31 July 2008

More Retailer Bankruptcies

Linen 'n Things and SHOEQ Shoe Pavilion, both filing Chapter 11, reorganization, as opposed to Chapter 7, liquidation.

The Banks are Pulling a Fast One Here

I'm just not sure what.

I'm checking the Bloomberg financial news, and I come across this story, all of two paragraphs, about conducting all the trades for credit default swaps through a clearinghouse of some kind.

Some of the names that planning to do this are, "JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank AG and Morgan Stanley," and the article further goes on to state that, "The clearinghouse would be designed to absorb losses in the event a major market-maker fails."

Considering the value of the CDS market, which is roughly equal to that of world GDP, I gotta figure that something bad is heading down the pipeline, and that the big players are looking to offload it onto either stupid investors and/or the taxpayers.

Can anyone translate this into meaningful English?

What are the Banks Hiding?

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) just postponed a rule that would require that off balance sheet entities* onto their books for one year.

They were getting a lot of pressure from banks and their allies on Congress about this.

The question is: what are they hiding, and at least part of the answer is:
Many lenders made profits in the run-up to the subprime- mortgage crisis by selling pools of loans to off-balance-sheet trusts known as qualified special purpose entities, or QSPEs, which repackaged the pools into mortgage-backed securities. Some banks then sold those securities to other off-balance-sheet vehicles they sponsored, such as so-called asset-backed commercial paper conduits.
*Things like "mortgages and credit-card receivables."

The McCain Campaign Just Called Obama a N*****

Specifically, the called him an uppity N*****, when they accused of him playing the race card.

I think that by November, Senator John McCain will sound a lot like Senator Theodore Bilbo.

Bankruptcies and the Birth/Death Adjustment

When generating employment numbers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)uses something called a Birth/Death adjustment, which is supposed to account for small new businesses that it misses in its surveys.

Well, the always quotable Barry Ritholtz has a question, is anyone at the BLS looking at the "death" part of the model?

Specifically, commercial bankruptcies are up 45%, but the BLS is still using their Birth/Death model to increase employment numbers.

Waxman Looking to Take Out Blackwater

Henry Waxman (D-CA) is Blackwater International's misrepresentation of itself as a small business to get contracts.

If fraud can be shown, they could be declared ineligible for future government contracts, which would, thankfully, put them out of business.
As Waxman explained in a memo (PDF) accompanying the launch of the three investigations, they each hinge on Blackwater's self-classification of its workers as contractors rather than employees. Waxman argues that classifying security personnel as contractors has allowed Blackwater to apply for small business contracts for which it wasn't eligible, underpay income taxes and workers benefits, and avoid complying with DOL anti-discrimination requirements for federal contractors.
As useless as Pelosi is sometimes, it's good for Waxman to have subpoena power.

DDG-1000 Cancellation to Figure Prominently in Maine Senate Race

The US Navy has proposed ending production at 2 Zumwalt class DDG-1000, and making up the difference with additional DDG-51s, and incumbent Republican Susan Collins opposes this while Democratic challenger Tom Allen supports it.

The total amount of dollars from the Navy would be similar, but the Burkes have more local content, as the Zumwalts are made from modules from all around the country (the better to spread the pork around to many Congressional districts)and then assembled at Bath Iron Works, so the Burkes mean more money for Maine, which should be a selling point for Allen.

Air Force Looks to Escalate in Iraq

If there is anything to be learned from the disastrous counter-insurgency experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that the use of air power must be kept to a minimum, because the collateral damage crates more supporters for the insurgents.

Of course, this bit of knowledge appears not to have registered with the USAF, which is looking at an expansion of its role as US troops draw down.

This is why we need to be completely out. Every bomb we drop risks creating anothere Osama bin Laden.

It's Intelligence and Law Enforcement, Stupid

Yep, the Rand Corporation just released a report on how to fight terror, and as right wing as they are, they still say that intelligence and law enforcement are the way to fight terrorism. Throwing soldiers at the problem does not work.

Bush Tantrum May Force Government Shutdown

That's what Bush and His Evil Minions are threatening over offshore drilling, that they will either filibuster or veto the spending bills unless they get their favor for their buddies in big oil.

Another Reason Why Unemployment Statistics are Junk

Because they count people involuntarily cut to part time status as fully employed.

We need to fix government statistics.

Trent Lott May Be Involved in Witness Tampering

It's tied into the Ricky Scruggs case, and a deposition where Zack Scruggs, Lott's nephew, took the 5th in response to the question, "Has it been your custom and habit in prosecuting litigation to have Senator Lott contact and encourage witnesses to give false information?".

It's nice that Scruggs and Lott got along so well...I would have figured some tension, as Scruggs was a big Democratic Party supporter in Mississippi.

Economics Update

Well, we have a big bit of information to lead with today, it turns out that the revised GDP numbers for the 4th quarter of 2007 show a contraction of 0.2% in the economy, which means that as numbers come in, that might very well be the start of the economy, particularly given the fact that the inflation numbers used to generate "real" GDP growth are bogus.

According to the most recent figures, the US economy grew in the 2nd quarter of 2008, but it grew less than forecast, 1.9% as versus 2.3%, but given what happens in revisions, I expect the number to get worse over time.

Employment is grim too, with weekly jobless claims up 44,000 to 448,000, though part of this is the effect of people going back on unemployment because of the 13 week extension.

While the weekly number is noisy, the trend has been toward increasing unemployment, and I agree with Calculated Risk, "Labor related gauges are at best coincident indicators, and this indicator suggests the economy is in recession."

That's not to say that there is no data pointing in the other direction, as the Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index Increased to 50.8, and any number above 50 points toward expansion.

That being said, the currency market saw the clouds, not the silver lining, with the dollar falling, though the fact that Euro zone inflation hit an all time high of 4.1%, which points toward rate increases by the ECB, could be a factor in there too.

In real estate, mortgage rates fell this week, which is probably an artifact of the reduced inflation fears from moderating oil prices.

The bit I found interesting though is that Freddie Mac is doubling the payments it makes to loan servicers for foreclosure prevention activities, which strikes me as a sort of a "hail Mary" play to keep more of their mortgage backed paper from going bad.

And our old friend, "The trouble with the monoliner insurers," is back, with Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) being cut to junk bond status by Fitch.

In energy, both oil and gasoline are down.

Finally, a reason, as if you needed one, not to watch the Fox Business Chennel:


This just buggers the mind.

Number of Illegal Aliens Declines

The Center for Immigration Studies report suggests that stepped up enforcement may be the cause, but my guess is that most of this is from a sputtering US economy and dollar, which makes the US less attractive to would be illegals.

Judge: Bush Aids Must Comply with Congressional Subopoenas

It should be noted that U.S. District Judge John Bates is Bush appointee, and generally considered conservative and friendly to executive power, but even he found the broad claims of executive privilege to be unsupportable.

I still say Pelosi should send out the Sergeant at arms and drag these folks off to the Capitol basement jail cell.

Our Mercenary Pentagon

Chalmers Johnson has an excellent essay on how the privatization of our Pentagon is both dysfunctional and a threat to democracy.

Go read.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

Avedon Carol asks:
And why is it that the more Obama tacks to the right, the dicier things seem to get? Could it be that it's a mistake for the (predicted) Democratic nominee to court the right at the expense of the Democratic base?
Yes.

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

House passes bill to regulate tobacco

A bill allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco just passed the House.

It wouldn't allow a ban, but it would regulate things like adulterants added to the tobacco and the manipulation of nicotine levels.

Bush and the Republicans are opposed, no surprise, though no veto is (yet) promised.

I don't think they need to threaten a veto, it will never make it through the Senate.

McCain Loses St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

From 'straight talk' to smear campaign.

I see a parallel between 2008 and 1992, where the press realized how badly they were played by GHW Bush against Dukakkis in 1988, and were careful not to be played again in 1992.

Maybe I'm just an optimist though.

On a related note, John Weaver, who has been a close friend and confidant of McCain for years, is denouncing his current ad campaign as childish, "There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn't at Obama's. For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop."

Mexican Oil Industry Legislation Update

I think that it's fairly clear that the right wing PAN is attempting a back door privatization of Pemex, the state own oil producer, while the PRD sees any change as an theft from the Mexican people, and the PRI falls somewhere in between.

The problem is that Pemex has not been run well, and it is lacking resources as a result, so some sort of reform is necessary.

I still believe that purchasing the necessary expertise, as opposed to "risk sharing partnerships" that are a back door way of privatizing the system, are the way to go.

Food Crisis and Global Warming Boost Israeli Water/AG Industry

Since Israel has been getting the desert to bloom for about 60 years, it had developed a fair amount of expertise in water purification and desert agriculture, and it's now befitting from a worldwide boom in demand.

Between trickle (also called drip) irrigation and various water purification technologies, the sector is experiencing a boom.

State of Connecticut Sues Ratings Agencies

They are suing over their giving lower ratings to government bonds than equivalent corporate bonds, which they actually call, "a secret Wall Street tax on Main Street".

The disparities in ratings means either higher interest rates, or carrying monoliner insurance, both of which accrue to the benefit of Wall Street.

2.3 Million Jobs

That is what a report from the Economic Policy Institute said were the number of jobs lost due to the trade deficit with China.

What's more, when they found new jobs, they made $8,146 less.

I'm not anti free trade agreements, but I'm anti bad free trade agreements.

It Must Be Nice to be a Republithug

Because you can live an Irony Free Life.

As Senator Sam Brownback demonstrates by delcaring "shocked, shocked to find that Chinese authorities are demanding monitoring of internet activities by hotels of their guests,"after voting for exactly the same thing for the entire population of the United States.

Leave Claude Rains to Claude Rains.

Core of US Army Corroding

While the military press, and military experts, have been wringing their hands over the flight of junior officers from the military, I'm not concerned.

The US military has 1 officers for every 5 enlisted men, twice the historical rate of 1:10, so I think that there is plenty of margin there.

That being said, Salon's report that the army is now being forced to promote unqualified soldiers to senior NCO positions to meet the challenges of the Iraq campaign is very troubling.

Senior NCOs are the heart and soul of the army, and when the NCO corps starts failing, the whole military does.

Iraqi Parliament Adjourns Without Election Law or Budget

They are in summer recess now, and because of a Kurdish walkout, they took no action on a $21 billion supplementary budget.

The provincial elections are still unresolved too, though there will be a special session to attempt to resolve this.

Heck of a job, Bushie.

Russia Gains Control of Turkomen Gas Exports

This development cements Gazprom's position as the 800 lb gorilla in the world natural gas market.

It looks like they will sign similar projects with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

An interesting note is that the deals appear not to be particularly good for Gazprom, it's unlikely that they will make much money out of them, but what it does do is likely kill a gas pipeline on a southern route through Turkey, which the US had been pushing to minimize Russian influence in Europe.

Congress Looks to Decriminalize Pot

The proposed legislation would remove federal penalties for possession of less than 100g of marijuana.

Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul are sponsoring HR 5843.

I'm Matthew Saroff, and I approve this legislation.

30 July 2008

The IOC: The First Bastards Up Against the Wall When the Revolution Comes

The IOC just meekly assented to allowing the Chinese government to filter internet access for the reporters at the games, despite promising otherwise just weeks ago.

What a bunch of losers.

That being said, ShaMao'er asks the question that immediately comes to mind, "The same old question... why are they so dumb?"

Meaning the Chinese government. They had to know that this would be found out in short order, and they had to know that the consequences of being found out would be worse than anything that a reporter pulled off Amnesty International's web site.

My only guess is that is about a need to be in control trumped their need to get good foreign press.

A number of analyses have suggested that the primary audience that is being targeted by the PRC for the Olympics is internal, not external, and that would explain this action.

I'd Call This Kafkaesque, but the Term Seems Wholly Inadequate

A press release from the ACLU:
Justice Department Asks Intelligence Court To Review New Wiretapping Law In Secret (7/30/2008)

ACLU Says Any Proceedings On New FISA Law Should Be As Transparent As Possible

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – In a brief filed late yesterday with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Bush administration asked that any review of the new warrantless surveillance law be kept secret and that the court refuse to accept legal briefs from anyone other than the Justice Department itself. The government is responding to a motion the American Civil Liberties Union filed earlier this month asking the FISC to ensure that any proceedings relating to the scope, meaning or constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) be open to the public to the extent possible.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"The government is proposing that the intelligence court should consider the constitutionality of the new surveillance law in proceedings that will be entirely secret. If the government's request is granted, the court won't hear arguments from anyone except the government and those arguments will be presented to the court in secret briefs. At the end of the process, the court will issue a ruling that is also secret. The process the government is proposing is completely unacceptable. Especially because the new surveillance law departs so significantly from the standards that have applied to government surveillance for the last 30 years, any proceedings relating to the new law's constitutionality should be adversarial and as informed and transparent as possible."

In a separate legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the ACLU seeks a court ruling declaring that the FAA is unconstitutional and ordering its immediate and permanent halt. Plaintiffs in the case include Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, the Nation and PEN American Center.
(emphasis mine)

I'm Speechless.

McCain Loses.....

Time's Karen Timulty, "So how many more times are the McCain campaign and the Republicans going to repeat what is a thoroughly baseless charge?" (emphasis mine)

The front page of the Washington Post, "For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true." (emphasis mine)

And the New York Times Editorial Board, "Many voters are wondering whether a McCain presidency would be an extension of Mr. Bush’s two disastrous terms. If the way Mr. McCain is running his campaign these days is an indication, Americans don’t have to wait until next January for the answer to that one." (emphasis mine)

Could it be that the "Straight Talk Express" has worn out the batteries? Because this stuff looks suspiciously like journalism.

Oh Crap! The US-Iraq Forever Deal Seems Back On

It looks like the status of forces agreement is back in active negotiation, complete with bullsh@% "time horizon".
The Bush administration's embrace of a flexible timeline for pulling U.S. troops from Iraq has accelerated negotiations between Washington and Baghdad over a long-term security pact, officials from both sides said.

The optimism marks a turnaround from just a month ago, when big differences seemed to have deadlocked talks over the terms of a continued American military presence in the country. In June, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the talks were at a "dead end," dimming hopes of reaching a deal by July 31 -- a goal the Bush administration has pushed hard to meet.

This month, however, the White House said it had agreed to a "general time horizon" for troop withdrawals, breaking from its long-held public resistance to the notion. The change has helped overcome differences on other issues, such as immunity for U.S. troops, negotiators on both sides said.

...
Great googley moogley.

For the Life of Me, I Don't Know if this is Really Him or Not

Shatner Dot

After he did the spoken word stuff with Ben Folds, anything is possible.

Quote of the Day: Tristero Edition

Hullabaloo
I don't have the vocabulary to describe such inanity. I can learn far more about politics by watching old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons than I can from Maureen Dowd (and they're a lot funnier).
I would add a lot smarter and a lot more subversive too.

Airline Death Spiral

Delta is doubling its baggage fees, from $25 to $50.

Amtrak for that cross country trip is sounding better and better.

Well, at the rate that they are going, there won't be any more passengers to annoy their staff.

Washington AP Chief Interviewed for a Position with the McCain Campaign in 2006

Yet another reason to continue to maintain my boycott of the Associated press.

It should be noted that while Karl Rove was concocting the phony story about Pat Tillman's death, Ron Fournier wrote him a mash note, telling him to, "Keep up the fight."

What Digby Said

She is spot on
Richard Cohen and others like him who play the role of 'liberal' in the mainstream media are the reason why so many people hate liberals. They're idiots.
I really have nothing to add to this.

Economics Update

Well, you know that the economy sucks when lawyers are being laid off, in this case at Cadwalader, Wickersham* & Taft because the 70% decline in the commercial real estate market had created redundant personnel.

When you consider the fact that Citi will likely write-down its CDOs to the tune of $8 billion, following Merrill Lynch's $5.7 B writedown of its CDOs, it's not surprising nothing is moving.

Citi currently values its CDOs at 53¢ on the dollar, but Merrill sold at somewhere between 22¢ and 5.5¢ on the dollar (see this post), so this will be ugly for them, and for a lot of other financial institutions.

Some people are predicting writedowns of over $100 billion for Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, but it could be worse if there is a rush to the exits.

I think that it's also pretty likely that the credit crunch had a lot to do with Mervyns, department stores filing for bankruptcy, reorganization, not liquidation, as the straw that breaks the Camel's back is typically the withdrawal of credit.

Still, we have a decent numbers in the ADP jobs report, which has also strengthened the dollar.

Additionally, the efforts by government institutions continue with Federal Reserve extending its loan program to Wall Street banks, "Cash for Trash," from mid-September to January 30 and the SEC has extended its naked short-selling ban until August 17.

In energy, oil is up, and retail gasoline is down.







*Interestingly enough, I probably would not have even noticed the story, but for the fact that the name Wikersham was there. he first political story that I have any recollection about was about that ship, and the problems that developed as a result of cabotage related issues with the Jones Act, which required it to stop in Canada between American ports,

I actually rode on the ship when my family was leaving Alaska.

Olmert as Kadima Head Out in September

Thank God.

No matter what your opinion on his peace initiatives, it's clear that a person who is negotiation with an eye toward redeeming himself from charges of corruption is less likely to cut a deal that will last.

Elections will be sometime early next year.

Desperation does not make for good statesmanship.

More Evidence that Arbitration is a Racket

This sad tail of corruption as a feature, not a bug, in arbitration courtesy of Jane Bryant Quinn.

Short story, people screwed over in auction rate security deals will likely have to be heard by arbitrators whose own companies are the subjects of actions by people screwed over in auction rate security deals.

This will be an issue that I will start dunning candidates on, because binding arbitration is a racket.

Turkey: Ruling Party Not Banned

The Constitutional Court voted in favor of a ban, but only 6-5, one vote short of the 7 required, though they did cut the amount of public funding available to the party.

I would guess that this is a political decision, with the court slapping down the Justice and Development Party (AKP) enough to make them notice, but not creating the furore of a ban.

CIA Starts Leaking Dirt on Pakistani ISI

Pakistan denies this, but we have reports that a CIA operative met with Pakistani and presented evidence of close links and support between al Queida and the people in the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Pakistan's state security apparatus is focused on a war with India, and when it's not focused on that, it's looking at reducing Indian influence in the area, so at allies with Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which provides sanctuary for al Queida.

These people are not reliable allies with regard to combatting al Queida, the Taliban, or terrorism in general as a result.

More Taser Abuse

The police come across a 16 year old boy lying on the street, having fallen from an overpass, and having a broken foot and broken back, and it appears that the officers Tasered him 19 times because he ignored their requests to get up, so they tortured him.

And then we have the second death in as many months in the Charlotte jail from Taser Abuse. In the first case, they tasered someone for 37 seconds...but that cop is still on the force.

This won't change unless/until Tasers are classified as lethal weapons.

Lock Rove in the House Basement

There is a cell there, and since Mukasey has said that he refused to enforce contempt citations you can have the Congressional sergeant at arms arrest him and lock himup.

Otherwise, the fact that the House Judiciary Committee vote to hold him in contempt means absolutely nothing.

You have the authority to do so, and it was done as late as 1934.

Boeing Looks for New Ways to F%$@ Up Labor Management Relations

It looks like Boeing, the only company incompetent enough to get engineers to go out on strike and stay out,* is playing chicken with it's unions again, though this time it's the International Association of Machinists (IAM), who are far more likely to strike than the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).

There may not be much that Boeing is good at, but forcing its employees out on bitter strikes is one of the few.

With the 787 at least 14 months behind schedule, they can't afford a strike, but they are still pushing to screw the employees on pensions and healthcare.

Smooth move guys.

*The SPEEA went out for 40 days in 2000, despite the fact that it was a bunch of engineers, who generally hate unions, and the union was up to that point considered a joke.

Merrill Lynch CDO Sale at Far Less than 22¢ on the Dollar

Yesterday, I wrote about a 5.7 billion write-down that Merril was taking on CDOs.

It turns out that the numbers, which showed them getting 22¢ on the dollar are completely bogus. They took an even bigger haircut than reported.

Nouriel Roubin has the details, but the cliff notes version is:
  • Merrill financed the purchase.
  • The finance rate is at sub market rates.
  • The security for the deal is the same CDO crap that they are selling
  • Merrill has, "would absorb any losses on the CDOs beyond $1.68 billion"
Their face value is $30.6 billion, so this figures to a 5.5¢ on the dollar worst case.

WTO Talks are Done, for Now at Least

Issues between the US and India and China over farm exports killed the deal.

Not surprising. As Krugman notes, trade deals are not about real free trade, but rather "enlightened mercantilism", so he doesn't see it as the end of the world.

I am actually far less of a free trader than he is, and I see the current deals as damaging people far more than it helps people, so I think that some changes, including more transparency in adjudication bodies and the elimination of the idea that regulation is a taking, should be a core value to proceed.

FDIC Puts Brakes on overed Bonds

As I wrote earlier, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is pushing a new (for the US, at least) sort of bond, the covered bond, to unfreeze the mortgage credit markets.

Well, it looks like the FDIC just put up a road block, saying that it is considering limiting these new bonds to 4% of bank liabilities.

It has expressed concern about the instruments might place additional risk on them:
"The FDIC is concerned that unrestricted growth, while the FDIC is evaluating the potential benefits and risks of covered bonds, could excessively increase the proportion of secured liabilities to unsecured liabilities," the agency said. In other words, Back off my insurance fund. The agency did say it would consider revising its guidance after it has a chance to evaluate the effect of covered bonds on banks.
The FDIC could refuse to cover these bonds in the event of a bank failure, and as such, if they institute this policy, it may very well put a stake through the proposal's heart.

Of course, these days, all real estate loans are risky instruments.

I Like My Cigar, But I Take It Out Once in a While!*

Canadian couple Livia and Alexandru Ionce are celebrating the birth of their 18th child. Ages of the sibs range from 23 to 20 months, and there are no multiple births, and all but one were natural delivery.

*The quote is attributed to Groucho Marx, but is debunked by Snopes.

29 July 2008

Republican Message of the Day: Do Not Vote

Because those people with the sign up sheets may want to steal your identity and get credit cards in your name.

So says Delegate Jeffrey Frederic, chairman of the Virginia Republican party.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with fact that it's black people that are being target by the Democratic party for registration.

Bennigan's and Steak-and-Ale Chains Go Out of Business

Bankruptcy, filing for liquidation, not reorg.

It appears that something happened to their credit line with GE Capital, and had to shut down.

Loan Servicers Under Stress

One of the funny bits of the current mortgage market is that even when the banks hold the loans, they don't generally handle the money.

They pass this off to loan servicing firms, who send out the bills, collect checks, handle escrow, etc.

Well, it appears that they have to make payments of interest and principal to the loan holders for accounts up to 90 days delinquent, in addition to handling property tax payments, and as a result, they are taking a beating from the skyrocketing rate of delinquencies.


H/t HousingWire

Massachusetts House Votes to Repeal Law Restricting Gay Marriage

It was passed in 1913, and forbade marriages to residents of a state where the marriage would not be legal, but now the House has passed the repeal, following the lead of the Senate, and it's going to the desk of Deval Patrick, who says he will sign it.

Two snaps up, particularly for caterers on Cape Cod who will doubtless see a surge in business..

Economics Update

The Bush administration is now, finally, predicting a slowing economy, with a GDP growth rate of 1.6%...though with a higher prediction of inflation at 3.8%, it's a net contraction, which is why they are also predicting an increase in the unemployment rate.

Given this environment, it is unsurprising that home prices fell in May by 0.9%, 15.8% year over year, which is grim.

What is surprising is that Consumer confidence was up a bit, to 51.9 from 51.0, but even 51.9 is very pessimistic.

We may be seeing a bottom of consumer pessimism, which is different from seeing a bottom to the credit crisis.

The slowdown seems to be driving the price of oil down, as well as the price of retail gasoline, and falling energy prices seem to be bolstering the dollar versus foreign currencies, though the bad news on Japanese unemployment, a 2 year high, may have contributed to this.

Still, the banks are buying lots of money from the Federal Reserve to deal with the liquidity problems, $75 billion this time, so we ain't out of the woods.

For your amusement, a cartoon:

Signs that You are Losing a Counter-Insurgency Campaign

Item 1: an increasing reliance on air strikes to achieve tactical goals, as is the case in Afghanistan.

Of course, that attack on the forward base indicates that things are not well either.

No Bail for Wilkes

Brent Wilkes, who was convicted of bribing Randy "Duke" Cunningham, has been told that if he has a friend who wishes to post the $1.4 million for bail, his name must be made public.

This person, referred to as a former business associate, whoever he or she is, has made it clear that they would lose their job if their name became public, so I guess he stays in jail pending appeal.

If anyone has an idea who this person is, I want to know.

Reid Will Allow Vote on Offshore Drilling

I'm not sure whether this move is smart or stupid.

It requires 60 votes to make the amendment, and that means 11 Dems or 10 Dems + Lieberman, because McCain won't be casting another Senate vote until he's done with the presidential campaign, and I do not see the votes there.

Disabled American Veterans Tells Dick Cheney to go Pound Sand

They yanked his invite because he was demanding that the audience show up two hours early and not have access to bathrooms as a result.

Seriously, even George W. Bush isn't this cowardly about meeting crowds....what is with this guy.

Ted Stevens Indicted

I'll avoid the "tubes" and the "incredible hulk" jokes, as most of the 'net does snark better than me.

In any case, he has been indicted on 7 counts related to concealing income from gifts from lobbyists and their firms, once again proving that it's the cover-up that will get you.

Interestingly enough, the Republicans in Alaska are so corrupt they don't have a replacement, with the most likely replacement, Sarah Palin, who is under investigation about misuse of power to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the State Police.

Also note that the party can replace Stevens up to 48 days before the general election, so he could drop out.

That being said, I'll enjoy some Schadenfreude, and you can donate to the Democratic challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich at my ActBlue page.

New Study: Kindergarten Red-Shirting Bad for Kids

There is a study by David Deming and Susan Dynarski that seems to indicate that delaying entry into first grade actually reduces academic achievement.

This is interesting,since the, "Boy Crisis" crowd, is aggressively holding boys back a year to deal with the delay in language development of young boys vs. young girls.

My, admitted anecdotal, information would suggest not to red-shirt.

My son, Charlie, is an Asperger's child, and as such, he is socially delayed, and has issues with social issues with rules and conflict resolution, though he is performs at least one grade level above his age academically.

According to the red-shirting folks, his entry into first grade should have been delayed, which would have been a disastrous.

While he can be a handful when upset or frustrated, when he is bored, he's like Plutonium.

Will the Last USAF Senior Staffer Pleas Turn off the Lights?

We have two more resignations of senior staff at the USAF, Ken Miller, special assistant for Air Force acquisition, and William Anderson, USAF logistics chief.

I think that the military in general, USAF specifically, need adult supervision to ensure that their procurement does not become too incompetent, and that their interactions with other services are too hostile, and this is blowback from Rumsfeld not giving a damn about this.

McCain's Brain

TPM has a nice takedown of Randy Scheunemann, who in addition to being corrupt, he's tied into the guy who sold access to the White House, is also an absolute horror show in terms of his policies.

Go read.

Merrill Lynch Plans Another Multi-Billion Dollar Write-Down

Less than 2 weeks ago, Merrill Lynch declared huge quarterly losses, and now they are planing another $5.7 billion write down on CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations)

So many shoes have dropped at Wall Street that these companies resemble centipedes.

Blackwater May Have Broken Federal Laws???? Pshaw!!!

It looks like many of the contracts they secured were as a result of Blackwater fraudulently claiming to be a small business.

I'm stunned...not.

McCain Has a Lesion Removed

Allegedly non-cancerous, but this is at least the 2nd procedure he has had done for something like this in 2008.

DHS Plans to Use Color Coding to Help 'Phants in November Elections

The Department of Homeland Security is declaring a Period of Heightened Alert (POHA) for the election season.

This means that Bush and His Evil Minions will take the smallest rumor of a terrorist threat, inflate it beyond all credibility, and then try to scare the general public into voting Republican.

Make Them Talk

It looks like the "F$#@ Coburn Omnibus" failed to get the necessary votes to end debate.

OK, fine. Stop letting the Republicans filibuster without talking. You already did that to Chris Dodd on civil liberties, so do it to Senator Tom Coburn.

Make them do a real filibuster.

Andrea Fracking Mitchell Calls McCain Ad "Literally Not True"?

What has happened to the golden boy of the press corps?

Have we entered a good sort of Bizarro world where the media starts to realize how much they are in the tank for McCain?

Another Day, Another Financial Term

This time, it's "Covered Bond", and Sec Treasury Paulson is clarifying regulation to make them more attractive in the United States. (They are more common in Europe, particularly, according to the Wiki, Germany)

The difference between this and more common mortgage backed securities is that the banks have to keep the mortgages on their books, and the bonds are specifically secured with these bonds.

I don't think that this will make much of a difference.

Until house prices bottom out in absolute dollar terms, which means that inflation might save us, the housing market will remain sluggish to frozen.

28 July 2008

Monica Goodling Thought that Partisan Politics Trumped Anti-Terror Efforts

Which is she passed over an experienced counterterrorism prosecutor because his wife was a Democrat.

Seriously, nothing trumps politics for Bush and His Evil Minions&trade.

Taser Death Heads to Grand Jury

Well it now appears that the Taser murder investigation is heading toward a grand jury (background here).

I do not expect an indictment. This is a dead black man, and the ex-cop who Tasered him 9 times after he was in handcuffs, Scott Nugent, has little to fear from a Louisiana jury.

Even if it goes to trial, you can expect Taser International to supply tens of thousands of dollars in expert testimony to the defendant saying that a Taser can't kill, because they know what happens if they get tagged with one death.

Liberals Need to Buy Guns, and Learn How to Use Them

That Tennessee whack job who shot up the Unitarian Universalist church did so because he wanted to kill liberals.

He opened fire in the middle of a children's play.

This is what a decade's long diet of hate radio gets you.

Why Amy Sullivan is a Complete Idiot

Amy Sullivan has always been a one note pundit: The Democratic party must reach out to religious voters, and protect them from those evil radical secularists who would make fun of them.

The problem there is very basic: there are no radical secularists in the leadership of the Democratic party.

For that matter, I believe that there has been one atheist who has ever served as a member of Congress, so she is talking about people who do not exist.

Now, she is prattling on about how Obama is making overt evangelical religiosity work for him.

First, she claims that Obama has "pivoted to announce that an Obama administration would fix, expand and elevate the faith-based initiative".

Except, of course, if these organizations take federal money, Obama won't allow them to discriminate on the basis of religion, and they will be subject to federal accounting and auditing standards, which has always been the case until Bush set up his own "faith based initiative."

The purpose of Bush's program was to ensure that there was neither fiscal accountability nor discrimination protection, so it is a complete refutation of Bush's program.

In fact, what is implied is that he will sweep up massive numbers of white evangelicals in so doing, even though the religious right demand that they be subject to no fiscal accountability and be given the right to discriminate.

The core message of the politicized right wing evangelical is hostility to integration and to minorities.

Similarly, when she lauds Bush's "Compassionate Conservativism", she does not understand, or more likely refuses to understand that this is a dog whistle to the religious right, referring to Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion, which says that "true compassion" is not giving charity, because, "Compassion means tough love in which those who give must demand self-help from those who receive," which means let "black babies starve".

The religious Evangelical does not begin with Roe v. Wade and abortion, bur rather with Green v. Connally, which revoked the tax exempt status of discriminatory private religious schools.

So we can run a poll on religious affiliation vs. candidate support, and you can see that Obama is polling lower than either Kerry in 2004 or Gore in 2000. (h/t Talkleft on the poll)

Barack Obama has no chance of picking up white right wing Evangelical voters, and the votes he picks up from black Evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics are because the Republican party is implacably hostile to them.

Amy Sullivan is a one trick pony, but her pony is a dog, and I'll call her my "Wanker of the Day".

2008 Deficit Hits Record

The official number is $482 billion, but with the slowing economy, I expect it to pass ½ trillion.

Robert Novak Reported to Have Brain Tumor

Absent any evidence that this is some sort of attempt to avoid criminal or civil liability on his hit and run, I will take this report at face value.

Best wishes to his family.

Wearing Out the Batteries on "Straight Talk"

Well, it's starting to look like NBC has found limits to their man-crush on John McCain (see also here), and are starting to actually report on what he says, and what it means.

Additionally, it appears that McCain may be losing Chuck Hagel on his scurrilous attack ads.

I had thought that there were no limits to the amount of excuses that the beltway kule kidz would supply for McCain, but it appears that I was wrong, at least for ABC (earlier posts) and MSNBC.

The WaPo, still appears to be alibiing with the best of them though.

Economics Update

The dollar is down relative to the Euro, because the further deterioration in the credit markets makes Fed rate hikes unlikely, though the US dollar has strengthened against the Canadian dollar, because oil has been down so much recently, which means that the Canadian trade surplus to the US, they are the US's largest external oil supplier.

It looks to me like the financial markets are continuing their slow motion car wreck.

Banks are tightening business loans and commercial paper, decreasing total lending by 3%, and requiring much higher interest rates to account for the uncertainty.

As to what foreign investors are doing, I can't speak for all of them, but Russia has cut investment in Fannie and Freddie by 50%, and the international monetary fund sees no light at the end of the tunnel on the housing crash.

The result is fairly straightforward, much tighter money, particularly for entities like Lehman, which has seen its borrowing costs skyrocket. They are now 7.7%, 6 months ago they were 5.2% for a 5 year bond.

This is a 4.2% premium US Treasury notes, which is about double the number in early January.

In energy, oil is up about $1/bbl today, largely on Iran concerns, but retail gasoline prices have continued to fall.

Department of Justice Broke Law on Hiring

Representatives of Bush and His Evil Minions at the Justice Department routinely broke the law in the hiring of career lawyers.

In particular Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson aggressively selected on the basis of partisan affiliation.

Bush's butt boy at the DoJ, Michael Mukasey, released a statement that he is, "disturbed" by these developments, but I see no suggestion of actual prosecution.

There can be no greater threat to the nation than when political partisanship is used to corrupt the administration of justice.

Lawrence Summers Calls for Nationalization of GSEs

He is suggesting that if the GSEs do actually need a bailout, that the government should operate them for some period of years:
We need the GSEs to be highly active in support of the housing market and financial system in the months ahead. If authorities can see a path to their being able to play such a role in a framework where their borrowing is based on confidence in their financial position, rather than primarily on federal guarantees, then this is obviously the preferred alternative. But after what we have seen, such a judgment cannot be based on the GSEs' own claims, the understandable desire of government officials to maintain confidence and attract private capital, or the fact that the GSEs are able to borrow -- which only reflects the strength of federally provided credit assurances.

If this preferred alternative is, as I fear, not realistic given the state of GSE finances, the government should use its new receivership power to protect taxpayers and the financial system. In the process, payments to stockholders, holders of preferred stock and probably subordinated debtholders would be wiped out, conserving cash for the benefit of taxpayers. The GSEs' borrowing costs would fall considerably, helping prospective homeowners.

In this scenario, the government would operate the GSEs as public corporations for several years. They would then be in a position to extend credit where appropriate to support resolution of the housing crisis. Once the crisis has passed, the federal government would divide their functions into government and private components, the latter of which would be sold off in multiple pieces. The proceeds could be used to fund the low-income housing support activity that was previously mandated to the GSEs.
It should be noted that Fannie Mae was a federal agency from the late 1930s to the late 1960s.

Weakening New Labour May See Return of Old Labour

It looks like following a Labour drubbing in Glasgow, Gordon Brown's hometown, we are starting to see labor return to policies that benefit working folk, at least to the degree that they are absolutely forced to do so.

Labor has agreed to lower the age for the full minimum wage to 21. Previously £5.52 had applied to workers over 22, with those from 18-21 getting £4.60, and those from 16-18 getting £3.40.

Additionally, Brown acceded to demands for increased parental leave and to limit private contractors in the NHS.

It appears that in addition to the pasting taken in the Glasgow election, Labor's campaign donations have shrunk, and so the party is more dependent on affiliation fees.

I sincerely hope that this is a death knell for the "third way" corporate suckups.

What the F&^% is Wrong With the Obama Veep Team?!?!

Ann Veneman??? They are floating the name of Ann Veneman as a name under consideration?

She's a Republican, she prevented farmers from testing their cows for Mad Cow disease, and she is a former member of the Bush administration.

These folks want a former Bushie as Vice President?

Obama needs to get whoever is leaking this to STFU, and to get whoever suggested this to STFU too.

BTW, it turns out that The Nation is all over this, and goes into some more detail, calling Veneman "uniquely awful":
  • Her political strength is in California, which is redundant.
  • The rural and farmer communities distrust her, and in fact booed her when she visited "fly over" country.
  • Her background is as a vociferously absolutist supporter of free trade deals.
  • Her tenure as Ag Secretary was, "strictly pro-agribusiness, pro-pesticide company, pro-pharmaceutical."
  • Is a big supporter of Frankenfoods.
Additionally, I think that some of Obama's staff miss the bigger point: While his current supporters will ALL vote for him, this is the sort of choice that would demoralize them.

Note that the original source is Politico, and so is a bit suspect though.

Is the Media Beginning to Explore the Hypocrisy That is John McCain?

John McCain has argued that Barack Obama has not attended enough hearings on Afghanistan. Well, ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf burnt a very small amount of shoe leather, and determined that McCain has attended no hearing on at all on Afghanistan in the past two years, though McCain is apparently asking for a get out of jail free card on this because, "McCain's years of previous foreign policy experience make up for his recent lack of attendance at hearing."

It's amazing that the McCain loving press is actually mentioning that he's criticizing Obama for things he's done worse.

27 July 2008

Not a Bug, a Feature

It turns out that the creation of Medicare Part D by the Republican congress has resulted in a 30% increase in payments for drugs as compared to Medicaid, as was previously done.

Let's see:
  • Hastening the financial collapse of a hated by Republicans, but very popular government program, medicare?
Check.
  • Getting money to big pharma which donates to the 'Phants?
Check.

Economics Update

Wekk, retail gasoline has finally dropped below $4.00 per gallon, the first time in almost two months, oil moved very little, depending on grade, somewhere between ±$0.15/bbl.

Meanwhile, Nouriel Roubini is arguing that foreign central banks and sovereign wealth funds are increasingly less willing to take huge losses in order to bail the USA's financial system out, and that this will lead to a systemic collapse, with, "ensuing fall of the U.S. will make this fire sale of the best U.S. private asset a true bargain basement deal: with the dollar price of these assets now imploding and with the U.S. dollar now in free fall non-residents will be able to buy most of U.S. Inc. for the cheapest bargain."

One final note, and some information that shocked me, is the amount which short sales decreased in financial stocks as a result of the new SEC rules banning "naked" short selling: 98%.

S3 Matching Technologies is reporting that short sales in the newly regulated stocks fell by a factor of 50, which is far more than I would have expected.

Even if some of the decline in short sales was investors who were spooked by the new rules, it's clear that the overwhelming number of short sellers are engaging in "naked" shorting.

Zimbabwe Update

Both the European Union and the United States have expanded sanctions against Zimbabwe

As to the negotiations that have been going on for a few days, we have the ZANU-PF saying that the results of the runoff are 'Non-Negotiable', but that could be put down to normal gamesmanship in any negotiation.

As to what will happen in the negotiations, the The Grauniad* and the Times of London have two diametrically opposed views of what is happening next, with the Guardian suggesting that the talks are a ploy, and that Mugabe is using them for time to prepare for even more extreme violence against the opposition, and the Times of London suggesting that South Africa is insisting that Robert Mugabe and his allies to surrender real power in Zimbabwe.

I think that the Times is wrong for a number of reasons. First, as the Guardian notes, this sort of negotiation has happened before, in the late 1980s with Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU party, with no real power devolving to ZAPU, and second because it would be completely out of character for Thabo Mbeki to insist that Robert Mugabe do anything.

I expect it to get much worse before it gets better.

*According to the Wiki, The Guardian, formerly the Manchester Guardian in the UK. It's nicknamed the Grauniad because of its penchant for typographical errors, "The nickname The Grauniad for the paper originated with the satirical magazine Private Eye. It came about because of its reputation for frequent and sometimes unintentionally amusing typographical errors, hence the popular myth that the paper once misspelled its own name on the page one masthead as The Gaurdian, though many recall the more inventive The Grauniad."

Whatever the Hell is Going on with John Edwards

I've Google Newsed it, and I'm still unsure as to what the straight dope on this is.

Obviously, whether the allegations of an affair are true or false, it's depressing in either case.

Thabo Mbeki Can Kiss My Shiny Metal Ass

Well, it appears that Thabo Mbeki, the friend of brutal genocidal rulers everywhere, is "concerned" about the possibility of crimes against humanity indictments against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, because it might make negotiations more difficult.

Once again, we see that there is no tyrant, no mater how homicidal, that Mbeki does not feel compelled to embrace.

He spent years claiming that HIV does not cause AIDS, and when public pressure required a reversal on that, he decided to create his own, "save the tyrants," charity.

Chrysler Gets Hammered by Leased SUV Returns, Gets Out of Leasing

It turns out that they are getting hammered as people return fuel hungry SUVs at the end of their lease, and no one wants to buy them.

Leasing used to be a major money supply for the auto makers, and now Chrysler is getting out effective August 1.

And the Noose Tightens Around Kurt Weldon

You may recall that I wrote about lobbyist friend of former Congressman Curt Weldon Cecelia Grimes, who dumped her Blackberry in the trash at a at an Arbys.

Well, now she has pled guilty on destruction of evidence, and faces as much as 20 years in the slam.

The fact that she has pled out implies some sort of deal, and I think that Kurt, who currently spends his days trying to cut shady deals on Russian military equipment, is going down.

Epic Fail: Condoleeza Edition

Condoleeza Rice, once more attempting to make the world look like it did before the USSR collapsed, has failed again, this time in attempting to form a NATO style security union.

In 1992, she suggested that Boris Yeltsin not be accorded the formalities of a head of state, because she thought that the USSR was coming back "real soon now", and since then, she has done her level best to recreate a Soviet style menace out of Russia.

I imagine it's because her so called area of expertise (see the Yeltsin example above), the USSR, has gone away, and so she is trying to recreate academic relevance.

Don't worry dear, you sucked at being a Sovietologist too.

Cost of 'Stealth' Housing Bailout: $1.43 Trillion

Steve Liesman at CNBC Runs the numbers on the housing bailout to this point:

Federal Reserve $446 B Term Auction Facilities, $150 B, Bear $29 B, $14 B Discount Window to Banks, Repurchase Agreements $88 B, Swap Lines to Euro banks $65B, Treasuries lent out for liquidity boost $100 B
Federal Home Loan Bank $274 B Advances to member banks
Fannie and Freddie $621 B
FHA $90 B Added since October
Total $1431 B

Ouch.

Venn Diagram of Bush High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Slate has a good analysis of the various serious crimes of Bush and His Evil Minions.

Note that this is just those crimes where the action at its core is wrong and official in nature, torture, illegal surveillance, illegal political hirign, and illegal political firings.

They even have an interactive Venn diagram (what's below is just an image) of the whole sordid mess.

Surprisingly enough Abu Gonzalez is at the center of it all.

Senate Passes Housing Bill

It already passed the house, so it will go to Bush, who says that he will sign it.

My guess on the total effect, very little, since there is no mechanism to encourage lenders to actually cut a deal.

The single thing that would help the most, and it would cost the government nothing would be to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages for primary residences, as they can for investment and vacation property.

Maybe after January 21.

USAF Looking at Non-Pilot UAV Operators

At this level of development, allowing non-pilot technicians to fly drones is a good idea.

Of course, the other services are already doing this, and the former head of the UAV program had his blue clad ass canned over not supplying enough coverage, which probably has a lot to do with it.

DDG-1000 Procurement Halted at 2 Ships

This is a good move, the ships are too big and too expensive, costing at least 2½ times that of the Arleigh Burkes that they are to replace.

Susan Collins, the Senator from Bath Iron Works Maine, one of the two shipyards constructing the Zumwalt's, appears to be resigned to the termination of the program, though she wants more Burkes to be constructed, which are also made at BIW, which indicates that Congress won't ram more DDG-1000s this down the Navy's throat.

I would expect to see some investigation on integrating some of the DDG 1000 specific systems into the Burkes, specifically, the SPY-3 radar and the 155mm Advanced Gun System.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Gary Roughead, has been highly critical of the program since his appointment in September, 2007, and sent a letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy saying that the DDG-1000 would not be cheaper to opperate than the DDG-51 Burkes.

Rolls Royce Looking at Trades Between Time on Wing and Fuel Consumption

RR is starting to look at the future of air transport propulsion, and it has everything on the table right now, including increasing maintenance to reduce fuel burn, which is as close to heresy as you can find in commercial aviation.

Time on wing has been king for a very long time. It's one of the things that allowed early jet liners to beat their piston, and to a lesser degree turboprop (gearbox maintenance), competitors: that the could stay in service, and flying for a very long time.

It's an interesting testament to the changes wrought by the increasing oil price spike, and it convinces me that open-rotor propulsion will make it to commercial use this time around.

Euros Look to Man Rate ATV-ARV by 2020

They intend to make the automated cargo vehicle a manned space capsule in the next 12 years.

The ESA is already working on the Advanced Return Vehicle (ARV), which add a 1.5 tonne return capability to the existing Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), and the manned vehicle would be similar to the ARV, though it would likely have a smaller propulsion section, as it would not be expected to boost the space station orbit.

AFRL Develops Vampire UAV

the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has contracted with Defense Research Associates to create an electrically powered micro-UAVv that recharges using magnetic induction while sitting on a power line. (Paid Subscription Required)

It weigh 6 lbs, and has a wingspan of 4 feet.

26 July 2008

Two More US Banks Seized by FDIC

The FDIC and the Comptroller of the Currency seized First National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank NA of California, and sold them to Mutual of Omaha.

There have been 7 banks closed in just under the first 7 months of the year, but three of those were seized in the last two weeks.

I expect bank failures for 2008 to exceed 30.

Real Snail Mail

Really. Email that is taken in, carried by a snail using an RFID Chip, and a

To paraphrase Styx, someone has "too much time on their hands."

Preemptive Nuclear War is Now Off the Table

For a while, at least.

The plan called CONPLAN 8022, was withdrawn by U.S. Strategic Command.

My guess is that this is the lame duck effect yet again, thank God.

Another Day, Another Defense Procurement Clusterf$#@

Lockheed and the C-5M, up 108% from last year.

We gotta frog march some of these execs out of their offices in hand cuffs.

Something Else Over Budget on the JSF

The engine, or more specifically, the Pratt & Whitney F-135, to the tune of at least $850 million.

I'm not sure if this is an excuse to kill the alternate GE/RR F-136, or to keep funding it to keep them honest.

Seriously, the Indian Defense Establishment is the Most Fracked Up Military-Industrial Complex on the Face of the Earth

I just saw this press release from the Indian government about the Nag anti-tank missile.

It's supposedly a "third generation anti-tank missile", and it's supposed to undergo final trials in the next week or so, but the missile has been 22 years in development.

22 years? For an anti-tank missile?

That is completely whack, and once again the initials DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization), a government agency and defense contractor, which figures prominently in this absurdity.

Perhaps, shuttering the organization, bulldozing the buildings, burning the rubble, encapsulating the ashes in concrete, and starting afresh in establishing an indigenous defense establishment would help, because, based on the performance that I've seen, this is the most screwed up defense procurement establishment in the world.

EADS Looks for U.S. A400M Partner in Push for Pentagon Sales

The weak dollar, which has increasingly made US labor attractive to the Europeans may be a contributing factor, but the EADS' discussions with Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed-Martin for final assembly (Paid Subscription Required) are really all about getting access to the US military market.

Airbus Says A320 W/GTF Could Be Ready in 30 Months

They are saying that it would take two and half years to integrate P&W's geared turbofan into the A320.

The end date would depend on when they started, and at this point, a stumbling block would be that P&W is not releasing maintenance costs specifics.

When one considers the fact that what killed Thielert was the frequency of maintenance, and that the primary concern over the GTF is maintenance, so I would not expect any effort to integrate the engine until Pratt & Whitney either gives some guarantees, or there is some data on the wing in commercial service.

25 July 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

It's been a while:







Epic Fail

So, WaPo scribe Krissah Williams Thompson is talking with some young Republicans at a bar, that she describes as, "A who's who of young conservatives," and they are bumming.

Let's see, we have:
  • The 20-something who helped steer Fred Thompson's Internet operation.
  • The young woman who put Mitt Romney's Web site on the map.
  • A 24-year-old staffer for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future.
  • Editor in chief of the Heritage Foundation's Web site.
  • A full time blogger at Townhall.com.
Ummmm....I thought that conservatives were supposed to feel crappy when they failed. That they objected to efforts to raise self esteem absent of accomplishment.

When you are failures, you are supposed to feel bad.

Fitch Now Predicting ANOTHER 25% Drop in House Prices

This was a part of their updating their ResiLogic mortgage loss model, which is used to rate residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), and they now believe that in constant dollar terms, residential real estate will fall 25% over the next 5 years.

Peak to trough, local housing bubbles bursting are typically 5 years, but this is far more widespread, and the bubble is far frothier.

I think that they are too optimistic. They ignore the size of the bubble, the national nature of the bubble, and the fact that unsustainably low interests created the bubble.

I agree with Rich Toscano's assessment he did two years ago, which was far grimmer, (a 3-parter, see here, here, and here), though it should be noted that it's primarily about San Diego, one of the frothier markets before the bubble burst.








What a Bunch of F&%$ing Whiners

Yes, we are now seeing hand wringing from the pampered self-centered Washington press corps.

The example given is when Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee write a piss-poor article on polling about Obama, Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race, and he's offended, when the Obama campaign launches a point by point rebuttal that makes him look like a complete pratt.

If you don't want to look like a pratt, stop being one.

The press needs to get over itself.

Economics Update

It sounds like good news, durable goods orders went higher in June, but it was almost entirely due to defense related purchases.

Real estate is pretty much bad news too, with 2nd quarter foreclosures up 120% year over year, and new home sales down, though not as crappy as expected.

Meanwhile, the National Australia Bank is writing down 90% of its mortgage backed securities, which is a realistic, if somewhat alarming valuation of these instruments.

In the world of retail, we have Rumors that Boscov's is near collapse. They're local, so maybe there will be some deals as a result.

More generally, oil and retail gasoline are down, and the dollar is mixed against world currencies.

New Stock Market Terms

Courtesy of WallStreetJackass:
CEO --Chief Embezzlement Officer.
CFO-- Corporate Fraud Officer.
BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.
....
Read the rest at the site...It's a hoot.

The Next Thing to Kill You: Granite Countertops

Well, it looks like someone has finally noticed that granite actually contains small quantities of Uranium which decay into Radon gas.

Ummm...I've know that for years, but I went to school in New England, where granite is a major source of Radon.

Had a discussion with Harry Stubbs, pen name Hal Clement, where he said that his being in a trench about a mile from a nuclear blast in the 1950s exposed him to less radiation than hanging in his basement..He ran the numbers for us, actually.

The amount of radiation is small, but it might effect resale value, so if you are getting the counters installed, you might want to have a technician measure the radiation level before installation.

Finally

The State Department is increasing the number of visas available to Iraqi workers who are not at risk of life and limb.

This has been a problem for over 5 years, and they are finally addressing it.

My guess is that someone ran the numbers, and determined that enough of them had fled to other countries, or had been killed, that they would not have too much demand.

Conflicting Claims on Russian Bombers in Cuba

Well we have Izvestia claiming that Russian bomber crews were surveying sites in Cuba for suitability, and we have a Russian defense ministry spokesman denying the reports.

My guess would be that there are no plans, but someone in the Russian establishment wants there to be some.

More Bad IP Legislation

Well, it appears that Senator Patrick Leahy has merged two draconian IP bills to create a bill that combines the worst of both.

I think that the problem is two fold:
  • The large IP driven businesses know that their business model exists only because of government support, so they spend lavishly.
  • That IP enforcement has been defined as ownership, when it is merely an exclusive license granted for the benefit of society.
So, we now have
  • Doubling of penalties
  • The authorization of federal prosecutors to use civil suits, where the burden of evidence is 50%+1
  • Confiscation of any property tangentially involved, like computers and houses.
  • The creation of an IP "Czar", which would necessarily lead to an expansive and aggressive policy towards pursuing the law, as it is how the "Czar's" office would justify its existence.
Bad law, bad policy, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the reasons behind copyright and patent protections.

House Races Shifting Democratic

CQ politics 14 districts have shifted in a Democratic direction. Good stuff, though I could deal without Melissa Bean.

DADT on the Block

It looks like the worm is finally turning on the antedeluvian Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the US Military,with Congress looking at changing the law.

Of course, Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a right wing group, claims that it will drive away too many allegedly straight soldiers, but honestly this is not likely to be the case, and as the people most likely to leave are those who are attempting to make the US military an explicitly Evangelical Christian institution, it's a net win for everyone.

We get needed skilled soldiers, and the religious whack-jobs who are creating a religiously hostile institution in contravention of good military order.

Every Major Senate Democratic Challenger Announces Support for Network Neutrality

Matt Stoller Reports that every major Senate Democratic challenger supports network neutrality:

CandidateStateContributions fromTelecom/CablePosition
AllenME$2500Favors
BegichAK$0Favors
FrankenMN$62,650Favors
HaganNC$0Favors
KleebNE$0Favors
LaRoccoID$4,600Favors
LunsfordKY$0Favors
MerkleyOR$0Favors
MusgroveMS (B)$0Favors
NoriegaTX$0Favors
RiceOK$0Favors
ShaheenNH$0Favors
SlatteryKS$2,800Favors
UdallCO$54,450Favors
UdallNM$0Favors
WarnerVA$45,050Favors

Cool.

And the Always Reliably Clueless Michelle Malkin Strikes Again

(No link to her, not ever)

It appears that Michelle Malkin is screaming * about the fund raising success of a challenger to John Murtha for congress, one William Russell.

The guy hasn't campaigned, but he's raised nearly $1 million, so Michelle Malkin is jumping around like a cheerleader with cerebral palsey.

The kicker is that this money has come from a corrupt Republican direct mail fund raising outfit called BMW direct, which has a history of raising lots of money for long shot candidates, and then eating up pretty much all of the money raised through their fees, and for fees from consultants close to the firm:
In the most recent quarter Russell raised $669,534, almost all from out-of-state donors who presumably are on BMW Direct's list of self-styled conservatives with a good track record of responding to direct-mail fundraising.

At the same time, he spent $442,990, almost all of it on expenses related to the direct mail effort and paid to BMW Direct and its affiliates (some of which share the same downtown Washington office).

The only expenses that appear to be spent on an actual campaign totaled about $20,000 for Web site design, a low-budget video and a campaign consultant based in Pennsylvania rather than Washington.

He reports having $269,953 in cash on hand. But he also reports debts totaling $242,521 -- almost all for direct mail expenses to BMW Direct and its vendors.

So that leaves him only about $27,431 ahead -- not much for a guy who's raised a total of nearly $1 million this election cycle.
Of course, if Ms. Malkin really thought about what would benefit the Republican party, though she's not paid to think, she would realize that folks like BMW direct are a cancer on her party, and direct some of her venom against them.

*Yes, I know, she's always screaming.
Actually she does "jumping around like a cheerleader with cerebral palsey" bit a lot. Have you seen the video of her in a cheerleader outfit cheering "Defeatocrats"?
As to why she has a cheerleading outfit when it's clear that she was never a cheerleader, that's between her and Jesse Malkin, her husband, and I really don't want to know the details.

1000 Words on the Presidential Election


Obama in Germany


McCain in (I think) Ohio

Just in Case You are Wondering How Serious Congress is About Corruption, We Have an Answer


That is clear from the appointments made to the so-called ethics review board in the House of Representatives, where Nancy Pelosi has made Porter Goss co-chairman of the board.

If you recall, Goss was forced to resign from the CIA when a hooker/lobbyist scandal tied into the Randall "Duke" Cunningham affair hit the news, and tied him to those involved.

Un-fracking-believable.