Saturday, March 22, 2008


Want to know just how inhumane a person can be towards another? Go here and read about how a Mississippi woman was tortured and murdered .... if you can stomach it.

Then again, our government has sanctioned torture so I guess it's not so hard to think that some lowlife would easily rationalize the behavior.


Iraq Today

Three more Americans dead, and an apparent American retaliation airstrike kills a bunch of our "allies" (translated: merecenaries who will stay loyal as long as the cash flows) in the Sunni awakening councils.


Metaphors For Life

You absolutely can't make this crap up:

A policeman drives a motorcycle over police graduates as they demonstrate their skills during a graduation ceremony in Baghdad March 20, 2008. About 900 policemen graduated from the national police school in Baghdad after finishing their training on Thursday.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Party On Dude!

Krugman has a great piece up today explaining why 2008 is like 1929.

This banking crisis of the 1930s showed that unregulated, unsupervised financial markets can all too easily suffer catastrophic failure.

As the decades passed, however, that lesson was forgotten — and now we’re relearning it, the hard way.


Wall Street chafed at regulations that limited risk, but also limited potential profits. And little by little it wriggled free — partly by persuading politicians to relax the rules, but mainly by creating a “shadow banking system” that relied on complex financial arrangements to bypass regulations designed to ensure that banking was safe.

For example, in the old system, savers had federally insured deposits in tightly regulated savings banks, and banks used that money to make home loans. Over time, however, this was partly replaced by a system in which savers put their money in funds that bought asset-backed commercial paper from special investment vehicles that bought collateralized debt obligations created from securitized mortgages — with nary a regulator in sight.

As the years went by, the shadow banking system took over more and more of the banking business, because the unregulated players in this system seemed to offer better deals than conventional banks. Meanwhile, those who worried about the fact that this brave new world of finance lacked a safety net were dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned.
I'll take Krugman one step forward. Whether it's transportation regulations (Southwest Airlines?), food inspection, financial regulation or any other sector of the economy, the Reagan revolution has left our country a victim of the excesses of the greed inherent in capitalism. And the extremes in any ideological approach to governing expose all of us to the excesses of our own humanity, and the unpleasant effects.


Triple Talk

So. The Securities and Exchange Commission ask companies to be more transparent in how executive compensation is calculated. So what do the companies do?

For example, this is how Adobe explains it: "Target Bonus x Unit Multiplier x Individual Results." That seems simple enough, but then goes the definition of what "unit multiplier" means: "Derived from aggregating the target bonus of all participants in the Executive Bonus Plan multiplied by the funding level determined under the funding matrix …" And after all that, Adobe's five top executives got the exact same unit multiplier, which (shockingly!) was the maximum number possible.
At least Adobe is still making a profit, unlike the enormous bonuses given to other executives who's companies are going in the tank.


Unfunded Mandates

What makes the U.N. they they're immune?

The WP fronts word that the United Nations presented donors with a supplemental request for almost $1.1 billion over the next two years. The move would increase U.N. expenses by 25 percent and lead to the largest administrative budget in the history of the organization. But here's the rub: The Bush administration is to blame for much of this increase. Even though the United States has long sought to decrease U.N. spending, the Bush administration has been pushing the organization to take on a variety of new and complex tasks that are proving to be quite expensive. But, of course, U.S. officials suggest the United Nations should find savings in other programs that the Bush administration doesn't think are as important.
Just another example of the philosophical hypocrisy rampant in Republican politics. Berate and hate the U.N. while using it to defray personal responsibility and then deny the funding.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Digby Said

Reprinted here in full:

McCain has "suspended" a staffer for circulating a nasty video about Senator Obama. He says there is no tolerance for such behavior in his campaign and he will fire anyone who does it. He is so adamant about it that he alerted the media and told them all about it. And the media dutifully reported McCain's fine decision, citing his commitment to running a clean campaign and disowning of this horrible video --- and then they showed the name and URL on the Youtube site, just in case anyone needed to see the scurrilous video over which the good man McCain so righteously suspended his campaign staffer.

I'm sure that staffer will be amply rewarded for taking the bullet to get that video "out there." That was, after all, the point.



I think it's fair to say that no one wants to be compared to our idiot leader:

Re “Soft Shoe in Hard Times” (column, March 16):

Surely it must have been a slip for Maureen Dowd to align the artistry of my late husband, Gene Kelly, with the president’s clumsy performances. To suggest that “George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly” represents not only an implausible transformation but a considerable slight. If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.

When Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky and Willie Mays, he was delighted. But to be linked with a clunker — particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing — would have sent him reeling.

Graduated with a degree in economics from Pitt, Gene was not only a gifted dancer, director and choreographer, he was also a most civilized man. He spoke multiple languages; wrote poetry; studied history; understood the projections of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. He did the Sunday Times crossword in ink. Exceedingly articulate, Gene often conveyed more through movement than others manage with words.

Sadly, President Bush fails to communicate meaningfully with either. For George Bush to become Gene Kelly would require impossible leaps in creativity, erudition and humility.

Patricia Ward Kelly
Los Angeles, March 16, 2008


O Review

Here's a pretty good review of Oprah's Big Giveaway show. The short version is that it's gaudy and all about .... that's right .... OPRAH!

Afterall. It is Oprah's world. We just live in it.


The Best

Just in case you were unaware. Martha Raddatz is simply the finest journalist in America today.


Credit Crisis 101

Ever wonder about what the credit crunch is all about? Here is a little bedtime story that explains it in such a way that a child can understand:

Credit Crisis for Kindergarteners, by Steve Waldman: David Leonhardt notes that it's pretty hard to explain what's going on in the financial world these days... Here's how I'd tell the tale to a child:

Alice, Bob, and Sue have ten marbles between them. Whenever one kid wants another kid to take over a chore, she promises a marble in exchange. Alice doesn't like setting the table, so she promises Bob a marble if he will do it for her. Bob hates mowing the lawn, but Sue will do it for a marble. Sue doesn't like broccoli, but if she ... promises a marble...

One day, the kids get together to brag about all the marbles they soon will have. It turns out that, between them, they are promised 40 marbles! Now that is pretty exciting. They've each promised to give away some marbles too, but they don't think about that, they can keep their promises later, after they've had time to play with what's coming. For now, each is eager to hold all the marbles they've been promised in their own hands, and to show off their collections to friends.

But then Alice, who is smart and foolish all at the same time, points out a curious fact. There are only 10 marbles! Sue says, "That cannot be. I have earned 20 marbles, and I have only promised to give away three! There must be 17 just for me."

But there are still only 10 marbles.

Suddenly, when Bob doesn't want to mow the lawn, no one will do it for him, even if he promises two marbles for the job. No one will eat Sue's broccoli for her, even though everyone knows she is promised the most marbles of anyone, because no one believes she will ever see those 17 marbles she is always going on about. In fact, dinnertime is mayhem... Mom is cross. Dad is cross. Everyone is cross. "But you promised," is heard over and over among the children, amidst lots of stomping and fighting. Until recently, theirs was such a happy home, but now ... no one trusts anyone at all. It's all a bit mysterious to Dad, who points out that nothing has changed, really, so why on Earth is everything falling apart?

Perhaps Mom and Dad will decide that the best thing to do is just buy some more marbles, so that all the children can make good on their promises. But that would mean giving Alice 19 marbles, because she was laziest and made the most promises she couldn't keep, and that hardly seems like a good lesson. Plus, marbles are expensive, and everyone in the family would have to skip lunch for a week to settle Alice's debt. Perhaps the children could get together and decide that an unmet promise should be worth only a quarter of a marble, so that everyone is able to keep their promises after all. But then Sue, the hardest working, would feel really ripped off, as she ends up with a much more modest collection of marbles than she had expected. Perhaps Bob, the strongest, will simply take all the marbles from Alice and Sue, and make it clear than none will be given in return, and that will be that. Or, perhaps Alice and Bob could do Sue's chores for a while in addition to their own, extinguishing one promise per chore. But that's an awful lot of work, what if they just don't want to, who's gonna force them? What if they'd have to be in servitude to Sue for years?

Almost whatever happens, the trading of chores, so crucial to the family's tidy lawns and pleasant dinners, will be curtailed for some time. Perhaps some trading will occur via exchange of actual marbles, but this will not be common, as even kids see the folly of giving rare glass to people known to welch on their promises. It makes more sense to horde.

A credit crisis arises when many more promises are made than can possibly be kept, and disputes emerge about how and to whom promises will be broken. It's less a matter of SIVs than ABCs.



I find this quote really interesting:

For a long time, intelligence agencies were stuck in a Cold War mentality that led them to believe informants could be bought with lots of cash, a tactic that hasn't really worked since members of al-Qaida are mostly motivated by religion. "This is a much more difficult target than the Soviets were," says a former CIA official. "These people are true believers. They're living according to their beliefs, not in the lap of luxury."
They're just now figuring this out? Talk about reflecting our Dear Leader's narcissitic personality and projecting it on "the enemy".

Isn't this anti-insurgency 101? Have we learned nothing since Vietnam?


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Will O' The People

The Clinton people are very busy right now trying to convince any super delegates that will listen that Hillary should be the candidate based on the "will of the people". What they specifically mean (and are hoping for) is that Clinton will eek out a victory in the overall popular vote during the primaries. Although her chances are even slim in doing this, they are better than her chances of winning more delegates.

Anonymous Liberal (disclaimer: an Obama supporter) makes a cogent argument about why Clinton's claim about the popular vote is bogus:

Consider that turnout in primaries is, on average, about five times higher than in caucuses. What that means is that you're likely get more net votes from a narrow primary win than you are from a blowout caucus win in the same state. Assume, for instance, that 100,000 people participate in a caucus in State X and the vote breaks down 70/30 for Obama. That's a net vote gain of 40,000 votes for Obama. But if that same state held a primary, Obama would only need to win by a 54/46 margin to receive the same net gain in votes.
Makes sense. Caucus states simply don't draw the voters the way popular vote primaries do. And it's no secret that Obama has done much better in caucus states.

I'll say again. The rules are the rules. To change party rules at this point will likely mean some sort of civil war. Candidates are nominated based on winning a majority of the delegates to the convention. If the party thinks Hillary should be it, let the super delegates throw it to her with delegate votes based on her qualifications, not on some proposed BS metric from lying statistics.


Message To Media

We don't need can't afford another idiot in the White House. Please.



From my reading, it appears that the Democratic primary re-voting in Michigan and Florida are dead issues. No one can agree how to do it, or who will pay for it. Polls suggest that the results would not make the situation any more conclusive anyway.

So we're now back to the party elders being on the spot. The superdelegate dance is going to be fun to watch. Do you think they'll figure out some way to decide before the convention? If they're smart, they will.


Good Point

Josh Marshall asks a really good question.

Suppose Hillary or Obama made the stupid gaffe that McCain made the other day. How would the media be handling it? Frankly, I haven't seen any reporting on McCain's idiocy on the teevee at all.


Third Wave

In case you haven't noticed, there's been a whole lot of turmoil in financial markets lately. Tanta has been covering the insides and been quite prescient. In this post, evidence is mounting that we have a third wave of turmoil building.


Dancing At The Top .... Still

The monthly update on world oil production:

Peak oil?


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

John McCain Is Stupid

I don't think I could take another administration that is this clueless:

He [John McCain] said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."

....A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."
As Juan Cole has continually pointed out, American officials are totally clueless about the dynamics at work in Iraq and the larger middle east. Our policies are based on a bigoted notion that "all rag heads are alike".

Oh. And by the way. The death continues in Iraq with today's massive bombing and the marketplace that McCain declared "safe" awhile back was off limits to his visit because it's now dominated by the Mahdi Army, and considered dangerous. And just to be clear Mr. McCain, the Mahdi Army is Shiite.



Ok, so E.J. Dionne says it better:

Never do I want to hear again from my conservative friends about how brilliant capitalists are, how much they deserve their seven-figure salaries and how government should keep its hands off the private economy.

The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulatory regime for which they lobbied so hard. They have lost "confidence" in each other, you see, because none of these oh-so-wise captains of the universe have any idea what kinds of devalued securities sit in one another's portfolios.

So they have stopped investing. The biggest, most respected investment firms threaten to come crashing down. You can't have that. It's just fine to make it harder for the average Joe to file for bankruptcy, as did that wretched bankruptcy bill passed by Congress in 2005 at the request of the credit card industry. But the big guys are "too big to fail," because they could bring us all down with them.

Enter the federal government, the institution to which the wealthy are not supposed to pay capital gains or inheritance taxes. Good God, you don't expect these people to trade in their BMWs for Saturns, do you?
Poor Mr. Cayne, he'll "only" be worth $28 million instead of a billion:For
James E. Cayne, the [Bear Stearns] firm’s chairman and former chief executive, holding on to his Bear stock was a point of pride, and he rarely, if ever, sold. A billionaire just over a year ago when Bear’s stock soared past $160, his 5.8 million shares are now worth about $28 million at Monday’s closing price of $4.81.


Quote of the Day

John Stewart to Dana Perino:

"The president has said he's going to sprint to the finish. . . . Can you get him to run faster?"


Monday, March 17, 2008

It's Good, Really.

ABC news is going to do a series based on a poll of Iraq's on the conditions in Iraq. I'm sure they'll trumpet the finding that most Iraqi's think their life is good!! .... except for a few things like having electricity, health care, freedom from persecution, clean water and jobs.


Who Ya Gonna Call?

Krugman makes a good point:

Nouriel is right: this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the Fed, with the best will in the world, probably lacks the tools to deal with it. Broader action is necessary.

But then comes the question: who ya gonna call?

The Gang That Couldn’t think Straight still holds the White House; no good ideas will come from that quarter. Worse, Incurious George would probably veto any sensible plan from Congress, even if said plan could get past a filibuster.

The. Worst. President. Ever.


What We're Up Against

I've written a fair amount about the malfeasance of lenders, bankers and the financial community. But now let's take a moment to look at borrowers. This is what banks are up against these days:

A Discovery Bay man who asked not to be identified said he is "upside down" on his house by about $260,000. Instead of bemoaning the situation, he plans to capitalize on it.

"I refinanced a couple of years ago and pulled out $100,000 and put in a fabulous pool," he said. "Now I've got this fabulous pool and fabulous house, but it's not worth anything. Why shouldn't I be building equity over the next four to five years instead of playing catch-up?"

The man said he has not made a mortgage payment for five months.

"I'm playing the bank game," he said. "I'm playing chicken with them. I already got them to agree to put (the unpaid) payments on the tail end of the loan. What I'm really pushing them to do is to (adjust my mortgage) for the current market value and write off the rest. I'd love (to have it) lopped down to a $450,000 basis rather than $710,000."

If the bank won't negotiate, he'll walk away, the man said.
The man chose to remain anonymous. Wonder why?

There's plenty of greed to go around, and I'd like to reach into the computer and slap this guy. He's proof that loan underwriters have to be tough and government regulators need to insure that lending standards are stringent. That way you don't have every free-spending spoiled idiot out trying to flip a house and make a million.


Sunday, March 16, 2008


Sure is getting dicey out there.

Bear Stearns is gone. It's now JP Morgan for $2/share (the 52 week high for Bear was $159/share!). Employees own 1/3 of the stock. The Fed also cut interest rates a quarter point on a SUNDAY! You gotta wonder what they know that we don't. The markets should be very very interesting next week.....



Surely you've heard of John Edward's million dollar haircut. Or how about John Kerry's rich catsup wife? How about the Clinton's mysterious tax returns? But I bet you haven't yet heard of John McCain's "rustic" little cabin in Sedona:

Via Digby:

The Arizona Republic described it as a "rustic cabin"; National Public Radio described it as a "weekend cabin"; The New York Times called it McCain's "cabin near Sedona, Ariz."; the Associated Press called it a "cabin"; and The Washington Post -- which devoted two articles to the barbeque -- agreed that it is a "rustic cabin."


Now, there's nothing wrong with the fact that John McCain's cabin is so luxurious that it has a guest house out by the pool. Good for John McCain. But given the media mockery of John Edwards and John Kerry for their expensive homes, it's a little odd to see McCain's lavish home described so modestly as a "rustic cabin." Edwards and Kerry were lambasted as out-of-touch elites in part because of their houses; McCain's is described in the most favorable possible terms.
Your media. Bought off with a few ribs and a coupla beers.