Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Neurotic, or Type A - or something else altogether

As I patiently wait here for the company's internal website to come up so I can provide Wider Feedback to three lucky people (part of our excrutiatingly long annual review process - and you thought your job sucked) I start to ponder a jab made by a colleague a couple of months ago that I'm a Type A personality.

The mere fact I'm still harping on this worries me that I am indeed a Type A. Then I wonder, what exactly is Type A? I'll cop to neurotic, and yea a hypochrondriac, but Type A? That can't be.

So my first Google search leads me to "Neurosis and Psychosis: Are They Really The Same?"

Good lord - now I have PSYCHOSIS in this bag of worry?

[Ed. note: If you're keeping score, the company site is still loading. We're going on 6 minutes now.]

From the above article:

"People who suffer from neurosis exhibit an excessive reaction to what others would deem minor stresses. This means that a neurotic individual worries over things that are of little importance or substance."

Well, that seems to fit.

Wikepedia has this about Type A:

Symptoms of Type A Behavior

  1. An intrinsic insecurity or insufficient level of self-esteem, which is considered to be the root cause of the syndrome. This is believed to be covert and therefore less observable.

  2. Time urgency and impatience, which causes irritation and exasperation.

  3. Free floating hostility, which can be triggered by even minor incidents.

Well, this is perturbing. But if Type A means free-floating hostility then I can reconcile myself to that diagnosis as well.

[Ed. note: Still keeping score? Company site is still loading. We're going on 9 minutes now.]

I think I'll pick a fight with some clown who boards at Randolph, puts their bag on the aisle seat and fakes sleep. I was ready to punch some Hyde Park chick on yesterday's 5:18pm for that very thing. Today I'll let the free-floating hostility take over.

[P.S. Still keeping score? Company site is
STILL loading. We're going on 11 minutes now. That free-floating hostility should be taking over any time now.]

Saturday, November 28, 2009

This secret goes to the grave

Wikileaks published several thousand text messages from 9/11.

Here's one:
2001-09-11 09:46:48 Arch [1399051] C ALPHA Sir, Pentagon just was hit by what looks to be fairly large bomb in vicinity of Heliport. Base has gone to threatcon "C" which essentially closes the base gates. Trying to get more info. [] 2001-09-11 10:00:19 Arch [1399051] C ALPHA Admiral, Call when able. We are going to TREATCON C. vr Nigel [] 2001-09-11 12:20:37 Arch [1399051] C ALPHA Admiral, Your mother called. vr Nigel []

The state secret revealed here: even admirals have mothers.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The DoJ is high on crack

The Department of Justice wouldn't know an anticompetitive hookup if Standard Oil bit them in the face.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Recession is over - hello, Depression!

From the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) report used to pronounce the recession is dead. They forgot to add "The Depression is here."

In the 1st paragraph the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that 2Q GDP decreased 0.7%, but increased 3.5% in the 3rd quarter.
(Ed. note: No consecutive 4 quarters of growth here.)

In the 2nd paragraph the BEA hedges by saying source data is incomplete and the “second” estimate for 3Q will come out 11/24/09.
(Ed. note: Pretty sure that will be downward revisions – and not covered in the press.)

Motor vehicle output added 1.66% to 3Q – in other words, the cash-for-clunkers is responsible for almost half of GDP growth (as cited by BEA later in their report).

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased 7.9 percent
in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 11.4 percent in the second.

Current-dollar personal income decreased $15.5 billion (0.5 percent) in the third quarter, in
contrast to an increase of $19.1 billion (0.6 percent) in the second.

Personal current taxes increased $4.8 billion in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of
$119.1 billion in the second.
(Ed. note: Income heading down, taxes heading up: not the recipe for recovery.)

Disposable personal income decreased $20.4 billion (0.7 percent) in the third quarter, in contrast
to an increase of $138.2 billion (5.2 percent) in the second.

Cue the Good Times.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The World Reacts (when pressed on it)

New York City: Chicago Mourns, New York Sympathizes
From the New York Times:
“I think it’s a shame,” said Andrew MacNair, 60, an architect who lives on Central Park West. “It’s the sister city. It’s the cowboy town. We’re the sail port.”
Not exactly sympathy.
[A] majority of New Yorkers supported this city’s Olympic bid, contrary to the perception that New Yorkers cared little for the Games. But Chicago seemed particularly taken with the notion of hosting the Games, at least in terms of publicly expressed enthusiasm.
Actually, Chicago never crossed 50% of public support. Cf. Silver Shovel, Shakman Decree, Parking Meters, Chicago Skyway, Midway Airport, Christopher Kelly, etc.

Milwaukee, WI - Chicago's Failed Olympic Bid Hurt Wisonsin Tourism
Then make the Brewers a winning team, and get over Bret Favre already.

Kansas City, MO - Chicago's Defeat Riles Critics of USOC
"James Ravannack, the president of USA Wrestling, said: 'Resignations. It’s an absolute embarrassment. … Where is the leadership?'"
After making that statement, Mr. Ravannack got Daley into a half-nelson.

Reuters - Obama Olympics Ouch!
“We recognize that we need to do more to make it easier for legitimate visa applicants to make it to the U.S. We understand we have an image problem about that process,” [State Dept Spokesman] Kelly said.
Yes, that's right: it was the federal travel visa to blame.

Toronto, CA - Rio de Janiero Could Boost Toronto's Pan-Am Bid
"[T]hat South America has bagged the biggest sporting prize for the first time gives Toronto a slight edge over competitors Bogota, Colombia, and Lima, Peru, for the Pan American Games."
Is it too late for Chicago to make their pitch?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bears showed up at Pamplona

The spirit of Generalissimo Franco is alive in Spain. A brigade of bears stalked the bulls at Pamplona, ate them, then ran amuck throughout Spain.

[The Hartford elk had no comment to this reporter.]

UK Telegraph

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Published: 10:28PM BST 24 Sep 2009

The Madrid research group RR de Acuña & Asociados said the collapse of Spain's building industry will cause the economy to contract for the next three years, with a peak to trough loss of over 11pc of GDP. The grim forecast is starkly at odds with claims by premier Jose Luis Zapatero, who still says Spain's recession will be milder than elsewhere in Europe.

[Ed. note: Sound familiar, Americanos?]

RR de Acuña said the overhang of unsold properties on the market, or still being built, has reached 1,623,000 . This dwarfs annual demand of 218,000, and will take six or seven years to clear. The group said Spain's unemployment will peak at around 25pc, comparable to the worst chapter of the Great Depression.

[Ed. note: This is getting downright spooky.]

Separately, UBS said unemployment will reach 4.8m and may go as high as 5.4m if the job purge in the service sector gathers pace. There is the growing risk of a "Lost Decade" akin to Japan's malaise after the Nikkei bubble.

[Ed. note: OK, the joke's over. We're really talking about the United States, right?]

Roberto Ruiz, the bank's Spain strategist, said salaries must fall by 10pc in real terms to regain lost competitiveness, replicating the sort of wage squeeze seen in Germany after reunification.
There is no sign yet that either Spanish trade unions or the Zapatero government are ready for such draconian measures. Talks between the unions and Spain's industry federation (CEOE) broke down in acrimony in July.

[Ed. note: I hate to mention this, but - this is happening in the United States too.]

The Spanish government can do little to cushion the downturn. "The room for manouvre in fiscal policy has been exhausted," said Mr Ruiz.

[Ed. note: Bernanke, Geithner - did you catch that?]

Combined private and corporate debt reached 230pc of GDP, funded by French and German savings.

[Ed. note: Swap that for Japanese, Saudi Arabia, and of course - China.]

The Bank of Spain made heroic efforts to counter the effects of the bubble by forcing banks to put aside extra reserves, known as dynamic provisioning, but the sheer scale of the problem has washed over the defences.
Spain no longer has the escape valve of devaluation to claw back market share. It cannot resort to emergency monetary stimulus – as Switzerland, Britain, the US, and Japan are doing to prevent the onset of debt deflation. Prices are already falling at a rate of 1.2pc. [Emphasis mine.]

[Ed. note: That would also be known as DEFLATION, for all you inflation hawks out there.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze goes on one last Roadhouse-range

You're reading it here first - Patrick Swayze, before succumbing to cancer grabbed the Costco-sized Bayer aspirin and wiped out Christopher Kelly, James McDonald, Finn Casperson, and Danny Pang.

Because somebody took them out of the corner and he put them right back in it, baby.

Struggling Borrowers Raise Risk of Credit Card Lending

Some stray thoughts on FT's "Struggling Borrowers Raise Risk of Credit Card Lending."

That is, I was going to until I read THIS:
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

No doubt I am now in big time trouble for redistributing THAT.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Once again, South Carolina contributes nothing but garbage

Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-R) yelled "you lie" to President Obama during his health care speech Wednesday, 9 September 2009.

Unfortunately, the Congressman was stricken with laryngitis for the entire President Bush Administration and thus was unable to yell what a liar Bush was (is).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

White Sox win their last game in Metrodome - take that, Joe Nathan!

When you need to update your colleagues on a fast moving 9th inning and you have to make work's email function like Twitter.
*Notice there are no work emails sent during the 9th inning of the White Sox-Twins game.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Cows Must Be Stopped

It's not news until the NY Times decides it is, and they've decided it's news now.

Why, cows kill 20 people a year in the United States.  That makes it more rampant than H1N1.

Cows must be stopped.

From the NY Times:

All but one of the victims died from head or chest injuries; the last died after a cow knocked him down and a syringe in his pocket injected him with an antibiotic meant for the cow. In at least one case the animal attacked from behind, when the person wasn’t looking. Older men with arthritis and hearing aids have the highest risk of being injured by livestock, the report says.

He who wields the cattle prod gets the hoof.

Monday, July 06, 2009

7/06/2009 Sports Economics update/Baseball


And no, I'm not talking about the Cubs' sale.

Over the Fourth of July weekend it was reported that MLB is loaning millions of dollars to the Texas Rangers. Nolan Ryan is part of a group making an offer to purchase the team.
And because it's sports, the only way the Rangers can make any money is to win. Except, of course, they play in Arlington, TX. And we're not even into the Sahara-like days of July & August yet.

So let's wrap this up with a conspiracy theory on the All-Star Game: the Rangers' outfielder, Josh Hamilton, the Feel Good Story Of 2008, was on the DL for a good part of the first half this year. And yet, miraculously, he was voted by the fans to be a starter in the All-Star Game. By the same fans who don't go to games or watch them on TV or listen to them on radio.

Yeah, just like Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay was voted a starter by their non-existent fans last year.

What am I saying - internet voting can be rigged? Say it ain't so, Joe!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Narodna Odbrana's Holstein Cows division

Hat tip to Guerrilla News Network:
Lesbian Animal Killer Trampled to Death by Holstein Cows

The man, who declined to give his name, said: “At first we thought nothing of it, but then we realised that something was not right.

“I looked outside and saw a herd of cows crowded round one area of the field.

“I knew something was wrong so I went outside, picked up a wooden post, which was nearby, and went to the cows and shooed them away.

“Then I saw a woman on the ground, with her head bent at an unnatural angle.”

Apparently the cows were like ninjas: They hemmed her in against a wall, squeezed the life out of her with their arses, and when she went down – tried to kick her fucking head off.

In Britain vets are right sick bastards. It’s nice to see some justice for once. I hope the cows shat on her face.

So, I had to check it out - was there a British vet killed by (Holstein) cows? And the answer is yes, yes there was, Mr. and Mrs. America.

If you see a herd of them coming down your street, you'll grab your bag a little tighter and cross the street, won't you? Admit it - you'll never take cows for granted again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Once you have the scorecard

The emerging stories on the Iranian election never smelled right - especially since it is a good idea to be skeptical of any concerted storyline being promulgated by American media.

But without knowing the Iranian backstory I was floundering. You really can't tell the players without a scorecard. Paul Craig Roberts managed to put everything together, succinctly and coherently.

To sum up: it was reported two years ago by several media outlets that the Bush Administration gave the CIA the green light to foment revolution in Iran.

Moussavi, the preferred candidate by Washington, announced HE was the winner before the polls closed. That makes Mahmoud Admadi Nejad a laggard, waiting hours after the polls closed to announce he won.

Paul Craig Roberts cites a Kenneth Timmerman, neocon, who spoke of a "green revolution" the day before the election.

Does that name ring a bell? Maybe you are thinking of Tim Timmerman - an alleged eyewitness to flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon who insisted it was the American Airlines plane.

Very probably just a coincidence, but strange.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Italian police make a long distance phone call

The Italian police have asked the SEC to authenticate the $134 billion Treasury bonds found in a suitcase false bottom.

The SEC? The SEC?

Why - the Treasury Department was out to lunch?

This story is getting curiouser and curiouser.

And as the article points out - those two Filipino/Japanese/Other travelers were heading to a Swiss free port - legal limbo.

Calling Leo Wanta! Your tranche is here!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Oh dear, this IS awkward

The Canadian Mint called in the RCMP. Seems they have misplaced some gold. Someone in a position to know how dirty Roland Burris is dies in a car accident. And then there's this:

Upstart Congress subpoenaed the Federal Reserve Bank.
The committee said it would "have a subpoena served on the Federal Reserve" as it tries to discover whether undue pressure was placed on Ken Lewis, chief executive of Bank of America, to complete an agreed deal to buy Merrill Lynch last year.

"We have received it," said the Fed. Cue the ominous silence.

One person familiar with the Fed's history could remember only one previous occasion in the past 20 years when it had been served with a subpoena. And then, suddenly, he couldn't remember it anymore.
Royal Canadian Mint misplaces gold. Or maybe not. Another atrocious example of spokespeople who suck at their jobs. Mint spokeswoman Christine Aquino said last week it could be anything from a heist to sloppy record-keeping.
And if that's how they take care of their gold, god save Canada. (Because the Queen can take care of her own gold.)

A troublemaker for (ahem) Senator Roland Burris dies in tragic - and convenient - car accident. The Sun-Times reports
"Ruff insisted that the only way to determine whether Burris lied about the circumstances of his appointment when appearing before an Illinois House impeachment panel was for prosecutors in Sangamon County and investigators overseeing a U.S. Senate ethics probe to zero in on [Burris’ business partner Fred] Lebed.

"There is more to be discovered," Ruff told the Sun-Times. "I know the key to finding the information out is through Fred. That's the main point I wish to get across.”

Very awkward.

Monday, June 08, 2009

6/08/2009 Sun-Times Monday wrap-up

There we were, talking about the burgeoning civil war in Mexico and I read today about a shootout in Acapulco over the weekend.

China puts New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in quarantine. Ostensibly because someone on his flight exhibited flu symptoms. This could be a handy way to deal with troublesome officials from other countries.

And the headline story: Illinois' 529 college fund lost 38% due to a rogue trader at Oppenheimer. He decimated the most conservative fund, a govt bond fund, to the tune of 38%. Lisa Madigan and Alex Giannoulias have been negotiating with Oppenheimer in secret and have a handshake deal to get $77 million of $85 million lost (90.5%).
And now they're all mad because a family filed an arbitration claim against Oppenheimer for lost monies, PLUS damages and legal fees.

To that last story, I'm with the family.

I swear I can hear Louis Jordan's "Let The Good Times Roll" wafting gently through the air.

Friday, June 05, 2009

States reluctantly start hacking at budgets

Well, not all states. California is still fulminating but I suspect behind closed doors ugly cuts are being discussed. Here in Illinois, the General Assembly gleefully disbanded and ran home. So, let's see what's going on elsewhere in the country.

Minnesota will begin unallotments on July 1, the beginning of their fiscal year. The state has a unique setup that mandates the governor to make cutbacks when the state's chief financial officer formally reports the state can't meet its budget. Their budget shortfall is so great that they have to make significant cutbacks.

Alabama home to bankrupt Jefferson County, is also making cuts. The poor, the elderly, and sick will bear the brunt of most of the cuts.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul's HR 1207 and Sen. Bernie Sanders S.604 - the Federal Reserve Sunshine Act of 2009 are sitting on Capitol Hill. The House and Senate versions are identical.
The House bill has 175 co-sponsors. Not one in the Senate.
The bill calls for an audit of the Federal Reserve system.

Ron Paul has acknowledged that he and his staff have received death threats.

The Fed has hired a lobbyist firm to gin up opposition to the House and Senate bills.

Not a single black Congressman from Illinois is supporting this legislation.

You can make a strong argument that blacks suffer disproportionately from Fed policies - certainly no less than other middle-, working-, and poor classes. And yet, nowhere to be found.

Oh, and the Sox are losing to Cleveland 4-0 at the time of this writing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Hell Starting To Break Loose?

Dateline Chicago, Wednesday 27 May 2009

[WSJ] At least 30 people died and dozens were wounded in an explosion at a police building in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

North v South
Korea, that is.

Can we bring M*A*S*H back, picking up with today's events?

North Korea says the 1953 Truce is OFF.

S. Korean President Lee Myung-Bak already had problems, trying to head off herds of mourners for the former President Roh Moo-hyun, who leapt to his death last Saturday (23 May 2009). From the Korea Times article:
"They [Seoul] didn't rule out the possibility that ongoing mourning parades could develop into anti-government rallies, with a large number of Roh's supporters believing the former head of state had fallen prey to a politically motivated investigation by the prosecution, which they say is under President Lee Myung-bak's control. "

Good news: the market is only down 0.6% at the time of this writing.

Did we mention that Japan's going to get back into the weapons game?

Ha'artz editorial reports that Netanyahu is bringing Israel closer to war with Iran. From the article:
"Netanyahu said that if Israel does not lead the defense against the Iranian threat and bring in the United States and other countries, no one else will."

This just in: North Korea says truce is still broken.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More good news - WWIII not too far off now

Japan is going to lift their self-imposed ban on weapons manufacturing.

They're doing it to save their economy, and while the obvious parallel is Hitler's Germany, ca. 1930s, I see the Ango-German naval arms race leading to WWI as a better blueprint.

In the years prior to the big breakout, there were the regional conflagerations (Boer War, Boxer Rebellion, Spanish-American War, Balkan War(s) - with all the Great Powers either directly or indirectly by proxy involved.

My question: is there anybody out there who fails to see this as a major step forward to WWIII?

Second question: Are we going to skip worrying about a deepening depression and go straight to worrying about another Bataan Death March?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Goldman Sachs isn't wearing any clothes

Reading the comments of Mish's most recent post today, on the Rapid Decline And Fall of California and I find I've strayed was off the reservation.

A lot of the commenters (and Dealbreaker was toeing the same line) were barking how Paulson made the banks take TARP money last autumn. And then had the gall - the gall! - to make it difficult for them to give the money back.

And I'm thinking: are you f*cking kidding me? The banksters at that Paulson/Bernanke BBQ were telling them how it was going to go down. And the cover story would go something like this: Treasury/Fed is making all the banks take money so no one institution is singled out. Also recall that nothing was said at the time about paying the money back.

Now fast forward to the outrage over AIG bonuses while billions fell out the back door to Goldman Sachs et al, making their bets whole. (By the way, there's more to that bonus story, starting with that Cassano dude - it isn't the red herring cynics think it is.)

Goldman Sachs, knowing the script, then claimed they wanted to pay their TARP money back but Washington wouldn't let them.

Now I'm thinking: if you don't have the money to pay back gigantic sums of moolah, the public is ticked off about same said moolah, you then claim "I'm ready to pay it back. Oh, wait - Treasury says no. Nuts."
How HANDY. Deus ex machina.

And unbelievably enough - tons of people are buying it! People who should know better. Crikey.

I think of that fable of "The Emperor's New Clothes" and shake my head.

Friday, May 08, 2009

About those green shoots

Are we talking about dusky green, dried shoots? Maybe encapsulated in a rolling paper?

From the San Jose Mercury News:
SANTA CRUZ -- Call it a threat or a grim reality. Whatever it is, it's not being welcomed at city halls across California.

The governor's office suggested this week that if the May 19 budget-reform measures are rejected by voters, the state will have to borrow $2 billion from cities and counties.

The proposal, which comes as polls show little hope for the ballot measures, is being met with horror by local governments that face red ink of their own.

"Our budget gap is so big it's beyond anything we could have imagined already," said Santa Cruz City Manager Dick Wilson. "If the state adds this additional burden, it's overwhelming. ... It's appalling beyond words."
And TrimTabs doesn't see any green shoots either:
Sausalito, CA - May 6th, 2009 - TrimTabs Investment Research estimated today that the U.S. economy shed 745,000 jobs in April as wages and salaries plunged an adjusted 5.7% year-over-year. TrimTabs estimated that the economy shed a record 5 million jobs in the past 12 months.
That's somewhat at odds with BLS's report:
Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in April (-539,000), and the unemployment rate rose from 8.5 to 8.9 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.7 million jobs have been lost. In April, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major private-sector industries. Overall, private sector employment fell by 611,000.
To sum up, TrimTabs says 745k jobs lost in April '09.
BLS says 611k.
Difference: 134k.
[Ed. note: Expect to see a large revision upwards next month for the April numbers.]

TrimTabs says 5 million jobs lost since April '08 (past 12 months).
BLS says 5 million jobs lost since December '07.
Difference: BLS claims it has taken 17 months to lose 5 million.
[Ed. note: The BLS are liars.]

TrimTabs doesn't say what they think the unemployment rate is, but we know BLS's 8.9% rate is crapola.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mexican swine flu gets curiouser and curiouser

At the time of this posting, Mexican deaths from swine flu are at 149.

Baxter International, one of the companies trying to get a vaccine for this flu to market, was involved in a botched shipment of bird flu to an Austrian lab in February 2009.
The company [Baxter Intl] that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses.

And then there's this reported today (4/27/2009) from the UK Independent:
Felipe Solis, a distinguished archaeologist who showed Mr Obama around the city's anthropology museum during his visit to Mexico earlier this month, died the next day from "flu-like symptoms".
And from the "when it rains, it pours" file: Earthquake hits southern Mexico, about 250km from the capital.

And from the "random noise file:" The WSJ is all over a low-flying plane cruising Manhattan for a photo-op. From the WSJ:
A low-flying airplane escorted by military jets sent worried workers fleeing offices in the New York City area. The FAA said it was a "photo op" conducted by the Air Force.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An old Spanish tradition, 21st century style

From the 4/20/2009 New York Times:
The nation’s jobless rate, already a painful 15.5 percent, could soon reach 20 percent, a troubling number for a major industrialized country.

With the combination of rising unemployment and falling prices, economists fear Spain may be in the early grip of deflation, a hallmark of both the Great Depression and Japan’s lost decade of the 1990s, and a major concern since the financial crisis went global last year.

In other news, Pamplona's running of the bears is still on for this July.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today's Market Report

While the market is taking a break from the bear market rally, I'll take this opportunity to pass on all sorts of stuff.

Treasury Dept's stress test results leaked.
Here's the important sentence: Of the top nineteen (19) banks* in the nation, sixteen (16) are already technically insolvent.

*Don't forget, the investment banks (Morgan Stanley & Goldman Sachs) converted to commercial banks to cash in on the Fed's largesse last fall.

What does this mean?
This means it is not a subprime crisis. Trixie & Bubba buying a McMansion they couldn't afford didn't cause this problem, nor are they even the most important part of the problem.
This is not a liquidity crisis. That is, the banks would be fine if only they had access to cash. Why, in that case, every homeless person is experiencing a liquidity crisis.
IT IS A SOLVENCY CRISIS. To put it bluntly, the United States is bankrupt. And BushObama policies are saving Wall Street and throwing the rest of us to the wolves.

What two-party system?
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) assisted AIPAC* in attempting to reduce espionage charges (see Jack Abramoff) back in 2006. CQ's Jeff Stein's scoop is that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonazles intervened to kill the criminal investigation into Harman -- even though DOJ lawyers had concluded that she committed crimes -- because top Bush officials wanted Harman's credibility to be preserved so that she could publicly defend the Bush administration's illegal warrantless eavesdropping program.
*See Sibel Edmonds on AIPAC.

Prepare for (much) higher food prices.
Somewhat of a perfect storm (pardon the pun) is coalescing. The meteoric rise of commodity prices last year priced farmers out of fertilizer for this year's crop. This translates to fewer acreage and reduced yields per acre.
Add to that bad weather, such as hard freeze across the U.S.'s wheat belt. In Oklahoma 60% to 90% of the spring wheat crop is wiped out.

The next shoe(s) to drop.
Pensions and commercial real estate are rapidly approaching critical mass in terms of mass financial destruction. General Growth Properties filed for bankruptcy last week. So did Six Flags (debt restructuring). In the flash of an eye, the shopping mall model fell apart and left GGP with debt it couldn't roll over.
Moody's downgraded all municipal debt, which translates into states & local governments experiencing more problems financing their debt. This will translate into higher taxes, "fees*," and services getting cut.
*For example, the City of Chicago emailed me, to remind me not to forget my city sticker in June. And not to forget my dogs need city dog licenses. Very helpful, those Department of Revenue people.

And finally, the lesson we need to relearn: everybody in the market is lying. Exhibit A: Citigroup's so-called earnings report. They stated they lost $966 million in the first quarter. And that's in spite of Titanic-sized cash infusions from Washington. Worse, they lost more than that but courtesy of accounting tricks the loss may have been well north of $3.5 billion.
[Dealbook] Citigroup posted a $2.5 billion gain because of an accounting change adopted in 2007. Under the rule, companies are allowed to record any declines in the market value of their own debt as an unrealized gain because a company COULD buy back its own debt at a discount.

Then there's FASB caving under pressure and letting mark-to-model back into the game. But I'll save that for another rant.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Citi suckers investors. Again.

Yesterday an analyst at Citi advised buying May puts on XLF - to rephrase, to bet against itself.

Mish wrote this up and added "I'm not bullish on financials, but considering Citi hasn't gotten anything right, this might be a good time to buy."

Then the mark-to-market news broke today and financials took off, including XLF. So much for those May puts.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

London's CCTV ruled illegal

Actually, the important part of the article is here:
The security operation at this week's G20 summit was thrown into chaos last night when it emerged that the entire network of central London's wireless CCTV cameras will have to be turned off because of a legal ruling.
I don't think all of the security operation was thrown for a loop. The CCTV network was turned off for the 7.07.2007 terrorism exercise in London as well.

Meanwhile, Chicago should take heed of that ruling (most monitored city in the United States).

The Globe & Mail, among other outlets, reports that London is battering down the hatches in fears of violent protests.

Are we getting set up for something?

Ed. note: The answer is YES.

Ha, and double ha!

I was gently chastised last week for missing the forest on my outrage at AIG bonuses last week.

And now it turns out that there's more, much much more to those bonuses.

And now a gentle reminder: I am perfectly capable of maintaining outrage at several entities simultaneously and over long periods of time. Which is I why I maintain my Arch Enemies List (and you're still on it, DuPage County).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

From the "Can't Make This Stuff Up" files

OTARU, Japan, March 25 (Reuters) - Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Hirohide Yamaguchi said on Wednesday he would not completely rule out the possibility of cutting interest rates further from an already low 0.1 percent.
That's right: Dep. Governor Yamaguchi sees room to maneuver on lowering the interest rate FROM 0.1.

Well, if they make microscopic transistor radios, why not do the same with interest rates?

Rep. Luis Gutierrez Hits the Trail

So glad Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) picked DETROIT as part of his 5-week tour promoting amnesty for illegal aliens.

Nothing people like hearing more while dealing with crushing unemployment is a Congressman pitching a renewed effort to add illegals to the workforce.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG contracts (aka bonuses) untouchable. Labor contracts - break 'em!

So I tossed onto a social networking site a link on the City of Vallejo getting a court to break their union contracts. And noted that it's pretty damn easy to break labor contracts, but not so much for retention bonuses at AIG.

And this asswipe wrote this:
Brian Potter at 12:51pm March 18These bonuses were in the stimulus bill.........OBAMA has known about this for a LONG TIME........BUT in case he did not.......he should have READ THE STIMULUS BILL.......it was in there!!!!!!! Dont let the smoke screen fog what they are doing.......

Brian Potter is very fond of the upper case and ellipses. This causes me to doubt his powers of rational thought. And yes, his sexuality.

Somebody is pretty unclear on what "they" are doing, and it's not me.

Time to renew my IWW membership.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sanity Strikes In Some Of The Strangest Places

3/17/09 11:53am CT Update:
Situation Back To Normal - Pope States Condoms Won't Solve 'AIDS'

From the article:
[Pope] Benedict said that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

Ed. note: We have the cardinals out there every day, making sure prostitutes are safe from condoms.

Vatican prelate defends abortion for 9-year-old

From the article:
An influential prelate* said Brazilian doctors didn't deserve excommunication for aborting the twin fetuses of a 9-year-old child who was allegedly raped by her stepfather because the doctors were saving her life.

*That influential prelate is Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Red-light cameras to the rescue

The Sun-Times reports today that the Chicago City Council heard a proposal to expand the reach of the red light cameras to search for uninsured motorists and issue tickets (carries a $500 fine).

And all under the guise of "wiping out the city's projected deficit for 2009."

Which means of course those red-light cameras are on all the time (and not "tripped" when a motorist crashes a red-light) and scanning license plates.

Some interesting tidbits from the article:
That’s already happening daily in 13 states, but not here.
Ed. note: Great.
Illinois’ mandatory insurance law carries a $500 fine. If Chicago levied a $300 fine and used its home-rule power to keep the money, the annual take would top $100 million. A $500 city fine would generate $357 million.
Ed. note: Can you see the looming battle between Chicago and Springfield, with taxpayers/drivers in the role of MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE? Our money will be taken, we just don't know which grasping whore will keep it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Except in Australia. A small round up of this weekend's news.

Automatic Earth has an unpleasant post today on food prices. Specifically, the horrendous timing on food prices & nutrition (prices going up, nutrition going down).

In a nutshell, the farmers' problems last year are going to hit us this year. Ammonia (key ingredient in fertilizer) has skyrocketed, so farmers cut back on fertilizer. This means land has to lay fallow more, the crop that is grown has fewer nutrients (ironically triggering the need for us to eat MORE to get the same levels).

Ed. note: There were food riots last year, but restricted to poor countries. There will be no such restriction this year.

Sy Hersh shares some more hard truths with the American public.
At a University of Minnesota event:
"new alleged instances of domestic spying by the CIA, and about an ongoing covert military operation that he called an “executive assassination ring.”
Ed. note: Emphasis mine.

Catherine Austin Fitts/Solari rebuts Greenspan's lame defense "The Fed Did Not Cause The Housing Bubble."
Like Sy Hersh, she shares some hard truths such as:
One of the dirty little secrets behind the housing bubble is the long standing partnership of narcotics trafficking and mortgage fraud and the use of the two in combination to target and destroy minority and poor communities with highly profitable economic warfare. This model is global. It is operating in counties throughout the world as well as in US communities.
Ed. note: By the way, that long standing partnership is with the U.S. Government. Don't believe me? Read Gary Webb's expose on CIA drug trafficking in South Central Los Angeles. Oh yeah - and make sure you read how he supposedly killed himself.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Another day in Bizarro World

[Forbes] GM Steering Delphi Out of Chapter 11

Get it? Delphi, who makes steering parts, is getting led out of bankruptcy by GM.

Will GM extend the same helping hand to bankrupt GM drivers?

In a separate comment, did Forbes accept some kind of dare to cram as much sh*t as possible onto their web site? They barely got the article in there.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Over/under on Labor Day 2009

Sheila Blair, FDIC chair, thinks the FDIC will only pay out $22 billion in 2009 to cover failed banks. But what if one of those banks on the FDIC's troubled banks list is Citi? Bank of America? JPMorganChase?

Nouriel Roubini estimates 1400 banks will fail in this crisis. It doesn't sound like the FDIC is getting into position.

Brush up on your Eastern Europe geography, because in a WWI redux, that's the region that will go up in spectacular flames. Probably no later than this summer.

The Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Serbs, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians did a crazy thing during the housing boom: they took out mortgages denominated in foreign currency. As long as everything stayed exactly the same - no currency dislocations, no asset crashes - then everything would be fine. Weirdly, things did NOT stay exactly the same. Worse, everything flipped upside down at the same time. Eastern Europe currencies fell off a cliff AND their housing market crashed.

Swiss, Austrian, and Italian banks dominated the mortgage market in these countries. Austria and Italy, as members of Eurozone, don't have a lender-of-last-resort like say, the U.S. or U.K. Whoops. Can the Eurozone move fast enough when those banks start collapsing?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes

It's takes a Yankee to sum things up.

"It does," he [Johnny Damon] replied. "I'm not sure if the banks we owe mortgages would understand our money's frozen, start putting penalties on stuff. The whole financial world is all messed up right now. Hopefully they will go on a case-by-case basis. I'm not sure the mortgage is going to be paid this month. But hopefully it's only a couple of days."

Alex Jones Issues High Alert

Citing the Daily Times Herald (Carroll, Iowa):

Guardsman to conduct urban training at Arcadia in April

From the article:
The primary phase will be done Saturday, April 4, when convoys will be deployed from Carroll to Arcadia. Pictures of the arms dealer will be shown in Arcadia, and soldiers will go door to door asking if residents have seen the suspect.

Soldiers will knock only at households that have agreed to participate in the drill, Kots noted.
[Ed. note: Alex Jones will be in Carroll/Arcadia for these drills. From his experience with other urban training drills, households are NOT asked if they want to participate.]

"Once credible intelligence has been gathered," said Kots, "portions of the town will be road-blocked and more in-depth searches of homes and vehicles will be conducted in accordance with the residents' wishes.
[Emphasis mine. Road blocks and in-depth searches. How does Arcadia IA help the military prep for AfPak, Iran, etc? The answer is: IT DOESN'T.]

"One of the techniques we use in today's political environment is cordon and knock," Kots explained. "We ask for the head of the household, get permission to search, then have them open doors and cupboards. The homeowner maintains control. We peer over their shoulder, and the soldier uses the homeowner's body language and position to protect him."
[Ed. note: Who's the HIM in that sentence? The soldier?]

During this phase of the operation, troops will interact with residents and media while implementing crowd-control measures and possibly treating and evacuating injured persons.
[From previous experience they anticipate injuries?]

The unit will use a Blackhawk helicopter for overhead command and control, and to simulate medevacs.
[The infamous black helicopters.]

The drill will culminate in the apprehension of the suspected arms dealer.
[Everyone loves a happy ending.]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What I actually said in Springfield

Below is the full, unedited version of Mark Brown's February 17, 2009 column in the Chicago Sun-Times, in which I was serendipitiously present.

BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times Columnist

Sen. Roland Burris says the transcript of his Illinois House impeachment committee testimony proves he is not a lying little sneak.
[Ed. note: I was present due to a mix-up in subpoenas.]

It doesn't. But judge for yourself. Here's the excerpt Burris says exonerates him:

Rep. Jim Durkin: "Did you talk to any members of the governor's staff or anyone closely related to the governor, including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including, let me throw out some names -- John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma? Did you talk to anybody . . . associated with the governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the governor's arrest?"

Burris lawyer Timothy Wright: "Give us a moment." (Wright and Burris confer.)
[Ed. note: At this juncture I replied: I only know those guys from the Sun-Times. Except for Doug Scofield - who IS that guy?]

Burris: "I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes."
[Ed. note: Note the shock on my face. I inadvertently blurt: Hey, that's not what you said in the hallway!]

Durkin: "I guess the point is I was trying to ask: Did you speak to anybody who was on the governor's staff prior to the governor's arrest or anybody, any of those individuals or anybody who is closely related to the governor?"

Burris: "I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business, and I did bring it up -- it must have been in September or maybe it was in July of '08 that, you know, you're close to the governor, let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat."
[Ed. note: When it was my turn to answer, I said "How is that everyone spells my name the same as the senior Senator from Illinois, until I really need them to mistake my name for his? For crying out loud!]

From that exchange, Burris now says, we were to deduce that when he referred to "friends" and said "yes," he was confirming having been in contact with everyone named by Durkin except Greenleaf. He blames Durkin for then taking the questioning in another direction.
[Ed. note: If only they had printed a photograph of my in complete disbelief at Burris' lying. Well, another golden opportunity lost.]

OK, that might be enough to save the senator from a perjury charge, even though he had previously submitted an affidavit claiming "there was not any contact" between him and Blagojevich's representatives concerning the Senate seat.

But here's what proves he is a lying little sneak.

While Durkin might not have asked Burris to clarify his reference to "friends," his fellow Republican, Rep. Jill Tracy of Quincy, did return to the subject.

Just watch Burris dance.
[Ed. note: And he's not just whistling Dixie here. If the cameras had panned underneath the table, they would have seen a soft shoe shuffle not seen in a long time.]

Tracy: "You said that you had visited friends perhaps in September of '08 or July of '08 concerning a desire to perhaps be appointed as a senator if our president-elect was elected. And could you give me the names of those friends?"

Burris: "I don't think I said in July. I said they were friends that I contacted after the election, but I was talking to people, I mean I don't know who you want as my friends that I consider as persons. For example, when I handled a press conference to express my interest in the seat, was the press conference -- I did hold a press conference, and some of my friends were there, for instance."
[Ed. note: Wait, what? Who you want as-my-friends-that-I-consider-as-persons? Do I have to answer that question? I DO? Well, I suppose I consider Max and Flurry as friends but not persons. What's that, Representative Tracy? Yes, Max and Flurry are dogs. ]
Tracy was temporarily sidetracked, then came back to the point.

Tracy: "But I think I earlier heard you today testify that in September '08 or perhaps as early as July '08, you had visited with some friends about your desire to seek the seat."
[Ed. note: I interjected here: Friends, but not persons.]
Burris: "No, I think I testified that that's when I began to express an interest in it. As I saw that --"

Tracy: "And I just was wondering who those friends were."

Burris: "One of them was my law partner."
[Ed. note: I reiterate here "But not a person."]
Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the committee chairman: "Is that when you talked about your interest with Lon Monk? I think that --"

Tracy: "Was it Lon Monk, was that the extent of it was Lon Monk?

Burris: "That came up in our conversation when we were talking about, you know, if he has some excess clients in the lobbying business, you know, as we try to see whether or not he had conflicts somewhere with some type of a client because of his previous relationship with government. That's what we were talking about then.

"And it just came up, and in fact I said, 'Now, Lon, I don't know what's going to happen, but I think I'm qualified to be appointed to the Senate seat.' And Lon said, 'Well, Roland, I think you are, too.' And that was the extent of it."
[Ed. note: For the love of god, answer the question. And by the way, we all know the answer so you better come clean.]
Tracy: "So you don't recall that there was anybody else besides Lon Monk that you expressed an interest to at that point?"

Burris: "No, I can't recall. Because people were coming to me saying, Roland, you should pursue that appointment, you're qualified, and this was --"
[Ed. note: OK, so you are NOT going to come clean.]
Tracy: "Is there anybody that comes to mind in that light that you can --"
[Ed. note: That is both a friend AND a person?]
Surely, here was one last chance for Burris to clear the air and mention his contacts with Harris, Wyma or the governor's brother. But who did he name?

Rich Barber, a friend of his from New Jersey.

Case closed.

And let's all give Mark Brown a round of applause. And now a round for the Chicago Sun-Times. Thank you, and good night.

*Postscript: Chicago's 10:00PM news is reporting that Burris has changed his story AGAIN. I wish I was making this up. Check the 2/18/09 Sun-Times for more details.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is NOT going to make the State Dept happy

Chavez wins bid to scrap term limits.

Some guesses from unnamed analysts:
But analysts also suggested that the comfortable victory will also embolden the government to confront serious economic challenges caused by a collapse in oil revenues.
And unnamed economists at Barclays:
Economists at Barclays suggest the government will soon implement a financial transaction tax, increase the value added tax rate and cut expensive subsidies on domestic petrol prices, which are some of the cheapest in the world.
'Nuff said.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some damn thing in the Balkans

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a great horror story in today's Int'l Herald Tribune.

(Some) highlights from the article:
The Vienna press said Bank Austria and its Italian owner Unicredit face a "monetary Stalingrad" in the East.
[Editor note: Hmmm.]
Eastern Europe has borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must repay – or roll over – $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's GDP.
In Poland, 60% of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just halved against the franc.
Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly – by lenders and borrowers – it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both. US banks are not.
Spain is up to its neck in Latin America, which has belatedly joined the slump (Mexico's car output fell 51pc in January, and Brazil lost 650,000 jobs in one month).
Britain and Switzerland are up to their necks in Asia.
. . . there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus.
IMF, which has already bailed out Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Iceland, and Pakistan – and Turkey next – and is fast exhausting its own $200bn (€155bn) reserve. We are nearing the point where the IMF may have to print money for the world, using arcane powers to issue Special Drawing Rights.
[Editor's note: What's this about Special Drawing Rights?]
Latvia's central bank governor has declared his economy "clinically dead" after it shrank 10.5pc in the fourth quarter.
Germany contracted at an annual rate of 8.4pc in the fourth quarter.
[Editor's note: I think we're well past arguments of Keynesian vs Austrian economics. Try, how long do you boil the water before it's safe for drinking? And what if I don't have a pot to boil it in?]

Friday, February 13, 2009

Do not judge me

[Romans 14:13] Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way OR COMMIT A HEINOUS TYPO.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We see your Guernica and raise you Dresden

While the US continues to wage two wars and threatens two more countries with hostilities, I thought it would a timely reminder to bring to your attention the 64th Anniversary of Dresden Fire Bombing. (February 13/14, 1945)

You may know of it from Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five." Kurt Vonnegut in interviews:
On Shrove Tuesday, February 13, 1945, a flood of refugees fleeing the Red Army 60 miles away had swollen the city's population to well over a million. Each new refugee brought fearful accounts of Soviet atrocities. Little did those refugees retreating from the Red terror imagine that they were about to die in a horror worse than anything Stalin could devise.
Howard Zinn, the noted historian, participated on a Dresden-lite bombing in the south of France. The awfulness of what he participated in led to his unflagging pursuit of America's hidden history.

There is no agreement on the number of victims. The CBC in October 2008 reported:
"A special commission in Germany says the Allied firebombing of Dresden in 1945 killed no more than 25,000 people — far fewer than scholars' previous estimates running as high as 135,000."
[Editor's note: Just 25,000 people.]

[Historian Tami Davis] Biddle makes the case that one of the Allied objectives for the Dresden raids was to create an obstacle, through the use of refugees, to hinder the German Wehrmacht’s attempts to reinforce the Eastern Front against the approaching Soviet offensive. She also notes that, unlike what one might have expected to happen at the beginning of the war, no debate occurred amongst Allied war leaders about the use of civilian refugees for this purpose. Biddle attributes this lack of debate to “hardened attitudes” among the war leaders at this stage of a long and exhausting war, as well as their anxiety about the conflict’s future direction in the immediate aftermath of the Ardennes offensive. Donald Bloxham contends that the bombing of Dresden was, in fact, a war crime: “

This is the underlying theme to remember: the United States has systematically targeted and killed large numbers of civilians to achieve strategic ends throughout its history, and continues to this day.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hey you mobsters, I'm the good guy here

From Markopolos' testimony to Congress, Wednesday 4 February 2009.

Race to the bottom

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting the following developments in California:

Several counties are considering some form of tax revolt—either filing lawsuits or delaying tax payments to the state—because the governor has proposed withholding payments to them for as long as seven months in a move to preserve cash.

Local governments already are missing out because the state has imposed a 30-day payment delay to counties.

Colusa County decided to impose a 30-day delay on sending any taxes and fees it collects to the state.

... the state could in turn withhold sales tax revenue from the counties because the state needs to ensure it has enough cash throughout the year to pay its debt.

Meanwhile, back in Illinois-
A tanking economy and "smoke-and-mirrors" fiscal approach by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to trigger an $8.95 billion budget shortfall come July 1, state Comptroller Dan Hynes is warning.

The federal economic-stimulus package could pump $3 billion into the state's coffers, but that still would leave the state facing a $6 billion gap, according to [Comptroller] Hynes.

The Southern (Southern Illinois newspaper) reports:
Patton said the national average reimbursement for Medicaid is around 30 days, but Illinois was 130 days behind at one point. However, a recent short-term borrowing plan has allowed Medicaid to catch up to about 80 to 90 days.

While Illinois won't be improving things anytime soon, California will be getting so much worse so much faster that we'll look great in comparison.

And one last thing - California now has the worst credit rating of all 50 states. They were tied with Louisiana for worst, but the latest downgrade left them all alone at the bottom.