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AR October 13th, 2011 12:17 PM

News from Wall Street
 
It's worth mentioning that the NYT this morning reports on an important sentence handed down in Federal Court in New York:

The fallen hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam received on Thursday the longest-ever prison sentence for insider trading, a watershed moment in the government’s aggressive two-year campaign to root out the illegal exchange of confidential information on Wall Street.

Judge Richard J. Holwell sentenced Mr. Rajaratnam, the former head of the Galleon Group hedge fund, to 11 years in prison. A jury convicted him of securities fraud and conspiracy in May after a two-month trial.

The Wall Street protesters have generally attributed the problems there to a systemic malaise, and that's at least partially true. But it's worth noting that there are names and faces who are responsible for serious wrongdoing and who are too seldom identified, much less brought to justice.

And then there is the excerpt of the speech given to the Wall Street protesters by the noted economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, which puts a concise, coherent frame around the issue that those carrying the signs have been generally unable to express:

Our financial markets have an important role to play. They're supposed to allocate capital, manage risks. But they misallocated capital and they created risk. We are bearing the cost of their misdeeds. Theirs is a system where we've socialized losses and privatized gains. That's not capitalism; that's not a market economy. That's a distorted economy, and if we continue with that, we won't succeed in growing, and we won't succeed in creating a just society.

And then there was President Clinton on Letterman last night, who said that while he understands the frustration of the protesters, they're eventually going to have to shift their message and their rhetoric from venting about the problems to serious discussion about solutions. A good point, in my view.

My first crack at a solution--and it's an easy one conceptually, but very difficult to pull off: institute serious campaign finance reform so that we stop selling public policy to the highest bidder. Eliminate super-pacs, and clamp down seriously on campaign spending overall. Constitutional amendment if necessary.

My second crack at a solution--(which my financial advisor mentioned to me yesterday more or less as a joke, but it's interesting): for several years anyway, do all Congressional voting by secret ballot. This would help free up Congress to actually act on behalf of the country instead of playing to their donors and their extremist bases. It's counterintuitive, because we all believe, at least conceptually, in "sunshine," but these are strange times. I'm not sure that I could swallow this at the end of the day--and it would not lack for unintended consequences, but it's really intriguing.

But if we put both of those things together, we might be on to something.

Discuss.

ToddDH October 13th, 2011 05:55 PM

While I agree to a great degree, the true answer AR is so very very simple. All that has to be done is for all of our elected officials of both parties to put the good of the country FIRST! Of course both parties will disagree, but stop the nauseating nasty personal comments, asides, comments, etc. from both sides! I won an election I was never even supposed to "show up" at the polls, much less win by the biggest landslide in the history of the district which I won! Yet at no time did I ever denegrate nor besmirch my two opponents nor even speak against them. I merely said what I would do were elected and if folks wanted that then vote for me, if not, then vote for one of the other guys. My "handlers" went into cardiac arrest......until election night.

As regards the protests, this bespeaks volumes. One of the protestors all of whom are demanding decent jobs was asked, "If the manager of this bank came out right now and wanted to hire you, would you take the job?" The reply, "Hell NO! I'd never work for the S _ B!"

Duhhhh.........

AR October 13th, 2011 09:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ToddDH (Post 1396865)
While I agree to a great degree, the true answer AR is so very very simple. All that has to be done is for all of our elected officials of both parties to put the good of the country FIRST!

As regards the protests, this bespeaks volumes. One of the protestors all of whom are demanding decent jobs was asked, "If the manager of this bank came out right now and wanted to hire you, would you take the job?" The reply, "Hell NO! I'd never work for the S _ B!"

Duhhhh.........

And I agree as well, but the issue ultimately is that the system as it operates now will not allow elected officials to put the country first. I read recently that Congresspeople spend between 50 and 75% of their work time raising money for the next election. Because they must. But how does this put the good of the country first? An outside force of some sort seems necessary to break the vicious cycle. Most of them are not the best and the brightest to begin with, but in fairness they're stuck in a system that literally will not allow them to do their jobs.

As far as the protester who wouldn't go to work for the bank. . .well, we've been hearing it for years: there are some jobs Americans just won't do. Okay, that's a joke, but it really does point out what you and I have agreed upon from the jump about the, shall we say, not fully baked positions of the protesting left or the tea-engorged right.

Manuel October 13th, 2011 09:45 PM

I just hope that these protests stay peaceful

TM

AR October 14th, 2011 12:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Manuel (Post 1396907)
I just hope that these protests stay peaceful

TM

Indeed. And in that regard, may I suggest this article which I just saw this morning. Very much on target, in my view.

An Open Letter to the Occupiers from a Veteran Troublemaker - Jim Wallis - God's Politics Blog

TravelMike October 14th, 2011 01:54 PM

Interesting, I think the answer to our at least some of our problems in Washington is term limits. It these people know in advance they can't run, They might work for us in stead of re-election...

Kuki October 14th, 2011 04:27 PM

For just under a year my best friend's son has been working for a large Washington based legal firm as a lobbyist/consultant.

During this time this list of "names" in government whom he has met with is amazing, and all inclusive of both parties.

His salary is in the six figures, and they've just offered him a new contract. If his work was ineffective they certainly wouldn't be continuing to offer him a lucrative salary.

It's just an example of what's true... money buys votes. And with last year's Supreme Court ruling allowing anyone can donate as much as they want "anonymously" (though of course they are known to those they are donating to) they've given the approval for the influence of money on the government to grow even further.

One person; one vote is a long gone pipe dream. Unfortunately votes are now dependant on millions of dollars, and promises of more.

What's happened is that today politicans are the best capitalists.

7x57 October 14th, 2011 05:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AR (Post 1396835)

My first crack at a solution--and it's an easy one conceptually, but very difficult to pull off: institute serious campaign finance reform so that we stop selling public policy to the highest bidder. Eliminate super-pacs, and clamp down seriously on campaign spending overall. Constitutional amendment if necessary.

My second crack at a solution--(which my financial advisor mentioned to me yesterday more or less as a joke, but it's interesting): for several years anyway, do all Congressional voting by secret ballot. This would help free up Congress to actually act on behalf of the country instead of playing to their donors and their extremist bases. It's counterintuitive, because we all believe, at least conceptually, in "sunshine," but these are strange times. I'm not sure that I could swallow this at the end of the day--and it would not lack for unintended consequences, but it's really intriguing.

But if we put both of those things together, we might be on to something.

Discuss.

Additional suggestions off the top of my head...

Make it a felony to accept appointment or employment with a registered financial institution for a member of the SEC's investigation arm or administration for a period of 4 years after one's termination of employment with the SEC.

Eliminate both the Market Maker and Option's Market Maker and instead implement a computerized system that efficiently mates a buyer with a seller on all exchanges.

Eliminate "locate" and substitute "borrow" from Reg SHO when shorting any security. Enforce the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 for all traders. Enforce the laws regarding illegal naked short selling.

Hold any "pool" of money to the transparency standards of investment firms.

Make the fine for illegal trading three times that of the markets harm. Claw back from investors who have profited from these hedgefunds who close their doors as an endgame to their illegal trading.

AR October 14th, 2011 07:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kuki (Post 1396984)
His salary is in the six figures, and they've just offered him a new contract.

He's off to a good start, but if the first of those six numbers is still a "1" he'd still be considered an entry-level worker.

I wonder if he suffers yet from what Mark Twain called "the sleep that does not refresh." If not, he will eventually.

AR October 14th, 2011 09:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 7x57 (Post 1396988)
Additional suggestions off the top of my head...

Make it a felony to accept appointment or employment with a registered financial institution for a member of the SEC's investigation arm or administration for a period of 4 years after one's termination of employment with the SEC.

Eliminate both the Market Maker and Option's Market Maker and instead implement a computerized system that efficiently mates a buyer with a seller on all exchanges.

Eliminate "locate" and substitute "borrow" from Reg SHO when shorting any security. Enforce the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 for all traders. Enforce the laws regarding illegal naked short selling.

Hold any "pool" of money to the transparency standards of investment firms.

Make the fine for illegal trading three times that of the markets harm. Claw back from investors who have profited from these hedgefunds who close their doors as an endgame to their illegal trading.

As we used to say in Jersey, "Bada---BING." I've never understood how naked short selling could be classified as anything but creating a market out of thin air. It contributes nothing to the commonweal, and is an ethical sewer. Too many foxes guarding the henhouse.

Kuki October 14th, 2011 09:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AR (Post 1396996)
He's off to a good start, but if the first of those six numbers is still a "1" he'd still be considered an entry-level worker.

And isn't that the point... he's near the bottom rung of a list of 1000's of lobbyists representing their client's money to get the government acting the way they want it to.

That is, today, democracy at work.

Manuel October 15th, 2011 07:48 AM

I don't know what the answer is. It's not my job to find it either.

But our standard of living is going down and most of our good jobs went overseas, [ mostly to China ), so we will see protests and possibly violence on the streets if our politicians don't open their minds and start to work together on real issues.

Most of the people in Congress don't even have a clue on how to fix our problems.
Of course they don't much care because they are all well off.

TM

ToddDH October 15th, 2011 09:43 AM

We have such a tendancy to blame Lobbyists. Lobbyists have been around since this country was formed. To my way of thinking whether lobbyists are good or bad is immaterial.

It is the job, ethically, morally and often even legally for the person being lobbied to cast a vote on a given issue that is in the best interests of the people, period! To some degree, lobbyists do bring information about which the elected official might be unaware. Neverthess, to paraphrase Harry Truman, "The buck stops with them, the elected officials!"

AR October 15th, 2011 10:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ToddDH (Post 1397084)
We have such a tendancy to blame Lobbyists. Lobbyists have been around since this country was formed. To my way of thinking whether lobbyists are good or bad is immaterial.

It is the job, ethically, morally and often even legally for the person being lobbied to cast a vote on a given issue that is in the best interests of the people, period! To some degree, lobbyists do bring information about which the elected official might be unaware. Neverthess, to paraphrase Harry Truman, "The buck stops with them, the elected officials!"

Todd--

I always thought I was an idealist, but you've got me beat by a mile.

I can't disagree with a word you said, except to repeat that the current environment makes it literally impossible for those ideals to be put into practice. It really does, and waving a wand isn't going to change it. Your personal political experience was gratifying because it was possible to work within the context of those ideals. If you came to Washington you'd be a latter day Mr. Smith, except the ending would be different: you'd either decide to go with the flow, or you'd be uncerimoniously chewed up and spit out.

I wish more than anything that the reality were different, but it isn't. I've got a lobbyist living in a McMansion next door and every morning I have to go out and wash the grease off the street.

There's nothing wrong with lobbying as long as the primary focus is to sell ideas on their merits rather than for cash. Just as there's nothing wrong with financial markets and banking as long as they're trading and selling real products and services instead of betting on things they don't even own (or don't even borrow, for that matter).

It will take various forms of intervention to make a dent in the problem, and it will have to go far beyond a sermon on values and ethics, as laudable as that might be. It will take some combination of the ideas in this string, which I think taken together become a reasonable starting point for a solution.

AR October 15th, 2011 11:17 AM

I think most people would guess that the word "lobbyist" stems from those who advocated various positions waiting in a lobby somewhere for politicians to show up to buttonhole and jawbone.

If you think that, you're absolutely. . .right.

The question is, what specific lobby was so popular for this purpose that it became the genesis of the word?

Washingtonians please hold off answering. Let's give others a chance.

7x57 October 15th, 2011 11:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AR (Post 1397103)
I think most people would guess that the word "lobbyist" stems from those who advocated various positions waiting in a lobby somewhere for politicians to show up to buttonhole and jawbone.

If you think that, you're absolutely. . .right.

The question is, what specific lobby was so popular for this purpose that it became the genesis of the word?

Washingtonians please hold off answering. Let's give others a chance.

Could it have been a brothel? hotel?:p

AR October 15th, 2011 11:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 7x57 (Post 1397105)
Could it have been a brothel? hotel?:p

Often a distinction without a difference in this town.

ToddDH October 15th, 2011 11:53 AM

Okay, I'll bite. the Mayflower Hotel. Seriously, was it the Capitol Lobby?

AR October 15th, 2011 12:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ToddDH (Post 1397113)
Okay, I'll bite. the Mayflower Hotel. Seriously, was it the Capitol Lobby?

Neither one.

7x57 October 15th, 2011 12:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AR (Post 1397111)
Often a distinction without a difference in this town.

I was averaging about 100 hotel nights a year for a short stretch before my son was born. Out of 30 something states the D.C. hotel was the only one I visited where the lobby desk was surrounded by bullet proof glass. Maybe I was on the wrong side of the rail road tracks?

AR October 16th, 2011 12:38 PM

Well, I guess it was a little too far down the string to do a pop quiz, so for those who are still lurking. . .

Todd was closer than he realized when he guessed the Mayflower Hotel. Actually, the term "lobbyist" dates back to the Presidency of U.S. Grant, when those seeking favors would congregate in the lobby of the Willard Hotel, just down from the Treasury Department at 14th and Pennsylvania. There they would seek out and hustle both executive and legislative branch movers and shakers as they passed through, usually on their way to refreshment at the Round Robin bar or nearby Peacock Alley in that esteemed establishment.

We almost lost the Willard to the wrecker's ball in the late 70s and early 80s, but it has been gloriously restored and the lobby should be on everybody's list of things to see when they visit Washington. The Round Robin stands ready to welcome you if you're thirsty. The Willard is one of our grandest addresses, with a stunning historical pedigree to boot.

Last I saw, there was no bulletproof glass (or any other kind of glass) at the reception desk, and I must confess that I've never seen it anyplace else in town either. But I know there are some neighborhoods where it might be necessary.

balabusta October 16th, 2011 01:22 PM

There was an old commercial for Barney's Boys Town, that said, "money talks, nobody walks". That is true with our government. Our representatives, in the "house" spend most of their time trying to raise money to get elected. I am for the British system; they campaign for just a few weeks and then they must, as they so elequently quote, "carry on" with their duties. It is sad that our elected officials put "their needs in bickering with opposite party" instead of the need of the american people.


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