Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Vs. Old

Here's a good comparison of inflation stats, then and now:

Funny how the government can just sort of massage the numbers in whatever way suits them. And why would they do this? Well, it's spelled e n t i t l e m e n t s, which are increased annually based on official government statistics.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Light Reading

Actually, it is.

Anyway, here is an article explaining exactly why Afghanistan is an even worse prospect than Iraq. The article, written by an economic conservative of all people, hits the nail right on the head. The concluding graf:

As the situation in Iraq settles down - and it appears to be doing so - more focus will be drawn to Afghanistan, the war that even opponents of Iraq have acknowledged as appropriate and important. But it is important to understand what this war consists of: It is a holding action against an enemy that cannot be defeated (absent greater force than is available) with open lines of supply into a country allied with the United States. It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping.

Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.
While I don't agree with the "Iraq is winding down thing", the rest is spot on.



I won't rant any further about the corporate welfare side of the story, but Bear Stearns was bailed out by the Fed today.

What's kind cute is that Atrios reassures us all (after all, he is an economist) that the Fed has done this kind of thing before ..... in the 1930's!


Great Money Managers

Wasn't this guy a swiftboater?

The National Republican Congressional Committee "overstated by $740,000 its cash on hand as of Jan. 31 because of fraud allegedly committed by a former employee," according to Roll Call.

"An ongoing investigation into accounting irregularities at the NRCC has determined that ex-committee Treasurer Christopher J. Ward allegedly funnelled 'several hundred thousand dollars' from the NRCC into his own bank accounts since at least 2004. The probe has also found that Ward submitted to the NRCC’s bank and to House GOP leadership 'bogus' audit reports for years 2002-2005, with an additional 'bogus' audit report provided to the NRCC’s bank for 2006."
Update: Indeed, he was a swiftboater!


I Feel Like A Ping Pong Ball

Trying to follow the telecom immunity thing is serious business. The latest:

WASHINGTON — After its first secret session in a quarter-century, the House on Friday rejected retroactive immunity for the phone companies that took part in the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks, and it voted to place greater restrictions on the government’s wiretapping powers.

The decision, by a largely party-line vote of 221 to 188, is one of the few times when Democrats have been willing to buck up against the White House on a national security issue. It also ensures that the months-long battle over the government’s wiretapping powers will drag on for at least a few more weeks and possibly much longer.
It would be nice to now declare victory. But you know it's still not over. The best outcome may be a stalemate until the election. In the meantime, the very fact that the Senate version wasn't ushered quickly over to Bush's crayon is a victory. Many thanks to the House of Reps leadership for responding to it's constituents.


War Economy

Doesn't this picture just summarize a thousand words?

The last time we tried the guns AND butter thing, it worked out just about the same way as it is now.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stagflation Then, Now

Tim has a great post at TMTGM comparing the economic conditions of the 70's stagflation with today. His reasoning is excellent, his data abundant and well worth a read. Tim does a particularly good job of going down into the weeds on how the government has changed, often dramatically, how inflation calculations have been changed over the last 40 years.

The short version ends with this rhetorical question:

Which has changed more over the last 28 years, inflation or how it's calculated?


Carlyle Deflates

I kept wondering about this, now I know.

The big news in the stock market today is the collapse of the Carlyle Groups Hedge fund. I was wondering if this is the same Carlyle as the Baker/Bush Carlyle Group. Well, it is.

Carlyle Capital, the bond fund affiliated with private equity firm The Carlyle Group, is on the verge of collapse after failing to agree a new financing deal with lenders.

The fund said late Wednesday that it expects lenders will soon take possession of “substantially all” its remaining assets after it was unable to meet surging margin calls on its portfolio of residential-mortgage-backed securities.
Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.


Playing A Lethal Game

Not really lethal to me, but to those involved.

I'm watching the nightly news and trying to figure out just how many dead American soldiers it takes to get major coverage. So far we've had 15 this week and the coverage is still on Spitzer's Dupre chick.


Vaccine Against Stupidity

If only it were possible.

In today's addition, it's parents who swear that vaccines cause autism. A recent decision by the federal government to payoff a family claiming vaccines caused their child's autism has been the center of recent controversy. A doctor has written a good piece in Salon about the case, the nonsense and the consequences:

Despite the charges, multiple studies have demonstrated no connection between thimerosal [mercury] (or anything else about vaccines) and autism. In the past nine months alone, at least three studies have shown that thimerosal has no relationship to autism or any other neurological disorders. One study, published in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, looked at autism rates in California after the removal of thimerosal. Not only did the rates not go down, they continued to rise. For these reasons, the government and most doctors stand by the belief that vaccines are effective and safe.
So why did the government pay these people off? Good question. As is often pointed out, the amount of mercury being spewed into the air by coal fired generating plants makes vaccine dosages look miniscule by comparison, but parents aren't freaking out about that. Just another hysteria being generated by ignorance and perpetuated by a stupid media.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You Be The Judge

Raw Story:

A city police chief who led an investigation into charges that Britain cooperated with secret CIA flights to transport terrorism suspects without formal proceedings has been found dead, his deputy said Tuesday.

Manchester Chief Constable Michael Todd, 50, was found dead in Snowdonia, about 240 miles northwest of London, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Whatton said. He had been missing since going out for a walk Monday during his day off.
He "fell" off a cliff.


The Six Signs

Is the Fallon resignation a sign of impending attack on Iran? Terry Atlas thinks so:

Terry Atlas blogs for U.S. News and World Report with "6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed for War in Iran." They are: Fallon's resignation, Cheney's trip to the Middle East, the Israeli airstrike on Syria, U.S. warships off Lebanon, Israeli comments and Israel's war with Hezbollah.
Atlas explains each sign in detail and it's very interesting to read.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Atlas is correct. Bush is just the kind of man who would want to go out in a hail of bullets and (in his mind) glory.

Here's Fromkin's suggested scenario:
It's still not really beyond Bush and Cheney to order a full-scale preemptive attack on Iran. But the more likely scenario is that there will be an asymmetrical U.S. response to a (possibly trumped up) Iranian provocation. And the most likely scenario is that the U.S. will encourage (or certainly not oppose) an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities -- which in turn would lead the U.S. to come to Israel's defense should Iran strike back.


Corporate Welfare .... Again

If you follow the news, you know that the Fed stepped in with some dough yesterday to help the market. In simple terms, the Fed agreed to take virtually any junk as collateral and give, in return, some very nice U.S. Treasuries.

Many have been asking an important question. These "swaps" are for 28 days. What happens then?

What happens after 28 day is pretty clear. The swap will be rolled over and over and over until the mortgage backed security market stabilizes. This could be a year from now, or perhaps 10. That may sound ridiculous but it's essentially what happened in Japan. It's also part of the Zombification process I described in The Great Pretender.

Inquiring minds might be asking what happens if the value of the MBS drops. Will the Fed issue a margin call or just look the other way? One might think we just have to wait and see, but since the Fed will probably never say, it's more likely we have to wait and not see.
The truth is that no one will know. At a minimum, the Fed can continue to carry the junk as long as necessary to insure that the private corporations financial institutions can stay in business and not pay a consequence for the crazy lending they've done. Or perhaps the Fed will simply absorb the losses with you and I paying the freight.

No matter what, this situation gives any good liberal the perfect, detailed, situation illustrating why a conservative arguments against welfare or government assistance (health care anyone?) to citizens is bogus. The same "moral hazards" exist for corporate "citizens", and any arguments against improving the common good for citizens is just bullshit.


The Bush Boom

Bonddad has a good post up summarizing in simple terms the problems were having in the economy right now. The short version is that the "Bush boom" has been financed totally on debt.

I found this chart particularly interesting. It's a chart of the inflation adjusted real income over time:

Note that the inflation adjustment in the chart above is based on the, in my humble opinion, bogus government inflation numbers. If I'm correct, then incomes are even worse than the chart indicates. Sure, the rich have done quite well. But there are a lot of more the "not rich" out there who are steadily losing ground.

I remember thinking to myself a few years ago, "self?, how in the hell can all these people continue to by expensive home electronics and auto-tanks, aka SUV's?" I always suspected the answer and the above chart proves it. Folks have been spending all of their income AND any equity they have in their homes or anything else. There are a whole lot of Escalade drivers going around now feeling a whole lot poorer .... if they can keep their escaldes that is.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fallon Out

Well, the commander in the middle east is out. Admiral Fallon was retired today. Some say it's because of this article which is critical of Bush. Some say it's a protest over impending attacks on Iran. No one knows for sure.



Some top-notch, dogged journalism going on here.


Safety Net

So tell, just why would there be billions of Iraqi dollars in U.S. banks?

Just because the current Iraqi leadership has no popular mandate and is sitting on a powder keg that will eventually blow up all over them, is that any reason to keep a coupla billion American payola bucks around as a safety net?


Course Change?

Are the House of Representatives changing course on telecom immunity again?

Keep those cards and letter comin' folks!


Campaign Meme

Perhaps a preview of coming attractions? It appears that John McCain may be functioning with less than a full deck up there.



An attorney writing in Harpers makes the case that Eliot Spitzer was setup as a part of the administration's pushback due to it's own scandals. And he makes a pretty good case. But I'm not sure it matters.

Spitzer is apparently guilty of what he's been charged with. If he were a regular schmo, he likely wouldn't have been under investigation. But he's not a regular schmo. Which leads to the larger question. Should sex scandals prevent someone from holding public office? I say no and have said so since Clinton. But unfortunately, this is puritan America we live in where hypocrisy reins and the sword swings. So Spitzer will yet another casualty of our national obsession with sex.


Over There

Meanwhile, did you know that eight American soldiers have died in Iraq over the last two days?


Torture Watch

One of the main issues in torture that I think gets missed is it's efficacy. This statement is from John Rockefeller, head of the Senate intelligence committee:

"As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have heard nothing to suggest that information obtained from enhanced interrogation techniques has prevented an imminent terrorist attack. And I have heard nothing that makes me think the information obtained from these techniques could not have been obtained through traditional interrogation methods used by military and law enforcement interrogators. On the other hand, I do know that coercive interrogations can lead detainees to provide false information in order to make the interrogation stop."
Does anyone seriously believe that if the administration had actually stopped a legitimate attack based on information obtained from torture, that they wouldn't have trumpeted it from the highest mountain top? Arguments of protecting sources, classified information and secrecy are B.S. Bush/Rove/Cheney would have found a way to let it be known that a serious attack was actually stopped due to the use of torture.

I recently watched the movie "Rendition", which perfectly captures the issue. Other than satisfying a lizard brain bloodlust for revenge, torture is simply uncivilized, wrong and, oh by the way, it plain doesn't work.

Added: Out of the mouth of an expert.


Bailout, Part Deux

The Fed has been aggressively cutting interest rates to try and stabilize the entire housing/credit mess. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked because bond investors aren't buying long bonds (meaning interest rates stay high for mortgages).

Today we have Bailout 2.0
. The Fed is taking junk from the banks as collateral and giving out money .... $200 billion worth. Will this work? Many don't think so. But I don't think they're done yet.

Trust me. The Feds are not going to let the "credit crunch" take down the economy. But there is no free lunch. Every possible bailout scenario carries the same price: inflation. This is exactly why bond buyers aren't buying any long bonds. They know that eventually the same bonds will be lent at much higher interest rates when the Fed has to try and stop inflation.

And housing defaults continue apace.

So for the time being, farmers in the midwest are getting rich again as commodity prices go up, Arab sheiks are awash in dollars as oil goes up and I'm just waiting for disco to now come back too.


Monday, March 10, 2008


Oil at a new high

Stock market testing previous lows
, in the toilet .... again.

Karl Rove goes the way of O.J. Meanwhile, the "stupidest fucking guy on the planet" has written a book and is trying to not go the way of O.J.

Bush can't raise money for his library. Do you know why?

Did you know that Denny Hasserts district that just went Democrats was 2 to 1 for Bush in 2004?


Sunday, March 9, 2008


Interesting story:

CHICAGO - Nearly two years after taking control of Congress, the Democrats have claimed another prize by capturing former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat — a development that Republicans say is not a harbinger of things to come.

The longtime Republican district fell to the Democrats Saturday when wealthy scientist and businessman Bill Foster snatched the seat in a closely watched special election.
If they say it's not a harbinger of things to come, you know it's a harbinger of things to come.