Monday, May 10, 2010

RBS cuts 2,600 more jobs

LONDON (AP) – The part-nationalized Royal Bank of Scotland says it is axing 2,600 more jobs, or 14 percent of its staff in its British insurance arm and retail banking headquarters.

RBS has been cutting staff since it was bailed out by the government during the financial crisis, leaving the bank 80 percent owned by taxpayers. Monday’s announcement brings the total number of jobs lost worldwide to 22,600.

RBS has accelerated its plans to restructure the business since the European Commission ordered it to sell 318 branches and the insurance business to soothe competition concerns after the state rescue.

The Unite union has condemned the latest round of cuts. The bank says it is trying to keep compulsory redundancies to an "absolute minimum."

Eurozone Bailout Cost: $955 Billion

By Jeff Harding

“The message has gotten through: the euro zone will defend its money,” French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told reporters in Brussels early today after the 14-hour meeting.

The eurozone, those countries that use the euro as their currency, is in serious trouble as evidenced by Sunday night’s (here) announcement of a €750 billion bailout to defend the euro from tanking and taking down several sovereigns with it. Greece is only one problem.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The European Union agreed on an audacious €750 billion ($955 billion) bailout plan in an effort to stanch a burgeoning sovereign debt crisis that began in Greece but now threatens the stability of financial markets world-wide.

The money would be available to rescue euro-zone economies that get into financial troubles. The plan would consist of €440 billion of loans from euro-zone governments, €60 billion from an EU emergency fund, and €250 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

Immediately after the announcement, the European Central Bank said it is ready to buy euro-zone government and private bonds “to ensure depth and liquidity” in markets, and the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it would reopen swap lines with other central banks to make sure they had ample access to dollars. …

From Bloomberg:

“This is Shock and Awe, Part II and in 3-D,” Marco Annunziata, chief economist at UniCredit Group in London, said in an e-mailed note. “This truly is overwhelming force, and should be more than sufficient to stabilize markets in the near term, prevent panic and contain the risk of contagion.”

The world’s monetary authorities are expecting a flight to from the dollar on Monday, and the Fed is ready to provide the dollars.

One could argue that the eurozone was founded on a central flaw: cheaters like Greece who spend beyond the debt limitations set by the ECB. Of course the main flaw is that none of the participant understand the flaw of spending beyond tax receipts. At some point the currency and the sovereign’s bonds will be challenged because holders of sovereign debt fear sovereign default. It happens all the time and Greece has defaulted in the past. This time they can’t print money to solve the problem.

Don’t think it can’t happen here. We just got a warning from the IMF.

Forbes publishes its annual Tax Misery & Reform Index which weighs the effect of taxation on economies. Many of the EC countries are right up there, including Greece (10th of about 70 countries). Which means it might be hard for them to raise and collect more taxes. It also looks as if they will have a difficult time cutting spending. By the way, depending on which state you are in, the U.S. is about 50th on the list. If you live in NYC you are 21st.

Mish has an excellent just published article on this topic you should read. He’s expecting a short squeeze on Monday.

I agree with his conclusions: Good luck reforming Greece.

Fannie, Freddie Want Billions More, Etc.


Twin government-owned mortgage behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are asking for an additional $19 billion in public funds to stay afloat after posting sizable losses during the first quarter of 2010.

Fannie is asking for $8.4 billion, while Freddie wants $10.6 billion. The “companies” posted a combined $21.1 billion loss from January to March of this year. Fannie Mae has already received $76.2 billion from taxpayers, while Freddie Mac has received $50.7 billion.

Originally, bailout money for Fannie and Freddie was supposed to have been capped at $200 billion, but Congress voted in December to remove that restriction.


Taking a page out of the Federal Reserve’s book, the European Union has approved a $1.08 trillion bailout for its ailing “Eurozone,” which has been rocked by the collapse of Greece’s ailing economy as well as the sorry financial footing of several other member nations.

The bailout was welcome news on Wall Street, where stocks soared nearly 400 points in morning trading.

But still … somebody’s gotta pay for all that money, right?



President Barack Obama’s payback to union bosses continued on Monday when the National Mediation Board – which governs labor relations at airlines and railroads – changed a decades-old rule in an effort to make it easier for airline employees to unionize.

Under the new rule, unions would be required to gain a simple majority of votes from workers who cast ballots – as opposed to the old rule, which requires that unions receive votes from a majority of workers who are eligible to vote.

Unions spent more than $100 million supporting Obama and Democratic candidates during the 2008 election.

By fitsnews

SIGN Petition In Support of Arizona Immigration Reform

Written by Miranda Sullivanclose

About: sassy perpetually-right redhead seeks SWM for politically incorrect debate and potential world domination. sans beaches, racial guilt, and pretentious cyber stalkers. socialists need not apply.See Authors Posts (45)
The response to Arizona’s ridiculous attempt to define ‘illegal’ as something (or in this case: someone) that by existing or by doing is breaking the law has proven to be of historical magnitude. Obviously they’re just racists; as our President, the prophet Barack Hussein Obama would suggest.
Actually, it goes far past mere suggestion. The Commander In Chief of the United States of America has very publicly condemned Arizona’s very legal legislative maneuvers as ‘racist, intolerant and unconstitutional’. Just another reason to doubt that our beloved BHO has yet to actually READ the constitution. Which is not necessarily his fault, we did opt for on the job training and it is possible that the extensive library within The White House excludes the recently deemed controversial publication.
The fact of the matter is that our country has clearly established an immigration process to benefit current citizens as well as future Americans. If these guidelines (or laws as we sometimes call them) are ignored then the individuals deliberately disregarding them are deemed ‘illegal aliens’. Until this process is altered or abandoned all together, our states as well as their democratically elected representatives are sworn to uphold and enforce the mandated consequences. Far be it from us to expect our government to do their job.

However, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has just done that. As a result she has been directly placed in the line of fire. Mostly by individuals utilizing social networking as a silly profanity plagued abuse technique.

Her response: tweet a petition of support Our response: post it on our site
There are two reasons why you are reading this. The option hardly worth a sentence of mention is to troll American citizens as they proactively attempt to revolutionize the country that hopefully we all (Michele Obama excluded) love and revere with at the very least a comparative sense of appreciation.
The other is to network with like minded individuals, catch up on recent headlines and opinions et cetera. But really that’s not why Parcbench is here. Yes we’re an alternative (conservative) media outlet, a singular attempt at stalling the left lobe deterioration so aptly expedited by conventional media. But our MISSION is to create dialogue among citizens in the midst of political unrest, to be at least a minimal part of what is sure to be the most profound revolution of our age.
We appreciate the giggles and cyber-high-fives, but if that’s all you take from your time spent at our url then you’re wasting your time and feeding into our own fear of utter helplessness.
Tirades aside, if you support Arizona’s immigration agenda we ask that you PROVE IT. Sign the attached petition and send a message to Obama, DC and the rest of the world. It is time to hold our government accountable and a little less of the other way around.

Close Obama Friend, Advisor Under Federal Probe

In the latest scandal to rock the Obama Administration, a close friend, advisor and donor of the president’s is under federal investigation for misusing public funds on faith-based minority outreach programs while he ran Illinois’ health department.

Under the direction of Dr. Eric Whitaker, the state spent millions of taxpayer dollars on highly questionable publicity campaigns to educate African-American and other minorities about common diseases in their communities, mainly AIDS. Whitaker was the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2003 to 2007, thanks to a recommendation from his good friend Obama who at the time was a state senator.

The federal probe into Whitaker’s minority health programs has been kept secret by the Obama Administration but a Chicago newspaper revealed details after obtaining records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Federal grand jury subpoenas obtained by the newspaper disclose that the investigation involves “faith-based initiatives” and health-awareness campaigns funded by the Health Department when Whitaker ran the agency for criminally indicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Among the subpoenaed are Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS for running a taxpayer-funded $2.5 million “social marketing effort” to fight AIDS in the African-American community and a defunct nonprofit that got nearly $2 million to conduct AIDS awareness. The Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses’ Association, which received $905,000, is also being probed and Whitaker’s electronic mails and other records have been subpoenaed.

Whitaker defends his work at the health department, claiming that he developed “new methods” to help minorities get better medical care. He says the faith-based outreach programs under scrutiny have been nationally recognized as models for increasing awareness and preparedness planning for minority populations.

A member of Obama’s tight-knit circle of friends from Chicago’s Hyde Park, Whitaker resigned as Illinois health chief in 2007 to join Michelle Obama as an executive at the University of Chicago. He was a fixture in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and was considered a valued advisor who also helped the then-senator relieve stress with pickup basketball games during campaign stops. Whitaker and Obama have remained close since meeting during graduate school at Harvard and the doctor has donated money to the politician’s campaigns.

From Judicial Watch Blog's blog

JetBlue offers $10 last-minute fares

In honor of celebrating 10 years of service, JetBlue Airways is offering $10 fares to destinations all over the country. The last-minute flights are available for tomorrow, Tuesday May 11, and Wednesday, May 12.

Some routes, like Boston flights to Washington and New York flights to St. Lucia aren’t available, but we checked out a few others on JetBlue’s website and found the cheap fares. Boston flights to Bermuda were $19, and Chicago flights to New York are $10.

Read the fine print to make sure your route is available. To get these fares, you have to book online today, and travel either tomorrow or Wednesday. Only nonstop flights are included in the promotion.

Eric Holder and the administration on international terrorism

By Jarrett Rush

While he was on the Sunday morning shows trying to sell his Miranda rights limits for terror suspects, Attorney General Eric Holder said something that surprised me.

I'll put the quote here in a second, but first need to say that I didn't see the shows so maybe the way he said the following could potentially change the way others have interpreted it. Anyway, here's what he said and my reaction.

"We're now dealing with international terrorists, and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face."

He said that, according to The New York Times story I read, on Meet the Press. And here's what struck me. He used the word "now" twice, like this threat from international terrorists is something new. Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11. There was an attack at the World Trade Center years before that. Is the administration just now realizing that there is a threat of international terrorism?

Video: Elena Kagan picked for Supreme Court

Elena Kagan, Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, is being judged by Repubicans as lacking on several fronts. What do you think about President Obama's selection of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the US Supreme Court?

Obama, the iPhone and iPad information age is hurting democracy?

                 BY John Johnston

In the context of talking about the importance of education and Thomas Jefferson’s recognition that people must attempt to stay informed to make democracy work effectively, Obama has asserted that information is becoming a diversion and a form or entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment and emancipation.

On the state of the current information rich digital environment, Obama said:

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter,”

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.

Obama complained that “some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction,” in the clamor of certain blogs and talk radio outlets.

“All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.” Obama said.

I think Obama is correct in saying the fact that we are bombarded with all kinds of content is putting more pressure on us, and that it can be a distraction, but only if we let it. The flows of information have certainly increased, especially for those of use who use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, read blogs and use other forms of social media regularly.

Having said that, I now read fewer newspapers and magazines and watch less tv. My tv viewing has become much more selective, and I’m starting to be able to find the video content I want to watch on the web, rather than it being selected for me by tv stations. See my recent post 3 places to find inspiring and intelligent online video.

I am certainly not convinced that the increased flow of information puts pressure on our democracy. What is not stated, at least in this recent statement, and what is the really dramatic change in relation to democracy and the media, is that information is now flowing in multiple directions. It’s not just coming from big media organisations, it’s coming from citizens as well. This may put pressure on us in terms of managing and filtering the information, but surely this is healthy for democracy!

Like Obama, my childhood years were spent in a world without the internet, where information in the media generally flowed in one direction only, principally from large media organisations. Now we have the web and social media. Sure, this has increased the volume of information, and much of the information and arguments leave a lot to be desired, but surely this in NOT a bad thing for democracy?

There is now a plethora of opinions and information on any given subject (including the one I’m writing about now), flowing in multiple directions at any given time. Nobody said democracy was going to be easy, or tidy, did they? Surely those who learn to thrive in these new information rich environments will prosper, both financially and in terms of knowledge, education and empowerment. The digital divide between rich and poor is something that may become more and more apparent in this regard, as time goes by. This is certainly something that needs addressing by people such as Obama.

It is true that there are a lot of diversions on the web to distract our focus, but it’s up to us to filter the information available and do what we want with it. We now have the option to create our own as well.

I must say that one big downside that I can see in all this is the fact that there are now millions and millions of these new devices being produced quarterly around world. Electronic waste is a real and growing problem. The question of how we are going to live sustainably in a world with nine billion people is integral to the aims of education and empowerment that Obama speaks of. Does increased information flow have to mean increased, unsustainable consumption too? But perhaps that’s another post for another day.

Europe: Too Much Debt? Add ~$1 Trillion More

Bloomberg details the "shock and awe":

European policy makers unveiled an unprecedented loan package worth nearly $1 trillion and a program of securities purchases as they spearheaded a drive to stop a sovereign-debt crisis that threatened to shatter confidence in the euro. Jolted into action by last week’s slide in the currency to a 14-month low and soaring bond yields in Portugal and Spain, governments of the 16 euro nations agreed to make loans of as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion) available to countries under attack from speculators.

The ECB will also embark on “very significant operations,” European Union Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters in Brussels after the 14-hour meeting. “The ECB has taken a decision to intervene in the secondary markets of government securities.”

Under pressure from the U.S. and Asia to stabilize markets, the European governments gambled that the show of financial force would prevent a sovereign-debt crisis and muffle speculation that the 11-year-old euro might break apart.

The European Central Bank will announce “intervention” in financial markets, Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden told reporters, without giving further details.

Some of the "unwind" the EU / IMF are trying to "rewind" is detailed in the chart below.

This doesn't address the core issue of too much debt (actually, it adds to it). Rather, this kicks the can down the road and gives peripheral Europe and European banks the time to address their solvency issues (the big concern with sovereign default was the fact that European banks hold a boatload of sovereign debt, thus a Greek default could have triggered a chain of events that I really don't want to think about).

Going forward, these countries will need to deal with the inevitable pain associated with deleveraging and belt tightening. My guess is the pain will prove too much for at least a few of these countries and default / restructuring of debt will happen. At that point my concern is not that the EU is shifting the peripheral countries (Greece, Portugal, Spain) refinancing problems to the broader EU. It is that they are shifting the solvency problems to the EU as well.

Source: BarCap

Singer Lena Horne dies at age 92

NEW YORK — Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress who reviled the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them, slowing her rise to Broadway superstardom, died Sunday. She was 92.

Horne died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman Gloria Chin. Chin would not release any other details.

Horne, whose striking beauty and magnetic sex appeal often overshadowed her sultry voice, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success.

"I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she once said. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."

In the 1940s, she was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, the first to play the Copacabana nightclub and among a handful with a Hollywood contract.

In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical "Stormy Weather." Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her signature piece.

Read more..