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The Almighty Buck United States Politics

Call To "Open Source" AIG Investigation 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-looking-for-somebody-to-crucify dept.
VValdo writes "As you may recall, the citizens of the US shelled out about $85 billion to bail out AIG and its creditors (Goldman Sachs in particular) last year. But as 80% owners of AIG, we still don't know what happened, exactly. That may change. In a new op-ed piece, former prosecutors (including former NY governor Eliot Spitzer) are calling for the US Treasury to force AIG to release its treasure-trove of emails to the public before allowing AIG to 'break free' of our control. As the prosecutors put it, 'By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of "open source" investigation. Once the documents are available for everyone to inspect, a thousand journalistic flowers can bloom, as reporters, victims and angry citizens have a chance to piece together the story.' Good idea?"
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Call To "Open Source" AIG Investigation

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  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @09:42AM (#30503830)
    No, not a good idea. What is the point in having a Cultural Revolution? Better to just split these companies which are too big to fail into smaller chunks, kick out the top management making sure they never work in that capacity anymore, enforce layers of separation between businesses and let them free. Restore the Glass–Steagall Act and separate commercial banking from investment banking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @09:46AM (#30503854)

    Bear Sterns was deliberately crashed as part of a scheme to cover up the JP Morgan and Chase insolvency.

    Audit the Fed!

  • Re:Superheroes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by countertrolling (1585477) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @09:52AM (#30503884) Journal

    A corporation's, or any other authority's "right to privacy" should be much more limited than it is. And even more obviously, we shouldn't be giving it rights as a person. What an absurd concept! But since we always try to put a human face on everything, from god on down, it seems inevitable. And vigilantism becomes inevitable when the confines of the law aren't applied equally and the system breaks down.

  • by lamadude (1270542) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:06AM (#30503956)
    during this year's big UK politicians expenses scandal? All citizens could look over the lists of expenses and find the abuses. I'm not from the UK, so I don't know how this story ended, perhaps somebody from the UK could fill me in?
  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trout007 (975317) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:10AM (#30503976)
    You have it completely backwards. I'm a libertarian but the one place the socialists have it right is that "some" of the rich steal it from the "workers". The problem as I see it with the socialists is that they don't distinguish how people get rich. There are people that get rich by making things that people value ie, computers, software, entertainment, machines, goods, services. Then there are those that actually steal it which are the bankers, lawyers, and investment houses. The bankers steal it because they have had laws written that allow them to create money out of thin air and lend it with interest. What happens when money is created out of nothing is a little bit is stolen from everyone holding that currency by inflation. So they can become famously rich without doing anything of value. And of course they gamble that money they created at 30 to 1 leverage which makes them even richer. And when the whole gamble fails to pay off they just run to their lawyer friends in DC and get bailed out claiming that if they go down so will the country. Well I call BS. If they were allowed to fail we would have a serious deflation with all of their fake money getting destroyed. As long as minimum wage laws were repealed all prices would drop and those that were thrifty and saved money would do much better because those dollars would be worth more. But of course we can't have that so the Federal Reserve creates even more money (stealing it through inflation) to give to their buddies.
  • Re:Keep Dreaming (Score:2, Interesting)

    by arcticinfantry (1130171) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:44AM (#30504152)
    Yeah, but there could have been some bargaining on the govt's part regarding a percentage of remuneration. I think one of the AIG creditors (foolishly) mentioned they'd accept something like 95 cents on the dollar. All debts were paid in full. It's easy to do that if you've got a blank check in your hip pocket from the govt. BTW, CDS's are *not* insurance. FWICT, they're just a device to allow CEO's to fool themselves and stockholders into thinking the company has no liabilities.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:49AM (#30504182)

    Here's hoping the AIG e-mails don't have an internet defense team consisting of bloggers plugging their ears and saying "la-la, I can't hear you".

    That's what they do whenever you point out that this was an engineered, deliberate economic crisis. Or that fiat currency based on fractional reserve banking is inherently unsustainable and absolutely must have an ever-growing amount of debt attached to it. I think the people who are capable of realizing the truth of these things have already done so, and an attempt to share this knowledge with anyone else just leads to dismissal without examination. No evidence is ever good enough when the person is naive, cowardly, in deep denial, or otherwise just doesn't want to believe that a few puppeteers can manipulate and micromanage both our political and economic systems despite the multitude of signs and abundance of evidence that this is so.

    It's sort of like when Galileo tried to convince the Church to look through his telescope; he was right, but he was offering evidence of something that the Church just didn't want to acknowledge. So naturally the Church tried to discredit, marginalize, intimidate, dismiss, stigmatize, pretty much anything other than examine his evidence. Just like you guys do when someone points out the social and economic engineering that should be obvious and you respond by calling him a conspiracy nut.

    In the old days, you had to take someone's money from them by force or fraud in order to steal from them. That model is now obsolete. Through inflation, the powerful can steal the value of your money without ever taking one cent out of your pocket or bank account. For the thieves, this has the added bonus that the average American is so stupid that they don't feel victimized when this happens, not like they would feel if a mugger pointed a gun at them and said "stick 'em up".

    Let me guess, I suppose none of you find it strange or noteworthy (or obvious like a sore thumb) that public (government-run) schools generally do not teach the well-known fact that under the Federal Reserve system, dollars represent debt and not wealth. They don't teach that if all debt were paid off there would be no money in circulation. They don't make it clear that when money is created out of thin air and has interest attached to it the moment it is created, there is not enough money in circulation to pay off all debt. They especially don't explain that this puts our government into a debt cycle that is like a downward spiral. The only thing it can do is borrow money, and then borrow more money to pay off the interest on the money they borrowed, and borrow more money to pay for the interest of that, etc, until there is so much debt that foreclosures and bankruptcy and who has them become only a game of musical chairs. Isn't it "odd" that during the entire 12 years of public schooling, they never once find a few moments to mention important facts like that?

    Strong individuals can do their own research, process their own information, and obtain their own understanding. Helpless sheep need someone to both provide and interpret information for them. If the only thing you know about how our society operates is what they tell you in school and in the media, then you my friend are part of the problem. Sheep demand a shepherd. Individuals demand freedom. Freedom includes an honest economic system based on representative currency; otherwise, debt becomes a slightly nicer way to enslave people than men with guns.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:50AM (#30504194)
    My mortgage company owns 80% of my house but I don't want them coming in whenever they feel like it. Yes, shareholders should know some things such as pay, retirements, investments and investigations. If you opened up everything and every secret you are just giving an advantage to your competitors, who don't have to disclose certain details of their business.
  • Re:Keep Dreaming (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maxume (22995) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:54AM (#30504228)

    Insurance businesses are regulated in such a way that they are not supposed to go bankrupt, AIG managed to avoid those regulations and become bankrupt (but the government chose to dump money in rather than attempting to resolve it through the traditional process).

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by causality (777677) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:05AM (#30504316)

    I agree, the public is just going to crucify the company. We need to move forward, fix the problems, and make sure they don't happen again.

    On the other hand, this might be a great learning exercise for academia. It might be nice if accredited institutions could review a portion of the details in the interests of study cases; particularly a business ethics class (no that's not an oxymoron).

    Business ethics: if it's legal, do it for short-term profit with no regard for side-effects, long-term losses, or harm that it might cause to other people. If it's not legal, grease the right palms until it becomes legal.

  • Re:No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by arcticinfantry (1130171) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:18AM (#30504442)
    I'm with you. I think having banks that are nation-wide is very risky. Having that much cash in one place invites all sorts of corruption (the ultimate example being the federal government). My current bank is getting rather large through mergers and expansions and it has me worried. I'd support breaking banks into regional/state entities.
  • by copponex (13876) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:19AM (#30504448) Homepage

    Adam Smith talked about markets with reverence because an open market is a truly free market. When the consumers are able to see the effect of their purchases, they make much better decisions.

    The problem with markets today is that they value opaqueness and secrecy above anything else. If a financial institution dared to let any of their investors see the mish mash of VBA slugged excel spreadsheets that are running their lives, they would probably lose half of their customer base overnight. If McDonalds, or any major restaurant for that matter, had to provide origin information for the products it sold, and those slaughterhouses in turn had to show the conditions that their animals live in, or the salary they paid for vegetable picking, or the environmental damage of the pesticides that overwhelm local ecosystems, they would also see a drop in businesses.

    The vast majority of modern capitalism is finding some entity to exploit or enslave for a profit, and then covering that up with lies and marketing.

  • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Znork (31774) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:59AM (#30504774)

    However, you are correct that the problem was that EVERYBODY was acting stupid.

    Fundamentally, the Fed was forcing everybody to act stupid. Central banking works by artificially changing rates outside actual market rate. That the function by which the Fed can dictate that, either you "invest" (speculate), or your money gets eaten by inflation (the actual which has little to do with normally reported numbers).

    The thing is, it's not that investors are insulated from investment decisions, it's that they have no control over the game either way. They, or their representatives, do what they're told, invest in whatever bubble the Fed blows, or they get reamed anyway by funding the bill for the crash. There may not be an educated choice to make, everyone may know that it's a bubble that's gonna crash, but either you're in on it, or your money gets depreciated anyway.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @12:07PM (#30504838)
    Ordinarily, I would think this might be a good idea. However, Eliot Spitzer is among those calling for it. In the past there were several times where he called for "public accountability" of various corporations. Those seemed like good ideas too. They turned out to just be shakedowns and/or publicity opportunities to advance his political career, not attempts to serve the public interest. If an organization has Eliot Spitzer as a member, I will not believe that they are seeking something in the public interest. This is about serving the personal interests of the people calling for it, not about serving the public interest.
  • Re:No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by linzeal (197905) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @12:43PM (#30505108) Homepage Journal
    As an engineer and inventor I disagree. Sometimes corporations utilize their power ( money, markey position, etc ) in any industry to steal from the workers. Look at Intel, imagine how real competition would of lowered prices over the past 10 years and what we could of done with that money.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gorobei (127755) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:06PM (#30505302)

    Um, I write software for an investment house. Where do I fall on your libertarian scale of social value?

  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tuxgeek (872962) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:46PM (#30505530)

    The American political system has evolved today into one that the only people capable of buying their way into congress are the Donald Trumps and Bernie Madoffs
    Once in there the only legislation passed are bills that favor them and the wealthy class

    The best example I can think of right now is the Health Care reform clusterfuck. The root of our problem is the insurance industry. They are raping the system and all citizens and are the cause of the escalating costs of medical care. So what do our representatives do? They move to require all citizens to buy insurance or face a fine for not being wealthy enough to afford it. Does anyone really think people working at walmart can afford insurance if it isn't given to then as a benefit? The insurance industry is the same as the financial industry. Controlled and run by greedy corporate scum like Madoff.

    I say sack them all and start over with a clean slate. I'm not the only one thinking violent revolution may be our only way out of this quagmire. I hear this idea more each day from people on the street. Those that have lost their homes and/or life savings and now watch as we fork over billions of public tax dollars to the scum responsible.

    Not a good sign

  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:21PM (#30505808) Journal

    The bankers steal it because they have had laws written that allow them to create money out of thin air and lend it with interest. What happens when money is created out of nothing is a little bit is stolen from everyone holding that currency by inflation. So they can become famously rich without doing anything of value.

    Not quite. The major problem in the current situation is because bankers have started including investing houses. Banking is supposed to provide reliable, low-interest, low-return loans as a stable basis for inflation. Inflation is supposed to encourage investment and debasing of the currency of the rich over time, especially for those who would sit on money instead of investing; ie, inflation is intended to encourage economy growth instead of risking periods of economic stagnation.

    And of course they gamble that money they created at 30 to 1 leverage which makes them even richer. And when the whole gamble fails to pay off they just run to their lawyer friends in DC and get bailed out claiming that if they go down so will the country.

    And that's the problem. Banks becoming investment houses has resulted in the mixing of safe and wildly unsafe loans. The result is that to support the general population through common bank loans, it was necessary to subsidize wildly unsafe loans. The main problem now is that with the emergency over, there should be immediate efforts to dissect the bank into investment and banking operations. This really should have started as soon as December last year.

    Well I call BS. If they were allowed to fail we would have a serious deflation with all of their fake money getting destroyed. As long as minimum wage laws were repealed all prices would drop and those that were thrifty and saved money would do much better because those dollars would be worth more.

    Deflation is more or less the worst case scenario. Instead of investing, people would simply save their money. Those with outstanding loans (ie, most small businesses) would have to sell at lower prices, resulting in even greater difficulty in paying back their loans, and making it harder to buy the same size stock of items, let alone any sort of expansion. Adding on repealing minimum wage laws would make it worse, by removing the masses regular spending money. Such would merely accelerate the deflation.

    Would people with savings be better off? Sure, I guess. But, that's a relative term. If 50% of the farms go out of business because so few people have any money to spend, you'll be the one of the few people with enough money to buy a steak. But, being the one eyed king in the land of the blind isn't really a great place to be in, overall.

    But of course we can't have that so the Federal Reserve creates even more money (stealing it through inflation) to give to their buddies.

    That's the limit of the Federal Reserve's actual power (well, and changing the interest rate, but that mechanism was already screwed by Greenspan and Bernanke's unwilling to raise the interest rate during relatively economically prosperous times*). While it can be argued that the current and previous chairman of the Federal Reserve encouraged the deregulation and merging of investment houses with banks (which is a good basis to fire Ben Bernanke), invariable it is the Congress who actually passed the deregulation laws, ignored warnings about derivatives, and has still failed to act to further the separation of investment houses with banks. Congress, and generally deregulation minded individuals, have turned banking from a stable, progressive debasing of the currency into a rapid expansion of the economy coupled with catastrophic economic circumstances when over-leveraging can not be handled by the built-in mechanisms that were created for low-risk, low-fail-rate loans.

    In short, rallying against the Federal Reserve on its principle function is lu

  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:38PM (#30505974) Journal

    I'm a libertarian

    The fact that an ideologues like Bush Jr. & Dick Cheney went ahead with the bailout should tell you what a bad idea "let them fail" is.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FiloEleven (602040) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:57PM (#30506106)

    The root of our problem is the insurance industry.

    That's an awfully simplistic explanation. I am very much against the current health care legislation for a number of reasons including the one you mentioned, but the truth is that the problem has many roots; including the insurance industry, hospitals, government, and patients themselves. NPR's This American Life did a show [thisamericanlife.org] on it that highlights the complexity of the issues. There's plenty of blame to go around and IMO the insurance companies deserve less blame than government, which through wage freezes essentially kicked the insurance companies from a primary market of individuals to a market of corporations. Hospitals vary their charges (sometimes by a factor of 10) for identical procedures depending on how many patients use that insurance company. Doctors are afraid of liability if they don't run a requested test even if it's in the patient's best interest to remain untested.

    The health insurance industry doesn't get off easy--there's a second show [thislife.org] devoted entirely to it. It's a huge mess. But here's the thing: they're not really like the financial industry. They seek profits, like everyone else, but they have been demonized. Their hands are tied by hospitals, and they are left with the choice of raising premiums for everyone or dropping the policies of people in areas where they have little clout with hospitals. IMO their biggest failing is that they don't care about the patient: they approve lots of unnecessary procedures because much of their profit lies in the volume of claims they process.

    "Clusterfuck" is an appropriate term, because it's a whole lot of things gone wrong all at once. Without having a clear understanding of the problem, you can be sold a bill of goods like the current legislation. You've seen through this bill, but enough people haven't that it's still creeping along. It's important to get the shape of the problem so that if we get rid of this bill it won't be replaced by something equally awful.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:55PM (#30506526)
    If we have "universal" health care, then insurance should go away. I couldn't find how much of premiums went to actual services, but it, from a glance, looked like it was about 10% loss between overhead and profit. So, if we abolish insurance, and just have payment come from the government in all cases, with no claims adjusters, just fraud-prevention, it should cut more than $200,000,000,000 from our national costs of health care. I know that's a small number, but every hundred billion helps.

    A unified systems of risk management with limitations on liability will have those that need tests get them, and those that don't need them not be given them. One of the highest rising parts of health care is the tests. There are more, and they are expensive. And everyone getting them because their doctor doesn't want to get sued is wasting money.

    And, of course, another way to keep costs down is to reduce work on those with less life left. The costs are increasing because there are more old people. Death can't be prevented, no matter how much is spent. Work on making sure the quality is good, and less on preventing it for those that are headed there because of age. But that's considered political suicide because of the AARP voting bloc.

    So yes, there are factors, and insurance is a big one out of it, and not the only one. But it's an easy target and should be a good starting point.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:16PM (#30506650)

    The explanation is simplistic. The solution is not. Single payer systems like Canada's work in virtually every other capitalist democracy. Are they perfect and trouble free? No. Are they better than ours? It would seem so (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_compared#Cross-country_comparisons). Saying that this wouldn't work *here* is just a way of saying that Americans are too stupid and lame to do what virtually every other advanced industrialized country has done.

    The simple, logical, thing would be to adopt a proven system that already works. That's not happening. Guess why?

    Capitalistic democracies survive as such until the most successful capitalists (e.g. banks, insurance companies) determine that the most profitable thing to do is purchase the government. In the USA, this has happened. Our legislators have been bought. Our media has been bought (http://www.mediachannel.org/ownership/moguls-printable-150dpi.pdf) by many of the same organizations.

    I would love to see the emails and financial records of all publicly traded companies forced to go open source, worldwide. I am dead certain it won't happen.

  • Re:Hrmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kmac06 (608921) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:09PM (#30507738)

    Unlike movies, the guys in high places taking home the multimillion-dollar salaries 99% of the time don't do anything wrong.

    Happy fact of capitalism.

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