Month: May 2008

A Good Debunking of a Panglossian Financial Press

A few days ago, I read a fairly typical don’t worry, be happy article on CNN by Paul La Monica.

After perusing it for a while, and I shook my head, and thought, “Moron”, but decided not to pursue it on my blog. It just seemed be the all to ordinary whistling past the grave yard that one sees in far too much of the financial press.

Yesterday however, I got an email from Paul Lamont, who I have cited before here, who runs Lamont Trading Advisors, who sees their mission as being to prepare clients for a, “major bear market”.

He has a very nice rebuttal to Mr. Lamonica’s article, noting that:

  • Lamonica’s use of unemployment as a metric is disingenuous, as it is a lagging indicator. [I would add that the unemployment stats are also highly massaged these days as compared to 1933].
  • The absence of deflation is not a difference, inflation continued until 1931 in the great depression, and the same applies to commodity inflation and inflationary concerns.
  • That the recent bounce back of the stock market is actually rather similar to what happened in the great depression, with the eventual bottom occurring because the banking system froze up:

Go and read his article, I wholeheartedly approve, though I do differ on one point: I see the continuing economic crisis mirroring those that occurred in Asia, Argentina, etc. where you see sudden and catastrophic devaluation of the currency (i.e. inflation), as opposed to the 1930s style depression.

That’s why I have 30% of my 401(k) in overseas index funds.

Brazil Also Lodges OOXML Complaint

I think that the Bum’s rush on OOXML pushed by the US and Microflaccid may end up backfiring:

Now Brazil has become the latest country to put the boot in by objecting to what it claimed was a flawed BRM that saw processes rushed through in favour of Microsoft gaining approval for its document format.


Marcia Cristina de Oliveira, manager of the standardisation process at the ABNT claims in a letter to the ISO (a copy of which is provided by Andy Updegrove here) that “the Brazilian delegation was not allowed to present an important proposal regarding the legacy binary mapping.

“Brazil had tried to present this proposal, during the debates, on the first day of the meeting… On Friday, when USA ended their part of presentation and asked for Brazil to present its part of it, the convenor denied this opportunity to Brazilian delegation.”

According to Updegrove, that’s quite a serious allegation. “While this latest appeal overlaps the South African objections in part, it also raises new concerns, some of which are particular to the interests of Brazil, rather than applying to the process as a whole. “As a result, it raises not only additional issues, but also ones that present a categorically different basis for appeal as well,” he said.

Interestingly enough, OOXML is already out of compliance, as the standard, DIS 29500, is supposed to be published no more than one month after approval.

Dutch Parliament Throws a Monkey Wrench into JSF Acquisition

The government won approval to buy their first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but they cannot spend more than 10% of the money allocated until they conduct a, “the government conducts a new, open and transparent evaluation of alternatives to the JSF,” with the involvement of experts outside their ministry of defense.

I think that this all comes down to the increasing realization that the JSF is going to cost a lot more than was initially promised.

Dutch Industry Getting Cold Feet on JSF

In 2002, the Dutch government agreed to invest €858 million in developing the JSF, “on condition that it would not cost more than buying an aircraft off the shelf”, with significant offsets to the local aerospace industry.

As a part of this contract, the Dutch aerospace industry agreed to cover any shortfalls in funding, but this number has grown signifantly from the €191 estimated in 2002, and inudstry wants to renegotiate the deal, claiming that, “financial benefits of the project are now far greater than originally thought and that the deal will benefit the taxpayer at the industry’s expense”.

Basically, they are saying that are getting hosed by cost escalation on the project, which is almost certainly true, and it will be getting a lot worse if the program continues in its current form.

Neat Tech: FCS Edition

In this case, this is actually a potentially useful military technology, specifically what is called the Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) system.

These are a family of disposable/deployable sensor ranging in size from something a bit smaller than a shoe box to about the size of a cigarette pack:

The UGS come in two forms, the Tactical UGS and the Urban UGS. Tactical have four different versions, including the ISR node, which contains magnetic, seismic, and acoustic sensors; the Gateway node which is a communications relay system; an Electro-optics node with an EO camera for the day and an infrared camera for night; and a Radiological/Nuclear node. The Tactical UGS are about a foot long and several inches wide (exact specs are classified), and are typically partially buried so they aggressor units can’t see them while passing by. Urban UGS are smaller, and are placed on walls inside buildings to monitor rooms already cleared by soldiers. The two UGS send data back to the Gateway, which then processes the information and send its out through the FCS communications system.

The basic objective of the technology is to create a networked picture of the battlefield.

Situational awarness is frequently the most important part of winning a battle, but when one considers that any foreseeable conflict in the immediate future will be a counterinsurgency operation, where US forces would be operating at an information disadvantage that will not be helped by this sort of technology.

Russian Advanced Helo Concepts

The Russians are looking at advanced high speed helicopter concepts too (Paid Subscription Required):

Mil Mi-X1

Among the concepts are:

  • The Mi-X1, a 5 ton class aircraft with a top speed of around 450-500 km/h.
  • The Kamov Ka-92 which uses a coaxial rotor with retreating blades offloaded, much like Sikorsky’s X2 demonstrator.
  • The Ka-90, which has a rotor which folds down along the fuselage for high speed (700 km/h) flight.

Yes, Myanmar, There is a Panty Clause

Not sure if I can add much to this:

Panties sought for Myanmar protest

Two Canadian human rights group in Quebec are calling for women to mail panties to Myanmar’s embassy to protest the ruling military junta.

The Quebec Women’s Federation and the activist group Rights and Democracy claim the secretive military leaders in the country formerly known as Burma are superstitious and believe contact with women’s underwear will usurp their power, CTV News reported.

Economics Update

CNN is reporting that Consumer spending was flat relative to inflation, which really is not true, since the CPI is crap, and because consumer spending includes food and energy, which are going through the roof, so everything else was down.

It looks like there will be more downward pressure on the dollar, as Euro-zone inflation is at 3.6%, which means that the ECB will definitely not cut rates, and might raise them, though the dollar strengthened slightly today.

BTW, the report of the improved growth in the intermediate report on US GDP? It’s really a contraction, as Barry Righoltz notes, the gains weredefense spending, inventory builds, and exports, with the rest of the economy at -0.4%.

Go to his site for the chart pr0n.

In energy, oil rebounded a bit from yesterday’s fall to $127.35/bbl, and retail gasoline hit a record yet again.

Comment Problems

People have been seeing some weird codes in, and having some problems with, the HaloScan comments. This has been resolved, but not by me:

From: HaloScan Support Thu, May 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM
To: Matthew Saroff
Thanks for contacting Haloscan Support
– The issue has been resolved. If you continue to see these messages ,please contact us.

RIAA Employed Terrorist Takes Down Web TV Network

MediaDefender, a criminal software firm employed by media companies to engage in illegal attacks on sites that they deem infringing, just took down the completely legal web broadcasting firm Revision3, which is, conveniently enough, a direct competitor to MediaDefender’s parent company.

It Revision3 uses BitTorrent to distribute its programming, but only its own stuff, but MediaDefender hacked in using a back door to place their own material on the server, and when this back door was shut down after it was discovered, a massive (8000/second) DDOS attack occurred.

At this point they say that they lack the resources to sue, but I’ve sent them an email saying that I would throw in a few bucks for a legal fund.

Political Kangaroo Court

Col. Peter Brownback, the judge on the Omar Khadr case, has been dismissed by the Pentagon:

U.S. Army Col. Peter Brownback, 60, a Vietnam veteran who once admitted he was under pressure from Washington concerning Khadr’s case, was relieved of his duties yesterday and replaced by another military judge.

There was no comment from the Pentagon or the U.S. Office of Military Commissions last night concerning the short email announcing Brownback’s departure.

There had been speculation that Brownback had wanted to return to retirement, but most observers had assumed it would be at the end of Khadr’s trial.

Khadr’s military lawyer, U.S. navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, said the announcement took him by surprise and suggested that the motive for the military judge’s removal was political. Brownback had refused to set a trial date for Khadr, which Kuebler said angered those eager to have his case wrapped up before a change in the U.S. administration.

“The timing is certainly suspicious,” Kuebler said yesterday. “They’re trying to get to trial as quickly as possible. The one thing you can say in (Brownback’s) favour was that he was holding the government’s feet to the fire.”

If you recall, he was 14 at the time of his alleged crimes, and as a child soldier, in civilized worlds, though apparently not in the US military tribunal system, he would be adjudged a victim, not a criminal.

In related news, It appears that the government is pulling out all the stops to make sure that the trials of the alleged 911 conspirators are a part of the presidential campaign:

The U.S. military attorneys included the claim in a 20-page brief asking the military judge to dismiss the capital charges against alleged al Qaeda kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other Guantánamo detainees.

The document includes an e-mail from a civilian member of the prosecution team proposing to set the trial date for Sept. 15, the Monday after the seventh anniversary of the suicide attacks.

”Not coincidentally,” the defense attorneys say, “that would force the trial of this case in mid-September, some seven weeks before the general elections.”

This means that the defense will be given about 3 months to prepare for 5 death penalty cases where much of the evidence is classified, which is clearly inadequate.

Deliberately Bad Real Estate Reporting

You have an article titled California Home-Price Cuts End Sales Losing Streak, noting that home sales were up 2.5% in April.

That’s the lead. While one can be heartened by the fact that it is the first increase in 30 months, in any normal market, April is always bigger than March. The problem is that real estate reporting is hostage, so what should have been the lead, the fact that median home prices fell 32% year over year, is in the 2nd ‘graph, and there is no mention of the year over year home sales numbers, which are down 19%.

Bankers Starting to Use LIBOR Alternatives

As a result of concerns about the accuracy of the London Interbank Offered Rate, it appears that a number of financial institutions are casting about for an alternative metrid.

This is big, because it reflects the fact that even the most mundane, and until recently rock solid, standards of the financial industry are no longer reliable, which is why money is not flowing, and is unlikely to flow.

This appears to be a slow motion car wreck that we are watching in the financial markets.