Items of Interest:
Matt Taibbi / Rolling Stone:
Looting Main Street -- How the nation's biggest banks are ripping off American cities with the same predatory deals that brought down Greece.
If you want to know what life in the Third World is like, just ask Lisa Pack, an administrative assistant who works in the roads and transportation department in Jefferson County, Alabama. Pack got rudely introduced to life in post-crisis America last August, when word came down that she and 1,000 of her fellow public employees would have to take a little unpaid vacation for a while. The county, it turned out, was more than $5 billion in debt — meaning that courthouses, jails and sheriff's precincts had to be closed so that Wall Street banks could be paid.
As public services in and around Birmingham were stripped to the bone, Pack struggled to support her family on a weekly unemployment check of $260. Nearly a fourth of that went to pay for her health insurance, which the county no longer covered. She also fielded calls from laid-off co-workers who had it even tougher. "I'd be on the phone sometimes until two in the morning," she says. "I had to talk more than one person out of suicide. For some of the men supporting families, it was so hard — foreclosure, bankruptcy. I'd go to bed at night, and I'd be in tears."...
Timothy Geithner is a Sniveling Scamster -- Whew. That was fast. It didn't take long for Wall Street to figure out how to game Obama's new mortgage modification program, did it? The plan was hyped as help for "struggling homeowners", but it turns out, it's just another stealth bailout for pudgy bank-execs. It's funny, the program hasn't even kicked in yet and, already, bigtime speculators are riffling through their filing cabinets looking any garbage paper they can find to dump on Uncle Sam...
So, the cutthroat speculators and bunko artists who fleeced us all with their dogshit subprimes, have returned for another dip at the public trough. That means taxpayers will get scalped on the same investments a second time. Hey, it's a double-whammy!...
Megan McArdle / The Atlantic:
The Sovereign Debt That Dare Not Speak Its Name -- Timothy Geithner has apparently penned a letter to Representative Scott Jarrett (R-NJ) telling him that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's obligations are not sovereign debt. Of course, the United States government believes that supporting this debt is crucial to saving the economy. But just because we're not-so-implicitly guaranteeing this debt, doesn't mean that you should treat it like government debt...
Gallup: Underemployment In The U.S. Rises to 20.3% in March -- Reports from the Labor Department today showed companies in the U.S. created more jobs in March than at any time in the past three years, showing the recovery is broadening and becoming more entrenched.
Payrolls rose by 162,000 workers, the most gain since March 2007, thought the increase included 48,000 temporary Census workers. Unemployment remains at 9.7% for a third month.
Nevertheless, behind the rosy headlines, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also give a grim side of the employment picture...
However, the latest Gallup Daily tracking finds that 20.3% of the U.S. workforce was underemployed in March... Gallop concludes its findings as follows:
As unemployed Americans find part-time, temporary, and seasonal work, the official unemployment rate could decline. However, this does not necessarily mean more Americans are working at their desired capacity. It will continue to be important to track underemployment -- to shed light on the true state of the U.S. workforce.
March Non Farm Payrolls: +162K, Below Consensus, Unemployment Rate 9.7%, Ex-Census, Weather and Birth-Death NFP Change Is -67K
David Goldman / Inner Workings:
A Weak Employment Report
U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion -- What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world's largest economy.
"Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…" said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. "You know what? It doesn't matter. None of this—this so-called 'money'—really matters at all."
"It's just an illusion," a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. "Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless."...
Lasner on Real Estate:
27% more Calif. hotels in foreclosure -- A survey by Atlas Hospitality Group in Irvine shows that the number of California hotels in default and foreclosed on continued to climb in the first quarter of 2010...
Debunking Michael Lewis’ Subprime Short Hagiography -- Lewis’ need to anchor his tale in personalities results in a skewed misreading of the subprime crisis and why and how it got as bad as it did. The group of short sellers he celebrates were minor-leaguers compared to the likes of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and John Paulson. But no one on the short side of these trades, large or small, should be seen as any kind of a stalwart hero and defender of capitalism...
Lewis’ desire to satisfy his fan base’s craving for good guys led him to miss the most important story of our age: how a small number of operators used a nexus of astonishing leverage and camouflaged risk to bring the world financial system to its knees and miraculously walked away with their winnings. These players are not the ugly ducklings of Lewis’ fairy tale; they are merely ugly. Whether for his own profit or by accident, Lewis has denied the public the truth.
Extremist group demands governors resign, FBI says -- A domestic extremist group has sent letters to more than 30 U.S. governors demanding they resign, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI said in an intelligence note.
The note, dated Monday, said the letters told the governors to vacate their posts within three days...
Little Green Footballs:
Dozens of US Governors Receive Notes Demanding Resignation in 3 Days
John Robb / Global Guerrillas:
Some random items of interest -- Another example that US insurgents are starting to use stigmergic communication: The FBI is warning police across the country that an anti-government group's call to remove governors from office could provoke violence by others. The use of the media to communicate intent and to share innovation with other insurgent groups is a staple of open source insurgency (a feature of the model that a recent quantitative study featured in Nature magazine confirmed).
More on the Guardians of the Free Republics, the group that sent the letter.
Here's an earlier example of stigmergic communication, although not as slick, from Mike at Sipsey Street Irregulars. Break their windows. Break them NOW...