Enron

A Toxic Big Oil Market Storm?

I was watching Bloomberg's In The Loop with Betty Liu this morning and they were doing a piece on Big Oil and BP featuring a hedge manager's view of what is going on in that market that I found a bit interesting, the video isn't up yet but what piqued my interest had already been covered in Bloomberg Businessweek the other day:

That's Gerrymandering

From C4AF's Eric Loftke, that's Gerrymandering with a hard G:

Gerrymandering goes far to explain why dissatisfaction is so high, debate is so partisan and problems so unsolved. An elected official in a seat designed for safe reelection need do nothing else. Politicians in gerrymandered districts pick their constituents, not the other way around.

I especially like the scene with Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative describing a city council seat in tiny Anamosa, Iowa. The council member is elected with only two votes, his neighbor and his wife. Everyone else who makes up his districts is in a nearby prison. They can’t vote but they still count for purposes of political apportionment. Prison-based gerrymandering brings “representation without population,” Wagner complains.

I learned something else about gerrymandering. I’ve been saying it wrong, all these years (though I probably still will). It’s pronounced with a hard G, named after colonial era governor Elbridge Gerry, hard G, who redrew his state’s district lines in 1812 to secure party advantage. A period newspaper observed that the district map looked like a salamander, and dubbed it a “Gerry-mander.”

And with another Census recently behind us... A little reminder that s/he who controls redistricting controls the future of voting results to a large degree. Just ask Tom DeLay. Even if his efforts were pretty darned illegal when taken on its proven face value:

Right Wing Revisionist Capitalism

Capitalism and the free market as envisioned by Adam Smith - the father of Capitalism (OR the founder of free market economics) - understood that profit at any cost was not the answer:

Would Smith have stood with America's captains of industry in opposition to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which workers the right to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, and to strike? Not likely:

The Profitable Deceptions of Dr. Luntz

Originally Posted Fri, 05/08/2009 - 15:31, bumped to keep attention to Luntz - standingup

Right now, the biggest money in the country is arrayed to prevent any sort of public or single-payer health option from even being considered, much less appearing on the slate of choices that will be worked over by the leaders we elect every ballot cycle for final passage into the law that governs every American.

Instead, the biggest money in the country is striving to assure that private gain wins over public good and they've poured massive amounts of money into lobbying our leadership.  

So, every single day, the lobbyists are telling the people we trust with our vote each cycle, exactly how we should be governed.  According to the big money.

Just a couple days ago, one of us wrote about the group of SINGLE PAYER HEROES who, in civil disobedience, dared to call into question the fact that a Democratic-majority was hosting a 'roundtable' to discuss 'health care reform' options without including ONE advocate of single-payer options.  

As they were hauled off, the lobbyists laughed when Senator Baucus joked with friends, "we need more police."

And now, apparently, the big money has bought the services of the big guns message-monger, Dr. Frank Luntz, to scientifically achieve the deception his ilk has grown rich in providing to corporate non-citizens of these United States so as to best achieve private gain's victory over the public interest.

Well-known for the effectiveness of his profitable deceptions and much sought-after by the biggest money, I only became aware of Luntz's involvement on behalf of health-care industry interests in a diary posted by Senator Jeff Merkley, "Words Designed to Kill Health Care Reform"

But I was shocked when I read a memo from Republican strategist Dr. Frank Luntz laying out plans to dismantle any effort to give all Americans access to quality health care. Dr. Luntz, the man who developed language designed to promote pre-emptive war in Iraq and distract from the severity of global warming, is at it again – this time with a messaging strategy designed to sink our historic opportunity for health care reform.

I thought it'd be instructive that the public knows just how Dr. Luntz has made so much money message-mongering for the dirtiest of the biggest money, helping George W. Bush's then-largest contributor, Enron, sustain its terror attack against the people of the State of California some eight-odd years ago.

AIG Executive to be Sentenced for Fraud Conviction

promoted - cho

In the flurry of financial crisis stories, the media has neglected to mention the recent conviction of an AIG executive for accounting fraud. The crime is for "side letters" - much like the off-book arrangements that figured centrally in the Enron debacle.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

Reuters, 9/5/08:

The defendants were convicted (this past Feburary) in connection with a reinsurance deal that prosecutors said misled AIG investors because it enabled the company to improperly inflate its loss reserves, painting an artificially bright picture of its financial results. AIG previously acknowledged accounting improprieties and restated $3.8 billion in earnings from 2000 through 2004 and agreed to a $1.64 billion regulatory settlement in 2006.

It’s good to know that someone bearing responsibility for this mess is going to jail. The AIG failure is probably the result of ginormous fraud schemes, with the bursting subprime mortgage bubble only a contributing factor. It defies credulity that over a trillion in assets reported earlier this year were all wiped out by the mortgage mess, given the regulations governing investment of insurance company assets. There's more to the story.

There was a sentencing hearing early this month in Connecticut, where the case was tried. From Bloomberg News 9/6/08:

The executives were convicted for using a sham transaction in 2000 to help AIG add $500 million in loss reserves, a key indicator of an insurer's health. Jurors convicted Ferguson, 66; Monrad, 53; Garand, 61, a former senior vice president; Graham, 60, a former General Re assistant general counsel; and Christian Milton, 60, AIG's former head of reinsurance.

Back to Reuters (linked above)::

In a sentencing memorandum filed late on Friday, prosecutors argued that sentences for the five defendants should be stiffer than the range of 168 months to 210 months calculated in a pre-sentence report.

The government also said losses to AIG investors could be estimated at more than $400 million -- with the government's expert calculating fraud-related losses as much as $1.4 billion -- a factor that should enhance the defendants' sentences.

International Herald Tribune, 9/12/08:

The former officers were accused of breaching fiduciary duties by redirecting insurance business that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions to another company they controlled.

Simultaneously, Maurice Greenberg, AIG's former chief executive and one of the former officers, began the first of what is expected to be three grueling days of depositions in a civil lawsuit brought against him by the office of the New York State attorney general, Andrew Cuomo. The lawsuit accuses Greenberg of devising transactions to make AIG's financial condition look stronger.

AIG's board removed Greenberg in 2005, after regulators served AIG with subpoenas.

CFTC Investigating Oil Trading; Market Manipulation Suspected

On May 29, the CFTC announced an investigation of oil trading, looking for direct evidence that traders deliberately sought to skew the markets.

From Bloomberg:

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"The key to this is: what is the intent of the trading?" said Geoffrey Aronow, a former head of enforcement for the CFTC. "Is the sole intent to try to move the price of the commodity -- in this case, crude oil? Or does the trading have a reasonable commercial justification?"

Record-high oil costs have prompted lawmakers to press for scrutiny of whether speculative trading is artificially pushing up prices artificially.

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It's a very Enronesque scenario.