Monday, October 27, 2008

Government Agency Overtime Pay Is Justifiable At Times

...especially when you're up against crap like this.
Law enforcement arrested two men in Tennessee who had plans to rob a gun dealer to shoot Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and "as many non-Caucasians" as possible, an official said on Monday.

An official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said police found the men in the Jackson, Tennessee area with a number of guns, including a sawed-off shotgun, in their car.

"They wanted to go to a place where they could shoot as many non-Caucasian as they could," the official said, noting that the men first planned to rob a gun dealer. "They also had a plot to assassinate Sen. Obama."

Constant vigliance, boys. Constant vigliance.

Welcome to America, 2008.

Senator Down The Toobs

Breaking news at this hour, Alaska Senator Ted "Series of Toobs" Stevens is now Senator Ted "Series of Felonies" Stevens: Guilty on all seven counts.

The jury found Stevens guilty of "knowingly and willfully" scheming to conceal on Senate disclosure forms more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from an Alaska-based oil industry contractor.

Stevens faces a maximum sentence of up to to 35 years in prison -- five years for each of the seven counts.

Legal experts note the judge has the discretion to give Stevens as little as no jail time and probation when he is sentenced.

As Stevens left the defense area, he and his wife exchanged a kiss on the cheek. Stevens said: "It's not over yet." Stevens' defense team said they will move for a new trial.

Stevens left the courthouse without comment.

The 84-year-old senator is locked in a tight race for re-election against his Democratic challenger, Mark Begich. Stevens hopes to retain the seat he has held since 1968.

Not even Alaska will re-elect a convicted seven-time felon to office, folks.

Fork. Done.

Down the Toobs.

Not All Conservatives Are Complete Whackjobs

Some of them, in fact, make very good logical arguments, such as Daniel Larison explaining why the GOP is in fact, completely screwed for the next several elections.

Robert Stacy McCain strikes again:

In other words, Rush’s 20 million listeners are what’s wrong with the Republican Party. If only they’d listen to these young Harvard graduates who know everything . . .

That isn’t what Ross said, as Ross was arguing against the obviously ridiculous claim from Limbaugh that it is somehow undesirable to win over independent and moderate voters during election campaigns. As McCain might say, even a Harvard graduate can see the flaw in this view.

However, in point of fact, yes, that audience is part of what’s wrong with the Republican Party. Part of what has been wrong with the GOP is that its rank-and-file members take their political advice and insights from radio entertainers who seem to understand little about political reality and even less about policy, and who substitute bluster for understanding. When they are confronted with an administration that does much the same, they have seemed only too willing to buy into the bluster. They remain steadfastly loyal to a failed President and his indefensible decisions, and they break with him only when he supports measures that are absolutely intolerable and even then they do this only when the President is profoundly unpopular and no longer very influential. This audience may have the right views about many things, but in practice that translates into reliable loyalty to a party that virtually never serves their interests, which enables the politicians who support all of the intolerable policies that they themselves reject.

The “young Harvard graduates” and the like may not have the right answers, and indeed I think they don’t have most of the right answers, but they at least recognize that there is something deeply awry on the American right that isn’t going to be fixed by repeating worn-out mantras and slapping oneself on the back. The Limbaugh approach recommended to his audience (which hasn’t been 20 million-strong in years) is that Republicans and conservatives have made no mistakes and need to learn nothing, except that they were not hard-core and true-believing enough according to whatever caricature of conservatism Limbaugh claims to represent, which actually might not be so very conservative after all. Being far to the right of Limbaugh, even I can recognize the absurdity of the argument that Republicans do not need to expand their coalition beyond core constituencies. Of course, it is only absurd if you assume that they want to win elections.

In other words, the lesson the GOP is about to take away from this election loss is "blame the moderates and burn them as heretics, purge them from the ranks of the faithful and rip out their lifeforce to feed our true masters!"rather than "maybe we should re-examine this whole purging thing, guys."

Which is fine with me, because it means the Dems will be in charge for quite a long time. Also, putting people like Eric Cantor in charge after the Great Losing will assure The Even Greater Losing later on.

I'm good with it. Let em work it out while the rest of the country does yeoman's work.

Dick Morris Explains It All

...about how McSame wins the election:
  1. TAXES!
Because of course that's been working so well over the last month.

This has been another episode of Dick Morris, Worst Pundit In America.

Don't Sweat The Polls

As Chris Bowers reminds us at OpenLeft, the last week of this election is just statistical noise. Obama wins running away, it's only the degree of victory. Remember, the most lopsided popular vote victory was not either of Reagan's electoral "landslides", but Clinton's 8.5% in 1996.
Worried about "the tightening?"

Well, Obama's national lead has been stable at 7% for a month now. The national campaign is not tightening, and we are just seeing statistical noise.

Even if the campaign were tightening, Obama would still have a comfortable national lead. According to polling conducted over the weekend during the tracking poll "tightening," Obama reaches 264 electoral votes in states where he leads by 9.5% or more, passes 277 in Virginia where he leads by 8.0%, and hits 286 in states where he leads by 7.3% or more. So, he is actually doing even better in the Electoral College, where 270 votes are needed to win, than he is doing in national polls where he leads by 7%.
Obama has this thing. All we have to do is vote.

Global No Confidence Vote: Event Horizon

As the hell of October in the markets comes to a close this week, the world is wondering what November will bring, and most investors aren't going to like the answer. This week is already shaping up to be a disaster, the Nikkei has now hit a 26-year low, Euro markets are down 4-6% at this hour, and US futures are pointing to another big loss.
Stocks tumbled, extending the MSCI World Index's biggest monthly drop on record, as concern grew that government efforts to stabilize financial markets won't avert a global recession. Treasuries rose as investors sought the safety of government bonds.

U.S. index futures slid, indicating the market's worst monthly slump in 70 years may deepen. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index sank as much as 15 percent, the most since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, as money-market rates rose. Hungary's BUX Index lost 10 percent after the International Monetary Fund said it will give the country ``a substantial financing package.''

``We've gone from financial worries to economic worries,'' said Roland Lescure, who manages the equivalent of $128 billion as chief investment officer of Groupama Asset Management in Paris. ``We're looking for direction for the economy. The problem is stock market declines lead to more declines. It's linked to forced selling.''

The new downward pressure on the markets are coming from the death spiral of hedge funds and emerging markets. As both groups continue to collapse, they are dragging the rest of the economy down with them.

The damage to the global financial system is too pervasive and too widespread to stop. High-flying hedge funds are having to sell off huge blocks of stock to raise cash...lowering the prices of stocks worldwide, causing them to have to sell more stock to raise more cash to continue to operate as the rest of their stock assets decrease in value. This classic death spiral is close to claiming trillions in hedge fund assets now as investors continue to pull their money out. A worldwide system of margin calls -- banks demanding loans used to buy stock be repaid now that the stock has collapsed -- is about to wreck the entire house of cards, for the only way to pay these loans back is to sell stock and force more margin calls. We're trapped in tailspin, and there's no way out until we hit the bottom. Hedge funds will be the next casualty...and the one that kills the system.

All these funds operated with virtually no regulatory oversight -- because they accepted funds only from wealthy investors, not the general public. They then "leveraged" this capital, borrowing billions more that they invested exotically, often "hedging" their bets by making investments set up to pay off when stocks and other assets lost value.

No one benefited more from all this hedging legerdemain than hedge fund managers themselves. They became the planet's highest-paid power-suits. In 2002, 25 hedge fund managers pulled in over $30 million each. In 2006, reports the trade journal Alpha, the top 25 hedge fund managers each made at least $230 million. Last year, 43 of them walked off with at least that many millions.

But now the hedge fund bubble is bursting. High-leverage strategies don't work when banks aren't lending. And new regulations have put a crimp on "short selling," the betting on assets to fall in value. The result? Last month ended up as the hedge fund industry's second-worst year on record.

So far this year, the industry's top index has dropped 13.9 percent. Some analysts are predicting that as many as half the world's hedge funds may shut down before the current crisis ends.

That has wealthy investors spooked. In September alone, investors yanked $43 billion out of U.S. hedge funds, shifting their cash to investments less risky. Hedge fund managers have become so alarmed they're offering to slash their standard -- and exorbitantly high -- fees if investors agree not to ask the funds to redeem their investments.

And the largest investors in hedge funds?

You got it in one. 401(k) funds and pension plans.

We're past the event horizon, past the point where the black hole is now pulling us in despite anything we try. Global emerging markets in Europe, Asia, and South America are near collapse. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index has gone from 32,000 to 11,000 in the last 12 months. Ukraine and Hungary have become the latest countries to ask for IMF loans to keep them out of bankruptcy. South Korea cuts its central bank rate by 75 BP, but to no avail as the South Korean currency, the Won, continues to fall apart.

``More aggressive cuts are on the way,'' said Lee Sang Jae, an economist at Hyundai Securities Co. in Seoul, who expects Korea's key rate will be slashed to around 3 percent by the first half of 2009. ``The government would need to expand tax cuts and increase fiscal spending to support the economy.'

South Korea last week said it will spend as much as 8 trillion won ($5.5 billion) helping the construction industry, including buying unsold homes and land. The central bank said Oct. 24 it will inject 2 trillion won into the financial system through repurchase-agreement operations.

South Korea's total external debt was $420 billion as of June, according to the finance ministry. Of that, $176 billion was short-term debt due to mature within a year.

It's not banks that are needing bailouts's entire countries.

And November will be much, much worse, folks. We're talking entire countries on the edge of economic obliteration. Wednesday's Fed meeting and subsequent rate cut won't matter a bit.

The global financial system continues to break down, one day at a time.

Be prepared.


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