David Kirkpatrick

May 5, 2010

US Treasury hacked and serving malware

Not good. Looks like the attack originated in Ukraine.

From the link:

Three Web sites belonging to the U.S. Department of the Treasury have been hacked to attack visitors with malicious software, security vendor AVG says.

AVG researcher Roger Thompson discovered the issue Monday on three Web domains associated with the home page of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. As of late Monday, all three Web sites were still actively serving malicious software and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Web site should be avoided until it’s clear that they’ve been cleaned up, Thompson said in an interview via instant message.

Although the Treasury Department could not be reached for comment, IT staff there appear to be aware of the problem. On Tuesday morning, all three sites had apparently been taken offline and were returning a “page not found” error.

According to Thompson, hackers had added a small snippet of virtually undetectable iframe HTML code that redirected visitors to a Web site in the Ukraine that then launched a variety of Web-based attacks based on a commercially available attack-kit called the Eleonore Exploit pack.

April 22, 2010

The new $100 bill

Filed under: Business, et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:43 pm

Here’s the latest in dead president fashion:

[CNOTE]

And more detail from the link:

The Treasury Department unveiled what it calls “the next generation one hundred,” a redesigned $100 bank note to stay ahead of counterfeiters. The new $100 notes will be available on Feb.10, 2011.

The old bills will continue to be accepted until they wear out.

The familiar portrait of Benjamin Franklin remains in the usual spot. But a historical reference to the quill used by the Founding Fathers appears superimposed over phrases of the Declaration of Independence and a 3-D security ribbon crossing the center capture attention. The images on the ribbon move as the bill is tilted. It’s all designed to thwart attempted fakes.

March 10, 2010

Treasury eases rules on exporting free speech tools

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:21 pm

This move just makes sense.

From the link:

Looking to facilitate what it calls free speech rights in countries that don’t look favorably at such liberties, the US government today said it would ease the regulations around exporting Internet-based applications such as e-mail, blogging and social networking software to Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

Specifically the Treasury Department said it would add general licenses authorizing the exportation of free personal Internet-based communications services – such as instant messaging, chat and email, and social networking – to Cuba, Iran and Sudan. The amendments also allow the exportation of related software to Iran and Sudan, the department said in a release (the US Commerce Department controls software exports with Cuba). Until now all such exports were would have broken federal laws.

March 7, 2010

Look for the Fed to raise interest rates this fall

The Federal Reserve has already borrowed $200 billion and parked it in the Treasury for just this move.

From the second link:

Most U.S. business economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise benchmark interest rates within six months by between a quarter and a half percentage point, according to a survey released on Monday.

A majority of economists in the National Association of Business Economists’ semiannual survey found the Fed’s current stance of rates near zero percent is appropriate. A growing number, however, believe the U.S. central bank’s policy’s are too stimulative, according to a poll of 203 members taken February 4-22.

“A majority believes that a rise in interest rates is both likely and appropriate in the next several months,” said NABE President Lynn Reaser.

February 18, 2010

Small business still being ground down by credit crunch

I’ve done a lot of blogging about the ongoing credit crunch, and last week exposed an article at Forbes that attempted some linguistic sleight-of-hand to argue — quick look at my waving hand over here — there is no credit crunch.

Here’s an article on the same topic from CNN Money that actually cites some real numbers on just how tough things remain for Main Street, and maybe just a little bit why small- to medium-sized business owners are still chafed over the bank bailouts from the fall of 2008.

And yes, small business and personal households are truly suffering under a crippling credit crunch that does not have an ending point in sight.

From the link in the second graf:

Small business loans continue to dry up at the nation’s biggest banks. Eleven top TARP recipients — including Wells Fargo, by far the nation’s largest lender to small companies — cut their collective small business loan balance by more than $2.3 billion in December, according to a Treasury report released late Tuesday.

The drop marked the eighth consecutive month of declines for the 11 banks. In that time, their total loan balance has fallen 7%, to $169.4 billion. Seven of the reporting banks have cut their small business loan balance every single month.

“Credit is still tight for many small businesses,” the Treasury acknowledged in a Feb. 10 report.

The 22 banks that got the most help from the Treasury’s bailout programs have been filing monthly lending reports to the government, and since April, they’ve been required to break out their small business lending. But as of this month’s report, the 10 banks that have completely repaid their bailout funds in June are no longer required to divulge their lending.

August 18, 2009

Credit crunch continues

The headline for this linked article is, “Fewer banks tightened credit standards, Fed reports.” Very misleading in terms of the reality on the ground.

Here’s the real news from the subhead:

But credit availability probably won’t return to normal before mid-2010, report says. Also, the Fed and Treasury extend the TALF emergency financing program aimed at boosting lending.

February 9, 2009

Electronic run on banks almost bankrupted the US

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:32 pm

This is one frightening story. Since it didn’t come to pass there’s no way of knowing exactly how bad it would have been, but I think it’s safe to say even the rosiest scenario would have been bad, bad news for the U.S.

The quote below is from Capital Markets Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania.

From the link:

Kanjorski: “The Treasury opened its window to help. They pumped a hundred and five billion dollars into the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts, and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn’t be further panic and there. And that’s what actually happened. If they had not done that their estimation was that by two o’clock that afternoon, five-and-a-half trillion dollars would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States, would have collapsed the entire economy of the United States, and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed.”

“It would have been the end of our political system and our economic systems as we know it.”

January 9, 2009

The Fed equals fail

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:09 pm

This news isn’t really news for anyone who’s been paying attention.

From the link:

The U.S. Treasury has done nothing to ensure a $700 billion financial bailout fund is used to stabilize the weak mortgage market, which caused the U.S. economic crisis, a congressional watchdog said on Friday.

Elizabeth Warren, who heads a congressionally appointed oversight panel, told ABC news there was no evidence the Treasury had used money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to support the housing market by avoiding preventable foreclosures.

“There’s just no money that’s gone in that direction. This one’s not even arguable,” she said. “The TARP funds themselves have not been used in this way despite congressional statutes requiring them to do so.”

In a draft of a report to be released on Friday, the panel said the Treasury has failed to reveal its strategy for stabilizing the financial system and had done little to track how the money was used.

It cited “significant gaps in Treasury’s monitoring of the use of taxpayer money,” including asking financial institutions to account for what they have done with taxpayer funds.

It also questioned whether Treasury has fulfilled its obligations to Congress.

“For Treasury to take no steps to use any of this money to alleviate the foreclosure crisis raises questions about whether Treasury has complied with Congress’s intent that Treasury develop a ‘plan that seeks to maximize assistance for homeowners,'” the panel said in the report.

The panel said the Treasury hasn’t used any of TARP’s first $350 billion tranche to help borrowers refinance or deal with mortgages that have a face value that is more than the current market value of their homes.

“Treasury needs to be clear as to what, if anything, it has done, and if it insists on taking credit for private sector efforts, it must explain what ‘help’ means,” the draft report said.

August 23, 2008

US Treasury about to begin reneging on debts?

Maybe, according to Gerald O’Driscoll, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former vice president and economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from yesterday.

From the intro:

Will the U.S. Treasury repudiate its obligations to its creditors, be they citizens or investors around the world? Most observers would answer “no” without hesitation. But Congress, with the complicity of the White House and the Fed, has arguably embarked on a stealth repudiation.

In his famous treatise, “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith noted there had never been a “single instance” of sovereign debts having been repaid once “accumulated to a certain degree.” We may have reached Smith’s threshold.

And from the conclusion:

We are at a Smithian moment, in which the temptation for the Fed to spend its last dime of credibility may prove irresistible. Investors are already being taxed by inflation and can rationally expect that tax rate (the inflation rate) to be raised going forward. Wages are not keeping up. Main Street is being taxed to fund Wall Street excess. Anyone who works, saves and invests is exposed to confiscation of his capital and earnings through inflation.

If the Fed maintained its independence of action and said no to the inflationary finance of Congress’s profligacy, we wouldn’t have reached this point. But the Fed has forsaken that independence amid an absence of leadership.

Perhaps, as rarely happens, Adam Smith will be proven wrong. Let us hope so, because hope appears to be all we have.