Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rehypothecation and why everyone should know at least one Romance language

Courtesy of the ZH commenters on the re-hypothecation wheeze gradually being discovered by public.  At least the financial services public, who hopefully are getting this news out to the non-finance public.

[Spanish] hipoteca = mortgage

On Wednesday, 7 December 2011 Christopher Elias of Reuters dropped this bombshell:
MF Global and the great Wall St re-hypothecation scandal

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the implications of London's no-holds-bar on re-hypothecation, which I understand to believe that collateral can be pledged ad infinitum.  And because of that rule, MF Global shifted customers' collateral to its London branch to take advantage of that.  And because of that, the money wasn't stolen (it was, but rules and venues changed to cover the practice under the letter of the law) but LOST.  Like losing money at the blackjack table.

And you didn't even know you were gambling.  Have you figured out you're part of the 99% yet?

Monday, December 05, 2011

S&P gets okay to warn six European countries on downgrade

(Reuters) - "Standard & Poor's has warned Germany, France and four other AAA-rated euro zone countries that they might get downgraded in the next 90 days, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

S&P is poised to announce later on Monday that the credit ratings of those six countries -- which include the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Luxembourg -- are in credit watch negative, the FT said in a story published on its website."
So somebody gave the big green GO to S&P to do some saber-rattling.  And at the time of this writing, the market went from up 140 to up 60.  But yet, still up on the day.  Go figure.

Meanwhile, Europe saw this one coming and started making noises in October that sovereign debt shouldn't be rated.
[WSJ] EU Wants Ratings Firm to Relent on Troubled Nations
BRUSSELS—The European Commission is leaning toward proposing a ban on the issuing of sovereign credit ratings for countries in bailout talks, a top official said on Thursday.
"I think it's legitimate to have a special treatment when a country is in negotiation or is covered by an international solidarity program with the IMF or a European solidarity" program, said Michel Barnier, European internal market commissioner.
Mr. Barnier, rationalizer par excellence.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

How I Balanced My Budget, or, I'm Finding New Revenue Streams

Mentors are all around.  The press* reports on them constantly.  You have to willfully run away from the inspirational stories.

Mentor #1:  City of Chicago.  A daunting deficit is to be laughed at, ignored, and of course dined-and-dashed on the government scale.  In other words, stick the citizenry with the tab.
Suggestion #1: Get the scofflaw dog owners. Animal Control and Care Commission estimates only 5% of dogs have licenses. They. Must. Pay.
Fines could range $20 to $200. The license is $5. People are already paying a $6 tax per rabies shot, per year.
Suggestion #2: Those people who don't shovel the sidewalks? Get them. Ald. Tunney (44th) proposed fining homeowners who don't clear their sidewalks.  And for the ones who drop dead while doing so, the estate will be charged for that removal too.
Suggestion #3, and well on its way to reality: Speeding cameras. Red light cameras were such a revenue hit, let's ramp it up. Illinois Senate and House dutifully passed Mayor Emanuel's bill.
Suggestion #4: Just one city sticker per year. And make it the current year's sticker. None of this 2-3 old stickers on the windshield, turning it into a hangout for the City Sticker Gang.  Or pay $120 fine for improperly displayed sticker.
Mentor #2:  Cook County.  Toni Preckwinkle jumped from City Council to Cook County.  It's difficult to determine if it was a jump up, down, or lateral.
Suggestion #1: Make those slack-jawed unincorporated losers pay for the police protection they don't get. $150 a year.
Suggestion #2: Leave no sin tax unhiked. True to form, Preckwinkle proposes another $0.50 on the hard stuff. The current state/county/city troika on liquor taxes makes Chicago the highest-taxed city in the nation. We're Number One!
Suggestion #3: Get them in their civic duty. Charge for parking at the courthouses. About time the country recouped that $17.14 paid out to jurors. Say, we might even come ahead on the deal!
Suggestion #4: Can't believe we forgot to tax these: billiard tables. And jukeboxes.
Suggestion #5: Don't fail to kick a sucker when he's down. Jack the use tax on sale of titled property, such as real estate, cars, and boats.
Mentor #3: State of Illinois. In the great Combine of Illinois, two legs pay taxes, four legs don't.
Suggestion #1: Raise the personal and corporate income tax, then let big corporations negotiate a lower tax rate. Equal under the law - ha!
*Personal went from 3% to 5%; Corporate from 4.7% to 7%.
Suggestion #2: Don't raise the sin tax - raise the sin activity level. Springfield is trying to pass a gambling bill omnibus. A little something for everyone: a city-owned casino for Chicago; slots at horse tracks; 4 private casinos for the rest of the state.
This entry will be updated as more examples come pouring in.  And taxed appropriately.

*The corporate press, that is.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Occupy Chicago, aka Occupy LaSalle Street

Here’s what I’m doing to help Occupy Chicago:

I work in the Chicago Federal Reserve building but I do not work for the Fed, and Occupy Chicago is camped out right in front on LaSalle Street.

I make a point to encourage and talk to as many protesters when I enter and leave the building. I then immediately engage in a little small talk with Fed (armed) security, to drive home the point that I support these guys. I also prominently wear my Fed building ID and company ID (and if they want to think I’m with the REUTERS news arm of the company, so much the better).

Taking a page from Michael Rivero's book, I have pizzas delivered to the protesters. I hope they like Giordano’s because they’re a block down the street.

I printed up 10 copies of A) ACLU’s “Know Your Rights: Photographers”, B) ACLU’s “You Have Every Right To Photograph A Cop”, and C)’s article on the Illinois State Court throwing out the charges against Michael Allison and distributed to the campers.  It's one thing to know your rights, it's another to show them in writing to law enforcement.

I also use chalk to write slogans throughout Chicago’s financial district. My current favorite is Vichy Chicago, but friends keep telling me it could be misinterpreted as “Viva Chicago.”

Chicago’s Fed is at LaSalle and Jackson, across the street from Bank of America (in the old Continental Bank of Illinois – how apropos) and the Chicago Board of Trade/Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It really is Chicago’s Ground Zero.

I’ll be there on Sunday, 2 October 2011, and if I get any great footage I’ll post it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maybe the CPD manpower shortage isn't as acute as we thought

Chicago's Police Department is so understaffed that Rahm Emanuel made it a campaign issue.  Why, if he were elected he'd put another 1000 cops on the street.

On 14 September 2011, Sun-Times reporter/columnist Mark Brown noted:
At least half the police officers that Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy have redeployed since May to help them say they’ve met that goal were already working ON THE STREET fighting crime.
Mark Brown doesn't note, however, that CPD's union contract permits full-paid time off of 12 months out of every 24 month period.  Colleagues of mine thought that statement couldn't possibly be true.  I agreed - it seemed hyperbolic.  So I went to the current FOP contract:
Section 18.2 — Non-I.O.D.
Any officer absent from work on account of non-I.O.D. injury or illness for any period of time not exceeding twelve (12) months in any twenty-four (24) consecutive month period, shall receive full pay and benefits for the period of absence, provided such injury or illness is certified by the Medical Services Section. Such certification shall not be unreasonably withheld.
 I.O.D., incidentally, is injury on duty.  That is covered in a preceding section.

Maybe if the cops had sick leave allowances that were reality-based, the manpower shortage wouldn't be so acute.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sun-Times round-up for Thursday 22 September 2011

Is today the first day of fall?  No.  Tomorrow, Friday, 23 September 2011 is.  So I overslept today on the last day of the year with more than 12 hours of sunlight.  Curses.

And now, on to the Sun-Times round-up.

Tony Bennett found a very mild way to express his feelings of 9/11 and got lambasted for it.  Oh, the online version has excised the actual comment!  Checking the print edition - they don't have it either.  Here's the incendiary lines:
"They flew the plane in but we caused it," ... "Because we were bombing them and they told us to stop. Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don't make a right."
 Buried on page 25 is this:  U.S. House kills spending bill with disaster aid.  The bill included $3.7 bn for disaster relief (read:  $3.7bn for FEMA) and rejected 230-195 in a coalition largely made up of Democrats and Tea Partiers.
[Ed. note:  This, by the way, is what they're blaming the market tanking on.  The DOW was down 391.01 (-3.51%).  This would mean that Asia & Europe plunges were also due to this, which is farcical.]

Maybe the markets plunged on this:  O'Hare $8 car rental fee may rise to help fund more parkingThe good news is that L.A. travelers are extorted for an $18 rental car fee.  The bad news - well, let the article lay it out for you:
At the time, officials described the $8 "customer facility charge" as a starting point and said the fee would go higher if the people mover system was extended to the new rental car campus instead of simply consolidating the companies' shuttle bus operations.
Wunderbar.  With TSA goons staffing every airport do they really think airline travel is going to increase?  (Leading to the mythical car rentals, natch.)

Down at City Hall, Ald. Burke in a bid to stay covered by the press echoes "Top cop has power to close stations."  From the article:
The chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee acknowledged Wednesday that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy could “unilaterally close police stations” without City Council approval and said Chicago’s financial crisis is “so dire” that the closings must be considered. . . Former Mayor Richard M. Daley once embraced a consultant’s proposal to close seven police stations to free 400 officers for community policing, only to abandon the idea and start building new police stations.
Starts to paint a picture on why the city is a microcosm of how f*cked the country is.

And then there are the Cook County Commissioners.  They voted 17-0 earlier in 2011 to take 5 furlough days and 5 shutdown days - 10 days without pay.  But now that the end of year is nigh, William Beavers and Earlean Collins don't want to take them.  Beavers asserts that the state Constitution bars any reduction or increase in a sitting official's salary.  Not sure about that, but if that's true then Beavers & Collins should be indicted for fraud since they knowingly voted for a bill that was illegal, with no intent to fulfill their duty.  And if they used a buzzer to vote, get them on wire fraud.
[Update:  Fellow Democrat commissioners Murphy, Sims, and Steele have now joined Beavers & Collins in repudiating their 26 February 2011 vote to take 10 days w/o pay.]

Back to the city, new head chosen for the CHA.  And he's from Charlotte, NC.  Emanuel is sticking to policy of hiring people from outside Chicago.  Way, way, way outside Chicago.  (Cf. Jean Brizard, Gerry McCarthy.)  Don't know what his qualifications are, don't care.

And a Chicago cop story to round it out:  Cop's lie made woman miss sister's burial.
Debra Green's sister passed away and she was in the funeral procession to the cemetery.  Officer Sylshina London was late for work and weaving in and out of the procession.  When Green called her on it, London radio'd 10-1 (officer in need of assistance) and claimed Green threw a bottle at her and hit her in the head.  A CPD blue light camera contradicted Sylshina's claim.  Now SHE'S charged with felony perjury for lying in Green's trial.  Neighbors said Sylshina moved to North Carolina.

One last thing.  Richard Roeper's column today addressed the two American "hikers" who were released by Iran this week.  His insipid headline:  Hiking near Iranian border probably not good idea.
I know: they’re not the only American civilians to have visited Northern Iraq. We’re told Iraqi Kurdistan is safe for tourism and people are welcoming to Americans. It’s the “other Iraq,” as many websites put it, a “popular tourist destination for people living in the Middle East.” The hikers were experienced world travelers. Bauer and Shourd were living in Damascus. Bauer is fluent in Arabic.
"We're told Iraqi Kurdistan is safe for tourism?"  Who is the "we" there?  After thinking this over, I think it's Roeper that's the idiot and not that he's taking his readers for one.  Although his regular readers probably are.
The Republic of Iran says they illegally entered the country and engaged in espionage. Bauer is a journalist. Fattal is an environmentalist and teacher. Shourd, who has battled serious health problems, is an educator and social worker.
Hold on.  On those alleged vocations, and health issues, and two are living in Damascus, and they're hiking in IRAN?  And one's fluent in Arabic?  That doesn't stink of intelligence assets?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Indian train goes wrong way, no one notices

An allegory of every U.S. company betting on India.

Indian train travels 980km in wrong direction
As the packed service pulled into the Indian city of Warangal people on board went berserk as they realised they were five hours away from where they should have been and no staff on board had noticed.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

9/08/2011 Round-up on Sun-Times columnists

Lynn Sweet's column in the paper is headlined "The tax break you don't know you have."

From the article:
No one I’ve asked over the past few months can tell me the amount of cash Obama has put in their pocket. And it’s clear the people I’ve been chatting with — friend and foe of Obama — had no idea they were getting a tax break. Maybe it’s a result of so much direct deposit that people don’t study pay stubs anymore or a matter of financial literacy or confusing messaging from the White House.

The online version changed the headline to "Obama's jobs speech to pitch extension of payroll tax cut." Maybe that's because someone pointed to her that at the same time the payroll tax was cut by 2% Illinois jacked the income tax 2% so no, Lynn, there was no change in our paychecks.

Oddly, I couldn't retrieve Roeder's column today, "Markets Hop on Hope." He attributes yesterday's market to the announcement that Obama will announce a proposal for a jobs package. Not one word on the German court capitulating on the bail-outs.

From the 9/07/2011 Sun-Times:  Cops Crack Down On Phony Sick Leave
Chicago cops have a generous medical-leave policy. Under their contract, they’re allowed 365 days of sick leave every two years.
Ich bin ein Scmuck.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

DTCC, OCC stand pat on U.S. Treasuries

Timmy Geithner reassures the President, and by extension the country (presumably) that he will NOT resign.  Strangely, DTCC and OCC haven't reversed course on their U.S. Treasuries as collateral position.

O[ption] C[learing] C[orporation] said today it has no current plans to adjust its current valuations or haircuts on Treasury Securities used as collateral in light of the Standard & Poor's rating change on U.S. sovereign debt.

The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. told traders that its Fixed Income Clearing Corp. subsidiary would not immediately require more Treasurys to be posted to maintain required collateral levels for outstanding trades, signaling that one of the biggest U.S. clearinghouse operators did not anticipate a dramatic slide in the value of U.S. debt following the S&P downgrade.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The chips are falling

A casual trip through Zero Hedge alerted me to the fact that Germany won't commit 133% of their GDP to save Italy, let alone Spain. 
So, I reacted the way I usually react:  find the supporting articles from mainstream publications and throw the links up on Facebook with semi-snarky commentary.

Here are the three (3) I threw up in quick succession Saturday afternoon.

My comment: The New Zealand Stock Exchange opens 8am Monday, 3:00pm Sunday Chicago time.

My comment: This man is lying: Francois Baroin, France's finance minister, who would chair such a meeting under the French presidency of the G7 and G20, said in a radio interview it was too early to say whether there would be an early G7 meeting.

And finally, this:
My comment: "Mr Trichet said mounting speculation that Italy would be unable to pay its share of the second Greek bailout package was ridiculous." There is nothing ridiculous about bankrupt countries bailing out other bankrupt countries. *The U.S. through the IMF is also bailing out European countries.

Game on!

Friday, August 05, 2011

S&P Said They Were Going To Do It. And They Did It.

Way after market close on Friday, 5 August 2011, S&P downgraded the U.S. from AAA to AA+.

In other news, I think I deciphered why the White Sox mega-suck this year (although they managed to beat the Twins 5-3 at Minnesota tonight).  They're part of the Resistance, trying to overthrow the Vichy Chicago regime.

The First Rule of Panic: If you are going to panic, do so before everyone else does.

Northern Rock bank run, September 2007.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The South Shore Sinkhole ate the stock market

Not a great day in the markets,and if you want me to be more specific than not a great day in ANY market.  Every flipping bourse closed down, down, down doobie down.

Reuters:  Wall Street suffers worst sell-off in two years
FT: Global stock sell-off accelerates
Bloomberg:  Japan stocks plunge most since March amid global equities rout
     Bloomberg resists the urge to use "sell-off."
IBD:  U.S. stocks pummeled on economic worries
The Guardian:  Police raid Milan offices of Moody's and Standard and Poors
Sydney Morning Herald:  Black magic behind sharemarket carnage
     From this article:  After the ASX opened today, shares fell 4.4 per cent on the All Ordinaries Index, or 192.3 points, to a two-year low of 4160.6. The dive adds to the $65 billion or so lost since Tuesday.

So that's good news.  The rapine of stock markets continues, rolling west from PacRim to Europe to Americas to PacRim again.

Oh, and gold & oil sold off.  Margin calls.

Meanwhile, the South Shore Sinkhole at 70th Street and Oglesby is growing.  That Sheltie in the lower left corner better be careful.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Beware of Greeks bearing yogurt

I found out that you should never have super-fiber oatmeal and Greek yogurt in the same meal unless you want to be incapicated 6 hours later.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The July 18 2011 round-up

The Murdoch/media empire story not only has grown legs, but is jumping hurdles like an Olympian.

A whistleblower, former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, was found dead today (10:40am GMT).  The UK Guardian reports "The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing."

Just like Gary Webb and Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide.

The two top London cops got off comparitively easy - they resigned.  BBC reports:  "The Met has lost its highly respected Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson and its top counter-terrorism policeman, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who have both resigned over the phone hacking scandal."

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic Egan-Jones downgraded U.S. debt.  Gold is at 1603.9 and silver at 40.295 at the time of this writing.  Equities and bonds are both selling off:  DJIA at 12,350.65, -128.70.  The 30 year US Treasury is at 125 13/32, down 20/32.  (When the price goes down, yield goes up.)

And Bank of America (BAC), ahead of their Q2 report Tuesday, 7/19/2011, admits it needs to raise capital and therefore will not increase the dividend.  The stock is at 9.73, down only 0.27 on 165.42 million shares traded.  Nothing nefarious going on there.

And Goldman's Sigma-X platform is showing UK banking stocks under attack, just like Italian banks were under attack 3 weeks ago.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Soxo-Twin War of 2011 Continues

Live blogging the Friday 8 July 2011 Twins-Sox game.

1st inning, Twins go up 1-0.  I couldn't take it and turned to the Mary Tyler Moore show on 26.3 (MeTV).  Turned back to see Konerko drive Alexie Ramirez in with a double.  PaulStar!  Then I stuck around and saw Adam (Grand Canyon) Dunn hit a monster home run to right center.  Now Quention hits a double.  1 out.  His 25th double.

I'd like to see a 20-1 game to ease that debacle I saw in 2009.  Criminy.

7:30pm Bottom of 1st, mound visit by Twins pitching coach.  3-1, Sox.

And it's fair - Rios doubles, bringing in Quentin.  Yes!  They get AJ to bounce out to 2nd, moving Rios to 3rd. And there's a base hit for Beckham, bringing in Rios.
5-1, Sox.
And Beckham steals 2nd during Morel's at-bat.
Oh yeah, and it's still the first inning.  Morel grounds out to shot but the Sox put a crooked number up.

Gavin Floyd #34 is pitching.  Let's hope he keeps focus and doesn't mentally wander through the poppy fields.

2nd Inning - top
Ah jeez.  Floyd walks a dude after giving up a hit.
Strikes out Tolbert.  Whew.
3rd out is a grounder to Floyd. Take that, Twinkies.
You know what the problem with live blogging is?  The internet is beckoning you from the other browser tabs.
Two outs, no runners.  PK is up to bat again.  PaulStar!  *He won the Final Man vote for the All-Star game in Phoenix.  It works out since he was going home for the All-Star break anyway.  And this is the 3rd time a Sock has won the Final Man vote:   Podsednik in 2005, AJ Pierzynski in 2006, and now PK in 2011.

And Konerko singles this time.  And Dunn strikes out.  Everything's back to normal.

3rd Inning
I'm taking a slight break to catch Bob Newhart on MeTV.
8:13pm Commercial break, switched back to the game.  Bad news - still top of the 3rd.  Bases loaded.  2 out.  For crying out loud.  And I can't get my bottle of Blue Goodness open.  A budding catastrophe.
Sweet pickup by Morel and the side is retired.
5-2, Sox.

8:22pm Commercial break, switched back to Sox game.  They're on a commercial break too.

Sweet Moses, it's the top of the 4th, still 5-2.

8:27pm Bob Newhart is over.  Switched back just in time to see Floyd plunk ?, to load the bases.  Cooper's at the mound and he doesn't look happy.  And he shouldn't.  I'm not happy.  Floyd is 4-9 lifetime against Minnesota.  Yuck.  Twins are 8-0 for last 8 games played at Comiskey.  Come on.
Cuddyer gets a base hit, one run in.
5-3, Sox.
Strikes out ?.  Who cares.  Got a Twin to strike out.  Bases still loaded, 2 outs.
Twins drive in 2 more, to tie the mother-flipping game, fans are booing, and Floyd's getting the hook.  #77 Will Ohman's coming in. Still 2 outs.
5-5.  Awesome.
Ohman breaks the ice by giving up a home run - 3 runs score.
5-8, Twins.  Now I have to focus on what I'll enjoy at Sunday's game because clearly it won't be the overall game.
And finally this nightmare inning is over.
Box score
          Twins 8     10     0
          Sox    5      5      0

Pathetic.  And no Newhart to pull me away from this.

8:48pm Bottom of the 4th.  Just a note - this game started at 7:10pm.  So it's going to be slow and painful.
Minnesota SP Blackburn's got to be relieved.
Meanwhile, Max has rethought his position on raw eggs.  He likes them.  Too bad for him that Flurry knew from the get-go she liked them and licked the bowls clean.
#1 Juan Pierre singled, #10 Alexei batting.
Max just realized there's a baseball game on (this means he rushes the TV and barks).
Infield-bleeping-fly rule.  For chrissakes.
PK's up.  Blackburn's on pitch 87.  In the bottom of the 4th.  And it's 8:58pm.  I would be close to suicidal if actually at the game.
Walked PK.  Adam "Grand Canyon" Dunn is up.  Two outs.  Please god don't let him strike out AGAIN.
I'm diverting myself by reading up on vitamin and mineral supplements.  My back-up American League team, for seasons such as this when the Sox closely resemble an extinct sulphur pit - smelly and useless, is the Cleveland Indians.
Stone is commenting on the Human Rain Delay, Nick Blackburn.  And Mauer takes his time sending the sign.  I hate Minnesota so much.
I couldn't take a Dunn strikeout.  I flipped to "My Name Is Earl" on WPWR.
Naturally, it's a commercial break so I go back to the game and it's a commercial break too.  So my plan worked - I missed Dunn's strikeout.  (I just checked GameCast - Dunn did strike out, swinging.)

9:12pm  The good news is that the Twins haven't scored any more runs.  Of course, neither have the Sox.  And it's the top of the 5th.  There's going to be a spike in the suicide rate tonight.
Sox pick off a wandering Twinkie, and finally the top of the inning is over.

9:30pm  Should I flip back to the game?  Sure, I'm a gambler.  Top of the 6th, still 8-5 Twins.  For gawds sake.
9:59pm  Well, I'm back to the Sox game.  And it's a commercial break.
Cleveland lost to Toronto.  Crap.  Detroit's beating Kansas City.  Who cares.
And that's that.  3 up, 3 down and off to the 8th inning.

10:27pm Going into the bottom of the 9th.  And it's still 8-5, Twins.
10:32pm This game is o-vah.  Call it!

Twins 8
Sox 5

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Bonds are forever, but the ratings don't have to be

Moody's, belatedly, is gettting real on ratings reviews of sovereigns and the EU is not happy about it.

Greece was downgraded to JUNK by Moody's in June 2010.

Portugal got their rating whacked today*.  Spain and Italy were put on notice.
*From Baa1 to Ba2.  Not impressed?  Who can be with raters and their archaic hoodoo voodoo.

Ireland is one grade above JUNK (what is that, Junk+?).
[BusinessWeek] Moody, which slashed Portugal to Ba2 from Baa1, in April lowered Ireland’s credit rating to the lowest investment grade Baa3 and left country’s outlook on negative.
For comparison, let's see how Iceland is doing.
[Bloomberg]  The credit rating companies that were too slow in predicting Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008 may be underestimating the strength of its resurrection.

Fitch Ratings said in May it may take two years for the island to shed its junk status, while Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s give Iceland their lowest investment grades. That hasn’t deterred investors from trying to buy twice the amount offered in last month’s $1 billion bond sale as the island returned to global capital markets less than three years after its banks defaulted on $85 billion in debt.  "When you look at how successful that auction was, it's clear that investors are now crunching the numbers themselves and that the credit grades from the rating agences are less relevant," Valdimar Armann, an economist at Reykjavik-based asset manager Gamma, said in a July 4 interview.
Possibly the EU is drawing the wrong lesson from the Iceland story.  No, no - I jest.  They want to bury Iceland.  How dare they recover!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keeping it simple

Today's posting is action oriented. Get some chalk and write your protests everywhere.
For my part, I'm chalking downtown Chicago with "Vichy Chicago," "Outlaw The Fed," Up The Republic," and "Nobody Expects the Spanish Revolution."  That should go over well at Taste of Chicago time, in a week.

I got the last one from signs I saw in the Puerta del Sol Square protests in Madrid, Spain.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The CIA coup prior to JFK's assassination

Try this on for size:
May 1 1960 Gary Powers crashed in his U2 near Sverdlovsk, 1200 miles inside Russian territory.
 It was reported that the Russians shot the plane down, but photographs show no such damage. Fletcher Prouty writes in "The Secret Team" that the plane did not get its full allotment of hydrogen, necessary to power the engines at 60,000 feet. It stalled and forced Powers to land within Russian territory.
Why? Well, let's take a look at what happened in the wake of the U2 incident.
Eisenhower's long-planned Peace Summit, scheduled for May 16 1960, was scuttled.
How handy for the military industrial complex that Powers' U2 crashed/shot down two weeks prior to the summit.
The summit was designed to bring Eisenhower, MacMillan, DeGaulle, and Kruschev together to, among other things, end nuclear testing, put a cap on nuclear weapons, and erase the Iron Curtain.
Kruschev offered Eisenhower a way out - saying a rogue action by a US agency or department would not adversely impact the Summit. Apparently Eisenhower weighed his options and decided he couldn't admit that and took public blame for the U2 flights.
Learning this story leads one to Eisenhower's warning against the military industrial complex in his farewell seech.  No one ever speculates why the warning was made. Until now, I've only wondered if he was so damn worried about it, why didn't he do something during his two terms. Now I think I know why.
So this changes the timeline when the Washington fell to an intelligence coup - not JFK's assassination but May 1960.
Well, well, well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Morgan Stanley does jingle mail - again

Morgan Stanley is bailing on Tokyo properties.

Morgan Stanley fund fails to repay debt on Tokyo property

(Reuters) - A Morgan Stanley property fund failed to make $3.3 billion in debt payments by a deadline on Friday, handing over the keys to a central Tokyo office building to Blackstone (BX.N) and other investors, the largest repayment failure of its kind in Japan.
[Ed. note: MS does jinge mail - again.]

It marks the latest fallout from a series of highly leveraged investments by Morgan Stanley (MS.N), one of the most aggressive investors in worldwide property markets before the global financial crisis.

The $4.2 billion MSREF V real estate fund missed its April 15 deadline to repay 278 billion yen($3.3 billion) worth of debt packaged in commercial mortgage-backed securities on the 32-storey Shinagawa Grand Central Tower, a property which has seen its value plunge, two people involved in the transaction said.
[Ed. note: Did that value plunge occur after 11 March 2011?]

They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
[Ed. note: Thank god for Anonymous, or else we'd learn precious little.]

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman in Tokyo declined to comment. A New York based spokesman for Blackstone, which holds the most junior portion of the debt and gains the right to market the building for seven months, was not immediately available for comment.
[Ed. note: The Blackstone spokesman was strangling the Morgan Stanley spokesman.]

This is the largest repayment failure of debt packaged in CMBS in Japan, according to analysts and industry experts, bigger than the 112 billion yen that real estate investor K.K. daVinci Holdings failed to pay on the Pacific Century Place office building.
[Ed. note: The largest repayment failure so far.]

MSREF V bought the Shinagawa property for 140 billion yen in 2004 from Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T) and Mitsubishi Motors (7211.T). The building now houses Microsoft's Japan offices among other tenants.

Morgan Stanley repackaged the loans into 125 billion yen worth of CMBS in 2005, according to a website for Morgan Stanley.

Taking advantage of a run-up in property prices, MSREF V refinanced its debt on the Shinagawa property in 2007 with new debt worth 278 billion yen, twice the value of its purchase and likely yielding a tidy profit for the fund.

The refinanced debt was sold in six different tranches by Morgan Stanley to investors.
[Ed. note: Six tranches of pissed-offed-ness.]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Turning Japanese in Massachusetts

Based on medium-case scenarios out of Fukushima, cClearly it would be foolish to cut back on ANY vices at this juncture because frankly, you just won't have time to die of alcoholism or drug addiction before the Cesium-137 gets you.

From Press-TV
Traces of radioactive iodine linked to quake-hit Japan's nuclear power plant have been found in rainwater samples taken last week in Massachusetts, US.
The low level of radioiodine-131detected in Massachusetts rainwater samples is comparable to the amounts found in California, Washington and Pennsylvania.
However, what the story doesn't cite is the plutonium seeping into water & ground. Plutonium (alpha emitter) can decay into far more deadly materials after after a short period of time. Plutonium-241 can decay into Americium-241, which is a gamma-ray emitter.

What are alpha emitters? From Princeton:
An alpha particle consists of two neutrons and two protons ejected from the nucleus of an atom. The alpha particle is identical to the nucleus of a helium atom. Examples of alpha emitters are radium, radon, thorium, and uranium.

Because alpha particles are charged and relatively heavy, they interact intensely with atoms in materials they encounter, giving up their energy over a very short range. In air, their travel distances are limited to no more than a few centimeters. As shown in the following illustration, alpha particles are easily shielded against and can be stopped by a single sheet of paper.
So, those workers at the plants are dead ducks. And everything leaking into the ground & water could mutate into gamma emitters.

What are gamma emitters? From Idaho State University:
After a decay reaction, the nucleus is often in an “excited” state. This means that the decay has resulted in producing a nucleus which still has excess energy to get rid of. Rather than emitting another beta or alpha particle, this energy is lost by emitting a pulse of electromagnetic radiation called a gamma ray. The gamma ray is identical in nature to light or microwaves, but of very high energy.
Like all forms of electromagnetic radiation, the gamma ray has no mass and no charge. Gamma rays interact with material by colliding with the electrons in the shells of atoms. They lose their energy slowly in material, being able to travel significant distances before stopping. Depending on their initial energy, gamma rays can travel from 1 to hundreds of meters in air and can easily go right through people.
It is important to note that most alpha and beta emitters also emit gamma rays as part of their decay process. However, their is no such thing as a “pure” gamma emitter. Important gamma emitters including technetium-99m which is used in nuclear medicine, and cesium-137 which is used for calibration of nuclear instruments.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chernobyl goes east

Sun-Times reports that Tokyo residents clean out shelves of bottled water, and other supplies.  It is now admitted that tap water is not safe for adults.

Today's reports state mustard spinach in Tokyo have radiation levels above acceptable limits.

But there is some good news:  GE reported $5.1 billion in profits for 2010 and a tax credit of $3.2 billion.  Well played, GE.

And the latest part of the world to go up in flames:  Syria forces fire on protesters.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maybe it does start with a bang

Thursday, 10 March 2011, shortly before midnight Chicago time (CST) a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan. Then the tsunami struck. And a chain of volcanoes from Russia to Indonesia erupted - going out on limb here, probably tripped by the epic earthquake. Then six (as of now) nuclear reactors' cooling systems are failing or failed.

What next for Japan?

The Japanese stock markets plunged on open, triggering circuit breakers. Financial Times reports the Bank of Japan plowed Y7 trillion into the markets to prop them up.  Yen worldwide is being repatriated to invest in repairing/rebuilding Japan.  What is not reported in that article but should be assumed is the Fed doing the same plunge protection in the Sunday overnight futures markets and ready for the Monday open of US markets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

When it rains, it erupts

Japan was struck by a 9.1 earthquake at 11:45pm CT (upgraded from an earlier reported 8.9).

In the wake of this tragedy, an Indonesian volcano erupted.
One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, Mount Karangetang, erupted Friday, sending lava and searing gas clouds down its slopes.  The 1784-meter mountain is located on Siau, part of the Sulawesi island chain. It last erupted in August, killing four people. The eruption occurred hours after a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan and triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami.
Over in East Java, Mount Bromo is now erupting.

And two volcanoes in eastern Russia are erupting.
Two volcanoes in Eastern Russia , Kamchatka and one other in Indonesia, have erupted around the same time as the Japan 8.9-magnitude Earthquake on Friday.
And Japan has problems with some of their nuclear reactors.
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it lost control of pressure building at three reactors at one of its nuclear power plants, and radiation levels are rising at another after a powerful earthquake shut down the plants’ cooling systems.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wartime sucks

Because it means that sometimes even those you despise say things you agree with.

Latest case in point: [Resident Commissioner Pedro] Pierluisi said Gutiérrez “went too far” when he took to the House floor Wednesday urging members of Congress to eye what he called human and civil rights violations in the “U.S. colony of Puerto Rico.”
I can't believe he had the cojones to call it like it is for the record.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Saudis are getting restless

Thanks to Zero Hedge for this tip:  Saudis ramping up for a protest against the monarchy on March 20 2011.

And where better to get the word out than Facebook?  Riyadh expected to shut down access shortly.

Meanwhile, 50% Libya's oil production is offline.  Italy gets 425k barrels A DAY.  Italy is hosed.  And Libya exports the sweet crude - not the heavy sour that gets shipped out of the Middle East.

Brent hit $111.
WTI hit $100.
The moves in the last two trading days undid just about every penny of QE1 and QE2.  Bernanke, your plane is leaving.

America, meet your Arab Unrest moment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lots of players in this game

I think we're now at the point that it's time to move attention from the countries in open revolt (see LIBYA) and look for the ones about to break out.

Ivory Coast extended their ban on exports, roiling the cocoa markets further.
The country's first election in a decade descended into a bloody standoff after incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to winner Alassane Ouattara. Dealers now fear the country's cocoa industry may bear the brunt of the ongoing crisis as Mr. Ouattara has extended the ban until March 10, according to media reports citing his government's spokesman. Fresh clashes erupted between supporters of the rival presidents Monday, with army gunfire killing one civilian and injuring more than a dozen, as African leaders launched a new bid to break the impasse.
Zimbabwe arrests 54 for watching Al Jazeera coverage of Egypt and Tunisia to help inspire revolt.  Lawyers said at least 7 showed signs of torture.

Egypt granted permission on 18 February 2011 for Iran warships to pass through the Suez, and today they navigated the canal into the Meditrerranean.

Bolivian unions struck on Friday, 18 February 2011, over soaring food and transport costs.

Another country on the edge, Mexico could escalate from civil war to conflagerations crossing borders.  Actually, it already has but it is easy to marginalize Arizona and Texas' south border for now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Add Libya and Morocco to the list

Libyan protests are ramping up and the Gaddafis have taken a different set of lessons from the Tunisia and Egypt protests:  kill everyone as quickly as possible.  That, and drop the big threats early.  Saif Gaddafi, son of the Colonel, threatened civil war and destruction of the oil revenues.

Now Moroccans are marching, demanding the king cede powers to the newly elected government.  The king's response?  He will not kowtow to demagoguery.

So North Africa and the Middle East are up in flames.  Wisconsin's on the edge over public unions, Washington could be shut down over budget impasse March 4.  Chicago's mayoral election is February 22 and Ireland's general election is February 25.  The French and Greeks are protesting.  Where is the next weak link in the chain?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Anyone who had Mozilo in the Scapegoat pool is now OUT

From the Daily Bell:
According to Los Angeles Times' sources, Angelo Mozilo has been the subject of a secret federal criminal investigation since 2008, and the 3-year investigation has now been officially closed with no indictments.
Good thing the press had the Wisconsin 14 for distraction.

Event Horizon in Libya & Bahrain?

It's been said many times over the past 2.5 years, but things are accelerating to an alarming degree.  Take, for instance, the past 96 hours.  Wednesday I have an outpatient procedure which took me out of the news loop effectively until today.

So today I had to get caught up on:
A)  The Wisconsin 14 hiding out in Illinois.  As if WE are the beacon in the darkness.
B) Ray McGovern gets roughed up while silently protesting a speech by Sec. Hillary Clinton.  Naturally, this occurred while she lauded the merits of peaceful protest.
C) Protesters in Bahrain and Libya mowed down by police state agents.  Zero Hedge links to a Libyan boy killed by a sniper.

Not to forget where the causes of this ramp-up in revolution is coming from (read:  hyperinflationary food prices that will be coming to the United States soon) the insolvent Irish banks are issuing Euro-denominated bonds to themselves.  Yes, they are printing money, Virginia.

Very quietly, the Icelanders are bouncing back and arresting the banksters.  Those facts are related.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Liberman is the Pied Piper of Congress

Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY) bolted from the House of Representatives, shouting to Speaker Boehner as he ran past, "I quit!"

Why did Chris Lee leave so suddenly?  It seems he admits he sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman on Craigslist.  Really.  This could possibly be the LAMEST reason for resigning from Congress.

Over at the Senate, Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Jim Webb (D-VA) announce they won't seek reelection.  Did Lieberman cast some voodoo spell over them?  If you're keeping score, Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) also announced within the last month they're not going for the gold again either.

So the only way to get turnover in Congress is for those slack-jawed rats to retire?  Of course not.  It means that every election, nationwide, is fixed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

And now the Suez is a front in the Egypt revolt

Business Insider picks up a story from Ahram Online:
According to Ahram Online (via NYT), the first worker strike at the uber-important Suez canal have gone on strike. 6,000 workers are sitting in. Specifically they are opposing weak pay and bad conditions.

So far there's been no disruptions. That doesn't mean there won't be.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Note this, because they'll do it to you

A Whistler, BC resort's business slumped in the wake of the 2010 Vancover Olympics so they killed 100 of their employees. The Canadian National Post reports:
Reports surfaced Monday that an unidentified man involved in the dogsledding operation was granted workers’ compensation after developing post-traumatic stress disorder for allegedly being forced to kill the dogs.
Wait, there's more.
There are provisions in the SPCA act that allow for Criminal Code charges and Moriarty [BC SPCA] said this case warrants them: “Dogs crawling around in a mass grave; half of one’s face blown off — if those actions don’t constitute Criminal Code offence, I don’t know what does.
Mark this.  What people do to dogs they'll do to people, and they'll do it a lot faster with less guilt.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Never let a distraction go to waste

While everyone's looking at Egypt* Israel is massing troops along the Lebanon border.

*Pretty impressive Million Man March today though.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sudan is mad as hell now

Khartoum is down the Nile from Cairo and they're not happy either.

Police clash with students in Khartoum

And if you're wondering about that referendum, 99% of South Sudan voted for splitsville.

So much for the NFL being recession proof

At least 16 NFL clubs have announced they will not raise prices for their 2011 tickets, with two teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers, rolling some prices back.

The Bears have not made a decison on an increase, spokesman Scott Hagel said. For some teams, the sting of empty seats from the past season may affect the decision. The Buccaneers had all eight of their games blacked out because they failed to sell out, while the Chargers (three blackouts) and Cincinnati Bengals (four) had similar woes.

For other teams, such as the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots — who all made the playoffs and still decided to forgo price hikes — the ongoing fight over the soon-to-expire collective bargaining agreement, and the potential for a work stoppage, may be influencing the decision. Last year, 18 teams raised prices.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Charlotte Airport somewhat unclear on securing the premises

On November 19 2010 (week before Thanksgiving) an undercover TSA agent bribed a JetBlue agent in Charlotte NC to sneak a bag on board and assign it to a different passenger.  How much did it cost?  $100.  Life's cheap in the South.

This would be bad enough except the week prior to this Charlotte had another security misadventure.*  A North Mecklenburg HS student, Delvonte Tisdale, snuck onto the tarmac, climbed into the wheel well of an airplane, and then the mutilated body fell to the earth when the plane prepared to land in Boston.  Guess that high school kid was smart enough to outwit TSA (sure, that's setting the bar pretty low), but failed to account for the fact he'd freeze to death at 35,000 feet.

*I say misadventure, you say breach.  Law enforcement also says breach.

The Italians aren't happy, and worse - they're starting to figure things out


[January 27] is held in Italy as a memorial for those who died fighting against Benito Mussolini's fascist government before and during World War II.

Davide Boni of the Northern League Party told Press TV, “People have been talking out against the Northern League and Silvio Berlusconi for years but nothing ever changes. It is just a tactic to sell more newspapers and divert attention away from other problems. The Left plays a part of this game as they are the ones who keep bringing this question up.” 

Italy has seen a wave of protests directed at the Berlusconi regime. On Wednesday, a nationwide transportation strike caused heavy delays as workers protested government spending cuts for public transportation.

Davos soldiers on

No pun intended.

They're still talking smack at Davos, while Tunisia showed support for Egyptian protesters.  British PM Cameron went out on a limb, telling the Davos World Economic Forum it that it was "frankly ridiculous" that the Doha round of world trade talks had so far limped on for a decade.

Good for you, Cameron.  Don't let the fact North Africa is on fire divert you.  Or that Cairo police beat up a BBC correspondent with steel pipes.  Or that ElBaradei was hit by police water cannons.  Reportedly he's under "house arrest" now.  Whatever the fuck that means in a Cairo under siege.

Syria's panicking, Mubarak calls out the military

Being reported:  Syria shutting down internet access.  Syria, did you notice how that did not stop things in Egypt?

UK Telegraph with every other major media outlet is reporting that Mubarak has called in the military, including tanks, and other sources report shoot-to-kill orders are issued.  From the Telegraph:
Protesters cheering the police who joined them and hoisted them on their shoulders in one of the many dramatic and chaotic scenes across Egypt on Friday.

After chasing the police, thousands of protesters were able to flood into the huge Tahrir Square downtown after being kept out most of the day by a very heavy police presence. Few police could be seen around the square after the confrontation.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's over, it's all over

The Illinois Supremes voted 7-0 to put Emanuel back on the ballot.  Does this mean the two Appellate justices who took him off are in TROUBLE?

The Sun-Times is happy.  The Tribune is happy.  The CME, CBOE, Citadel, and assorted hedge funds are happy.  The fucking suburbanites are happy.

Who's not happy?  I'm not happy.  That fucking jagoff.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Protests in Egypt

Reuters links it to the Tunisian protests which began December 17 2010 when a man immolated himself in response to police harassment.  President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia on January 14 2011.  Protests today in Cairo and other cities were preceded by lawyer Mohamed Farouk Hassan, 52, protesting rising prices before setting himself alight on January 18.

From December 2010 through today
Protests erupted in Tunisia's neighbor, Algeria in the wake of Tunisia's crisis and focused on food prices.

In Jordan, hundreds of protesters chanted slogans against Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai in the southern city of Karak on January 14.

Sudan saw student protests against cuts in subsidies to sugar and petroleum products.

Oman saw protests against government corruption.

Banks and cops - who's in more danger

I jest of course - it's the cops in more danger.  Meanwhile, on the bankster front, Ambac has a bone to pick with Bear Stearns/JPMorgan.  Included in the lawsuit is this statement:
JP Morgan personnel understood that the loans underlying the transactions were in fact – to use one JP Morgan employee’s unequivocal if impolite words – a “sack of shit.”
Back to the cops.  In the 24 hours from Sunday (1/23/11) afternoon to Monday (1/24/11) eleven officers were shot.  Sunday afternoon saw attacks against officers in Indiana (1), Oregon (1), and a Detroit police station (4).  Monday had attacks in Washington (2), Florida (3 - 2 fatal).  From the Examiner:
"It's not a fluke," said Richard Roberts, spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations. "There's a perception among officers in the field that there’s a war on cops going on."
I'd be hard-pressed to disagree with that statement.  The break-ins conducted by cops on the wrong houses; wounding or killing innocent people by cops; failure to investigate, arrest, indict, and convict the rampant lawlessness in the financial community (start but don't end with FRAUD).  And that's without touching on the TSA (no pun intended).

Yeah, the American people aren't really wild about the law enforcement community.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Left one thing off the to-do list

Picture it:  Rahm Emanuel at a table with his campaign advisors, going over the To-Do List.
Election Hearing?  Check.
Circuit Court?  Check.
Burt Odelson?  Ah, who cares about that guy - he's done.
Well, to be sure we should send someone to talk to the Appellate Court.
Rahm, Rahm Rahm - it's in the bag!

Cut to Monday, 24 January 2011.
“We ... order that the candidate’s name be excluded (or if, necessary, be removed) from the ballot,” Judge Thomas Hoffman wrote in the opinion upholding the requirement under the state’s municipal code that candidates for mayor in Illinois must have “resided in” the town where they are running for a year before Election Day — in this case Feb. 22. Hoffman was joined by Justice Shelvin Marie Louise Hall.  [Sun-Times]
Rahm Emanuel's unofficial reaction:  What the !  Who's the who told me it was in the bag?!?!  Somebody's going to be !

The FT reports

The Illinois appellate court determined that Mr Emanuel did not fulfil the one-year residency requirement for mayoral hopefuls since he moved to Washington in January 2009 to become President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and lived there until last October. Monday’s decision came just a week before early voting in the race is due to begin January 31. 
Ha HA, you lousy slack-jawed rat!
And FT goes on to say:
Mr Odelson, who was a member of George W. Bush’s legal team in the Florida recount effort during the 2000 presidential election, argued that Mr Emanuel was ineligible, since he has been living in Washington and his house in Chicago had been rented out. Mr Emanuel’s lawyers countered that he always considered Chicago home and was exempt from the residency rule since he was in Washington on the business of the nation.
 Once again, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let the cannibalism commence!

When only the big boys are the only ones left with money, how long does it take before they turn on each other?

Bloomberg reports:
JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMC Mortgage, facing homeowner lawsuits over foreclosures, was sued by the trustee of a mortgage portfolio for refusing to turn over documents detailing the quality of loans bought by the trust.

Wells Fargo & Co., the trustee, is seeking access to files for more than 2,000 underlying mortgages in the Bear Stearns Mortgage Funding Trust 2007-AR2, according to the complaint filed today in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington.

“The trustee has repeatedly requested that EMC provide access to the subject documents,” Wells Fargo said in the complaint. “EMC has played proverbial ‘rope a dope’ and otherwise continued to drag its feet, and has produced nothing.”

Claims of wrongdoing by banks and loan servicers triggered a 50-state investigation last year into whether hundreds of thousands of foreclosures were properly documented as the housing market collapsed. Lending practices have also pitted mortgage-bond investors against banks over misrepresentations such as overstatements of borrowers’ income and inflated appraisals.

Christine Holevas, a spokeswoman for New York-based JPMorgan, declined to comment.

Wells Fargo said it needs access to the documents to answer “serious” questions raised by investors in the trust about whether EMC breached representations and warranties regarding the quality of option-adjustable rate mortgage loans the trust bought.

In the Aug. 31, 2010, letter to San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, Grais said he had investigated 1,317 of the loans held by the trust and determined that EMC appeared to have violated its representations with respect to 938 loans, according to the complaint.
71.2% percent FAIL rate - how do you like them apples?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So glad Springfield didn't piss off this constituency

[Sun-Times] House Rejects $1.01 Cigarette Tax Hike
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Jan 12, 2011 01:06AM
The Illinois House rejected a $1.01-a-pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax, dealing a setback to efforts by Gov. Quinn to pass a revenue package that will help the state out of its $15 billion budget hole.

The vote was 51-66, but the measure was kept alive through a parliamentary maneuver. The cigarette tax increase would have earmarked $375 million for education.
So glad the 14 smokers left in Illinois aren't getting screwed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I was a spy for the government because I think out-of-the-box

This combo of NY Daily News article and comments is pure comedy.

Author Brad Meltzer was recruited in government agency, 'horrified' at how easy it is to attack U.S.
I was a real-life secret agent. [I]n 2004 I was recruited by the Department of Homeland Security for its Red Cell program.
Red Cell was the government's way of trying to anticipate how terrorists would next attack the United States. To do that, the government brought together what they called "out-of-the-box thinkers."
I'm not allowed to tell you what the targets were. Or where they were. But I can say that we'd destroy major cities like my hometown, New York. In minutes. And when I went home at night, I felt horrified, because I saw how easy it was to kill us.
Sure, there were "real" heroes, members of the FBI and CIA, who helped us with vital facts. But there were far more professors and transportation employees, musicians and software programmers - regular people whose names will never be known and whom you'll never hear about.
And now for some comments:

Lenscap comment: psy-op

Dick Myers comment: Unknown to Brad Meltzer, I am the secret spy coordinator he has been reporting to. FYI, your "Decoded" series is boring.

Factchkr comment: This is a remarkably fact-free piece of writing.

realistic22 comment: Doesn't sound like you were a secret agent. It sounds like you were a bureaucrat.

And so many more good ones.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

No, really, you're different from the others

Piggybacking on a Der Spiegel report, Reuters had this Saturday 8 January 2011:
"BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany and France want Portugal to accept an international bailout as soon as possible in order to prevent its debt crisis spreading to other countries, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday."

That might mean something if they were saying it for the first time.  To the way-back machine!

Greek debt crisis spreading 'like Ebola' and Europe must act now, OECD warns

"The Greek debt crisis is spreading “like Ebola” and Europe must act now to  protect the stability the financial markets, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. "

On to Reuters, 16 November 2010:

"Ireland's Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said on Tuesday it would welcome help in fixing the problems in its banking system but financial assistance to the country is not inevitable.

Euro zone ministers have agreed to send a joint European-IMF mission to Ireland that could prepare the way for a bailout to prevent its debt crisis spreading to other countries."

Debt Crisis Spreading to the Heart of Europe as Belgium Bond Yields Surge

"Europe’s sovereign crisis is spreading to the heart of the 16-nation bloc as investors question Belgium’s ability to cut the euro region’s third- highest debt load, overshadowing its economic performance.  

The Italian spread climbed to a euro-era high of 186 basis points. 

The European Union’s 85 billion-euro ($111 billion) rescue package for Ireland has failed to quell market turmoil as investors shift their focus from peripheral states[.]"