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So, are the stress tests worthless? They did provide a much clearer picture of the position of individual banks than we had previously. It is worth noting that this is a 180 degree shift from the original course pursued by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson last fall. Paulson tried to conceal the situation of individual banks, putting a cloud over all of them. Treasury also should be credited for disclosing many of the specifics of the stress tests so it is possible to do a quick (or more in depth) analysis of its assumptions and explore the implications of alternative assumptions. Still, it is hard not to conclude that these stress tests, and certainly the PR campaign around them, were intended to paint as positive a picture as possible of the banks’ financial condition. If this picture proves to be wrong then it means that we will have unnecessarily delayed the clean-up of the financial system. It will also be bad political news for the administration (Geithner and Summers will presumably be joining the ranks of the unemployed).”

It is a slow yet steady process. Before the price of aluminum fell to 30 cents a pound, from 85 cents, he had accumulated more than $10,000, he said, almost enough to pay the electrician. But despite such progress, last Friday a worker from the Federal Emergency Management Agency delivered a letter informing him that it would soon repossess the trailer that is, for now, his only home. ‘I need the trailer,’ said Mr. Hammond, 70. ‘I ain’t got nowhere to go if they take the trailer.’ Though more than 4,000 Louisiana homeowners have received rebuilding money only in the last six months, or are struggling with inadequate grants or no money at all, FEMA is intent on taking away their trailers by the end of May. The deadline, which ends temporary housing before permanent housing has replaced it, has become a stark example of recovery programs that seem almost to be working against one another.”

“A lawyer who wants to see what a potential witness says to personal contacts on his or her Facebook or MySpace page has one good option, a recent ethics opinion suggests: Ask for access. Alternative approaches, such as secretly sending a third party to ‘friend’ a Facebook user, are unethical because they are deceptive, says the Philadelphia Bar Association in a March advisory opinion.” (via)