moved towards agreement on a programme of government intervention that would put hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money at risk in an effort to quell the credit crisis.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:33:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monday, not so much. Oil at 120.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:37:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German Politicians Wary of US Financial Rescue Plans | Business | Deutsche Welle | 21.09.2008
German politicians are skeptical about a $700 billion US bailout of markets and of calls to take similar measures as Chancellor Merkel criticized Washington for failing to implement stringent market controls.

A growing chorus of German politicians questioned over the weekend whether the unprecedented US rescue package meant to inject liquidity into the financial system w

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:56:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many economists skeptical of bailout

Avi Zenilman Sun Sep 21, 8:58 AM ET IN Yahoo's POLITICO

Many of the same economists and opinion-makers who'd provided a bipartisan sheen of consensus to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's  previous moves have quickly begun casting doubts on the wisdom of a policy that would allow Treasury to purchase without oversight hundreds of billions of dollars of difficult-to-price assets from financial institutions. "We need to take a bold move. In that sense I think Paulson is right," Luigi Zingales, a Professor at the University of Chicago School of Business who wrote a widely circulated short essay titled "Why Paulson is Wrong," told Politico.

Zingales fears  that the Treasury bailout would effectively turn the entire financial sector into a Government Sponsored Enterprise, complete with the same murkiness and moral hazard that sunk Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "It might achieve the final outcome, but it will do so at an enormous cost," he said. "All the troubles we've seen with Fannie and Freddie would be seen again and again across the entire financial sector."

President Bush is "asking for a huge amount of power," said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University who was among the first to predict the crisis. "He's saying, `Trust me, I'm going to do it right if you give me absolute control.' This is not a monarchy." (Roubini told the New York Times that despite these concerns, he also thought the plan could help stave off a recession.)

Paul Krugman, the Princeton University economist and liberal columnist for The New York Times who had until now been cautiously supportive of Paulson's and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's efforts to prop up the system, wrote that the new plan would be a taxpayer rip-off. "I hate to say this, but looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal," he wrote on his blog at 4:46 p.m. Saturday. "Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets."

Yves Smith, a longtime banker and contributor to the influential finance blog Naked Capitalism, published an angry post there titled, "Why You Should Hate The Treasury Bailout Proposal":

"Given that continuing to buy U.S. assets will come under increasingly harsh scrutiny overseas, the U.S. needs to bend over backwards to devise a plan that at least looks credible in terms of directing the funds that come from taxpayers and lenders to their highest and best uses and implementing reforms that will restore active and prudent oversight of financial firms," she wrote. "The administration's demand for a free pass, even if Congress unwisely goes along, is likely to backfire with our foreign creditors."

-Skip-

Sebastian Mallaby, the center-right economic columnist for The Washington Post and scholar of the modern financial system, was equally dubious. "The plan is being marketed under false pretenses," he wrote in his Sunday column, rejecting comparisons of the plan to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which the government formed in response to the savings and loan crisis to purchase and sell off the bad loans made by bankrupted thrifts.

"The administration proposes to buy up bad loans before the lenders go bust," Mallaby noted, keeping the banks alive but doing little to solve the problem infecting the markets. "Bad loans are weighing down the financial system precisely because private-sector experts can't determine their worth. The government would have no better handle on the problem."

Justin Fox, Time magazine's top financial writer and columnist, also worried about the lack of an upside for the taxpayer. "What I still can't figure out is how Treasury hopes to structure the bailout so there's at least a chance of getting a fair return on that risk-taking," he wrote on his blog.

-Skip-

Zingales, though, writes in "Why Paulson Is Wrong" that "For somebody like me who believes strongly in the free market system, the most serious risk of the current situation is that the interest of a few financiers will undermine the fundamental workings of the capitalist system. The time has come to save capitalism from the capitalists."

(My bold.)
I am glad to see that there is far from unanimous agreement  amongst popular economics writers in favor of this giant toxic waste dump on the taxpayer on behalf of the folks who brought us this disaster.  I am certain that there are better ways to "save the economy" if we only look for them.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:04:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Op-Ed Columnist - Cash for Trash - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to -- a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don't go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That's what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It's also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a "clean" plan. "Clean," in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached -- no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review "by any court of law or any administrative agency," and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:47:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This link has a tight synopsis and a call to action - and the phone numbers of the Congress...I don't usually like to call from here, but I am going to load up on Skype minutes and have at it.

We Gambled. You Pay. Jesus' General

Of course, there are some who think the wealthy do not deserve to take our piece of the American Dream:

...first thing on Monday morning, [everyone] needs to call their Representatives and Senators and say: No. Blank. Checks. For. Crooks.

Be as polite as you can be and don't use bad words. Personally, this injunction may limit the duration of my calls to under a thirtieth of a second, or shorter.

Congressional phone numbers.

Update: Scarecrow has more:
The most important condition to put on any bailout proposal is to impose a tax surcharge on the incomes of the wealthiest Americans to pay the bailout's cost.
And just go read Avedon.



Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to -- a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don't go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

The way I put it is this... Why is is okay to recapitalize a company by appealing to foreign "Sovereign Wealth", but in the case of domestic "Sovereign Wealth" it would be "Nationalisation" and therefore evil?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:46:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when Will Kristol essentially agrees with Paul Krugman on it:

A Fine Mess - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

... is the administration's proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for -- or even promises of -- disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

And I've been shocked by the number of (mostly conservative) experts I've spoken with who aren't at all confident that the Bush administration has even the basics right -- or who think that the plan, though it looks simple on paper, will prove to be a nightmare in practice.

But will political leaders dare oppose it?



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely the "magic of the markets" is what is needed here?  Let failing banks fail and let them be replaced by more prudent banks and banking practices.  Why should "prudent" institutions be punished and disadvantaged by Billions being given to their competitors?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:12:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean "creative destruction" doesn't apply to financial institutions?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
America's Own Kleptocracy
By MICHAEL HUDSON   (excerpted from CounterPunch)

-skip-

What a two weeks! On Sunday, September 7, the Treasury took on the $5.3 trillion mortgage exposure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose heads already had been removed for accounting fraud. On Monday, September 15, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, when prospective Wall Street buyers couldn't gain any sense of reality from its financial books. On Wednesday the Federal Reserve agreed to make good for at least $85 billion in the just-pretend "insured" winnings owed to financial gamblers who bet on computer-driven trades in junk mortgages and bought counter-party coverage from the A.I.G. (the American International Group, whose head Maurice Greenberg already had been removed a few years back for accounting fraud). But it is Friday, September 19, that will go down as a turning point in American history. The White House committed at least half a trillion dollars more to re-inflate real estate prices in an attempt to support the market value junk mortgages - mortgages issued far beyond the ability of debtors to pay and far above the going market price of the collateral being pledged.

These billions of dollars were devoted to keeping a dream alive - the accounting fictions written down by companies that had entered an unreal world based on false accounting that nearly everyone in the financial sector knew to be fake. But they played along with buying and selling packaged mortgage junk because that was where the money was. Even after markets collapse, fund managers who steered clear were blamed for not playing the game while it was going. I have friends on Wall Street who were fired for not matching the returns that their compatriots were making. And the biggest returns were to be made in trading in the economy's largest financial asset - mortgage debt. The mortgages packaged, owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie alone exceeded the entire U.S. national debt - the cumulative deficits run up by the American Government since the nation won the Revolutionary War!

This gives an idea of just how large the bailout has been - and where the government's (or at least the Republicans') priorities lie! Instead of waking up the economy to reality, the government has thrown all its resources to promote the unreal dream that debts can be paid - if not by the debtors themselves, then by the government - "taxpayers," as the euphemism goes.

-truncate-

 At least Hudson has the integrity to call it what it is: Cleptocracy and accounting fraud.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:34:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh my goodness gracious. (My now-dead mother used to say that a lot.)

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:41:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last major investment banks change status
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer 1 hour, 24 minutes ago  AP via Yahoo

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve said Sunday it had granted a request by the country's last two major investment banks -- Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley -- to change their status to bank holding companies.
ADVERTISEMENT

The Fed announced that it had approved the request of the two investment banks. The change in status will allow them to create commercial banks that will be able to take deposits, bolstering the resources of both institutions.

The change continued the biggest restructuring on Wall Street since the Great Depression.

The request for the change to bank holding companies was granted by a unanimous vote of the Fed's board of governors during a late Sunday meeting in Washington.

The change of status means both companies will come under the direct regulation of the Federal Reserve, which regulates the nation's bank holding companies. The banking subsidiaries of the two institutions will face the stricter regulations that commercial banks are required to meet. Previously, the primary regulator for Goldman and Morgan Stanley was the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Does anyone know if this increases their access to FRB "special facilities"?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:32:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, just wow.

But who's going to want to put their deposits with MS or GS?

Nouriel Roubini has predicted GS and MS would go the way of Lehman and Merrill Lynch - either merging or being taken over by a commercial bank. After the rumours that Wachovia and MS were in merger talks, now GS and MS are trying to simply become commercial banks?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:57:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not seriously, no. They'll most likely open one commercial branch each in the cellar of a warehouse in North Dakota. Or Alaska.

This is another naked attempt to grab federal insurance - aka a bailout - for their liabilities. Some creative accounting will move the debt from one place to another.

They're probably hoping that with Paulson's planned new superpowers they won't be held accountable.

But given that no one is buying Paulson's beatification - not even Newt Gingrich - the plan may not be the success they're hoping for.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:57:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is another naked attempt to grab federal insurance - aka a bailout - for their liabilities. Some creative accounting will move the debt from one place to another.

I think that's right. The key is this line from the FT story I quote in my parallel comment:

During the transition period, the Fed will make loans to both entities and to the broker-dealer subsidiary of Merrill Lynch against collateral acceptable for posting either by a bank or a securities firm.
The Fed expands the kinds of collateral MS, GS and Merrill Lynch can post - but in the case of Merrill Lynch, they're becoming part of Bank of America, so that's okay...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, Paulson will happily take their most toxic paper as collateral.  Talk about foxes guarding chickens.  Reagan would be proud.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:13:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To answer your question, here's from the FT:
In a statement issued at 9.30pm Sunday, the Federal Reserve said it had approved their applications to become bank holding companies, subject to regulation by the Fed.

During the transition period, the Fed will make loans to both entities and to the broker-dealer subsidiary of Merrill Lynch against collateral acceptable for posting either by a bank or a securities firm.

The Fed will also lend to Goldman, Morgan and Merrill's London-based broker dealer subsidiaries directly.

The Fed approval is subject to a five-day waiting period for potential antitrust issues.



A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:51:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Mig.  All I get from FT is a three line teaser or a headache.  I can't afford to subscribe to the entire neo-classical spectrum.  My pocket book and my gag reflex prevent it.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:24:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just google the headline and follow the google news link. Then you can read the whole thing.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:33:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AP via Google: Morgan Stanley to sell 20 pct stake in itself
Investment bank Morgan Stanley said Monday it signed a letter of intent to sell up to 20 percent of the company to Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. If the deal is completed, the price would be based on Morgan Stanley's book value after Japan's largest bank completes a due diligence review. The letter of intent signed by both banks is nonbinding.

The framework for a deal comes just hours after Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street's biggest investment banks, received regulatory approval from the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company -- making it a commercial bank and allowing it to receive deposits. Morgan Stanley will also now be regulated by the Fed instead of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I'm getting a very uneasy feeling about all this...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:16:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And Migeru's entry in the ET Understatement of the Decade Award is:

I'm getting a very uneasy feeling about all this.

:-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:37:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's because I haven't quite digested this yet.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:43:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gives me indigestion.  If the model is broken, wind them down with the least possible collateral damage instead of putting FDIC, etc on the hook for their excesses.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:28:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thinking the bailout through - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

... the more I think about this, the more skeptical I get about the extent to which it's a solution. Problems:

(a) Although the problem starts with mortgage-backed securities, the range of assets whose prices are being driven down by deleveraging is much broader than MBS. So this only cuts off, at most, part of the vicious circle.

(b) Anyway, the vicious circle aspect is only part of the larger problem, and arguably not the most important part. Even without panic asset selling, the financial system would be seriously undercapitalized, causing a credit crunch -- and this plan does nothing to address that.

Or I should say, the plan does nothing to address the lack of capital unless the Treasury overpays for assets. And if that's the real plan, Congress has every right to balk.

<...>

Let's not be railroaded into accepting an enormously expensive plan that doesn't seem to address the real problem.



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:35:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wall Street Trades In Fear -- Literally : NPR
The fear index is not merely an indicator. The Chicago Exchange does a steady business trading bets on whether the VIX will go up or down. In these strange times, you can essentially buy and sell fear.

<...>

The computer spits out a number called the volatility index, or VIX. It's a reading of how scared people are. "That's in fact what it measures," Whaley said. That reading provides insight into future wavering in the market, what traders call volatility.

The details of Whaley's formula are complicated. The VIX gets its magic number by analyzing the price of a kind of insurance policy against stock market declines. "What VIX measures, to some extent, is the amount people are willing to pay for insurance," he explained.

On Thursday, Whaley stared at numbers from a fairly nervous market. The VIX indicated people thought the stock market might go up or down by almost 9 percent over the next 30 days.

<...>

Another measure of market anxiety is called the TED Spread. By considering the demand for Treasury bills, the euro and the dollar, it renders a number on how scared banks are that another bank might collapse.

Jeff Frankel, an economist at Harvard, said that for years the TED Spread was tiny and steady and dull. "It always used to be very boring," he said, "so I never used to keep an eye on it at all. It's not boring now."

Sometime around June 2007, he remembers, the TED Spread shot up -- and stayed high. "You know, for it to shoot up temporarily is OK," he said. "But for it to stay up! It is really quite remarkable. It's one reason why people say this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, because so far as I know this has not happened before."



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:10:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian today has an article on the Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem:

Jewish 'ultras' defend morals with menace; The Haredi sect has launched an aggressive campaign against the secular lifestyles of women in Jerusalem.

Nothing new that hasn't appeared in the Israeli and Jewish press over the last few years, but I think that this is the first time I've seen an article like this in the general press. The Guardian even mentions the "Frumka", the Jewish version of the burka, though without using this tongue-in-cheek name.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:15:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much of Kreus's time is spent checking out reports of illicit use of new technologies by members of the Haredi community. 'If we discover someone has a computer at home we throw the children out of school,' he said. Enforcing dictates on women's behaviour is another vital part of his brief.

...

Extraordinarily, he admitted to slashing the tyres of women who have driven into the neighbourhood who, he said, were indecently dressed. 'There was a mess with the police,' he said. 'Now I'm trying new creative methods, not using violence. Now I make a small hole in their tyres and the air deflates slowly. I'm not destroying their car.'

...

He maintained that separation was necessary beyond the boundaries of the neighbourhood. 'Having secular people on the buses is a problem. They go like animals, without clothes. Non-religious girls don't dress properly. They encourage me to sin,' he said.

I think the US should 'liberate' Israel.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:38:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US tax dollars at work.  Time for the shekel bomb, anyone?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 09:40:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In 2006, Ecuador elected Rafael Correa President (See Correa leads in Ecuador Presidential election... by whataboutbob). Following the Chávez trail of hot rhetoric and socialist reforms, he broke with WTI, IMF, US free trade association (and military presence). The result?

Bloomberg.com: Latin America

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Ecuador registered a budget surplus in the first half that will allow the government to keep investing, President Rafael Correa said.

Ecuador's central government had a surplus of $508 million and public-sector entities such as municipalities and state-run universities had a $2.17 billion surplus, he said today in his weekly television address.

``This surplus is excessive,'' Correa said. ``We have to boost our efficiency in investing.''

On Sept. 28, Ecuador will hold a referendum on a new constitution that calls for raising spending on health and education. Correa this week replaced Finance Minister Wilma Salgado after she said that Ecuador faces a budget deficit of about $2.4 billion next year and recommended slowing the pace of spending.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:04:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Associated Press: Japan ruling party turns to brash Aso
TOKYO (AP) -- Brash conservative Taro Aso easily won the presidency of Japan's struggling ruling party Monday, putting him in line to take over as prime minister this week amid political and economic turmoil.

...Fukuda is quitting after a year of battling with a split parliament. The LDP runs the powerful lower house, but the opposition took control of the upper house in elections last year, and has repeatedly embarrassed his government by blocking or delaying high-profile legislation.

...Koizumi's nationalist successor, Shinzo Abe, quit after only a year amid scandals and his own health troubles. The dour Fukuda, considered at first an experienced hand, has failed to energize the party or draw voter interest.

Aso, however, is likely to make headlines from day one.

He has riled Beijing by calling China a military threat, angered Asians by claiming that Taiwan's educational success is rooted in Japanese wartime colonial policies, and compared Japan's opposition party to the Nazis.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:32:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Krugman's blog: Excess of responsibility
As I read what's happening now, John McCain is denouncing the Paulson plan, while Barack Obama -- out of a sense of responsibility for the financial system -- is only offering cautious criticism.

The Obama people -- and the Congressional Democrats -- do know that the Republicans will run a populist campaign against them on the basis that they voted for a horrible big-government program, don't they?

Unfortunately, they don't. Democrats have a tendency to lose when the Republicans put them in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.

If they agree to the bailout plan they'll be attacked as big government by McCain and rebuked by their own angry base. If they don't agree, when things go south again Bush will say that the Democratic congress, by inaction, made the crisis worse.


A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:17:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru: and rebuked by their own angry base

You mean you think the Democratic party base wants Paulson's bailout plan to go through as is?

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:26:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I said they would be rebuked if they approve the plan.

Also, McCain will accuse them of inaction if they don't vote for it. Republicans don't have a problem arguing two contradictory positions, as long as it's not at the same time.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:28:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pelosi is nominally against the plan, but it's not clear what she's going to do about it.

Reid thinks the plan is just perfect.

Obama is speechifying - he can't do much more than that, but we'll see more of the real Obama when he votes.

Which is... when?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 09:40:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah

CBS News: Reid Slams Bush Economic Policies, Promises Cooperation On Bailout (September 20, 2008)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) couldn't pass up a chance to slam President Bush's economic policies, but he promised that Senate Democrats would move quickly to take up the $700 billion Treasury bailout plan.

...

"It is now self-evident that the Bush Administration's extreme hands-off policies have been disastrous," Reid said in a statement released by his office. "The middle class is suffering from rising prices and declining incomes, and now the world financial system is on the brink. The American people have every right to be outraged that we are at this point."

Reid added: "At the same time, we cannot allow ourselves to be in denial about the threat now facing the world economy. From all indications, that threat is real, and the consequences of inaction could be catastrophic.

How about the consequences of misdirected action, Harry?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 09:49:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So we get Pelosi to finally make something akin to the right noise, and Reid sandbags us.  Nice.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 09:54:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, just for this, I propose we change our position on Yucca Mountain.  In fact, forget the mountain.  Let's just dump it all in Vegas and turn whatever mutations come of it into a tourist trap.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:03:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pelosi will do what she always does: Write a sternly-worded letter.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 09:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Miami Herald: Suitcase trial carries political baggage
The trial of a wealthy Venezuelan businessman accused of being an illegal agent for the socialist government of President Hugo Chávez is unfolding like a political `telenovela.'

...

The prosecution's case against Duran, 40, includes highly sensitive allegations that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez oversaw the cover-up -- with input from Argentina -- and that Duran and a business partner had paid millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to Venezuelan officials in return for government contracts.

...

Ultimately, observers say, the trial could diminish Chávez's stature in his own country, along with that of the intended recipient of his alleged campaign gift: Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Chávez's alleged gift, financed with national oil money, was designed to expand his leftist revolution, experts say.

Both politicians have called the U.S. case ``garbage.''



A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FT Alphaville: Downgrading the USA
Will S&P downgrade the US?

Perhaps the question is better posed: why hasn't it already?

Inevitably because no matter what the rating criteria say, the US AAA is surely too sacred a cow to be slaughtered. It would be an earth-shattering decision to take, and one that S&P's sovereign rating committee could not make alone.

Then again, as S&P's sovereign rating committee chairman said only last week, the US AAA is no god-given gift.



A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:28:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TIME. Bill Saporito: How We Became the United States of France

Lots of fun stuff in here...

Admit it, mes amis, the rugged individualism and cutthroat capitalism that made America the land of unlimited opportunity has been shrink-wrapped by a half dozen short sellers in Greenwich, Conn. and FedExed to Washington D.C. to be spoon-fed back to life by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. We're now no different from any of those Western European semi-socialist welfare states that we love to deride. Italy? Sure, it's had four governments since last Thursday, but none of them would have allowed this to go on; the Italians know how to rig an economy.

You just know the Frogs have only increased their disdain for us, if that is indeed possible. And why shouldn't they? The average American is working two and half jobs, gets two weeks off, and has all the employment security of a one-armed trapeze artist. The Bush Administration has preached the "ownership society" to America: own your house, own your retirement account; you don't need the government in your way. So Americans mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy overpriced houses they can no longer afford and signed up for 401k programs that put money where, exactly? In the stock market! Where rich Republicans fleeced them.

......

We've always dismissed the French as exquisitely fed wards of their welfare state. They work, what, 27 hours in a good week, have 19 holidays a month, go on strike for two days and enjoy a glass of wine every day with lunch -- except for the 25% of the population that works for the government, who have an even sweeter deal. They retire before their kids finish high school, and they don't have to save for a $45,000-a-year college tuition because college is free. For this, they pay a tax rate of about 103%, and their labor laws are so restrictive that they haven't had a net gain in jobs since Napoleon. There is no way that the French government can pay for this lifestyle forever, except that it somehow does.




You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:20:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like it's all over. The Evil Empire crumbles. And deep down in the Death Star, the canteen server is ordering unbiddable Darth to take a tray.

Back to reality.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:23:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who would have thought that Bush would turn out to be the most communist president that America has ever had.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:51:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Leninist, please!  Grab the power and all of the assets.  To Hell with ideology.  All power to the Soviets! (Paulson is become chief soviet.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:39:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

For those who might not recognize the reference ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:21:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is uninformed, racist and stupid. But hey, it's okay, we have the gallic shrug.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:05:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 H/T calculatedRisk who notes, "This means more oversight and a changing business model."

Release Date: September 21, 2008
For release at 9:30 p.m. EDT

The Federal Reserve Board on Sunday approved, pending a statutory five-day antitrust waiting period, the applications of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to become bank holding companies.

To provide increased liquidity support to these firms as they transition to managing their funding within a bank holding company structure, the Federal Reserve Board authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to extend credit to the U.S. broker-dealer subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley against all types of collateral that may be pledged at the Federal Reserve's primary credit facility for depository institutions or at the existing Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF); the Federal Reserve has also made these collateral arrangements available to the broker-dealer subsidiary of Merrill Lynch. In addition, the Board also authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to extend credit to the London-based broker-dealer subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch against collateral that would be eligible to be pledged at the PDCF.

CR is incorrect. The result is neither more oversight nor a change in the firms' business models. Being financial holding companies (per GLB Act) both firms were supervised by the FRB and the SEC and, informally, the Presidents Working Group (PWG a/k/a "the Plunge Protection Team"). But Paulson's "Blueprint" does explicitly seek expansion of the PWG. The latter observation implies only that regulators will recommend that the firms acquire state- and national-chartered banks and perhaps apply for charters for some of their existing banking and trust subsidiaries. Further, this measure does not revoke firms' privileged brokerage licenses. Rather, it cements market risk in depository institutions --all of whose undercapitalized operations were regulated by the FRB.

BAC ("core bank") and Merrill last week agreed in principle to a merger. "Core bank" is an OCC class.

From  American Banker subscription, H/T Jesse:

Goldman did not say what sort of banking charter it would use, but Morgan Stanley said it plans to convert its Utah industrial bank to a national bank charter. Morgan Stanley said it had more than 3 million retail accounts and $36 billion in bank deposits as of Aug. 31. It did not reveal its Tier 1 capital ratio.

Morgan said it would "pursue initiatives to expand the retail banking services it offers its retail clients and build a stable base of core deposits."

Recall: currently, - $122B non-borrowed funds of the reserve bank system (cumulative since Dec 2007). The FRB is shifting cost of banking to Treasury and revenue generation to debt marketing.

From "Blueprint for a Modernized Regulatory Structure" released 26 March 2008 (graphics by myself); this is the "Short Term Recommendation" which I predicted in a series of April articles would become permanent.



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:41:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AP (on Yahoo):
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan - Pakistani troops and tribesmen opened fire on two U.S. helicopters that crossed into the country from neighboring Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Monday.

The helicopters did not return fire and re-entered Afghan airspace without landing, the officials said.

Pakistan's army and the U.S. military in Afghanistan said they had no information on the reported incursion late Sunday, which will likely add to tensions between Islamabad and Washington.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:05:54 PM EST
DEVELOPMENT-WORLD: What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?
PARIS, Sep 15 (IPS) - Fair trade is held up as promoting fair prices for producers and guaranteeing social and environmental standards. These ideas are neither new nor controversial. But the recent boom in fair trade has drawn attention as standards and models multiply while authentication mechanisms lag behind.

Artisans du Monde (``Artisans of the World''), a federation of 170 French fair trade outlets, estimates that Europe accounts for 60 percent of the fair trade market. In 2000, it reckons, one in 10 French consumers had heard of fair or equitable trade.

In 2007 the figure jumped to eight out of 10. In 2006, 42 percent of French consumers in fact purchased a fair trade product.

According to the French Platform for Fair Trade (Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Équitable, or PFCE), a collective of 39 organisations, the sector's European turnover amounted to 1.25 billion euros in 2006, and fair trade sales have jumped by 20 percent every year since 2000.

At the other end of the chain, Artisans du Monde estimates that fair trade benefits 1.5 million small producers, the vast majority of whom are from developing countries. But what makes fair trade so fair to them?

Most fair trade organisations, whether buyers, importers, distributors or certifiers, operate under a self-imposed charter. Respecting a number of criteria will earn producers the right to use a network's label and grant their product access to a fair trade distributor's shelves.

But charters are as diverse as operators. Umbrella organisations such as the International Fair Trade Association, which claims 300 members, have a hard time unifying operational standards.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:43:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... and not only fair-trade: it is common to many NGO areas of activity...

DEVELOPMENT-WORLD: What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?

But, whatever the definitions, the charters and the organisations' role in the chain, both the PFCE and Minga admit that certification is the weakest link in ensuring that trade is indeed fair.

Both networks rely on self-evaluation. There is no independent verification that producers do in fact abide by a network's charter and principles.

In order to join Minga and have its products sold by the association's outlets, a producer must fill in a questionnaire with about 400 questions.

``We also encourage a participatory system of verification where a member organisation visits another and evaluates economic, social and environmental practices,'' says Besson.

For Maisonhaute, it is unthinkable to systematically verify production standards on the ground in developing countries: ``Given the number of producers and the distances to cover, the cost of travelling to each location would be unbearable.''

This allows the Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank that promotes free trade and is one of fair trade's harshest critics, to denounce what it sees as a marketing initiative rather than a new model for economic justice.

``Just 10 percent of the premium consumers pay for fair trade actually goes to the producer. Retailers pocket the rest,'' the Institute claims in a report titled ``Unfair Trade''.


Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Still and all, what have the free-traders of the Adam Smith Institute got against "marketing intitiatives"? What are they complaining about?

Oh, that everything "distorts" markets... Except for the wealthy and powerful dominating trade on their own terms?

I can't rid myself of the impression that, if producers were getting, not 10%, but just 1 or 2% more for their products through an "undistorted" market system, we'd be hearing a lot about how global free trade with added trickle-down is "lifting millions from poverty".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:33:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i hear you.  i think it comes down to fear.  the free-traders are afraid of the potential of fair-trade to displace them.  so they'll use any specious argumentation to knock other models of doing business.

the best ways to respond to the accusation are to (1) make verification thorough, (2) provide evidence that fair-trade producers, even if they are only getting 10%, are still getting significantly more than what they would otherwise get through "free trade", and (3) convert as much as the supply chain from "free trade" to "fair trade", and do it verifiably.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:38:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I quite agree. I'll add that the restriction of fair trade contracts to cooperative-type structures (as exemplified by one of the French groups mentioned in the article) is also an important point (imo) in favour of fair trade, and a further guarantee that producers are reasonably more likely to be getting a fairer deal as well as being part of a structural process that will offer them a better future.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:22:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I don't know if any of Artisans du Monde's salespeople is paid. But I know at least that a great many AREN'T.

So it already means that more of the value stream goes to the producer.

Now, they say that 10% of the extra price goes to the producer (that may be, I have no idea). Any guess as to how much of the price goes to the producer in a standard distribution ? I can't remember (I did read it once) but I reckon we are talking around 1-2%. So if they get 10% of the difference, it probably means they double or treble their income. That's quite major -and the true metric for the effectiveness of such schemes.

So what they are saying is that retailers that can't have the kind of economies of scale, or pressure on all intermediate actors as major stores (and therefore probably higher costs), still end up giving hugely more to the producer, while more or less ensuring that workers are treated decently and that crops are grown in a reasonably environmently friendly way.

I guess that, from them, it counts as criticism.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:42:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thats a pretty bad article on fair trade. Leaving aside the singular focus on France, a large part of fair trade products do work under unified operational standards and do not "rely on self-evaluation."

My girlfriend (who some of you met in Paris this weekend) currently works for the certification organisation for the Fairtrade brand in Bonn, FLO-CERT.

She has also been talking about the problem with certification, but with a slightly different take on it. FLO-CERT do send inspectors to all producers and traders applying for Fairtrade certification, as well as yearly inspections of everyone after certification.

The problem thought, is that to keep all the actors in the system "fair", rules and regulations are constantly sharpened and the size of the control apparatus is growing. Which increases cost.

This again increases the certification cost, driving down wages at the production end and increasing product cost at the consumer end. So their constant challenge is to make an "airtight" certification and control system that ensures their standards at the lowest possible cost to producers and consumers.

Personally I don't think fair trade is the magic bullet to solve world inequality, but I am pretty sure it helps. But I also would be very uneasy about trusting any fair trading standard that only relied on self-evaluation.


For Maisonhaute, it is unthinkable to systematically verify production standards on the ground in developing countries: ``Given the number of producers and the distances to cover, the cost of travelling to each location would be unbearable.''

This allows the Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank that promotes free trade and is one of fair trade's harshest critics, to denounce what it sees as a marketing initiative rather than a new model for economic justice.

This "he said. she said"-pieces is unfair both to the Fair trade organisations as well as to the Adam Smith Institute. (Unless the "institute" is unaware that a significant portion of fair trade actors are actually inspected regularily.)

by Trond Ove on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:13:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Live Earth show to help boost solar energy: ENN

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India will host the next Live Earth concert to raise funds for lighting homes with solar energy in places where people do not have access to electricity, organizers said.

The December event will see rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Bollywood's biggest superstar, Amitabh Bachchan share the stage, and is described by organizers as one of the biggest events held in India.

The concert will be held in India's financial capital Mumbai on December 7, Live Earth founder Kevin Wall said in Mumbai.

"(Former Vice President) Al Gore asked me whether we could do this in India, and I said yes," Wall told Reuters in Mumbai. "This is going to be huge."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:50:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Warming World In Range Of Dangerous Consequences
The earth will warm about 2.4 degrees C (4.3 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels even under extremely conservative greenhouse-gas emission scenarios and under the assumption that efforts to clean up particulate pollution continue to be successful, according to a new analysis by a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

That amount of warming falls within what the world's leading climate change authority recently set as the threshold range of temperature increase that would lead to widespread loss of biodiversity, deglaciation and other adverse consequences in nature.

The researchers, writing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argue that coping with these circumstances will require "transformational research for guiding the path of future energy consumption."

"This paper demonstrates the major challenges society will have to face in dealing with a problem that now seems unavoidable," said the paper's lead author, Scripps Atmospheric and Climate Sciences Professor V. Ramanathan.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It may turn out that we cannot afford to reduce particulate pollution except in concert with reductions in CO2.  Else we accelerate warming.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 09:44:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A 'novel' chemistry to make fuel from sugar
By Patrick Barry  Science News
Web edition : Thursday, September 18th, 2008

It's not alchemy, but it might sound like it: a new way to transform sugars from plants into gasoline, diesel or even jet fuel by passing the sugars over exotic materials.

This chemical trick uses nano-sized particles to produce plant-based gasoline that can be used in existing vehicles in place of petroleum-based fuels. But because they would be made from corn, switchgrass or other plants -- which absorb carbon dioxide as they grow -- the fuels would emit less net carbon dioxide than normal gasoline.

"You have a conventional fuel that happens to be made from sustainable sources," says James Dumesic, a chemical engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the research, which appears online September 18 in Science.

-Skip-

...ethanol is made by fermenting plant sugars in large, microbe-filled vats for hours or days, much like brewing beer. The new process could be simpler because it does not require keeping microbes alive, and it can convert the sugar into fuel in a matter of minutes, the team reports.

Another method for making gasoline from plant sugar exists, but it requires very high temperatures and other energy-consuming steps, making the process inefficient. The new technique requires little energy input and can convert most of the energy in the sugar into useable forms.

While the process is not yet ready for large-scale production, Dumesic's team was able to convert about 65 percent of the energy in the sugar into gasoline using their laboratory-scale process. Most of the lost energy ends up in gases such as ethane and propane, which if captured could serve as a replacement for natural gas.

An alloy of the precious metals platinum and rhenium triggers the first step of the conversion. Dumesic and his colleagues deposited 2-nanometer-wide specks of this alloy onto surfaces made of pure carbon. When a liquid mixture of water and plant sugar flows over the platinum-rhenium particles at the right temperature and pressure, the metal atoms act as catalysts to cleave chemical bonds in the sugar, releasing oxygen and leaving behind a mixture of molecules containing carbon and hydrogen -- the principal elements in gasoline and diesel.

"It's completely novel chemistry," comments Manos Mavrikakis, an expert in theoretical catalysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who did not collaborate with Dumesic on the new conversion process.

The molecules produced by Dumesic's catalytic reactions can be used directly to replace petroleum feedstocks that the chemical industry uses to make plastics and other materials. Or, the molecules can pass through another step of previously known catalytic reactions to produce the final fuel.

Cost of the metal catalyst could be an issue, Mavrikakis notes. "The question is how much platinum and rhenium will we need to produce the fuel we need?" he says. "These are among the most expensive metals."

Studying how the metals trigger the needed chemical reactions could enable scientists to replace the platinum and rhenium with less expensive materials, Mavrikakis suggests.

Conversations with an uncle who worked at the Monsanto refinery in Texas City  from the '50s informed me that the petroleum industry has long been using platinum as a catalyst.  At least catalysts are not consumed, if things are run properly.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 10:03:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Science or alchemy?

They are clearly indicating that they know neither the why nor the how...just that this magic dust made of an exotic material dug from pits in the southest of africa does things described by fancy words...and eventually they will might be able to back-engineer the process to find out how to do it more efficiently

...maybe...

if the rain gods are placated, and the wind gods aren't on vacation.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While the process is not yet ready for large-scale production

Afew MAGIC WAND Technology™ isn't quite ready yet either.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please report back when you have a "proof of principle" demonstration.  I have a stainless steel magic wand that came out of the LA aerospace industry in the 50s, but it doesn't work either.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
KLATSCH
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:06:21 PM EST
I'm posting from a train by telepathy, Fran.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have also hijacked Crazy Horse.  Be warned.  You will be assimilated, Fran... No way, don't believe her!  It's Izzy!

No.  Honest.  This laptop is not under siege.  It's all Crazy Horse...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:03:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Caol Ila is not be blamed for the impertinences of these hijacking women.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:06:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, yes it is. Entirely to blame.  
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:08:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I know who drinks the Caol Ila and who doesn't...

Unless there has been a sudden change?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:03:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Once again I'm off to work on a Monday morning.

And when I come home tonight I'd like to find something left in my bank accounts.  So, kiddies, play nice and try not to break the US financial system while I'm away.

kthxbai

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:41:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can someone give me a short run-down on the philosophy of Dominique Strauss-Kahn? I always interpeted him as a socialist who eschewed dogma and was willing to use whatever policy tools seemed to work, i.e. principled, but free-thinking.

However, the English-language depiction of him is more as a French Clinton or Blair.

Your thoughts?

Also, in looking at the current American crisis, I've been thinking about the need for a national bank, one that would not replace the private sector, but would ensure the continuance of economic activity in times of economic duress (when credit is frozen by the private sector banks).

I know India has several goverment-run banks, and New Zealand has one. I suspect there are several in Asia, and I thought it was quite common in continental Europe as recently as the '90s (if not government-run, then a bank in which the goverment had a large ownership stake). Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Austria privatize its two national banks only a six or seven years ago? What is the landscape in Europe regarding national banks (not to be confused with central banks)?

Thanks...I would appreciate any comments you might have.

by glacierpeaks (glacierpeaks@comcast.net) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:48:45 AM EST
Well, many people reckon his convictions belong to Modem more than to PS (not that there is a HUGE gap between the two). So you could argue he is more of a French centrist than a socialist.

Which would make him a Communist in a latter-days-Blair / Clinton referential of course.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:36:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Based on what I recall, different French ET residents could give 3-4 completely different opinions on DSK.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:09:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In this case I mostly agree with Cyrille!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:02:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(I guess what varies is not the descriptions of him, but rather the opinions of him...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:52:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds fair to me too.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:53:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd gladly discuss Cyrille's opinion, but first I would need to know what the Modem stands for on economic and social issues, apart from promoting François Bayrou... That doesn't mean I disagree.

Having met some of the Strauss-Kahn supporters a few days ago, I would say they still stand to the left of the Modem. It is however difficult to position people within the PS, because their statements and programmes follow internal tactical goals rather than political strategic positioning.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 09:30:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is however difficult to position people within the PS, because their statements and programmes follow internal tactical goals rather than political strategic positioning.

So, what does the PS stand for on economic and social issues apart from promoting the various factional leaders?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 09:36:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Touché!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:16:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was exactly my point...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:41:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is that you ask for more substance from Modem's positions than you admit of the PS's positions.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 05:43:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You didn't understand what I meant. I am precisely enraged at the lack of substance of the PS position(s).

I blame the PS for devoting all its members' time and energy to internal infighting when they should spend them on political/economical/social/environmental theory, i.e. building viable alternative models and policies. This lack of substance is particularly worrying at a time when, thanks to the evident failure of the dominant model, there is a window of opportunity for alternative models.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 09:49:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I would say it's the party that takes sustainability most seriously. They are dead against a runaway debt (maybe sometime too much so -it does seem the right time for a major infrastructure program in many countries, and France may be one of them), and have the most believable environment program.
They are also the most clearly pro-European party around. Whether you count that as social and economic I don't know, but nowadays I don't have much belief in aiming such policies purely at the country level.
They stand for laicity in a big way, despite the excessive religiosity of their leader. At least he keeps it reasonably private.
They are in favour of a union equal in rights to marriage for homosexuals (not enough in my view. It should be called the same for everone. Call it spirograph if you want, but make it the same for all).
They are, in general, for long term solutions. Sustainability is quite the mantra there.

And they are dead against mixing the roles in the separation of powers as we see daily at the moment.

Now, it may just be tactical on the part of Bayrou (how would I know), but I am pretty sure most militants are sincere in those positions. And it's clearly more of a militants' party than a leaders' party -actually leaders may be an overstatement in its use of plural.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:59:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Germany the most prominent public banks are the Sparkassen (I have my account at one), which are kind of a franchise from a Sparkassen-association.
They are owned by the communal level, public ownership is 100%. Connected are the Sparkassen, which are rather small banks (about every district has its own Sparkasse), with the Landesbanken, which are state owned banks, and whose major task is to provide services to the Sparkassen for which they are too small individually (e.g. building and loan association tasks), or providing financing for projects too big for Sparkassen.
Another thing Landesbanken do regularly is sinking lots of money in international bubbles(Asia crisis, current housing crisis in the US), but that isn't officially part of their job.

Then there is the Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (KfW), which is a federal gov't owned bank, but is operating hardly for profit. They have special programs with low interest rates, e.g. for house insulation or solar energy on your roof. So its mostly a political purpose bank.

Then there are partly public banks, e.g. the Postbank, which is planned to be privatised completely and merged with the Deutsche Bank. Despite such privatisation, public institutions remain an important player in the banking industry.

The European Union's legislation has interfered with that in several ways. First, public banks are not allowed to get a tax payer funded guarantee on their debt, as this is seen as derailing of private competition. Second the statutes of the Sparkassen-assosation was required to be changed, so that private investors now can buy Sparkassen. But so far this hasn't happened.

Measured by balance sheet Sparkassen and Landesbanken have held 36% of the all banks balance-sheet sum together in 2002.

Another part of Germany's baking landscape are the cooperative banking institutions - Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken, which originally focused on very small credits (Raiffeisen said over a 100 years ago things similar to the ones Muhammad Yunus) and agricultural stuff.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:37:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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