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    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Portfolio Mobile - The Times' Rorshach Geithner Story

    The Times' Rorshach Geithner Story

    The New York Times has provided a handy blogging point for today in the form of a long piece on the relationships Tim Geithner formed while head of the New York Fed. The story is based in part on the results of a Times FOIA request, for the contents of Geithner's daily calendar while at the bank, and bloggers have primarily approached the story as a search for potentially nefarious activities. As examples, we see Paul Kedrosky concluding that there's no real "smoking gun," and Yves Smith writing that the story is far too kind, as it mysteriously excises all the times Geithner was scheduled to dine on babies and puppies in the company of Satan and AIG executives.

    For the life of me, I don't know why we're not spending at least a little more time on the opening anecdote:

    Last June, with a financial hurricane gathering force, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. convened the nation's economic stewards for a brainstorming session. What emergency powers might the government want at its disposal to confront the crisis? he asked.

    Timothy F. Geithner, who as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank oversaw many of the nation's most powerful financial institutions, stunned the group with the audacity of his answer. He proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary.

    The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars.

    Smith notes the line and proceeds to throw of a line constituting one of the most epic examples of point missing in recent memory:

    The story fails to note this was almost assuredly the most bank friendly program possible.

    To begin with, that's not even true. The most bank friendly program possible is handing the banks a lot of money with no strings attached. But how does Smith miss that this would not only have been a very smart and prescient move, but it might also have laid the groundwork for a much tougher bank policy? Guaranteeing all the bank debt was, of course, one of the key ingredients of the Swedish bank rescue so beloved by fans of nationalization. Smith just assumes Geithner is looking to help his Wall Street buddies, but he might just as easily have been reading directly from the Swedes' playbook.

    Moreover, this move would have entirely changed the calculus in September. It would have made the government much more reluctant to let Lehman fail, which I believe we can agree would have been a good thing. Had they nonetheless decided that Lehman should be allowed to go down, in the knowledge that the government would have to make the debtholders whole, then we would have avoided most of the negative effects of the actual Lehman collapse. No money market fund would break the buck. No freeze in commercial paper markets would have resulted. And no emergency rush to TARP would have followed. Correspondingly, no intense fear of bank failures or nationalizations would have cast its shadow over all subsequent decisions.

    This should be getting more attention, and it should also be causing Geithner-haters to rethink what they think they know about the man -- about his timidity, subservience, and allegiances. But it's already clear that it won't.Related Links
    Geithner's Brave New Regulatory World: An IMterview
    Finally, Drama! A Geithner vs. Bair Clash?
    Harder Times

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    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

    Portfolio Mobile - The End of Innocence at Apple

    The End of Innocence at Apple

    It seems unthinkable today ? but more than two decades ago, when personal computers were still new and everybody listened to music on a Walkman, Steve Jobs was cast out of Apple. The year was 1985. IBM and Microsoft dominated the world of computing. The revolutionary Macintosh, launched with such fanfare just a year earlier, appeared to be foundering. And Jobs, the guiding force at Apple from the beginning, seemed not just expendable but a threat to the company he?d built. In West of Eden ? a national best-seller when it was first published in 1989, now updated in a new edition available on Amazon ? Wired contributing editor Frank Rose tells how it went down. In an essay excerpted from the introduction to the new edition, Rose recalls the downward spiral Apple fell into after Jobs was dismissed and ultimately how Jobs could be the fall guy one decade and Apple's savior the next.  

    Read the essay here.
    Related Links
    S.E.C. Opens Probe of Apple's Jobs Health
    The S.E.C. Catches Up With Steve Jobs
    What (Fake) Steve Jobs Thinks of the Music Industry

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    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

    Portfolio Mobile - Conde Nast Closing 'Portfolio'

    Conde Nast Closing 'Portfolio'

    For nearly two years I've been covering the media industry's bad news on this blog, including some that's hit very close to home. Now it hits closer still: Condé Nast Portfolio is closing.

    Our editor in chief, Joanne Lipman, just broke the news to staff, saying the decision had been made "because of financial reasons at Advance," Condé Nast's parent company. "It's not anything that the company wanted to do." She said she was informed by Condé Nast chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. this morning of the decision.

    Lipman said the magazine is ahead of its business plan on various business metrics, and also noted that it won a National Magazine Award last year after publishing only a handful of issues, a rare accomplishment. But a sharp and extended downturn in ad revenue has made success elusive. Over the past year, Condé Nast has made a series of other cutbacks, and has folded Domino and Golf for Women magazines.Related Links
    Magazine Awards: The Breakdown, by Company
    Mag Publishers Resist Rapid-Report Regime
    Idle Chatter: 'Playboy,' Time Inc., 'New York,' more

    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc.

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    CNN - Longtime GOP Sen. Arlen Specter becomes Democrat

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    Longtime GOP Sen. Arlen Specter becomes Democrat

    Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.

    The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

    "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said in a statement posted by his office on

    "Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

    Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was greeted by a loud, sustained round of applause by dozens of constituents outside his Washington office shortly after the news broke.

    "I don't have to say anything to them," a smiling Specter said. "They've said it to me."

    President Obama called Specter shortly after learning the news during his daily economic briefing in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, according to a senior administration official.

    "You have my full support, and we're thrilled to have you," Obama told Specter.

    Jubilant Senate Democrats also welcomed the news.

    "Sen. Specter and I have had a long dialogue about his place in an evolving Republican party," Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nevada, said in a written statement.

    "We have not always agreed on every issue, but [he] has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner, put people over party and do what is right for Pennsylvanians and all Americans."

    Reid called Specter a "man of honor and integrity" who would be welcome in the Democratic caucus.

    One key Senate Democrat, however, warned that reaching the 60-vote mark would not automatically ensure a Democratic victory on every major issue.

    "It's great news," North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad said. But it means "a lot less" than some people think.

    "The Democratic caucus is not homogenous. (There is a) lot of disagreement in the Democratic caucus, so this idea that it's some great watershed event ... I don't think so."

    Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele ripped Specter, calling him a Republican in name only who was out of step with the rest of the party because of his "left-wing voting record."

    "Some in the Republican Party are happy about this. I am not," Steele said in a written statement. "Let's be honest --Sen. Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record."

    Steele said Republicans "look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don't do it first."

    Specter was expected to face a very tough primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.

    A Quinnipiac University survey of registered Pennsylvania voters released last month showed Specter trailing the more conservative Toomey in a hypothetical primary matchup, 41 to 27 percent.

    A separate Franklin & Marshall survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 to 18 percent. Another 42 percent, however, were undecided.

    More than half of the Republicans polled in the Franklin & Marshall survey said they would prefer to see someone new in the Senate.

    Numerous Republicans are angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.

    Specter, one of only three GOP senators to vote for the measure, has been part of a dwindling group of GOP moderates from the northeastern part of the country.

    The 79-year-old former Philadelphia district attorney won his first of five Senate terms in 1980. He has been a leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee for much of the past two decades, serving as its chairman from 2005 to 2007.

    Specter served on the Warren Commission, which investigated the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. He has survived bouts with cancer three times, most recently undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease in 2005.

    Reuters - Cablevision rolls out super-fast Internet access

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    Cablevision rolls out super-fast Internet access

    Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009 8:45AM UTC

    By Yinka Adegoke

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cablevision Systems Corp plans to roll out super-fast Internet access connections that can allow a customer to download a full-length high-definition movie in less 10 minutes.

    The New York-based cable operator said on Tuesday it is also doubling the speed of its Wi-Fi wireless Internet service -- free for subscribers -- as it steps up its offerings to counter the competitive threat of Verizon Communications' FiOS service.

    Cablevision customers will pay nearly $100 a month to use the new high-speed Internet service, which will deliver download speeds of up to 101 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 15 megabits per second. Such speeds can enable the download of up to 750 digital photos or 150 songs in one minute.

    The company plans to roll out the service across its entire market starting May 11. Currently Cablevision offers download speeds of 15 megabits per second for $45 to $50 a month.

    It remains to be seen how much customer demand there is for new super-fast Internet access, which cable companies charge premium prices for. Comcast Corp charges up to $139 a month for its 50 megabit Wideband service in certain markets, for instance.

    "Right now the real demand for 50 to 100 megabits is pretty limited," said Todd Mitchell, analyst at Kaufman Bros. "But over the next two to three years, the number of video applications we all use will grow exponentially so it will become a necessary level of service."

    Cablevision will be the first of the major U.S. cable operators to roll out new super-fast speeds to its entire network using a new cable technology called DOCSIS 3.0. Other cable operators like Comcast and Charter Communications started trying out the super-fast access speed in some of their regions last year.

    The cable companies are increasing access speeds in response to the launch of advanced digital services from phone companies Verizon and AT&T Inc, and also encouraged by the popularity of Web video services like Google Inc's YouTube and Hulu, a venture of News Corp and NBC Universal.

    Faster speeds will make it easier to watch video programing over the Web, but there are industry concerns that they might also make it easier for customers to 'cut the cord' of traditional cable TV subscriptions.

    "The cable operators are trying to walk a fine line," said Craig Moffett, analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

    Moffett said the challenge for the operators is how to preserve their current technology and speed advantage over phone companies without harming their core video offering.

    "They don't want to provide so much bandwidth that they foster the means to bypass their core service," he said.

    Cablevision is also doubling the speed of its wireless Internet access to 3.0 megabits per second using Wi-Fi technology. The company offers the service for free to Cablevision subscribers using their laptops and other mobile devices around certain locations in its local area.

    (Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Richard Chang)

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