Saturday, January 03, 2009

What Will They Come Up With Next?

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Perhaps we are operating not just at the edge of our physical energy plant, but also near the edge of our civil energy plant. Was the Katrina-induced social breakdown in New Orleans a preview of what could happen at a national level in the even of a national crisis?

It takes a crisis to reveal which virtues are actually vices. Gaza was not just the Arafat’s creation, it was also the result of the “International Community’s” policies taken to their logical conclusion. Gaza was a social experiment; a proving ground for diplomatic concepts, a test of ideology. In that poor patch the politics of symbolism, victimhood, guilt and dependency were tried out and given free rein to work their healing magic. And what it produced was a nightmare town of uneducated people ruled by gangsters and PR men. I’m sure the social engineers will go back to the drawing board. What will they come up with next?

Friday, January 02, 2009

CO2 Below The Surface

While you have probably seen graphs of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration slowly increasing over time, the graph above shows the yearly growth RATE, as well as the estimated yearly rate of emissions by humanity. It shows a couple of interesting things. First, the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 is, on average, only about 50% of what mankind emits. This means that Mother Nature takes out about 50% of the ‘excess’ CO2 that we pump into the atmosphere every year. And it seem like it doesn’t matter how much MORE we put in each year…nature still takes out an average of 50% of that amount.

Secondly, it shows that there are huge year-to-year fluctuations in the amount of extra CO2 that shows up at Mauna Loa. Most of these fluctuations are due to El Nino and La Nina events.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Some heretical thoughts being bandied about at The Wall Street Journal where today's edition features an editorial that pushes the idea of liberating Detroit to build and sell cars and trucks that actually make money, instead of having to offer vehicles that first satisfy bureaucratic edicts from Washington bureaucrats.
Along the way, the WSJ analysis focuses on the crucial role of the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules in the undoing of the Big Three:

"The fuel-economy rules apply equally to foreign brands, of course, some of which also specialize in big, powerful vehicles. But they afford themselves an out. BMW paid $230 million in CAFE fines from 1983 to 2007 to avoid building small cars at a loss to please Washington. Volvo paid $56 million. Daimler paid $55 million.

"Why don't the Big Three take this out? Explains the Government Accountability Office, because they fear the political repercussions of being tagged with "unlawful conduct."

Welcome To The Bill And W Depression

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As an REO (foreclosed properties) valuation analyst I see first hand all over the country what is really happening.
The real net to the investor is often less than 30% of UPB. I also see the trends daily in price drops, activity and new properties coming on the market. There were one million foreclosures in 2008 and easily 2.5M in 2009 based on current monthly foreclosure activity (ex. there were 250k notices filed in October alone. All of this real activity is evidence that the problem is worse than being let on. Values are likely to drop at least as much again as they already have in most markets except those that have already dropped 30% or more like Phoenix, Miami, San Fransisco and Los Vegas. This essentially means the housing market has already entered a full blown depression and we are maybe at the midpoint. The Feds cannot manipulate real supply and demand. Thats econ 101. Thank Bill Clinton for his "housing for everyone" mantra.


They were. The "Roosevelt Rally" flattened. The arbitrary quality of other initiatives reinforced concerns. The New Deal centerpiece, the National Recovery Administration, helped some businesses compete and criminalized others for the same behavior. Sometimes Roosevelt goaded federal prosecutors into harassing corporate executives. Other times, he schmoozed the same execs at the White House. In 1936, FDR pushed through deficit spending. In 1937, he was Mr. Budget Hawk.

Uncertain, markets froze. Businesses refused to hire or invest in equipment. Unemployment stayed stuck in the teens. The 'deal' part of the New Deal phrase was problematic; businesses didn't want individual favors, they wanted clear laws for all. Industrialist Ernest Weir summed up what his community was desperate for FDR to do: "Above all to make the program clear and then stick to it."


God is distinguished by his indistinction from any other distinct things...--Meister Eckhart

"Eckhart was obviously fascinated by the question of what we think we are doing when we attempt to speak about God. In one sense, his whole surviving corpus is an exploration of this issue. Why is speech necessary when silence is more fitting?" (McGinn).

You might say that Eckhart picks up where Aquinas himself left off, in the abysmal silence at the beginning and end of all verbalization; which is why he could say that "the Word which is in the silence of the fatherly Intellect is a Word without word, or rather a Word above every word." In the beginning -- or at the Origin, to be precise -- is the wordless Word, or pure spirit-breath hovering over the face of the deep.

Or Is The Warming The Result Of The Cloud Change?

The central importance of feedbacks to the global warming issue can not be overstated. How the radiant flows of energy in and out of the Earth system change with temperature is THE most critical piece of knowledge we need in order to predict whether manmade global warming will be benign — or catastrophic. It is obvious that good estimates of feedbacks are needed from our observations of natural climate variability. This would provide the most important test of climate models: do the models exhibit feedbacks consistent with those we observe in nature?

I am now convinced that the main difficulty in diagnosing feedbacks from observations of natural climate variability has been related to the issue of causation when observing cloud behavior. The best way to introduce what I mean by this is with the following question:

When low cloud cover is observed to decrease with warming, is the cloud change the result of the warming, or is the warming the result of the cloud change?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

If The OHsu Fits

In his December 22 letter, Cohen also noted that Hsu was already "notorious for his political activities" and that it was "inevitable" that his client's "connections" to Bill and Hillary Clinton "and other democratic notables--including perhaps the president-elect--will be introduced at trial." Before becoming a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, Hsu co-hosted a 2005 California fundraiser for Obama's political action committee and introduced the Illinois Democrat to Marc Gorenberg, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who later joined the Obama campaign's national finance committee. Prosecutors allege that Hsu directed his investors to donate money to specific candidates, and then reimbursed them in violation of federal campaign laws.

Looking Away

Of course, Tuesday's fiasco could have been avoided. Democrats in the state legislature could have stripped Blagojevich of his appointment powers and imposed a special election. Obama also could have demanded it. But as he has done so often in his career, Obama avoided a confrontation and looked the other way.

Democrats tried to finesse this, and they allowed Blagojevich the opening he needed, to hold that news conference and defy everybody. And so I'm forced to tip my hat to Gov. Dead Meat on this one, for sheer brazenness.

He's no jester. And it takes guts to keep a straight face while Democrats about you are losing theirs.


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Whoever called politics "the art of the possible" must have had a strange idea of what is possible or a strange idea of politics, where the impossible is one of the biggest vote-getters.

People can get the possible on their own. Politicians have to be able to offer the voters something that they cannot get on their own. The impossible fills that bill perfectly.

You want the government to create more jobs for people when there is widespread unemployment? It's been done. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the government employed more young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps than there were in the Army. The money to pay for all this had to come from somewhere-- and that meant that there was less money left to employ other people in the private sector. While jobs created by the government may not have reduced total unemployment, these jobs increased votes for the administration, which is the real bottom line in politics.

Of A And B

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Another pitfall to straight thinking is sometimes called the cause and effect fallacy. That fallacy is made when a person sees event B coming on the heels of event A and then says A caused B. There may no causal relationship at all. Such is the case when the rooster crows and shortly thereafter the sun rises. That is easy to see but many historians assert that the 1929 stock market crash caused the 1930s Great Depression. Little is further from the truth. Instead, it was caused by inept fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies of the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The "Vacuum"

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A major fallacy ensues from this
one-sided premise, which is that Israel is the sole stimulus for Hamas response, and therefore it alone bears the responsibility for the undeniable
misery in Gaza. Those quick to point out how Olmert's miscalculations have hurt
the people he governs will typically suggest that military incursions
"radicalize" Arab sentiment, leading to more suicide bombers and more
dead Israelis.

Assuming this is true, why is it that the corollary is never
asked: namely, how does Hamas radicalize Israeli sentiment? A much remarked-upon fact of the last 72 hours is that Israel's ultra-left-wing party Meretz
has endorsed Operation Cast Lead, a development that should concern partisans
of both sides. If there is merit to the "root causes" argument, then
surely it applies to the decisions undertaken by a Jewish policy as much
as it does to those undertaken by a Muslim one. Or does a belligerent Israeli
consensus form in a vacuum?

Believe It

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So to recap all of this change you can believe in: A Kennedy and Cuomo are competing to succeed a Clinton in New York; the skids are greased for a Biden to replace a Biden in Delaware; one Salazar might replace another in Colorado; and a Governor charged with political corruption in Illinois wants one of his cronies to succeed the President-elect. Let's just say we're looking forward to 2009.

The Amazing Coincidence

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The left's hope is that derivatives are so poorly understood that people can be convinced that turmoil in the market for credit default swaps -- an effect of soured mortgage loans -- is actually a cause of this crisis. Credit default swaps (CDS) are insurance policies against companies or investment vehicles going bankrupt and being unable to pay their creditors. This insurance is cheap when things are going well, and very expensive when investors expect the relevant entities to fail. Turns out that the markets for CDS and other derivatives not tied to the housing crisis are functioning normally.

in an amazing coincidence, it is the failure -- or the expected failure -- of entities with heavy exposure to toxic mortgages that is putting extreme financial strain on those who sold insurance. But the problem can't possibly be the toxic mortgages encouraged by Washington, according to the politicians. It must be the system of insuring against the collapse of those who bought the mortgages.
Welcome to We The Free! Using this blog: In addition to being mainly a personal research (linker) blog, I tend to keep some of my favorite posts bumped high and even dated into the future (notice the date on this post?). To read the very latest just click through to the "Cycles of History" post and scroll down from there... [ --This post held bumped to top-- ]

Fanning The Lazy

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It seems that AIG and other institutions became lazy and relied on the investigations and reasoning of others. Fannie and Freddie were recklessly buying subprime mortgage backed securities, funded by their government guarantee. The major credit ratings agencies were eager to go along with government pressure to approve subprime MBS bonds. They were comfortable having a an effective monopoly as government-approved companies.

So, I think the suits got it wrong, thinking: Why stay out of a market that everyone else has confidence in.?

AIG got into trouble evaluating the risk of default for banks holding mortgage backed securities. Banks bought AAA rated mortgage securities, supposedly rock-solid. The AAA ratings were given by government-approved ratings agencies. Insurers like AIG and other institutions relied on those ratings, and insured those banks by selling credit default swaps, which seemed to be a conservative risk. The actual risk of those mortgage securities was far higher.

Alarmed And Begging For Rescue

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"Third, that even though much of the public instinctively and correctly opposed the bailout, it sailed through without costing Congressmen their seats."

I heard a story on NPR about a poll that showed that the public was fairly evenly split on the issue of bail-outs. In addition, the media overwhelmingly sold the financial problems as the worst the world has ever seen since creation and hounded politicians for a solution. Policians saw that the media was on their side and would portray them as heroes. Then the media pimped for the pols and told the public they were stupid for opposing bail-outs.

Mencken said that the art of practical politics is to keep the public alarmed and begging for rescue. The mainstream media empower politicians in practicing their dark arts.

Government Is Here To "Help"

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Reason TV has a video of a panel discussion that really articulates the frustration that libertarians feel about the financial bailout. As Tim Cavanaugh points out, the bailout redistributes from the prudent to the profligate. As Veronique de Rugy points out (footnoting Andrei Shleifer, et al), when people lose confidence and trust in one another, their confidence in government increases. Thus, government failure that undermines confidence winds up reinforcing the demand for government!
Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson were hailed as saviors, even though they could just have easily been portrayed as bumblers. The whole thing was portrayed as government having no choice but to come in and clean up the private sector's mess, rather than an ill-conceived attempt to stop markets from adjusting to a mess that was created by a combination of market failure and government failure.

More Head Banging Goodness

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I know I’m getting to be a broken record on this, but how long will this country keep trying to cure the disease with the disease?

Headline: “GMAC loosens credit to make vehicles easier to buy.” Call it the subprime auto loan prescription.

Easier auto loans for more people.

The struggling financing arm of General Motors Corp., rescued by $5 billion in federal aid on Monday, plans to use some of the money to make cars and trucks more affordable to a larger pool of customers.

Flashback Nov. 25: Borrow. Spend. Panic. Repeat.

Mish sums this madness up perfectly:

The more money wasted on stupidity like this, the longer the recession, and the slower the recovery. There is only so much capital, and using that capital to keep failed business models alive is sickening.

Pardon me while I bang my head against the wall some more.


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HEH: “Two years ago, like many somewhat financially literate readers, I was perusing newspapers stories about crazy negative amortization mortgages and exclaiming, ‘What are they, on crack?‘ Now we have our answer.”

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sad To Say...

"Two plus two always equals four, never five," he said. ...

Before his speech, the assembly voted to raise the age at which workers can retire with a government pension by five years, to 65 for men and 60 for women. Officials said the change was needed because Cuba's population was aging rapidly due to a declining birth rate and immigration.

Castro said Cuban managers need to demand more from their workers, who receive free education and health care and subsidized food rations but on average earn only $20 a month. ...

He expressed dissatisfaction with the system of subsidies for those who can work, but do not, saying government handouts discourage Cubans from being more productive.

It's sad to say, but there are many in Congress and even some in the administration who could take a lesson from Castro's realism.

Dave Barry's Real Life

If you work for the New York Times, or if you are a fierce loyalist and fan of the New York Times, you may not want to read Dave Barry’s 2008 year in review.

Why?  Because in an year in which Barry hilariously eviscerates the media — sample:  “A mesmerizing speaker, Obama electrifies voters with his exciting new ideas for change, although people have trouble remembering exactly what these ideas are because they are so darned mesmerized. Some people become so excited that they actually pass out. These are members of the press corps” — he saves particular and substantial ridicule for the New York Times.


  • Barack Obama, continuing to shake up the establishment, selects as his running mate Joe Biden, a tireless fighter for change since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1849.
Some may call this satire. Others may call it, well, real life.  Dave Barry really may not be making this up.
"They chose dishonour. They will have war." -- Winston Churchill