Saturday, June 30, 2007
And, this week Caliber Global Investments, a London investment fund, closed its doors because of the performance of the CMOs they bought, much of which represented sub-prime loans granted in 2005.
Finally, what will happen when the higher rates kick in on all those adjustable rate mortgages out there?
Over the past twenty years or so the devious minds of Wall Street have dreamed up a variety of truly exotic - and difficult to understand - financial techniques (which they call products). CLO - collateralized loan obligations - is the latest.
Basically, a CLO is a pool of bank loans bundled together by Wall Street and sold in pieces of differing degree of risk. You can buy the riskiest piece or the safest piece. One problem is that no one really knows what the true worth of a particular CLO is. Also, since the bank is going to sell the loan when the borrower walks out the door, the banker's interest in maintaining loan standards is not very great. This reminds me of the sub-prime market: make the sale and sell the risk to someone else. Another variant of the free lunch.
Perhaps the migration of the oil workers is the reason why Venezuela's oil production is 20% less now than it was in 1999, although prices are quite a bit higher today.
Friday, June 29, 2007
- minorities can't participate in decision-making that affects them
- they get the short end of economic development money and efforts
- their cultural identity is not protected.
- The boycott of Palestine after the victory of Hamas was a major error and the Palestinians suffered greatly. The boycott "effectively transformed the Quartet from a negotiation-promoting foursome guided by a common document into a body that was all but imposing sanctions on a freely elected government of a people under occupation as well as setting unattainable preconditions for dialogue".
- Where 100,000 Palestinians used to travel to Israel for work every day, now none do.
- Israel has "essentially rejected" any settlement moves. They have set unachievable preconditions for talks.
- Palestine has done a very poor job of stopping the violence.
- The U.S. has "pummeled into submission" the UN's role in the Middle East.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
CIA Releases Two Significant Collections of Historical Documents
Two significant collections of previously classified historical documents are now available in the CIA's FOIA Electronic Reading Room.
The first collection, widely known as the "Family Jewels," consists of almost 700 pages of responses from CIA employees to a 1973 directive from Director of Central Intelligence James Schlesinger asking them to report activities they thought might be inconsistent with the Agency's charter.
The second collection, the CAESAR-POLO-ESAU papers, consists of 147 documents and 11,000 pages of in-depth analysis and research from 1953 to 1973. The CAESAR and POLO papers studied Soviet and Chinese leadership hierarchies, respectively, and the ESAU papers were developed by analysts to inform CIA assessments on Sino-Soviet relations.
Take the issue of fair and open competition. The Committee found that $67.5 billion was awarded in 2000 for contracts where there was not fair and open competition. That number grew to $145.1 billion by 2005 and in 2006 was $206.9 billion.
Similarly, waste and fraud continue to grow. Last year the number was $745.5 billion. This year it's $1.1 trillion.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I wonder whether Cruise would be barred if he were not making a movie about Nazi Germany.
We don't have to be #1 in everything - we can't be - but we should not act as though we were.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I have the sense, but not the proof, that the cost of the Internet is higher here than elsewhere.
Every Spring Iran seems to make a sweep of all those violating the Koran. This year they've set a record and have arrested at least 150,000. They've also sent a three page memo to the media telling them what they cannot report on, such as the price of gas.
But I guess Iran's problems will soon end as Ahmadinejad has said that their savior will soon return. I had better watch what I say.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Yes, your name does have some influence over you, but the influence is almost non-existent. I hated mine, but if my dislike of my name affected my life in any way I would be absolutely amazed.
His section titles lay out his argument
- Fighting the wrong war in a nation of civil wars.
- Not counterinsurgency but armed nation-building
- A critical lack of US official transparency and integrity
- Failures in conciliation and governance
- Failures in security
- Failures in economic security, development and aid
Most of the time in life problems do not just go away. They will continue to return until they are resolved. Unless you take the time to figure out why strategy x did not resolve the problem, you are doomed to be visited with the problem over and over. This inability to admit the existence of a real problem seems to be a hallmark of our leadership.
Our leaders are afraid of the truth, afraid of facing reality. Sometimes you can get away with living in a fantasy world. Most times you can't. When will we realize we are living in a world that is changing very dramatically? How many of the people aspiring to lead this nation are even aware of the changes that are taking place?
The 'loss' of thousands of e-mails would make one question the adequacy of the White House's protection of classified material.
The Vice President filed the necessary reports in 2001 and 2002 and the stopped. Was that because the Iraq war began in 2003?
In an affidavit he told the story of his one experience serving on a military panel. The panel found that the detainee should not be classified as an enemy combatant. His superiors forced them to reopen the hearing so that more evidence could be presented by the government. Again, the panel said the detainee was not an enemy combatant. Later the panel was interviewed more than once about their decision. That was the last time Abraham had an opportunity to serve on a panel. I wonder why.
Moreover, Abraham accuses the intelligence agencies of refusing to state that he had been given all the evidence - pro and con - in the case. In his view much of the evidence was gathered by junior officers with little or no training or experience in the area.
Friday, June 22, 2007
- Our attitude towards China's industrial growth is very similar to that of Europe towards the industrial growth of the U.S. 100+ years ago.
- Some factories in China are the best in the world.
- Not only are Chinese factories able to produce goods cheaply, they can do it fast.
- In many Chinese factories the advantage they have is people because people do not have to be reprogrammed as do robots - and that saves time.
- Many Chinese workers assemble items by hand. Here, assembly is done by machines. Ergo, we are not losing assembly jobs to China.
- It is very likely that China's industrialization has brought more people out of poverty in the last fifty years than any other endeavor of man.
"If the United States is unhappy with the effects of its interaction with China, that’s America’s problem, not China’s. To imagine that the United States can stop China from pursuing its own economic ambitions through nagging, threats, or enticement is to fool ourselves. If a country does not like the terms of its business dealings with the world, it needs to change its own policies, not expect the world to change. China has done just that, to its own benefit—and, up until now, to America’s.
Are we uncomfortable with the America that is being shaped by global economic forces? The inequality? The sense of entitlement for some? Of stifled opportunity for others? The widespread fear that today’s trends—borrowing, consuming, looking inward, using up infrastructure—will make it hard to stay ahead tomorrow, particularly in regard to China? If so, those trends themselves, and the American choices behind them, are what Americans can address. They’re not China’s problem, and they’re not the fault of anyone in Shenzhen."
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Nine years later the Vatican ruled that the annulment was not valid. However, the ruling was in Latin and there just aren't that many Latin scholars around, even in the Catholic church. It took two years for Rauch to find out that she and Joe were still husband and wife. She found this out in May and the news was made public now.
You have to wonder whether the annulment would have been finalized had it happened in the 1970s rather than the 1990s. Ted Kennedy had no problem getting an annulment back then.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Most mental health professionals believe that anywhere from 12-20% of our troops will suffer from PTSD. Very few of us can imagine the stress of combat. The Army's mental health professionals are arguing for a one month break after someone has served three months in combat in Iraq. This is similar to what took place in WWII and Vietnam. Although the Iraq war is much more intense, the brass says they can't afford it; they will give the troops a day or two off every eight days.
A draft will allow us to have more troops in the field and might reduce the incidence of PTSD.
This comment by the manager of the factory sums up what appears to be not a rare attitude in parts of China, "I felt it was a fairly small thing, just hitting and swearing at the workers and not giving them wages. The dead man has nothing to do with me." Combine this with
- forcing children to work and the girls to become prostitutes
- local police preventing kids from leaving unless their parents appear
- the government issuing a policy to censor news about the issue
- the lead paint on Tommy the Train
- a work-study program where junior high students work 14 hours a day and can't call home
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
In essence, the bulk of these contractors have become the logistics staff for the military. The fact that we have outsourced this vital aspect of any war means that the military really does not have the control they need and should have. An example - Some contractors have stopped working because their bills have not been paid on time. They've stopped working in Iraq, where soldiers are getting killed daily. And there is nothing the military can do about it as the contractors are not subject to military law. Not only is this behavior intolerable, but we are spending billions of dollars with these contractors.
Wouldn't it make sense from both the military and financial standpoint to have all of our military functions being run by our military, rather than assign logistics to a contractor and dying to a soldier? It's time to face facts. The professional army concept is not working. We need to reinstate the draft.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The report identifies six key questions that will represent the grand challenges that materials science will face over the coming decade, the ones most likely to produce the next revolution. But it also raises fears that those challenges will be met by researchers outside of the US. It highlights the fact that government funding has not kept up with the rising costs of research at the same time that the corporate-funded research lab system has collapsed. As a result, US scientific productivity has stagnated at a time when funding and output are booming overseas. The report makes a series of recommendations that it hopes will get US physics research booming again.Emphasis added.
At the strategic level, the risk to the United States is not that insurgents will “win” in the traditional sense, take over their country, and shift it from a partner to an enemy. It is that complex internal conflicts, especially ones involving insurgency, will generate other adverse effects: the destabilization of regions, resource flows, and markets; the blossoming of transnational crime; humanitarian disasters; transnational terrorism; and so forth. Given this, the U.S. goal should not automatically be the defeat of the insurgents by the regime (which may be impossible and which the regime may not even want), but the most rapid conflict resolution possible. In other words, a quick and sustainable resolution which integrates insurgents into the national power structure is less damaging to U.S. national interests than a protracted conflict which leads to the complete destruction of the insurgents. Protracted conflict, not insurgent victory, is the threat.
If, in fact, insurgency is not simply a variant of war, if the real threat is the deleterious effects of sustained conflict, and if it is part of systemic failure and pathology in which key elites and organizations develop a vested interest in sustaining the conflict, the objective of counterinsurgency support should not be simply strengthening the government so that it can impose its will more effectively on the insurgents, but systemic reengineering. This, in turn, implies that the most effective posture for outsiders is not to be an ally of the government and thus a sustainer of the flawed socio-political-economic system, but to be neutral mediators and peacekeepers (even when the outsiders have much more ideological affinity for the regime than for the insurgents). If this is true, the United States should only undertake counterinsurgency support in the most pressing instances and as part of an equitable, legitimate, and broad-based multinational coalition.
American strategy for counterinsurgency should recognize three distinct insurgency settings each demanding a different response:
• A functioning government with at least some degree of legitimacy is suffering from an erosion of effectiveness but can be “redeemed” through assistance provided according to the Foreign Internal Defense doctrine.
• There is no functioning and legitimate government, but a broad international and regional consensus supports the creation of a neo-trusteeship. In such instances, the United States should provide military, economic, and political support as part of a multinational consensus operating under the authority of the United Nations.
• There is no functioning and legitimate government and no international or regional consensus for the formation of a neo-trusteeship. In these cases, the United States should pursue containment of the conflict by support to regional states and, in conjunction with partners, help create humanitarian “safe zones” within the conflictive state.
Will today's killing of 35+ police there have any effect on NATO or the U.S.?
While the companies are doing things that used to be done by the military, any casualties they suffer are not reported or are under-reported by the military. Some think 132 contractors have been killed and 416 wounded since Fall 2004; some think the number is higher.
The article ends with a quote from Taguba. “From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service. And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
- Give our troops a device to enable them to identify those they stop.
- Stop the policy of making it so difficult to retain captured insurgents.
The process we use to handle those we capture seems geared much more to protecting the captives' rights than imprisoning likely bad guys. (I need not remind you this is in sharp contrast to our efforts re Guantanamo.) Anyway, here's what the Wests say happens:
After an arrest, two soldiers must file affidavits, together with physical evidence and digital pictures, and then an American lawyer decides if the package is strong enough to withstand further review. About half of all detainees are released within 18 hours; the others are sent from battalion level to brigade level, where the evidence is re-examined, resulting in more releases.I find this truly unbelievable.
Those detainees remaining are sent to a detention center where a combined board reviews the evidence again, and releases still more. After that, every six months a United States board must re-review the evidence in each case. Lastly, the detainee appears before an Iraqi judge, who in turn dismisses about half of the cases.
As for follow-up, before a detainee walks free, the American command sends notification to the battalion in the area where he was apprehended. But because many of the battalions have rotated back to the United States by this time, a new unit has to deal with the detainee.
Worse, there remains steady clamoring from both high-level Iraqi and American officials for yet another mass release (there have been several since 2003). To his credit, General David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, has resisted, and the result is prison overcrowding since the surge began. Yet neither the American government, mindful of the criticism of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, nor the Iraqi government wants to take the political heat of building more prisons.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
For some his private life could also be considered a smashing success - married twice, wives and children on two coasts at the same time, dating two sisters simultaneously, a mistress on the West Coast and another in Indianapolis.
He had a real talent for keeping simultaneous affairs going. For example, in February 2006 the Indianapolis Star reported (complete with photograph) his engagement to Ms Rita DiCarlo; in July the same paper reported on the work he and his 'wife', Angela, were doing in restoring an historic home.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Will "As they stand up, we'll stand down" resonate twenty years later? It may be quoted but as an indication of the naivete and stupidity of our leaders.
Maybe the teachers should talk to someone who pays 100% of their insurance.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Or course, having any of our soldiers there means more American deaths but a phased withdrawal might be best for all concerned, given the current state of affairs: the insurgents might see that we will not be there forever, our friends might realize that we are not abandoning them, and the world might see that we are trying to extricate ourselves from this mess in an intelligent way. I know that I used 'might' four times in that sentence, but I'm not foolish enough to claim to know the future.
There are a couple of interesting comments in the article
- "We had previously 'transitioned' ourselves into irrelevance, and the whole thing was going to hell in a handbasket."
- The 2005 election only made things worse. "We wanted an election in the worst way, and we got one in the worst way."
That inequality has been rising in this country cannot be disputed. Nor can the fact that there was less inequality in the period 1950 - 1980. Between 1980 and 2005 non-farm productivity, the engine of economic growth, rose 67.4%; compensation of full-time workers rose 19%. Similarly, the top 1% of taxpayers increased their share of gross personal income from 8.2% in 1980 to 17.4% in 2005.
From 1947 to 1973, median family income and productivity moved in concert; both doubled in that time period. Why? Levy and Temin argue because the unions were really powerful, taxes were progressive, there was a reasonable minimum wage and institutions - including the government - tried to influence the market rather than give it the virtually unrestrained freedom it has today.
This paper seems to be a hot topic in the world of economics today. Will it be read by Paulson and company?
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Well, these fines are seldom paid in full. More than half are forgiven if the airline promises to be a good boy and not do it again. Others are reduced if the airline promises to do something it might do anyway, such as increase the number of monitors in an airport.
It's only our money that DOT feels free to not collect.
I'm not an attorney but my reading of the report leads me to believe that Graham would be nuts to appeal the decision. Basically, the board said Graham did not mount any sort of a reasonable case. The decision seemed to boil down to the opinions of the expert appraisers brought in by both sides. The Assessor's expert based his argument on detailed data, Graham's on theories which did not seem grounded in fact.
Friday, June 08, 2007
While four potential losses does not seem to be a bad record, the article also noted that the interest coverage in private equity deals as a whole has gone down from 3.4 in 2004 to 1.7. Sooner or later debt must be paid if you wish to stay in business. The market for debt is finite. How many private equity failures will it take to squelch the boom?
Phyllis Nash, who worked under Holsinger for nine years as vice chancellor at the medical center, said the views he took in church appear at odds with his professional actions.
She recalled a women's health conference that Holsinger helped organize in 2002 that included a session on lesbian health. Despite complaints from some lawmakers, Holsinger insisted the session go forward, she said.
Looking behind some of the charges made against Holsinger - such as he was responsible for unnecessary deaths at VA hospitals - one finds them to be a twisting of the facts. Apparently Holsinger has been a reasonably competent person, perhaps more so than most Bush appointees. Whether he can compartmentalize his professional life and leave his anti-gay bias at the door is the question.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
It seems that our money was given to Lee County just after Mr. Young received $40,000 in campaign funds from a Florida gala in his honor. Lee County leaders, to their credit,voted twice not to accept these funds. But, Mr. Young is a persistent guy and threatened to withhold all federal funds from the county unless they took this money and used it to connect Coconut Road to the interstate. The fact that the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and environmental groups assert that the road will damage wetlands is of no concern to Mr. Young. Heck, it's not his money and he doesn't live there. Why should he worry?
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Bradley was able to increase H-P's market share and profit margin by focusing on the basics. Like who is the customer, what does the customer want, how can I reach him and convince him of the value he can find in my product, what do I have to do to make sure I can deliver, how do I monitor my customer deliveries. It's a fascinating article that I'm sure will become part of a case study at graduate business schools.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The essay is the result of an analysis of DHS' budgets since the department was formed. One of the reasons for forming the department and giving it more money was so that the additional money could be spent on top priority projects. Well, each of the agencies has been getting its same share of the DHS budget every year, even though there is a fair amount of duplication among agencies. The extra money is not going to top priority projects.
It looks like the bureaucracy is winning the GWOT.
It seems as though Mother Nature has been working on these tanks over the past 20+ years. Salt water is now in the tanks and working its way to the 21,000 rods. When that happens, uranium particles will be released. Get enough of these particles and you will have an uncontrolled chain reaction of unknown destructive capacity.
This could happen tomorrow or years from now.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Her advice is that we drop the boycott. The flood of investment that would be generated would be good for Cubans and good for us.
We almost went to war when Russia has missiles based in Miami forty-six years ago. How would we feel if they put missiles there once more?
It sounds as though Bush wants to leave office with a bang.
The military feels that only 146 of 457 neighborhoods in Baghdad are really protected. In one sector the number of bodies has tripled since the surge began, although there are three times as many soldiers patrolling now as there were previously. In this same sector Shia are working hard to expel Sunnis. Two of the three gas stations in the area refuse to sell to Sunnis. Trash trucks entering Sunni areas have been attacked. Sunni homes have been set on fire. The local police commander has been replaced three times because of suspect collusion.
The basic problem appears to be an optimistic opinion as to how helpful the Iraqi military and police would be. They have not been very helpful. In some cases, particularly with the police, they appear to be helping the insurgents.
What would she have done if she got a call on her cell phone? Maybe she'd have to stop. That would be a tragedy for she obviously was pressed for time.