Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Case You Missed It

And I did, watching tonight's Presidential forum instead, but here's Charlie Gibson and Sarah Palin.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Sikkar the Lightbringer, God, Goddess and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This woman has NO. CLUE. What she is talking about. None. She is an empty collection of talking points. I've got a talking point for her.

One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away. One heartbeat away...

Hurricane Hugo

Chavez that is. He's just expelled the US Ambassador, following the lead of his Bolivian buddy Evo Morales who did the same yesterday.
Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday ordered the U.S. ambassador out of the oil exporting country in an escalating battle between Washington and Latin America's left-wing leaders.

"Go to hell, s--- yankees, we are a dignified people, go to hell 100 times," Chavez shouted at a political rally to thousands of roaring supporters.

Chavez's move came a day after Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of his closest allies, expelled the U.S. ambassador in La Paz on accusations that he was instigating violent protests in the Andean nation.

The United States responded on Thursday by ejecting Bolivia's ambassador in Washington, and Chavez said the United States should send back Venezuela's top envoy straight away.

"We will send an ambassador when there is a new government in the United States, a government that respects the people of Latin America," he said.

Slick. Real slick.

Service Forum

Watching the Service Forum with McSame and Obama.

Some pretty consistent agreement between both candidates here, good and bad, particularly on expanding the size of our military. Obama at least is talking about paying for college ($4ok credit per year) for doing service work, McSame, far less specific.

Both men seem to strongly believe our young people need to serve this country much, much more then they are doing. Both say they would sign the Kennedy-Hatch service bill, which of course Bush will surely veto.

Epic Charlie Gibson Interview Fail

Sarah Palin just ended her honeymoon with reality on ABC News.
On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Gov. Sarah Palin took a hard-line approach on national security and said that war with Russia may be necessary if that nation invades another country.

In her first of three interviews with ABC News's Charles Gibson and the only interview since being picked by Sen. John McCain as his Republican vice presidential nominee, Palin categorized the Russian invasion of Georgia as "unacceptable" and warned of the threats from Islamic terrorists and a nuclear Iran.

The Governor advocated the accession of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

When asked by Gibson if under the NATO treaty, the U.S. would have to go to war if Russia again invaded Georgia, Palin responded: "Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

"And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable," she told ABC News' Charles Gibson in an exclusive interview.

This, right here folks? This is EPIC FAIL 101.

Going to war with Russia? Russia attacked Georgia unprovoked? Could this woman be any less qualified for the Oval Office? Is she actually this clueless?

(And wait a minute, this means Charlie Gibson asked...real...actual...questions. Holy hell.)

You lose, madam.

Good day.


Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The price of oil has dropped about $45 a barrel in the last two months, or about 30%.

The price of gas has dropped about 45 cents a gallon in the last two months, or about 12.5%.

Think long and hard about that. When oil crossed the $100 mark on the way up in January, we were paying $3.15 a gallon or so. On the way down it's $3.89 here in NKY.

Global No-Confidence Vote: Dominoes Falling

The pace of entropy is quickening as the financials are sputtering out post-Big Big Bailout. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. More and more banks are falling past the point of no return, for the Big Big Bailout has all but shattered confidence in the markets. They know this was the all-or-nothing step. If this doesn't work...

Lehman Brothers may not make it through the weekend.

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. entered into talks with potential buyers of the securities firm after Moody's Investors Service said the company must find a ``stronger financial partner'' and the shares plummeted.

Bankers from other firms are reviewing Lehman's books today, people with knowledge of the situation said, declining to identify the potential acquirers. Mark Lane, a spokesman for Lehman, declined to comment.

Without a ``strategic arrangement'' in the ``near term,'' Lehman's credit-ratings may be downgraded, Moody's said yesterday after the New York-based investment bank announced the biggest loss in its 158-year history. Lehman, led by Chief Executive Officer Richard Fuld, fell as much as 46 percent in New York trading today, ceding its spot as the fourth-biggest U.S. securities firm by market value to Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida.

``While the number of potential acquirers at this point is very few, Moody's action certainly raises the specter of takeout, potentially at a very low price,'' said Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Guy Moszkowski in a report today. He lowered his recommendation on the stock to ``no opinion,'' saying a potential ``take-under'' makes it hard to gauge a price target.

Ahh, but if only Lehman was in trouble...

A number of financial players are nearing the event horizon point, the point where they are falling too close to the black hole of debt to escape it. Lehman is there and will not survive. Washington Mutual may be the next company to follow Lehman down the tubes.
Federal banking regulators, who earlier this week ratcheted up their scrutiny of Washington Mutual, are closely watching the thrift's condition.

"We're aware of it and we're monitoring it," said William Ruberry, a spokesman for the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Treasury Department agency that is WaMu's primary regulator.

With losses in its mortgage portfolio expected to peak at $19 billion, the Seattle-based bank could be Wall Street's next casualty, some analysts believe.

"The question becomes can it survive if it has billions and billions of dollars left to write down on those loans?" Ladenburg Thalmann analyst Richard Bove said. "What's going to keep it in business, what is going to keep it alive?"

"WaMu made mistakes in loan originations, to be sure, but it also had bad luck in that the bulk of its loans are in California," which has suffered some of the steepest declines in home prices and largest number of foreclosures, said Stuart Feldstein, president of SMR Research, which provides research on the lending industry.

He notes that WaMu expanded its business in the late 1990s by buying two of the largest thrifts in California, Home Savings of America and its rival Great Western Bank, "in a mad acquisition spree by ex-CEO (Kerry) Killinger."

"It was an opportunity for him to grow quickly, but in retrospect -- and hindsight is easy -- they should have had a little more geographic dispersion," Feldstein said. "He had to sit back and cross his fingers that nothing ever went bad in California."

One thing working in WaMu's favor is its valuable deposit base. Bove suspects management is "scrambling to find a buyer."

One indicator that the bank could be in trouble is the widening of its credit spreads, evidence that investors believe the debt is riskier.

Washington Mutual's spreads are greatly wider than Lehman's -- and Lehman's spreads are already wider than those of Bear Stearns Cos. shortly before its demise in March, according to Len Blum, managing director at investment bank Westwood Capital.

It's entirely possible neither one of these companies will make it through the weekend. The Fed has set a dangerous precedent: having rescued Bear Stearns, it now has an obligation to rescue these larger banks from a similar fate.

Worse credit spreads than Bear Stearns when it went under, keep that in mind. The Street knows what is coming.

The problem is even the Fed had to use a proxy buyer company, in Bear Stearns case it was JP Morgan Chase. NOBODY is looking to buy either one of these companies right now. Even foreign sovereign funds with hundreds of billions aren't touching either of these companies.

Mainly because foreign investors would want a seat on the board and controlling interest. These companies have been run very badly, and the only way foreign money is going in is if they get to replace CEOs. The US won't let that happen in an election year, or any year for that matter.

But the alternative is making us pay for it...and we'll just borrow the money from the Chinese like we've been doing.

Meanwhile, in the near future, insurance giant AIG is probably third in line.

American International Group Inc., the world's largest insurer, holds between $550 million and $600 million in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preferred shares, according to a source familiar with the investment.

Investors have been biting their nails over companies' holdings of the agencies' preferred shares, with concern that the recent government takeover of the giant home-funding companies could wipe out value.

So many major financial firms have Freddie and Fannie holdings. Now the value of all those holdings, and thus, all those financial institutions, are in question.

As the article says, AIG is the world's largest insurance company. If it goes down, more dominoes will fall. Fannie and Freddie are being run by the same inept people that created the mess, folks. Every bank in the world owns some Fannie and Freddie debt. That value is falling on an hourly basis around the world. The insurance industry as a whole owns $4 billion of it, and it's rapidly disintegrating.

The press wants you to believe this is the beginning of the end of the credit crisis.

I'm here to tell you this is just the end of the beginning. Now we're going to most likely see a number of major financial players go under, and go under in rapid succession.

It's only going to get worse from here, folks.

Be prepared.

Cross-posted at the Frog Pond.

Razor Close

Five Thirty Eight has the race....pretty close.

However, this is ideally the strongest McSame's position should ever be, theoretically. If it's still this close two weeks from now, Obama is in trouble.

Newer, Shinier Wars

Iraq and Afghanistan are old. The real fun is in Pakistan!
President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior American official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the missions. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

The Central Intelligence Agency has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But the new orders for the military’s Special Operations forces relax firm restrictions on conducting raids on the soil of an important ally without its permission.

Pakistan’s top army officer said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.”

Once again, if any other country on earth other than the US violated Pakistan's sovereignity, Bush would be the first person to call it an act of war.

But we're too worried about Sarah Palin's lipstick.

More Excellent News For The McSame Campaign!

...or not.
A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one. You've probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s. Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and a close friend of the McCain's, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode. And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy's drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife's theft of illegal prescription drugs. John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time - this was after the Keating 5 scandal - another major scandal would have derailed his career. Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve. As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCain's do business.
I've got ten bucks says somebody on FOX accidentally says "This is as preposterous as the 'Obama is a Muslim' story" if they even bother to acknowledged this one at all.
Gosinski was an employee of Cindy McCain who helped her run her charity, the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) in the early to mid-1990s. At the time Gosinski worked for her, Cindy McCain was addicted to prescription painkillers, taking between 30-50 pills a day of Vicatem and/or Percocet. She had doctors writing out prescriptions in other peoples' names, including Gosinski. When Gosinski found one of the prescription slips, he got angry, and Cindy had him fired. This part of the story is just kind of sad, but not damning; Cindy McCain was a lonely and bored wife who turned to drugs in place of what was a loveless marriage full of fundraisers and in all likelihood, various infidelities (or so were the rumors Gosinski heard at the time).

Now, it begins to get dangerous and vicious after Gosinksi was fired. At first the McCain's said they'd help him find a job, but it became clear to Gosinksi that McCain was using his political connections to blackball him from another job in Republican politics in Arizona. So he sued the McCain's for wrongful termination, and went to the Drug Enforcement Agency to find out the legal repercussions of having prescriptions for painkillers written in his name. To retaliate, McCain then had his political ally, Rick Romley, open an extortion investigation against Gosinksi. In the course of that investigation, it was revealed that the DEA was circling around Cindy McCain and her charity. It's not clear what they were investigating her for, but it is clear she was bringing illegal prescription drugs around the world on a diplomatic passport secured for her by McCain's Senate office.

McCain's Senate staff and Senate resources were intimately involved in Cindy's work with the charity. John McCain procured her a diplomatic passport, which meant that her bags were not searched by customs, and Mark Salter and Torie Clarke were both coordinating with Gosinski on logistics for the trips abroad.

Let's see McSame get out of this one. Honestly, if it's true that McSame and his stuff covered for Cindy's addiction using Johnny Mac's Senate resources and diplomatic passport, he's done. Toast. He'll lose.

I mean are we convinced the guy's a scumbag or what, America?

Drill Me Baby, Drill Me All Night

And the Interior Department scandal keeps getting worse.
As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

In three reports delivered to Congress on Wednesday, the department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, found wrongdoing by a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government’s largest sources of revenue other than taxes.

“A culture of ethical failure” pervades the agency, Mr. Devaney wrote in a cover memo.

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.

The highest-ranking official criticized in the reports is Lucy Q. Denett, the former associate director of minerals revenue management, who retired earlier this year as the inquiry was progressing.

The investigations are the latest installment in a series of scathing inquiries into the program’s management and competence in recent years. While previous reports have focused on problems the agency had in collecting millions of dollars owed to the Treasury, and hinted at personal misconduct, the new reports go far beyond any previous study in revealing serious concerns with the integrity and behavior of the agency’s officials.

In one of the new reports, investigators concluded that Ms. Denett worked with two aides to steer a lucrative consulting contract to one of the aides after he retired, violating competitive procurement rules.

Two other reports focus on “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” in the service’s royalty-in-kind program. That part of the agency collects about $4 billion a year in oil and gas rather than cash royalties.

When the Republicans say "Drill here, drill now" these are the people who have been benefiting, and the GOP only wants there to be more opportunities for more graft and corruption.

It's time for the Democrats to attack on this.

Lehman Russ Tank(ed)

Lehman Bros. is down another $3 or so to around $4.50 and falling. It has lost 75% of its value just in the last 4 days.

I'm expecting by Friday, we'll see rumors of Fed intervention boosting stock price for the suckers right before the Sunday Night bailout.
Lehman Brothers shares lost about 40 percent on Thursday as Wall Street questioned whether the investment bank will survive because of its failure to sell assets to cover losses from toxic real estate investments.

In early trade, the stock was recently down $2.92, or 40 percent, at $4.32 as analysts voiced doubts about the bank's survival plan, laid out on Wednesday by Chief Executive Dick Fuld.

The shares have lost about 76 percent since Monday and are down 94 percent from their 52-week high of $67.73.

Lehman will not survive into Monday. Count on it. Hell, as things are going, the Fed will have to find a buyer for WaMu as well.
WaMu fell 39 cents, or 17 percent, to $1.93 at 10:18 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Data from the exchange showed that bets on a falling stock price, or short sales, rose more for WaMu than any other company in the two weeks ended Aug. 29.

Investors pushed down shares of the Seattle-based company 30 percent yesterday and 20 percent the day before on concern that their holdings may be diluted if WaMu seeks new capital. The company has said it expects losses tied to home lending may total $19 billion in the next 2½ years. TPG Inc., the New York- based private-equity firm led by David Bonderman, led a $7 billion cash infusion in April.

The scary thing is that foreign banks aren't touching these, unlike Abu Dhabi and Citicorp. It's probably because foreign banks can't have a controlling interest in US financial firms, and these banks aren't going to loan them the money to save themselves if they can't get a stake in how the companies are run, because they're being run badly.

Can you imagine if China bought out Lehman and replaced the Board of Directors in an election year? That would be the only option other than taxpayer takeover and it being run by the same folks who made the mess.

Which is worse, honestly?

Le Sigh, Le Moan Part 3

The Republican concern-trolling of Joe Biden continues, today it's Fred Barnes of the Weekly Douchebag.
IT'S WIDELY ACCEPTED now that Barack Obama would be better off if he'd picked Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential running mate instead of Joe Biden. Obama had his reasons, particularly his discomfort with her as his actual vice president if he's elected. Still, Obama sacrificed a stronger ticket by rejecting Clinton.
It's "widely accepted" now that he should have picked Hillary? By whom exactly? GOP concern trolls? FOX News polls? You asked Bill Kristol at lunch?

Let's be intellectually honest here, if you're capable of it, Fred.
No Palin. Okay, McCain might have picked her anyway. He was looking for a running mate who would help him shake up the campaign.
1) McSame would have picked Palin anyway.
No Biden. He's not an albatross, but he certainly hasn't given Obama a boost. He has brought no balance to the ticket, not in regard to
class, gender, ideology, or anything except longevity in Washington. Worse, unlike Palin, he's generated no enthusiasm or excitement. Biden has little appeal to the working class voters, especially women, who swarmed to Clinton in the primaries. He lacks the populist streak that Clinton had fashioned for herself. Biden is simply a weaker running mate.
2) McSame still would have gotten a post-convention bounce and we'd be hearing how "Clinton fatigue" was sapping the Democratic base.
Party unity. Democrats have come together fairly well behind the Obama-Biden ticket--but not as well as they would have if Obama had chosen Clinton.
3) Hey Freddie? Get your head out of your ass. Sarah Palin has united the Dems' base better than Obama could have done alone. Party unity's not the problem.
Ohio and Pennsylvania. Republicans figured these states, notably Pennsylvania, were all but goners if Clinton won the Democratic nomination.
4) Obama's still ahead in PA and in a dead heat or AHEAD this week in Ohio. Latest Q-poll shows him up by 6.
Arkansas. As a Southern state, Arkansas is inclined to vote Republican in presidential races unless there's a compelling reason not to.
5) I'll take Colorado and Virgina, thanks.
Vice presidential debate. This is a no-brainer. Who would be the easier opponent for Palin to face in the nationally televised debate on October 2? Clinton or Biden? The tough woman or Senator Windbag? Biden will have to be on his best behavior and treat Palin gingerly. Clinton wouldn't have had to.
6) Bullshit. Hillary would have been painted as a bitch for attacking a woman, if not being outright sexist and setting women back for going after Palin in any way, shape, or form. If anything Hillary would be expected to "rise above it" even more than Obama or Biden and "set a shining new example for women in politics".
Republican women. Mark Penn, chief strategist in the Clinton campaign, once insisted that 25 percent of Republican women were ready to vote for her for president. Many crossed party lines and voted for her in the primaries. Many of those women might have voted for an Obama-Clinton ticket. But how many Republican women are going to reject Palin and vote for an Obama-Biden ticket? Mighty few.
7) Also bullshit. Hillary's presence in the race would have galvanized Republican women to vote AGAINST her, and the media would have seen to that. Palin would have been offered up as a "real woman" while Hillary was nothing more than a "corrupt Washington insider" and you'd better believe we'd be hearing how Sarah's five kids makes her a better mom than Hillary's one child, plus we'd have the inevitable "Who's hotter?" questions from the idiotic Village.

Doesn't work Fred. A concern troll is still a concern troll.

My 9/11 Story

I don't like talking about it much, but I suppose this being a new political blog, I have to recount the story at least once.

I was living in a suburb of Minneapolis at the time, working IT for a company there. I worked the West Coast shift, so before I went into work I was on the net and watching TV. I saw a healthy chunk of what was going on live, how the first plane was an accident, and then the reports from the Pentagon rolled in, and then the second plane hit.

Then the towers went down.

I remember my father was supposed to be flying up to see me that weekend. That Tuesday changed a lot for me, the place I worked laid off myself and quite a few others as business sharply slowed, and I ended up looking around for a job for six months before moving back to NC. Things were bad then.

Ironically I almost ended up in the mortgage refi business, but even then I thought it was a scam and I didn't make it past the first month. Turns out I was right. Took me a while to get back into IT, going back to school got me a good job, and it was a good time for it.

I eventually ended up in Cincy 2 years ago, rest is history.

Anyone else have a story from September 2001?

StupidiNews, 9/11 Edition

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