Sep

30

TricoteuseListening to the mainstream media, with all of the hyperbole, could cause one to think that the sky is falling. Partisan bickering, grandstanding, and strong invective by our elected officials has spilled over to the already roiled markets, especially since we're so close to the election. More than a few of my mystic, non-thinking acquaintances have been advocating revolution, with Capitalism being replaced by a kinder, gentler Socialist system. Their true desire is to punish the evil greedy speculators, hold all the rascals accountable, who with the minority party have decided to ruin this great country. Their anger is palpable, and their ultimate dream is to become a tricoteuse. Theirs is only a dream, as sitting at the guillotine would require courage.

Misan Thrope is incredulous:

Didn't Lehman, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, AIG, Freddie, Fannie, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns just go down the tubes? Or is it a figment of the MSM's imagination? Might not [insert your favorite name here] get in trouble next if nothing is done?

Stefan Jovanovich explains:

The hyperbole is in the argument that but for the bailout payroll-checks will bounce. I did a Google search, and I could not find a news article about a single company that had been unable to make its payroll because the Federal government had failed to reflate the real estate asset-backed securities market. The connections between the "financial system" and the actual private business being done in the country may once have been real, but they are now largely a fiction. Small businesses that I know operate on a cash basis and don't need/aren't granted bank loans nowadays.

Eastsider concurs:

I think we're seeing a classic availability heuristic bias in the public analysis. The clients of DC looter-lawyers need the bailout, and engineer hysterical media coverage of the problems. The press is now just a firehose of bull____, drowning out all competing viewpoints.

It's a tired cliche to say we're racing toward the world Orwell and Rand forecast, but that analysis seems increasingly, depressingly, apt.

Laurel Kenner adds:

The American Enterprise Institute, W. Isaacs and  others fingered the so-called "Fair Value Accounting" rule as a post-Enron creation run amok, a major cause of the credit freeze.
 
Up until tonight, the SEC said no, the rule just reveals what lousy investments the firms had made. They just announced sensible modifications to the rule.
 
I can only wonder what can the SEC possibly say to the seven major U.S. firms that have fallen because of this rule? Sorry, we were a little too enthusiastic… too bad about you.
 
In any case, I'm sure the new Tricots will love this one.

It seems we are in agreement, when Clive Burlin intervenes:

Ms. Kenner, that you, of all people, would say  that! The whole issue of FASB Statement 157 is a total waste of time; from start to finish.

George Parkanyi ponders:

The news about Fair Value Accounting is interesting, especially to see to what extent it moves the log-jam in the credit system.

With foreign aid, sometimes you can have nasty unintended consequences. For example, when food aid is distributed for free for too long, local agriculture (and self-sufficiency) can crash because the farmers can’t compete with the free food.

In observing the behaviour of LIBOR lately, one wonders if institutions are simply waiting for the government (the patsy) to sell to at relatively inflated prices rather put in the effort to value the securities and try to trade with each other? Could the government’s presence actually be detrimental to a resolution?

An Anonymous Contributor Adds:  

While I am not an accountant, I believe both type of "Guidance" ("active market" and "distressed sales")  just raises the hierarchy of guiding to a higher level. (Could someone enlighten me if I am wrong). I believe FAS 157 pamphlets originally used both these cases as examples of when to use "intrinsic value" versus "market values". What is really new?

Because "active markets" and "distressed sales" are both judgement calls, rather than defined terms, good luck getting your auditor to sign off on them. They remember Arthur Andersen too well and seem sure that there are no penalties for being too strict on interpretation, but get busted for being too liberal.

SEC seem to be taking the stance that "some accounting mistakes were made, but not by me". So they are willing to sell their brother to save themselves. Perhaps as close to an admission of guilt as you can expect to get from a government regulator. 

Sep

22

Possibly the greatest multi-day decline in fixed income (10 yr and 30 yr bonds) in the last 10 years, exceeded only by October 1998 on a three-day basis.

East Sider replies:

The calendar is heavy today:

    *U.S. TREASURY TO AUCTION $24 BILLION IN FIVE-YEAR NOTES
    *U.S. TREASURY TO AUCTION $34 BILLION IN TWO-YEAR NOTES
    *U.S. TREASURY TO AUCTION $30 BILLION IN FOUR-WEEK BILLS

Now that the atrophied dealer community is "set up" to buy the paper, it would not be at all surprising for someone to roll a tapebomb into the tent. It's a movie we've all seen many times.

Jun

19

We have a two year low for the German Bund contract, the second or perhaps biggest futures contract in the world by volume (notional value). What could have changed to make the prospects so bad relative to the past over the next ten year horizon? I note this from a speculative context and seek qualitative insight.

Eastsider replies:

1) There had been a macromeme along the lines of: Europe is behind the US in this economic cycle, and the ECB will have to cut rates soon… Trichet's hawkish talk a couple of weeks ago triggered a stampede unwind of that trade rationale.

2) Reports of massive derivative/structured note plays on the Bund curve likely getting tripped too.

J. Rollert adds:

Inflation is high with a strong currency, yet if it regresses back to mean modestly the inflationary pressures will increase.

Double whammy… to bunds. Also foretells major political battle.

Edward Talisse writes in:

I traded bunds for many years whilst working for the blue shoes in London. ECB chatter is obviously hurting sentiment there but something more interesting is also afoot. The bund curve is close to inverting between 10y and 30y. This is a highly unusual situation in Germany where the curve generally remains steep though various cycles. The rub is the structured product market in Europe, which is absolutely huge. Most interest rate derivative notes are written on the back of a CMS (constant maturity swap) structure. The holders of the notes basically sell volatility to earn above market coupons. The problem is that as the curve flattens, CMS gets absolutely killed. So there is a big demand in Europe right now to get into long dated flattening trades. That means people buy 30y and sell 10y, thus depressing the bund future price. 

Jun

17

Here's from today's (May's) producer price report:

*

*

*

*

Greg Van Kipnis replies:

Understanding the "pig" in the python phenomenon, as Eastsider refers to it, is instructive.

The point he is implicitly making is that as the lump in prices (the pig), stemming from energy and ag prices, works its way through each stage of value added in the US manufacturing/services production and distribution machine (the python), raw material prices diminish in importance.

Unit labor costs, offset by productivity gains, and profit margins become the dominant component of prices in the final consumption market. In our competitive markets, labor costs and profit margins are "compressible" and productivity gains are "irrepressible." Then there is the not so small matter of substitution effects to lower prices even more. As the cost of one ingredient rises, every businessman will press his suppliers to either lower their prices or find other substitutes for the other ingredients that were purchased earlier. In the end, consumer prices (and industrial prices) become "well contained."

Jun

16

The screaming about the demise of foreign faith in the US is matched in consistency only by the ongoing pouring of foreign capital into dollar assets:Eastsider

Mar

19

Temps in Aspen are tracking ~10F below average for this time of year. I remember past lousy snow conditions hereabouts as the season wound down going into Spring, but I can see 6 foot drifts out my window now, and the locals all report best conditions ever. There's even talk of extending the season a couple of weeks through the end of April.

On a less cheerful note, the town does feel emptier than usual at spring break, and though retailers report good activity, traffic through realtors' offices appears to be down. Existing construction projects are continuing, and I heard of a new 18,000 sf house (not a typo) going up downvalley, with bids being let for plumbing, etc.

Mar

18

08:41 LEH Lehman Brothers: Wall Street rallies to aid Lehman

Daily Telegraph reports Wall Street's leading investment banks have rallied around the co after the Federal Reserve Bank of New York urged them to support the institution in order to try and preserve financial stability. It is understood the New York Fed contacted key executives at a number of leading banks, including GS, C and MS, to discuss Lehman's situation over the weekend. By yesterday morning, the banks' prime brokerage departments - which service hedge fund clients - were under strict instructions not to do or say anything in the market that could damage Lehman. It is believed that bankers were told not to solicit Lehman's clients for business or to give the impression the bank is uncreditworthy.

Recall Bear hubristically refused to help bail out LTCM during the storied meeting at the NY Fed. Small wonder the same NY Fed did not call around urging the Street not to solicit Bear's clients when it was mortally wounded.

I recall in the aftermath of LTCM, the dark mutterings about how revenge would be taken on Bear, and how memories are very very long.

Mar

4

From the New York Times :

…the typical American corporation has increased its savings so sharply that it probably has enough cash on hand to completely pay off its debts…

Why would America's premier leftist broadsheet put corporate balance sheet arcana above the fold on page one? I wonder which senator will "just happen" to introduce a bill taxing/regulating retained earnings…

Feb

2

 I was recently reading commentary on the question "is the Fed already behind the curve?". The Taylor Rule model was used to assert that the Fed has not cut far enough. The commentator used an approximate recent GDP growth rate of less than 1%, excess capacity and trend in core inflation to state that the Fed Funds rate should be nearer 1%. Quite alarming, it seems to me. What is your take on the Taylor Rule?

East Sider replies:

The Taylor rule works beautifully… in retrospect.

It requires precise estimates of things that are not observable — GDP trend, GDP slack, inflation — so it's useful only for ex-post criticism, not ex-ante policymaking. IMNSHO.

Another argument is often made based on 2 year treasuries trading nearly a full percentage point through 3% fed funds, with analysts saying this means "the market" is looking for the Fed to cut rates to at least 2 percent.

Professionals have wearied of pointing out the credit difference between an overnight unsecured interbank loan, and the perceived security of a liquid obligation representing the full faith and credit of the the US govt.

Comparing apples to apples at the front end of the curve - fed funds to two year swaps - it turns out Bernanke's shop may not be all that much of a laggard.

At Friday's close, overnight funds were roughly 20 bp higher in yield than 2 year swaps. Interestingly and counter-intuitively, that's spot on the one year moving average of that spread.

The market is certainly leading the Fed, but not by the scary-sounding distances usually cited. 

Jan

17

Today of all days, we need to watch a two minute YouTube of Raquel Welch in her prime, dancing in a space girl outfit.

Jan

16

Many current anecdotes are being heard on main street now of people bailing in panic, pessimism and fear, liquidating accounts to cash. Today's ( 1/16 ) flushing action reflects near August flush out prices. 16% down from highs is close to 20% bear when complete flush out is done. Typical of bottoming psychology. Yesterday's NYSE down volume exceeded 1.6M. Old Codgers starting to be seen hobbling about. Mumbly peg anyone?

"She was practiced at the arts of deception. I could tell by her blood stained hands"

From The  Rolling Stones, You Can't Always Get What You Want.

East Sider adds:

The headlines will read "weak Tan Book ", … but:

"Reports suggest that labor markets remained relatively tight overall, and especially for skilled workers…

BOSTON: "Manufacturers continue to adjust their U.S. headcounts only minimally. Average wage and salary increases are expected to remain in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent, but some firms employing mainly high-end technical workers are planning somewhat higher pay raises in 2008 than in 2007….

NY: "Manufacturers continue to adjust their U.S. headcounts only minimally. Average wage and salary increases are expected to remain in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent, but some firms employing mainly high-end technical workers are planning somewhat higher pay raises in 2008 than in 2007….

RICHMOND: "Fifth District temporary employment agents continued to report generally strong demand for workers in recent weeks. Contacts in Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond, Va., told us that labor markets in those areas remained firm, driving demand for temporary workers, while an agent in Hagerstown, Md., said demand had waned a bit since our last report. Warehouse, customer service, sales, and general computer skills were among the most highly sought over the past six weeks….

ATLANTA: "The demand for workers in some sectors continued to be quite strong through the end of the year. Steady demand was reported for workers in the healthcare, insurance, and energy sectors, while engineers, particularly in petrochemical fields, were in high demand. Hospitality workers were said to be hard to find in areas experiencing strong tourism activity. Housing-related industries continued to trim payrolls….

CHICAGO: "contacts cited union wage increases in the construction industry as a factor boosting building costs for new homes and a staffing firm reported that their clients were willing to accept higher prices in exchange for greater flexibility in the duration of employment contracts….

MINN: "Labor markets were stable with continued tightness in some areas. Bank directors noted a strong challenge finding qualified labor for skilled and unskilled jobs…

KC: "The number of hiring announcements significantly outpaced layoff announcements…

——

These are admittedly cherry-picked quotes, but they show the inflation tripwire buried lightly in the sand of "world to end, film at 11" headlines that are driving our masters in Washington to cobble together a turn of the ratchet clothed as "stimulus".

Dec

20

A friend from the other coast writes:  "There is a complete collapse in demand. We here in California are almost certainly in the midst of another property slump." 

Haven't we seen this movie before? California and nearby boom states see moonshots of value and bull-market property geniuses, followed by cyclical shakeouts, despair, lather, rinse, repeat.

In places where property itself was a central business — Miami condoland, the Inland Empire of SoCal — the ugliness can be protracted. Add in the visibility of the problem, and you have the storyline being promoted by The Thundering Herd and other recession-callers. 

Let us look at some national figures.  From today's GDP report: Residential Fixed investment dropped 20.5% (annualized Q/Q change), its contribution to the change in GDP was -1.08%. This data shows how much damage has been done by the contraction in housing. A 20% decline in the sector lopped one percent off GDP. But residential real estate is still "only" ~5% of the economy, and it makes sense to keep that in perspective.

Stefan Jovanovich dissents:

Guys, I am not saying that this is the end of the world; but what used to be a real estate problem has become a banking problem. The Financial Times says that real estate loans are now 40% of bank assets.

I was all-in only a few months ago and took money out of the market only because I wanted to buy a new business. What convinced me that this was not just another slow-down was the spread between our bank's normal jive talk and what they were actually willing to do. We have had the same business in the same location long enough to have seen our "local" (sic) bank morph from Security Pacific to the B of A, and we have seen literally half a dozen people come and go as the branch managers. This is the first time, however, that no amount of collateral was sufficient to get them to say "yes" to a loan even though they are now dealing with a potential borrower who has no debt! They didn't even bother with the usual soft pass — "Have you considered an SBA Loan?" The silver lining that, in this environment, people are going to be able to "trade up" houses is comforting; but it is pure fantasy if the suppliers of actual credit have frozen up - as I think they have. Of course, it could be my bad breath and my charming manners. We shall see. 

Phil McDonnell says:

"News follows price." After a decline bad news will come out to explain it; after a price rise good news stories will come out to explain it.

To some extent the markets are pretty good predictors of events. That partially explains the relationship. However there is a deeper truth in the News Follows Price saw. Simply put the media needs something to write about. They sell fear, they provide information. It is all in pursuit of market share which ultimately leads to advertising revenue.

An author writes a book if and when  he has something to say. The situation is quite different for a media writer. He HAS to say something everyday. It doesn't matter if he actually has something important to say today. His job is to write something anyway. Ideally it will be something so compelling that you, dear reader or viewer, will stop your busy life and check it out.

One of the classic ways to make up a story every day is to look at the market action and try to explain it rationally. After the fact you can always write keen insights like 'The market went up on higher interest rate fears'. The next day might be, 'The market went down on fears of higher interest rates'. Invariably this leads to reinforcement of the meme of the day. In the 90's it was the dot com meme. Recently it has been the declining real estate meme.

But memes evolve. They evolve because the media is under pressure to make the story new. A new twist or angle keeps the meme fresh and compelling. First it was the real estate bubble has burst. Then it was the sub prime mortgage market collapse. The latter evolved into the liquidity crisis. Then the Fed eased. Oops, better not talk about that too much that could be good news. It is better to milk this meme for all it is worth. Then it was the dollar is crashing. But when a meme has been around for a while it gets stale. The media needs to turn to the 'how bad could this get' angle. Perhaps you have heard the old Johnny Carson jokes. Carson could tell a new 'How cold was it' joke every night for decades.

That is why we are seeing stories about recession. More media is piling onto the meme. This could lead to recession, global warming, nuclear winter and a falling sky! Today's article featured the new angle that real estate prices are inaccurate. It is really worse than they are telling us! The article cited one estimate that 1.5% of houses in Denver might be reported as 10% higher in price than they really are. Do the math. That would result in a .15% overvaluation in the Denver market stats - a fraction of 1%.

Quick! Check the sky! Is it still there? I live in the Seattle area so I can't check the sky, as usual. But I trust it is still there.

Bruno Ombreux agrees:

News coming after price has often very low (0) information-content. Easily/rapidly written/understood.

- Easily written: one must be amazed how newswriters are able to produce/pick descriptive "models" in often less than 24 hours ! (should they have thought of it some hours before, they would be millionaires !). Or maybe those models are just fake ?

- Easily understood, at least for people confusing understanding and memorization.

- It's either tautological "markets up because they didn't range nor gone down",

- Or completely incantatory.

Just some words from the liturgy, put together. No predictive power, even not explanatory power. But it may _look like_ something. That's enough. A majority of people will be happy with it. Thanks for this good stuff for self-deception.

- The most elaborate form may be a linear model: "things will continue". Tautological, incantatory, linear … what are others forms ?

After a market move there is always an open question : why ? Few people have time/skills/tools/data to count/answer. Even few people have time/knowledge to read a true, but a bit long and complex, explanation. (A frank explanation being most of time: "we don't know"). Though, we need to fill the question's volume, to reassure ourself, keep up appearances.

Better a void/fake explanation than no explanation at all, At least, better than an true explanation beyond ourselves.

Vincent Andres asks:

After a market move there is always an open question : why ?

The post-mortem explanations of market moves show the huge random element combined with human weakness.

Humans don't want to believe that things happen without a (knowable) reason. Ego, insecurity, uncertainty about death after life. So we ascribe explanations irregardless causation.

This is well exemplified by many of the SP500 moves in response to FED rate announcements this year. On Sept 18, they dropped 50 BP and the market jumped 50 points, because "The FED put is still there" (they will counter market declines). OK, but it is also possible the market could have dropped 50 on the same news, because "The FED sees the economy as sliding into recession", and that they cannot stop it.

Then on Dec 11, they dropped 25 BP and the market tanked (biggest drop on a FED day in recent history), "Because traders were looking for a cut of 50 BP". Yes, but it could also have gone up because the FED determined that recession risk was abating and the original crisis overblown.

Some non-human animal experiments are relevant. Recall the pigeons who were fed after pecking a lever: When the feedings came at random intervals, they began to repeat movements and rotations they thought caused the food to appear - not realizing their dance accomplished nothing. Or the rats with electrodes attached to their tails: One group had levers which stopped the painful shocks, the other's levers worked only intermittently. The rats who couldn't control their stress lost weight, shed fur, and became unhealthy, whereas the ones with control remained normal.

The terrible pain and joy generated by markets and other mostly random gambling is more than enough to bring out the animals, as well as herd them to the chapel on Sundays to ask for explanation.

Save my seat!

 

Dec

6

Saudi Prince Bandar's "daughter house" in Aspen just traded for $36.5 million, to a Florida/Nevada real estate developer.

I leave the lessons on energy policy and fiat money as an exercise for the reader.

Oct

31

Rank the following three networks by prime time viewership:

Black Entertainment Television
Cable News Network
Food Network

Answer in the "Primetime" table of Inside Cable News..

Rod Fitzsimmons Frey haikus:

Appetite trumps race
Gourmets buy more stuff, I guess
But both beat bad news

Oct

19

NEW YORK (AP) - Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.

Billowing silk robes
obscured the true passion of
Hogwart's Headmaster.

What did he see in
The Mirror of Erised?
Elton John? Boy George?

The last Potter plot
did revolve around finding
a really long wand…

Sep

20

(BN) *GOLDMAN'S VINIAR SAYS IT'S NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO VALUE MORTGAGES

This is comforting!

Years back, I worked with Monroe Traders, but they didn't do mortgages (although I see they do now — I'd assumed they perished along with Quotron and Telerate). We needed "yield books," which were slowly replaced by mainframe computers…

Sam Humbert adds:

Hard to imagine why anyone would buy a machine such as the Trader II that's hard-wired for certain security parameters, given that Wall Street is forever manufacturing new-and-improved products. Wonder who their target market is — clearly not bulge bracket or hedge funds.

Sep

10

PatrickI learned a new trick that can be used by retailers on eBay this week. They ask you for feedback on the transaction, including in their note that 'we will do the same for you.' So you may not like how the transaction went but may avoid commenting because of the possibility of getting vengeful comments back from them. Another issue is in whether it's worth returning items which cost very little. It's really not worth the postage, packaging and hassle of returning low cost items.

So I figure that with more expensive items people are more likely to return them and complain. What this probably means is that the ratings for retailers who sell only low cost items may be positively biased. So it's probably worth checking the average price of their entire shop before buying anything.

Sam Humbert replies:

There's a time-limit (90 days, last I checked) after which eBay won't accept feedback. So if you're eager to flame a seller, send the negative feedback (90 days - 5 seconds) after the transaction. The seller won't be able to retaliate.

Also, you can use the Toolhaus site, or a browser plug-in, to quickly display only the seller's negative/neutral feedback. That's all you really care about anyway.

East Sider notices:

Speaking of eBay: Two on the aisle, $1.8m to open!

Mike Desaulniers explains:

Don't laugh! That parking is two blocks from the Delano. Vintage BMW drivers take note!

Sep

5

…And now it's springtime for Hil'ry and Cigarman

Aug

31

The $64,000 Entreaty for a Portrait of the Chairman

By Mary Ann Akers, Thursday, August 30, 2007; Page A19

He's been chairman for only eight months, but already Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is more than daydreaming about what his official Ways and Means Committee portrait will look like. He knows one thing: It'll be top of the line.

In perhaps the most thorough and earnest letter ever written on the subject of a member of Congress's portrait, Rangel's campaign attorney sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission asking permission to use either campaign or leadership political action committee money to pay for the chairman's grand portrait.

Jul

25

14:00 BERNANKE SAYS FED STAFF PROBING 5 DISCRIMINATION CASES FOR '07

A unique aspect of Bernanke's recent Hill appearance was how the legislators continually badgered him to step up use of all the regulatory mallets in the Fed's closet. They pretty much said "use 'em or lose 'em," and being responsible for maintaining the Fed's power vs. other DC players, Bernanke has little choice.

Jul

24

Ex-Newark Mayor Pleads Not Guilty to Corruption

By KAREEM FAHIM
Published: July 24, 2007

NEWARK, July 23 — At his arraignment in federal court Monday, former Mayor
Sharpe James pleaded not guilty to corruption charges.

After scanning this morning's New York Times offering on Newark's ex-mayor, I had a flashback to a lecture by a (literally) communist professor I had in college.

He said visiting Soviet officials marveled at how in our putative decentralized, capitalist, pluralist, free press, the material was so uniform across media and across the nation.

They always asked "How do you do it?"

Well, given that yet again the former "newspaper of record" pointedly failed to mention the political affiliation of an accused politician, I can only assume one thing:

The Times's internal word processing software automatically deletes the word "democrat" by default, if the word "corruption" is elsewhere in the same block of text. Certainly no meatware system could be so consistent. 

Sam Kumar remarks:

This inference drawn from one instance is probably false. The tenor of the post is that of a joke, but a propaganda message is clearly being sent here.

George Zachar adds:

This morning's front-page NY Times piece on the misuse of state police for political purposes in Albany, fails to mention the party ID of the suspects or their masters. This is noteworthy in light of East Sider's observation.

Press-as-partisan has a long history in the US. What's different with this cycle is the false-flag pretense of objectivity. 

Jul

20

David's Wife Files for Divorce
Funnyman Larry David's wife of 14 years has filed for divorce. Laurie David filed court papers in Los Angeles Superior Court citing irreconcilable differences on July 13. The 49-year-old producer of An Inconvenient Truth is seeking joint custody of their two children, Cazzie, 13, and Romy, 10.

Jul

17

(UPI) Edwards retraces Robert Kennedy trail

The US left's "stations of the cross"..

(DPA) SPANISH TEACHER WITH 10 MILLION CHILD PORN IMAGES COMMITS SUICIDE

Downside of cheap mass storage…

(BN) Washington Post Accused of Violating Labor Laws at the Onion

Recursive 0nionesqueness?

(DPA) MANDELA, TUTU, CARTER TO FORM GROUP TO TACKLE WORLD ISSUES

It's bad enough the Spice Girls are getting back together.

(CBS) 2008 Democrats To Take Part In 'Gay Debate'

My jaw hung down when I read the story.. Too perfect in every way.

(BN) *PIMCO'S PAUL MCCULLEY ON BTV-US & LIVE <GO> 2:02 PM EDT

Haven't we suffered enough?

(UPI) Amato says wife beating is Sicilian tradition

"Tradition"? Cue Zero Mostel!

Jun

18

 Cologne and cleaning agents: Russia's killer drinks. 12:16 15 June 2007, NewScientist.com news service; Roxanne Khamsi

A shocking 43% of deaths in working-age Russian men result from drinking alcohol not meant for human consumption, such as cologne and cleaning agents, according to a new study.

This morning I described Russia to my son as the Brooklyn of Europe: lots of smart people come from there, but it's not a good place to stay.

Mike Ott adds:

I recently spent some time in Ukraine trying to figure out the best way to help them build ethanol plants. A major roadblock was the fact that the output of the plant is a 'potent potable' and our hosts were concerned that people would try to drink it. I shrugged off the concern because, while 100% grain alcohol is not tasty, it can be consumed, but after denaturing with gasoline, it is nondrinkable.

I am aware of just one instance among all 199 of the US plants where an alcoholic employee was caught drinking the final product, and therefore thought this wouldn't be a concern. Perhaps I needed to better understand the locals to gauge this risk. 

Jun

14

10:14 *VINIAR SAYS INCENTIVE FEE DROP DUE TO `CERTAIN HEDGE FUNDS'
11:26 *GOLDMAN'S VINIAR SAYS REDEMPTIONS FROM GLOBAL ALPHA `MINIMAL' — Bloomberg

And I thought the dumb guys were buying the toxic stuff at rich levels, not GS and BSC…

Jun

12

Clintonite hackademic Brad DeLong on folks who disagree with the the nanny state:

The neoclassical economics toolkit makes you a smarter, stronger, more powerful, more effective, more reality-based leftie. By contrast, the neoclassical toolkit can be absolute poison for people right on center. It functions like a kind of crack, reducing their arguments to empty slogans: "the market takes care of that"; "acts of capitalism between consenting adults"; "they hired the money, didn't they?"; "it's not the government's, it's theirs." People right-of-center should be exposed to the neoclassical economics toolkit only after posting a $1M bond to cover collateral damage, and only under the supervision of trained professionals.

Jun

5

I am listening to Atlas Shrugged as an audiobook while I work. It dawned on me that Pinch is using the NY Times the way Francisco D'Anconia used his copper company. Both men inherited great wealth and a pivotal, unique business franchise, and both deliberately destroyed their patrimony to advance overtly destructive social and economic forces.

May

23

Headline of the Day, from East Sider

Edwards charges $55,000 to speak to UC Davis students about poverty

May

23

Brookings/Aspen Institute Poverty Conference
July 31 - August 3
08:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Hard to keep the irony meter functioning, when contemplating a conference on poverty in Aspen…

May

11

The Sunday Times May 6, 2007: China aghast at `sacrifice' of 288 pupils

The schoolchildren perished because they were ordered to sit down in their theatre seats so that Communist party officials could leave first.

I attended a Barbra Streisand Madison Square Garden concert in 1994.

At its end, the vast crowd was compressed and channeled through a couple of narrow side exits, not the main corridors. Why? The VIPs — Madelaine Albright and ex-Mayor Dinkins' entourages — had priority.

May

11

The Times, May 11, 2007

Today the UN General Assembly, that unerring barometer of world opinion, will acclaim Zimbabwe's election to chair the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, the panel that deals with development and the environment.

Apr

30

(BN) Tenet Book Says Cheney Pressed to Pick Iraqi Leaders

The CIA has quietly morphed into an independent rogue agency that sets its own arbitrary rules on who can get away with disclosing what. It is one of the biggest untold stories of modern government. The Plame nonsense gave the most recent glimpse into the CIA's contemporary modus operandi. Langley is kind of like the Catholic Church now, with its own agenda, its factional strife, its hidden puppet strings. Given the fat pipe from Langley to Pinch's shop, it's clear which party they favor.

Apr

24

New York Times Shareholders Withhold 42% of Votes (Update1)

April 24 (Bloomberg) — New York Times Co. shareholders, led by Morgan Stanley, withheld 42 percent of their votes from directors to protest the Sulzberger family's control over the company.

The family's willingness to let Pinch destroy their franchise says a lot about their priorities. The end game is already taking shape, as Pinch's brain, (Steven Rattner) has hinted at government protection/support for newspapers . there's precedent in anti-trust law already for favoring them thus.

And the analogy to the Ford family is imperfect. The Times "news" pages make no pretense at being anything but daily Democrat Party talking points and fodder for the international hate-America crowd. It is willful and purposeful: a choice to "spend" their credibility for a political cause. Whereas in the case of Ford, it's just stupidity.

Mar

23

I assume someone in Cambridge has already re-worked the re-worked 1984 Apple/Hillary ad, with Drew Gilpin Faust's face on the screen as Big Sister.

Mar

2

 Gannett To Buy 2 Tribune Co. Newspapers, by Frank Ahrens

Tribune Co. has agreed to sell its two smallest newspapers, both in Connecticut, to Gannett for more than $65 million, as the media giant edges closer to accepting or rejecting bids for the entire company.

I worked for Gannett. Your newspapers will get worse. Much worse. Comically worse.

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