31 October 2009

Too True

Bird & Fortune courtesy of Calculated Risk

Remember That Pundit Contest that I Lost?

My initial reaction, upon looking at the bios of the 10 winners, was that they were rather more establishment, and more "WaPo Columnist" (read conservative and mindless difference splitters) than I had hoped.

But I kind of figured that this might be sour grapes on my part, so I would let their biographies, and their submissions, percolate through my brain before I drew a firm conclusion.

Well, Kevin Drum, who already has a job as a pundit, and did not throw his hat into the Washington Post's ring, has taken a look at these winners of at this stage, and has a similar impression of them.

This is particularly notable because I am of the opinion that Drum spends too much time being a "mindless difference splitter", so he is coming from a place that is far closer to the WaPo editorial board than I am.

His take on the winners:
By the way, the ten winners include a Nobel Prize winner, a Bush 43 assistant secretary of commerce (guess which one), a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, a former researcher at the Kennedy School of Government, an Atlantic Media fellow, and a small-town newspaper editor. Not exactly a crowd of just plain folks. It might have been more fun to read the other 4,790 entries.
Well, that's a bit harsher than I would have been, but go and read the Drum's post...It's a good read.

Here are my announcement of my submission, and my ding letter, by way of context.

My submission is after the break.

What Atrios Said

As Atrios notes, the idea that some "moderate Democrats" are pushing for, a Bipartisan commission to propose spending cuts and tax hikes, is really, really, Really, REALLY stupid.

First, there are no Republicans on the national level who will support any new taxes, and second, look at the "Democrats" who are supporting this.

According to the article, a "group of 10 senators — nine moderate Democrats and an independent," so and so the article definitively fingers the following people:
  • Senator Evan Bayh
  • Senator Kent Conrad
  • Senator Joe Lieberman (Not explicitly named in the article, but note the quote, it sure as hell ain't Bernie Sanders.)
MY comment, if you are serious about cutting the deficit, place a Tobin Tax on financial transactions, you raise money, reduce the deficit, reduce speculation for its own sake, and punish the banks.

That's a win-win-win-win scenario.

Just Came Back From Trick or Treating With the Kids

Can't believe that it is only about 8:00pm

Dam daylight savings time.

[on edit]
The musical stylings of John Entwhistle and the who:


I saw him do this song when he played The Channel in Boston in 1987.

Running the Numbers

The Chance Of Schwarzenegger’s ‘F*ck You’ Acrostic Being Random: One In A Trillion

I kind of figured that.

Older post.

Election News

In California, it looks like it will be Jerry Brown running as the Dem for Governor, because Gavin Newsome has quit the race, because of weak support and poor fund-raising.

Additionally, in the very odd special election for New York's 23rd Congressional district, Republican Dierdre Scozzafava has suspended her campaign, after coming up short on money and placing 3rd in recent polls.

The numbers were about 35% for Doug Hoffman, the Club for Growth approved Neanderthal, 35% for Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate about whom I know nothing, and about 25% for Scozzafava.

Her name will remain on the ballot, which is, I think a message to Hoffman that he should go Cheney himself, but I'm an engineer, not a psychologist, dammit!*

I think that this puts Hoffman the live dead girl/live boy favorite in the overwhelmingly Republican district now, though I think that there are a number of people who will vote for Scozzafava anyway, because they do not want to vote for Hoffman, who is a carpetbagger with absolutely no interest in the real issues of the district, but cannot bring themselves to pull the "D" lever.

*I LOVE IT when I get to go all Doctor McCoy!!!

Edwin Edwards, when discovering that he would be facing David Duke in the Louisiana governor's race, said that the the only way that he would lose were if he were, "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy".

A Coda on the Bank Failures

If you plot annual rate of bank failures vs time of year, it looks like we might hit 150 bank failures this year.

With 7 Fridays to go, they won't be doing a closing on Christmas, that's an 5 failures a week until the end of the year.

My guess would be somewhat less, in the 135-145 failures through the end of the year though.

Note that the data at the start of the year is of a smaller grouping, so inherently noisier.

The trend from June on seems to be clear: that bank failures, which were at around 1½ a week, began accelerating, and it now looks to be averaging around 3/week.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! ( On Saturday)

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Bank USA, N.A., Phoenix, AZ
  2. Community Bank of Lemont,Lemont, IL
  3. San Diego National Bank, San Diego, CA
  4. California National Bank, Los Angeles, CA
  5. Pacific National Bank, San Francisco, CA
  6. Park National Bank, Chicago, IL
  7. Citizens National Bank, Teague, TX
  8. Madisonville State Bank, Madisonville, TX
  9. North Houston Bank, Houston, TX
Great googly moogly, 9 banks.....That's the most so far this year.....Last week's 7 failures tied with the June 24 tally.

Full FDIC list

Except for that Whole Parachute Failure Thing.....

So, the delayed launch of the Ares I launcher was deemed a success, except, of course, for the whole recovery parachutes failing and damaging the nominally reusable shuttle solid rocket booster derived first stage.

The first stage suffered some significant damage as a result of the failure, though, for now, at least, the rest of the flight is considered to be "nominal."

I'll wait for the full report.

Russia Planning Nuclear Rocket

Click for full size
Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Rocket
From the report, we are not talking about Orion, or direct thrust from nuclear heating, but rather some sort of electric propulsion system using electricity from a reactor for a proposed mission to Mars.

Something like ion drive, or plasma drive would likely cut transit time by at least ¾ for a manned trip to Mars, and if a ground base were established, a nuclear power supply would handle the reduced solar energy levels there.

I'd take this with a grain of salt, because the cost quoted for this is a bit over US $¾ billion, which sounds like a quote from Never Land.

Update on Saab Bribery Donations in Korea

The allegations are rather different from the run of the mill bribery cases, where someone pays a government official to buy their products.

Instead, it is alleged that Saab paid bribes to get information on Korea's indigenous fighter program, so as better to compete for business.

SAAB is denying this.

The core of the allegations is that the president of the Security Management Institute (SMI), a private research company, was invited to a trade seminar in Sweden, and that SAAB covered his expenses, to the tune of $17,200.

Me, I'm just confused.

Earlier post.

OK.......Count Me Dubious

Click for full size
Slat Armor


TARIAN


RPG-30


RPG-30 in Action
There are a number of systems to deal with RPGs and similar threats, such as the US and Israeli active protection systems that shoot down incoming rounds, the slat armor used to predetonate HEAT rounds (shown, top), the cloth based TARIAN armor also used to predetonate armor (shown, Bottom), and now Textron has come up with the Tactical Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) Airbag Protection System (TRAPS), which uses sensors to detect an incoming round, and than uses an airbag to detonate the warhead far enough away from the hull to minimize damage. (no pictures, sorry)

There are a number of reasons that I am dubious.

The first is that it combines all the disadvantages of a passive system (single use) with those of an active system (expensive sensors), and also because it would appear to be particularly vulnerable to the tandem round system used in the RPG-30. (bottom 2 pictures)

I would also note that it does seem to suffer the same problem as all such systems developed under the Aegis* of the Pentagon:
The progress of TRAPS has not been as fast as one might expect. It was first unveiled at an Army trade show back in October 2006, after spending $3.5 million in Pentagon cash the previous year. Phase II testing is still to take place, and an operational system will be some way down the line. Janes notes the timing of the latest tests –- Textron is bidding to be part of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program.
It's running late, and it appears to be over budget.

Ecuadorian Helo Crash Air Show

Click for full size


They walked away from this?

Here is the video
Thankfully, there were only minor injuries at the crash, which occurred during an armed forced day celebration, but in keeping with my policy of never letting a crash with video and a happy ending go unnoticed, here it is.

I will say that it is kind of surreal how the marching band never misses a step in the video as the helo comes down.

H/t Graham Warwick

30 October 2009

Lol Zombie


H/t I Can Has Cheezburger?

Best Answering Machine Message Ever

Sharon,* a teacher before becoming an educational consultant, found this to be a hoot.



*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

15 Years Ago

I plighted Sharon's* troth.

We were married on October 30, 1994.

If we can get the kids to bed early enough, we'll plight some more troth tonight.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

Star Wars and the Holy Grail

It does raise an interesting point.

Deal Reached in Honduras

It looks like the standoff has ended, and that Manuel Zelaya will be returning to serve the last 3 months of his term.

Of note is that neither Zelaya, who is constitutionally forbidden from running, nor Roberto Micheletti who took control following the coup, will be running.

The question is whether a free and fair election, and a free and fair campaign, can be run now.

Economics Update

Click for full size
Too True!
H/t Calculated Risk,
The Artist should have his website up shortly


Fannie Mae Single Family Delinquencies..OUCH
You know with this recession being over and all, maybe someone should tell the consumer, because consumer spending fell by 0.5% in September, the biggest drop in 9-months.

So consumers are skittish, as a new consumer sentiment survey, this time the Reuters / University of Michigan Survey of Consumer Sentiment Survey, fell in October, down to U Michigan survey, 70.6 from 73.5 in September.

So, that's like 3 different consumer sentiment surveys that I've seen in the past 3 days, one up, and two down.

You have permission to be confused.

There are still a lot of people hurting out there, as shown by the Fannie Mae single family delinquency numbers for August. (see graph pr0n)

I am not seeing even a smidgen of a moderation there.

In the central bank world, the banks appear to be slowly walking back from the extreme measures that they took a year ago, with the Federal reserve re-instituting regulations that it suspended which allowed banks to supply capital to affiliates, which is generally a no-no, and the Bank of Japan is slowly pulling out of the credit markets.

Basically, they are trying to slow-walk their quantitative easing (printing money) measures.

It does not mean that they will be raising rates soon, but it does mean that there is a very gradual tightening of money going on.

In any case, the consumer spending numbers have rattled the markets, pushing US treasuries higher.

In stocks, the VIX, an index of stock volatility spiked upward by 24%, which indicates that market participants are expecting major swings in the stock market.

The bearish news today also pushed oil down, on demand concerns, and pushed the dollar up, on a flight to safety.

Ding Letter

I will not be the Washington Post's "Next Great Pundit":
Thank you for entering the first season of the America’s Next Great Pundit contest. You didn’t make the judging easy for us. Not only did we get nearly 5,000 entries, but a great many of those entries were really quite excellent -- smart, interesting, funny, well written and well argued. So while we’re sorry to say that we can’t include you as one of our ten finalists this time around, we hope this isn’t the last time we hear from you. We hope you’ll follow the rest of the contest and participate as voters. But even more important, we hope you’ll pitch us more of your work. The various ways you can send various types of pieces are outlined here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/21/AR2009042103705.html

Thanks again for giving this a try. We enjoyed reading.

Best,

The Editors
So it goes.

Not surprised. There are lots of folks who write and think better than I do.

I will note that the Post still publishes Krauthammer, Will, Applebaum, Broder...TANJ.*

In any case, congratulations to Burton Richter, Courtney Martin, Darryl Jackson, Jeremy Haber, Maame Gyamfi, Kevin Huffman, Mark Esper, Lydia Khalil, and Zeba Khan.

*Let me Google that for you.

Someone Was Trying to Steal Money

Tin Foil Hat Time!
I don't know if it was insider trading, or just the standard front-running that accompanies the high frequency trading out there, but the fact that the New York Stock Exchange was unable to report trades for much of the morning due to a flood of "erroneous" trades is a byproduct of some thing to do with the seamier side of the markets.

My guesses:
  • A software glitch on a machine doing computerized trading.
  • Someone trying to capitalize on inside information using high speed trading (which, BTW, the NYSE does not do HFT, so it gets odd).
  • A deliberate attempt to take down reporting so some sort of funny business could get done in the dark.
In any case, a lot of people were trading blind as a result, which makes for much potential for mischief:
NYSE Euronext (NYX.N)(NYX.PA), the parent of the exchange, said the delays followed "an inordinate influx" of orders received as Friday's session got under way. Later in the session, the company had to temporarily transfer quote processing to a backup system before the problem was resolved around noon.

The exchange's quote delays caused some tickers to be locked, but a NYSE spokesman said trades were continuous throughout.

"It was an influx of erroneous orders which were caught before they were executed," said Ray Pellecchia. He could not say where the orders came from.
Yeah, and it could just be an ordinary f%$#-up, and I'm being a conspiracy nut.

Evil: A Cheney Family Traditon

Yesterday, I mentioned Obama's trip to Dover to pay his respects to the dead whose caskets were coming back that day.

I figured that at some point, some prominent Republican would try to cast it ad evil and sinister, and out of the gate comes Liz Cheney, on the John Gibson Show:
"I think that what President Bush used to do is do it without the cameras. And I don't understand sort of showing up with the White House Press Pool with photographers and asking family members if you can take pictures. That's really hard for me to get my head around...It was a surprising way for the president to choose to do this."
Only, neither George W. Bush or...You know....Her Father ever went to pay their respects to the dead.

In fact, they were they supporessed any and all photographs, whether the family assented or not.

Here's a Shocker

It appears that Bank of America and its subsidiary Countrywide Home Loans are routinely destroying mortgage documents:
Bank of America and Countrywide Home Loans destroyed mortgage documents, and "recreate" them by "insert(ing) data as they see fit," to cover up their own failure to keep records - or their fraud - according to a federal RICO class action.

"To cover up the servicing mistakes and fraud and misrepresentation in the servicing of a consumer escrow, Defendants 'recreate' letters, insert data as they see fit, and fail to produce the entire HUD complaint form. This way, a consumer is left in the dark about the fraud that occurred to them," the complaint states.

Lead plaintiff Kim Gorham says that when she sent a letter seeking information about her escrow account, she was informed that it had been "destroyed by a letter opener."

After repeated requests, Gorham, who is blind, received her purported escrow analysis, but it was "100 percent illegible," according to the complaint. The defendants knew that Gorham was legally blind, the complaint states.

She says that getting a "clear and concise" statement from the defendants has been an "impossible task."

Countrywide routinely responded to customers' requests for records by claiming they were "unavailable or destroyed," according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that the records were destroyed, "in an attempt to suppress damaging information."

While not every lawsuit has merit, and a defendant should be presumed innocent, this certainly justifies a hearty, "Hoocoodanode?"

BoA will be paying for acquiring Countrywide for decades to come.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, the Obama - Fox Wars

He asks the question that no one is asking, "What is Fox?" (3:36)

Well, after some examination of what Fox says that it is, and what Fox says, he comes up with an answer: Fox is a "Perpetual Revulsion Machine". (9:46)

Heh.

H/T AMERICAblog

Good Point

Who cares if Wall Street 'talent' leaves?

Note that this article, whose thesis is that these folks are a bunch of incompetent losers who the world of finance could do without, was written at that bastion of Marxism Fortune Magazine.

What a Moron

I came across an article in the Washington Post yesterday....No really in the paper edition, about the problems with healthcare in China.

In a rather extensive article, they show how the increasingly private healthcare system is bankrupting ordinary Chinese:
China's health-care system is in disarray, a side effect of the market reforms that have spurred private enterprise and rapid growth since 1980. Before then, state-owned companies offered cradle-to-grave care, part of a system based on danwei, or work units, that provided health, education, pensions and other benefits. But as the economy has grown more diverse, an increasing number of Chinese have had to fend for themselves, with only a porous government insurance program to help.
While there are some problems with a shortage of medical facilities, particularly in the rural hinterlands, the problem is that people are having their lives destroyed by the costs that they must bear under an increasingly spotty system of healthcare access.

Nonetheless But further down, for reasons known only to God, reporter Steven Mufson feels compelled to bring in a complete idiot as an "expert":
China's State Council is eager to improve the situation but can't decide how. The government currently fixes the prices of all medical services, and doctors are treated -- and paid -- like public officials. But that has contributed to a shortage of doctors as many talented Chinese choose better-paid professions.

Some experts say more private spending and investment would improve the system. Gordon G. Liu, a professor of economics at Beijing University's Guanghua School of Management, said he would let people with means spend more money on care, which he said would increase the availability of care by giving doctors incentives to work harder and by luring more Chinese into the medical profession.
So this guy's solution is to raise prices, when the problem is not that there aren't enough doctors, but that it's already too expensive, because this will have doctors clamoring to treat all those rich people farming in rural areas?

Why on earth does the reporter feel compelled to bring this in to begin with? It has nothing to do with the problem described, and it is precisely the wrong thing to do.

This is Not a Business Lunch

So, after Mark Sanford "hiking the Appalachian Trail," Joe Wilson heckling a presidential speech, and those Republican County Chairman going on about how good Jews are with watching their money, one wonders what other shoe will drop from the South Carolina Republican party to as they continue the program to help employment by making Stewart's, Colbert's, O'Brien's, Letterman's, and Leno's Job easier.

Well, wait no more. There is Assistant Attorney General Roland Corning, who wages a war on the business lunch that makes the fictional "war on Christman" look like an arcade game.

It appears that Corning, age 66, was hanging out in his car at a graveyard with an 18 year old stripper, along with Viagra and sex toys, and when police officer Michael Wines showed up in a marked car, Corning, "attempted to make a hasty retreat, spinning the tires in the driveway and accelerating rapidly."

It gets better. When finally apprehended, the police verify who he is by calling the Attorney General's office, where his wife answers the phone, and then rats him out to the notifies Attorney General, who fires his flabby white ass.

The high point of the police report:
The search revealed a sex enhancement drug and some sex toys. According to the report, Corning told Wines he had a prescription for the medication and the other items were always in the car "just in case."
(emphasis mine)

Just in case....Yeah sure....I always carry sex toys and Viagra in my car....Why do you think that they call them "Jumper Cables."

29 October 2009

If Andrew Cuomo Does Not Announce for NY Governor Soon

Spitzer on Ratigan
Eliot Spitzer should.

Listen to him here. He gets what is going on with Wall Street, and knows exactly what the monster is, and how to slay it.

Andrew Cuomo knows this about Wall Street too, and doesn't have that whole, "Hypocrite Mr. Clean who paid for Blow-jobs from a Skanky New Jersey Prostitute" vibe, so I prefer Cuomo.

Incumbent "accidental" Governor David Paterson, by contrast, has been very much in the pocket of Wall Street, fighting kicking and screaming about anything that could possibly inconvenience the "Masters of the Universe", and the Governor of New York needs to be more than that.

What's more, David Paterson is dead meat on the table, he's polling at Dick Cheney numbers:
Only 15 percent of the 624 voters polled between October 14 and 18 would re-elect Paterson while 72 percent preferred someone else, the poll by Siena College's Research Institute found.

The governor's job performance was rated negative by 79 percent to 19 percent.
The only question is whether he bows out, gets beaten in the primary, or gets beaten in the general.

I think that David Paterson is beginning to get a clue about this, probably because he is having trouble raising funds.

Seriously, and if a Republican takes the state house in 2010, it means that redistricting will remain what it is in New York, and we'll be stuck with an over-representation of Republicans in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.

It's how the 'Phants held the State Senate for 40 years.

Seriously, his numbers are so bad, that Rudolph Giuliani could beat him without running a campaign.

Even more impressively, Rudolph Giuliani could beat him if he did run a campaign, because if there is anything that the 2008 Republican Presidential primaries showed, it was that finding Rudy Giuliani on the campaign trail was a lot like finding a cockroach in your coffee.

Economics Update

Click for full size

Employment Chart H/t Calculated Risk

Home Vacancy, Home Ownership Rates, and Rental Vacancy Rates Also Courtesy of Calculated Risk


Some Improvement on Homeowner Vacancy Rates


Note that the Rental Vacancy Rate is an All Time High
Thursday is the new jobless day, and new unemployment claims were basically flat, falling from 531,000 initial claims to 530,000. The 4 week moving average, a generally better metric, was down to 526,250, from the previous week's 532,250, and continuing claims fell to 5,797,000 down 148,000 from last week's 5,945,000.

All in all, generally good news.

Additionally, US GDP increased at a 3.5% annual rate in the 3rd, which is a solid, though not stellar, growth rate.

By way of example, the recovery in the early 1980s was around 7% for a full year.

There is also the question about how much of this was driven by cash for clunkers driven auto sales, and the first time home buyer's tax credit.

The former has expired, and the is due to expire, though I would only give it a 1:2 chance that Congress won't renew it.

In any case, the 30-year fixed mortgage was basically flat this week.

The market's reaction to the GDP news was as expected.

There was movement from safety to higher rates of return, which drove US Treasuries down, and their yields up, and the Dollar fell.

Anticipation of a recovery also drove oil higher, to back above $80/bbl.

Elections Make a Difference: Labor Regulations

It appears that people who want to treat their employees like so much excrement are distressed that Barack Obama is not vociferously anti union, and that under his watch union leaders have access to, and information from, the White House, and that sensible rules have been established:
Delta Air Lines, the world’s largest carrier, would be more likely to lose union elections sought by flight attendants and machinists if a proposal by the AFL-CIO is approved.

The workers asked the National Mediation Board in July and August to clear the way for an election. Last month, the AFL-CIO petitioned the board to revise procedures and allow a union if most of those voting approve, instead of a majority of all workers in the class.

The board plans to announce a proposal in coming days to advance the union request on voting rules, people familiar with the matter said. Seven Republican senators said in a Sept. 30 letter that the board was delaying a decision on the union election while it considers the new vote-counting method.
Yes, under the old system, a non-vote was counted as a no vote, so you could lose because someone got the sniffles, or just didn't want to be bothered to vote.

What's more, they are appointing people who are not management toadies to boards. In the case of the National mediation board, you have a former flight attendent union official replacing a former lobbyist for Northwest (now a part of Delta), and the President of Delta Airlines is pissed about it:
“You have two former heads of AFL-CIO unions at the NMB and they really are politicizing the process,” Delta CEO Richard Anderson said on a conference call with investors last week.
My heart bleeds borscht for you sadistic equestrian necrophiliac...But that's beating a dead horse.

Even more shocking, the head of OSHA decided to, "replace pictures of OSHA managers displayed in a conference room with photos of workers who had been killed on the job."

It gives one the vapors.

I'm not sure how deep the support for labor is in the Obama White House, but what is going is a welcome change form the vociferous hostility exhibited by Bush and His Evil Minions&trade.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, Warren Buffet Ain't the Wizard of Wall Street Editions

In this case, he discusses financial reform with John Kellogg Hodgman, and he nails it.

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.


These have Epic Fail Written All Over Them

In order to deal with budget issues, Mayor Daley of Chicago is considering selling its water system to private operators, and allowing them to charge whatever they want.

So he gets the money, and succeeding generations get the revenue loss and more expensive water.

Also, the state that has so many bad ideas that it gave us both Barry Goldwater and John McCain is looking to turn over operation of their prisons to a private firm.

This one is a little different though, because private prisons have already been tried, and failed, with some of the institutions going so far as to bribe judges to send children to them for minor crimes.

This will not end well.

Ford's Unions Draw a Line in the Sand

There have been 6 plants so far that have rejected Ford's request concessions on their contracts in order to match the terms at Chrysler and GM.

I understand it. If I were a worker on the Ford shop floor, and I had already made major concessions about 8 months ago, I'd want to make sure that the shareholders, including the Ford family, were wiped out before I would give anything more:
[UAW Local President Tom] Spears, who backed the contract changes, said in an interview. “The membership did not have a warm reception to additional contract modifications. We did this in ‘05, ‘07 and in February and now they’re back at us again.”
Of course, you will doubtless hear how these guys are being selfish and stupid, and have to give back more, but if you go through those same papers over the weeks before and after, you will find them defending the outrageous pay and bonus contracts as sacrosanct.

It's kind of like the Droit de seigneur, where of the local lord in the old days had the right to deflower any new bride, only with the banks, we all get f#$@ed.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Wall Street Journal Edition

There it is in black and white, on the opinion page of the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal, a we have an article that calls out the Rupert Murdoch owned Fox News for lack of journalistic integrity:
But no journalistic operation is better prepared to sing the tragedy of its own martyrdom than Fox News. To all the usual journalistic instincts it adds its grand narrative of Middle America's disrespectful treatment by the liberal elite. Persecution fantasy is Fox News's lifeblood; give it the faintest whiff of the real thing and look out for a gale-force hissy fit.
The author, Thomas Frank, had better hope that Rupert Murdoch does not read the OP/ED page of his flagship newspaper.

Luckily for Mr. Frank, I'd give 2 to 1 odds that he doesn't.

A Level of Class that You Would Never See Out of Bush and His Evil Minions


How will Fox call this Communist?
Or for that matter, his Dad, who instituted the shameful news blackout on the repatriation of the bodies of servicemen killed in action.

I have been disappointed about a lot of things, but his going to Dover Air Force Base to honor troops killed in Afghanistan is a demonstration of Menschlichkeit.

Bush Jr. spent his entire term avoiding things like this, because he's a coward with no integrity.

The picture on the left is him saluting* the men as they are transported off the transport

Video below.



*I know that this is a picayune observation, as this is a genuine show of respect, but I thought civilians weren't supposed to salute, could someone with military experience please inform me on the finer points?

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Tag Team Insurance

Stewart is more about the wankitude of the pundits and the political process, particularly Joe Lieberman, who gets absolutely savaged.



Colbert, on the other hand, goes more into the nuts and bolts of insurance, and describes getting screwed by insurance company execs as, "A pre-existing condition."

Two Shot at LA Synagogue Parking lot

Just heard it on the radio.

No clue as to what is going on, but it was an underground lot for the synagogue, so whoever did this wasn't just a crime of opportunity.

Details on Healthcare Bill

PDF link to house bill. (1990 pages)

I don't read that fast, but here is a my summary based on reading the Wonk Room's summaries:
  • Bill won't really phase in until 2013 (stupid, you need the benefits to become apparent sooner, rather than later).
  • Adds a high risk pool for the time between the enactment and when the benefits kick in.
  • Public option is not the "strong" (based on Medicare reimbursement) option.
  • Requires large (how large?) employers to provide health insurance.
  • Makes the medicare doctor reimbursement permanent, eliminating the annual reimbursement rate Kabuki in the Congress.
  • Kills insurer antitrust exemption.
It's better than anything likely to come out of the Senate.

Breaking: House Dems Announce Their Bill

Listening on CSPAN.

Pelosi is giving her House leadership is giving their press conference on the steps of the Capitol.

Pelosi:
10: 38 am -- Will close "Doughnut Hole" on prescription drugs.

10: 39 am -- Will have public option and end preexisting condition exclusion.

Hoyer:
10: 39 am -- No specifics

Other folks:
10: 46 am -- Carole Shea Porter brings out the "Petting Zoo": a medicare recipient from New Hampshire to talk about Doughnut hole.

10: 49 am -- Doughnut hole will be phased out between 2010 through 2019.

10: 52 am -- More "petting zoo" with a small business owner.

James Clyburn:
10: 56 am -- Just introduces Mary Joe Kilroy, who has MS.

10: 52 am -- Changes on caps, pre-existing conditions, etc.

11:03 am -- More petting zoo.

11:11 am -- We're just into soundbites now, bye.

D'oh!!!!

You know, when you are an insurance company, like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, it is not a good idea for you to include a request for your customers to contact their Congressman to oppose the public option along with a notice of a rate increase:
First, they learned their rates will rise by an average of 11 percent next year.

Next, they opened a slick flier from the insurer urging them to send an enclosed pre-printed, postage-paid note to Sen. Kay Hagan denouncing what the company says is unfair competition that would be imposed by a government-backed insurance plan. The so-called public option is likely to be considered by Congress in the health-care overhaul debate.

"No matter what you call it, if the federal government intervenes in the private health insurance market, it's a slippery slope to a single-payer system," the BCBS flier read. "Who wants that?"

Plenty of people, it turns out.

Indignant Blue Cross customers have rebelled against the insurer's message, complaining that their premium dollars have funded such a campaign.

They've hit the Internet in a flurry of e-mails to friends and neighbors throughout the state. They've called Hagan's office to voice support for a public option. They've marked through the Blue Cross message on their postcards to instead vouch support, then dropped them in the mail -- in at least one case taped to a brick -- to be paid on Blue Cross' dime. Or dimes.
(emphasis mine)

As the saying goes, "ない愚かさはない薬です".*

*Pronounced in Japanese, "baka ni tsukeru kusuri wanai", which means, "There is no medicine for stupidity."

28 October 2009

Just When You Thought that the Karzai Family Could Not Get Any Sleazier

Would you buy a used car from this man?
It turns out that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Hamid Karzai is multi-tasking something fierce, he's not just a major figure in Afghan opium production, but he is also on the CIA payroll:
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.
The article then notes that this "raises questions" about our current Afghanistan policy.

Well duh!!! The army fights the Taliban, which is supported to a large degree by opium money, and the CIA pays money to one of the biggest opium producers and smugglers in the region, which would imply that in some small part, the CIA is paying the Taliban to kill American troops.

Those boyz from Langley are such kidders.

Here's a Shocker

People who got laid off from Boeing have better mental health than those who remained:
Would it surprise you to learn that survivors can suffer just as much, if not more, than colleagues who get laid off? It certainly surprised a team of academic researchers who embedded themselves at Boeing (BA) from 1996 to 2006, a tumultuous decade during which the company laid off tens of thousands. The results of the study will appear next year in a Yale University Press book called Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers. "How much better off the laid-off were was stunning and shocking to us," says Sarah Moore, a University of Puget Sound industrial psychology professor who is one of the book's four authors. "So much of the literature talks about how dreadful unemployment is."

...

In the greatest surprise of all, the researchers discovered that the people who had been laid off often were happier than those left behind. Many had new jobs, even if they didn't always pay as well. Over and over, Moore says, average depression scores were nearly twice as great for those who stayed with Boeing vs. those who left. The laid-off were less likely to binge drink, often slept better, and had fewer chronic health problems.
(emphasis mine)

Boeing is claiming that morale has improved since they got the new company president it, but I kind of doubt that.

BTW, this kind of morale is one of the reasons that they are having the problems that they are having with the 787: When you outsource basic engineering to another firm, people in your firm, don't make the extra effort to examine things that look funny to them.

Signs of the Apocalypse

A retired chairman of Citigroup writing to the New York Times suggesting that the Glass-Steagall separation between commercial and investment banks should be re-instituted post haste:
To the Editor:

Re “Volcker’s Voice, Often Heeded, Fails to Sell a Bank Strategy” (front page, Oct. 21):

As another older banker and one who has experienced both the pre- and post-Glass-Steagall world, I would agree with Paul A. Volcker (and also Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England) that some kind of separation between institutions that deal primarily in the capital markets and those involved in more traditional deposit-taking and working-capital finance makes sense.

This, in conjunction with more demanding capital requirements, would go a long way toward building a more robust financial sector.

John S. Reed
New York, Oct. 21, 2009

The writer is retired chairman of Citigroup.
Seriously, this is Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man kind of news.

H/t The Big Picture

Your Moment of Schadenfreude

!So, it looks like yet another organization has had to downsize. It's moving out of its headquarters, in the heart of Washington, DC, which they moved into about a year ago, because it's too expensive for them now.

Who is this organization? Why it's the Mortgage Bankers Association, of course, who have discovered that their new $76 million dollar digs are no longer affordable:
Since the purchase in May 2008, the U.S. economy has suffered one of the most severe recessions in a century, and the residential and commercial real estate markets have materially deteriorated. These factors, coupled with a challenging leasing environment, led the MBA Board to conclude that continued ownership of 1331 L Street was economically imprudent, and over the long term would impair MBA's ability to continue providing our members with MBA's full range of services.
My guess? That they got f$#@ed over by the fine print in their mortgage.

The New Hate Crimes Bill is Now Law

It was attached to the defense appropriations bill, and Obama just signed that into law.

That's not all, the bill also (finally) puts a stake through the heart of the unnecessary and gold plated F-22, and provides funding for the (IMNSHO essential) 2nd engine for the JSF.

Economics Update

Remember yesterday, when I said that consumer confidence fell? Well, that was the Conference Board. According to Nielsen, U.S. consumer confidence is up for the first time since 2007, as well as most of the rest of the world.

I think that both organizations conduct reputable surveys, but they got different answers because they asked different questions. This is something that one should consider for any survey.

In the world of slightly more objective metrics, we have durable goods orders rising for the 4th time in 6 months, which is good news, but New home sales unexpectedly fell.

I'm not sure why new home sales falling was "unexpected". They are recorded when the contract is made, and not when they close, whereas existing home sales are recorded at closing, which means that people who had not bought new homes by the end of August, were really pushing it to qualify for the first time buyer tax credit, which require that the deal be closed by the end of November.

The end of the tax credit is why mortgage applications fell, even though rates fell.

In fact the divergence between new and existing home sales (more later) is a real indicator of how much that tax credit is goosing things.

In the world of central banks, the Norwegian central bank raised its benchmark rate, but the New Zealand bank kept its rate steady.

Of course, there is some apples and oranges here, because Norway raised its rate to 1.5%, and the Kiwis kept their rate steady at 2.5%.

In either case, the markets are not being optimistic, with oil falling below $78/bbl, and the dollar and yen strengthening on a flight to safety.

Well, This Sucks

It looks like one of the bad policies out there is on a path to be extended,

The Senate is close to a deal to extend the new home buyer tax credit, which means that we will continue to keep paying people to overpay for their houses.

What an Unbelievably Lame Meat Market

I went to a job fair today down in Rockville, MD.

I have never gotten a lead from going to a job fair, and I don't expect one now, but I wanted to get some practice in "meet and greet".

I did get some schwag*, a bottle opener and a 1 liter drinking bottle, but I don't expect anything else.

45 minutes talking with a dozen or so firms and handing out resumes, and an hour there and back...Time that I will never get back.

*Some people claim that the term is swag, and that schwag is reserved for skanky and low quality weed.

27 October 2009

Adventures in Wankitude

Donald J. Boudreaux writing in (where else) The Wall Street Journal, suggests that insider trading is actually a good thing:
Time to stop telling horror stories. Federal agents are wasting their time slapping handcuffs on hedge fund traders like Raj Rajaratnam, the financier charged last week with trading on nonpublic information involving IBM, Google and other big companies. The reassuring truth: Insider trading is impossible to police and helpful to markets and investors. Parsing the difference between legal and illegal insider trading is futile—and a disservice to all investors. Far from being so injurious to the economy that its practice must be criminalized, insiders buying and selling stocks based on their knowledge play a critical role in keeping asset prices honest—in keeping prices from lying to the public about corporate realities.

Prohibitions on insider trading prevent the market from adjusting as quickly as possible to changes in the demand for, and supply of, corporate assets. The result is prices that lie.
Do you get it? It facilitates price discovery to allow people to make a profit with information that allows them to know which way the price is going.

This is much like the arguments for naked Credit Default Swap (CDS) contracts, where people are getting insurance for items in which they have no interest in its continued existence, and so give people a reason to burn down your house, or at least your bond, and it is just as vacuous.

A look at the Wiki reveals that this guy is a card carrying Randoid puke through and through.

H/t Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up, who does a much better job of demolishing this crap than I do, so just go and read his.

For your amusement, here are his last 2 'graphs:
Communism didn’t work for the simple reason that those who were first in line stole the means of production from the poor shlubs with whom they were supposed to share those means of production.

And unfettered insider information won’t work, for precisely the same reason.

New York Times Calls Out Obama on Torture

Their editorial board just called out Obama as Bush II on torture and secrecy.

OP/EDs generally don't mean much, but I think that the Times, at least in its unsigned editorials, is a barometer of a certain segment of the population, or at least that segment that doesn't live inside the DC Beltway, and as such, this could mean a trend.

I'd give it about 5 to 1 against it being a trend, but a week ago, I would have said 20 to 1.

Look for the Union Label

Here is an interesting fact: If you retired from Delphi, the bankrupt GM parts supplier, and you are a member of the UAW, your pension is safe, because the Union fought for contractual assurances that it would be safe, but for non-union middle management? Not so much:
But four months later, Mr. Gump finds himself in a far more perilous condition than his neighbors.

On his street, he is the only Delphi worker whose pension benefits may be cut. His neighbors all belong to unions and have received a lifeline in an unprecedented deal related to the government-supervised bankruptcy of General Motors, the onetime parent of Delphi. (G.M. spun off the parts division as a separate company 10 years ago.)

Mr. Gump and some 21,000 other salaried workers and retirees are furious that their roughly 46,000 union co-workers at Delphi have had their benefits restored, apparently with government largesse, and they have not.
This is not "government largesse", of course, it's because the Union used its clout to protect its people, and got agreements and guarantees from GM as a result.

Mr. Gump, like myself, is an engineer, who as a group are tremendously resistant to the idea of unionizing, and this cost him, and thousands like him at Delphi.

Signs of the Apocalypse: George F. Will Calls Out Dick Cheney

On ABC's This Week (Stephanopoulos), they have a discussion of Dick Cheney's speech, where he says that Obama is taking too long to make up his mind.

George F. Will, yes that George F. Will, takes takes Cheney to task:
"A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction," Will said on ABC's "This Week. "For a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action."
When you have lost the guy who drilled Ronald Reagan for his debates with Jimmy Carter while using Carter's stolen briefing books, you've lost everyone.

Start watching at about -11:10. (the timer on the clip counts down, not up)

Hitler tries a DMCA takedown

You've seen it, the various mash-ups that have been done with the German movie Downfall (Der Untergang), where people take a rant by Hitler, as played by Bruno Ganz, and subtitle it, so it appears that he is ranting about XBox games, losing a parking space, becoming a meme, or Super Bowl Results.

Well, it now appears that Constantin Film Produktion GmbH is hitting Youtube with a flurry of DMCA takedown demands. As Brad Templeton of the EFF Notes, this is absurd. The copies do no damage to the producers of the movie, and people are watching this short bit (about 4 minutes) for the subtitles, not the film.

He makes some very good points about just how absurd the hoops that he had to jump through in order to make the film in full accordance of the DMCA, despite the fact that this is clearly fair use.

Go read,

He also gets jiggy with the Hitler rant, only this time, Hitler is assuming the role of a studio executive, not much of a stretch, and trying to lock down the content.

It's very funny, and contains the classic line, "Have you seen how good that Führerbunker scene is? Bruno Ganz does a great Hitler!"

Video follows:

Make the Giants Pay for the Failed Giants

I like this.

It appears that theHouse Financial Services Committee has gotten to work on a resolution (i.e. liquidation) process for failed mega-banks, and at its core is the idea that financial firms with more than $10 billion in assets would pay for the cost of unwinding failed firms:
The proposal would require financial firms with more than $10 billion of assets to pay for the unwinding of a collapsed competitor. The measure would also give the Federal Reserve the power to direct any large financial holding company to sell or transfer assets or stop certain activities if the central bank determined there could be a "threat to the safety and soundness of such company or to the financial stability of the United States." This suggests the Fed would win new authority to order companies to shrink.
It's a good step, though I really don't want this under the Fed.

They have already proved themselves to be completely captured by Wall Street.

And Speaking of Stupid

Yes, it appears that the US Chamber of Commerce, in a desperate bid for wankitude, had decided to sue the Yes Menfor their phony press release and press conference where they announced that the Chamber would support global warming legislation.

Here is a video of the press conference, complete with a real CoC representative bursting in and calling them out.

With the lawsuit, it will go viral:

Because Republicans are the Grown-Ups, Right

Click for full size
Are you missing the message?


Does that make it clearer?
It appears that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger does not like California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and vetoed a rather ordinary bill regarding how the Port of San Francisco is funded as a result.

The bill was about allowing San Francisco to use certain sorts of public financing with regard to their waterfront.

It appears that Ahnuld unexpectedly showed up to the Democratic Party gala, and while the reception was hostile, Ammiano's was significantly more hostile than most of the rest of the people in the room.

He shouted, "You Lie," and then walked out of the Governor's speech saying that he should, "kiss my gay ass" which is an understandable reaction to a guy who vetoed Harvey Milk day.

Totally immature and classless, and so not surprising from a man who suggested that he wanted to flush Arianna Huffington's head down the toilet in the gubernatorial debates.

You can see the letter, at least for now in all its glory straight from the Governor's web page, (PDF), but in case you can't I have a copy of the PDF below thanks to the magic of ScribD.

Gee, Here is a Surprise

When president of the New York Fed, Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner cut a secret deal on the credit default swaps of AIG.

It appears that AIG had already negotiated haircuts, on the order of 60¢ on the dollar, for the credit default swaps, but then Geithner stepped in, and decided to pay the counter parties, which included, big surprise, that great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity,* Goldman Sachs:
Part of a sentence in the document was crossed out. It contained a blank space that was intended to show the amount of the haircut the banks would take, according to people who saw the term sheet. After less than a week of private negotiations with the banks, the New York Fed instructed AIG to pay them par, or 100 cents on the dollar. The content of its deliberations has never been made public.
The argument was that some of the counter parties would have gone belly up if Geithner had not overpaid them, but I'm with John Carney of Clusterstock:
No doubt regulators would say that paying full price was necessary. But it was not.

A far better move would have been to transparently bailout firms that needed the additional capital instead of doing it in an under-handed way. Even better would have been to have forced those firms with too much exposure to AIG to seek out new capital in the markets, possibly converting debt to equity and wiping out existing shareholders. Goldman Sachs claims that it didn't need the AIG bailout bucks to survive--a claim whose truth we'll never actually know because of the bungled operation of the bailout.
Gee, I wonder why it was never made public?

Timothy Geithner should be fired, hell he should be fired and tarred and feathered.

*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.

What the $#@! Were They Expecting?

So, Microsoft teamed up with Seth MacFarlane for a Family Guy/American Dad special, and when they saw the show, they dropped it like it was nude pictures of Joe Lieberman.

They had promised, "an upcoming television event devoted to the comedy of Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show" that would be, "unique Windows 7-branded programming that blends seamlessly with show content".

So far, so good, but what they also got was"
According to reports, Redmond marketeers sat in on the recording of the variety special. While Windows marketing messages were presumably seamlessly integrated into the schtick, so were jokes about deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest.

While Microsoft was clearly reaching for a hip and edgy audience, they presumably meant the "check me out, I've got an extra shot in this latte and I'm wearing an Hawaiian shirt" kind of edgy.
I am wondering if these guys ever watched Family Guy or American Dad, because this is pretty much what he does for humor.

Or, to quote Eric Duckman:
Bunch of thin-skinned, no-humor pansies! You tell them an ice-breaker or two about women's libbers, gays, environmentalists, several minorities, the homeless, couple of religions, anorexics, obese people, the handicapped, old farts, baldness, and people who walk real goofy because they've just had a vasectomy, and suddenly, they get all sensitive, like I offended one of them or something!

Economics Update

Click for full size


Case Shiller Graph Pron (Both) Courtesy Calculated Risk


Woah: Las Vegas -55%, Phoenix -53%, Miami -46.9%
In the, "Well, this can't be good," category, we have the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index fell, with the numbers for the current economic situation falling to a 26 year low.

Still, we have seen the Case-Shiller home prices rising for the 4th straight month, though, with the expiration of the first time home buyer tax credit, and the end of the home buying season, I do not expect this to continue.

In the old standbys, oil was largely unchanged, remaining just below $80/bbl, and the dollar rose on concerns about the consumer confidence numbers.

Yeah, He's With Us Like Benedict Arnold

So, oe Lieberman is now saying that Jhe will vote to filibuster on any healthcare bill that includes a public option.

Uniform, state opt out, state opt in, trigger, it does not matter.

<Sarcasm>That is such a shocker.</Sarcasm>

Hoocoodanode?

Where is Your God Now?

On my most recent bank failure Friday post, there was a small bbank in Otsego, MN, Riverview Community Bank that was closed by regulators.

Well, it turns out that the story of this bank is just a bit weirder than your average bank failure.

Riverview Community Bank was run by a religious nutcase who attempted to foist his religious views on his employees:
Riverview Community Bank, an Otsego firm that attracted national media attention several years ago for espousing prayer in the workplace, has been shut down by state regulators.

...

Early in its life, Riverview had a reputation for mixing faith and finance. Chuck Ripka, one of the bank's founders, once told the Star Tribune that God spoke to him and said, "Chuck, if you pastor the bank, I'll take care of the bottom line." Ripka and his staff would pray with customers in the bank's Otsego branch and even at the drive-up window. In a 2004 New York Times story, Ripka said he occasionally slipped up and said, "Come on over to the church -- I mean the bank."
Of course, this makes his bank hostile to non-Christian, or for that matter, non-obnoxious Christian, and as a public accommodation it also makes it hostile to non-Christian, or for that matter, non-obnoxious Christian, customers.

Yes, a religious test on employment is illegal, and it's pretty clear that this guy made it clear that non-Christian, or for that matter, non-obnoxious Christian, people need not apply for jobs.

There is also the whole "Chasing the money changers from the temple," irony thing, but I'm not up on my Christian mythology enough to follow the finer points.

It is worth noting that the bank was the subject of consent enforcement actions in the year before its closing, and were instructed to stop paying dividends when they were always circling the drain.

There is a lesson in all this, though: If you believe that God is on your side, you are always wrong, but if you worry whether or not you are on God's side, you have a possibility of being right.

There is something deeply disturbing and deeply hypocritical about all these folks who seem to think that Christianity is nothing more than a path to wealth.

26 October 2009

Were they Boinking Each Other?

Have you heard about Northwest flight 188?

They missed Minneapolis. They overflew it, then turned, and returned to land at the airport, and the plane was promptly swarmed by cops.

The facts that we know are that the flight lost contact with air traffic controllers for over an hour, that they over-flew Minneapolis by about 150 miles, and landed over an hour late.

Well, at first they said that they had a "heated discussion," and now they have provided further detail, saying that, "they became distracted during an extended discussion of crew scheduling that included their use of personal laptops."

Seriously, this is nuts. They were out of contact with ATC for over an hour and missed Minneapolis by 150 miles.

This is not a discussion of "crew scheduling".

Maybe one of them is sleeping with the other's wife, maybe they are sleeping with each other, or maybe they were playing a MMORPG like World of Warcraft, or doing a Doom death match over a null modem cable.

It could also be that they just dozed off, the airlines are doing their best to work these guys to death...But a "heated discussion of crew scheduling"?

Yeah, and my dog ate my homework.

Inouye to Propose Changes to Franken Anti-Rape Amendment?

Well, we know that appears that defense contractors really hate Al Franken's amendment limiting their ability to use binding arbitration to keep things like rapes of employees and discrimination cases from appearing from in open court.

Well, it now appears that, in addition to the 30 pro rape Republicans and the Obama administration, there are now reports Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye is looking at stripping out the amendment.

This would be regrettable, because the law currently supports the rights of defense contractors to gang rape a woman and lock her in a box, and so the law needs to be changed.

I contacted his office, and have not heard any response at press time yet.

Full text of Franken's amendment after break:

Why Do We Listen to Guys Like This?

And why do we pay them to manage our money?

Case in point, Paul Donovon, managing director and deputy head of global economics at UBS who is seen here on video suggesting that the recovery will be 'Swoosh' shaped.

Swoosh shaped? This has to be the lamest analogy used to pump up the recovery that I have heard this far:

Newspaper Circulation Craters

What is going on is that their customers are dying off, and the next generation is just not interested in paying for bad journalism.

So newspaper circulation fell by 10.6% over the past year.

The first time that I saw footage of the protests at GW Bush's inauguration in 2001 was in Fahrenheit 911.

The MSM was doing bizarre camera shots that were determined to hide it all, and the print media did the same.

For anyone who is at all web savvy, why read the New York Times when the Times of London, or BBC, or Guardian does a better job?

There are a number of problems, such as corporate slant in the news (GE/NBC), but the biggest problem is that newspapers are being managed by people who do not believe in newspapers, but rather by people who are little more than chop shop operators.

This is, as I have said before, you saw this in rail in the 1960s and 1970s, when the companies running railroads decided that it was a dying industry, and so cut people, cut maintenance, cut modernization, and cut infrastructure, and in so doing, they very nearly killed it off.

The news industry has become corporate owned, and acceded to the demands of Wall Street by digesting itself to generate the requisite profit margins, and now, there is very little left by way of quality product for people to want to buy.

Economics Update

Click for full size

Chicago Fed Index Chart Pr0n H/t Calculated Risk


Your Moment of Zen
We have some dueling indices today, with the ATA Truck Tonnage Index falling, and the Chicago Fed reporting that its Midwest Manufacturing Index rose in September to levels approaching where they were prior to the recession.

Overseas, we have the Bank of Israel leaving its benchmark rate at .75%, German consumer confidence falling, and the South Korean economy growing at its fastest pace in 7 years, so it's more mixed signals.

We are seeing an increased risk appetite among investors, which has driven treasuries lower, and pushed their yields up, though a statement by an official in the Chinese central bank that China should diversify its currency holdings, may have been a factor too.

In real estate, home prices in California fell by 7.3% from a year ago, largely on increased foreclosure sales.

In energy, oil fell again, and the dollar rose from this year's lows, which would indicate a reduction in risk appetite, which is kind of counter to the results with the US treasuries above.

Finally, watch the video, it's funny, in an, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry," way, and one note to the non-Brits, "Freddy" is Sir Fred Goodwin of the £ multimillion pension.

Breaking: Harry Reid, Public Option W/Opt-Out, No Trigger

The press conference is still going on, but Reid was very clear, and said that he hoped that President Olympia Snowe would come around to supporting the measure.

There will also be "Co-ops," but they have just been made irrelevant.

Link to video.

Jon Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius, He Should Get a Peabody Edition

I have a call into Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye's office regarding reports that there may be changes to Al Franken's amendment prohibiting the writing of new contracts to contractors who use binding arbitration in discrimination cases, including, "any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention."

While I am waiting for his office's response, let's have Jon Stewart put it all in perspective:

Purse Recovered

Remember when I said that my daughter's purse had been stolen?

Well much to the relief of everyone, particularly Natalie, her purse, which held her phone and her inhaler, as well as her song book/journal were recovered.

It turned out to be a taking for practical joke, as opposed to a taking for the purpose of theft. They took her stuff from her cubby in her after-school music class, and put it in her desk for art class, where she would find it.

Nasty joke, but less nasty than an actual theft.

25 October 2009

Heh

Mount Vernon, Washington decided to hold a Glenn Beck day, because he is a native son of that town.

May be this was a really stupid idea:

Glenn Beck Day in Mount Vernon was an expensive lesson for this small town, as it found out the cost of hosting a controversial celebrity.

It's on the hook for $17,748.85, mostly for 239 hours of police overtime.

....

Well, says Ken Bergsma, the town's police chief, better to be prepared than not.

The chief says the crowd of 800 to 1,000 demonstrators that greeted Beck for his early-evening appearance on Sept. 26 was the biggest protest he's seen in his 32 years as a Mount Vernon police officer.

The city council officially distanced themselves from the Mayor's decision when he made it, and it turns out that they were right, to the tune of almost 18 grand, which is not a small amount of change when the town has a population of 26,232.

There is, and should be, a cost to honoring people whose raison d'être simply self promotion and ego.