29 February 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Humorous Pictures

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Humorous Pictures

How About Jenna and Tonic Bush Next?

Well, I assume that most of you know that England's Prince Harry, 3rd in line to the throne, was serving secretly in Afghanistan, and that his cover was blown by Drudge.

Must be something with conservative media. They just love to break confidences for no good reason to put brave people in danger, like Plame and Novak.

How to Fix the Economy

You know the drill. Credit Crises, housing crash, dollar at all time low.

Then we have Sam Zell, media mogul and drooling moron, saying that the reason that the exonomy is tanking is because Obama and Clinton are talking it down in their campaigns (H/t Will Bunch of Attytood).

Zell has it wrong. The savior of our economy is politics. With Clinton raising $35 million in February, and Obama having raised even more money, campaign spending is the only stimulus package out there.

If we have a contested convention, between the money spent on pundits, feting super-delegates, and advertisements, we should have full employment.

(please note snark tag)

Economics Update: Housing Edition

There is a lot of news, so this one is just housing.

Mortgage rates are climbing, despite the Fed rate cuts. As I've said before, with the expectation of inflation and greater risk of defaults, there is nothing that the Fed can do to keep the rates down.

It does not help that Standard & Poors is looking at cutting ratings on new tranches of mortgage backed securities, this time Alt-A, to the tune of 1,887 classes, which are supposed to be higher quality than subprime.

In the San Diego area home prices are in free fall, having fallen 3% last month, and 9.14% in the last three months.

Finally, we are beginning to see foreclosure self help websites. The link is "You Walk Away" dot com.

McCain Sucking Hind Tit on Fund Raising

Hillary is reported to have raised around $36 million, Obama somewhere around $50 million, and McCain, just $12 million in February.

This is not pretty for the Republicans. Even the Chamber of Commerce types are not opening their wallets.

Reports that Hizbullah Had Role is Assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, It's Chief of Operations

This Report is very brief, and it's from the Jerusalem Post which is pretty right wing, though they claim that the report came from the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

They are asserting some sort of power struggle.

I have no clue what to make of it.

Austan Goolsbee Fingered as NAFTA Contact In Obama Campaign

So reprots CTV News.

There are three possibilities.

The first is that these discussions never happened, in which case both Obama and Goolsbee deserve an apology.

The second is that Goolsbee did talk to the ambassador with the approval of the campaign, in which case everyone in the campaign deserves a dope slap and a severance notice.

This would be unnecessary and stupid, and I do not think that the members of Obama campaign are that stupid. (If they are, then they deserve to lose)

The third possibility is that Goolsbee decided to do this unofficially on his own.

If that's the case, he needs to be dropped in an ostentatiously public manner, because you can't afford to have someone freelancing like this on policy or diplomacy.

I do know that Mr. Goolsbee has occasionally read my blog, so if he wants to make a statement, I will post it unedited.

Microsoft Cuts Prices on its Crappy OS

They cut prices on Vista.

People really hate this OS...a lot.

Economics Update

We have bad news on income and spending. If you go to the link it says that they are both up slightly, 0.3% and 0.4% respectively, but this is less than inflation, which means that it is a real drop.

We also have oil at or near all time highs, and the dollar at or near all time lows.

We have a new estimate of total losses among financial firms from the meltdown, $600 billion. I think that they are off by at least one zero.

Insurance is continuing to unwind in a most unpleasant manner.

MBIA is not doing much in the way of business, because bond issuers don't trust them to be solvent in the future.

Perhaps of more concern is that this is beginning to effect the reinsurance market, with Swiss Reinsurance Company posting an 87% drop in profits.

If this market goes south, it takes most of the insurance market with it.

Of course, we have the Fed shoveling out more money to the investors. It will auction off another $60 billion in March.

I don't even want to think what the money supply is doing right now.

The credit crunch is also interfering with things like reorganizations, with Delphi unable to find the loans necessary for it to reorg under bankruptcy.

Finally, earnings fell across the market, with the S&P 500 companies' earnings falling 4.2%, as opposed to the 10% increase forcast at the beginning of 2007.

Vallejo Avoids Bankruptcy

They got deals from the police and fire departments, so no bankruptcy...for now.

When property taxes take a hit from foreclosures, all bets are off.

A Thought: Ethics Investigations Before Indictments

Well, it appears that the House Ethics Committee is finally investingating Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.).

These clouds have been over his head for more than a year, so why did they have to wait until he was indicted on 30+ counts before starting an investigation???

Republican Ideology Has Broken the Economyn Post

Hale "Bonddad" Stewart makes this point on The Huffington Post.

Go read it.

The USS Kitty Hawk For India????

The Navy is denying any potential sale of the soon to be retired conventionally powered super-carrier, but it would give an inside track to the US on a number of Indian arms deals.

Additionally, it would save significant decommissioning costs.

Still, I call bull%^$#.

More Than 1% Of All Americans in Prison

Ummm that is more than any other nation on earth.

Do we have a lower crime rate? No.

I think that this is by some definitions a police state.

In the future, of course, only the criminals will be out of prison, because it's the only politically palatable way to get state supported healthcare for everyone.

Pelosi Refers Contempt Citation to Mukasey

How quaint, she expects the Attorney General of the United States of America to enforce laws when they are inconvenient for his boss.

To quote a scion of the Bush Crime Family, "Not gonna happen."

Perhaps she should send the House Sargent at Arms, or whatever it is called, out with a pair of handcuffs.

February 28, 2008

The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey
The Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

In accordance with 2 U.S.C. § 194 and the attached House Resolution 979 (adopted on February 14, 2008), I have today sent a certification to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Jeffrey Taylor, advising him of the failure of former White House Counsel, Harriet Miers, to appear, testify and produce documents in compliance with a duly issued subpoena of a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and of the failure of Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff and custodian of White House documents, to produce documents in his custody as required by a duly issued subpoena of the House Judiciary Committee.

Under section 194, Mr. Taylor is now required “to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.” The appropriate grand jury action is a criminal charge for violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192, which provides: “Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers . . . willfully makes default . . . shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor” and shall be subject to a fine and “imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.”

According to the testimony of your predecessor, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and your recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department intends to prevent Mr. Taylor from complying with the statute and enforcing the contempt citations against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten. You claimed that “enforcement by way of contempt of a congressional subpoena is not permitted when the President directs a direct adviser of his… not to appear or when he directs any member of the executive not to produce documents.” Hearing on Oversight of the Dep’t of Justice Before the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 110th Cong. 87-88 (Feb. 7, 2008). You purported to base your view on a “long line of authority,” but cited no court decision that supports this proposition.

There is no authority by which persons may wholly ignore a subpoena and fail to appear as directed because a President unilaterally instructs them to do so. Even if a subpoenaed witness intends to assert a privilege in response to questions, the witness is not at liberty to disregard the subpoena and fail to appear at the required time and place. Surely, your Department would not tolerate that type of action if the witness were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury. Short of a formal assertion of executive privilege, which cannot be made in this case, there is no authority that permits a President to advise anyone to ignore a duly issued congressional subpoena for documents.

Your press spokesman has stated that you will “act promptly” to review this matter and reach a final decision. We will appreciate your acting with appropriate dispatch on this important matter. I strongly urge you to reconsider your position and to ensure that our nation is operating under the rule of law and not at presidential whim. If, however, you intend to persist in preventing Mr. Taylor from carrying out his statutory obligation to present this matter to the grand jury in the District of Columbia, we respectfully request that you inform us of that decision within one week from today, so that the House may proceed with a civil enforcement suit in federal district court.

Thank your for your prompt consideration and attention to this matter.

best regards,

Speaker of the House


February 28, 2008

The Honorable Jeffrey A. Taylor
United States Attorney
District of Columbia

The undersigned, The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, pursuant to the attached House Resolution 979, One Hundred Tenth Congress, hereby certifies to you the failure and refusal of Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, to appear, testify, and furnish certain documents in compliance with a subpoena before a duly constituted subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. The undersigned further certifies to you the failure and refusal of Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff, to furnish certain documents in the custody of the White House in compliance with a subpoena before said committee. These failures and refusals are fully shown by the certified copy of the House Report 110-423 of said committee which is also hereto attached.

Witness my hand and seal of the House of Representatives of the United States, at the City of Washington, District of Columbia, this twenty-eighth day of February, 2008.

Speaker of the House of Representatives


Clerk of the House of Representatives

28 February 2008

Denials on the Obama NAFTA Story

Here, and here, from the Canadian ambassador.

As I said earlier, if someone did do this, they were freelancing.

The Bigots Are Going After Each Other Now

It appears that Bill Donohue, President of the "Catholic League" and all around bigot is upset because Texas Evangelical leader John Hagee, another bigot, has endorsed John McCain.

It seems that Hagee hates Catholics too, you see.
But Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement today that Hagee has written extensively in negative ways about the Catholic Church, "calling it 'The Great Whore,' an 'apostate church,' the 'anti-Christ,' and a 'false cult system.'"

"Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee," Donohue said.
I appreciate McCain's conundrum. If he disavowed bigotry, he'd lose at least 3/4 of the Republican party.

Pass the popcorn.

Bush Holds Press Conference, Desparately Tries to Convince Congress to Cover His Law_Breaking

Yes, in addition to other matters, Bush is going full fear factor to sell the telco immunity.

I hope it won't work. My sense is that the House stood up to him, and when they went home for the recess, they had constituents high-fiving them.

If they have any sense at all, they will tell Mr. 19% to pound sand.

They tried to collect all the phone records, and all the internet traffic, and they started in February 2001, 7 months before 9/11, and Bush is terrified that he'll have to pay for his law breaking.

Let him twist in the wind.

Massachusetts Judges Rules Some Mortgages "Structurally Unfair" Under State Consumer Protection Law

This is interesting. The judgehas basically ruled that this business model is fradulent and illegal:
A Suffolk Superior Court judge has issued a potential landmark order slowing down thousands of Massachusetts foreclosures and declaring whole classes of subprime mortgages “structurally unfair” under state law.

“It is both imprudent and unfair to approve mortgage loans that the borrowers cannot reasonably be expected to repay if housing prices were to fall,” Judge Ralph Gants wrote in a preliminary injunction against notorious subprime mortgage lender Fremont Investment and Loan. “Just because we as a society failed earlier to recognize that (many subprime loans) were generally unfair does not mean that we should ignore their tragic consequences and fail now to recognize that unfairness.”
My guess is that it will either be overturned on appeal, or the foreclosures will resume after 90 days, or both.

Schadenfreude, Republican Fundraising Edition

It appears that David Boehner is less than impressed with the fund raising of the current Republican Congressional caucus.

You know, if you f*&^ up the country beyond belief, and create a financial meltdown, when you are out of power, business people won't donate to you, because you are bad for business.

Funny that way...heh.

Massive Explosion at Mall in Illinois

It was in Waukegan, near the IL-WI border.

No word as to cause.

Economics Update

First and most importantly, GDP increased at an annual rate of 0.6% in q4. Seeing as how prices are increasing at an annual rate of greater than 4%, I would call this a contraction in real dollar terms.

Also, Initial jobless claims rise 19,000 to 373,000.

Moody's is looking at downgrading Fannie Mae. Right now, it's B+, which may be fine for a grade, but not so good for a financial institution.

Moody's is probably thinking that they at risk of having problems if there is something like a margin call, as Thornburg Mortgage Inc. currently is. It looks like they will take a $300 million hit.

We also have a q4 loss of $2.5 billionfor Freddie Mac This goes along with Fannie's $3.6 billion loss that I reported a few days back.

And just to show you that it isn't limited to real estate, the credit crunch is forcing the Pennsylvania student loan program will stop making loans, at least for now, because the credit crunch is making money too expensive.

Republican Feel Underappreciated by Telcos

The Republicans are shocked that their efforts to cover-up illegal telco spying on Americans have gone unrewarded.

Despite their best efforts to get retroactive immunity to pass, they have not seen an increase in donation from phone and internet companies.

This isn't surprising. The telcos know that immunity is to cover the collective asses of Bush and His Evil Minions, and that the Republicans will cover his ass regardless of whether or not they donate to Republican campaigns.

You see, the telcos are trying to rent Democrats, because they know that the Republicans are already bought and paid for.

Report: USAF Selects EADS for Tanker Deal

US Air Force makes a deal with foreign supplier

It's a Malaysian news source, and I call bullsh$#. I just don't see a way that a foreign contractor wins this outright, or even get over half of a split contract.

In either case, the winner(s) will be announced in the next week.

FWIW, the biggest critic of the original deal, which was largely a gift to Boeing, was John McCain, and he'll be busy for the next few months.

Fannie and Freddie Near Deal to Clamp Down of Appraisal Fraud

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the GSEs (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are near a deal on appraisal fraud and self dealing (see also here):
At its core, the deal would bar lending companies that sell loans to Fannie and Freddie from using preferred or internal appraisers who may be subject to pressure to overvalue properties. The deal would establish a "home valuation protection code" to set standards on compensation and independence issues, and it would create an institute with a separate board of directors to monitor complaints from consumers and appraisers, according to documents described to The Washington Post by a source not authorized to speak publicly about the issues.

If the agreement takes hold, Fannie and Freddie would no longer purchase mortgages from lenders who fail to abide by the standards, a powerful economic force that could influence the entire housing landscap
As Tanta of Caluclated Risk so eloquently puts it, "It appears that Fannie Mae has finished or nearly finished its review, and is about to ruin several very large aggregators' and thousands of pissant brokers' day with a new set of rules regarding how appraisals can be obtained and what affiliations between lender and appraiser are acceptable."

Looks Like Ethanol Bubble Has Popped

With the increases in corn prices, largely driven by the ethanol boom, and too many producers, so we are now seeing the shakeout.

That being said, corn based biofuel, at least corn based ethanol, is really not a great proposition to begin with.

Agreement in Kenya

They have agreed to a power sharing setup. It's unfortunate that the president of Kenya clearly stole the election, but an end to the violence will benefit everyone.

Another Day, Another Alphabet Soup Collapse

A few days ago, I was wondering what a VIE (variable interest entity) was, and why they were collapsing.

Well, the Wall Street Journal now has the answer. VIEs are basically bonds where the interest rate is periodically refigured at auction.

Municipalities like them, because the interest rates are lower, both because they are more liquid, and because if interest rates rise, then they will follow.

They are basically the same as adjustable rate mortgages, only for bonds.

The problem is that no one is buying at auctions, and the banks have to cover the unpurchased bonds.

The difference between these and auction rate securities is that the banks have to purchase these from whoever wants to sell.

The interest spike is not as bad, these typically go up to prime, so it's a jump from around 2% to around 6%, but the maturity date gets kicked up too, with 30 year bonds becoming 5 year bonds.

Expect to see more municipal bankruptcies as a result.

"Sunni Awakening" is Beginning to Tire of US

Yep, that surge is working, with the members of the Sunni militias leaving over issues of payment, political power, and oh, yes, the Shia police chief in Diyala province who has been running those pesky anti-Sunni death squads.

We have band-aids there and it will get increasingly ugly.

Obama Staffer: NAFTA Rhetoric "Not Serious"

This could be bullsh&^, or it could be some staffer or economic adviser freelancing.

Or the report that a staffer told the Canadian ambassador that, "criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value", could be true.

CTV is fairly reliable, and I think that Obama is way to savvy to knowingly let someone do this, even if that [b]WAS[/b] his real position (which it probably is, he voted for CAFTA).

It's simply too politically stupid.

I think that it was one of his economic advisers freelancing, and whoever it was, they should be fired today.

Bloomberg Not Running

Well, I guess that we won't have Mr. Charisma to kick around any more.

Would have pulled more votes off the Dems anyway.

Czechs and Bush Close to Very Bad Deal

Specifically, they are close to a deal on Bush's European missile shield.

This is stupid for the Czech Republic. Russia is accurate when they consider this provocative, and it is very likely that whom ever succeeds Bush will backtrack on these plans.

27 February 2008

GOP to Congressinal Investigators: Piss Off

Well, after white house staff admitted using RNC emails to avoid the record keeping laws, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested backups of the emails.

Henry Waxman, the committee chairman, has now revealed that the GOP has told Congress to go pound sand, saying that they, "has no intention of trying to restore the missing White House e-mails."

These folks are absolutely lawless.

Senate's Reid Dares Bush to Veto Foreclosure Bill

I believe that this may be the fruits of the house telling Bush to pound sand on Telco immunity.

They did this, and then they went home, and the feedback from constituents was overwhelmingly positive, so now Harry Reid has found some guts on the foreclosure bill.

I think that Reid may finally get opposing that a president with a 19% approval rating, which makes Bush as popular as a home root canal kit, is a winning strategy.

Besides, this is something that is easily understood: It prevents foreclosures from creating instant slums, and it puts some of the onus on the banks, who were more financially knowledgeable than their victims.

Loan Portfolio Limits Eased on GSEs. Disaster to Follow

As a result of their accounting scandals Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac had their portfolios capped about 725 billion dollars, but regulators have now removed the caps.

This is, to quote Nietzsche, "Like the bite of a dog into a stone, it is a stupidity".

The head of OFHEO, James Lockhart, will be eliminating the caps this week, and it looks like he will be reducing their capital requirements below the current 30% too.

Mr. Lockhart is an ass. At a time when the 2nd and 3rd largest borrowers in the world, after the US government, are facing a collapsing market, allowing them to go further out on a limb that is being sawed through is insane.

Rep. Markey Proposes Universal Access Bill for Wireless

Rep. Markey has consistently been at the forefront of such things, and how he has proposed the Wireless Consumer Protection and Community Broadband Empowerment Act, which calls for the following:
  • Adequate and plain English disclosures about contracts.
  • Provision of more detailed coverage maps.
  • Require the sale of plans without early termination fees.
  • Require phone carriers to sell "subsidy free" phones.
  • Give municipalities the explicit right to offer broadband services, preempting state laws forbidding this.
Seems like a good bill to me.

Apologist for Racism, William F. Buckley Dead at 82

My condolences to his family, but his record of endorsing racism and fascism should not be ignored.

He was a fervent supporter of Franco, and (of course) Joe McCarthy, and he kept himself amused by coming up with reprehensible justifications for Jim Crow.

Of course, he was well respected, because he was from the right family and went to Yale.

See Steve Gilliard's post speak like a conservative where he quotes Buckley:
The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.
The irony was that at the end of his life, he was abandoned by the Neocon community that he helped to create, because he actually had a bit of sanity.

Unlike, for example, Norman Podhoretz, there is every indication that he knew what he was doing and knew better (I'm talking about the appeals to racism here), but was too fond of his own words to do the right thing.

He was a good writer and a witty man though.

Major Props to Senator Ben Cardin

Earlier I wrote about my senator, Barbara Mikukski, and her voting for telco immunity, and the inadequacy of her response.

I also wrote to Ben Cardin, expressing my appreciation to him for voting against caving to George W. Bush. Major props to him:
Dear Mr. Saroff:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the President's warrantless wiretapping program.

In February 2008 I voted against final passage of S. 2248, the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act. The bill would have made permanent changes to the original FISA law in addition to many of the changes included in the Protect America Act (PAA). I am disappointed that the Senate has failed to a dequately improve the PAA which Congress enacted in August 2007, and which I also opposed . The PAA was intended to be a temporary solution to FISA, giving Congress the opportunity for a more careful consideration of amending the FISA law.

The President must have the necessary authority to track terrorists, intercept their communications, and disrupt their plots. Congress should make needed changes to FISA to account for changes in technology and rulings from the FISA Court involving purely international communications that pass through telecommunications routes in the United States . While we have a solemn obligation to protect the American people, we must simultaneously uphold the Constitution and protect our civil liberties.

After learning about executive branch abuses in the 1960s and 1970s, Congress passed very specific laws which authorize electronic surveillance. Congress has regularly updated these measures over the years to provide the executive branch the tools it needs to investigate terrorists, while preserving essential oversight mechanisms for the courts and the Congress. FISA requires the government to seek an order or warrant from the FISA Court before conducting electronic surveillance that may involve US persons. The Act also provides for post-surveillance notice to the FISA Court by the Attorney General in an emergency.

I am very concerned that the FISA law was disregarded by the Administration, and want to ensure that we put an end to this type of abuse. We are a nation of laws and no one is above the law, including the President and Attorney General. Congress has the right to know the extent of the warrantless wiretapping program and how it was initiated and changed over the years by this Administration.

I voted in favor of the Judiciary Committee substitute to the Intelligence Committee bill. The Judiciary Committee version strengthened Congressional and judicial review, including increasing the oversight by the FISA Court of the Administration's wiretapping program. I am therefore very disappointed that the Senate rejected the Judiciary Committee substitute, and that the Senate has rejected numerous amendments - including an amendment that I had offered which would reduce the length of the reauthorization from six to four years - to improve this legislation.

I am hopeful that the House will make much needed improvements in this legislation during conference, and that I can support balanced legislation that gives the intelligence community the tools it needs to track terrorists and prevent attacks, while maintaining safeguards against the abuse of power by the executive branch. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to work to ensure the safety and security of the American people, as well as their civil liberties. Domestic eavesdropping raises serious and fundamental questions regarding the conduct of the war against terrorism, the Constitutional and privacy rights of Americans, and the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Congress must continue to work to strike the right balance, and we did not achieve that goal with this legislation.

Thank you again for contacting me, and please feel free to do so again in the future.

New York Times Puts Siegleman News Blackout in Alabama In OP/ED

They write about the fact that WHNT, a CBS affiliate, went to black during the 60 minutes presentation of the politicization of the prosecution of former governor Don Siegleman.

Last two 'graphs:
In 1969, the F.C.C. revoked the license of WLBT in Jackson after the commission established a systematic effort by the broadcaster to suppress information about the civil rights movement. Today, broadcast rules have changed, giving stations more leeway to decide what to air. Dropping a single report is unlikely to set the regulators in motion. Still, it would be deeply troubling if a partisan broadcaster could suppress information on the public airwaves and hide behind a technical fig leaf.

In this case, if the blackout was intentional, it may also have been counterproductive. Rather than take attention away from allegations that Mr. Siegelman was the victim of a partisan campaign, WHNT’s technical glitch seems to lend support to the charge.
Based on what is going on in Alabama, I'm coming to believe that this prosecution was driven by political considerations.

Otherwise, why would the GOP there be so freaked out and hypersensitive about this.

NY AG Cuomo Subpoenas Comcast on Bit Torrent Throttling

Well, this shold be very interesting.

My guess is that Andrew Cuomo is going to be much more aggressive than the FCC.

He's following Spitzer's lead, and the consumer protection laws in NY are more aggressive than the FCC's power at this time.

Economics Update

The dollar has flirted with crossing the $1.50:€1.00 for months, and not that it has crossed the barrier, it's continuing to weaken to new lows, with it currently around $1.51:€1.00.

Of course, it doesn't help that Alan Greenspan is suggesting that the Gulf states drop their pegs to the dollar. I guess that he's shorting the dollar or something now that he is "retired".

On the bright side, the falling dollars is attracting overseas investors to US real estate, as it is now cheaper to buy.

In California, we have the California association of realtors reporting that new home sales are down 29.8%, and median price is down 21.9%.

Make no mistake this is a blood bath, and the numbers would be worse if they corrected for home size. The housing market is collapsing from the bottom up.

It will get worse, Fannie Mae has posted a $3.6 billion q4 loss, and I would expect something similar from Freddie, and we are still very early in the collapse of the housing bubble.

We may very see the collapse of Fannie and Freddie in the next 3 or so years.

This may explain why new home sales nation wide are at a 13 year low and why Mortgage application volume is falling off a cliff.

It doesn't help that mortgage rates are no longer following the Fed rates because of inflation fears.

As the big sh^%pile continues to collapse, we are starting to see the inevitable lawsuits, with HSH Nordbank deciding to file suit against UBS, alleging that, "UBS's management of the portfolio has been in breach of its contractual obligations and fiduciary duties and that substitutions were made solely for the benefit of UBS".

We'll be seeing a lot more of this.

Testifying before Congress, Ben Bernanke is expressing concern about both inflation and recession, aka "stagflation", though the Fed is still shoveling money out the door, with another $30 billion auction of cash for garbage.

In the world of more real world finance, where people make money by making things, durable goods orders fall 5.3% last month, but oil is down a bit after getting above $102 a barrel.

It's under $100, for now, on expectation of a recession.

B-2 Crash Update

We now have a report that there was an on board fire at the time of the crash.

Welfare for American Arms Manufacturer

The US Army is now planning to replace the Iraqi Army's AK-47s M-16s, claiming, among other things, that the M-16 is more reliable.

Yeah, right.

While the M-16 is unquestionably more accurate, reliability and cost are on the AK's side. Additionally, this will require significant retraining.

This is just a way to get the M-16 into service so that Colt (or maybe FN, when I last checked they made weapons in South Carolina under license) make lots of money.

EC Increases Microsoft Fine to $1.35B

I guess that they got a bit upset about Microsoft ignoring their directive to open up their APIs.

Microflaccid is lucky that I'm not on the board. I'd strip copyright protections from all but the most recent versions of their software for this sort of crap.

Imaging what would happen if Office 2003 and Windows XP were available legally for free in Urop.

The NASA Clown Show

Well, it's beginning to look like NASA is mismanaging the Orion CEV as badly as it did the space shuttle.

It appears that the whiz kids at NASA are going back to the drawing board on requirements.

At the rate this is going, the US will be out of the manned space business for a very long time.

Iraqi Withdrawal Back on Table in Senate

All I think needs to be said is that if the Republicans want to filibuster this, make them talk.

None of this courtesy stuff. They use it as an excuse to kill everything. Cut the funding on the war and the escalation.

Mark Begich to Run Against Ted Stevens

He is currently mayor of Anchorage, and my dad knew his dad from when he worked in the governor's office in the 1960s.

Dem Wins State Senate Special Election in New York

Darrel Aubertine beat Will Barclay, taking the state senate to 32 Republicans and 31 Democrats in a special election.

FWIW, the last time that a Dem won this district was in the 1800s, so this does not bode well for the Republicans.

If one Republican switches sides, control of the state senate changes hands.

After that, the first order of business should be redistricting, at least on the state level.

In a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by something like 4:1, it's clear that some serious gerrymandering is going on and needs to be fixed.

Schadenfreude: Now I Have to Clean My Screen

Posted without comment:

Attention, Parents: Larry Craig is Seeking Interns - The Sleuth

(go to the link and read the reader comments though)



Obama Lolcats. Funny, and not offensive regardless of who you support.

Unless you hate cats, and if you hate cats, you have my condolences.

Bush and His Evil Minions Choose Fat Cat Bankers Over Home Owners

The 'Phants in the Senate are threatening a filibuster, and the white house is threatening a veto over the Senate's bill modifying bankruptcy laws to allow a judge to modify the terms of a loan on a primary residence.

Today, you can do this on your yacht, or your vacation home, or your rental property, but not on your loan.

Allowing so-called "cram downs" will not fix the problem, but it will make it better, and it will land squarely on the shoulders of the lenders who were the worst actors in this debacle.

Siegelman Update

On the Speaker's blog, Chairman Conyers Releases Jill Simpson Transcript on the Prosecution of former Alabama Governor Siegelman.

You may recall that she has made some highly credible claims that Rove targeted Don Siegelman for prosecution. Additionally, Larisa Alexandrovna, details the total freakout mode that the Alabama GOP has gone into over this.

Check them both out.

Renzi Will Not Resign

Yep, after a 35 count indictment on dodgy real estate deals, he won't resign.

Pass the popcorn.

In fairness to Republicans*, I imagine they feel the same way about Rep. William Jefferson.

*Woah...did I actually say that? I can't believe that I said that.

Moussaoui Looks to Appeal His Guilty Conviction

He is now claiming that he did not have effective counsel, because his lawyers could not fully brief him on the case, because of secrecy rules.

I don't think that Mossaoui was the "20th Hijacker". I think that he was a terrorist wannabee, and I think that he should be locked up for some time, though I'm not sure if that's in a prison or a high security mental ward, but the fact that Bush and His Evil Minions screwed up this case just stuns me.

These guys could not organize themselves out of a wet paper bag.

Naomi Kline Nails It

She has an article in the nation, Disowned by the Ownership Society, or as I like to refer to it, the Pwn3rsh1p society.

Go read it.

Here is a sample:
In November Nasdaq joined forces with several private banks, including Goldman Sachs, to form Portal Alliance, a private equity stock market open only to investors with assets upward of $100 million. In short order yesterday's ownership society has morphed into today's members-only society.
BTW, this private market will crash and burn, because there is no small investor left to hold the bag when the bubble bursts.

26 February 2008

Dollar Falls Breaks $1.50:€1.00

I predicted it by the end of 2007, and (yet again) I was wrong, but only by 8½ weeks. The Dollar fell to a record low, closing at $1.4981:€1.000 after a brief blip where it weakened above $1.50.

Economics Update

The Consumer confidence index has dropped to 75, the lowest number since 2003, the expectations Index, which is on hop people see the future declined to 57.9, the lowest number since 1991.

In real estate, January foreclosures are up 57% from one year ago, the fall in house prices is accelerating, with the Case-Shiller home price index falling 9.1% year over year.

It appears that home improvement is stalling, with Home Depot having its first drop in sales ever. People don't want to improve a depreciating asset.

Inflation (stagflation) is rearing its ugly head too, with Wholesale prices rising 1% for the month of January, and 7.4% in 2007.

In insurance, MBIA will stop writing policies for asset based securities for at least the next 6 months. Additionally, it is looking at spinning off its municipal bond business, and announced that it had eliminate its quarterly dividend.

In general investment news it appears that yet another complex obscure financial instrument will give the world heartburn, something called a "variable interest entity" (VIE). It appears to be another asset structured to keep sh&^ty investments off the balance sheets.

Sikorsky’s REveals Successor to It's ABC Concept

In the 1980s, Sikorsky had a test aircraft that they called the ABC (Advancing Blade Concept) helicopter. It used a coaxial rotor, and offloaded the retreating blades to eliminate retreating blade stall (as a helicopter goes faster, the blade going backwards goes more slowly relative to the air stream).

Sikorsky unveiled its successor, the X2 test aircraft at Heli-Expo:

It's certainly a lot cleaner and more developed than its predecessor.

It also promises performance close to that of a tilt-rotor with the low speed handling and auto rotation of a helicopter.

William J. Haynes is Out at White House

He is the defense department general council who said that we "had to" get convictions, and he authorized torture.

He is "returning to private life", which is nicer than Bush's desire to make him an appellate court federal judge.

A Report that Musharraf is not Long to His Post

They are talking about his leaving in the next few days.

I doubt it, but his exit would be good for America. Musharraf has never been serious about pursuing terrorism, and his presence is making Pakistan less stable.

Sat Shoot-Down Logo Revealed!

H/t Danger Room from Wired.com

Hu's on first.

Antidepressants Ineffective?

A study has been released showing that Prozac, does not work better than a placebo for most people.

You can find the whole paper here.
The pattern they saw from the trial results of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), venlafaxine (Effexor) and nefazodone (Serzone) was consistent. "Using complete data sets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger data set of this type than has been previously reported, we find the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medication is below recommended criteria for clinical significance," they write.

Two more frequently prescribed antidepressants were omitted from the study because scientists were unable to obtain all the data.


Well, it looks like the FDIC is gearing up for bank failures.

It's looking to bring back some retirees from its receivership division, and it's looking for bids from private companies to handle mortgages, commercial loans, and student loans for the failed banks.

They are estimating 100 bank failures over the next 12-24 months, but I think that they are behind the curve.

H/t to Calculated Risk.

Socialism for the Rich

You know the old saying, "Capitalism for the Poor, Socialism for the Rick", and in that vein we have the large multinational banks lobbying congress for a bailout.

Bank of America is circulating a legislative proposal to create "a Federal Homeowner Preservation Corporation that would buy up billions of dollars in troubled mortgages at a deep discount, forgive debt above the current market value of the homes and use federal loan guarantees to refinance the borrowers at lower rates".

It's a bailout for the banks more than anything else, and the author of the article, NY Times reporter Edmund Andrews, notes he irony when he says:
A confidential proposal that Bank of America circulated to members of Congress this month provides a stunning glimpse of how quickly the industry has reversed its laissez-faire disdain for second-guessing by the government — now that it is in trouble.
These folks made their bed, and they had the computers and models, let them lie in it. Any bailout should be to the people at the bottom of the pyramid, not the top.

Mortgage Cram Down Bill Up In Senate

The Republican'ts are threatening a filibuster, and Bush and His Evil Minions are threatening a filibuster, but the Senate bankruptcy reform bill is a decent piece of legislation.

Basically, it gives bankruptcy courts the right to modify the terms of a loan on a primary residence, much in the same way that they can for rental properties and vacation homes.

It should keep people in their homes, it will allow things like outrageous fees and deceptive loans to be modified, and it places the burden to a large degree on the purveyors of the toxic mortgages.

Needless to say, the mortgage industry hates it.

No Downgrade for Monoline Insurers....Yet

Standard & Poor’s has decided not to downgrade MBIA and Ambac at this time.

So, the monoline bond insurers dodged a bullet, for now.

I wish that I'd had an hour's notice. I'd have bought stock, and sold it an hour after.

That being said, I still think that these companies are insolvent.

Hedge Funds Up Stakes in NY Times Company in Preparation for Proxy fight

Two hedge funds have increased their stake in the NY Times company to 19%, and they are agitating for 4 of the 13 seats on the board of directors. (The other 9 seats are controlled by the Sulzberger family by virtue of the two tiered stock structure).

I think that this is the first stage of an assault on the two tiered stock structure.

The strategy of the hedge funds could fall into one of three categories:
  • They intend to make enough of a nuisance of themselves to get Times Co. to pay them off to leave.
  • They intend to take over and break up the company for profit.
  • They intend to take over to change the editorial direction of Times Co.
I think that the last one is least likely.

Why Does Nedra Pickler Have a Job

Yep, everyone's favorite hack journo, Nedra Pickler, has done the most transparent hit piece I've yet seen on Barak Obama.

She gets quotes from Roger Stone, the youngest of Richard Nixon's "dirty tricksters", and founder of an anti-Hillary "organization" Citizens United Not Timid (check out the damn acronym).

Note the URL. This is an AP story, not OP/ED. She does this repeatedly.

25 February 2008

Embryonic Stem Cells Cure Paralysis

Geron is going to the FDA to get approval to test its stem cell spinal treatment of paralysis, following successful tests in rats.

Needless to say, the Bush Administration anti-science blockhead political appointees in the FDA won't approve it, but we have only 100 months to wait for them to be swept clean.

Lessig Not Running for Congress

On why I am not running (Lessig Blog)


Prediction: Visa IPO Will Fall Short

Visa is expecting an IPO in the range of $15-$19 billion.

I don't think that they will make even $15 billion.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the IPO will be priced on March 19, with the IPO on March 20.

Yes, I know, I'm the worst prognosticator in the biz.

What's your prediction?

Credit Crunch May Kill Private Sale of Clear Channel's TV Unit

Wachovia is suing their own client, Providence Equity Partners, to get out of funding the buyout.

The buyout deal has been restructured, and Wachovia is now saying that it is no longer required to provide the capital.

This is because the credit crunch has made reselling this debt much more difficult, and hence more uncertain.

Boeing Pitches Co-Development Deal on Advanced F-15/F-18 to Japan

Japan wants to purchase F-22s to replace its locally produced F-4 Phantoms, which is nearing the end of its service life, but is looking at alternatives, since congress is showing no signs of changing the laws that forbids this.

As a result, Boeing is making proposals to the Japanese about co-developing an advanced version (paid subscription required) of either the F-15 or F-18.

According to the article, Japan is looking at the F-16 and Eurofighter Typhoon, with the defense minster favoring the latter, though that may be a tactic to get F-22s released to the JASDF.

Economics Update

It looks like the US dollar is trending downward on the expectation of further weakness in the US economy.

And in the late to the game category, business economists are finally predicting a recession.

This is not surprising, as Fed rate cuts are no longer effecting longer term rates, because people are expecting inflation to pick up, and do not wish to be repaid in devalued dollars.

It won't help that bond insurer Ambac may be downgraded even if it manages to raise $3 billion in new capital.

The problem is that people are increasingly unable to sell their homes, as shown by a 23.4% year-over-year drop in existing home sales. That's a collapse in the market.

So now, investors are lawyering up to go after corporate boards, on the theory that the guys on the boards are supposed to be professionals and to show a modicum of competence.

Pass the popcorn on this last one.

How Foreclosures Will Create New Slums

The Atlantic has a fascinating article describing how neighborhoods hollowed out by foreclosures quickly become slums.

Unkempt lawns, squatters, etc. lead to a downward path toward unsustainable neighborhoods.

It leads one to wonder if at some points municipalities will use eminent domain to seize and demolish the homes, as has been going on in Detroit for some time.

Not a pretty picture.

Brad Delong Gets it On Walt and Mearsheimer

Brad Delong points to a series of very interesting critiques Walt and Mearsheimer's book, The Israel Lobby. Specifically, he cites a quote from their original paper, "The mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest to bring it about."

This would of course apply to NOW, NARAL, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Humane Society, etc.

They must necessarily be acting against the interests of the US, because otherwise they would not need an organized special interest to bring it about.

It is utilitarianism taken to absurd extremes.

It is the idea that the national best interest is immediately apparent to any policy maker, and so the only time one needs a lobbyist is when one wishes to make the government operate in a member contrary to government interest.

This is tremendously naive at best.

WRAPUP 4-Shame on you, Clinton tells Obama | Markets | Bonds News | Reuters

Hillary Clinton is finally going after Barack Obama's dishonest right wing attacks on health care reform.

This is going to make any health care plan nigh-impossible if Obama gets elected. Thanks.

Universal Healthcare is more than a core Democratic Party value. It's essential to save this nation.

What's more, it will change the dynamic of governance in the US for decades to come, and will create a Democratic majority nationwide for decades to come.

And Barack Obama is campaigning against it, because he thinks that he's just so awesome that he will get Republicans to support him in slitting their own throats politically.

Many People in US May Owe No Mortgage

2½ months ago, I commented on a peculiar foreclosure case, where the judge had halted a foreclosure because the holder of the title could not be confirmed.

The title had not been properly processed as the mortgage was packaged and repackaged.

Well, it looks like this problem may be far more widespread than previously anticipated:
Joe Lents hasn't made a payment on his $1.5 million mortgage since 2002.

That's when Washington Mutual Inc. first tried to foreclose on his home in Boca Raton, Florida. The Seattle-based lender failed to prove that it owned Lents's mortgage note and dropped attempts to take his house. Subsequent efforts to foreclose have stalled because no one has produced the paperwork.

``If you're going to take my house away from me, you better own the note,'' said Lents, 63, the former chief executive officer of a now-defunct voice recognition software company.
Seven years of no payments on a million dollar plus mortgage for two years, because the creditors cannot prove that they own the mortgage.

They simply cannot find out where the paper that says, "I own the mortgage", is, and how to assign it to the proper entity.

This means that there may be trillions of dollars in which there is no note, and hence no way to enforce the mortgage.

Things You Do Not Expect Out of the WSJ Editorial Page

It should be noted that the WSJ dishonesty editorial page was one of the prime media outlets enabling this:
Renzi and Republicans

Extortion and money laundering are usually the province of gangsters, not Western Congressmen. That changed yesterday with the indictment of GOP Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona on charges that he used his seat on the House Natural Resources Committee to enrich himself through a trail of payoffs on land deals.


Bush and His Evil Minions Say that Telcos Will Not Cooperate with Surveillance Requests...Except, of Course They Are Cooperating

Yep, McConnell and Mukasey are at it again claiming that intelligence is being lost because there is no Telco Immunity, except of course for this:
But hours later, administration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program, according to an official familiar with the issue.
The Telcos broke the law and surveilled people without warrants, startinb 7 months before 9-11, and they would like to be excused, but it is not stopping them from cooperating new.

Home Equity Lines Being Cancelled

Banks are now cancelling or freezing existing home equity lines in areas with formerly frothy markets, because they believe that the homeowners owe more than they can pay.

McCain Sleaze Update

So, the FEC has said that McCain has opted in for the primary, and that unless the FEC approves his petion to pull out, which it cannot because it lacks quorum, he cannot opt out. (here and here)

The WaPo story has the money quote'
This is serious,' agreed Republican election lawyer Jan Baran. Ignoring the matter on the grounds that the FEC lacks a quorum, Baran said, 'is like saying you're going to break into houses because the sheriff is out of town.'
As I've said before, if Barack Obama wants an out for the general election, all he has to do is explain that McCain is already violating campaign finance law.

In the matter of inappropriate dealings with lobbyists and their clients, we have broadcast station owner Lowell "Bud" Paxson directly contradicting McCains "no meetings' statement, and we have letters from McCain threatening the FCC regarding a loophole in regulations that benefited Glencairn Ltd. and Sinclair communications. Glencairn's lobbyist? Vicki Iseman.

I do not believe that John McCain screwed Vicki Iseman, but I do believe that McCain and Iseman did screw the American public.

Finally, we are starting to see coverage regarding how the national media is in the tank for McCain.

It's only been 9 years for someone to recognize that.

24 February 2008

Shoot me now!

Nader to run again.

Has this self centered, sanctimonious, rat-f&^% done anything useful over the past 8 years?

It's all about him, I guess.

23 February 2008

Adventures in Innovative Labor Organizing

The SEIU-UHW has, over the past 10 years, negociated contracts with nearly 200 hospitals and nursing homes in california so that they expire all at the same time.

This means that they can negotiate with all the institutions at once, and that if any one of them cut a contract, they can use it for pattern bargaining, and that in the event of a strike, the institutions in question cannot simply shift resources to institutions that are not struck.

This is a very savvy move.

Full press release follows:
August 11, 2007
Melanie Myers


Event Bringing Together Caregivers from Several States to be Covered by Blogger

OAKLAND — A delegation of 700 healthcare workers from six states will gather in Oakland on Saturday to plan for a coordinated bargaining campaign in 2008, when contracts at more than 200 hospitals and nursing homes will expire, creating an opportunity for caregivers to achieve unprecedented victories for working people across the United States.

The convention in California, to be hosted by SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West, represents the first time that healthcare workers will coordinate their bargaining campaigns on such a massive scale. Caregivers from California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota and Connecticut will participate in the event.

"This meeting represents an unprecedented opportunity for healthcare workers from around the country to work together for improved standards such as the right to stand up for our patients and residents," said Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU UHW. "Healthcare workers do the same work everywhere in the country, and it only makes sense that we come together to work toward our common goal."

Healthcare workers at several SEIU local unions plan to coordinate their bargaining campaigns next year, in order to maximize their ability to improve quality care for their patients, raise industry standards and win a voice on the job. More than 150,000 caregivers will benefit from this coordination by achieving the ability to advocate for improved patient care through their union.

Adding a unique twist to the proceedings will be the presence of netroots blogger Elliott Petty of the progressive online California group Courage Campaign, who plans to post live updates to his site, http://couragecampaign.org/page/community/blog/elliottpetty, as the meeting progresses through the day. He will also post at MyDD and Open Left, two major national political blogs.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to observe, participate, and interact with UHW's members at this meeting," Petty said. "The best way to build bridges between labor and the online communities is to engage in actions with each other. Progressives win when we are united, which this effort will help us to be."

Petty's participation is an outgrowth of UHW's involvement with the YearlyKos convention earlier this month, in which UHW leaders met with numerous members of the progressive blogosphere to discuss ways that their online activism can dovetail with the grassroots worker and political organizing of labor unions. The union plans to hold a retreat for progressive bloggers in the fall.

"Our values of member democracy, openness, and dialogue and debate are mirrored by those of the netroots community," Rosselli said. "We look forward to continuing to work with online activists who share our goals and values."

Rosselli and several healthcare workers will be available for interview throughout the week and on Saturday.

The 140,000-member SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the largest hospital and healthcare union in the western United States and represents every type of healthcare worker, including nurses, professional, technical and service classifications. Our mission is to achieve high-quality healthcare for all.


SEIU United Healthcare Workers—West, with more than 152,000 members, is the largest and most powerful hospital and healthcare union in the Western U.S. We represent every type of healthcare worker, including nursing, professional, technical and service classifications. Our mission is to achieve high quality healthcare for all.

More on the Siegelman Political Prosecution

Video, with ads, courtesy of 60 Minutes.

$1.2 Billion Gone in Seconds

A B-2 bomber crashed on takeoff at Guam today. Both pilots have ejected safely, though one is still in hospital, listed as "stable".

$1.2 billion, and 1 of only 21 of the stealth bombers in an instant.

This is why the Air Force's fascination with silver bullets is so counter productive. You could get 95% of the performance, and many times the numbers, for less than half the price.

Telco Immunity At a Glance

Too true. Too Funny.

22 February 2008

Cat Ownership Reduces Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

A University of Minnesota study indicates that cat owners are less likely to die from heart attacks or strokes.

Non-cat owners, including people who kept dogs as pets, were 30-40% more likely to die of these conditions.

I, for one, appreciate the benefits of my feline overlords.

lolcats funny cat pictures

Neat Astronomical Pic

According to El Reg, New Scientist descriped it as looking like the great eye of Sauron

Clico image for big honking version (2400 x 3000, around 1 meg)

Senator Barbara Mikulski Can Kiss My Shiny Metal Ass

A week or so ago, I sent an email to my Senators regarding the FISA update and Telco immunity.

I congratulated Ben Cardin, and castigated Senator Barbara Mikulski for their votes on telco immunity, which is really all about covering up the misdeeds of the Bush administration.

Here is her response, and my comments, which I'm not sending, because it won't do any good:
Thank you for getting in touch with me to express your concerns about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I appreciate learning of your views about this important matter.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I am very aware that terrorists plan and intend to harm the United States and the American people. I hear about these threats every day - and I take them very seriously. Yet I agree with you - that even as our nation faces new threats, Constitutional protections must be safeguarded.
Which is why she decided to allow the phone companies to Hoover the records of every call in the US and all the internet traffic.

To quote Keith Olbermann:
Mark Klein is the AT&T whistleblower who appeared on this newscast last November, who explained, in the placid, dull terms of your local neighborhood I-T desk, how he personally attached all of AT&T’s circuits — everything carrying every phone call, every e-mail, every bit of web browsing — into a secure room…

…Room Number 641-A, at the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco — where it was all copied so the government could look at it.

Not some of it; not just the international part of it; certainly not just the stuff some truly patriotic and telepathic spy might be able to divine had been sent or spoken by or to a terrorist.


Every time you looked at a naked picture, every time you bid on eBay, every time you phoned-in a donation to a Democrat.

“My thought was ‘George Orwell’s 1984,’” Mr. Klein told me, reflecting back, “and here I am, being forced to… connect the Big Brother machine.”

You know, Mr. Bush, if Mr. Klein’s “Big Brother Machine” — the one the Vice President conveniently just confirmed for us — if it was of any damn use at all at actually finding anything, you could probably program it to find out who started that slanderous e-mail about Barack Obama.
Your actions are inexcusable and unforgivable.
The FISA Act was created in 1978 to regulate how electronic surveillance was conducted in the United States . This law needs to be updated to account for changes in communications technology over the last thirty years.
I've yet to see any reason for this. What FISA says is, "if you think that there is an issue with foreign communications, you get the tap, but a judge has to approve it within 72 hours.
That's why I voted for a bipartisan bill that updates a number of problems with the existing law. This new legislation (S. 2248) strengthens national security while protecting civil liberties. The bill also strengthens the role of the FISA Court by requiring greater judicial review and improves oversight and accountability of the entire FISA process. The Senate passed S. 2248 by a vote of 68 - 29 on February 12, 2008. One key provision I fought to include in this bill was a requirement that a warrant must be approved by the FISA Court to monitor a U.S. person anywhere in the world. This new protection means that the Constitution travels with you - even beyond the borders of the United States.
Under FISA, you need a warrant within 72 hours for anyone. How is this "stronger".
I understand your concerns about providing limited liability protection to telecommunication companies who assisted the government's efforts to disrupt terrorist plots in the days following the attacks on September 11, 2001. While the Bush Administration wanted full retroactive immunity for these companies and any White House employee or government official involved in the warrantless wiretapping program, S. 2248 provides a more narrow, focused, and limited liability protection . I strongly supported an amendment offered by Senator Feinstein that would have required the FISA Court to determine if liability protection should be afforded to these telecommunications companies. Unfortunately, that amendment failed to get enough votes to become part of the bill.
Your ignorance astonishes me. This program did not start, "the days following the attacks on September 11, 2001", it started in February, 2001, a full 7 months before the attacks, and it is clear now that the administration used threats of retribution on government contracts, as in the case of Qwest to get compliance.
When the Senate debated this bill, I supported this protection because those companies were acting in good faith under assurances from the President and the Attorney General that what they were being asked to do was legal. You should know that I also support holding accountable those Bush Administration officials who disregarded the law under the President's secret wiretapping program.
These companies have legal departments. They know the law. And they are already protected when they follow the law. If they were told that a FISA warrant was in process, they would be indemnified.

Your claim that you, "support holding accountable those Bush Administration officials who disregarded the law under the President's secret wiretapping program", is a lie.

Whats more, in your capacity as a member of the intelligence committee, YOU are one of those people who allowed him to disregard the law.
I have heard from many Marylanders on this important issue and I appreciate hearing of your concerns. While we may disagree on some parts of this reform, we both share the same goal of strengthening national security while protecting our civil liberties.
No, you are interested in covering your ass, in one of the bluest states in the nation against Republican attack ads. That;s why you, and about 1/3 of the Democratic Senatorial caucus folded like broccoli to George W. Bush, who is less popular than hemorrhoids.
Again, thanks for keeping in touch with me. Please let me know if I may be of assistance to you in the future.

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator
Just so you know, I will never vote for you in a primary or general ever again, nor will I give to an organization that endorses you.

Economics Update

In local finance, we have King County, Washington potentially losing all of a $207 investment, the county claims that they will "only" lose 83 million, the state says all of it.

This will be repeated, and given that the auction rate bond market has collapsed, and localities are fleeing that instrument, their ability to issue bonds will be significantly diminished.

Don't expect any new money to spent on roads, schools, water, sewer, fire, or police for the next 5-10 years.

In real estate we should note that 8.8 million homeowners, or 10.3% of all home owner are under water. They owe more than they can sell their houses for.

Gas prices hit are way up, which is an ill wind for consumer spending, which counts for 70% of the US economy.

Analysts are warning of risks to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which makes the decision to allow them to finance even larger mortgages appear even stupider.

Fitch Ratings is saying that life insurance companies may take an $8 billion dollar hit on subprime and alt-A real estate investments.

It also looks like we will be seeing downgrades on the monoline insurers within a week or so.

And in hedge funds, we have D.B. Zwirn & Co. seemingly on the path to shutting down. It has shuttered its Special Opportunities Fund, a $4 billion hedge fund. Once it unwinds this, and it may take a while, they have less than $1 billion under management.

We also have Clifford Asness' AQR Capital Management showing that mathematics based strategies are not working:
Asness' AQR Capital Management has notified investors that its Absolute Return Fund, long one of Wall Street's most stellar performing quantitative hedge funds, lost 15 percent of its value through mid-February. The slide follows an 11.9 percent drop through the end of November.

Bloomberg reported Friday that AQR flagship hedge fund now manages $2.9 billion, down from $4 billion.
I think that its clear, and should have been clear after LTCM went belly up nearly a decade ago, that these model based hedge funds don't work.

The models break down when you get significant swings.

Warners’ $400 Million To Dump HD-DVD

I'm so totally not surprised. Sill makes me wrong on my prediction though.

Economicindicators.gov to Stay Open

it looks like they got a firestorm of criticism, so they have reversed their earlier decision to close the economic stats site.

McCains Denials are False, So Says....John McCain

Michael Isikoff has the goods: McCain's claims of never talking to anyone from Paxson Communications is false:
A sworn deposition that Sen. John McCain gave in a lawsuit more than five years ago appears to contradict one part of a sweeping denial that his campaign issued this week to rebut a New York Times story about his ties to a Washington lobbyist.

On Wednesday night the Times published a story suggesting that McCain might have done legislative favors for the clients of the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, who worked for the firm of Alcalde & Fay. One example it cited were two letters McCain wrote in late 1999 demanding that the Federal Communications Commission act on a long-stalled bid by one of Iseman's clients, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to purchase a Pittsburgh television station.

Just hours after the Times's story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response......

But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."


McCain's subsequent letters to the FCC—coming around the same time that Paxson's firm was flying the senator to campaign events aboard its corporate jet and contributing $20,000 to his campaign—first surfaced as an issue during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid. William Kennard, the FCC chair at the time, described the sharply worded letters from McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, as "highly unusual."
So, what we have here at best is what he did with Charles Keating, and now he is lying about it.

You have more details on his ties to lobbyists and wealthy pay-to-play campaign contributors here and here.

The Washington Post notes that McCain's paid campaign staff is full of lobbyists, which kind of means that when AP Reporter Glen Johnson heckled Mitt Romney about not having lobbyist on staff, he was being unfair and unprofessional.

There May Be Tapes of Gitmo Torture

This is very interesting:
Last week, a team of faculty and students from Seton Hall Law School—the folks who've worked tirelessly for years to document the government's best evidence (PDF) against the Guantanamo prisoners—released a new report suggesting that the government has recorded all of the interrogations at Guantanamo. Using documents prepared by the government and obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the team established that all of the 24,000 interrogations conducted at the camp since 2002 were taped. This jibes with reports from the detainees themselves, who came forward to dispute CIA Director Michael Hayden's claim last winter that the videotaping had been halted in 2002.

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ 1) Indicted on Charges of Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Extortion, and Insurance Fraud

Ricky has been a very busy boy.

He is not running for reelection.

Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor Offers to Testify for Defense

Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who resigned from his position as Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor, is offering to testify on behalf of the defense. (here and here)

The defense is arguing that political interference violates the Military Commissions Act, and I expect that Col. Davis will be offering evidence to confirm this.

This is a very brave thing to do.
"I think the rules are fair," he said. "I think the problem is having political appointees injected into the system. They are looking for a political outcome, not justice."

He alleges, for example, that senior officials pushed for a plea bargain in March 2007 for Australian David Hicks, allowing him to serve a nine-month sentence in his homeland for aiding the Taliban.

Davis said the sentence was too lenient and was orchestrated to help Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was under criticism domestically for his support of President Bush and U.S. policies.
I hope that his testimony is public, but given the fact that the military has already forbidden him from appearing before congress on this matter.

If I were the defense, I'd get a subpoena, which would make any order for him not to appear illegal.

FEC Chairman Warns that McCain May Be Breaking Campaign Finance Law

FEC Chairman David Mason is saying that his February 6 request to withdraw from the public financing system for the primaries had not been granted.

Technically, the FEC cannot rule on his request to exit the system (he has not technically received any payments), because the Republicans are insisting on appointing electoral terrorist Hans von Spakovsky to the FEC.

Additionally, he agreed to go back into the system if he flamed out in the primaries in order to secure a loan, which may qualify as using FEC money as collateral, which means that he would be bound by the limits, and could not pull out.

One wonders if perhaps the Senate can approve the other three FEC nominees now that McCain is caught up in all this.


The MicroFlaccid Clown Show that Is Vista

Yep, their update, Vista SP 1, breaks antivirus and firewall programs, in addition to putting some machines into an endless reboot loop.
A major update to Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system could leave computers vulnerable to hackers and malware as the service pack prevents several widely used antivirus programs from operating, the company said.

The list of security products that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 blocks includes Zone Alarm Security Suite 7.1, Trend Micro Internet Security 2008, and BitDefender 10. It also blocks the 2008 version of the Jiangmin antivirus product.
I don't know of anyone who is using Vista who does not regret it.

Turkey Launches Incursion into Kurdistan

Not good, and the insertion of ground troops into Northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK fighters is likely to destabilize the region, and possibly lead to ethnic reprisals against the local Turkomen.

A New Study Shows that the "Rising Tide" Lifts Fewer Boats than Previously Counted

A new study of purchasing power parity (PPP) is showing that living standards for the bulk of populations in developing countries are far lower than previously estimated.

Basically, the relative purchasing power of currencies have been miscalculated, giving an unrealistic picture of the living standards of the average person in what is sometimes called the "3rd World".

It means that poverty and inequality are far higher than under previous estimates:
Suddenly the world has more poor. Incomes declined in emerging economies: down by 40 percent in China and India, 17 percent in Indonesia, 41 percent in the Philippines, 32 percent in South Africa and 24 percent in Argentina. For Indonesia, the decline was far worse than the Asian crisis, and for China and India, the decline was worse than the one experienced by Germany during the Great Depression. Yet hardly anyone noticed.

The event was the release of new estimates of purchasing power parity, or PPP. Measured as part of a large international endeavor called the International Comparison Program, PPP aims to accurately calculate a country’s economic power rather than simply dividing total national output by a country’s population.
It's hard to see this as anything but a full bore refutation of the facts that the free trade zealots use.

Possible Resolution in Kenya

I haven't followed this closely, but the apparent agreement of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition to create a prime minister position may go a long way to defusing this matter.

As a matter of fact though, it's pretty clear that Kibaki only won the election through fraud.

$33 Million On Consultants

That's what the Hillary Clinton Campaign has spent on consultants.

These folks are over appreciated, over paid, and over here. It needs to stop.

Go fee for service, and cut that fee. The Republicans have, and it's a policy that works.

Don Siegelman Political Prosecution Update: Rove Organized Penis Patrol

According to Jill Simpson, a former Republican party campaign worker, Rove asked her to take pictures of Governor Siegelman in a compromising position with an aide.

Delightful folks, those Republicans.

Shadegg (AZ-3) Back in Race

I reported his retirement, but now, in response to pleas from other Republithugs, he has unretired. He will run for reelection.

Republicans Throw Tantrum: Refuse to Show Up for FISA Update Meetings

Following the House growing some balls and not caving on telco immunity, the Congress is trying to redraft the bill to get something passed, but the Republicans are refusing to even show up to the meetings on this.

It's a big whiny baby tantrum.

Lenders Oppose Mortgage Bankruptcy Reform

If I own a rental property, or a vacation home, and I declare chapter 11 bankruptcy, the courts can modify the terms, though not the principal, or the loan, but for my primary home, they cannot.

It does not make sense to me either, so I support the bills Emergency Home Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act of 2007 and the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008, which allow courts to modify mortgage terms in bankruptcy.

They don't go far enough, they only apply to the more exotic mortgages, and they should apply to all, particularly in terms of prepayment penalties and other fees.

The mortgage industry says it's bad for consumers, because it will drive up interest rates.

The truth is that it makes the more exotic mortgages less attractive, but the old style fixed rate mortgages should be about the same.

Even if it did bump up rates, average mortgages payments would still stay the same, because people do not buy homes on price, but on monthly payments, and prices would adjust.

That's what happens when one makes such a highly leveraged purchase.