Friday, August 20, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) A new energy AND foreign policy? Makes sense to me!
2) A fancy new bicycle. Sort of.
3) How bad is the flooding in Pakistan? India has offered to assist. Pakistan has accepted. This is not unlikea Teabagger helping dig a Muslim out of the rubble of the "Ground Zero Mosque".
4) Um, don't look now, but the moon in your eye isn't a big pizza pie anymore.
5) This talk of Republican dominance in the November elections is, will be, and always has been, a load of hooey. Sure, they'll win some seats. Most midterm elections see the party out of power gain some power back. But to take over both houses of Congress with comfortable majorities? Bullshit.
6) Normally, I try to keep business news (not economic news) off this site. It bores most of bores me and I have to read it...but this is important. Food, like oil and soon water, will become a commodity to be fought over in the not-too-distant future. That China will control a significant source of fertilizer will put them in a position to dictate control over food supplies.
7) Roger Clemens is a cheat and a liar. I'm sooooooooooooooo surprised. This is a man who should have been kicked out of baseball before he fashioned a career as a malicious vicious coward who hid behind his fastball and the DH. I hope he goes to jail and gets to bat.
8) Think it was hot this year? It was! You'll be telling your grandkids about this year...assuming things don't get any worse. Which they will. But hey! No global warming, right? It's just Algore's fat layers blanketing us.
10) Yeeeeeeeeeeeea...let's lower taxes more...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Before The Memory Hole Gets Filled In

Eight years. The longest war in American history. A war of aggression. 4400+ American soldiers dead. One million Iraqis dead. Who knows how many more displaced and chronically, perhaps fatally, un- or underemployed.
America's first official war of aggression. At least we didn't bother veiling this one behind an attack on a ship. Kofi Annan.
WMDs. NBCs. "They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." Chemical Ali. Baghdad Bob. Spider trap. Embedding. Qatar.
David Bloom: I miss him still. Peter Arnett.
Colin Powell in front of the UN with a vial of "anthrax". Bush said in a nationally televised White House speech. "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing." "Axis of Evil". Three million Romans protesting war (there's an irony), the largest anti-war protest ever. Mohamed ElBaradei. Hans Blix. Scott Ritter. Connection to September 11 attacks. Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, allies. Muhammad Atta in Prague with high ranking Hussein official. 48% still believe that Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.  
Yellowcake. Niger. Joe Wilson. Curveball. Valarie Plame. Scooter Libby. Karl Rove. Judith Miller. Ahmed Chalabi. Stephen Hadley. Robert Novak. Tim Russert. George Tenet. "Slam dunk". Paul Wolfowitz. PNAC. Douglas "The Stupidest Man In America" Feith.
Shock and Awe. Moqtada Al-Sadr. Sadr City. Ali Al-Sistani. Coalition of the "Willing". Coalition of the Bullied. Shi'a. Sunni. Kurds. Coaltion Provisional Authority. L. Paul Bremer. De-Ba'athification. Basra. Kirkuk. Halliburton. Humvees without armor. Karbala. Najaf. "Mother Of All Bombs". 
Operation Desert Fox (probably never a good idea to name a battleplan after a Nazi).  Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL). Then, quickly changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Regime change.
General Tommy Franks. General David Petraeus. General Ricardo Sanchez. Linndie England. Abu Ghraib. Guatanamo Bay. Jessica Lynch, saved but not saved.
Abu Al Zarqawi. The statue in Fardus Square, Baghdad. Most Wanted playing cards. Looting. $9 billion dollars vanished in nine months. 
"MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" (seven years too early). "Commander Codpiece". Fedayeen. Insurgency. 
Amy Goodman. "Fahrenheit 9/11". "Michael Moore is fat". Downing Street memo. John Kerry. Vote irregularities in Ohio. Bush re-elected. Security Moms. Endless war. No war for oil.
"Nothing.... Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq." "[T]he main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn’t, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction."
Operation Option North and Operation Bayonet Lightning in Kirkuk, Operation Desert Thrust, Operation Abilene and Operation All American Tiger throughout Iraq, Operation Iron Hammer in Baghdad and Operation Ivy Blizzard in Samarra - all in 2003; Operation Market Sweep, Operation Vigilant Resolve and Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in 2004; Operation Matador in Ambar, Operation Squeeze Play and Operation Lightning in Baghdad, Operation New Market near Haditha, Operation Spear in Karabillah and the Battle of Tal Afar - all in 2005; Operation Swarmer in Samarra and Operation Together Forward in Baghdad in 2006; and Operation Law and Order in Baghdad, Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baqouba and Operation Phantom Strike throughout Iraq - all in 2007.
Purple thumbs. Jalal Talibani. Nouri al-Maliki.
Never forget. Never. We can never do this again. We must not let it happen. Ever.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Paranoid Side

I don't usually indulge in wild speculation, but an inner voice is tugging at me on this one.
What if the mortgage bubble was burst intentionally?
It is undeniable that it was a long time coming. Mortgage foreclosures ratcheted up in an orderly fashion, and the crisis was wholly foreseeable years before it occured.
The market conditions were perfect for the collapse. Low, low interest rates, extreme liquidity in the cash markets, and the revocation of Glass-Steagall in 1999 allowed the predators into the home mortgage market. NINJA loans abounded (no income, no job or assets), however. And there's the anomaly.
I've worked in commercial finance. I understand risk, I understand unsecured and secured debt. I lent money to businesses that had just been taken private under all sorts of wild scenarios, from leveraged buyouts to employee stock purchases.
In other words, I have a level of sophistication that surpasses your average loan officer at the branch on the corner.
It is impossible for me to believe that nearly one hundred percent of people with MBAs, people allegedly smarter than I, didn't see what I saw even in 2003 and 2004. Oh sure, some folks hedged against it and made a mint, but the number is truly very small. Very very small. But you mean to tell me that the assistant vice presidents at Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns or even Goldman Sachs (who manages to thrive even in this shitty market today) didn't see this coming?
That JPMorgan Chase and Citibank and Bank of America suddenly developed a case of Trigg-inosis and went all Down's Syndrome in the very area they were expert in?
Yes, the securitized debt obligations that were repackaged, re-repackaged and in some cases re-re-repackaged were bloody impossible to trace. Which in your mind ought to be triggering bells and whistles.
Because someone was tracing them and knew exactly what was going on. No one develops a tool like that without understanding it so thoroughly that they can explain it comprehensively to someone authorized to approve its use. This isn't medicine where side effects happen. The quants have this stuff figured out to the nanosecond in some cases.
OK, so now...cui bono? Who benefits? That was the question that I could never get a handle on until today. See, apart from a handful of contrarians, no one really seemed to make a lot of money out of this. Yes, we TARPed and LARPed the hell out of the banking system, but that was all money that had to be paid back. Yes, it put banks on their feet, but it risked a helluva lot with little return apparent.
Then, this morning, I started to watch Crude Impact on LinkTV. And I started to think about peak oil. And in particular, oil prices.
See, starting in 2005, we should have been seeing price spikes on gasoline and other petroleum products, as demand began to surpass the annual production of all oil producing nations, by something on the order of 12 million barrels a year. Demand is driven by a growing economy.
Indeed, if you look at this chart, that's precisely what happened. But notice something else: by 2007, as the economy began cooling and people worldwide began contracting their purchases and going bankrupt in droves, the price of gasoline collapsed.
Just not to levels of pre-peak oil. In fact, prices have inched upwards ever since.
The peak oil mark has been known for some time now. This was a predictable occurence, one with few options to either forestall or minimize. We could not avoid or reverse the demand curve, because while much of it is reliant on American demand, more and more of it was going to India and China which was driving the demand.
What could be done by the parties interested was to collapse the world economy from a demand point of view. Harder job? Not for a world that has an insatiable need for more and new. Indeed, the past forty years of marketing has shown us that anyone can get rich not by making a better product but by making a better marketing plan. All that was needed was a way to draw huge amounts of money out of the economy quickly.
Enter the single biggest asset anyone will own: their home. You might pay a year's salary, more likely less, on a new car. But a house, you take a 30 year mortgage out because you need something on the order of ten times your annual take home pay to purchase one, and who wants to wait until they are fifty or sixty to finally buy a dream home?
All that had to be done was to roll those loans out over and over again to people who would incrementally buy more and more house, loading up with more and more debt, then pull the rug out: force foreclosure.
Ever wonder why adjustable rate mortgages had five year rate locks? Why not one year (which is what mine has)? Or three? Or ten?
It was five years to specifically set a target date for the collapse of the world economy.
But why? Here's what my theory is:
Remember when gas was $4 a gallon and people actually started to notice? Started buying hybrids in droves? Started riding public transportation? Turning off lights? Turning down the air conditioning?
Look around you. How much of that is still going on? Not much. Maybe you cut back on electricity because you can't afford a $300 air conditioning bill, but for the most part, people are back buying SUVs and driving everywhere.
But note the price of gas: it's just above $2.50 a gallon. We've gotten comfortable with expensive gasoline. Just about two years ago, when all this hit, it was around $1.50 a gallon.
We're being fucked in the ass, slowly and comfortably, not rushed and roughly as in 2005. We're not making as much money (all income studies point to an actual loss of wages over the past ten years), and we're spending more on energy.
Does anyone wonder why we still haven't seen the minutes of the Cheney energy task force from the first Bush administration?
I'm no wild-eyed crazy tin-foil-hat wearing nutcase, but this stinks. This may be the story of the century.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Running The Anchor Leg

You're starting to see the GOP campaign strategy for the 2010 midterm elections unfold here in August.
Take an issue of settled law, and ignite a fire under it, knowing full well that there are enough cowards in America to make hoopla over it. Such is the case with the Fourteenth Amendment's citizenship definitions.
The bonus, as I noted yesterday, is a chance to smear the President with a false accusation of being an unnatural citizen, or at the very least a totemic image planted deep in the American psyche that is both false and hurtful to the nation. 
As if they would ever care...but I digress.
About 8% of babies born in the US have at least one parent who is not a legal American resident. You'll note that means that many of those babies, let's assume half, have a legal American resident as a parent. So we're talking about 170,000 babies born here called "anchor babies", babies whose citizenship anchors the parents here in the US since courts would never allow a child to be separated from its birth parents over citizenship issues alone. If you're born here, the Fourteenth Amendment states, you are a "natural born American," with the full rights...including the right to build a mosque wherever you want...of any other American. 
There are eleven million undocumented Americans. The birth rate in America is about 1% of the total population. 170,000 babies means the birth rate of undocumented Americans is in line with the total birth rate of Americans.
In other words, this is hardly a cause for people to slip across a border to drop a litter in hopes of attaining residency status.
Indeed, evidence suggests just the opposite: that immigrants are determinedly avoiding pregnancy while here, as the birth rate in Mexico itself is much higher than it is in the US (20% v. 11% of the childbearing populations respectively...the world birth rate is something like 14%). 
Another reason the scare is utter bullshit is the process of obtaining citizenship for parents of "anchor babies". It is at least as complex and prolonged as the process of simply applying for citizenship:
A child must reach the ripe age of 21 before he can seek to right his parents’ illegal status. And the parents have to trek back to their native land. For many people illegally in the country, this trip back will also kick in a 10-year ban from returning. And visas have to be available, which can take decades. So by the time this “anchoring” payoff can happen, one or both parents could be dead.
  Add this to the pile of garbage about the  so-called "mosque" at so-called "Ground Zero," and watch the pile grow deeper and wider. Better get your hip waders. We have to dig a lot of horseshit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unilateral Race To The Bottom

It's the kind of day here where you feel like you're stuck in a Dali painting: so muggy that your clothes practically drip off you. Paper flops over in your hand, the ink smearing down the page like tears. The air is thick with the musty closeness of someone with bad breath and worse body odor; each movement makes refreshes your agony.
Against this backdrop, you ponder the idiocy of people. You're wearing a suit to work at a job that makes some rich guy richer, the same jackass who's denied raises company wide for two years and cut bonuses for three. How dumb is that that you'd let yourself be this uncomfortable for him? Over there is a guy who's sipping a hot Starbucks...something...can't really call it coffee, because Starbucks sells a coffee experience, but no coffee. At least not coffee discernible by anyone who appreciates good coffee. It's more like vinegar strained through a hoop of magnesium. 
Over there is a woman who's carting a backpack big enough to contain her entire life's history, souvenirs included, straining against the straps to keep her balance. 
And then, there's the right wing. A President clearly states that the Constitution applies to all Americans equally, and the right wing has turned it into a referendum on Obama's endorsement of a Islamic "mosque" (more like a YMCA). 
I expect them to do this. After all, they've hammered away at the falsehood of Obama's Muslim identity since the election, hammering at the lie until it's become nailed into the American psyche like a railroad spike. Even people who don't believe it, fortunately most of us, refer to it regularly in jest, at least. That it's such a universal joke tells me we ought to take it more seriously and start defending it more vigourously. 
What is unexpected has been the subliminal effect it's had on people who don't believe it, but report it anyway: the mainstream media. There's an undertone, a twinge of anti-Islam sentiment in the telling of the tale of the "mosque" (more like a YMCA).
It's one thing to cheerlead a nation involved in a war. You want your country to win, but the truth must be told. So maybe you fudge a few details, saving them for the book you write later on. That's almost (and I stress almost) understandable for a journalist.
It's quite another thing to pass on the lies told by one side without context, without rebuttal, without analysis. If commonsense tells you something is nonsense, then report it as such. Stop enabling the opinions of others to enter the public dialogue. Start reporting the facts, not the "factsheet". 
So many of the undercurrent of lies told about Obama have infused the reporting of news that it's sickening to an aware person. Obama has made more than enough mistakes on his own, and indeed, I'd rather read criticisms of him on that basis than the false "American Idle"-- pun intended-- nonsense of his birth certificate (which is a shading of the "anchor baby" controversy), or his Muslim heritage, or his "vacationing at times of crisis". 
The Republican party is trying to start a race to the bottom of the cesspool we're all drowning in already. It would be nice if the MSM didn't have its scuba tanks on already. The idiocy, indeed.