31 October 2008

Studs Terkel Dead

He was 96.

Well, Natalie's Back

She, along with most of the rest of her class at Franklin Middle School, went on a class trip to a camp at North Bay on Monday, a camp located at the very north of the Chesapeake bay, and she came home today.

It was a science field trip, she studied the econolgy, turtles, stuff like that.

It seems to have calmed her down a bit...for a while at least.

Mithras is Dead Wrong

The proprietor of Tales of the Reconstruction is making fun of Sarah Palin, after she says something so stupid that you hope someone cuts her meat for her.

I'm cool with that, but then s/he says this, "She's George W. Bush without the intellect. God, I hope this woman is a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in four years.

No....What's more, F$#@ no. I have occasinally quoted what my my father said in 1968, which was something like, "Those stupid bastards, they've nominated Nixon, there is no way that we can lose now."

Never, EVER wish a bad candidate on the public. They might just win.

On the other hand, you should clikc on the link and read the blog post. Sarah Palin is very, VERY, stupid, and it's fun to laugh at her.

The USAF's Broken Procurement Program, and Remedies for This

The USAF is looking to cut more than 250 fighters from its fleet, in order to make budget space for the increasingly expensive F-35.

The problem is that, once again, the aircraft are too damn expensive. More is the enemy of "good enough".

In the meantime,
David Axe points to a book which proposes a solution, which suggests smaller and lighter aircraft, America’s Defense Meltdown.

They propose two aircraft:
  • A 9 ton class air-to-air fighter with a 16 ton class engine with a, "cutting edge, all-passive with 360-degree infrared and radar warning gear" that is supposed to be cheaper than an F-16.
I do not find this one particularly realistic. Whenever you insert the phrase "cutting edge" in a phrase, you never get low cost.

The other one is more interesting:
  • A higher performance aircraft to replace the A-10.
Given that the rate of fire of the A-10 of the GAU-8 cannon has been reduced by about 1/2, because the accuracy requires further rounds, simply by reducing the size and weight of the cannon, and the ammunition loadout, along with using a more modern engine with a higher thrust to weight ratio, you easily get to a thrust to weight ratio at combat weights that approaches unity. With advances in things like Aluminum alloys and ceramic armor, performance could be further improved.

The problem is that while the Army would love such an aircraft, the USAF hates it, and has been trying to kill the A-10 since sometime around 1981, and so is completely uninterested in developing a successor.

$6 Billion on Mercs...so Far

Nathan Hodge uncovers this little bit of chocalatey goodness from the most recent report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

And that's just the stuff that the SIGIR found.

What's more the report says that the numbers should go up as the troops pull out, because, "requirements for private security services for DoS [Department of State] and USAID would likely increase to compensate for support previously provided by the military."

Lovely. The US needs to sign onto the anti-mercenary treaty, and shut down this entire industry.

30 October 2008

For the record: Strippers don't really like you either.

It's he last line of the Nitpicker's commentary on the Maeve Reston disgraceful article, which sounded like musings on the end of a marriage about the relationship between the press and John Sidney McCain III.

It was headlined, "McCain was frank, garrulous and accessible -- and then he wasn't," and I'm not sure who should be fired for it, Ms. Reston, or her editor.

Here is a snippet:
But I had come to respect McCain's frankness and his willingness to admit he didn't always have an answer. Watching the question morph into an embarrassing "gotcha moment" for cable television, my stomach churned and my cheeks grew hot.
It reads like a an effort by a 13 year old girl to write in the vein of the really bad romance novels that she reads.

Nitpicker wrote a great essay on this, but the last line should have been the headline, so I'm doing it here. This bit at the end says it all:
It's high time for reporters to realize candidates aren't supposed to be their friends and, I would argue, being buddies with the people you cover would seem to me at least unprofessional, if not explicitly unethical. Obama seems to know this and I'd be willing to bet McCain knows it, too. I'm certain he's not sitting around moaning about his lost friends in the press corps. I would even guess that it's likely John McCain only tolerated having them so close and kissing their asses because it garnered him "swooning" coverage for a decade.

For the record: Strippers don't really like you either.
(emphasis mine)

Everyone on the internet seems to be a better writer than I am.

They also seem much less bald.

Wow!

Pictured: The Cave of Crystals discovered 1,000ft below a Mexican desert.


Just wow.

I Don't Think that the Pentagon Has Enough Bullets

More on Hank Paulson's bailing out my peeps program:
The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride--a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return.
Just lovely.

Can we throw him in jail, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Blame the NGOs for the Dead

Well, right now, there is something very close to a full blown war in the Congo going on, and the proximate cause is the presence of Hutu militias, largely led by the same men who directed the Rwandan Genocide, which is the Causus Belli for Gen. Laurent Nkunda, and his militia.

This problem has two sources, the original Rwandan Genocide, and the actions of NGOs like Oxfam, the World Food Program, CARE, the International Rescue Committee, Caritas Internalis, etc.

They NGOs provided food and support to camps on an indefinite basis, even when it was clear that they were run internally as military bases, so long as no one wore a uniform or carried a gun when in line for food.

While it was understandable in the context of the immediate crisis, it is less so on a continuing basis, particularly when it was clear that the militias in the camp were preventing refugees from returning home.

In so doing they took the tragedy of the Rwandan Genocide, and multiplied it by many times, creating death and warfare across Zaire, later the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As callous as it sounds, if they had had a firm end date in the 6 month range after the refugee flow, everyone but the perpetrators of the Genocide would have benefited, but that's not the organizational imperative of the NGOs.

It was short sighted, and destructive, just as was their signing off on supporting Serbian concentration camps in Kosovo before the NATO invasion, but without refugees, these organizations have no purpose.

Think about that the next time you are contacted for a donation.

AIG's Finances Beginning to Raise Serious Questions

Independent analysts are smelling something fishy:
American International Group is rapidly running through $123 billion in emergency lending provided by the U.S. Federal Reserve, raising questions about how a company claiming to be solvent in September could have developed such a big hole by October. Some analysts say at least part of the shortfall must have been there all along, hidden by irregular accounting.
Do I have to quote Inspector Renault from Casablanca?

They've already blown through $90 billion of their $123 billion loan, and there simply are not enough posh retreats in the world to generate a burn rate that fast.

It's less than reassuring that they still haven't said where that money has gone.

There are stories of conflicts within the insurance giant, and people who gave warnings being shunted to the side.

Expect more of this from the Hank Paulson, "Bail out my Buddies" plan.

Where The Frack Do They Store Their Time Machine?

I give you, Roy the plumber.



Published in 1993.

Click for full size.

Like a Cochroach, He's Back

Achmed Chalabi.

Economics Update

First news is a question, can we please admit that we are in a recession? Please?

The economy contracted at an 0.3% annual rate last quarter, with a a 6.4% rate decline on purchases of non-durable goods, and a 3.1% rate decline on consumer spending.

This is not just a "recession". This is a big MoFo.

There are predictions of a rate approaching 5% in the 4th quarter.

In any case, credit remains tight, though there appears to be some loosening, see here and here.

We are also seeing the first growth in commercial paper since the collapse of Lehman.

However, we also just saw 30 year mortgage rates spiked by 40 basis points, even though the Fed cut rates.

This ain't over, and the Japanese have released details on a ¥ 5 trillion stimulus package, and the Germans have done so with a €30 billion stimulus package.

Still, the sounds of an oncoming train continue to drive oil prices down.

The dollar and Yen are both lower too.

Argentine Ripples from Argentina

With the nationalization of Argentine pension funds, it looks like it's bad news for the Brazilian stock market, because the government will be moving investments into Argentina.

Not unsurprising.

Bumpy ride ahead.

Benedict May Freeze Pius XII Cannonization

We have a report that Benedict implied in an informal chat with Rabbi David Rosen.

Seeing as how there is a lot of dispute about Pius XII and what he did, and did not do regarding the Holocaust, and the Vatican has refused to released records, this is a refreshing change.

That being said, this is probably more about John Paul II than it is about Pius XII.

It appears (from the Wiki) that somewhere around half of all saints ever made were made by JPII, and my guess is that Benedict is looking at shutting down the pipeline that was left him, because he finds it excessive.

NSA Ignores Congress, Classifies Wiretap Report

This is such a surprise:
When Congress passed a landmark electronic-spying bill last summer, the measure included a key provision that ordered the inspectors general of U.S. intelligence agencies to produce the first-ever public report on President Bush's warrantless-surveillance program.

The report isn't due until next July—long after Bush leaves office. But when the inspectors general recently submitted their first "interim" report to Congress under the measure, it wasn't made public. Instead, the brief document, written by CIA inspector general John Helgerson, was marked classified—a move that has drawn a stiff protest from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes.

.....
Since when do Bush and His Evil Minions ever feel the need to obey the law?

Seriously, Do Chriso-Fascists even Read the Bible?

The grand high priestess of snark, Wonkette, notes that a Christian group has called for prayer to repair the broken financial system.

While the obvious rejoinder would be something about chasing money lenders out of the temple, that's not my holy book, but Christo-Fascist (she says it's because of gay marriage) nutcase Cindy Jacobs has done me the favor of allowing me to go seriously Old Testament* on these folks:

For these and other reasons Cindy is calling for a Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. They are calling for prayer for the stock markets, banks, and financial institutions of the world on the date the stock market crashed in 1929. They are meeting at the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, and its 12 principal branches around the US that day.

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion’s Market,' or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said. “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”
(emphasis mine)

Umm...Folks, bull, as in adult male cow, as in it was once a CALF, and Bronze is a GOLD colored alloy.....Gold....Calf....does that ring a bell?

On a more amusing note, that photograph really does look like the one from The Ten Commandments

*Normally, I do not use the term, "Old Testament", I use the term Tanakh, because "Old Testament" implies that there is a "New Testament" out there, which is somehow divinely connected, and I do not accept the divinity of the Christian bible. In this case, however, the phrase, "Going seriously Tanach on these folks," loses something in the translation.

The Republican Circular Firing Squad is Forming

It looks like there is some serious finger pointing going on.

I gotta make myself up a sh%$load of popcorn.

Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe

That is the name for Porsche's new electronic automatic transmission on its 911.

You gotta love the German language.

Quote of the Day

It's been on the radio, and I found a link through "the google":

"Lately, he’s called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. I don't know what's next. By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

-- BarackObama
Heh.

Why David Frum is Crapping his Pants

So, David Frum just wrote an article in the Washington Post throwing John McCain's presidential bid overboard, suggesting that all Republican Party efforts should be directed towards the Congress, particularly the Senate, so as to prevent a filibuster proof majority.

He notes, correctly, that the RNC is the only place where the 'Phants are raising good money, and that they are wasting it on his doomed campaign.

He's concerned about how a "conservative free" management of the financial meltdown will be handled, and he wrings his hands over the, "fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats," by which he means that their refrain is, "Thank you sir, can I have another."

But then, he gets to the bit where he actually really gives a damn:
Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named "fairness doctrine"; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not.
(emphasis mine)

Between punditry on fox, and his think-tank gigs, he is afraid that he will actually have to work for a living.

I guess that trumps ideology for him.

I incorporated a 501(c)3 tax exempt org, it was, and is, a completely bogus registration, though it is technically legal and in accordance with all laws and regulations. (no names here, I don't want do give them grief*) It puts on SF conventions, and running a SF convention should not get tax exempt status, with deductible contributions (In truth, it went 501(c)3 for the cheap mailing rates anyway).

Neither should the right wing pundit full employment welfare programs, like the AEI, where David Frum works. They are playthings of rich people who never had to work for their money, and want to manipulate public policy for their benefit.

They are not charities, they are lobbying organizations.

*And I don't want to give them anything else. Any contact between me and this organization is very bad for me, which I suppose is more of a reflection on me than it is on them.

Photographs: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot



This is an odd election year, that's for sure.

Happy Rioting, Philadelphia

With the Phillies winning the series after a 28 year drought, I'm expecting rioting and vandalism.

After all, it is Philadelphia, and the fans there have a reputation to live down to.

[updated]
I'm very disappointed...A few Drunk and Disorderly arrests, a couple of guys busted for jumping on car roofs....Seriously, whatever happened to Philadelphia sports fans?

29 October 2008

The Best Reason to Vote Ever

Because it's the only legal way to cancel out your neighbors:

Palin Announces Candadacy for 2012

Woah, she is one scary....I'm at a loss for a politically correct metaphor.

Economics Update

Well, the Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate by 50 basis points (½%) as expected.

the Bank of China cut its rates too, for the 34d time in 6 weeks.

In response, the dollar dropped the most since 1998, (this article says since 1985) which is what is supposed to happen when you cut rates, people go elsewhere looking for higher rates of return.

Unfortunately, driving down the dollar is probably all it did. Below a certain level, the difference between the rate set and 0% (giving money away) becomes pretty immaterial, and I think that we are pretty close on this. That's what my oft repeated phrase, "pushing on a string" means.

I would also note that the falling dollar pushed oil prices higher, which I'll qualify, so as not to invoke the wrath of Dean Baker, since oil is dollar denominated, a falling dollar does not do anything directly, but it does effect the positions taken by traders in the oil futures market.

In any case, the monoliner insurers are back in the news, with Ambac wanting a capital infusion from the government, but MBIA saying that the money should instead go to assets that they insure. New York State Insurance Commissioner Eric Dinallo agrees with Ambac.

I think that MBIA's proposal is a bigger bailout, since it means that they have less to pay on the sh^%pile without giving an ownership stake to the feds.

In any case, it looks like the Treasury and the FDIC are working to do MBIA's bidding, with more signs of plans to buy bad mortgages.

BTW, here is a story to follow, the SEC is looking at tightening rules on credit rating agencies. The story I linked to has 2 'graphs, but when the details start coming out, this will be important.

The systemic failure of the ratings agencies is at the core of much of this problem.

Speaking of failures, the Treasury just bought $125 billion in stock in the big boys:
The report showed that the payments included $25 billion each to Citigroup Inc. (C, Fortune 500), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM, Fortune 500) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC, Fortune 500) Bank of America Corp. (BAC, Fortune 500) received $15 billion andMerrill Lynch & Co. (MER, Fortune 500), which is being acquired by Bank of America, got $10 billion. Bank of New York Mellon (BK, Fortune 500) received $3 billion and State Street Corp. (STT, Fortune 500) of Boston got $2 billion.
Really about the only good news that I've heard today is New York GA Andrew Cuomo getting medieval on senior bank management:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who negotiated executive payment clawbacks by American International Group Inc (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) as it received a taxpayer bailout, warned nine banks receiving government money on Wednesday that using the funds for bonus payments may be illegal under state law.

....

"Specifically, corporate expenditures and payments, made in the absence of fair consideration of undercapitalized firms, may well violate NY Debtor and Creditor Law 274, which deems such payments illegal fraudulent conveyances," Cuomo's letter said.
Obama really needs to give this guy a senior post if he'll take it.

No Comments on the Obama Ad

It was on, in the background, while I was feeding my son and helping him with my homework.

The reviews on MSNBC seem to be pretty good though.

The Funniest Essay on Somolia Ever

And it's informative too.

The War Nerd is a national treasure.

Religion Gives Young Children Paralysis

Polio is spreading again, all because some ignorant superstitious whack job mullahs in Nigeriawent tinfoil hat on the UN's polio eradication plan, and sabotaged it.

Sometimes I wonder if organized religion might be the single worst way to find the divine in the universe.

Waxman Joins Cuomo in Looking at Bank Exec Pay

He's asking banks who have taken federal bailout money for detailed information on pay and benefits to senior officials.

Screw it. Nationalize them, and make senior executives GS-3s.

When Do We See the Frog Marches in Cuffs

So far, all we are seeing is low profile investigations of Lehman (here, here, and here).

We need the perp walks, because a lot of these people did break the law, and most of them breached the rules of common sense and human decency, and we are all paying for it.

America, Where It Pays to Fail

Not my title, rather it was the title from der Speigel, thankfully it's in English.

How can you not love an article that starts like this:
More than 100 years ago, German sociologist Georg Simmel criticized the banks for being even bigger and more powerful than the churches. His chief complaint -- that money is the new god of our times -- is still heard today. If Simmel was right, and there are some indications that he was, his statement would have to be modified to suit today's circumstances: Not all people pray to the same god.

Among the money worshippers, there are at least three faiths. First there are the Puritans, who patiently carry their money to the new churches, hoping that it will multiply. The average Chinese, for example, deposits 40 percent of his income in banks. What laudable discipline! Then there are the Pragmatists. They save and lend, but only in that order; their savings limit their boldness. This persuasion is especially prevalent in the Germanic countries, where the savings bank is the shrine.

Finally, we have the religious community of the Uninhibited, which is especially popular in the United States. Its adherents readily admit to intentional recklessness, wanton waste and omnipresent greed.
It's amazing how much savage good writing we are seeing these days about American klepto-capitalism.

Iceland,Ukraine, Hungary to get IMF'd

Icelnad has gotten a deal for a $2 billion loan from the IMF. That's about $6250.00 for every man, woman, and child on the island. They could not cut a deal with the Russians who, my wild-assed guess here, wanted some naval basing consideratins.

There are conditions, such as, "Iceland said it would use the funds to reintroduce a flexible interest rate regime and revise its financial regulation, particularly insolvency laws."

What does that mean, for a start it means that Iceland's central bank just raised rates to 18%.

As to the insolvency laws, my guess is that they were told to change the laws so that foreign investors are at the front of the line, and that those debts could not be discharged at all.

Iceland has just become 320,000 people working for foreign masters.

Ukraine is well along the way to the same fate, with the IMF demanding budget cuts in the middle of an economic downturn.

This is the sort of policies that created the Great Depression following the stock market crash.

There has also been a deal cut between the IMF and Hungary, but I don't have details.

As I've said before, let's see how free market fundamentalist the IMF goes on white people. I think that it will be far more gentle than it would be if the people were black, brown, or yellow.

The Christian Science Ending Daily Publication

Bummer. They have very good foreign coverage.

It looks like they are on their way to becoming a web-only news source.

Look for a Blowup in Mosul

It appears that Nouri al Maliki is looking at enforcing his Shia vision of Iraq on the city of Mosul, and the Kurds living there are not amused:
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is squeezing out Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army from Mosul, sending the national police and army from Baghdad and trying to forge alliances with Sunni Arab hard-liners in the province, who have deep-seated feuds with the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Massoud Barzani.
It looks like the US military will take no actions if a conflict breaks out.

Iraq, the gift that just keeps giving.

American Heros

Dozens Of Call Center Workers Walk Off Job In Protest Rather Than Read McCain Script Attacking Obama.

It's not like these are people with a whole bunch of money to spare. They saw, they read the script, they found it vile beyond belief, and they did the right thing at considerable personal cost.

HRW Alleges Georgian War Crimes in South Ossetia

It's a BBC radio broadcast (at link), but the money quote is:
Research by the organisation Human Rights Watch [HRW] ints to indiscriminate use of force by the Georgian military and the possible deliberate targeting of civilians.

Indiscriminate use of force is a violation of the Geneva Convention and serious violations are considered to be war crimes.
No big surprise here, this was obvious in the first few hours of the war, before, you know, the Russians eradicated the Georgian military.

It marks a turn around for HRW though. In the early days following the war, they accused the Russians of using cluster bombs....Until it was revealed that the physical evidence that they had was all ofS weapons.

Not Enough Bullets: A Continuing Series

Well, now that Merrill Lynch was forced to sell itself to Bank of America, some of it's employees are feeling insulted by the retention packages offered:
The problem isn't with high-flying producers bringing in at least $1.75 million in annual revenues. Those employees will most likely get 100 percent of their annual revenue as a retention bonus, spread out over seven years. The bad feelings are among those making less. A financial advisor producing $700,000 in revenues is being offered $175,000 in cash over seven years and a 25% growth bonus over three years. Manis says that same producer could get a lot more defecting to a competitor—"around $850,000 in cash on about a 9 year deal plus another $700,000 or so back end bonuses (after one to two years)."
Yeah, because so many investment banks are hiring so many people right now.....You have options.

Seriously, the unbridled sense of entitlement of these folks just buggers the mind.

These people are overpaid used car salesmen, and as has been shown over the past few months, their advice is less reliable than my cats, who at least don't try to conceal their self interest.

In the mean time, RJ & Mckay, a financial services body shop has a video out to try and generate some recruiting fees:

The Greenspan Putz

No, it's not a typographical error, it's a great play on the concept of, "The Greenspan Put"

The indispensable Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture found an article of that title by Alan Kohler:
The Greenspan putz

...

As Alan Greenspan said in his testimony to Congress last night: “With … home prices rising, delinquency and foreclosure rates were deceptively modest. Losses were minimal. To the most sophisticated investors in the world, (mortgage securities) were wrongly viewed as a ‘steal’.”

Unsophisticated investors didn’t stand a chance.

Now the “steal” is going to work the other way. Mortgage securities vehicles everywhere are being liquidated because their risk is being repriced – in most cases dramatically, to the point where investors don’t want their money in them at all.

....


I am amused, though I would disagree with the characterization. A putz has a head.

This has been another episode of Yiddish vocabulary.

28 October 2008

OK, Is This a Sign of the Apocalypse?

Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist just extended early voting hours in Florida, from 8 hours a day, and 8 across the weekend, to 12 hours.

I'm not sure why he did it, I've heard reports of the McCain campaign saying that this will kill them in Florida.

I think that after hearing the 50th story about folks waiting for hours at early voting stations, Governor Crist either decided that lengthening the hours was the right thing to do, or he realized that there was significant political blowback from this.

Syria Blowback in Iraq

Well, we now have a "senior American official" saying that the raid on the Syrian villiage was a warning to Syria.

Some warning, the Iraqi cabinet was already feeling their oats enough to make further changes to the deal, despite US threats to shut down all US operations in Iraq, military and otherwise.

No one believes them, becauseleaving is too politically crushing to Bush and His Evil Minions.

But as a result of the raid, which was condemned by the government of Iraq, and is looking at further changes in the status of forces agreement to prevent this in the future.

Heck of a job, Condi.

Why Oil Prices are Collapsing

Well, here's another insight that I picked up at the by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Triutumi pointed me to James Howard Kuntsler, and his explanation makes a lot of sense.

Basically, people who would ordinarily hold oil futures contract are selling them, because they have to answer margin calls on their other investments:
This means especially oil. I hope you're enjoying the temporarily cheap prices at the gas pumps, because this is purely a function of the compressive deleveraging that is going on right now, as contracts and positions held in energy markets are being dumped by everybody and his uncle to raise cash to meet margin calls.
I'm still digesting his web site, but he is a savagely impressive writer.

Economics Update

OK, the markets went wild on the expectation that the Fed will cut rates tomorrow....I'm not impressed, truth be told....As I've said before, I think that the Fed is pushing on a string with interest rates.

What is or more interest is the fact that the Federal Reserve's intervention in the commercial paper market has appeared to raise rates, rather than lower them. From Bloomberg:
Yields on commercial paper rose as the Federal Reserve began buying the debt directly from companies, showing the central bank's efforts to unfreeze short- term credit markets have yet to take hold.
I think that the Fed is looking at a monetary solutiuon, when the solution is government legislation and government spending.

Still, this has not stopped GMAC from going in with the Fed's commercial paper facility.

BTW, the Fed is doing something else, currency swaps with other central banks, most recently the Central Bank of New Zealand, though it has set up similar arrangements with Australia, Canada, and Japan too.

It's supposed to help maintain liquidity, but I have no clue how this works. Anyone want to explain this to me?

What I do understand is the Federal Reserve going into the commercial paper market in the US. Ge just borrowed $5 billion from the fed.

Of course, even there, there is stuff that I don't get, like why is the Federal Reserve starting to buy foreign commercial paper?

In any related news, the Treasury is looking at extending the bailout to privately held banks, though one wonders how they get a meaningful equity stake, as Bush Paulson and His Evil Minions had promised for any direct aid.

I'm not sure if this is working, as is noted at Calculated Risk:
  • 3 month treasuries are essentially unchanged.
  • TED spread is marginally better.
  • The two year swap spread is a bit worse.
Of course, that is just the world of banking. In the real world, the perceptions are actually worse, with the Conference Board's measure of Consumer Confidence hitting the lowest reading ever recorded, dropping to 38 from September's 61.4

This graph (click for full size), courtesy of Calculated Risk, of the Case Shiller numbers and makes a good counterpoint to the most recent housing data, also from Calculated Risk, and it is rather grim.

Short form, house prices are retrenching in a major way, and I would expect significant overshoot on the way down:
  • The Composite 20 index is off 20.3% from the peak.
  • The Composite 10 is off 17.7% over the last year.
  • The Composite 20 is off 16.6% over the last year.

In energy, oil has continued to fall rapidly, and I think that I have finally come across a good reason for this, which I will cover in a separate post.

And In An Emergency, Your Lobbyist Can Be Used as a Flotation Device*

I've written about efforts to allow free wireless connectivity access to what is called "White Spaces", bits of spectrum allocated to over the air TV, but not used.

It has been proposed that these spaces be used for unlicensed devices, much in the same way that WiFi works now.

The difference is that the ranges and penetration of the signals are much greater.

Well, there are two groups lobbying very hard against this, the broadcasters, who have their channels allocated from this spectrum, and the wireless microphone industry, who use the white spaces illegally, and have done so for years.

Since the FCC tests showed that there was no problem with interference with TV stations, the prototypes did the necessary, "sense and avoid," of occupied space, there isn't a problem there, so my take is that their opposition is because they think that they "own" this space, and they think that there may be a way to monetize the space, so they have enlisted wireless microphone users: (quoting Harold Feld on
For a good background on all this, check out Harold Feld at Wetmachine.com):
I gotta admire the broadcasters (as represented by their trade orgs, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV)). Even with the facts completely against them, they never give up trying. Sadly, they all too often succeed through a combination of heavy duty lobbying power (what politician doesn't suck up to his or her local broadcaster?) and the fact that most decision makers don't know squat about engineering and regard the whole thing as black magic. Heck, it worked to hamstring low-power FM (LPFM) radio, despite a subsequent independent government report showing the broadcaster interference claims were unsubstantiated bologna.

But embracing radio pirates by proposing to expand the availability of wireless microphones in the broadcast white spaces for their political allies and tacitly agreeing to amnesty for illegal wireless microphone users? Even I never thought they would go that far.
He also notes that the US military uses the technology in question for protection of their troops in life threatening situations.

In any case, it looks like the broadcasters have brought in the big guns, a Megachurch Preacher Rick Warren and Dolly Parton to claim that, white space devices will "will create an unnecessary interference in the worship services of hundreds of thousands of churches across the country," according to the preacher man, and may have a, "direct negative impact" on Dollywood, the Grand Ole Opry, and "9 to 5: The Musical."

You are illegally squatting on a public resource already, Ms. Parton.

*Pun most certainly intended.
Yeah, this pun is intended too.

Hedge Fund Schadenfreude

Well, something interesting happened today; for a few hours today, Volkswagen had the largest market capitalization in the world, exceeding that of Exxon-Mobil.

It appears that what happened is that Porsche, which had previously held 42.6% of VW shares, cut a deal to increase this to 74%, and just announced it.

Combined with the German state of Lower Saxony's slightly more than 20% share in the auto maker, this meant that only 5% of the shares were available, and there were a bunch of short sellers who bid up the stock, because there was not enough out there to cover their short sales.

My take is that the hedge funds can go Cheney themselves. Their stock in trade is to make money from just such of a lack of transparency, they call it "market asymmetry," and they just lost money on a lack of transparency.

Hoist by their own petard....Heh.

There is going to be an German regulators looking into this though.

My guess is that Porsche did this in this way because they wanted to punish the short sellers.

They succeeded, but I'm not sure if all is in accord with German securities law.

Rioting in Philadelphia Delayed By Rain

OK, it was actually the deciding game of the World Series that was rain delayed, but it's the same thing, at least it is in Philly.

27 October 2008

Inconsistencies in the DC Universe

H/t: Oliver Willis for showing why Batman and Superman cannot exist in the same world.

From the Department of the Blatantly Obvious

Media analyst Ken Doctor suggests that newspapers are losing subscribers and advertisers because they have been consistently lowering the standards of the product though reductions in news gathering staff.

He's right, of course.

Did Palin Say She Wants US Jews to Leave the Country?

While at the UN, she said, ""I look forward to hearing about your work with the Jewish Agency and all the plans that we have," Palin told Ambassador Sallai Meridor. "We'll be working together."

Did she just say that she wants Jews to leave the US?

The implication, of course is that all the Jews have to be back in Israel for the rapture, doncha know.

H/T Matthew Yglesias.

We're Lending Them Money for This????

Well, it looks like the US Department of the Treasury is looking at laoning General Motors, so that they can afford to They will use the money to buy Chrysler.

I don't know why they need the loan, according to Daimler Benz, who still owns an equity stake, Chrysler is worth nothing. They have depreciated their stake in the troubled automaker to $0.00.

They had the stock on their books at $268 million at the end of june.

I gotta think that the only motive behind this is that Bush Henry Paulson and His Evil Minions they are trying to make companies out there so big that they can block any regulations Congress might want to achieve in the future, because they will be throwing around so much lobbying cash.

IAM Boeing Deal Appears To Have Been Reached

We have reports that Boeing and the machinists union have reached an agreement, according to a statement released by the IAM.

In related news, Boeing and its SPEEA engineering union have agreed to delay contract talks, pending the resolution of the IAM negotiations.

Japanese Move to Restrict Short Selling

I'm not surprised by their temporary ban on short naked sales and additional rules on reporting and transparency on shorting.

What surprises me is why someone selling something that they don't have to someone else is legal in the first place, unless you are a completely incompetent acolyte of Ayn Rand who believes that anything done by an investor is capitalism in its highest form, like Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan....Wait, now I get it.

US Stages Cross Border Raid into Syria

We have reports the US launched a commando raid into Syria, and U.S. officials have confirmed the matter.

It appears that somewhere around 8 people were killed. It appears that the target was, Abu Ghadiya who was described as, "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia's "most prominent" smuggler of foreign operatives," by US sources.

Needless to say, Syria and Iran have condemned the attack.

The analysis here seems to be that the Bush administration is doing this for two reasons, to coerce more action by the local governments against such people, and to establish a precedent for the next president to follow.

What I would worry about is someone like Cuba deciding that this precedent applying to the, and bullets flying in Miami as a result.

Economics Update

While it's generally known that the Fed will cut rates, it is news when European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet says that it's likely that they will do the same, it is a bit of a surprise.

In terms of interest rate spreads, it's not looking good, with the spreads for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hitting the highest level since March.

In real estate we have Journalistic bullsh%$ good news, with reports that new home sales increased in September, but as Barry Ritholtz of the The Big Picture notes, these are bad numbers:
One other thing to note: Note the monthly 2.7% increase was based in part on last month's being revised downwards, making the differential look bigger (this month is also likely to be revised downwards). Annualized sales for the month was 464k; Actual unadjusted monthly new home sales are about 35-45k, down from 100-120k (before they get annualized).
Year over year, house sales fell by 33%, and prices fell by 9%.

Meanwhile, it looks like the tax payers have already sent a significant chunk of change to the banks $63 billion to 15 banks:
  • PNC Financial Services ($7.7 billion)
  • Capital One Financial ($3.55 billion)
  • Regions Financial ($3.5 billion)
  • SunTrust Banks ($3.5 billion)
  • KeyCorp ($2.5 billion)
  • Comerica ($2.25 billion)
  • State Street ($2 billion)
  • Northern Trust ($1.5 billion)
  • Huntington Bancshares ($1.4 billion)
  • First Horizon National ($866 million)
  • City National ($395 million)
  • Valley National Bancorp ($330 million)
  • UCBH Holdings ($298 million)
  • Washington Federal ($200 million)
Oh...me bad...I forgot that BB&T is in for $3.1 billion too.

Well, at least gas prices and oil prices are continuing to fall.

In currency, we have
the dollar and yen pounding the Euro and Pound to the degree that the bank of Japan is considering an intervention to keep the Yen form spiking too high.

It also looks like the Australian dollar is at serious risk of falling off a cliff, see here and here.

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!!!!!

Sen. Ted Stevens guilty on all seven counts.

So Governor Palin, will you do right by the people of Alaska and appoint Begich to the Senate in November?

A few days extra seniority make a big difference in that body.

One note, the Jurors had to start from square one on deliberations today, because a juror was released because of a death in the family, so they pretty much settled this in the hallway.

I believe that GB Trudeau says it all in the attached Doonesbury cartoon from 1973.

This guy has been a gleeful cancer on the US senate for decades, and a little time for him in club Fed will do the American people a world of good.

Posted without Comment

26 October 2008

Israel: Kadima Calls Snap Elections Netanyahu* Favored in Polls

Tzipi Livni could not get the ultra-Orthodox Shas party to join the coalition government.

It comes down to welfare payments to Orthodox schnorers and the status of Jerusalem, though, from what I've heard of Shas, my guess is that it was mostly about the welfare payments.

*Benyamin, "The Craziest Motherf%$#er in the Middle East," Netanyahu
Beggars or moochers.

Some Insight on the Russian Psyche from a Russian

From Stanislav Mishin's blog Mat Rodina, we find The Sixteen Reasons Why Russia Should NEVER Trust the West.

You can go to the site to get a bit more in exposition.

About half of the reasons are true, or at least true as one can when one is talking about international relations:
  • Western banks and institutions raped Russia in the 1990s, which is true. The bankers made money, the pensioners were out on the street, and teen aged girls were selling themselves as prostitutes in order to keep from starving.
  • Western Governments did cheer when Yeltsin shelled his own parliament
  • The West, particularly western oil companies do want control of Russian oil
  • NATO was expanded to the Russian border, despite promises to the contrary
  • NATO bombed Serbia, though I would argue that there were legitimate reasons, a genocidal regime, for doing so.
  • The West has a policy of explicit and extensive support to political enemies of Russia in the nations of the former USSR.
  • That the West's moves into Central Asia following 911 were accompanied by attempts at regime change, or regime foreign policy change to create states generally hostile to Russian interests.
  • That the west abrogated treaties as soon as they were no longer convenient, most notably the ABM treaty.
  • That the west has provided fairly explicit aid to opposition groups in Russia. Clearly true, though I think he lists this one item as two on his list of 16.

Then there are those that I have doubts as to their significance or veracity. Either I have no knowledge of the truth of the statements, or I think that he is conflating basic international Realpolitik with explicit hostility:
  • That the west has been backing secessionist and Islamist movements within Russia, most notably in Chechnya. Certainly, given the consequences and how they might effect access to Caspian oil make them plausible, particularly when it appears clear that the US gave tacit approval for Saakisvili to launch assaults in South Ossetia.
  • That the Polish missile defense silos for could be used for the deployment of short range nuclear missile....Technically true, I put this in the paranoid section, it's easier/safer to use SSBNs firing missiles on depressed trajectories.
  • That the West is giving asylum to people wanted by Russia, while demanding extradition of Russians to face western courts...Technically true, but meaningless, as a pretty standard standard state of diplomacy.
  • That the west went soft on the Taliban, and pressured the Russians not to respond militarily to them prior to 911 because they wanted an oil pipeline that avoided both Russia and Iran. True, but I don't see it as overtly hostile, it's just the Texas oil men running the US government. To quote The Godfather, it's not personal, it's, "Just Business".
Then there is the tinfoil hat stuff:
  • That the West despises "Russian Patriotism and Christianity"
  • That the, "The West back every Jihad aimed at Orthodox Christians"
These are tinfoil hat, but it does reflect the deeply Xenophobic character of the worldview expressed here.

What I see as stupidity, he sees as malice.

I would say that this is particularly the case with NATO expansion, where the Euros were just too busy partying about the fall of the wall, and the US was looking at new markets for their military hardware and saw the need to replace Soviet legacy systems in new NATO members as a profit center.

I do think that Mr. Mishin represents a mainstream view in Russia, which begs the question, how is this addressed.

Unfortunately, many of the things that have been done, the feeding frenzy of the 1990s and the expansion of NATO cannot be easily undone.

As start, a forceful statement that the US is opposed to NATO membership for the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan would be constructive.

I have little knowledge of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, but it is clear that the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia have a few screws loose.

Additionally, it's clear that the state security apparatus of Georgia has been thoroughly penetrated by the Russians, as the speed and effectiveness of the Russian military response shows that they knew of the specifics of the assault on South Ossetia for weeks in advance.

I am not a military man, but the idea of having an ally whose defense establishment is completely penetrated by another country does not fill me with glee.

What Hilzoy Says

In the entire matter of the false accusation of politically motivated assault, I agree with what Hilzoy said:
I'd also like to give a shout-out to all the people who held off on this, and to Michelle Malkin, who did a lot to keep this story from getting completely out of hand.
Michelle Malkin did the right thing, which is is something that I never expected to say.

One final note, I do not know whether the woman who did concocted the report is mentally ill or not, but in either case, she should spend an extended time in confinement.

If she is mentally ill, she is clearly a threat to herself and others. If she is not mentally ill, then she did something ¼ step removed from an attempted lynching.

Quote of the Day

Perhaps it's the quote of the campaign, from Political Wire:
'The reason the Republicans found Joe the Plumber was to find someone hanging around a toilet other than Larry Craig.'

-- James Carville

25 October 2008

Why I Didn't Comment on the Race Baiting Fraud

I make no claim to wisdom or prescience, but I had reasons not to discuss this story.
  • I had nothing meaningful to add. I haven't been talking about the assaults and death threats at McCain-Palin rallies either. I put this stuff down to C=MI,* and figure that is just the way things are.
  • To the degree that I have political teeth, I cut them in the UMass SGA Senate, where I served with future actors in the Abramoff and Sciavo matters who were in the College Republicans, which gave me a nose for College Republican bullsh&#, and this reeked of College Republican bullsh&#.

    Thus. when I heard that this was a College Republican, I figured that it was a stunt which did not deserve comment.
  • By the time I heard about it, the note that the "B" was backwards, and likely applied in front of a mirror.


I just don't one of those typewriter font types who need to get a life.

*Conservatism equals Mental Illness.
Interestingly enough, more often than not, we were on the same side in SGA Senate,a Mondale Democrat and College Republicans,against the "US Out of North America" crowd.

Submarine News Update

There is a pretty good post over at Ares about developments in Submarines around the world.

The big news, to me anyway, was the announcement of a joint Russo-Italian diesel boat of around 1000 tons.

How to Know When a Burocracy is Out of Control

When its budget is growing so fast that auditors cannot keep up..

Case in point, the Pentagon:
Government reports are not known for plain language, much less candor. But in a report issued in March, Pentagon Inspector General Claude M. Kicklighter summed up what had been growing increasingly evident for years: Defense spending has been growing so rapidly that auditors can no longer keep track.

"We currently are not able to provide sufficient audit coverage of [Department of Defense] acquisition programs given the dollars expended by the department," Mr. Kicklighter wrote. "The rapid growth of the DOD budget since FY 2000 leaves the Department increasingly more vulnerable to the fraud, waste and abuse that undermines the department's mission."
And they want to browbeat the next president into increasing their budget even more.

Chinese J-10 Fighter Pr0n

The China Air and Naval Power has some photos of the Chinese J-10 multirole canard fighter.

It has interesting lines....The tail clearly resembles the Lavi/F-16, but the intake and canard are closer to the Eurofighter Typhoon, particularly the Canard, which is not close coupled like the Lavi/Rafale/Gripen, but is further forward as in the Typhoon.
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Major Army Strategist Savages Future Combat System*

Col. H.R. McMaster, a, "is a highly influential soldier-scholar who is currently putting together a brain trust for Gen. David Petraeus to review U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan," just released a blistering paper condemning the direction of the US military.

He believes that the folks who support the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), which espouses high tech communications, surveillance, and precision weapons at the expense of boots on the ground is are profoundly wrong, and unclear on what is actually going on the ground right now.

He also cuts the flyboyz in the USAF a new one while he's at it.

Good read, check it out.

*Full disclosure, I worked on the Future Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle, FRMV, "wrecker" variant of the FCS-MGV* from 2003-2006 at United Defense (later BAE Systems after the Carlyle Group sold me to buy Dunkin Donuts).

OK, Time to Call an Obama Adviser Stupid

Specifically Paul Kaminiski, who is talking up a dual buy strategy for the USAF tanker competition.

There are a number of problems, not the least of which is the fact that this is the worst of all possible solutions, doubling inventory and supply issues.

You also pay the cost of the tooling and engineering twice

A bad deal for the tax payer and the military.

There is also the problem that the 767s being made for Italy do not work. (Paid subscription required)

Boeing has assigned a "tiger team" to deal with the wing flutter issues caused by the refuelling pods.

X-49A SpeedHawk Goes to Phase 2

They will be making modifications to the compound helicopter to reduce drag, retractible gear, mast fairings, a supplementary engine for the tail prop, etc., before trying to get it to over 200 kts.

Video pr0n below:

Pentagon's Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Contracts Due Soon

I'm not sure what who will get the contract, but I'm sure that it will be heavier and more expensive than the Humvee that it replaces.

The Army is thought to look favorably on hybrid vehicles, both because they will be more fuel efficient, and because every vehicle can be used to generate power for other systems.

747-8 Development Costs Jump

2008 has not been a good year for Boeing.

The 787 is late, nothing is moving because of the strike, and now the development cost of their next model of 747 has escalated.

I Knew that It Did Not Look Right

When I last posted about the PiperJet, I said that it didn't look right, though I added the caveat that the same applies to the F-4 Phantom II.

Well, it appears that my hunch meant something. Piper is looking at , modifications to the airframe to deal with pitch changes from changes in thrust. They have an automatic trim system to handle this, but they would like to eliminate this and use, "a Coanda effect device that would channel the jet's exhaust in an appropriate direction to reduce nose-down moment created by adding power and nose-up trim changes when decreasing power."

Basically, they are talking a poor man's thrust vectoring, I think.

Back to the Future for GE

GE is dusting off an old test rig in an attempt to develop a more efficient engine, they want to test an open rotor system:
For the wind tunnel tests, NASA is refurbishing testing rig equipment used in the 1980s when the agency and GE jointly tested the GE36 unducted fan, which was later mounted on the aft fuselage and flown on a Boeing 727 and an MD-80.
Same as it ever was.

"Baby Seal" Report May Have Cost RAND Analyst Their Job

It appears that John Stillion has abruptly left his job as an analyst at the RAND corporation, He's best known for writing a report which described the JSF as being clubbed like a baby seal in air to air combat by aircraft already flying.

Dennis Jensen, an Australian MP and a fierce critic of the JSF, who used this report to argue against Australia purchaasing the aircraft, is alleging that he was fired for this report.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I Recall an Anime Movie About This

Specifically Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle.

Only this one is real, or at least in prototype state courtesy of those wacky Danes from art collective N55 in Copenhagen.

The theory is that when rising ocean levels from global warming make your current location to wet, the house walks somewhere else.



Reminds me of that bit of dialogue from a Get Smart episode:

99: What's that?

Max: An electric snake, we'll send it it to get
information.

99: What does it run on?

Max: Tiny Little Feet.
Heh.

24 October 2008

Friday Night Comrade Blogging

Not Enough Bullets: Tax Loophole Edition

Well, now we know why Wells Fargo wanted wanted to buy Wachovia, a tax loophole
The day after Citigroup made its bid, the Treasury changed a tax rule that lets banks accelerate the losses and writedowns on banks they acquire against their own net income, offsetting the charges as tax write-offs.

Wells plans on writing off some $74 billion of Wachovia's $498 billion loan portfolio -- an insanely large amount that reflects just how poisoned Wachovia's books really were. With the new tax rules, it gets to use all of that $74 billion as a charge against its own net income, which means one thing: Wells Fargo's going to be a tax-write-off machine for years to come.
Not enough bullets.

As Atrios is Wont to Say, "Eated"

Alpha Bank & Trust, Alpharetta, GA...Shut down.

Bachmann Now Behind Tinklenberg

SurveyUSA has the numbers:
Michele Bachmann(Insane 'Phant): 44%
Elwyn Tinklenberg* (D): 47%
Bob Anderson (I) 6%.

There is a 4% margin of error, so it's still too close to call. There is only about 2% undecided, and so the 2:1 undecideds breaking against the incumbent does not mean much here.

It will be close.

*I know that it's not nice to make fun of someone's name, but his name still sounds like a character from Garrison Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegone.

Uighur Gitmo Detainees Release Delayed

There will be a an expedited briefing and hearing on November 24, but this still sucks.

Even the milirary admits that they are innocent, and they are still held as prisoners, though we aren't torturing them at the request of the Chinese any more.

I am Very Impressed by the Quality of Canadian Education

As evidenced by Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis suggesting that, the U.S. needs a yard sale to best deal with the financial crisis.

Wasn't there a movie about this in the 1970s called something like "Americathon"?

Roubini Says `Panic' May Force Market Shutdown

Just go read his whole article.

personally, I think that we will see the formation of parallel markets, which exclude the failed players, before this happens, so, for once, I'm a bit more optimistic than the good doctor.

Eated*

National Citybought by PNC Financial to for $5.2 Billion.

They have been in trouble for a while.

*Quoting Atrios.

Economics Update

In energy, OPEC formally announces production cuts, though the price of oil continues to fall, as does the price of gasoline.

It should be noted that even with falling energy prices, the markets are so spooked that the futures contracts triggered so called circuit breakers for the S&P 500.

It's not just the S%P that has gone into the twilight zone. The credit meltdown has pushed the interest rate of long term interest rate derivatives to negative numbers. Basically, it's a "safe" way to lock in an interest rate, and the market is so uncertain, that people are willing do do worse than their mattresss.

Meanwhile currency is...well...confused, with the dollar gaining against the Pound and Euro, but the Yen hit a 13 year high. No clue as to what is going on there.

In any case, even if the recession isn't official yet, it is in the UK, where GDP fell by 0.2%.

Bad Financial Journalism

So, here we see the artcle based on data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), an organization whose statements should trigger very loud bullsh^% alert titled, "U.S. Home Resales Rose in September to One-Year High."

Noting that home sales grew 5.1% from in September, 2008 as compared to August 2008.

The housing crash is over...Let the rejoicing begin!!!!!

Bad Journalism...the real story is that, "Foreclosure-related sales accounted for 35 percent to 40 percent of last month's total," and that's the NAR's, whose job is to lie like a rug present a rosy estimate.

But Mr. Morggage of the Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter notes that actual existing home sales are down, the month to month is created by seasonal sdjustments, and seasonal markets only should be applied to a stable market, not one in free fall.

By his figuring, existing home sales fell by 9.6% between August and September.

Me, I'd split the difference, which gives us (5.1%-9.6%)/2 or a drop of 2.05% for no reason at all. I pulled the equation out of my overly ample ass.

See table pron below.


Click for full sized.

Not Enough Bullets: Where Bailout Money Goes

The taxpayers are shelling out $700 billion, and $70billion is going to executive bonuses, 10% for the mathematically disinclined.

Sorry, but outside of the cafeteria worker and custodian, none of these folks deserve a bonus.

I know that they will make claims about motivation, but how about something like, I don't know, the threat of arrest and imprisonment?

When Ideology Makes You Stupid

The FDIC is trying to create a program to guarantee home mortgages to encourage modifications to contracts. This is stupid, particularly because in many of the cases, you can't find anyone to modify the contract, because the instrument is held in a portfolio of bonds with hundreds, if not thousands, of stake-holders, all of whom have a legal right to veto any change,

The solution is simple, and does not cost the taxpayer anything: Modify bankruptcy to allow judges to modify mortgages. When you can't find the owner of the loan, an judge handles it, and when you can, it to force lenders to the table.

We Are Living in Bizarro World

and John Sidney McCain III is the Bizarro candidate.

Case in point, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission, the highest paid person in the McCain campaign in the first week of October was her makeup artist:
That annualizes to $592,800.00 a year.
Ms. Strozzi, who was nominated for an Emmy award for her makeup work on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance?”, was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October alone, according to the records. The campaign categorized Ms. Strozzi’s payment as “Personnel Svc/Equipment.”
That annualizes to $592,800.00 a year.
In addition, Angela Lew, who is Ms. Palin’s traveling hair stylist, got $10,000
for “Communications Consulting” in the first half of October. Ms. Lew’s address
listed in F.E.C. records traces to an Angela M. Lew in Thousands Oaks, Calif.,
which matches with a license issued by the California Board of Barbering and
Cosmetology. The board said Ms. Lew works at a salon called Hair Grove in
Westlake Village, Calif.
$260,000.00/year.

I'm in the wrong bloody line of work.

Credit Crunch Humor

Here.

My favorite one:
9) What's the capital of Iceland?
About £3.50
Yeah, it's a British link.

Argentina Plans to Renationalize Pensions

Of course, Moody's investor's services hates the idea.

I will make a note on the bigger picture: When Argentina privatized its pension system over a decade ago, it set the stage for its brutal economic implosion in the first place, because it stripped the government of all reserves in the process.

In response to the reports of the plans the Argentina markets dropped like a stone (13%).

I will note Brad Delong's blog, and this quote:
The private retirement system, set up in 1994 to help bolster capital markets, owns about 5 percent of companies listed on the Buenos Aires stock exchange and 27 percent of shares available for public trading, data compiled by pension funds show.
The market crash was inevitable. It would either happen now, or when the population cohorts start sellling stocks when they retire.

This should have been done sooner.

Mahoney's Wife Files for Divorce

Well it looks like everyone's favorite faux Dem and serial sexual harrasser has just had his wife file for divorce.

This seat will be going to a 'Phant this cycle

A special thanks goes out to Rahm Emmanuel, who recruited him and got him to change parties to run, and scared off the real Democrat running for the nomination in 2006.

A Good Note on Policy

Tom Angotti of the Gotham Gazette Makes a very good point:
Neither of the two candidates [Obama and McCain] has explicitly acknowledged the failure of the current urban policy that single-mindedly promotes homeownership. But if history is not to repeat itself, both parties might do well to explicitly acknowledge the needs and problems of urban renters - that means the majority of New Yorkers -- and redefine the "American Dream" as a stable job, a rent-controlled apartment and a safe, walkable urban environment.
This is true. In addition to being a failure in regulation and monetary policy, it is a failure of philosophy on two levels:
  • As Greenspan admits free market fundamentalism has failed.
  • The idea of a stand alone home owned by the occupant as an unexpurgated good.

Many of our problems, not just the housing crash, but also urban sprawl, are a direct result of the latter philosophy.

Another Bald Guy Gets Top Bailout Bailiwick

I did not come up with bon mot, rather it was John Carney at Clusterstock did. He was talking about James H. Lambright, former head of the Export-Import Bank, who has been tapped to serve as interim Chief Investment Officer for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Mr. Carney notes that we should be concerned, and not just because we have, "Bald midwestern ex-Wall Streeter running our banking system."

In his time at the Ex-Im Bank, it appears that his main accomplishment was to remove it from congressional scrutiny by making it self financing.

In English this means that Congress has no control, but is still liable for the bill if the Ex-Im bank sees losses.

And now they want him to be in charge of investments at TARP....Lovely.

Eurocrats Looking at Massive Propaganda Campaign in Ireland

It looks like they are looking for another bite at the apple after the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty went down in flames.

So, now we are seeing EU propoganda minister communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom suggesting what is needed is a major education campaign, but remember, don't actually talk about the treaty that is at issue:
"Whatever you do, you won't have in the end everybody reading a 400-page document," she said. "That's what MEPs are being paid for."
Better yet, don't have a 400 page constitution. The original constitution of the United States, including all amendments, is less than 15 pages.

You had people vote on a byzantinely complex document where no one, not even your vaunted MEPs understand the complete document.

That's enough reason to vote against it, because who knows what mischief, corruption, and self dealing lives in those pages.

Gary Larson Works for Standard & Poors and Caused the Credit Meltdown?

I've always wondered what he did after he shuttered his daily The Far Side job, and now we know that he got a job at S&P, because, when cows are at the center of malfeasance, Gary Larson will be there:
Official #1: Btw (by the way) that deal is ridiculous.

Official #2: I know right...model def (definitely) does not capture half the risk.

Official #1: We should not be rating it.

Official #2: We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it
.
(emphasis mine)

Gary Larson rules our world.

Sarah Palin Has Another Wardrobe Malfunction

Get your minds out of the gutter...Janet Jackson, she ain't, and this is a real picture, no photoshop, and it cost a lot less than $150,000.00

This is Sarah Palin, and she is wearing a Democratic Party vote scarf.

The photographer in question did not even notice until other people did.

Someone pulled a great practical joke on the Alaska governor.

Not Enough Bullets: South Korean Edition

A South Korean financial analyst, Han Sang-choon, was fired for saying that much of the losses people have experienced in the market are the result of greed:
"I reckon people haven't cashed in their funds because of personal greed and expectations (of profits)," he told an investor, according to quotes from the Friday TV show that appeared widely in South Korean media.
There is a saying, "In Wall Street, the Bears make money, and the Bulls make money, and the Pigs lose."

When Do We Invade Cuba?

Because the recent estimates on the size of recently discovered offshore oil reserves at 20 billion barrels, roughly the same as the reserves in the US.

This should have US oil companies who want a cut of this lobbying for an elimination of the embargo, which is a good thing.

How Russians View NATO and the US

Yes, I am quoting an article in Pravda, and I think that what it says about Russian attitudes is more important than the objective truth (though I generally agree):
....

NATO was originally designed to keep Germany down, America in Europe and the Soviets out. With no Soviet Union, NATO's purpose, like that of all good bureaucracies, has mutated. It has reneged on its promises to Russia not to expand eastward and has expanded eastward into some rather questionable regimes, particularly in the Baltics. All the same, as it was declaring Russia a useful partner, though a minor one not worthy of ever inviting in, it sought out a new purpose.

....

Afghanistan was and is the first real NATO fighting war. No longer is this primarily NATO bombers dropping bombs, often on civilians targets, from 3,500 meters, no this is a fighting war with a jihadist guerrilla force, trained by the very same NATO experts. Afghanistan as a whole has already shown NATO to be an empty shell. Many of the members have opted out of contributing anything to the conflict and quite a few that have sent soldiers have sent them with such strict rules of engagement (ROE)s that they are all but useless.

To the Anglo-American Neocons, this of course was a disaster. Their grip on power over Europe and thus the EU in general, was cracking. Add to this the economic knots tied by Russia to several key members, using the very real ropes of energy and business investments, and NATO was opting to be nothing more than a sewing circle.

The Anglo-American Neocons had to take bold action, something that would cause the member states of NATO to recoil back under the Neocon umbrella and unify against a common enemy. But whom? The Muslims showed little ability to project military power into Europe, they do much better with immigrants. The Chinese were out of the question a general rule, way to much elite money at risk for that kind of nonsense. Thus there was only one clear choice: Russia. But how to resurrect the Soviet Union, or at least it's shadow?

Enter stage right, a small time Georgian dictator and one not to bright but very egotistical. The perfect dupe: Saakashvili.

....

Still, all this in itself, may not be enough to finally finish off NATO and end the 100 years of Ideological Warfare, for yes, dear reader, we have yet to leave that period. Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, no longer the Stalinist Marxists, but Economic Trotskyite Marxism (fascism) is alive and well, having infected the West flowing from the decayed corpse of Military Trotskyite Marxism (Nazism). NATO is the final guard against the return of the traditional world, where nations sought economic advantage for themselves not in the name of some mutant form of Internationalism. It is the final guard against nationalistic states that sought the betterment of their people first and foremost and not that of some hypothetical global village or for the internationalistic elite.

The Bank Panic of 2008 may be, however the final stone to knock down this aged and staggering Goliath. The Anglo-American Trotskyites who created this mess are in short, bankrupt. Their ability to project power grows weaker every day with a new DOW low. At the same time, nations such as Iceland, once one of their key military posts, are seeking aid not from their so called allies but from Russia itself. Bound together by economic or cultural or religious or historical ties, or all of the above, nations such as Iceland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Czech, Slovakia and others will naturally pull away from the now bankrupt alliance. Historical ties that were supposed to have died along with history, as proclaimed by one of the fathers of Trotskyite Neoconism: Fukuyama, will now return the globe to an equilibrium long not seen and one that promises more stability than the Internationalist regimes of the past 100 years.
Going through Stanislav Mishin's other blog posts, it's clear that he's a bit of a Russian nationalist, though less so than any Fox News commentator, and his 16 reasons for Russia to NEVER trust the West is an instructive read, even if you disagree with parts of it.