Sunday, December 28, 2008

National Guard and Three Doors Down team up, not in a good way

Funny you should mention the Natl Guard.

Went to see "Doubt" today (as great as advertised) and one of the promos was for the Natl Guard. Actually, it was a propaganda piece rudely disguised as a music video.

While watching it we wondered aloud if any of the clowns in the band were in the Natl Guard or military. And some guys at the back booed. No doubt we were all reported to the proper authorities.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Breathtakingly bad news from the coast and Midwest

Bad news on CalPERS*, and as California likes to remind us - as they go, so goes the nation. Illinois, with its unsettled political position (Blagogate) and stressed cash position is forced to pay 4x the yield on its bond issues.

Illinois reaches deal on bond issue [Reuters]
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias believes the borrowing was essential as his office was receiving calls from state creditors that had not been paid since May or June. . .
Illinois sells $1.4 billion in bonds [Chicago Tribune]
Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said the state is paying $20 million more in interest on the debt as a result of the Blagojevich scandal.

[Ed. note: Illinois leapfrogged over California to win "Most Screwed."]

CalPERS loses 103% on land deals [WSJ]
Calpers in recent weeks said it expects to report paper losses of 103% on its housing investments in the fiscal year ended June 30. That's because Calpers invested not only its own money, but billions of dollars of borrowed money that must be repaid even if the investment fails. In some deals, as much as 80% of the money invested by Calpers was borrowed. [Emphasis mine]

[Ed. not: Is the hair on the back of your neck standing straight up yet?]

"No one in the marketplace knew how swiftly the housing market would fall -- not the Federal Reserve, not the Treasury," said Ted Eliopoulos, head of Calpers's real-estate portfolio, in an interview.

Ed. note: Eliopoulos clearly does not understand the concept of bubbles. Worse for you Mr. Elipoulos: plenty of people did predict this very scenario.

Calpers recently estimated that if its declines for the current fiscal year are greater than 20%, it would trigger an increase of 2% to 5% of an employer's payroll. Currently, the average employer-contribution rate for public agencies, including cities and counties, is 13% of payroll, Calpers said, which is already on the high side for state pension funds, according to industry analysts. [Emphasis mine]

Ed. note: The writer is being disingenuous here. The EMPLOYERS are the State of California and municipalities, and they don't have an extra 5% to cover CalPERS costs.

*California Public Employees Retirement System

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Flotsam and Jetsam for the week of Dec. 8 2008

Chinese Exports Fall Further Than Expected. Financial Times reports Chinese exports declined 2.2% from a year earlier. Imports fell 17.9% from a year earlier. The slump in exports increased fears that China will implement measures to boost exports. This, naturally, would heighten trade tensions.
Ed. note: So much for decoupling. And will Smoot-Hawley make a triumphant return?

Busy week for the FBI. Tuesday, Dec. 9, they nab Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Thursday they grab Bernard Madoff* for securities fraud. (Former Nasdaq chairman)
Ed. note: We're going to need scapegoats for this colossal f***-up of an economy. And it's not going to be Paulson or Bernanke. Or Greenspan.

Blagojevich had a nice intersect with the Chicago Tribune, who filed for bankruptcy (Chapter 11 reorganization) on Sunday, Dec. 7. Among Blagojevich's many charges is that he tried to shake down the Chicago Tribune. If they fired certain editorial writers who were critical of him, he (as the State of Illinois) would provide assistance in certain tax mitigation schemes regarding the sale of Wrigley Field.
Ed. note: Is it too much to ask that the people of the State of Illinois have crooks running the state show a little panache? Or at least not be such out-and-out thugs? Or not be sociopaths?

Detroit in Distress. At the time of this writing news outlets are reporting that the Big Three Bailout is mortally wounded. The Financial Times reports that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rejected the bill and backed other Republican Senators in imposing more conditions. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) reported that the House version (which passed 237-170) is dead in the Senate. Any deal worked out in the Senate would have to go back to the House for a vote. The $14 billion package is for GM and Chrysler.
Ed. note: Where was this outrage for the never-ending parade of bailout packages extended to Wall Street? Lousy f*cking Congress.

Bank of America announces 35,000 job cuts. [FT]
Ed. note: Really? Like we didn't see this one coming.

So let's tie that in with this headline: US Jobless Claims Surge to 26-Year High.
Ed. note: Ho, ho, ho.

Illinois delays bond issue in wake of Governor Blagojevich's arrest. And is California leading the nation in stupidity? Once again, from the Financial Times: "State legislators thought they had solved California’s financial problems in the summer when, three months late, they agreed a budget. But it recently emerged that the budget was based on growth assumptions that have proved incorrect as the economy has deteriorated."
Ed. note: Just this past summer they were still projecting GROWTH! In the name of all that is holy, what kind of crackmethamphetamineheroinesctasyjaegerbomb were they hitting up?

And just to wrap up today's news: Greek Violence Flares for Sixth Day. If this happened as reported, it will confirm my suspicion that you just never know what the tipping point is, but once it's breached all hell breaks loose. Last weekend Greek police officers killed a fifteen year old, claiming shots richoted which struck the youth. The lack of immediate action by Greek authorities inflamed the populace but the strikes and protests have not abated even though the officer has been charged along with his partner. Greeks in Paris, Berlin, London, Rome, The Hague, Moscow, New York, Italy and Cyprus also protested. Attacks on a police station and bank by Spanish youths in Madrid and Barcelona are causing concerns that the disturbances will spread beyond the Greeks.
Ed. note: Wait a minute - Greeks? They're not black. The press has always made it seem that only black people go crazy and mob the streets. Maybe that's only American blacks.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Financial Times goes drinking at CBOT

Oh sure, they changed the names & locations to protect the indigent at everybody's favorite abattoir in the CBOT, but you couldn't fool me - I knew it was Ceres. (I provide the decoded text at the end of each paragraph, via my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.)

Wall Street* drowns its sorrows
[*LaSalle Street]

By Greg Farrell in New York*
Published: November 29 2008 00:16 | Last updated: November 29 2008 00:16

[*Chicago]

The titans of Wall Street* have taken a battering in the financial markets recently, but they are eating well and drinking more, according to the people who run Manhattan’s** “power” dining spots. At the 21 Club***, a longtime redoubt of corporate chieftains and big names, alcohol sales are up 9 per cent from last year, and businessmen can be seen drinking $14-a-glass cocktails as early as 3pm**** on a weekday.
[*LaSalle Street. **Chicago. ***Ceres. ****10:00am]

“Where people used to have one vodka on the rocks, now it’s a second one or maybe a third,” says Roger Rice*, the floor manager. “I don’t know what to attribute it to. Maybe it’s the last year of the expense account.” Others say their customers are drinking more to drown their sorrows. “People want to feel a little numb because it’s numbing out there,” says Steve Millington**, general manager at Michael’s***, the restaurant of choice for publishing and media executives.
[*Terry Duffy. **Ken Griffin. ***Totally fictitious occupation.]

He reports that alcohol sales are up a fifth* from last year. “At dinner**, hard liquor sales are up, cocktails and martinis. It’s less so at lunch***. People are drinking wine at lunch, less the high-end wines and more medium-priced wines.” The increase in alcohol sales is clear, says Mr Millington****, because overall customer levels are on a par with last year. “There’s a scent of fear,” he says.
[*No pun intended. **Lunch. ***Breakfast. ****Terry Duffy, again.]

Times are good at Delmonico’s*, the 181-year-old fine dining restaurant, says Dennis Turcinovic, managing partner. “It’s scary to say, but our business is up 6 to 7 per cent,” he says. “Alcohol sales . . . help a lot, they’re about 15 per cent up this year. The bar’s busy all day. I’ve had to hire extra barmaids**.”
[*Tutto Italiano. **Right, "barmaids."]

There are few signs that people are saving money on food either. At San Pietro*, an upmarket Italian restaurant, business remains brisk. Gerardo Bruno**, president, says overall business is up 12 per cent from last year. In spite of the turmoil in the markets, one rule has held firm at San Pietro. “Americans, they never drink at lunch***,” Mr Bruno says. As for dinner, hard liquor sales are down, but after-dinner drinks, particularly grappa**** and cognac, are up, he adds.
[*Tutto Italiano, again. **Mayor Daley. ***Futures traders excepted. ****Maddog 20/20.]

Wine sales remain strong, especially at dinner, except for one noticeable change. “When times are fantastic, the host does not lead, he lets his guests lead in choosing the wine,” says Mr Bruno. However, in the current climate, dinner hosts are turning to him to ask for wine recommendations*, a clear sign that restraint is in order, according to Mr Bruno. Yet not everyone has suffered in the economic downturn. Mr Bruno produced two empty bottles of 1947 Petrus**, consumed recently by a Chinese customer who called ahead to order the wines. The price? A mere $12,000 each.
[*City contracts. **CME stock.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rumblings from Mitsubishi UFJ Securities

Asia Times reporting Japanese economists speculating that some US Treasuries will be denominated in YEN.

What the &$(@#.

From the article:
"The US will be forced to issue foreign currency-denominated US Treasures in its hour of need," said Mizuno [chief economist at Mitsubishi UFJ]. "The US cannot finance its deficit by itself. The US financial system cannot survive without foreign investors. We will see 'Obama Bonds' in the future."
The dollar is strong right now. I don't know when it peaks, but when it does it will be like jumping off a cliff. It will be hard to see this within the country, but anyone or anything that does business outside the border will see it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

8 November 2008, Weekend Market Report

From the Speak Truth to Power Department
Rick Santelli, on CNBC: ""Every industrialized nation is putting a lot of supply on the market because they all have insolvent banks, whoops I'm not supposed to say insolvent banks, they all have banking issues."
And there it is in a nutshell. And they are not insolvent because of subprime mortgages - it's because they all covered bets on 50-1; 100-1; 1,000,000,000,000 - 1 odds and now the bookies can't pay the winners. (And trying to get the dogs who lost the race to pay up was never a feasible strategy.)

Natl Restaurant Association reports the Restaurant Performance Index at an all-time low. The surprising news in this story is that only 42% of restaurant operators claim the economy is their #1 challenge. God only knows what the other 58% think their biggest challenge is.

News alert: Journalists doing their job! Bloomberg sues the Fed to reveal securities they are accepting as collateral on behalf of taxpayers.

FDIC reports 2 more bank failures - in Texas and California.

And on the heels of Friday's jobs report, the LA Times reports seasonal hiring is down, down, way down. To sum up, retail managers expect to hire 33% LESS this season. Ho, ho, ho.

The biggest story you may not have heard - the DTCC (Depository Trust Clearing Corp) very quietly started publishing results of the CDS trades they clear. Note: DTCC only clears a portion of the CDS market, which is unregulated. It is so unregulated that no one knows what percentage of trades the DTCC is clearing. DTCC covers $40-50 trillion so it in my opinion that they clear a very small portion. I recommend reading table 6: top 1000 entities with CDS exposure. Gives you an excellent idea of the next group of companies/nations to go under.

In the desperate times for call desperate measures department:
GM CEO Rick Wagoner on CNBC with Phil LeBeau, in response to a question in effect asking "why don't we just let you losers go under?" responded "Letting GM go is a terrible idea. Look at the effect of Lehman Brothers." [Emphasis mine.]
From my seat, that is the one Wall St entity the taxpayers didn't rescue. (Bear Stearns was sold to JPMorganChase, and the taxpayers got stuck with BSC's toxic paper.) What Wagoner didn't mention is that the production workers are still going to lose their jobs and maybe their pensions even if Washington bails out GM. So yeah, Rick Wagoner, I'm good with you losing your company and for good measure, doing a stretch in a Detroit jail for malfeasance, fraud, etc.

And finally, from The Real News Segment:
The latest rumor has Kenny Williams (GM) trying to land 19 year old phenom Dayan Viciedo for 3B. (In case you didn't hear, Sox wished Joe Crede good luck in his future back surgeries.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hey everybody! It's OCTOBER so get your black out!



Futures frozen after steep plunge [Reuters] Literally. CME's DJIA and SPX contracts hit their circuit breakers in futures trading about 5:15am CT. This halted trading briefly, so traders could calm down.

South Korea's currency, market plunge [WSJ]

I made a mistake, admits Greenspan. [FT]

Very quietly, after market close, Russia's financial authority notified (among others) quote vendors such as Thomson Financial that the Russian Market will be closed until further notice.

"There is now no safe haven globally other than a deeply indebted U.S. government," said Jim Reid, head of fundamental credit strategy at Deutsche Bank AG in London.
[Ed. note: If that doesn't freeze the blood in your veins, nothing will.]

How much do you think this chaps Guiliani's hide: NYC extends term limit so Bloomberg can run again.

Chrysler cuts 25,000 white collar jobs. [WSJ]

US taxpayers take a bath on the Bear Stearns deal. [FT]
Remember the Fed helped out JPMorgan by taking on some of the most toxic paper? Guess what - we're eating $2.7 billion worth.

There's so much more, so I'll sum up this way: There was a Black Thursday (24 October 1929), followed by a Black Monday (28 October 1929), capped by BLACK TUESDAY (29 October 1929).
And yes, our quant clients have overlayed the charts from 1929 (Jan-Dec) and 2008 (Jan-Oct) and there is way too much similarity for comfort.
Hence seeing headlines of hedge fund redemptions (their clients are seeing the same charts), flights to YEN and USD.

The Dow's only at 8300. We still have a long way to go.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rate till the cows come home

From Dealbreaker:
Some Congressman, not sure who 'cause I missed his name, just brought up the following IM conversation between two S&P employees, to former residential mortgage ratings managing director, Frank Raiter, from several months back (no name check on the deal but surely the DB brain trust can hazard a guess):

S&P employee #1: By the way that deal is ridiculous
S&P employee #2: I know, right. That model definitely does not capture half the risk
S&P employee #1: We should not be rating it.
S&P employee #2: We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.

Congressman: What do you think this means, Mr. Raiter?
Raiter: Um...I don't know...I guess a casual acceptance of these things.
Sean Egan (of Egan-Jones) chimes in: Perhaps that cow was particularly talented?

I wish you were a wishing well

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday, 20 October 2008 Market Report

Market is up on Bernanke's talk to Congress, hinting at rate cuts.

India Central Bank workers to strike Tuesday, 10/21/08.

The payouts on the Lehman default are to take place tomorrow. If there is any hint of a hiccup the markets will flip out. Expect hiccups.

From Forbes:
About 350 different counterparties to the Lehman CDS contracts attended the auction, where it was determined that Lehman's debt would be worth only 8.62 cents on the dollar in bankruptcy. Those who sold insurance against Lehman's default (the "protection sellers") therefore must pay out 91.38 cents for each dollar of debt they insured. This is the largest payout ever in the $55 trillion credit default swap market. After netting out offsetting positions, cash payments will be approximately $270 billion, a huge amount even for this crisis, which has seemed to know no limits on the size of write-offs. And all this for just one default!

22 States Are in Heap big Trouble
The states cited have already started laying off employees, freezing salaries, freezing hiring in the face of declining tax revenues.

Buffett believes in America, tells us to "buy American." Some background required: Bufffett has made a ton of money in the last couple of years betting against America - specifically shorting the US dollar. Also, Buffett's investment strategy is not quite the same as your's and mine: he buys ownership in companies, not stocks. He's buying infrastructure, the true wealth of a country.

China won't bail out Pakistan, turns to IMF
Pakistan joins Iceland, Hungary, and Ukraine on Debtor's Row.

Circuit City to close 150 stores, slash thousands of jobs to avoid bankruptcy. No word on when they appeal to Washington for a bailout.

Prepare yourself for even more election fraud - West Virginia Gazette reporting Democrat votes getting flipped to Republican ones.

And we've been waiting for this one - stupid Catholic bishop from the Plains states to criticize the Dem candidate for (wait for it) - abortion.
Archbishop Chaput of Denver speaks out against Obama because he is pro-abortion. Chaput wants more unwanted babies born because they're easier marks for predatory priests.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beware of Sunday announcements from Finance Authorities

At 1:30pm Chicago, there has already been a flurry of news reports coming out of London (7:30p GMT) about what the UK govt is going to do on Monday, and what might happen to the LSE.

Instead of summing up headlines, I'm just posting a snapshot of the Google search on "london stock market suspended."

Click on image for larger view.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A graph is worth a thousand words


Friday, 3 October 2008, House of Representatives passed the "Paulson Rapes the Rest of America" bill, 263 - 171. We're in so much trouble.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Best roller coaster ride EVER

Well, by now everyone knows the market closed down 350 pts. And it was not all about the worry over the House and the Boondoggle Paulson Rescue Plan. Speaking of which, I faxed the Illinois delegation and Dems who voted YES the first time, telling them to vote NO. Not only did the Senate basically leave the plan unchanged, but added $150 billion MORE in pork.

And now, on to the news:
Anyone out there a Bank of America customer? Well, read on: BofA is converting several systems simultaneously on the weekend of October 17-19. And now for anecdotal (aka inside information): my new boss is a refugee from LaSalle Bank. She & her entire department were given the boot by BofA, but she still has plenty of colleagues on board there. And they forwarded her internal emails about BofA converting several systems over the same weekend.
Does that strike you as odd? It did to us too!
The friends on the inside went on to advise: print out copies of all your accounts right before that weekend so you have proof of your monies. Also, take out sizeable chunks of cash for a "just-in-case" scenario.
And now I'm reading the same thing on Dealbreaker!

Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month and that means the unemployment numbers come out. Whoopee!

The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet himself, who just picked big chunks of Goldman Sachs and GE* on the cheap, remarked: ". . . a global credit crisis he calls an "economic Pearl Harbor."
*GE, while assuring us it is perfectly fine, eliminated its dividend payment.

It's not just the U.S. panicking over the growing depression. Let's take a look around the world:
PM Brown irritated with Irish. Ireland on Thursday announced it would backstop liabilities & guarantee deposits of its six biggest banks. Brown said Ireland was poaching business from the U.K.
Over in Germany & France, a fight breaks out over a rescue fund. That is, France wants one for the Eurozone and Germany doesn't.
German response was "the crisis was U.S.-centered and suggested European governments are overreacting if they pursue coordinated plans for bank bailouts."
British reaction: "also sceptical about the idea of a pan-European fund, preferring to tackle crises on an ad hoc basis."
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is acutely aware the Eurozone has no institutions or processes to react to a bank failure (like a UK's Northern Rock or US' WaMu). And they're pulling out of the Euro.

And right on cue, the UK informs its citizens that the terror threat is at CRTICAL levels. And if you're wondering, yep - they're blaming Al Qaeda. How handy.

Nouriel Roubini, NYU Economics professor who predicted much of the course of the meltdown, was on a web call hosted by Riskmetrics. The WSJ beat reporter notes "And that’s not the scariest part, he says! The scariest part is that, every time the government steps up its response, the market reaction gets weaker and weaker."
And he's right. Even if the bailout passes, it won't help the markets (although Bush/Paulson will claim it's because the House dithered). But Paulson/Bernanke have been throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the problem since August 2007 and you know where we're at today.

Meanwhile, Benelux's second bank (Fortis was first) gets a bailout: Dexia gets 6.4 billion Euro.

Best roller coaster ride EVER.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stop relying on US media for news

More grim news:

September 8 story from Army Times:
3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army
They hit U.S. soil Wednesday, October 1.

Sept. 25 - China tells domestic banks to stop lending to U.S.
China had been the number 1 buyer of U.S. Treasuries up until summer of 2007, when they systematically began reducing their purchases. The rest of Asia followed suit.

Another mortgage lender forced into receivership - it's a British one this time: Bradford & Bingley.

Next group of firms at the top of the Death Watch:
Wachovia, Fifth Third, Fortis (brokerage firm), Man Financial (brokerage).

More open stock manipulation: SEC allows exchanges to add more companies to short-sell ban list:
NYSE added 7 (Autonation, Zale, Wright Express, iStar Financial, Grubb & Ellis, Hersha Hospitality, and Apartment Investment & Mgmt. Nasdaq added Sears and MRU Hldgs.

Fresh examples of hypocrisy in organized religion: Archbishop of Canterbury castigates short-selling, except the Bank of England loans shares to short sellers. (And made a nice chunk of change on that sideline.)

InTrade, a futures exchange-like web site, has bettors increasingly favoring Obama (311 electoral votes to 229 for McCain).
This is not a poll, but rather an exchange where traders bet on outcomes.

The word is that Palin performed so badly in her prep runs for the VP debate that she will drop out due to "family reasons." And there is no consensus on who would replace her (Leiberman, Romney, ?).

Faxzero.com lets you send 2 free faxes a day - contact your Congressmen and tell them to vote NO against the bailout plan. John Hussman, PhD, of Hussman Funds, has a superb Open Letter to Congress outlining what should be done instead.
Paul O'Neil, Bush's first Treasury Secretary, is against the plan. So are CEOs of well-run banks. Tell your Congressmen that if they vote for the bill you will not vote for them.
We shouldn't vote for any incumbent anyway.

And now I'm off to catch the White Sox-Indians Death Match.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bernanke turns to Monty Python for solace. And advice.

Have we lost all sense of relativity?

From Bloomberg:

The Federal Reserve almost quadrupled the amount of dollars central banks can auction around the world to $247 billion in a coordinated bid to ease the worst crisis facing financial markets since the 1920s.

-----

Shouldn't that read worst crisis facing financial markets since August 2007?

Or does that reflect too badly on Bush, Paulson, Bernanke/Greenspan, Chris Cox, Congress, et al?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Water, water everywhere but not a decent watering hole in sight

Chicago declares state of emergency.

No, not because the White Sox are on the verge of their Tigers series getting reshuffled to the end of the season. Although THAT is highly traumatic to us Sox fans. With a neck-and-neck race with the damn Twins, those games could mean something.

No, Chicago has been living a scene out of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude." It's been raining nonstop since Thursday (September 11). Today is Sunday (September 14). Friday's game was called. Saturday's doubleheader was called (the afternoon game was a nationally televised game on FOX - they were not happy). Sunday became a doubleheader. The second game is nationally televised (ESPN). The first game was supposed to be 1:05p, but pushed back to 4:15pm. The rain has paused, but now we have gale-force wind warnings. Have fun in the outfield!

Chicago has several neighborhoods under water. Damn you, Hurricane Ike.

WSJ and Financial Times headlines today are screaming that Barclays walked away from a Lehman (LEH) bailout. The Treasury is standing firm on refusing to buy any of the toxic Lehman paper. Instead, they are telling Wall Street to pony up, a la LTCM in 1998. Regrettably, they appear to have forgotten that not one financial institution in the United States is solvent so we're unclear on where they are supposed to get the CAPITAL to take on LEHMAN'S paper.

FT: Barlcays Pulls Out From Lehman Talks

WSJ: Screaming group of headlines about the Lehman catastrophe. Wall Street Firms Scramble To Avert Crisis



Now the scary part is that most people have a disconnect from Wall Street - and failure to see how Main Street intersects with Wall Street is going to ruin everyone.

Add to the fact that oil refineries shut down for Hurricane Ike, and will take minimum 10 days for production to ramp back up means gas prices - wait for it - are going north again. The Oil Drum does a nice job explaining how much pain to expect at the gas pumps.

And while my neighborhood, South Shore, is handling the massive amounts of rainfall fairly well, egress is impaired. Which means I can't get to any of my favorite watering holes to drink away my worries, baseball and financial.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Next Installment of "Geopolitical Hot Foot"

And now for a segment I like to call "Geopolitical Hot Foot."

Or,

How the Georgia - South Ossetia - Russia thing flared up.

Early 2008 - A vocal and pushy US tries to get Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. At least 10 NATO members refuse to endorse the Membership Action Plan, but that doesn't stop the White House.

Throughout 2008 - The White House whispers to Saakashvili that he should take care of the South Ossetia thing once and for all - oh, and by the way, we'll have your back.

On August 8, 2008 Saakashvili attacks Russian peacekeepers and Ossetian civilians in Tkshinvali. Russia was ready for such a move, and counter-attacked immediately.

The White House got what they wanted - the Russian bear involved in a border conflict, more instability, and a little breathing room for the White House to continue its plans (whatever they are).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Taxpayers can bear no more

UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, apparently has hit his limit on obfuscation and outright lying (unlike Bernanke and Sec. of Treasury Paulson).

19 July 2008, UK Times Online:
In his gloomiest assessment yet of the state of the British economy, Alistair Darling gave warning that the downturn was far more profound than he had thought and could last for years rather than months.
And now some reports from the United States.

Massachusetts' Gov. Deval Patrick slashes budget. Slashed $122.5 mil from the $28.223 bil budget, and asked for powers to conduct mid-year budget cuts.

Orland Park works very hard to hide budget hole. The village has a $4.7 million hole in a budget of $122 million - a 3.77% deficit. Whoops. And so far is successfully hiding the fact.

New Brunswick, NJ cuts services, including scaling back on trash pickup. Oh, and there will be "personnel reductions." Layoffs.

California? Still hasn't passed a budget yet. And they're going to need a major bond issue no matter what.

Illinois Gov. Blagojevich cuts $1.4 billion from the state budget of $59 billion. The General Assembly makes symbolic votes (knowing the Senate had already adjourned) to repeal $480 million of the cuts. Without the Senate, the cuts stand.
The budget was $2 billion in the red, so with the governor's cuts the State is still $600 million short.
The cuts also affected the RTA, which is mandated by the governor's blatant political ploy earlier this year to provide free rides for seniors. However, the subsidy that helped the RTA cover the costs of those rides was cut from the budget.

Indiana knows the secret to budget surpluses: don't provide any services.
By contrast, state governments in the four bordering states — Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan — all were showing projected budget deficits at the end of their fiscal years

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 29 states plus the District of Columbia will have budget shortfalls for fiscal 2009.
By percentage of budget, the states in the biggest trouble are:
California - 21.3%
Arizona - 17.8%
Nevada - 13.5%
Rhode Island - 12.6%
Florida - 11.0%
New Jersey - 10.6%
Alabama - 9.2%
New York - 9.1%

Yowza.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush issues Amber Alert for Iran

Dateline Washington D.C.

Pentagon officials reported on Sunday, July 13 2008 that President Bush has given Israel an "amber light" to strike Iran.
"Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you're ready," the official said.
Great. Our president is so mentally crippled that we have to use street light analogies to get war threat levels across to him.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Updates and other miscellany

First off, Samuel Israel III did not kill himself. See earlier post (another hedge funder goes to the Big Easy). He faked his death and only turned himself in because his girlfriend had been arrested. He stated she had nothing to do with it. Except for that aiding & abetting thing.

In other news, another Iraq vet dies under unusual circumstances. The article reports that an overdose of prescription medicine was involved, and Dwyer (the Iraq vet) called for ambulance. Accident? Suicide's remorse? Who knows.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The (S)Bux stop here

Starbucks announced 600 store closings. That's up from 100 they announced earlier.

Just because it happened a hundred years ago, doesn't mean it will happen again. Cubs can win at Wrigley, but get their hats handed to them at Comiskey. And Kerry Wood gets busted on FOX flipping off (no doubt) Sox fans. Lou Piniella rounds things out by getting ejected in the Sunday game, in the 2nd inning.

How are those repressive gun laws working out? Violent crime in Chicago is up 4.3%, homicide up 12.7%, January to May 2008 versus the same period in 2007. Next step, martial law?

Do you know who's supplying your crude oil needs? Before you going off on rant about those damn Middle Easterners jacking up our gasoline prices, refresh your memory on where our imported oil comes from:
1) Canada
2) Saudi Arabia
3) Mexico
4) Nigeria
5) Venezuela
That's right - it's those damn CANUCKS.

Alcoholics are going to be outraged about this. California may have an initiative this fall about legalizing marijuana - for everyone. Sold in the same places they sell booze.
Why, that's just outageous! Booze should be the only legal drug! (Ed. note: Can't do anything about cigarettes, but we're still trying.)

Barclays joins RBS in dropping the boom. Barclays states the obvious - there's a financial tsunami heading our way. And, oh yeah, the Fed has "zero credibility."

Nominated for Stupidest Man In The World: Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America. He saw his own domino theory playing out (one state after another filing lawsuits and charges against Countrywide) and did something about it - went ahead with the acquisition of Countrywide. And boy, is Angelo Mozilo relieved.

There's more, so much more, such as UBS' mounting legal troubles with the IRS, but we'll save that for the next post.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Martin Gee, you just jinxed yourself

From Editor & Publisher
Published: June 27, 2008 11:05 AM ET

NEW YORK You could file it under "Ultimate Irony," or just "More of the Same."

But the announcement this week that the San Jose Mercury News would layoff nine employees today took on an extra feeling when word came down that one of those ousted would be Martin Gee.

Gee, a veteran designer and illustrator, drew industry-wide attention this spring when he created a poignant photo display of images from the Mercury News that represented the emptiness of the paper following recent cutbacks.

He also said in that piece: "I am probably on the top of the list for the next round of layoffs." Gee could not be reached for comment Friday, but several sources confirmed his layoff, which also was reported on a number of Web sites.

A report on Gee's layoff at www.visualeditor.com also said that Gee's father had died earlier this month after a battle with cancer and, to top it off, Saturday is his birthday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another hedge funder goes for the Big Easy

In our ongoing coverage of bankers/hedge fund managers/traders who bust out, here's the latest:

Samuel Israel III, disgraced hedge fund manager of Bayou Group, offed himself at the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River (by West Point) instead of serving 20 years for fraud, etc.

And as per usual in these cases, we'd like to see the body before declaring Mr. Israel III dead.

Habeas corpus, baby!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What does Cheney know that we don't?

Congress, under the leadership of John Conyers (D-MI) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) are introducing a bill that would extend Cheney's Secret Service protection for 6 months after leaving office.

Does that protection extend to Paraguay? Dubai?

Can't Cheney cash in on his Haliburton days (and directed, no-bid contracts) to get some KBR mercenary protection (thereby taking taxpayers off the hook)?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Random funny stuff

From the files "More stuff that cracks me up:"

Courtesy of Movies Saved By Historical Inaccuracy

Reenacting Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” yelling “they may take our things but they’ll never take our FREEEEEEDOM!” when we have our nail clippers taken from us at airport security.

This one is even funnier:
Why historical accuracy would have sucked for “Amadeus:”
Having a friendly rivalry with someone [Salieri] he respects and admires, then slowly drinking himself to death, would have been about as entertaining as home movies of me interacting with my father.

Historical inaccuracy in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:”
You’ll be happy to know that the Chinese, in fact, cannot fly.

I’m still laughing.

Courtesy of Movies Ruined By Last Minute Changes
For "Superman II," [Richard] Lester also felt the need to give the Kryptonians a series of increasingly bizarre and useless powers. In one of the most inexplicable changes to the Superman mythos, our hero is given the power to tear the insignia off of his costume and throw it at an enemy. Yes, they gave him super-logo powers.

[Dawn of the Dead] The film was to conclude with a haunting final shot of our heroine Fran shoving her head into her helicopter's propeller. This was of course an allegory for America's failing educational system.
It also is the way that, in our opinion, most movies should end.

You know when I said I was still laughing earlier? Well, I'm still laughing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hedge Fund Manager didn't like the view

So he hanged himself. Apparently he was going to be locked into a jail cell for several years for defrauding investors.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Don't want to go to rehab

Not that anyone is asking. But you start wondering when you're transcribing your notes from a spiral notebook you've been dragging around for two years. And you learn a few things.

1) No future as a typist.
2) Atrocious handwriting. I had conversations like this with myself: is that word VIRAL or VEILED? And some of this stuff was written two years ago so I don't know where I was going on some of this stuff.
3) I'm particularly keen on one scene. I wrote it up not once, twice, but THREE times. Criminy.
4) I also scored quite a few White Sox games in 2006 (I was very hopeful) and 2007 (stupid Sox).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who's CHAOS and who's CONTROL?

Gentle reader:
It dawns on me again that one should follow up on the initial reaction to things. Take, for example, the Free Tibet Revolt.

When the coverage of China's brutality in Tibet began, my first thought was:
"this seemed to blow up out of nowhere."
The second thought was:
"what great publicity they're getting, and which rock star is going to emulate George Harrison for this cause?"
The third thought was:
"what in the wide world of sports could the Chinese be thinking of?"
And then I moved on to other news.

But I trip across an article on Global Research which details the CIA's long involvement with Free Tibet and the Dalai Lama. With chatter from the Europeans about boycotting the Beijing Olympics, universal condemnation (including us - ha! - about human rights!), China's business partners and allies (in S. America, Africa) will need to tread carefully.

Hugo Chavez is probably berating Wen Jiabao right now for getting suckered.

Now, what do you think?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McCain, Still Crazy After All These Years (sorry, Paul Simon)

First, an admission: I'm not really following the menage-a-trois of Clinton/Obama/McCain. Mostly because it's boring and I've decided that it's in the bag already for the Dem - whoever it is.

But McCain's curious repeating loop that Iran is aiding and abetting Al Qaeda makes me think he really is in senile dementia territory.
WSJ - McCain Camp Again Links Al Qaeda to Iran
For the second day in a row, Sen. John McCain’s campaign linked al Qaeda in Iraq to Iran — an assertion Democrats say is misleading if not outright inaccurate. The McCain campaign, which acknowledged that the senator misspoke on Tuesday, insisted that its statement today is fully supported by facts."
Interesting, even though he made the same assertion that was wrong Tuesday but right today. And how's this for humiliation - LIEBERMAN had to correct him on Tuesday.

Baltimore Sun details the Lieberman Assist, with a fabulous photo.

Chicago Tribune covers Obama making political hay out of Obama and Clinton. If that's not presidential timbre, I don't know what is.

And speaking of Hillary Rodman Clinton, some of her private papers from her White House years, got released today. Do they back up claims that she's ready for that 3am call?
Chicago Tribune:
"She didn't put a lot in writing," said Anthony (Sferrazza Anthony, an author who's interviewed HRC), who is based in Los Angeles and who has written extensively about first ladies. "She explicitly told me she didn't put a lot in writing because everything in writing, including a personal diary, could be subpoenaed."
Just a gal after Cheney's own heart.

Some of the things the papers reveal:
Hot Air: Hillary actively stumped for NAFTA. Strangely, she claims NOW that she was never pro-NAFTA.

Doing searches for HRC's White House papers reveals a lot of hat tips to ABC News, who has the delightfully snarky headline Hillary, Diplomat or Tourist?

She was at the White House sometimes, like on December 7, 2000 when her brothers and others showed up pushing for last minute pardons (see Marc Rich, convicted drug dealer).

The Press has decided that Obama's the heir presumptive, like Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I wonder if Hillary's kept up her Odbrana Narodna membership.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Foo Fighters' "The Pretender"

The Foo Fighters' The Pretender deservedly won the British music awards as part of Best New Album.

Dave Grohl said it was inspired by the current political unrest said:
"That's the thing with lyrics, you never want to give away specifics, because it's nice for people to have their own idea or interpretation of the song. But, you know, everyone's been fucked over before and I think a lot of people feel fucked over right now and they're not getting what they were promised, and so something to do with that."
And, it's a great song.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal

Whoever you vote for, the government always gets in.

HRC decides that Florida should count. She decides that now, after her competition agreed to abide by DNC's disenfranchisement of Florida voters because they dared to hold their primary in January.

HRC's campaign counts on the Super Delegates. One way to read this is "the hell with the electorate, let the party hacks decide the Democratic candidate." Does anybody remember Gary Hart?

NY Times reports that in about NYC 80 districts, Obama didn't receive a single vote. Recounts are revealing that is not correct. In an effort to provide a balanced account, the article goes on to state:
The Times’s review found a handful of election districts in the city where Mrs. Clinton received zero votes in the initial results.
So they can provide a number (80) for Obama, but "handful" for Clinton?

Monday, February 04, 2008

It's not plunging to your death on Wall Street, but it's a start

Walter Buczynski kills wife, jumps off the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

He really, really, really didn't want to fall back into middle class.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sibel Edmonds going global

The London papers, reporting on what Sibel Edmonds has known since 2001, implicated the Clinton and Bush II administrations (and probably Bush I) in selling nuclear technology to everybody. One of the details is using Turkey officials/lobbyists as a conduit.

The US mainline press is still not covering the story, although smaller outlets are. What has the Bush Administration done since the stories broke? They announced in a message to Congress that the Agreement of Nuclear Cooperation signed 26 July 2000 by President Clinton is good to go. President Clinton had not submitted to Congress because US agencies found evidence implicating Turkish entities in activities related to nuclear proliferation. But George feels good about the Turks now.

Why? Because the Secretary of State (Rice), Secretary of Energy (Bodman), and members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission feel good about the Turks and we can go ahead with the agreement.

And tie in the Valerie Plame/Brewster Jennings outing - Sibel Edmonds reports that Scooter Libby wasn't the first to spill the beans on her covert activity. Could it be that Brewster Jennings was going to hit on a particularly sensitive spot in the US-Turkish Arms Trail?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

There ain't no conspiracy

I'll concede I'm a conspiracy theorist, if you concede you're a coincidence theorist.

Sibel Edmonds, gagged by a State Secrets order since 2004, is going public with what she testified to the 9/11 Commission and Congress about. Oddly enough, only overseas media is running with it. The latest revelation? A senior State Dept official in 2001 warned some Turkish agents Brewster Jennings (see Valerie Plame)was a CIA front and not to do business with them.

Go ahead, google Sibel Edmonds and see what news organizations in the United States are covering this story. Try the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. The Dissident Voice, out of California. The Capital Times, Wisconsin. Actually, the Capital Times isn't reporting, but a letter to the editor.

Then there's Kurdish Aspect, out of Colorado.

Yet Google does not turn up any references to NY Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, LA Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Detroit Free-Press, etc.

So, anybody want to rethink their support on the government's conspiracy theory of 9/11?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

La Sapienza Hurts Pope Ben's Feelings

Pope Benedict is learning that no matter how long ago you said it, if it was stupid enough it will haunt you forever.

Way back in 1990, when he was going by the nom de guerre Cardinal Ratzinger:

Pope Benedict was in charge of Roman Catholic doctrine in 1990 when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he commented on the 17th-Century Galileo trial.

In the speech, he quoted Austrian-born philosopher Paul Feyerabend as saying the Church's verdict against Galileo had been "rational and just".

Professors and students suggested, politely, that maybe the Pope should take a pass. (The students hung a sign at lunch "KNOWLEDGE NEEDS NEITHER FATHERS NOR PRIESTS."

Vatican Radio, with all the panache of a "turn blue" rebuttal, came up with this:

Vatican Radio said the protest at La Sapienza had "a censorious tone".

Sunday, January 13, 2008

House of Representatives locked in at 435, and secession

Isn't it remarkable that in a country this size (geographically, culturally, population) that there has been no rise of third parties? Far smaller countries, like Italy, dwarf our two-party system.

So when did the House of Representatives get fixed at 435? I didn't know either, and was shocked to realize it wasn't by amendment. In 1913 the US Census fixed it at 435. The U.S. Census Bureau?
[Ed. note: The Federal Reserve System sprung into being in 1913. Surely just a coincidence. I wonder what G. Edward Griffin thinks of that.]

The original ratio at the beginning of the Republic was 30,000:1. Now, in most cases, it is 700,000:1. In some places it is worse. The Wyoming Rule proposal would make the smallest unit currently represented the standard representation ratio (with Wyoming having the smallest ratio).

This would change the House's membership to 569 (e.g. California would go from 53 to 69).

But if smaller districts were brought back, and thus more representation, I argue that the two party system would come under attack. There are no national interests. Polls are demonstrating convincingly that Americans are against the Iraq/Afghanistan War (national defense). We're also against globalization. We're not too keen on Washington D.C. stripping away individual and states rights. And if the ratio were lowered to pre-Civil War (60,000:1), then we'd start electing people who had the same views as their constituents. And while they might start off with traditional party labels, I think that would devolve into splinter groups, and then into completely separate parties. And then all hell would break loose.
[Ed. note: I could devolve, myself, into gerrymandering as another example of locking into place our current Representatives, but that's a different posting.]

And the Republic had no say in apportionment. Washington D.C. unilaterally decided, back in 1913, to fix it at 435.

So, with rigged elections and evaporating rights, what's a citizen to do? Secede, of course! After all, that's what got this crazy party started: a bunch of coast-hugging Brits opting out of the British Empire.

UPDATE: This site, Population Resource Center has a timeline on House of Representatives membership.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Update: Retarded Kossacks march on

Hat tip to Atrios on the assine comment thread at Daily Kos on an Onion Article.

That's right - an ONION article.

Let the idiots battle the morons over there. I left the herd and broke free at the ridge.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Brad Blog, Blackbox Voting IN; Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo OUT

In the heights of stupidity and arrogance, the Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo are mocking those challenging the results of the New Hampshire primary. The Daily Kos cutely refers to anyone cynical of the results as "CT" (conspiracy theorist).

These are the same fuckers who champion use of the RICO Act to prosecute protesters at abortion clinics. If you don't get the reference, look up RICO Act.

Bev Harris at Black Box Voting has already found towns that registered zero (0) votes for Ron Paul, but in reality he did receive votes and the towns reluctantly corrected their postings. And while the news organizations are declaring the primary over and declared the winners, the NH Secretary of State has NOT certified the results.

Still fine with the posted results?

Daily Kos and TPM blithely ignore election fraud in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 because . . . Why? Because Hillary beat Obama? Is it okay when one Dem profits from election fraud over another Dem? The only way to surpass that glee is for a Dem to beat a Repub, via election fraud?

And note the phrase "election fraud." The Bush Administration has twisted the issue by repeating "voter fraud" ad nauseam. Does the term "caging" sound familiar?

Hillary Rodman Clinton appears to be the heir apparent to the Bush Administration, and if you think things were bad now, wait until HRC cements all the policies put forward by Bush/Cheney.

Want an example of HRC's foreign policy at work? Check out Greg Palast's article, written late last year, that details how HRC helped out Entergy Intl and in turn, the Clintons helped out Musharraf.