30 November 2007

US Orders IsraeliActive Protection Systems

About 18 months ago, there was a minor scandal when the Pentagon eschewed the already tested and ready for deployment Israeli Trophy active protection system in favor of the Raytheon APS system.

Given what was happening in Iraq, it was concluded that someone was to close to US contractors, and too distant from troop needs.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, has declared the system Technology Readiness Level 9, which means that it is ready for immediate deployment, and ordered a set.

Funny Spoof Web Site

Predatory Lending Association (PLA)

Edwards Joins "No Permanent Bases" Caucus

He also says that the permanent bases are proceeding because the "very serious people" (My term) in DC are enabling it.

I agree on both counts.

Jesse Jackson Says Dem Candidates Ignore Black Issues, Except for Edwards

Fascinating. It's clear that he is criticizing Obama with this statement:
Yet the Democratic candidates -- with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign -- have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country. The catastrophic crisis that engulfs the African-American community goes without mention. No urban agenda is given priority. When thousands of African Americans marched in protest in Jena, La., not one candidate showed up.
Truth be told, I agree.

Among the serious candidates*, only Edwards is talking to issues of inequality and poverty.

In fact, Obama's basic message, one of "bipartisan civility" pretty much excludes any discussion of the divide between the haves or have nots, because such a discussion would inevitably lead to people saying nasty things to each other.

This is why we do not need a conciliator in chief.

*Which excludes Kucinich.

Good News, No Permanent Bases Without Approval by 2/3 Vote of the Iraqi Parliament

Well, this throws a kink in bush's Iraq forever plans. It appears that Article 58, Section 4 of the Iraqi constitution requires the Iraqi parliament to "international treaties and agreements by a two-thirds majority."

Good.

Hostages At Clinton Campaign Office

In Rochester, New Hampshire. Edwards and Obama have offices nearby, and their offices have been evacuated, though it appears to be a lone nut, as a precaution.

Clinton has canceled her DNC speech as a result.

This is Freaky.

This is Why You Talk With Adversaries, and Keep Your Word

The Iranians have put it very clearly, they do not consider the United States, or at least the US as led by Bush and His Evil Minions to be a reliable negotiating partner. I agree with them Bush cannot be trusted to enter into good faith negotiations.

What's more, this is a reasonable, and rational position.
"We don't trust the United States," he told McClatchy Newspapers after the IAEA Board of Governors finished its latest round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. "We could suspend nuclear enrichment. We did it before for two and half years. But it wasn't enough then, and wouldn't be enough now. We will not suspend enrichment again because there is no end to what the United States will demand."
I agree with Matthew Yglesias's assesment, that it makes no sense to try to appease religious fanatics, so any confidence building measure is meaningless when the current US government simply cannot be trusted.

French Evaluate Mi-26 as Heavy Lift Helicopter

The French are looking at ultra-heavy lift capability, so they had some crews operating the Halo for a few weeks to see the potential tactical applications.

If they were smart, the would buy Russian, either the Mi-26, or the successor that the Russians purportedly have in the works, because both solutions will be much cheaper than a from the ground up solution.

The Russians have been the only people doing these size helicopters for 40 years.

Romney Saying that Religion DOES Matter in Political Service

We've now had 4 people confirm that he will not put any Muslem in in his cabinet.

So Mitt Romney thinks that it's appropriate to rule out someone for public service based on their faith.

He just put his being a Mormon on the table...Not for me...My problem is that he's an insincere lying reactionary bastard...and he's a Republican...but I repeat myself.

Citgroup Cutting 45,000 More Jobs

That's just under 15% of total employment.

This is after their second major bailout in 6 years.

I'm beginning to think that a trained monkey could run a bank better than they execs.

Ward Connerly's America: It's France

They are having riots once again in France. This is a product of a number of things, but one of them is racism, and the unenforceable nature of anti-discrimination laws in France.

France has a policy that no official records are kept regarding racial or ethnic origin by the government. The idea is that everyone is French, not hyphenated French.

Ward Connerly, a Californian Uncle Tom who has become wealthy by being an uncle Tom, and from being the front man for faux minority contracting*, has been pushing the removal or racial and ethnic status from California state records for years.

You see the natural consequences of such actions in France: a permanent underclass living in slums who are destined never to be hired by bigots, because these bigots will never be caught.

*Cognitive dissonance: Required for the mental illness known as "Republicanism".

29 November 2007

Polls: Republican Candidates in Florida

One of these polls is obviously an outlier.

Insider Advantage/Maj. Opinion Poll
Giuliani: 26%, Huckabee: 17%, McCain: 13%, Romney: 12%, Thompson: 9%

CNN Poll:
Giuliani: 38%, Romney: 21%, Huckabee: 9%, McCain: 11%, Thompson: 11%, Paul: 5%; Hunter 1%, Tancredo less than 1%.

Considering Huckabee's recent surge, I'd go with the Insider Advantage poll.

Mental Health Outsourcing

Overheard on Stellar Parthenon:
I was feeling depressed last week, so I called the mental health help line.

Like all other call centers, it has been outsourced to a third world location.

When I told the operator in Pakistan that I was feeling suicidal, he got very excited and wanted to know if I could drive a truck or fly a plane.
rimshot

Edwards Says He Prefers Obama to Clinton

I'm not sure if his statement is some sort of back door endorsement, or idle musing.
"The differences between Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) and myself are much more dramatic than the differences between Sen. Obama and myself," Edwards told reporters after receiving the endorsement of the progressive group Caucus for Priorities, which seeks a reallocation of defense dollars into social programs.
I think that there is a real "anyone but Hillary" Caucus among liberal activists, and it will be interesting to see what happens if Hillary loses in Iowa.

90% Plunge in the US Dollar Forecast

So says Trends Research Institute Director Gerald Celente, he is forecasting a 90% plunge and Gold being at $2,000.00/ounce.

Personally, based on nothing more than my gut, I would say that this is unreasonable, I don't see it dropping more than 50% long term $3.00=€1.00, with an overshoot to somewhere around $5.00=€1.00 at the height of the speculative frenzy.

Still, this guy did, "forecast the subprime mortgage financial crisis and the dollar's decline a year ago and gold's current rise in May", though so were a lot of other people.

However, I agree that, "the subprime mortgage meltdown was just the first "small, high-risk segment of the market" to collapse".

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot????! Florida SHORT TERM Funds Parked in CDOs and Other Shaky Investments???

We are talking accounts used for day to day expenses and salaries, and when it was discovered that. "after learning that the money- market fund contained more than $700 million of defaulted debt", there was a run on the fund, with over 35%, over $10 Billion of the $28 Billion in the fund, of its assets being withdrawn.

As a result, they have suspended withdrawals from the fund, which may leave some governments unable to pay their employees this week. (See also here.)

It's gets better:
Stipanovich raised the possibility of having the state pension fund shoulder the risk of some of the troubled securities with a credit-default swap, through which the retirement fund would guarantee the debt in exchange for an insurance premium.

"It will be a wonderful diversifier
," Stipanovich said.

Sink immediately rejected the executive director's plan.
A "Wonderful Diversifier"???? Talk about throwing good money after bad.

A brief list of bad investments:
  • $168 million of debt from KKR Atlantic Funding Trust cut to D, or default, from B by Fitch Ratings on Oct. 8
  • $356 million issued by KKR Pacific Funding Trust, cut to D from B by Fitch Ratings on Oct. 2
  • $180 million of paper from Ottimo Funding, cut to D from C by S&P on Nov. 9. S&P said an auction of Ottimo's collateral "did not generate cash proceeds" to repay the asset-backed commercial paper.
  • $175 million of short-term debt issued by Axon Financial Funding, an SIV. It was cut to D from C by S&P when Axon failed to pay liabilities maturing Nov. 26, causing an "automatic liquidation event."
  • $650 million of certificates of deposit from Countrywide Bank FSB, a unit of Countrywide Financial Corp., that now amounts to more than 3 percent of the pool's assets. The bank's rating was cut to Baa1, three levels above junk, by Moody's on Aug. 16.
In a MONEY MARKET FUND? I'd sooner have Sweeny Todd give me a shave than trust Florida's financial judgement.

A 30% Year Over Year Drop in Condo Prices????

The median price of a Palm Beach County condo fell to $158,900 in October 2007, from $225,500 in October 2006.

This is not a declining market....This is blood in the streets. This means that people who got a 20 year fixed rate with 20% down are under water.

Would Reverent Moon Please Buy the Washington Post Too???

It would improve the quality of the journalism there no end. We have a front page article saying that a bunch of nuts, who have been thoroughly debunked, are claiming that Barack Obama is a crypto-Muslim.

The more I read stories and opinions from the Post, the more that I am convinced that the entire Watergate affair was just stupid dumb luck.

Journamalist Perry Bacon Jr., today's worst person in the world!

Lott's Brother-in-Law Indicted on Bribery Charges

Well, the fact that his brother-in-law, Rickard "Dickie" Scruggs, was indicted on bribery charges may go a bit of a way towards explaining his leaving the senate.
Scruggs is perhaps best known for suing tobacco companies in multibillion-dollar lawsuits in the late 1990s. But he also acted as Lott's lawyer, as well as the attorney for many Mississippi homeowners, in a successful lawsuit against State Farm Insurance when the firm denied thousands of claims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
So, even if Lott has done nothing illegal, he probably does 3 wrong things before having breakfast, it sounds like it was a good time for him to look at the DC lobbying gig.

Giuliani Used City Money for Visits to Then Mistress, Judith Nathan

What's more, he also cooked the books to conceal this:
The documents, obtained by Politico under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the mayoral costs had nothing to do with the functions of the little-known city offices that defrayed his tabs, including agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants.
But wait, there's more, he also provided a police driver and city car for his chippie.

In a world of real journalism, this would be the lead story for the next week...In Rupert Murdoch's America??? Page 12.

I Think that it Might Be a Blasphemous Rumor*

From the prine edition of Flight International: American Airlines Vice President for Passenger Services is named Chuck Imhof.
LOL!!!
(say it quickly...out loud)

*Yes, this is a reference to the Depeche Mode song.

28 November 2007

Clinton Proposes SEC Type Regulation of Insurance Companies

This is a most excellent proposal.

It's not unreasonable...After all, insurance is a complex financial instrument, and frequently sold as an investment vehicle.

More realistically, it's a shot across the bow. If the SEC, or an SEC clone, looked into the way insurance companies did business, the good hands would be in cuffs, doing the perp walk.

John Edwards and Chris Dodd Want to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Edwards is saying that, "'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell' did not become wrong. It was always wrong.", and Dodd is saying, ""The time to put an end to the military’s 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy has come".

Clinton and Obama?????

***Crickets****

Yeah, Like Nepotism Has Worked So Well in the Oval Office...NOT!!!

Kate Whitman, Christine Todd Whitman's daughter, is looking at running for Congress.

Scott Horton Nails it Again

Resurrecting the Star Chamber by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine), just go read it.

All Democrats Should Behave Like This

There is a lot I don't like about Hillary Clinton....Hell.....There is a lot I don't like about bill Clinton.....but Hillary Clinton's behavior to the press is not one of them.

Read the article about how Senator Clinton and her people hit back at Bob Novak's bogus story about here digging Dirt on Barack Obama. Not only were they in front of the story, they got Bob Novak to essentially retract the story.

This episode indicates why Hillary is not as bad a candidate as a lot of people say, though I'm still leery about her being the "leader of the free world".

She handles the press well....and she is not out for them to love her, they are out for them to fear her.

What's more, it works. Novak backpedaled because the press was scared enough of Hillary and her people to actually press him on his story, which was clearly Rove disinformation.

Of course, then she goes and spoils it all by saying that she'll appoint Colin Powell a foreign emissary, the man who lied about WMDs before the United nations. Because she's so tied in with the "very serious people" inside the DC beltway.

My head hurts.

In-F%$#ing-Sane: The Michigan State House

Well, the state courts have said that it is legal, but with everyone by Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd having withdrawn their names from the ballot, why should it matter?

Well, now the state legislature is poised to put candidates back on the ballot against their will.

If this is not a bill of attainder, it certainly is a violation of the free speech rights of the candidates, who have the right NOT to run in any state that they wish.

If this passes, it will be in court before the governor's signature ink is dry.

Besides, I want to see Chris Dodd beat Hillary Clinton.

Oops, I spoke too soon, the House approved the bill, but the state Senate refused to take it up, so iut's just the house that is batsh$@ insane, not the whole legislature.

Today's Real Estate Update

HUD is starting to dump foreclosed homes, teachers, police officers and firefighters in Charlotte, NC can get homes for fifty cents on the dollar, Third-quarter home prices dropped 1.7% from the second quarter as measured by the Case-Shiller index, and houme values are expected to drop $1.2 TRILLION next year, with a drop of $6.6 billion in property taxes.

So a federal agency is marking down homes that they can't get rid of 50%, house prices are dropping at an annualized rate of about 7% a year, and property tax revenues are falling through the floor, and what is likely a 5+ year decline is only about 14 month along.

27 November 2007

Jury Duty Reviews

Well, a few weeks ago, I got a summons for Jury duty, and today, I had to show up, juror number 635, so I show up to the courthouse in Towson at 9:00am. Parking is paid for, so I go up to level "L", park, and go into the courthouse.

Taking a left after the metal detector, I then go up a short flight of stairs, hang a right, and get in line. I am given a packet with a jury badge, and $15.00 in cash for expenses.

Once we are all checked in, a woman working for the courts picks up a microphone, and explains the basics of how it works. We are to be sent upstairs by juror number, and then go through voir dire. Given my early diet of Perry Mason, it all seems pretty much second nature to me.

There are monitors arranged throughout the jury room, and they are used to show a brief, and rather cheesy video showing how it is all supposed to work. It was narrated by a judge, and showed pretty clearly just why they use actors to portray them on TV.

While we were waiting, they put a movie on the monitors to entertain us* (more on this later), but about halfway through, the paused it to call jurors 1 through 330 to court for voir dire. They then restarted the film. At about 12:20, most of jurors 1-330 (they only take twelve and a few alternates) returned to the jury room.

At about 12:50 we were sent out for lunch with instructions to return by 2:00pm. They ran the last half of the film again for the benefit of those jurors remaining from the 1-330 cohort.

At about 3:30, Judge Pat Springer came to the room, and thanked us all for our service, and we were free to go.

As a special bonus to this post, I am adding what I hope will be a VERYinfrequent feature of this blog, Jury Duty Reviews:

The movie in question was Secondhand Lions.

Michael Caine: Garth
Robert Duvall: Hub
Haley Joel Osment: Walter
Kyra Sedgwick: Mae

The film was chosen by the court staff was an attempt to find something that would not offend anyone, but still would entertain what would necessarily be an adult audience.

The film covers some fairly well trod ground, with Osmont being the 13 year old child of the feckless mother Sedgwick who is dumped off on his great uncles, Caine and Duvall.

Sedgwick has a minor roll really, and this is essentially a 3 person film, albeit one where they are played by 6 actors, because of the extensive use of flashbacks.

It is set in Texas, and Cain does his accent very well. Duvall does not do an accent, but his manner of speaking fits in well with the Texas location. Thankfully, Osmont does not attempt an accent all.

Duvall, as always, is impressive, as is Caine, who can sometimes disappoint, and Osmont does a very creditable job in playing a 13 year old.

Your kids will love this movie, and it's entertaining for the adults.

It's funny and...I'm sorry, but I have to say it....Heartwarming.

*Yes, I know, it's technically a public performance in violation of US IP laws, because it qualifies as a "public performance", but I'm not ratting them out to the MPAA.

Sharif Back in Pakistan, Calls for Ouster of Musharraf

You may remember that the last time he came back to Pakistan, he was forcibly sent back to to sojourn with the House of Saud, but this time, he's back, and he's calling for Musharraf's scalp.

Sounds like a movie...Like one I've heard before, called The Fall of the Shah of Iran.

I hope that this is not a remake.....Because a nuclear armed Mullah would not make my top ten list of movie favorites.

I Wish that I Were a Right Wing Moron

You may not remember the last time that I quoted Amity Shlaes. It was an indirect quote by way of Rich Karlgaard, who is so stupid, that he should be getting a personal aide to cut his meat, where Karlgaard implied that the reason for the 1937 recession was that "the investor class" were somehow sick and tired of FDR's "soak the rich policies", when even the most solidly Chicago School economist could tell you that it was caused by a reduction in federal spending to balance the budget.

Well, Amity Shlaes is at it again, suggesting that potential shortfall in Social Security in 30+ years should be kept at a level of bare survival for 1935, the date of establishment of the program.

As an FYI, 45 million Americans did not have indoor plumbing in 1930, and you had similar numbers in terms of electricity. This was out of a total population of 123 million, giving about 37% of the population without these amenities.

So, why do I wish that I were a right wing moron? Because Amity Shlaes is a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations, and with those connections, she makes more in 90 days than I do in a year.

The right wing intellectual infrastructure is an artifact of subsidies for bad ideas and opaque thought processes, which since people like the Coors family and Richard Mellon Scaife are aggressively buying*, leads to more bad ideas and opaque thought processes through the invisible hand of the market place.

*I believe that over the past 30 years, these folks have spent over two billion dollars, that's $2,000,000,000.00, or about $800 for every man, woman, and child in the US, for think tanks and related activities. When you add in Olin, Bradley, DeVos (Amway), and the rest of these folks who never worked a day in their lives for their money, you are probably well over $3 billion....A quick Google shows spending of just the major organizations from 1990-2000 to be $1B.

Alterman on Stevenson

Eric Alterman explains why comparing Obama to Adlai Stevenson is not a compliment.
Stevenson was a snob, and in many ways, not much of a liberal. He charmed intellectuals with his calls for a commitment to "cold-eyed humility" and a recognition that "our wisdom is imperfect and our capabilities ... limited." Though he might have been a classier fellow than General Eisenhower, bookwise -- an ironic egghead after their own hearts -- his politics were frequently indistinguishable from the plain-spoken military man. (When following his election loss, a woman tired to soothe his feelings by telling him that he had "educated the country," Stevenson replied: "Yes, but a lot of people flunked the exam." Stevenson's high opinion of his own intellect helped define in the public mind the "effete liberal" stereotype. Yet Stevenson was hardly less committed to the Cold War than Eisenhower, and though he opposed McCarthyism, he had no problem with dismissing teachers for being Party Members or using the Smith Act to prosecute others. In this regard, he epitomized the weak-kneed response of so many liberals to what was among the most significant threats to civil liberties in the history of the republic, and later, the cause of much disillusionment on the part of young leftists with their tut-tutting liberal elders. In keeping with his profile in cowardice, Stevenson also opposed both public housing and what he called "socialized medicine." He had little sympathy for much of the New Deal and a great deal of trouble making up his mind about the repeal of Taft-Hartley Act. Regarding the great moral and political and political issue for American liberals, civil rights, he was notably AWOL. (In this respect, he was less brave, and less liberal than the much-derided Truman.) Yes, the Kennedys treated Stevenson unconscionably, but Irving Howe aptly termed "Adlaism" to be "Ikeism ... with a touch of literacy and intelligence."
In fact, in this assessment, Stevenson come across far more like Joe Lieberman than even the troubled nobility of "Hamlet".

White House Attempting to Foist Permanent Military Presence in Iraq, Chris Dodd Says No Bloody Way

The White House and the genocidal ethnic cleansers Iraqi government have released a statement of principles that amounts to an agreement to have US troops in Iraq FOREVER.

Chris Dodd has released a statement vehemently disagreeing with this:
Frankly, it’s hard to believe that the Administration is just beginning to figure out what the future bilateral relationship with Iraq should look like after more than four years of military occupation. But, this declaration of principles is more notable for what it doesn’t say than what it does. It does not require Iraqi leaders to make substantive progress on their political benchmarks nor does it end US military involvement in Iraq. Indeed, Senator Dodd is fearful that the lack of clarity on the long-term presence will be used as a justification by this Administration for a permanent military presence in Iraq, at precisely the time when we should be declaring the opposite. In a Dodd Adminsitration, there will be no permanent bases in Iraq.
Update:
Obama and Clinton have now declared themselves to be members of the "No Permanent Bases" caucus too.

Arabs Bail Out Citigroup...AGAIN!!!!

In 2001, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal rescued Citigroup, and this time, it's the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

BTW, look at the terms:
  • They get a 4.9% stake.
  • In exchange for its investment, ADIA will receive convertible stock in Citigroup yielding 11% annually. (They are making the loan at 11%, when junk bonds get 9%, WTF????)
  • The shares are "required to be converted into common stock at a conversion price of between $31.83 and $37.24 a share over a period of time between March 2010 and September 2011." (It's currently trading at $29.75, the lowest since 2002, so this means that the conversion essentially means that they are very nearly paying for this investment)
  • This gives them a bigger stake in the firm than Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. (remember him?)
If this company isn't functionally insolvent, then its management needs to go to be fired, and criminally investigated, because the only way a non-insolvent company takes a deal this bad is if someone is breaking the law.
Investors have increasingly expressed concerns about Citigroup's "tier 1" capital levels -- a common measure of a bank's capital adequacy -- which for the first time in years fell below its 7.5% target in the third quarter. Although the bank is still considered to be well capitalized, investors worried that Citigroup would be forced to cut its dividend.
H/T The Big Picture.

26 November 2007

Trent Lott's Retirement Announcement...Made Alone

Seriously, when was the last time that you saw a major political figure making a retirement announcement without his family there, or at least his entourage?

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Something funny is going on here.

The current conventional wisdom is that he is doing this because he wants to avoid the two year wait that is required if he waits until after January 1 by the new ethics reform laws, but the fact is that he can do an awful lot, and get paid for it, as a "consultant" anyway.

Of further interest is that because he is resigning in an odd numbered year, Mississippi is required to hold a special election within 90 days, and with the DSCC flush, and the RSCC flat broke, this actually provides a small chance of a Democratic pickup in what would be a low turnout election.

There is the possibility is that some sort of scandal is brewing, most likely either something related to the VECO bribery that has ensnared the entire Alaska congressional delegation, or sex.

It it's sex, it could be either the DC Madame, or the promised revelations by Larry Flynt.

My money would be on sex, particularly of the gay variety, since any bribery allegations would still end up seeing the light of day if he left.

Then again, this might just a big F$#@ you to Bush, who gleefully knifed him over his Strom Thurmond comments.

Arkansas Politico Claims Abduction by Satanists

It appears that he ditched his old family, changed his name, and bigamously started a new one.

I guess that this beats, "My dog at my homework".

Clinton Promises Major Increase in Autism Funding

Full disclosure, my son is on the spectrum, very high functioning Aspergers, so I consider this statement from the front runner that she plans to increase funding for research and education to $700 million a year to be a very good thing.

By way of comparison, that figure is 7½ days in Iraq.

I once read that a majority of people in prison were learning disabled, when we neglect them, we neglect the needs of the greater society.

Rumsfeld Torture Case Dismissed

French prosecutors have dismissed a torture case against Donald Rumsfeld based on "customary immunity"...Funny thing though...I've never heard them claim this immunity with Israelis. (FWIW, I do believe that Sharon should have spent some time in the clink for his roll in the Sabra and Shatila massacres, because he was at the very least criminally negligent).

My guess is that this came straight from Sarkosy.

Oral Roberts' Son Resigns as President of Oral Roberts University

Shades of Elmer Gantry. They go into the more prosaic stuff, like a nearly $40 thousand shopping spree, and a nearly $30 thousand senior trip for his kids, repeatedly remodeling their home, and requiring students to work on a political campaign for a specific candidate.

There are also allegations that his wife had an inappropriate relationship with an underage student, or students, at the university.

There is a lot to be found, now that the rock has been turned over. I could see a reprise of the Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker PTL ministries.

25 November 2007

Bush's Australian Lapdog Goes Down to Defeat

Bush's best friend in the South Pacific, and a race baiting demagogue, John Howard, has gone down to defeat in Australia. He placed combat troops in Iraq, and endorsed the politics of fear with a zeal that rivals that of Bush and His Evil Minions.

What's more, John Howard will lose his own seat, and his party is in opposition in every state and territory.

The Australian people were sick and tired of a government that was more frightening them than it was in serving then.

Would that we had a parliamentary system here.

Gee, People are Upset That Edwards Tells the Truth

I'm not a fan of Senator Clinton. I am less of a fan of Obama, whose Adlai Stevensonesque Hamlet act is very old, and whose homophobic dog whistle overtures to socially conservative black Democrats in South Carolina are despicable.

What John Edwards is saying is factually accurate. Clinton is refusing to commit to removing troops from a combat role in Iraq, and while not personally corrupt herself*, she has surrounded herself with people who make money lobbying for big money interests, Mark Penn only being the most egregious case, and she has defended this system of pay to play in the debates.

It is a legitimate course for Edwards to take. For what it's worth, FDR was very much the slick prepackaged politician in 1932, so Hillary may be better than I expect if she gets the nomination, and wins the general, which is the likely result for any Democrat who wins the nomination this time around.

*She is arguably the second most investigated individual of the past 30 years. The best that Richard Mellon Scaife could come up with Whitewater, a land deal in which she lost money.

Courts Allowing Electronic of Suspects Without Probable Cause

Welcome to 1984, only 23 years late.

The feds are increasingly using the enhanced 911 services to track people's movements, and most of the judicial precedent at this point is saying that they do not need probable cause to get a court order, it is noted that, "Such requests run counter to the Justice Department's internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas", so we get
In one case last month in a southwestern state, an FBI agent obtained precise location data with a court order based on the lower standard, citing "specific and articulable facts" showing reasonable grounds to believe the data are "relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation," said Al Gidari, a partner at Perkins Coie in Seattle, who reviews data requests for carriers.
Which means that the agents think that all they need to show is that they want the information.

24 November 2007

Paul Set to Break $12 Million for Fund Raising for This Quarter

I believe that these sorts of numbers will place Paul in the top three in fund raising for this quarter.

If he spends this money, he could surprise people, at least in the primary states. The caucus states, with their structure being designed to reinforce party orthodoxy, are less fertile ground for him.

22 November 2007

We Are Losing Afghanistan

The Taliban has a PERMANENT presense in 54% of Afghanistan. The picture shows it all:

Both Afghanistan ahd PAKISTAN are in the process of being overrun.

Conversational Hebrew

This little tidbit from the times gives one a pretty good idea how people think what they really think about Condoleeza Rice:
The long buildup to Annapolis, together with Ms. Rice’s many trips to the region, have given birth to a new verb in Israeli government circles: “lecondel,” meaning, to come and go for meetings that produce few results. The word is based on Ms. Rice’s first name.
This misadministration still shocks me with its incompetence.

New Hampshire Primary Tuesday, January 8

Not a big surprise, but it's now official.

Blogging will be sporadic, at best. I'm working on my MIL's machine, which is old, may be spyware laden, and only has Internet Explorer (**blarf**)

21 November 2007

Steam Trek: The Moving Picture (Star Trek Parody)



Full version is on website at www.sisterson.co.uk.; stills, credits and making-of info at steamtrek.blogspot.com.)

My connectivity, and hence posting, will be diminished over the Thanksgiving Holiday...I will be visiting my mother-in-law in Monsey, New York.

Republican Rivals Start Opposition Research Huckabee

Well, this is pretty good evidence that he has them running scared.

I'm not sure really why the need to do the research though. They already have the very public case of Wayne Dumond, where Huckabee lobbied for the convicted rapist's parole, and Dumond later raped and murdered a neighbor.

He did this because Dumond's first victim was a distant cousin of Clinton, so the wingers were claiming that he was "railroaded", because...well...it involved Bill Clinton.

This is how Wingnuts thing.

Home Prices Down

Down 2% year over year as of the end of September.

Note that more expensive houses are moving more, so this is a lagging indicator.

Georgia's Sex Offender Housing Laws Overturned

This law basically amounted to exile from the state, as it prohibited "registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and other areas where children congregate", and the Georgia supreme court has ruled it unconstitutional.

There were a number of problems with the law:
  • It applied to all sex offenders, so people who were no threat to children, like indecent exposure, public sex or lewdness (like Larry Craig), etc. were covered.
  • It covered 150,000 school bus stops in the state, making it's coverage too broad.
  • As the court noted, offenders obeying the law, "face the possibility of being repeatedly uprooted and forced to abandon homes."
Honestly, it's not like pedophiles can't drive. I understand that the case that brought this on was a sex offender that was living near a day care center and re-offended, but this should be handled through the corrections process, such as longer sentences, and probation conditions.

Mike Huckabee Calls for Investigation of Bush Over Plame Leak

I think that Huckabee has been tacking a bit against Bush, he unfavorably compared Bush and Musharraf, but his latest statement, calling for an investigation of Bush on the Plame affair, is kind of stunning.

I think that Huckabee believes that he can win by tacking against Bush. There is a significant enough plurality of Republicans who are sick of Bush to put him over the top in a multi candidate field.

Clinton And Edwards Won't Cross Picket Line For Debate

Good for them. CBS News writers are on strike, and they won't cross the picket line for the December debate on CBS.

It's the right thing to do.

RGE - With the Recession Becoming Inevitable the Consensus Shifts Towards the Hard Landing View. And the Rising Risk of a Systemic Financial Meltdown

Noriel Roubini's latest prediction:
I now see the risk of a severe and worsening liquidity and credit crunch leading to a generalized meltdown of the financial system of a severity and magnitude like we have never observed before. In this extreme scenario whose likelihood is increasing we could see a generalized run on some banks; and runs on a couple of weaker (non-bank) broker dealers that may go bankrupt with severe and systemic ripple effects on a mass of highly leveraged derivative instruments that will lead to a seizure of the derivatives markets (think of LTCM to the power of three); a collapse of the ABCP market and a disorderly collapse of the SIVs and conduits; massive losses on money market funds with a run on both those sponsored by banks and those not sponsored by banks (with the latter at even more severe risk as the recent effective bailout of the formers’ losses by theirs sponsoring banks is not available to those not being backed by banks); ever growing defaults and losses ($500 billion plus) in subprime, near prime and prime mortgages with severe known-on effect on the RMBS and CDOs market; massive losses in consumer credit (auto loans, credit cards); severe problems and losses in commercial real estate and related CMBS; the drying up of liquidity and credit in a variety of asset backed securities putting the entire model of securitization at risk; runs on hedge funds and other financial institutions that do not have access to the Fed’s lender of last resort support; a sharp increase in corporate defaults and credit spreads; and a massive process of re-intermediation into the banking system of activities that were until now altogether securitized.
Let's be clear, Dr. Roubini is, and always has been, a bear. Truth be told, Since I started following this in 2001, so have I.

More important that this is that the bears in general, and Dr. Roubini in particular, have been right time and time again.

We have trillions of dollars in leverage in instruments that no one understands, and when this unwinds, it will be ugly.

1000 Words, Economy Edition

"

Huckabee Ties Romney in Iowa

It's a statistical tie, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, errore of 5% +/-.

Mitt Romney, 28 percent

Mike Huckabee, 24 percent

Fred Thompson, 15 percent

Rudy Giuliani, 13 percent

John McCain, 6 percent

Oil Above $99/bbl Euro Above Euro at $1.4831:€1.0000

Crude oil peaked at $99.29/bbl, and the Euro is at $1.4831:€1.0000.

Absent a major weather event, I don't see much movement over the Thanksgiving weekend, but they are both close to crossing their respective psychological barriers.

20 November 2007

This is What Happened When Rumsfeld Wanted to Run the War on the Cheap

Maimed vets, people who will be crippled for life, are getting demand letters for their signing bonuses, because they were unable to complete their tours because of their injuries.

Evil....

Desmond Tutu Gets it on Homophobic Bigotry

Basically, Nobel prize winning cleric is saying that with all the evil and hate in the world, the Church has no time to generate its own hate:
He said it should rather be focusing on global problems such as Aids.

"Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and Aids - a devastating pandemic, and conflict," said Archbishop Tutu, 76.

"God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another.

"In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."

To Funny for Words...Subprime Edition


Congress Reviewing Bill to Allow Bankruptcy Judges Review Terms of Mortgage Loans

Brad Miller (D-NC) and Linda Sanchez (D-Ca) have proposed legislation in the house, and there appears to be a push for this in the Senate.

It is anticipated that this could reduce foreclosures by 2 million.

One of the wierd things that I discovered in reading this is that, Judges already have this power for "Vacation homes, farms and investment properties."

But not for principal homes...Weird.

If this passes, it may save the mortgage industry from itself.

One Good Thing From the Credit Mess

Private equity firms are being pressed to give out more information about how they operate.

If this gets written into statute or regulation, it would be a good thing.

Romney Push Polled...Himself???

There has been a bit of nastiness going on in the Republican Presidential Primaries in Iowa. Someone has been push polling* in Iowa and New Hampshire:
Among the questions asked during the 20-minute calls placed last week were whether the person polled knew Romney received Vietnam-era military deferments while serving in the Mormon missionary in France, that none of his sons served in the military and that the Mormon religion didn’t accept blacks as bishops until the 1970s.
Needless to say, push polling is sleazy, and when one adds the despicable pandering to religious bigotry, it gets worse.

Here, however, is where it gets weird, the calls are believed to have been made by Western Wats, a Utah-based firm closely tied to the BYU, the preeminent Mormon University in the world, and it's hard to believe that they would do this, and threaten many existing business contacts.

The National Review looks into all of this, and mentions their pet theory that Romney did it so that he could play the victim.

I don't think so. The downside of getting caught is just too much.

However, the number two theory makes sense:
According to another source at a rival campaign who wished to remain anonymous, there’s speculation that Romney may have push polled himself because his campaign wanted polling data regarding the negative perception of his Mormon faith for internal use. But since they couldn’t do so without causing controversy, they took steps to make it look like McCain.

*A push poll is a phony poll, in which the goal is not to get information, but to place a bit of slander in the voter's head, so they might ask something like, "Did you know that Matthew Saroff has a guilty plea for disturbing the Peace?"
Actually, I do, it was pled down from the traffic infraction of an "improperly fastened load" so that it would not bump my insurance rates.
They are professional liars. You need to confirm every period and comma.

Cox Also Shutting Down P2P Traffic

They are using the same method as Comcast, though they are more honest about it, as evidenced by this response from the company:
To ensure the best possible online experience for our customers, Cox actively manages network traffic through a variety of methods including traffic prioritization and protocol filtering. Cox does not prohibit the use of file-sharing services for uploads or downloads, or discriminate against any specific services in any way. To help our customers make the most out of their Internet experience, we take proactive measures to ensure that bandwidth intensive applications do not negatively impact their service. These network management practices are outlined in our subscriber agreement and Acceptable Use Policy.
Certainly, I can see how, during periods of high bandwidth, one might want to drop priority on bit-torrent or similar applications (full disclosure, I use bit-torrent), but this is basically blocking:
According to Topolski, Cox is in fact using traffic shaping to degrade p2p traffic. In analyzing a user log, he has concluded that Cox is using traffic shaping hardware to send forged TCP/IP packets with the RST (reset) flag set -- with the goal of disrupting eDonkey traffic. He's been unable to tell precisely what hardware Cox is using, but he notes that the technique being used is very similar to Comcast's treatment of BitTorrent.
It raises two questions: what is it about cable companies that make them so inclined to bull this bull$#@!, and why are they going through a backdoor block, as opposed to simply lowering the priority of the packets on their own internal network.

Iraqi Army Detains Mercenaries Private Security Contractors

The New York Times is reporting that 43 Contractors have been taken into custody. It appears that the contract that they had was for resupply, and that these guards covered the resupply contract, and were not a part of any American security contract.

At this point, none of the detained are believed to be American.

I think that this is a shot across the bow of all the contractors by the Iraqi army.

People to Put Up Against the Wall When the Revolution Comes

This would be the Wall Street pukes who have engineered the housing bubble, and are now NOT reaping the consequences of its deflation.

Wall Street firms are planning record bonuses of $34 Billion this year.
That money, split among about 186,000 workers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., equates to an average of $201,500 per person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The five biggest U.S. securities firms paid $36 billion to employees last year.
What happened to pay for performance?

Tom Udall Dominates the New Mexico Senate Race (Corrected)

Udall leads the primary by 62%-32% over Martin Chavez, and leads the likely Republican nominees, Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce by about 15%.

FWIW, Chavez loses to both Wilson and Pearce in the polls.

It's not done yet, the election is a year out, but perhaps it's time for Mr. Chavez to stop pretending that he is a Democrat, and get out of the race.

Originally, I listed this as Arizona, probably based on my recollections of Tom Udall's dad, Stuart Udall.

I am such a complete pratt sometimes.

US Spending on Afthan Aid Inadequate and Incompetent

Oxfam complaining about this. It appears that in addition to not spending enough money, $4.4 billion in Afghanistan since 2002, as versus $35 billion in 2007 alone for military efforts, too much is spent on, "profits of companies and subcontractors, on non-Afghan resources and on high expatriate salaries and living costs," (up to ½ million/year for each contractor).

Additionally, "Some two-thirds of U.S. foreign assistance bypasses the Afghan government that officials say they want to strengthen".

It's almost as if there were a conscious decision among Bush and His Evil Minions to treat this as an opportunity for political payback to incompetent contractors who are political allies.

Federal Grand Gury Investigates Involvement in Iraqi Deaths

Finally, but given the degree to which the State Department has sabotaged this investigation from the beginning, I do not expect any indictments to come of it.

Update: We now have reports that the Gand Jury is investigating other Mercenaries Security Contractors in addition to Blackwater:
The Washington grand jury has issued subpoenas to several private security firms, including Blackwater, a legal source briefed on the probe said yesterday. Authorities are seeking company "after-action" reports and other documents that may shed light on specific incidents, he said.

The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, declined to say which incidents have been targeted, but he said the investigation ranges well beyond Blackwater. Private security companies in Iraq "have been shooting a lot of people," he said.
Emphasis mine.

I think that if there is ever a fair accounting of the actions of the mercs in Iraq, a lot of people are going to be called to account.

Almost 1/5 of Home Sales in Orange County are Distressed

A distressed property is either foreclosed or short sold (sold for less than it is worth). In Orange County, almost 20% of home sales are of distressed homes.

At some point, buyers are going to start expecting distressed asset prices, and then the home market plummet even more.

US Charging Bilal Hussein in Iraqi Court with Secret Evidence

They have held the award winning photographer for more than 19 months, and now they are finally charging him in a process that his employer, the AP calls a sham. The AP claims, and I'm inclined to agree that these charges are because he got pictures that the military did not want:
Tomlin said the AP has faced chronic difficulties in meeting Hussein at the Camp Cropper detention facility in Baghdad and its own intensive investigations of the case—conducted by a former federal prosecutor, Paul Gardephe—have found no support for allegations that he was anything other than a working journalist in a war zone.
This is just disgraceful.

Oil Spikes, Dollar Falls

Oil is above $95/bbl, and there talk of switching denomination to the Euro, which peaked today at $1.4804:€1.000, though it's currently at 1.4785.

I think that we will be seeing stagflation sooner rather than later.

Freddie Mac Has Multibillion Dollar Loss, Scrambles for Capital

Freddie Mac announces 2 billion dollar loss, and is looking at a capital crunch. It's considering cutting its dividend, selling preferred stock, or cutting some of its mortgage holdings to meet US reserve requirements.

FWIW, Credit Suisse says that the losses might hit $5 billion.

O'Malley Increases Influence With Wins on Taxes and Slots - washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post has a generally glowing review of Martin O'Malley's handling of the special session. He comes across as engaged, hard working, and willing to listen, as opposed to this characterization of his predecessor, which is prize:
Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery) said O'Malley won points for his openness to lawmakers' ideas and a work ethic that contrasted with that of Ehrlich, whose tenure Hucker derided as "four years of press conferences and golf."
Personally, I will still vote against the slots proposal, but it was a productive session because O'Malley did his homework.

Scott McClellan Calls Bush Cheney, Rove, Libby, and Card Liars

An excerpt from Scott McClellan's new book:
The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's Approval Ratings Negative

44% approval and 47% disapproval.

I think that the Democrats have a real pickup here, but they need to hit him hard. In addition to tying him to Bush, they need to bring up the fact that McConnel separated from the army after 10 days, allegedly for giving another guy a hand job in the shower.

The Republicans crossed a line when they went after Daschle in 2004. They need to be made understand that things have consequences.

Renters Look to Congress for Forclosure Relief

Something that I hadn't thought about before, but when a property is foreclosed on, renters are frequently evicted. As a result, renter protection was included in the House mortgage reform act, and Chris Dodd has proposed the same in the Senate.

Generally the protections come in the form of requiring purchasers continue leases of for 6 months following foreclosure.

Considering that about more than 10% of all foreclosures are non-owner occupied, and as the Times notes, "This figure probably underestimates the problem, according to the association, because buildings receive tax benefits if they are registered as owner-occupied", we could see well in excess of 100,000 tenant evictions.

19 November 2007

Alaska???? They have $50 Million Settlement in Alaska???

Alaska...They have a cases in Alaska???? What's next? Antarctica?

Satan on spaghetti!!!!!! When we travel to the stars, we will discover that Catholic Church abuse cases have preceded us by decades!!!

Yep, once again, it's those fun loving pedophiles in the Catholic church, and the people to timid, or too encompetent to do anything but enable them.

100 people, all Alaskan Natives, my guess would be that they were Indian, not Eskimo from the location.

But still, how does this organization function?

The Freddie Thompson Clown Show: Supporters Wake Up.

CQ Politics | Some House Backers of Thompson Are Starting to Lose the Faith.

Some quotes:
"I think he’s kind of done a belly flop"
"He seems to be perpetuating it instead of defeating it".
"I’ve kind of pulled back. I’m not not supporting him, but I’m not doing anything"
The reincarnation of Ronald Wilson Reagan (666, count it), he ain't.

Paulose Let Go as Minnesota US Attorney

She is back in Washington, back at what amounts to her old job, though she is still being looked at by the Office of Special Counsel discrimination and mishandling classified documents.

Eric Back has what amounts to the definitive description of the staff response, "The mood in the office is described as a combination of relief and euphoria.", but I imagine that they were dancing and singing, "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead."

Another Congressman Retiring

Four-term Congressman Mike Ferguson (R-NJ). He's only in his mid 30's but he's seeing the writing on the wall.

At the rate that this is going, there won't be any Republithugs left in the East of Midwest.

Remember When I Said That Bear Stearns Would Be Gone in a Year?

We have a little story about the relative success of Goldman Sachs as compared to the other investment banks. What interests me is this quote:
Money soothes a lot of concerns, of course, and Goldman has had plenty to spread around. Through the third quarter, Goldman’s $16.9 billion compensation pool — the money it sets aside to pay its employees — was significantly bigger than the entire $11.4 billion market capitalization of Bear Stearns.
So Bear Stearns' market cap is less than Goldman's payroll for just 3 months.

If they don't go down, they will be bought out. It's just a matter of time before the big fish eat the little fish, and as I predicted at the beginning of August, Bear Stearns will be one of the small fishes.

Smok 'Em if You Got 'Em

The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute has found a substance in Marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD) that appears to be effective in treating cancer.

Unfortunately, CBD does not get you high, and you don't get enough via smoking, but it appears to block an Id-1 gene associated with metastasis.

Expect the work to be somewhere other than the US, the "War on Drugs" land.

Barack Obama Is Pushing Yet Another Republican Meme, This One From the Wrongest of Right Wingers

He is referring to the claim that Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta have made that both Clintons have a 20 year long plan for both of them to be president.
"I'm not in this race to fulfill some long-held plan or because it was owed to me," Obama said the other day.

Asked if that were a reference to the Gerth allegation, an Obama spokesperson left virtually no doubt that it was, telling Newsday: "Barack Obama has not been mapping out his run for president from Washington for the last 20 years like some of his opponents."

But the source that Gerth and Van Natta cited with supposed first-hand knowledge of this plan -- historian Taylor Branch -- has since vehemently denied that any such pact existed. "The story is preposterous," Branch told The Washington Post, adding: "I never heard either Clinton talk about a 'plan' for them both to become president."
I have no clue as to why this is going on, but it will destroy him in Iowa. While the most recent poll shows him in the lead there, his support is disproportionately young all around the country, and this has the potential to kill his campaign in Iowa. In addition to first timers to the caucuses being vulnerable to the tactics of the old party hacks (see Howard Dean's problems in 2004), they also don't show up to the caucuses reliably.

He is acting in a way calculated to make the Democratic stalwarts who know, and to a large degree run, the caucuses pissed off at him.

Mindlessly echoing Republican talking points is not being a uniter. It's being a chump, and this time around even worse being a chump than being a DLC squish.

A chump can't undo the dcamage the George W. Bush has done.

Senate Looks Ready to Cave on Iraq

CQ is reporting that Carl Levin, Daniel Inouye are floating a spending bill without restrictions.

This is wrong, and worse, it is a mistake.

Voting against the war is the right thing to do morally and politically, and these morons can't seem to get it through their heads that caving to Bush hurts the country and the Democratic party.

Don't back down, make it harder on the Republicans. Make them really filibuster. Declare on every talk show that the Republicans are filibustering money for the troops.

Not one step back.

Possible Resolutions to the Conflict Involving Israel

Here is another posting, cleaned up a bit, of mine from a Yahoo group that I'm on called JOINint*
Someone asked a question, and her is my rather pessimistic answer:
Please, someone, anyone, show me how we can save Israel AND make a true and lasting peace with our cousins, the Arabs?
There are two solutions that would currently work work:
  • The liquidation of the state of Israel.
  • The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in areas under Israeli control.
To my mind, neither are acceptable, so the question is how one finds a solution that does not involve either,

Given the current state of affairs, I do not see any positive developments.

However, the primary driver on this issue is oil, and this will be changing. Current predictions see Iran no longer exporting oil in less than 30 years, and Saudi Arabia production may very well have already peaked.

If the center of oil production moves elsewhere, and/or the world economy transitions from an oil economy, which I see as happening sooner rather than later, the interest in appeasing Arab sensibilities vanishes.

Much of this conflict is driven by the perception in the Palestinian community that time is on their side by virtue of both demographics and by what they see as significant unequivocal international support for their rights, look at your average vote in the General Assembly of the UN, and when their perception changes, a settlement will come.

Basically, when the Arabs run out of oil, no one will care about them, most of their support in the international arena has been bought in some form or another, and when the House of Saud in particular, and the Arab world in general runs out of this currency, the interest in their concerns will vanish.

Hopefully, in this transition/decline, a settlement can be reached, because if not, I see the ethnic cleansing of the disputed territories as a distinct possibility only a bit after that.

One thing that goes unremarked on is that the views of Israeli society are changing.

In 1980, if one had been at a party, and suggested ethnic cleansing Arabs, people would have looked at you like you had taken a dump in the punch bowl, and you would never have been invited back.

Today, there would doubtless be a ferocious discussion/argument, but the discussion of this tactic has become socially acceptable. This is a change in attitude that is profoundly troubling.

Note that any prediction of the future is at best imprecise. I do not see the House of Saud surviving, and in its fall there are any number of outcomes, both bad and good, that are beyond anyone's power to predict.

Certainly, this will result in a movement of the center of Arab thought, probably back to Egypt. In the early 1900s, Cairo was the center of Arab and Islamic intellectual discourse, before Saudi basically prostituted the Cairo academics and intellectuals.

*Jewish Opinions, Ideas, and News, International It spun off from another group when it descended into right wing agitprop.

The Economic Gods Must Be Cramming in Preparation of the Thanksgiving Holiday

So here are some economic updates.

First, it appears that the first major bank casualty of the housing bust is upon, Northern Rock, a bank which is responsible for about one in five mortgages in the UK. They have apparently been done in by a 1930s style run on the bank. They got some temporary liquidity through a £24 Billion (about $US 50 Billion) loan from the land of England, but it still appears that they are headed for liquidation, with the Tory shadow of the chancellor of the exchequer* George Osborne asking that, "The chancellor had not explained how taxpayers would get their money back." The testimony of the CEO of Northern Rock, is more concerning though:
He told the Treasury Select Committee that the bank had planned how it would cope with a 40% fall in house prices.

But it had not planned how to respond if its ability to borrow dried up.

"What wasn't stress-tested was the event deemed implausible - of the global markets freezing up overnight," he said.

"The rapid and long-lasting closure of the global markets was not stress-tested," he added.
Basically, we have a world capital market that resembles juggling, and if you lose one ball, others follow.

On top of this, we have a new home builders survey that is positively grim. The current outlook remains at a record low, but the 6 month outlook looks grim.

On the more macro level, we have Countrywide shares plunging as the insurance rates it must pay on its loans jumped by 30 % (!), both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac taking major hits because about the security of their mortgages (here and here), and Citigroup faces $15 billion write down in addition to having the good fortune of Goldman Sacks downgrading them to "sell" from "neutral".

In consumer spending, auto sales could hit 15-year low.

*It's an artifact of the parliamentary system that the minority party has a shadow cabinet, which is there to keep the various minister's feet to the fire.

Outsourcing Terrorism, Yet AGAIN

We lost bin Laden when we outsourced combat to Afghan tribes, and now we are proposing outsourcing to Pakistani Tribes.
A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said.

If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. The United States now has only about 50 troops in Pakistan, a Pentagon spokesman said, a force that could grow by dozens under the new approach.
Let me get this straight. In a nuclear armed nation that is teetering on the brink of anarchy or revolution, somehow it's a good idea to arm and train yet another group of people who will be usurping the most essential monopoly of the state, organized violence.

Impeach Dick Cheney today. Impeach George W. Bush tomorrow.

William Jefferson Charges Mount

Just to be clear, corruption is not a uniquely Republican activity, as is shown by way of Congressman William Jerfferson, who has two more allegations against him:
The allegations, detailed in a seven-page document filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, will not result in new charges, prosecutors said, but they plan to present them during Jefferson's federal bribery trial as evidence of a pattern of intentional wrongdoing.

In 2002, the government alleges, Jefferson asked a lobbyist of a U.S. oil service company for $10,000 a month for a family member in exchange for Jefferson's assisting the company in promoting business in Africa. The lobbyist turned down Jefferson's request, the document said.

Three years later, according to the filing, Jefferson allegedly agreed to urge NASA in a letter to consider doing business with a U.S. rocket technology and rocket launch services company. In exchange, the company allegedly agreed to pay Jefferson's family business and a relative.
Of course, when one looks at Cunningham, Ted Stevens, etc. this one guy does not seem to be all that much.

There are two reasons for the disparity:
  • From 1994-2006, the Democrats were in the minority.
  • Republicans believe that government is unmitigated evil, and as such, the path to bribery is easier, since they believe that they are already doing evil, so it's about power and wealth to begin with.
Jefferson was found with thousands of dollars in his freezer.

The New York Times OP/ED Pages Notices Judith Regan's Assault on Rudy Giuliani

Frank Rich dedicates a column in this Sunday's times to this matter.

He covers the same ground that I have, but I don't have a column in the Sunday New York times.

I would imagine that this will mean that there will be more mainstream coverage. At least I hope so.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht* for These Gonniffs

Oh Dear!!! Some Wall Street pukes at the center of the mortgage debacle may find their bonuses cut in half.
The hardest hit will be the salespeople dealing with mortgage-backed securities, according to Options Group director Eric Moskowitz. Their average bonus will be about $1 million compared with $2 million last year.
Only a million dollar bonus???? Cry me a river.

*This is sarcastic. I feel no sympathy.
This means "thief" in Yiddish, which is largely archaic German. It is from the Hebrew ganov, and you find the term "gnof" in Chaucer, meaning "churl" or "peasant" generally, which probably has the same Hebrew roots.

This is the Srot of Cutting Edge Research That Our High Drug Prices Pay For

This story details the mad scramble of drug companies to get in on ground level of eyelash lengthening drugs.

The truth of the drug companies is that they are not looking for cures, but for lifelong treatments, hence the moribund research into antibiotics, and (until recently) vaccines.

Nope, it's gotta be erectile dysfunction, baldness, and now eyelashes.

Brazil Looking at Nuclear Sub Force

Brazil hasallocated $540 million in R&D on the submarine and on enrichment.

They believe that they can build a submarine for $1.2 billion.

They already have the enrichment technology down.

The justification is the newly discovered offshore Tupi field and its 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil reserves.

Truth be told, if all they want is an air-independent coastal defense boat, there are options out there, both with stored LOX, and the idea of using a smaller nuke plant, to provide underwater endurance, but not the higher underwater transit speeds of the US fleet submarines.

18 November 2007

VERY Funny Mike Huckabe add.

ROTFLMAO.

H/TMatthew Yglesias

Tom Udall Officially Throws Hat in Ring

Good. The only other Dem running to this point had been Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, who is a "Business Friendly" DINO who was in the pockets of the lcoal real estate developers who has endorsed Republicans.

Domenici is not running for re-election, so this is an open seat, and very winnable.

Clarence Thomas: Too Stupid to Cut His Own Meat

Dana Milbank had this gem in his account of a Federalist Society meeting:
But there were signs that Thomas is not a regular on the speaking circuit. "You know, it's really hard to talk up here when this guy in front of me keeps moving," Thomas announced early in his speech. He was referring to a television screen on the floor in front of him that was showing his own image -- but because nobody but Thomas could see the TV, nobody knew what he was talking about.

"It's me! I see myself moving around!" Thomas explained, then let out a resonant laugh: "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" He continued: "This guy keeps moving around in front of me. Jeez! At any rate, stop looking at this guy in front of me! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You look at it and think, it's too much of a good thing!"

A technician covered up the offending screen with a black cloth.
So Clarance Thomas, much like your average parrot, is capable of being fascinated and distracted by an image of himself.

What a maroon, to quote Bugs Bunny.

Race Bank Opens for Business

This is an interesting activity. Basically, they have created a giant deep freeze in a cave deep below the Svalbard Islands off the coast of Norway, and they are placing samples of agricultural species in order to preserve them.

While the stated purpose is to account for disaster, I think that it's more important in the context of preserving old genes in various staple crops as they increasingly become mono-cultural world wide.

IPCC is Warning of Abrupt Climate Change

Basically, the question is whether climate is stable, like a ball in a bowl, or metastable, like a ball on a flat spot on a hill, which, with a sufficient nudge will careen down the hill accelerating.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now warning that once that ball is pushed too hard, it will start accelerating on its own.

I tend to agree, particularly when one considers things like hydrates on the ocean floor, and the massive amount of organic material that would start to decompose and emit gasses in the tundra areas of the world.

17 November 2007

Bank of America Purchases $2 Billion in Preferred Countrywide Stock

This is a bailout. Bank of America will purchase $2 billion worth of preferred Countrywide stock yielding 7.3%, and that can be converted into common stock at $18 per share. It should be noted that Countrywide is currently selling at $26.19, up 20% from before the infusion purchase.

This is a juxtaposition of desperation on the part of Countrywide and vulture opportunism on the part of BoA.

Honestly, I think that they will end up losing money on this.

Fair and Balanced, My Ass

http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/9666/cavutogaspricespelosinj1.jpg

What a bunch of complete pratts.

Senate Surveillance Bill Still Sucks Like 1000 Hoovers All Going At Once.

The House version is better, for example, the FISA coiurt is not involved in foreign to domestic conversations, just the Attorney General, or the DNI, so apparrently, it is ok for the senate for our privace to be at the whim of people Like Abu Gonzalez.

Yeah, Right, No Connection to the Ron Paul Campaign


Feds raid private mint, Norfed, for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, in addition to currency related violations.

Here is the interesting part:
Norfed officials said yesterday that the six-hour raid occurred just as its six employees were mailing out the first batch of 60,000 "Ron Paul Dollars," copper coins sold for $1 to honor the candidate, who is a longtime advocate of abolishing the Federal Reserve. The group says it has shipped out about 10,000 silver Ron Paul Dollars that sold for $20 and about 3,500 of the copper $1 coins. But it said the agents seized more than 50,000 of the copper coins -- more than two tons' worth -- plus smaller amounts of the silver coins and gold and platinum Ron Paul Dollars, which sell for $1,000 and $2,000.

....

A Paul campaign spokeswoman said yesterday that the campaign has "no affiliation" with the Ron Paul Dollars.
Just like the people using zombie networks to crank out Ron Paul spam, "no affiliation" to the Paul campaign.

It appears that someone in the campaign has ties with groups of dishonest people who cheat others for their own profit, and that they are calling in favors.

Who the hell is running this campaign, Vincent "the Chin" Gigante?

16 November 2007

Friday Cat Blogging



Industrial Production Tanks

Great economy we have, huh?

Largest drop in 9 months.

CNN Sucks Wet Farts From Dead Pigeons

Un-dirtyword-believeable. During the audience questions at the last debate, Maria Luisa, a UNLV student asked Hillary Clinton "whether she preferred "diamonds or pearls". Now it turns out that CNN planted the question and forced her to ask it.

Wolf Blitzer, and the CNN corresponds, are a human stain.

I want Keith Olbermann to moderate a debate. Heck, I'd settle for Homer Simpson moderating the debate.

Of course my fantasy would be for Jon Stewart to moderate, but that is too much to ask.

Nouriel Roubini: Hard Landing in the Economy

To be fair to Dr. Roubini, he has been predicting this for a while, but now the numbers, and the assesments of other economists are catching up.

Truth be told, I believe that the recession has already started, at least for the majority of the population, who lost a lot in the 2001 recession, and have recovered very little, if at all, since.

Krugman Nails Fuzzy and Dangerous Thinking by Obama

Barak Obama has chosen to attack Hillary Clinton on inaction on what he calls "the social security crisis". He does not get it.

While people have some legitimate concerns about Social Security in the (very) distant future, the problem facing the US is that health care is eating us up.

What's more, not only do the vast majority of Americans find the Republican meme of a "Social Security Crisis" to be pathetic and stupid Republican double talk, so does an overwhelming majority of the Republicans out there.

In fact, the only people who are selling the crisis meme about social security besides corrup partisan Republican hacks like Grover Norquist and Bush and His Evil Minions are the Very Serious People inside the beltway, the Fred Hyatts, the Charles Krauthammers, the Bob Novaks, etc.

The very serious people in the beltway are wrong about EVERYTHING, and he seems determined to please him.

When Krugman titles today's OP/ED, "Played for a Sucker, he is more right than you can possibly imagine.

The American people don't care about bipartisanship. They want a government that works for them. They do not care how it is accomplished, but they want a rising standard of living, and to stop living in fear and uncertainty that the next illness can wipe them out, and Barak Obama, like the rest of the Very Serious People inside the beltway, don't care about that.

All they care about is that they can go to each other's cocktail parties and have a nice time. They do not care about the government working for them.

To quote the future Nobel prize winner in economics:
I don’t believe Mr. Obama is a closet privatizer. He is, however, someone who keeps insisting that he can transcend the partisanship of our times — and in this case, that turned him into a sucker.

Mr. Obama wanted a way to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton — and for Mr. Obama, who has said that the reason “we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions” is that “politics has become so bitter and partisan,” joining in the attack on Senator Clinton’s Social Security position must have seemed like a golden opportunity to sound forceful yet bipartisan.

But Social Security isn’t a big problem that demands a solution; it’s a small problem, way down the list of major issues facing America, that has nonetheless become an obsession of Beltway insiders. And on Social Security, as on many other issues, what Washington means by bipartisanship is mainly that everyone should come together to give conservatives what they want.
This position on Social Security, much like his despicable use of dog whistle anti-gay bigotry in his South Carolina campaign, is something that the Very Serious People inside the beltway appreciate. They think that the rest of us are stupid. They think that we are bigoted rubes.

They want nothing to do with the people who live in America and make things work, and they don't want to make things better, because they are doing fine right now, and having to work for a living is beneath them.

George W. Bush Throws Tantrum Over Budget

Harry Reid made an offer, basically to split the difference, and Bush has turned it down cold.

I swear, this guy is getting more petulant and juvenile by the hour.

Federal Reserve Prints $47 Billion and Gives it to Bankers

It's the biggest infusion of currency into the US banking system since just after 911.

I do not believe that further inflation of the bubble will make said bubble's collapse less destructive.

Yes, Saddam Was a Tyrant, But He Had Nothing on the House of Saud

A 19 year old woman is gang raped. The court's solution is 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence for her.

The House of Saud has created a backward and evil society, and bribed most of the Arab and Islamic world int following their twisted view of the world and divine using found money in the form of oil revenues.

Most of the 911 hijackers were subjects of the House of Saud.

If there is a bright and shining center to the Arab or Islamic world, the House of Saud is at the place farthest from it.

Dodd Closes Nevada Campaign Office

Put a fork in him, he is done. This is more than a retrenchment, caucuses are one place where organization can trump name recognition.

The only thing that might bring his campaign now, is if Harry Reid sides with the telcos on the FISA bill, and Dodd actually has to physically filibuster.

Needless to say, I hope that Reid does the right thing, telco immunity takes the lawlessness of Bush and His Evil Minions, and enshrines it into statute. It creates a precedent where any corporate wrongdoer can simply buy absolution.

FISA Bill Update: House Passes, Senate Telco Immunity Up to Harry Reid

The house passed their, not quite so nauseating version 227-189, which sounds like an almost party line vote.

As to the senate version, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out a version without telco immunity, but did not formally strip it from the version from the Intel Committee, so Harry Reid gets to decide which one hits the floor.

Call Harry Reid's office: (202) 224-3542.

House Passes Mortgage Reform

291-127, with all the Bush Dogs, and in fact all the Democrats, supporting it.

It will make mortgages harder to get, which will depress the housing market, but the loans in question are those that never should have been made in the first place.

Army Beats Air Force on Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) Program

This was a relatively small (1/2 the size of a C-130) cargo aircraft, with the C-27J Spartan winning the competition.

The conflict was that TheHill.com - Army poised to win fight over cargo aircraft

They got it because the USAF is cutting everything in an effort to get more bling like F-22s and C-17s.
The Army and Air Force National Guard are slated to fly the C-27J, the aircraft selected for the JCA program.

Had the Army lost responsibility for the program, more Air National Guard units would have flown the C-27J in support of homeland defense missions. But Army supporters argued that the Air Force did not have the necessary staffing or processes in place to take over the program in a timely manner. Had that takeover occurred, the Army argued, it could have wound up delaying the program by at least a year.
And then there is the US Army experience with what happens when the USAF takes over small STOL cargo aircraft. They have restrictions that greatly reduce the utility of the aircraft to the ground troops.