31 July 2009

Profound


More of the wisdom of Hunter S. Thompson here.

It's Bank Failure Friday!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. First State Bank of Altus, Altus, OK
  2. Integrity Bank, Jupiter, FL
  3. Peoples Community Bank,West Chester, OH
  4. First BankAmericano, Elizabeth, NJ
  5. Mutual Bank, Harvey, IL
5 banks, in one week, and we're not talking about affiliates and subsidiaries, like last week....Great googly moogly.

At the current rate, we will break 150 for the year.

Full FDIC list

Ummm....That Won't Fit in an Evidence Locker


What's your call, latex, or silicone?

Looks like a replacement for my computer

Luckily, there is a computer show at the Timonium State Fairgrounds over the weekend.

Doing job search and (very) occasional posting through my wife's machine when possible.

29 July 2009

OK, There is Someone Stupider than Amity Shlaes

Hard to believe, but true.

It turns out that Gregory Levey is stupider than conservative affirmative action baby Amity Shlaes, the woman who was fired by that Communist rag the Financial Times for extolling Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina in her reporting on the storm and its aftermath, because Mr. Levey is suggesting that Barack Obama should appoint George W. Bush as his Middle East envoy to aid in his diplomatic efforts in the region.

In related news, he suggested that Hannibal Lecter as chairman of the special White House committee on nutrition, Mary "Typhoid Mary" Mallon as head of food safety at the FCC, Timothy Leary as Drug Czar, and South Carolina Governor Rick "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford as head of the special working committee for ethics in government.

Great googly moogly.

My Role in the Scheme of Things

When I started out, I considered myself a "Z-list" blogger, but considering the fact that I've gotten 2 checks over 2 years from Google Ads, and that I got a condemnation from Ramesh Pannuru, I now consider myself a "Q-list" blogger.

That is all.

There Can Only Be One

It appears that someone idiot at AT&T's ISP division decided to block the anarcho-absurdist site 4chan from their customers.

Within hours a fictitious report of the death of AT&T's CEO from a cocaine overdose following a gay prostitution binge (it implies that he was a "bottom") appeared on CNN's "citizen journalism" site iReport.

Seriously, while the folks at 4chan are nice people, much like Bruce Banner, you really don't want to make them angry, because if they put their minds to it, it can get ugly.

Postscript: ATT has apparently removed the block.

Disclaimer: I have only visited 4chan briefly, and my experience was that everyone there was swell, totally righteous, and that under no circumstances should anyone, ever, frack with them.

Furthermore, nothing in this post should be construed as a criticism of 4chan. I am criticizing AT&T, and the "stupid" and "wanker" tags are directed at the telecommunications company.

Once Again, Stunned By Haunting Artistic Brilliance of ....... William Shatner????

Once again, the Republicans have me saying something that I would never imagined have saying in my wildest dreams, but William Shatner reading Palin's resignation speech as poetry is brilliant.

When Ann Coulter Calls You a Crank....

You are not only a crank, but spinning at 4700 rpm.

And that is what she says about the birthers.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, Schooling Nepotism Baby William Kristol

Damn, Stewart is the best interviewer n TV.

28 July 2009

It Appears That the Storm Took Out My Computer

So not much posting until resolved.

Crap.

At least I can get my data off of it.

Power Back On

Light posting though, until I catch up on my delayed job search work.

27 July 2009

No Power Today

There were straight line winds of up to 100 mph, and the power is still out at my house.

ETA for power is 6:30 pm.

Posted via mobile.

26 July 2009

Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan's Capitalist Paradise

In this Friday's editorial, the New York Times notes that the increase in the minimum wage is not sufficient, and that jobs of tomorrow will not support a middle class lifestyle:
The minimum wage also sets a floor by which other wages are set. Keeping it low keeps wages lower than they would be otherwise, especially for jobs that are just above the minimum-wage level. That’s a big problem for American workers because low-wage fields are the ones that are adding the most jobs.

According to the Labor Department, 5 of the 10 occupations expected to add the most jobs through 2016 are “very low paying,” up to a maximum of about $22,000 a year. They include retail sales jobs and home health aides. Another 3 of the 10 are “low paying,” from roughly $22,000 to $31,000, including customer-service representatives, general office clerks and nurses’ aides.
(emphasis mine)

We have created Alan Greenspan's Randroid paradise here, where a living wage is only for the capitalists who make their money off of other people's money.

For the other 80% of the population, we have a life of debt servitude and peonage.

H/T uggabugga.

Gee, No Racist Cops in Cambridge

Gawker has some pics of a Cambridge police officer's vanity license plate, "WHY-TEE", as in "Whitie," get it?

Nope, nothing racist there.

Also note that he is parking illegally, and that I think that I have had a sub at this shop.

Even if this particular police officer does not have a single bigoted bone in his body (Yeah, right), this is clearly inappropriate, and the fact that no one has taken him aside to have a word with him on this is telling.

How About Just Dropping the Maximum Payroll Tax Limit

You know, when the Wall Street Journal is discussing how the the increasingly excessive pay for executives is endangering Social Security, it's time to do something.

We are not talking about the Workers' Daily World here, or even the New York Times. We are talking about the daily voice of "rich pig capitalism", and they are talking about how much this is damaging to society:
...

Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Social Security Administration data -- without counting billions of dollars more in pay that remains off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries.

...

The growing portion of pay that exceeds the maximum amount subject to payroll taxes has contributed to the weakening of the Social Security trust fund. In May, the government said the Social Security fund would be exhausted in 2037, four years earlier than was predicted in 2008.
(emphasis mine)

Here's a solution, have the employers portion of social security apply to all forms of remuneration that could be construed as wages, with out a top end to be taxed, and have the employee portion kick in above $1 million a year.

You could call it the They Who Must Not Be Named, Terell Owens, or Bernie Madoff tax.

Seriously, wages in this case are zero sum. When these guys get more, the rest of us get less.

Seriously, Cancel the JASSM

Seriously, this thing has always underperformed tests, and now the lot 6 acceptance tests for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) have been deferred. (paid subscription required)

This thing has never performed as reliably as the specs require, and cancellation for cause would be a good way to kick a defense contractor in the teeth for delivering crap, and then expecting the taxpayer to fund the fixes.

Sometimes, you have to do stuff like this prevent this sort of behavior from becoming endemic in the defense procurement process.

Woah...This Has Failure Written All Over It

The Indian Defense (or is Defence) Ministry has initiated a project to create a "digital soldier", called Futuristic Infantry Soldier-As-A-System (F-INSAS), and it seems to be analogous to the Pentagon's recently canceled suspended "Land Warrior" system.

Of course, this ambitious system in juxtaposed with the Indian Defense R&D programs, which have taken more than 30 years to take a tank and an aircraft from concept to operational deployment, and 22 years to develop an anti-tank missile, so I see this as very likely being another complete cluster f$#@.

I'm not sure why Indian defense R&D is so completely fracked, but they have our own Pentagon beat on this, which must be scary for the Indian soldier and taxpayer.

25 July 2009

1000 Words On Socialized Medicine

Ford Makes Profit in 2nd Quarter

Well, knock me over with a kipper and paint my nipples blue, Ford earned a $2.3 billion profit in the 2nd quarter of 2009.

Well, "earned" may be a strong term, there were some accounting tricks involved, but this is a much stronger performance than had been anticipated.

Flight of the Bumblebee...On an Accordion?????

This is so wrong.

The Death of the Rock of Boston

CBS Radio is shuttering WBCN to make space on the dial for yet another sports radio station in Boston.

I spent a year in Boston, and woke up to Charles Laquidara's "Big Mattress", and was down there nearly every week in my college days.

I know that when I talked with my brother, who still lives in the area, and some of my classmates from UMass, that it was a shadow of what it once was (thanks a lot, Oedipus), but it's sad to see a part of my youth go.

Doubling Down on Failure

The California state pension fund, CALPERS, has decided that since it lost so much money on risky investments last year, it's going to invest in even riskier investments this year in an attempt to catch up.

When you do this at a casino, it's called "Paying the Casino Boss's Daughter's Tuition."

Bush and His Evil Minions&trade Good for Syphilis

That's what the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control has discovered, that under the anti-sex policies of George W. Bush, both Syphilis and teen pregnancy grew sharply.

Hoocoodanode?

Russia Sends Warning of Georgia

Considering the heated rhetoric on this issue, this is pretty mild.

What they are saying is that they will cut military and diplomatic ties with nations that sell Russian built or Russian designed weapons to Georgia.

All in all, this a remarkably narrowly drawn statement, that it will not be offering support or spares to nations that ship Russian, and one would assume Soviet, weapons to Georgia.

Compared to earlier statements made where various government officials appeared to insult each other over parentage and penis size, it's a major step forward.

New Russian Boomer Goes To Sea Without Boom

Specifically, the lead ship for the Borei class SSBN, the Yury Dolgorukiy finished its factory sea trials a few weeks back.

Unfortunately for the Russians, but not so bad for us folks living in the US, the Bulava missile it is intended to carry is not doing well in tests, sparking a reshuffling of the agency in charge of making it combat ready.

Solid-State Laser Ready for Deployment

The US Navy is looking to place a high power solid state laser abroad selected naval vessels in the nest 12-18 months. (paid subscription required)

It appears that they will be using Northrop Grumman's JHPSSL (Joint High Power Solid-State Laser), which uses 15kw blocks that can be ganged together to create a more powerful beam, as a basis for the weapon, and its intended target is small boats.

As to how viable the system is, if the Navy deploys it to the waters off Somalia's coast to fight pirates, then they think that it can be made to work under combat conditions, if not then there is a lack of confidence in the system.

Federal Reserve Consumer Protection Theater

With the Federal Reserve actively lobbying to become the sole protector of consumers in the financial system, it was inevitable that they would have to engage in some consumer protection theater so as to make people forget just how badly they have fumbled this ball over the past 30 years or so:
The Federal Reserve on Thursday proposed sweeping new consumer protections for mortgages and home-equity loans.

The proposals seek to overhaul the timing and content of disclosures to consumers, and to ban controversial side payments to mortgage brokers for steering customers to higher-cost loans.
The cow has left, so now they are closing the barn door, in the hope that they can continue to manage the herd.

The Federal Reserve really does not want a dedicated consumer financial protection agency, because it would engage in real consumer protection, which, based on the record of both the Federal Reserve and its New York bank (*cough* Timothy Geithner *cough*), have not done, choosing instead to pimp for Goldman Sachs and its ilk.

Cracks Found in Pressure Hull of US SSN

Specifically, the Los Angeles class boat the USS Toledo:
Two cracks have been discovered on the hull of the USS Toledo, a potentially fatal flaw that could have led to water leaks and, ultimately, hull failure if the submarine submerged, the Navy confirmed Tuesday.

Toledo crew members on Friday found the 21-inch-long crack in the exterior topside hull under the sail and a corresponding 1-inch crack in the pressure hull underneath.
From the picture, it's one of the later models of the Los Angeles class, it has bow planes, not sail planes, so it should be well before the fatigue life of the hull is reached, and it was found by the crew, but still, cracks in pressure hull of a sub...Yikes!!!

Hopefully this is a one-off, and not a systemic problem.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, Pentagon Pork Primer

Yep, this one pretty much nails what is going on with the F-22 Piglet Raptor.


Word!!!!

As Sure as Death and Taxes

Is the fact that a high profile indigenously developed defense system developed by the Indian military defense establishment will be completely fracked.

In this case, we are talking about the Tejas light combat aircraft, where we are seeing delays in developing its radar and other avionics, and the Indian Air Force has just rejected a joint venture with Snecma do develop the Kaveri engine, which has been in development for the small fighter for over two decades.

Seriously, the Indians have the US beat hands down in the dysfunctional defense procurement apparatus department.

Chinese Military Unleashes Illegal and Immoral Weapon


See the 3rd eye?


There it is again!!!










It appears that the Chinese Communists are developing genetically engineered furries as super-soldiers.

With no respect for the norms of civilized behavior, they intend to inflict furrie soldiers with mutant 3rd eyes (see top pic) upon an unsuspecting world.

And you know what's paying for their inhuman efforts?

McDonald's Happy Meal toys, that's what.

Every time one of your kids gets happy meal toys, the PLA puts a penny on their evil plans.

They must be stopped!

24 July 2009

The Who: Pictures of Lily

Their paean to photographically induced auto-eroticism.

The two things that strike most is just how much studio technology has progressed, and how unbelievably dorky those costumes from the 1960s look:


In Studio


On Stage

Revenge of the FASB

Following the humiliating climedown by the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on mark to market in April of this year, where they re-enabled fantasy accounting, because of pressure from whores Congress and financial services industry, it now appears that the FASB has found its inner punk, and is saying that it might, "expand the use of fair-market values on corporate income statements and balance sheets," which means that there is a whole lot of the big sh%$ pile that will shortly be valued on balance sheets as, well, sh%$.

This Week in God Fruit

Funny, if slightly sacrilegious.

It's Bank Failure Friday!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Waterford Village Bank, Williamsville, NY
  2. Security Bank of Gwinnett County, Suwanee, GA
  3. Security Bank of North Fulton, Alpharetta, GA
  4. Security Bank of North Metro, Woodstock, GA
  5. Security Bank of Bibb County, Macon, GA
  6. Security Bank of Houston County, Perry, GA
  7. Security Bank of Jones County, Gray, GA
Great Googly Moogly!!!!!That's 7 banks in one weekend, though 6 of the banks are all subsidiaries of one bank, Security Bank Corporation of Macon, GA.

There may be a few more further west, but the FDIC is not listing them as of 8:30 EDT.

Full FDIC list

Economics Update

Something that everyone misses about this economy is that it is really all about jobs. Note that I am currently looking for a job, which makes me more aware of this.

Actually, it's not everyone who does not get that it's about jobs, ordinary people get it, which is why consumer confidence fell in July.

In any case, we should glad that we don't live in the UK, because "The Street", their version of Wall Street, owns their economy even more than that great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity,* Goldman Sachs, owns our economy, and so the UK's GDP fell by 0.8% in the 2nd Quarter, and 5.6% year over year, the largest slump ever recorded for Old Blighty.

The problem is that without jobs, there is no recovery, and the recovery programs spend a lot of times of the relative health of financial cephalopods, not the return of jobs.

It's beginning to increasingly look like real estate will lag any recovery, with major increases in the number of rental units and the vacancy rate, which has spiked to 10.6% as people who cannot sell their homes continue to rise, and US home vacancies hit 18.7 on bank seizures and walk-aways.

Still, the traders are optimistic, which is driving oil up and the dollar down.

*Alas, I cannot claim credit for this bon mot, it was coined by the great Matt Taibbi, in his article on the massive criminal conspiracy investment firm, The Great American Bubble Machine.
You know, cephalopods, as in vampire squids, like Goldman Sachs

Too Funny Not to Share

It appears that CNBC's dissing of bloggers has offended someone who knows photoshop:

Link

Senate Democrats Briefly Show Brain and Spine

They voted down John Thune's carry your gun anywhere anyway anyhow amendment to the defense spending bill.

1t was 58-40 in favor of the amendment, but with a filibuster promised, it failed.

Needless to say, the Dems, particularly the "Centrists" will be back to their old ways shortly.

$7.25/Hr

The minimum wage went up from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour today.

This may have a greater stimulatory effect than anything done by Obama/Bernanke/Summers/Geithner to this date.

The Entire Officer James Crowley/Henry Gates Thing

The basic point:
  • The police report shows that Officer Crowley knew that Henry Gates was in his own house, and there legally.
  • The police officer arrested him for being irate about his treatment.
Officer Crowley abused his position and should be fired, but he won't be.

A police officer is a peace officer, and in situations like that their job is to defuse the situation, not arrest someone for being "mean" to them.

Whether or not Crowley refused to give his name and badge number, which is a crime in Massachusetts, and whether or not race was involved, the officer should simply have left once it was determined that Dr. Gates was in his own house.

This man should not be a police officer any more.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!?!?!?!? Organ-Legging!?!?!?!

So there has been a massive corruption bust in New Jersey, and one of the things that they have found is that there was also an illegal transplant organ sales operation going on.

Seriously, we are talking about selling kidneys.

Great googly moogly.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, Bonkers Birther Bamboozlements

Jon Stewarts takes the Obama birthers to the wood shed.

Jesus Was Best Man at a Gay Wedding

Seriously, this is a part of early Christian mythology:
A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

....

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).
So much for "traditional" marriage.

What the Christofascist jihad against gay marriage is really about is that some (far too many) people need to use religion to excuse their hate, and that gays, and gay marriage, are simply the latest target for their "5 minutes of hate."

It's a Half Step

Barack Obama is now proposing a tax on "risky" financial transactions.

The problem here is two fold:
  • Many of the risky financial transactions were there to skirt regulations, and this just creates another incentive for people to do this again.
  • Many of the problems with our markets come from people who attempt to generate minuscule profits across thousands, or millions, of trades, Goldman Sachs front-running the entire US stock market comes to mind.
The solution to fixing this is to make rapid-fire low margin speculation unprofitable, and the way to do this is to to tax all financial transactions at something like ¼-½%.

For the investor, this is an infinitesimal cost of doing business, but it puts the rampant speculator out of business.

It eliminates regulatory arbitrage, and could go a long way toward paying for health care reform.

Why Friends Do Not Let Friends Link to the Associated Press

So, the AP continues on its jihad against fair use of its work.

They are looking at including "beacons," which will track just who reads which article, in their work.

When they appeared on Facebook, there was a revolt over this.

I would also note that it appears that their target appears to be Google News, ""The problem we have now is that our stories are getting scraped and reused in large quantities by aggregators who haven't paid any license fees," according to Jane Seagrave, Senior VP for global product development at the AP.

You know, if they get what they want, Google news, and other news search pages, will drop them, and they will vanish from the public consciousness with barely a ripple, so go ahead, commit Seppuku.

The problem here is two fold, their clients, the newspapers, are getting their asses kicked by Craigslist and its ilk, and 2nd, major news sources, including the AP, have decided that having the one side tell the truth, and having the other side lie, in an article is balanced journalism.

It's not, it's stenography.

This sort of sh&% is why whenever I come across an AP story, I look for an alternate source, using those "aggregators" that they hate so much.

Economics Update, One Day Late


Normally, I don't comment on stock market swings, but the Dow closing above 9000 for the first time since January allows me to invoke this Dragonball Z meme, sorry.*
Yes, I know that this should have been done yesterday, but once I got all the links together, we had heavy thunder storms, and so I shut down for the evening.

In any case, yesterday was unemployment claims Thursday, and new claims are up by 30K to 554K, but note that these numbers are all seasonally adjusted, which means that they really are not particularly valid, since the July shutdowns of GM and Chrysler happened in the spring of this year, so for this week, and to a lesser degree next week, we are flying blind on these statistics.

That being said, I think that the numbers on continuing claims are still valid, or at least more valid, and those numbers fell 88K to 6.225 million.

In any case, 550,000 weekly new unemployment claims, or for that matter anything over 400,000 new claims, is a grim picture, and so we are still well within the "grimness event horizon."

I would also note that downward pressure on the continuing claims numbers is coming from people who are exhausting their unemployment benefits, and as Peter Boockvar at The Big Picture notes, the number of people on emergency unemployment benefits, which cut in after 26 weeks, are way up, but they are not counted in the continuing claims numbers.

So, I would not put a whole bunch of credence in the normally reported unemployment numbers until probably the August 7 numbers.

In terms of more general economic news, we have credit card charge offs rising again in June, hotel revenues down and vacancies up, and on a conference call, the CEO of UPS noted that he is not seeing any signs of recovery in his shipping business.

On the plus side, Canadian consumer confidence rose in July, and there was a surprise jump in U.K. retail sales, largely on increased purchases of clothing, which means that the Brits are poor, but not poorly dressed.

In real estate, existing home sales rose in June, but it should be noted that 1/3 of these are distressed sales, either foreclosures or short sales, and it should also be noted that prices are still falling off a cliff, down 15.4% year over year.

Mortgage rates are marginally lower, probably in reaction to Bernanke's testimony before the Congress.

In the area of news that sounds important, but that I cannot for the life of me suss out what it means, it appears that Swiss banks are running out of vault space for gold bullion.

Finally, oil rose and the dollar fell yesterday.

*OK, I'm really not sorry, not one little bit.

23 July 2009

So, Who is Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) F%$#ing?

Because it appears that he lives at the C Street complex too.

Considering the fact that it increasingly appears that the primary purpose of this residence is to allow philandering Congressman to collude to conceal the fact, it's become a much less popular place to lose.

At the very least he's refusing to explicitly deny that this is where he lives, and if he weren't living there, he'd be categorically denying.

You know it was much easier answering the question, "W is Heath Shuler f%$#ing?," when he was an overpriced underperforming rookie for the Washington Redskins.

When that was going on, we knew who was being f%#$ed: the fans, who at the end of the day were the ones who supplied the money to pay his salary.

Yeah, I'm still a bit bitter about it.

Largest Arbitration Firm in Nation Shut Down

Three cheers to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (pictured) who just put the criminally corrupt National Arbitration Forum (NAF) out of business.

As of the end of this week, they will no longer be accepting any cases on consumer disputes under a consent decree.

The NAF, the favorite venue for credit card and cell phone company kangaroo courts, argues that they did not have the resources to defend themselves in this case, but the reality is that they do not have the facts to defend themselves in this case:
....In one case, NAF ordered a woman to pay the credit card company MBNA almost $8000 because she had the same name as another woman who owed MBNA money. Conversely, when a Harvard Law Professor named Elizabeth Bartholet, who used to work part-time as an NAF arbitrator, handed down a single decision against a credit card company she was immediately stripped of her caseload by NAF at the request of the credit card industry.

....

Unfortunately, NAF was vulnerable to this kind of attack because the evidence against it was so overwhelming–not every forced arbitration company has a Harvard Law professor prepared to testify about how they were strongarmed into shafting consumers–so it remains to be seen whether another, equally offensive company will emerge to fill the void (a bill, currently pending in Congress, would end the practice of forced arbitration in consumer and employment contracts altogether). Even so, the near-total demise of NAF is one of the most important pro-consumer developments in decades; for the first time in years, credit card companies may actually have to follow the law.
When a member of the Harvard Law faculty gets kicked for ruling for the consumer once, it will be hard impossible to get a jury not to throw your sorry asses in jail.

Pam Martens of Counter Punch properly calls the mandatory arbitration system Judicial Apartheid, and she also notes that the NAF was quite literally owned by the bill collection agencies like Mann Bracken, Wolpoff & Abramson, and Eskanos & Adler, and testimony that, "Management meetings in which personnel were instructed to call arbitrators and tell them, prior to the release of the decision to the parties to the arbitration, to change decisions they had issued that found against the Famous Parties [credit card companies]."

There is a bill in Congress to put an end to this, but I am not inclined to believe that it will see the light of day, and in any case, the people behind this need to go to jail, not just be put out of business.

Previous posts are here.

22 July 2009

Barack Hussein Obama Channeling Richard Bruce Cheney Again

In shades of Dick Cheney's refusal to disclose participants in his energy task force, Barack Obama is now refusing to disclose visitor logs of health industry executives who visited the White House during the drafting of their healthcare strategy.

Damn.

It would be nice if they weren't so damn enthusiastic about continuing the worst excesses of Bush and His Evil Minions.

Imprison Ben Bernanke for Treason


I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!
Seriously, Ben Bernanke is saying that there is no need for a Consumer Financial Product Agency, because the Federal Reserve can handle this job.

He is referring to the same Federal Reserve that was run by Alan Greenspan for over 20 years and was an enthusiastic cheerleader of the toxic financial products.

The same secretive and opaque agency that revels in its lack of response to the public's perceived needs.

The same one that was run by a man, who said, "Wasn't a need for a law against fraud because if a floor broker was committing fraud, the customer would figure it out and stop doing business with him," for over 20 years.

That Federal Reserve? The one whose New York bank, which is charged with regulating Wall Street, leaves seats on its banks allocated to consumer advocates empty?

You are suggesting that an organization that aided the elevation Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan, a man who basically got his PhD from the back of a cereal box, to a position the preeminent economic guru of the United States of America be allowed to be in charge of protecting consumers?

I's just time to cue Captain Renault. (Top Pic)

What's more the, as Elizabeth Warren, the woman who chairs the oversight committee being stonewalled by the US Department of the Treasury on TARP oversight notes, the arguments against a dedicated consumer protection agency are 3 parts outright lies, and 4 parts intentional stupidity.

Put the Federal Reserve in charge of consumer protection? Goldman F$#@ing Sachs would do a more honest and competent job of that.

Specter Loses Lead to Toomey In General Election Matchup

The latest Quinnipiac poll has them in a dead heat, Specter 45%, Toomey 44%, while a Sestak/Toomey matchup has Toomey leading 39% to 35%.

The obvious implication here, beside the fact that a lot of people do not know who eityher Sestak or Toomey are, is that there are a lot of people who are voting for Specter, and not for Toomey, and that despite the strong support of the Democratic establishment, he is not a strong candidate in the general.

Specter is also generally a weasel, but that is another story.

Wow Very White of Them

It appears that after the obscene profits, generated by risk taking that is being bankrolled by an implicit federal guarantee, Goldman Sachs has deigned to accept the US Treasury's price offer on the sale of their stock warrants. (See also here and here)

I think that someone there realized that when people were referring to them as, "That great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity,*" that it was time to throw a few crusts to the peasants government of the United States of America.

As a result of their unprecedented generosity, the chattering classes are once again singing their praises.

*Alas, I cannot claim credit for this bon mot, it was coined by the great Matt Taibbi, in his article on the massive criminal conspiracy investment firm, The Great American Bubble Machine.

Economics Update

Well, it was a tough day for bonds, with prices falling, and yields rising, on US Treasuries, as investors look more to the downside of the economy.

Interestingly enough, we had a lot of mixed signals from real estate, with the
Federal Housing Finance Agency saying that single family home prices rose 0.9% in May, though they are down 5.6% year over year, the U.S. architecture billings index down again in June, which indicates a continued fall in construction, mortgage applications rose last week, though they remain very low, and Standard & Poor’s losses on subprime mortgage backed securities was revised higher.

In the world of real people, the PBGC took over struggling auto parts maker Delphi's pension obligations, which should come as a surprise to no one.

We do seem to be seeing signs of "green shoots" in other countries though, with the
South Korean GDP growing at the fastest rate in 6 years in the last quarter, and the Central Bank of Brazil cutting its benchmark rate by the smallest amount since beginning of the year, indicating that they think that their recession is largely over.

In the old standbys of energy and currency, oil ended above $65/bbl on reports of tight inventories, and the dollar hit a 7 week low on increased optimism.

Jeepers????

I was just on the phone with a recruiter for an agency, a very nice guy, and in the course of our phone conversation, I related my background:
  • Medical Test Equipment
  • Nuclear Power
  • Military Vehicles
  • Automotive
  • Locomotive
  • Missiles and space
  • Food processing equipment
  • Sheet metal
  • Shop floor interface
  • Electronics packaging
  • CAD
  • FEA
In response, he said, "Jeepers."

He said it, and he said it without any intent of irony.

Woah. I guess it must be a Midwest thing.

21 July 2009

This is an Unalloyed Good Thing

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has voted to require airlines to allow passengers to deplane if the flights are held on the tarmac for more than 3 hours.

The measure is attached to a $34.6 billion FAA authorization bill.

The airlines are complaining that they do not want to lose the flexibility, but these long stays are most often about not having to put up passengers in hotels or paying for meals.

F$#@ the airlines.

A Republican Proposes a "Bristol Palin" Tax

That name may not be entirely fair, since it the tax would also apply disproportionately to Republican lawmakers, particularly those living on the now infamous "C Street" Christo-Fascist funded residences.

I'm of mixed emotions here. A tax on unprotected sex is a really stupid idea, but the idea of making Bristol Palin, and the residents of "C Street" pay an "Ass Tax", amuses me no end.
And here we thought paying for sex was a no-no, especially for scandal-wary Members of Congress. But Rep. Steve Buyer thinks people who engage in the act (specifically, the kind that takes place sans protection) should have to pony up.

The Indiana Republican floated his unlikely cash-for-sex proposal Thursday during the markup of the health care bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Under the plan Buyer posited, those who engage in risky behavior, like smoking, not exercising and (ding, ding!) having unprotected sex, should have to pay a premium for their health care. After all, the reasoning goes, those people are more likely to incur higher health care costs than cigarette-eschewing, condom-wearing gym bunnies.
The distinguished gentleman from Indiana had to have been a College Republican, he was born in 1958, so he's of roughly the right age, and this is a classic sort of juvenile CR bullsh%$.

Are there any grown-up Republicans left in Congress?

Beijing Looking to Buy US and EU

Basically, with multi-trillion dollar foreign reserves, Beijing is looking at using this money to aid in acquisition of foreign companies by Chinese firms.

Well, I guess that this is one way to deal with the mountain of dollars that they have, though one wonders what happens when they run out of stuff to buy.

Student-Loan Overhaul Passes House Education and Labor Committee

Basically, the proposal becomes law, it will end subsidies to private student loan providers, saving money for students and taxpayers to the tune of $87 billion over 10 years.

The student loan providers are even less deserving than Goldman Sachs, so here is hoping that this becomes law, though getting it through the Senate may be difficult, as the 3rd largest student loan provider is Nelnet, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, home of Senator Ben Nelson, who will almost certainly support a filibuster against the measure.

CFTC Showing Some Balls

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is considering eliminating waivers on position limits in wheat trading:
The [Senate] subcommittee [on Investigations] released a study in June that showed wheat prices were inflated by index investors last year. It called for the elimination of waivers that allow funds to hold more than 6,500 Chicago Board of Trade contracts at any one time, which would lower the influence of non-agricultural buyers and curb speculation. [CTFC Chairman] Gensler said earlier this month the CFTC, which currently grants waivers for agricultural products, also is considering limits on holdings by oil and gas speculators.
It's been a while since I've seen stuff like this, and I can't quite remember the word for it....Oh....Yes....It's called regulation.

Robert Byrd Returns to the Senate

He was there to vote in favor of the F-22 boondoggle Raptor, and this means that the Dems, at least theoretically, have 59 votes for cloture, though I think that Ted Kennedy, who has also been absent for health reasons, would be down to the floor for anything short of a coma for the health plan.

Economics Update

It appears that Ben Bernanke has a mentioned a secret plan to win the war in Vietnam protect the US dollar from inflation,* which will prevent inflation when the economy recovers, and this has driven Treasuries higher, and their yields lower:
Fed officials said in a report submitted as part of Bernanke’s testimony that policy will be “tightened” when the labor market improves, an economic recovery takes hold and pressures holding down inflation “diminish.” The comments follow a rally in stocks and a rebound in corporate earnings that have stoked speculation the worst recession in half a century is ending.
I'm not an economist, but I still think that one way to get out of this mess is to inflate our way out of this, which will have the effect of devaluing the debt which is holding back our economy.

I understand that it can (*cough* Zimbabwe *cough*) get out of hand, but it seems to me that too many people are under water for any recovery now.

Considering the fact that Americans are paying down their debt at the fastest rate since 1952, I do not see an alternative.

IMHO, We are in a deflationary trap, and creating inflation is the way out of it.

In any case, Bernanke's statements about inflation boosted the US dollar, and his statements about recovery boosted crude oil prices.

*It's a "Tricky Dick" Nixon reference, OK?

The Two Best Snarks of the Week

Both from Jonathan Schwarz of Tiny Revolution are here and here.

I'm just sayin'....Everyone on the 'net can write "gooder" than me.

Senate Kills F-22

Amendment approving it being stripped from the Defense Appropriations Bill passes passes 58-40.

I'm with SecDef Bob Gates on this. The push behind this is to have the USAF be able to achieve air supremacy against any potential future foe, and the costs end up killing men on the ground, and citizens in the streets, now.

We still maintain the ability to achieve air superiority against any potential future foe, and air supremacy against any probable opponent, and it saves money for better readiness in a counter-insurgency scenarios that are the most likely future conflicts for the next ¼ century.

Additionally, it frees up money to provide for things like vaccinating and educating our children.

The F-22 was about ensuring that in the worst possible conflict the USAF would be at virtually no risk of air to air casualties, at the expense of everyone else.

While that might be nice for the fighter jocks, the marginal utility of air supremacy vs air superiority means very little to the guy on the ground, or the tax-payer.

Buzz Aldrin Punches Jerk Who Deserved It

At about 2:45 into the video, he lays one on a lunar landing denier.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, Part 7734

In this case, it's really not about laughing stock South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, but rather about the media whores who sucked up to him for the possibility of an interview.

20 July 2009

Inspector General Says Insufficient Oversight for TARP

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the TARP, is saying that oversight by the US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve is woefully inadequate, and he also places the price tag for the bank bailouts at as much as $23.7 trillion.

By way of perspective, the whole US economy (GDP) is about $15 trillion, and the the world GDP is is listed at $65.82 Trillion.

To quote the Bloodhound Gang:
The roof the roof the roof is on fire
The roof the roof the roof is on fire
The roof the roof the roof is on fire
We don't need no water let the motherf#$%er burn
Burn motherf#$%er burn
We need to amputate the current banking system, and replace it with something that works.

Cool

Continental drift animation.

Someone Who Gets Goldman Sachs

He calls them "scum".

Massachusetts Looks to Revamp its Healthcare

They are looking to move from a fee for service to a flat fee per patient.

I do not expect this to work. I think that the individual mandate is flawed, but it is the only thing that states are allowed to do under ERISA, so that is everyone's solution.

Just eliminating the preemption clause from ERISA would go a long way toward solving the problem, because states would compete on the quality and cost effectiveness of their health care for businesses, as opposed to competing on tax giveaways.

Economics Update

The obvious lede here is that the leading economic indicators have risen for the 3rd straight month.

3 straight months is supposed to indicate that that a recovery is likely.

I'm not sure just what the recovery is supposed to be, as in the nonsensically titled article, "Commercial property price drop may signal bottom," which takes the position that a -7.6% price decline in May, which followed a -8.6% decline in April, (-16.2% in 2 months!!), a -29% year over year decline, and -34.8% decline from peak is not the next tsunami in real estate and banking.

The fact that commercial mortgage defaults have hit a20-year high would seem to mitigate against any recovery any time soon in the commercial real estate sector.

In any case, commercial lender CIT, not to be confused with Citi, managed to cut a deal which staved off bankruptcy, and this calmed investors, which increased their optimism and appetite for risk, which
pushed the dollar to a 6 week low, and drove oil prices up, though retail gasoline, which lags oil prices, fell to an 8 week low.

The Eagle Has Landed

40 years ago today.

Quote of the Day

I love this quote from Harold Feld's Tales of the Sausage Factory:
More and more, I'm feeling like a volunteer for the “Mark Sanford in 2012 Committee” finding out what “hiking the Appalachian Trail” really means.
What he is talking about is the fact that the broadband stimulus package is being manipulated by the incumbents and the regulators to make it next to impossible for non incumbents to compete.

Basically, the stim money is to go to "unserved" and "underserved" census blocks, but only the incumbent carriers will be able to use the actual broadband penetration to document this, because such data is "proprietary."

Catch-22.

19 July 2009

One Very Big Plus to the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill

It appears that the legislation, which creates a Co2 cap and trade regime, also bans naked credit default swaps, and could be construed as banning all credit default swaps:

Here's the key passage from Waxman-Markey, buried on page 1,070 of the 1,428-page bill introduced in the Senate on July 6:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to enter into a credit default swap unless the person:

1) owns a credit instrument which is insured by the credit default swap;

2) would experience financial loss if an event that is the subject of the credit default swap occurs with respect to the credit instrument; and

3) meets . . . minimum capital adequacy standards…"

Basically, a credit default swap is an insurance policy on a financial instrument, and a naked swap is an insurance on a policy in which one has no interest in its continued existence.

This section of the bill is clearly intended to ban naked swaps, but some people are arguing that the specific language of the bill actually bans all CDS, because the person selling the swap does not have own, "a credit instrument which is insured by the credit default swap," but by selling the insurance they are "entering into" the CDS.

My guess is that the courts will not view this as a ban on all CDS instruments, and if Waxman-Markey bans nakes swaps, this is enough to justify support the bill on its own, as weak as it is.

By background, in insurance, it's forbidden to, for example, take out insurance on things like your neighbor's home, and has been for some time:
In 1746, Parliament passed the Marine Insurance Act, requiring anyone seeking to collect on an insurance contract to have an interest in the continued existence of the insured property. Thus was born the insured-interest doctrine. The indemnity doctrine, which precludes a buyer from insuring property for more than it’s worth, soon followed. The point of these rules is to limit insurance contracts to trading existing risks and not to create new risks by giving buyers of insurance incentive to destroy property. The doctrines have been part of insurance law in both England and the United States (which in 1746 were colonies under English common law) ever since.
Unfortunately, in the Greenspan/Rubin/Summers America, it was decided that this 263 year old lesson could be ignored, and so we have trillions of dollars in casino bets masquerading as insurance, but isn't insurance, because then the contracts for naked swaps would be unenforceable as insurance policies.

H/t Kevin Drum

The Best Press Release Ever

Cyclone Power Technologies issued the following press release regarding rumors of it creating flesh eating zombie hordes:
PRESS RELEASE

Cyclone Power Technologies Responds to
Rumors about “Flesh Eating ” Military Robot

POMPANO BEACH, FL, July 16, 2009. In response to rumors circulating the internet on sites such as FoxNews.com, FastCompany.com and CNET News about a “flesh eating ”robot project, Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. (Pink Sheets: CYPW) and Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) would like to set the record straight: This robot is strictly vegetarian.

On July 7, Cyclone announced that it had completed the first stage of development for a beta biomass engine system used to power RTI ’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™), a Phase II SBIR project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office. RTI ’s EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.

RTI ’s patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI ’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.

“We completely understand the public ’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population,but that is not our mission,”stated Harry Schoell,Cyclone ’s CEO.“We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”
(emphasis original)

Somehow, I do not think that this press release will help much. They just cemented their position in the public view as a manufacturer of Cannibal Zombdroids.

If Leno, O'Brien, Letterman, Colbert, or Stewart's writer's hear about this, it will be how your company is introduced to mainstream America.

H/t Noah Shachtman.

No

Cenk Uygur asks, "Will Eric Holder actually hold Bush admin. accountable for torture?"

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

18 July 2009

Old News

But it's nice that the fact that we tortured Uighurs at the request of the Communist Chinese government at Guantanamo is now hitting mainstream news orgs, the link is MSNBC, is a good thing.

Background here.

That Sound is George Orwell Spinning in His Grave at 4800 RPM

Amazon sold copies of 1984 and Animal Farm in E-Book format for use on its Kindle reader, and when the publisher objected, it removed the books from its store, and from the Kindles of people who had already purchased the books.

The people bought these books, and thought that they owned them, albeit without the option of donating them at a later time, etc., but they were wrong, and all traces were removed from their readers.

As both David Pogue and Boing Boing note, this mirrors a number of concerns that people have with the new IP regime, and how it will apply to digital data.

Of course, the fact that these books were consigned to the "memory hole", a term created by George Orwell in his book 1984, the irony here is obvious:
In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston's arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.
As I am wont to say, "Who says that irony is dead?"

Proof of God's Existence

He has a Facebook page.

Zimbabwe Update

Well, the drafting of a new constitution is a complete mess, with ZANU-PF busing in thugs to disrupt the charter meeting.

In a darkly humorous development, it appears that ZANU-PF did not think it out fully, as they did not include transport back home for their thugs, who were stranded for a few days at the hotel at which the meeting is being held.

From the other side, there have been threats of boycotts from civil society groups, who claim that they have not been fully included in the process, and that parliamentarians have complete control of the process.

As a historical aside, this sort of stuff makes the US Constitutional convention, which was conducted in secret, look awfully attractive.

In terms of the current government, it appears that ZANU-PF is engineering trumped up charges against MDC members of parliament, in order to get them suspended, which, if done in sufficient quantities, would flip control of the chamber back to the ZANU-PF.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric about an inclusive government, I really don't think that there will be any progress without a some external entity, and South Africa is the entity best suited to this, having a boot on Mugabe's neck to coerce "good faith" moving forward.

Finally, it appears that the situation in the Zimbabwean diamond mines is getting worse. While the government has agreed to remove the army from the mines, "in phases", but the army has refused to leave.

So the the "Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) has called for a temporary ban on trade in diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields".

Major Change in Pentagon Strategy

General James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the JCS, has announced that the so-called two war strategy will be dropped at the next DoD Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

This is an unalloyed good. Not only has this policy, that the US should be able to defeat two "near peer" opponents in short order, created a ruinously expensive military, but it has also created a military that is ill suited to the current conflicts that we are involved in, where over-reliance on high-tech, and under reliance of boots on the ground, has led to our military losing, as opposed to winning, hearts and minds on the ground.

Latest Bulava SLBM Test Failed

Ouch.

That's something like 6 failures in 11 tests, so it looks like the new boomers that the Russians have under construction may end up putting to sea with empty tubes.

Sikorsky X2 Flying with Propulsor on

The X2 advancing blade helicopter has returned to flight, and this time, the propulsor is hooked up.

It only reached 52 kts in its initial flights around the end of last month, but Sikorsky is hoping to reach 250 kts by the end of the year.

So far, there have been no game stoppers, and, unlike its ABC helicopter predecessor from the 1970s, vibrations appear to be very low.

I would assume that at some point, they will be adding some sort of shroud on the rotor masts to reduce drag a bit.

The JSF Engine War

Desert Storm air commander, retired General Chuck Horner, makes some very good points as to why we should continue to fund the F136 alternate engine, though the obvious caveat is that he is consulting with GE, who is a part of the F136 team.

Basically, he recites a litany of problems, both from when he was commanding squadrons, and issues with the Saudi Air Force, where the Pratt & Whitney was unresponsive to customer concerns, and their F100 engine was unreliable and over priced, and whenever the competing GE F110 came up, the problems got fixed.

I recall reading about problems with the engine, and how it led to the USAF to fund development of the F110, then called the F101-DFE (Derivative Fighter Engine).

There were problems with reliability, price, and support that were fixed very quickly once there was a competitor on the horizon.

It appears to me that the F135 engine for the JSF is headed down the same path, we have P&W going though a number of cost cutting initiatives, promising that the engine will fall in price, while the manufacturer is saying that the cost savings as production ramps up may not meet expectations.

Much of the fair back from the Pentagon is, I think directed about getting copies of the F-35 JSF made now, and to hell with future operating costs.

The budget item for continuing development this year is small, about ½ billion, or less than the cost of 3 full aircraft, and promises real savings, and performance improvements, in the future.

BTW, as to nonsensical arguments against the F136 engine, we have CNO Gary Roughead saying that having two engines would be too much of a burden on a carrier, despite the fact that just for the fighters, there were 4 separate engines in the 1990s on carriers, the F404 for the F/A-18 C/D, the F414 for the F/A-18 E/F, the TF30 for the F-14 A, and the F110 for the F-14 D.

Additionally, the S-3 was still being deployed with the TF34 engine.

By the time that the F-35 enters naval service, there would be two types of fighters on deck, and either 2 or 3 engines, which would be a lower logistical load.

One F&^% of a Wake-Up Call

Yes, I know, this picture of an F-18 doing a flyby at the start of a boat race on the Detroit river is an artifact of a long lens and forced perspective, but it's still an impressive photo.

(click for full size)

17 July 2009

Pandemic Flu

And That's the Way It Is

Walter Cronkite, dead at 92.

Miss Piggy Singing F$%# the Pain Away

NSFW, but seriously bent in a good way.



Link

It's Bank Failure Friday!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. First Piedmont Bank, Winder, GA
  2. BankFirst, Sioux Falls, SD
  3. Vineyard Bank, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  4. Temecula Valley Bank, Temecula, CA
Full FDIC list

Is Commercial Paper Imploding?

It looks like the credit crunch is not over, as major companies, running from, "Consolidated Edison Inc. to Kellogg Co.,"have been forced to sell bonds, at a higher interest rate, because they cannot get their cash on the commercial paper market, meaning that this market for short-term low-interest unsecured debt is still frozen.

News of the Optimism of "Dr. Doom" Have Been Premature

The wankers at CNBC reported that Dr. Nouriel Roubini said that he saw a recovery this year.

Not so, says the good doctor:
It has been widely reported today that I have stated that the recession will be over 'this year' and that I have 'improved' my economic outlook. Despite those reports - however – my views expressed today are no different than the views I have expressed previously. If anything my views were taken out of context.

I have said on numerous occasions that the recession would last roughly 24 months. Therefore, we are 19 months into that recession. If, as I predicted, the recession is over by the end of the year, it will have lasted 24 months with a recovery only beginning in 2010. Simply put I am not forecasting economic growth before year’s end.

...
Someone saw a headline from slipping a phrase, and took it.

Only One Person Can Really Talk to the Obscenity of Goldman Sachs Profits and Bonuses

Matt Taibbit.

Just read what he has to say.

Card Check Killed in Senate

Most of the rest of the reforms remain intact, but the card check provision has been removed.

What remains is the right of unions to campaign on company property, a faster election cycle, which gives less time for employers to strong arm and illegally fire employees, making mandatory anti-union meetings illegal, and binding arbitration.

Truth be told, I expect it to be watered down further, because the Barack Obama administration has been studiously silent on this measure, throwing yet another key constituency, unions, under the bus as they have with labor.

This bill will not progress with meaningful reform without White House support, and none is forthcoming.

Economics Update

Housing starts rose from May to June, but as Barry Ritholtz notes, "The year-over-year data is much clearer: New Starts down 46%, Permits down 52%." (The graph to the right illustrates this pretty well)

In either case, the housing data was better than expected, which drove oil up, bonds down (and thus their yields rose), and increased the spread between the 2 and 10 year notes.

The dollar rose today, but both the dollar and Yen have fallen more this week than they have since May, indicating an increase appetite for risk.

Still, the number that worries me is the fact that June video game sales are at a 9 year low.

When gaming geeks are cutting back, everyone is cutting back.

Sushi Without Guilt

Australian company Clean Seas Tuna Ltd. has succeeded in breeding bluefin tuna in captivity.

The bluefin, which is prized as the finest sushi fish in the world, individual fish can sell in Tokyo for $20,000.00, is very threatened by the demand, and the idea that one could harvest farm-raised tuna, and allow leave the wild stocks alone, is an encouraging development.

Economics Update

Yeah, it's actually yesterday's....What can I say.

Since Thursday is new jobless day, we lead with the fact that new claims for unemployment fell to a 6 month low, though it must noted that these are seasonally adjusted figures, and the still accounts for the spike from the July shutdowns of the GM and Chrysler, which happened earlier this year.

We have two other indices moving in opposite directions, with the Philadelphia Fed industrial index falling, and the NAHB builder confidence index rising, but I'm more inclined to go with the Philly Fed, it's an index of activity, not sentiment, and also because RealtyTrac is reporting that foreclosure filings hit a new record for the first half of the year.

Mortgage rates stayed pretty much flat over the last week.

In energy, retail gasoline continues to fall, hitting a 2 month low, and crude oil fell on demand concerns.

The dollar fell as well, on increased optimism by investors, who have moved their money to more speculative ventures.

16 July 2009

Colbert Calls Out Keith Olbermann

Keith left him off his "Worst Person's" list last night for his mash note to Governor Sanford at the start of the scandal, even as he included Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, and Stephen will not stand for it:



Keith, you know what you have to to, because Stephen Colbert is loaded for...dare I say it???? Bear.

iHymen

Yes, someone has released an iPhone 'purity ring' application:
The iPhone has applications for almost everything, from helping people to choose the best wine for a meal to locating supermarkets in Holland. Now there is one to help them to stay chaste until marriage.

For just 59p, consumers can download an application that allows them to take a purity pledge and then display a silver ring on their phone to prove their commitment to abstinence.
I would note that people who take purity pledges are more likely to engage in oral sex, anal sex, unprotected sex, and parenthood, so the mind boggles at what sorts of risky behavior that this application will engender.

H/t Jessica Valenti

Dayam! I Get Some Whack Email!

And it wasn't even addressed to me about this blog, it was on a little Yahoo Group that I run to facilitate the Owings Mills Jewish community.*

I have new members set to "moderated" so as to prevent the phenomena where some joins, posts spam, and leaves, and someone posted this over the top screed that appears to call for the murder of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama!

I looked at it, and was about to delete it, and then I looked again and thought that the phrase, "The death time of lucifer and united states and clinton is come. GOD said: " Kill clinton , Destroy united states !" was enough.

I contacted the Secret Service, read them the letter over the phone, and they had me send a copy to them.

Jeebus, the hate out there is scary.

*Note that the poster is not Jewish. When the opening 'graph reads, "I am called by Hashem of Israel - my Father GOD, the Most High, and the Son of GOD, the Messiah of Israel - my LORD Yeshua to convey GOD's Words to people in the last days. I have proof, the visible Sign of HOLY SPIRIT like a Light Dove on my forehead, and the Sign of Light Cross on my face," it's clearly one of the Evangelical proselytization group, like J4J or MJ, behind this.

15 July 2009

DoJ Probing Derivatives Trading

It looks like a serious investigation of credit default swaps and other derivatives has been initiated by the Department of Justice, and the investigation is specifically looking at the clearing of those instruments. (See also here)

What "clearing" means here is the process of actually settling the contracts for the derivatives, and much of it is done by one entity, Markit Group Ltd., which is owned by the Wall Street Banks.

This appears to be an anti-trust investigation, and my guess is that what they are looking at is that the buy and the sell prices, which always have a slight gap, this difference goes to the clearing agency and or brokerage, might have been manipulated through collusion to magnify this amount, and the profits thereof.

Here's hoping that some bankers are frog-marched off of Wall Street.

Guilty Plea From Murtha-Tied Defense Contractor

Richard Ianieri, the former CEO of Coherent Systems, pled guilty to taking kickbacks from Kuchera Industries on a consulting contract.

Kuchera has been the favorite beneficiaries of Murtha's earmarks.

There have been no accusations of Murtha's involvement in this, but the recipients of his earmark largess have had a lot of dirt turned up on them lately.

Obama Looking to Restrict Antibiotic Use in Livestock

This is good news.

Basically, feeding tightly penned industrially raised animals antibiotics make they gain weight faster, probably because it suppresses minor illnesses.

It also creates things like antibiotic resistant E. coli, leaves residues in the food, etc.

The Dutch banned antibiotics in animal feed over a decade ago, and we know that the net cost of this change would be less than 5¢ a pound.

Additionally, it would make some of the more inhumane animal husbandry techniques less viable, because stressed animals packed in close quarters become more vulnerable to disease.