Month: September 2009

Wednesday is International Blasphemy Day

I have post-posted this, so that it will stay at the top of the page through September 30, so scroll down my other posts.

Some bloke has declared September 30 to be International Blasphemy Day.

While I am generally leery of the many special days that have been announced, except, of course for “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” the basic thesis here is a sound one:

Blaspheming the sacred is an obligation that every logical person must embrace. Like we all learned from Spiderman’s uncle, “With great power comes great responsibility”, and when your mind has evolved to a degree where you are granted an advanced understanding of logic and reason, you realize that the natural laws of the universe have given you a great power.

It is your responsibility as a logical person to shed light on the darkness of ignorance wherever it may be. Nothing must be left in the dark. No corner of this universe can be left alone from wanting to know.

There can be nothing sacred. Because the entire concept behind “sacred ideas” is that they are “off limits”. It is something that you are not allowed to question, or speak out against, or even think. There’s another term that fits this concept perfectly… “thought crime”.

I agree, and I agree with his post condemning Ireland’s blasphemy laws.

Going back to the home page of the administrator, this guy is generally anti-religious, as opposed to specifically anti-Islamic.

By the way, were most of the founding fathers, who loathed organized religion, even if they were spiritual.

What Took Them So Long

So, the EU has investigated the Russia-Georgia war, and concluded that Georgia started the war, and that Russia’s reaction was excessive.

The former ruling is much more significant than the latter, since the international community always wants everything to end at the old borders.

Look at the hand wringing over the demise of the Tamil Tigers.

Still, this took them over a year?

I knew this in within 24 hours of the war having started: the Georgians shelled civilians, and the Russians knew what was planned, and when it was coming, and reacted with overwhelming force.

How to Tell When Finance is Doing a Very Bad Thing

When the Wall Street Journal Describes Finance With Cartoons, it Means that Someone will Get Boned, and it ain’t the “Bankers, Lawyers, and Other Advisers.”

When the Wall Street Journal talks about a new financial wonder weapon, like the resecuritization of real-estate mortgage investment conduits (re-remics), and they feel the need to use a cartoon to explain how it works.

Does that cartoon look complex to you? There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The bankers, lawyers, and other advisers are picking your pocket.
  2. In a perverse way, needless complexity is good for business, because it makes people feel like they are paying for meaningful services.
  3. It justifies the enormous fees collected by Wall Street, not just for brokerages, but also for the now discredited ratings agencies..

But the bottom line is this:

The net result is financial firms’ books look better and they need to hold less capital against those assets, even though they are the same assets they held before the transaction.

(emphasis mine)

This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.

It’s time to cue Freddie Dalton Thompson from The Hunt for Red October.

So, you have the same amount of risk, but by slicing and dicing securities into new “pools” (a year ago the word was “tranches”, but well, we know how that went.

This is not about managing risk, or understanding risk. This is about concealing risk from the unsophisticated investor and unsophisticated regulators.

This is a perfect example of why investments should be treated like drugs: Forbidden until proven safe and effective.

Financial innovation, my ass.

I am Now Prepared to Offer Investment Advice

Just watch Jim Cramer’s Mad Money, and whatever he says, do the opposite:

Yesterday, market pundit Jim Cramer made a ridiculously awful call on embattled lender CIT (NYSE: CIT). Cramer made a call to buy CIT stock yesterday. Well today it is down 40% on reports a deal with bondholders will wipe out the current common shareholders.

Here is what Cramer said on CIT yesterday.

“Because no one forced CIT into bankruptcy, it can live to play again, and when I read in the New York Post that Paulson owns CIT debt, I realized that he’s powerful enough to save this company, particularly because he is one of the investors in IndyMac and knows his way around the bottom of the debt barrel.

These two stocks represent lottery tickets that are no longer rip-ups because they have made it out of the “critical care” stage and are recovering.

I would buy them both.”

Google Jim Cramer and Bear Stearns, or just look at these old videos from The Daily Show (also here).

Our Fat Nation

And the fat heads that have created our fat nation.

Bill Volk pointed me to the thoroughly repulsive school policy at the Saratoga Springs, NY schools that forbids children from biking or walking to school:

The biking debate started last spring, when school district officials told Kaddo Marino that Adam was violating school rules by biking to class. Walking to the school also is not permitted.

Kaddo Marino challenged the policy and asked the school board to change it. The district charged a committee to review the rule, which was instituted in 1994.

At the start of school in September, Kaddo Marino thought that she had a nonverbal agreement with school officials to allow her son to ride his bike until a new policy was resolved. But on the night before classes started, school authorities called parents to say that walking and biking to school would not be tolerated.

When the pair stuck with their plan, they were met by school administrators and a state trooper, who emphasized that biking was prohibited, Kaddo Marino said.

(emphasis mine)

In addition to the Saratoga Springs school board, whoever authorized that state trooper to be employed in such a manner should be fired, either by the voters, or by a superior with common sense.

I would also note that while school officials have the right to prohibit bicycles on school property, they have no authority on how a parent, and the kid is accompanied by a parent when he bikes to school transports their kid anywhere.

Speaking of Sociopaths at the Washington Post…..

In addition to Richard Cohen saying that there should be no consequences for people of consequence in the case of Roman Polanski, we have Anne Applebaum suggesting that the 8th grader was really asking for it (link to Paul Campos at LGM, I will not generate hits to Applebaum):

Of course, there were some very legitimate disagreements, including two excellent ones from my colleagues Gene Robinson and Richard Cohen, and I take some of their points. But to them, and to all who imagine that the original incident at the heart of this story was a straightforward and simple criminal case, I recommend reading the transcript of the victim’s testimony (here in two parts) — including her descriptions of the telephone conversation she had with her mother from Polanski’s house, asking permission to be photographed in Jack Nicholson’s jacuzzi — and not just the salacious bits.

So, how is this repulsive?

Because she is implying that the girl asked permission from her mom to have sex with Roman Polanski, and because the grand jury transcript does not show her asking about the Jacuzzi, it shows her asking to stay late for the photo shoot, and neither her nor Polanski ever talking about the Jacuzzi.

But Apple Applebaum, as Mr. Campos so ably notes, thinks that the slut was asking for it, which is a hell of a thing to say about a 13 year old rape victim, and it’s even worse, because Applebaum is also lying to smear said 13 year old rape victim:

Here’s the relevant part of the transcript:

Q. What happened out there after he indicated he wished to take pictures of you in the jacuzzi?

A. We went inside and called my mother.

Q. When you say “we called,” did you call or did Mr. Polanski call?

A. He told me to and I talked and then he talked and then I talked again.

Q. What did you tell your mother?

A. She goes, “Are you all right?

I went, “Uh-huh.”

And she says, “Do you want me to come pick you up?”

And I went, “No.”

And he said that we’d be home kind of late because it had already gotten dark out.

Q. When you said “he said,” did he tell you or did you hear him tell your mother on the phone?

A. He told my mother.

Q, Did he tell your mother any other things?

A. Not that I was listening to.

Q. After talking to your mother on the telephone, what happened?

A. We went out and I got in the jacuzzi.

Applebaum can’t even read 20 lines of a trial transcript accurately (the victim never asked her mother for permission to be photographed in the jacuzzi). But that idiocy pales to insignificance in comparison to the moral blindness involved in suggesting, as Applebaum clearly does, that if the 13-year-old victim had in fact asked her mother’s permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi by a 44-year-old man that would somehow transform the man’s subsequent drugging and raping of the girl into something other than a “simple and straightforward criminal case.”

We can add to this that her husband is Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and as such, he is aggressively working toward Polanski’s release,* because they consider him a national treasure (even if he does not live there), and she thinks that she had no need to disclose this, because she, “Mentioned my husband’s job in a column as recently as last week”

No, it does not work that way. You are married to a high government official for a foreign government. When you are writing about issues that are part of the direct and explicit policy of that government, you disclose that you share a bed with the foreign minister, each and every time.

I will say that not all Postie pundits are Sociopaths, though Applebaum and Cohen clearly are, as is, of course, Krauthammer, though he may simply be insane .

For example, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson nails it when he says, “That is grotesque. In general, I agree with the European view that Americans tend to be prudish and hypocritical about sex. But a grown man drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl? That’s not remotely a close call. It’s wrong in any moral universe — and deserves harsher punishment than three decades of gilded exile.”

(emphasis mine)

Your mouth to God’s ear. I cannot speak to the finer points of the trial, and there are likely issues there, but the enthusiasm with which the people who seek to excuse this away on the feeling that somehow Polanski is “people like them”, is truly revolting.

*I do not blame Sikorski for doing his job here. It is his job to execute the policy, however immoral and venal (it’s about playing to the Polish electorate by embracing a rapist). Pity your wife is a sociopath though.
As to what this says about the Polish electorate, it either means that their leaders underestimate them, or that they are not underestimating them. One hopes for the former.

I am Reproducing This in Full Because the Cache Will Expire

H/T Below The Beltway for the screen shot (click for full size)

Some background:

Remember when I suggested that recent rhetoric about Barack Obama was really about encouraging someone with the, “Psychological stability of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the shooting ability of…well…Lee Harvey Oswald (he was a Marine) to whack Obama?”

I also mentioned the Facebook “Assassinate Obama” poll.

It seems like it was only yesterday when I mentioned these….Hold on, it WAS yesterday when I mentioned this.

The tinfoil hat crowd is a bunch of very busy people this week.

Well, another part of the right wing sewage brigade, Newsmax published an article explicitly calling for a coup to overthrow him. Don’t click the link though, once the cowards at Newsmax realized that it was getting play, they pulled it, but here is the Google Cache.

In any case, I think that it is crucial that his word remain alive on the net in their entirety, so here is his article, in all its Fascist glory:

Obama Risks a Domestic Military ‘Intervention’

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:35 AM

By: John L. Perry

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. So, view the following through military eyes:

  • Officers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Unlike enlisted personnel, they do not swear to “obey the orders of the president of the United States.”
  • Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized.
  • They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.
  • They can see that the economy — ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation — is financially reliant on foreign lender governments.
  • They can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community, without whose rigorous and independent functions the armed services are rendered blind in an ever-more hostile world overseas and at home.
  • They can see the dismantling of defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America’s troop strength is allowed to sag.
  • They can see the horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time.
  • They can see the nation’s safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before. So, if you are one of those observant military professionals, what do you do?

    Wait until this president bungles into losing the war in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s arsenal of nuclear bombs falls into the hands of militant Islam?

    Wait until Israel is forced to launch air strikes on Iran’s nuclear-bomb plants, and the Middle East explodes, destabilizing or subjugating the Free World?

    What happens if the generals Obama sent to win the Afghan war are told by this president (who now says, “I’m not interested in victory”) that they will be denied troops they must have to win? Do they follow orders they cannot carry out, consistent with their oath of duty? Do they resign en masse?

    Or do they soldier on, hoping the 2010 congressional elections will reverse the situation? Do they dare gamble the national survival on such political whims?

    Anyone who imagines that those thoughts are not weighing heavily on the intellect and conscience of America’s military leadership is lost in a fool’s fog.

    Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

    Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

    Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

    Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

    In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.

    John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for

  • (emphasis mine)

    I guess it might read better in the original German. In the Confederate States of America dialect of English, it’s a lot shorter, of course, “Lynch the n*gg*r.”

    My first thought was to register, but someone has already beaten me to it, so I sent them an email offering my very poor HTML coding skills.

    This is a Feature, Not a Bug

    Not a part of the pale elites. What a surprise.

    So, victims of Paramilitary violence in Columbia, and their relatives, are celebrating a supreme court ruling forbidding the extradition of former paramilitaries to the United States on drug charges:

    [Bela] Henriquez [shown] wants to find out as much as she can from the paramilitaries who murdered her father in 2001. Julio Henriquez was killed because of his work organizing poor farmers along a vital cocaine-trafficking corridor. In testimony two years ago, one of the commanders, Hernan Giraldo, confessed to ordering her father’s murder.

    But she says the details were scant — and that the testimony didn’t mean that justice was served.

    And then, Giraldo was extradited.

    Giraldo and the other paramilitary commanders took with them a treasure trove of historical information about the links between Colombia’s elite and the paramilitaries, says Michael Reed, a lawyer with the International Center for Transitional Justice, a New York group that studies the efforts to unravel Colombia’s war crimes.

    “Basically a political decision was made to trump human rights investigations and prosecutions with drug-trafficking prosecutions,” Reed says.

    (emphasis mine)

    No, Michael Reed is wrong. A political decision was made to make deport the paramilitaries to the United States in order to silence them. This is not about being nice to the United States, it is about silencing the professional killers hired to murder labor organizers, literacy volunteers, and anyone else who was trying to show the peons something beyond their stations.

    Why to Hate Iceland*

    If you have cable, or satellite, or FIOS, you have doubtless seen Whale Wars, a show about the (almost completely lily white) members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet down around Antarctica.

    Japan, is, of course a bad guy in all of this, classifying commercial whaling as “research”, and bribing countries to join the IWC to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling.

    But, as Needlenose notes, Iceland pulled completely out of the IWC, and is butchering whales as quickly as possible and shipping the meat to Japan.

    So, we have two bad players, one is gaming the system, and the other is operating completely outside the law.

    Also note that Iceland, which has told the world to go pound sand, is also begging for money from the IMF, World Bank, EU, and pretty much any other acronym with two cents together, which means that they are in a position where world opinion is crucial to them.

    So, which one are all the anti-whaling forces going after?

    Why, the ones who aren’t alabaster white, of course.

    In all fairness, the Icelandic catch is limited to about 250, as versus the about 600 for Japan, but I do think that there is a bit of bigotry behind not going after the low hanging fruit.

    *Besides Bjork, of course.

    Economics Update

    Well, notwithstanding the “green shoots” that every fool (Ben Bernanke) is crowing about Consumer Confidence fell to 53.1 in September, down from 54.5 (revised) in August, and well below the predicted 57.0.

    While this may not effect spending for the Christmas holiday, it does look like it’s putting a crimp in Halloween spending, with consumers planning to spend about 20% less this year.

    Of course, we are still seeing some good news, such as the Case-Shiller home price index rising for the 3rd straight month, but, as Barry Ritholtz notes, it’s still down 13.3% for the year.

    I would also add, that these are seasonally adjusted numbers, which really make no sense when a market is as out of whack as this one is, it’s YoY that gives meaningful data.

    We also have the Chicago Fed’s National Activity index falling in September, to -.90, from August’s -0.54, indicating further contraction.

    Overseas, we are seeing more good news though, with consumer confidence in Germany increasing to a 16 month high, and the Brazilian central bank being confident enough that it is starting to clamp back down on credit, which means that they are worried about inflation.

    One hopes that the Brazilian bankers are not jumping the gun here.

    In insurance, we have a bit of nostalgia, with the monoliner insurers popping up their head again, as S&P cut both MBIA, Inc. and MBIA Insurance credit ratings, to BB-minus and BB-Plus respectively.

    Both ratings are below investment grade. (i.e. junk)

    In energy, it looks like the consumer confidence numbers have driven oil prices down, to $66.71/bbl, and it looks like natural gas prices are about to fall off a cliff, because the salt domes, depleted oil fields, and aquifers used to story the fuel have reached capacity, meaning that anything pumped has to be sold, and delivered as soon as it leaves the ground.

    Gasoline prices are continuing their fall too.

    Meanwhile, the dollar is up, largely on increased worries about the economy, though the rate cut by Russia’s central bank has also made the USD more attractive to investors.

    When I Agree with Mitch McConnell…….

    I know that something is wrong, and in this case it is how accurately the Senate minority leader nails the attitude of Barack Obama and His Stupid Minions: “

    Senator McConnell dismissed the President’s substantive involvement in the debate, dryly noting the president “would sign anything the Congress sent him, provided it had ‘Health Care Reform’ written at the top of the page.

    It’s not just McConnel who is saying this. We also have Robert Reich, who has always been an extremely big booster of the Obama campaign and later the Obama Administration, so when he says this:

    Big Pharma and big insurance hate the public insurance option even more than they hate big Medicare discounts. And although the President has sounded as if he would welcome it, political operatives in the White House have quietly reassured the industries that it won’t be included in the final bill. At most, the bill would allow the formation of non-profit ‘cooperatives’ that wouldn’t have the scale or authority to squeeze the profits of private industry, or a ‘trigger’ that would allow states to form public insurance options eventually if certain goals for cost savings and coverage weren’t met.

    Which is a clear statement against his own political interest.

    He cannot bring himself to voice it explicitly, is that Barack Obama and his people do not care about healthcare reform, but that they are looking for phony reform for 2012.

    The results of White House “Axis of Weasel” on this is plain to see, with , as Rockefeller’s public option amendment being voted down, as well as Schumer’s weaker tea public option.

    It gets worse, of course, with Baucus proposing that nationwide standards on insurance be written by the insurance industry in his bill.

    He is suggesting that the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners write binding regulations on insurance company behavior, it has issued advisory regulations for some years, with , “States would be permitted to deviate from the standards only by appealing to the Department of Health and Human Services.”

    What’s more because the NAIC is a private organization, there would be no requirement for public meetings or public access to records.

    It’s mice to know that there are a few bright spots, but, as with the case of Sen. Byron Dorgan (!)

    offering an amendment allowing for drug reimportation, but you know that Rahmbo , with the President’s full approval, will go all out to kill this, because the White House has already cut a deal with health insurers and pharma to boost their already obscene profits by requiring people to buy health insurance.

    FDIC Goes Wimpy

    I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today

    I don’t mean that Blair and company have become shrinking violets, I am instead referring to the comic book character from Popeye.

    The FDIC is asking banks to prepay their insurance fees through 2012, in order to handle the depletion of their insurance funds.

    It is the Wimpy theory of funding, and its success is contingent on the idea that the recession is over, and so we will see a fairly robust recovery.

    If they are wrong, and given the impending implosion in CRE which threatens small and regional banks, I think that they are, it won’t do much.

    In fact, I can see creditors going after the prepaid insurance premiums, which will create a big mess.

    What the Republican Crazy Talk is About

    So I’m on the Stellar Parthenon BBS, and Unmutual notes that Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) is saying that, “The President Is an enemy of humanity.”

    He muses that this kind of Batsh&% insane simply stupid:

    Yep, continue this kind of idiotic rhetoric against the most popularly elected president in recent memory, surely that’s going to get you more supporters than reaching across the isle and actually trying to get stuff done.

    I think that he is an optimist. This is not stupidity. This is done with a purpose.

    The goal here is to get someone with the psychological stability of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the shooting ability of…well…Lee Harvey Oswald (he was a Marine) to whack Obama.

    Seriously. There are two group of people speaking for the Republican party: Those who are batsh%$ insane, and want Obama dead, and those who think that his getting killed would be good for them in 2010.

    I’m not sure which group scares me more.

    Video below:

    Well, Now We Know How Lame the New York Times Is

    It appears that the New York Times has decided that they do not spend enough time paying attention to deranged dishonest right wing stories, and their response is to assign an (unnamed, lest he get stern emails) editor to the giving blow jobs to right wingers beat, to ensure that all of their bullsh&% gets mainstream press coverage:

    Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.”

    (emphasis mine)
    Two points:

    • This story was, and always will be, bulls$%#, and so the coverage should be on the politics, because a close examination of the real story, shows no story.
      • Having “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio,” is a mark of journalistic success, not journalist failure.
    • Anyone who claims to be a journalist, much less an editor, but is afraid to do their job because they will get nasty emails, should not be working in journalism. I said this about Monica Hesse, and I will say this about this unnamed editor.

    Seriously though, separating the wheat from the chaff is a part of a journalist’s job, and what is going on here is the aggrandizement of the chaff.

    H/t tbogg.

    Before I Put Polanski on My List of

    They Who Must Not Be Named, like he cares about whether or not I write about him, let me repeat what Atrios Said:

    I really was going to try to avoid Polanski blogging, but then Richard Cohen referred to drugging and raping a 13 year old over clear objections as her being ‘seduced.’

    What is wrong with these people?”

    This was never seduction.

    You can argue that he is a talented artist, and he is, Chinatown is brilliant.

    You can argue that his trial was ineluctably tainted, by virtue of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, and the trial was ineluctably tainted by those actions..

    You can argue that the time has passed for this, as the victim has.

    But the coercion, drugging, and penetration of a 13-year old girl is not a “seduction,” it’s a rape, and the only reason that moral pygmies like Richard Cohen call it seduction is because they profoundly believe that there should be no consequences for people that they deem consequential.

    I do now know whether Roman Polanski is a monster, or a sick victim, but I do know that Richard Cohen is a monster.