Monday, July 31, 2006

Bank customers going bust in record numbers

You mean lending crap loads of money to everyone is a bad idea?

Struggling Britons, who are weighed down by loans and credit card debt, are going bust in record numbers.

HSBC today revealed that it has been forced to write-off £2 billion in the first half of this year - much of it loaned to British customers.

The bank pointed to rising levels of bankruptcy and the number of people reduced to taking out debt repayment plans.

HSBC today warned that 'serious' and 'excessive' levels of consumer debt in the UK was a growing issue.


I wonder if the UK has a negative savings rate like the US does...

Next troublesome missile test: Taiwan?

Ouch.

As Asia grapples with the fallout from North Korea's projectile posturing, another military flashpoint in the region - the Taiwan Strait - is in the midst of missile tensions as well.

A private TV station reported earlier this month that Taiwan's military was preparing to test-fire a tactical missile in September capable of striking targets in China. While the details were sketchy and the claim was swiftly denied by the Ministry of National Defense, they struck a chord with analysts who have heeded the frustration among hawks in Taiwan over the island's vulnerability in the face of China's military might, including its expanding missile arsenal.

In the event of an imminent attack, Taiwan would be justified in launching a preemptive strike against military targets in China, runs the hawkish argument. This should go hand-in-hand with improved defenses on the island, including advanced interceptor missiles and attack aircraft. "Even if we are going to buy [US-made] Patriot missiles, we also need to develop our own offensive missiles," says Lee Wen-chung, a government legislator.

Federal judge throws out Minnesota's video game law

Good.

A federal judge on Monday threw out a pending state law that would have fined minors for obtaining adult-only video games, saying it was unconstitutional.

The law - one of several attempts across the country to prevent minors from getting gruesome or sexually explicit video games - was scheduled to take effect Tuesday.

It would have fined youths under age 17 $25 for renting or buying video games designed for adults - those rated "M" for mature or "AO" for adults only. The law also would have required stores to post warning signs about the fines.

Video game makers sued to stop the law, saying it violated the right to free speech.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

So, You're Living in a Police State

It's Funpressive!

U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Muppet Hunter D

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More critical legislation passed in the House

Chat rooms could face expulsion

Web sites like Amazon.com and MySpace.com may soon be inaccessible for many people using public terminals at American schools and libraries, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives.

By a 410-15 vote on Thursday, politicians approved a bill that would effectively require that "chat rooms" and "social networking sites" be rendered inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the Internet's most ardent users. Adults can ask for permission to access the sites.


Congress fighting the good fight.

Why hedge funds will destroy the world

Hedge fund.

If hedge funds were a country, it would be the eighth-biggest on the planet. They can sink whole economies, and have the potential to crash the entire global financial system. Yet they are beyond regulation. We should be very afraid.
...
Hedge funds by numbers

$1.5trn Total amount of money managed by hedge funds worldwide

9,000 Estimated number of hedge funds today

$250bn Estimated value of the Asian hedge-fund industry by 2010

$750,000 Amount that GLG Partners was fined for alleged insider trading by its star hedge-fund manager, Philippe Jabre

Cell Phone Picture Called Obstruction Of Justice

Land of the free.

Police at the 35th district said they were in Cruz's neighborhood that night arresting a drug dealer.

Cruz said that when he heard a commotion, he walked out of his back door with his cell phone to see what was happening. He said that when he saw the street lined with police cars, he decided to take a picture of the scene.

"I opened (the phone) and took a shot," Cruz said.

Moments later, Cruz said he got the shock of his life when an officer came to his back yard gate.

"He opened the gate and took me by my right hand," Cruz said.

Cruz said the officer threw him onto a police car, cuffed him and took him to jail.


No one is allowed to watch the watchers.

War on Sunlight

Which nanny statist will be the first to utter the battle call?

As many as 60,000 people a year die from too much sun, mostly from malignant skin cancer, the World Health Organization has reported.

It found that 48,000 deaths every year are caused by malignant melanomas, and 12,000 by other kinds of skin cancer. About 90 percent of such cancers are caused by ultraviolet light from the sun.

House Passes 'Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act'

Good news for people that like all of our Amendments:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and law-abiding gun owners won another major victory today when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass HR 5013, the NRA-backed "Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act." HR 5013 passed with a broad bi-partisan margin of 322-99.

Law-abiding gun owners scored a significant victory in the House of Representatives today. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina confirmed a fear long-held by American gun owners: the day government bureaucrats declare our Second Amendment null and void, leaving law-abiding citizens defenseless in the midst of chaos and lawlessness.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bet on Gold, Not on Funny Money

From Yahoo!:

In many ways, the conditions are far worse now than they were in 1996. Today, we have a slowing demand for the dollar. At the same time, it appears that the Federal Reserve is increasing the supply of dollars.

As you know, low demand and high supply means a drop in value of anything, including the dollar. And in order to save the dollar's purchasing power, Ben Bernanke, the new Federal Reserve chairman, may be forced to raise real interest rates. By "real," I mean an interest rate that's higher than the rate of inflation.
...
I'm betting that gold is cheap, and that it'll correct as oil goes higher and countries such as Russia, Venezuela, the Arab states, and Africa become more reluctant to accept the U.S. dollar. For a while now, we've been allowed to pay for the goods and services from other countries with funny money, but the world appears to be less and less willing to take it as payment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

War on Zombies

Are we winning?

Six friends spruced up in fake blood and tattered clothing were arrested in downtown Minneapolis on suspicion of toting "simulated weapons of mass destruction."

Police said the group were allegedly carrying bags with wires sticking out, making it look like a bomb, while meandering and dancing to music as part of a "zombie dance party" Saturday night.

"They were arrested for behavior that was suspicious and disturbing," said Lt. Gregory Reinhardt, a police spokesman. Police also said the group was uncooperative and intimidated people with their "ghoulish" makeup.


Lame.

Monday, July 24, 2006

On quotas

Not just for speeding tickets anymore:

You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they're reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.
...
"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.


More data points to filter through. Yay.

The Disarming Facts

Dave Kopel has a good article discussing the gun bans and the effects in places like the Sudan:

The Darfuris are Muslims, but like the majority of Sudan’s population, they are black Africans, in contrast to the Arabs who control the government.

The foundation of Sudan’s genocide is, as with almost every other genocide in world history, the disarmament of the victims.

In Sudan, it is virtually impossible for an average citizen to lawfully acquire and possess the means for self-defense. According to the national gun-control statutes, a gun licensee must be over 30 years of age, must have a specified social and economic status, and must be examined physically by a doctor. Females have even more difficulty meeting these requirements because of social and occupational limitations.

When these restrictions are finally overcome, there are additional restrictions on the amount of ammunition one may possess, making it nearly impossible for a law-abiding gun owner to achieve proficiency with firearms. A handgun owner, for example, can only purchase 15 rounds of ammunition a year. The penalties for violation of Sudan's firearms laws are severe, and can include capital punishment.

The practical application of the gun laws is different. If you are someone the government wants to slaughter—such as all the black Africans of southern and western Sudan, regardless of their religion—then you are absolutely forbidden to possess a firearm. A U.S. Department of State document notes: “After President Bashir seized power in 1989, the new government disarmed non-Arab ethnic groups but allowed politically loyal Arab allies to keep their weapons.”

On the other hand, if you’re an Arab who wants to kill blacks, then Sudan’s gun control laws became awfully loose. In Darfur, there has been a long rivalry between camel-riding Arab nomads and black African pastoralists. The Arabs consider the blacks to be racially inferior, and fit only for slavery. In Darfur Rising, the International Crisis Group explains: “Beginning in the mid-1980s, successive governments in Khartoum inflamed matters by supporting and arming the Arab tribes, in part to prevent the southern rebels from gaining a foothold in the region….Arabs formed militias, burned African villages, and killed thousands. Africans in turn formed self-defense groups, members of which eventually became the first Darfur insurgents to appear in 2003.”


An illustration of what happens when the power imbalance between the government and the people is too great.

And what about Iran?

Justin Logan at Cato @ Liberty has a post regarding Iran. Highlights:

As for a brief commentary on the prudence of various policy options, I would refer to a useful analogy offered by Mr. Gerecht’s other colleague, Michael Rubin, in referring to our options in dealing with the Islamic republic:

When faced with a hornet’s nest, the choice to destroy it or leave it alone is better than the compromise of lightly tapping it with a stick.

Agreed. For his part, Mr. Rubin did us the courtesy of openly advocating a full-blown regime-change type assault against Iran, but it is not clear whether Mr. Gerecht is advocating destroying the Islamic republic, or just tapping it with a stick. We would do quite well to learn whether Mr. Gerecht is only in favor of striking the nuclear facilities in Iran, or also attacking the locations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the missile sites, the presumed chemical and biological weapons sites, and the Iranian leadership. Of course, this would lead to a discussion of targeting, which would put hundreds, if not thousands of aim points on the table, and we would ultimately be talking (once again) of a preventive war to remove a foreign bogeyman who supposedly poses an intolerable threat to this, the most powerful country in the history of the planet.

Finally, one is hard pressed to imagine how Mr. Gerecht will explain away the reckless and shameful incompetence of the hawk faction in the Bush administration as described by the Washington Post. The Iranians approached the Bush administration directly in 2002 (after the ridiculous “axis of evil” speech!) and proposed cooperating against al Qaeda, informing the US of the identities of 290 members of al Qaeda that Iran had captured and sent back to their countries. The Iranians proposed further cooperation against al Qaeda. The Bush administration’s response?

Representatives of Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fought back. Any engagement, they argued, would legitimate Iran and other historic state sponsors of terrorism such as Syria… Participants said Bush’s divided national security team was unable to agree on an answer. Some believe important opportunities were lost.


The hubris offered by the administration towards Iran in 2002 can point directly to why we are in the situation we are now. Iraq is a bloody mess, the US is supplying/funding both sides in the Israel/Lebanon war, and there's still no word on the North Korean problem.

This administration is radical in its foreign policy and it's a foreign policy with lofty goals. Goals that ignore the complications of the real world. We are faced with an increasingly disastrous foreign policy and sweeping increases in government power domestically, yet this government has done nothing to earn the powers it is claiming (I would argue that no government deserves the power this one is claiming, natch).

Interesting times indeed.

Conservatives Without Conscience?

Glenn Greenwald wrote a rather verbose review of John Dean's book over the weekend, apparently about the same time I finished it. One person that Dean mentions is the irascible Phyllis Schlafly. I'm only vaguely familiar with her work, even though my grandmother was quite active with Schlafly's organization, The Eagle Forum, in the 70s and 80s.

Dean characterized Schlafly as a person that would rate high on the Right Wing Authoritarian scale, but also noted that she joined Bob Barr in the Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances group.

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

In Turnaround, Gun Dealer Tries Suing Bloomberg

Looks like fun:

A Georgia gun dealer that Mayor Bloomberg sued as part of his effort to get firearms off the city's streets hit the mayor with a lawsuit of his own yesterday, saying Mr. Bloomberg slandered his business and broke federal law.

Adventure Outdoors Inc., which is being represented by a former Republican congressman of Georgia, Bob Barr, filed a $400 million lawsuit in Superior Court of Cobb County.


Again I find myself agreeing with Bob Barr. The world has been turned upside down.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Good:



Bad:



Ugly:



I <3 YouTube.

Lawmaker used rules on secrecy to gain edge

In the name of national security, of course:

Randy ``Duke" Cunningham, the imprisoned former California congressman, took advantage of secrecy and badgered congressional aides to help slip items into classified bills that would benefit him and his associates, an independent inquiry has reported.
...
Hoekstra said he still has questions about how much Cunningham relied on legislation and how much he bullied people at the Pentagon to direct money to certain contractors. ``We clearly see that he tried to use the committee to do bad things," Hoekstra said in an interview.


Just one bad apple...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Entrapment by any other name

"Lucky Bag" Operation So Not Cool

Last February, the NYPD announced that it was conducting "Operation Lucky Bag" to suss out criminals. The police leave a shopping cart, purse or bag on a subway platform to tempt thieves, and then arrest crooks who try to steal the items! Of course, lawyers are concerned about entrapment, and Gothaimst had wondered what if someone, trying to be a good samaritan, attempted to take the bags to the lost and found. Well, someone did - and she was arrested! The Downtown Express reports that 52 year old Helen Calthorpe was arrested after picking up a shopping bag at the Columbus Circle 1 platform.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Feds sharpen secret tools for data mining

Heh.

At least five of the data-mining programs were developed under a Pentagon program, called Total Information Awareness (TIA), that Congress disbanded nearly three years ago because of concerns that it threatened personal privacy, according to government records and participants in the projects.
...
Data-mining systems used by intelligence agencies include:

• Hardware and software from NCR subsidiary Teradata that is capable of storing and searching databases as large as 4 million gigabytes, or twice as much information as is held in all research libraries in the USA. Teradata executive Bill Cooper won't say what's in the Teradata systems that intelligence agencies use, but he says their applications include searching financial transactions for signs of money laundering.

• A program designed to identify members of terrorist networks and determine the most important members of those networks. Cogito Inc., of Draper, Utah, sold the program to the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, company executive William Donahoo says.

• Software from Verity Inc. used by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. A 2004 congressional report says DIA's Verity system includes personally identifiable information about Americans from other agencies and commercial sources.


Add to that NVAC and ARDA (specifically Aquaint, VACE and ENVIE). The EFF lawsuit has made it through the first round, hopefully it will get to discovery.

Portals

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

OPEC 'uncomfortable' with oil prices

Climb past mid-$70s seen as threat to global economy, petrol industry's health.

The latest spike in oil prices to near $80 a barrel is "very uncomfortable" and is hurting the world economy, the president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said on Wednesday.
...
High prices bring more revenue to OPEC in the short term, but exporters worry that sustained price increases dent global economic growth and encourage consuming nations to divert investment away from oil to alternative energy.


Good. If the prices stay high then the market will force us to look at alternative sources of energy. Bad for the oil producers, good for everyone else.

Following the law can get you in trouble

Librarian rebuked for following law

Reutty followed the law by protecting the privacy of library users. New Jersey State Law requires that a subpoena is issued before library records are released to police. Nevertheless, the Mayor has harshly criticized her actions, reportedly saying that she displayed “a blatant disregard for the Police Department.” She could be formally reprimanded and subject to a 30-day unpaid suspension after a hearing next month.


The police should have used a National Security Letter. No pesky "rights" will get in the way then.

Nanny state alert

Burke aims cooking-oil ban at major chains

Chicago's most powerful alderman on Tuesday narrowed his war against artery-blocking cooking oils to a single front: fast-food giants and major restaurant chains.

On the eve of a City Council hearing on his headline-grabbing ordinance, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) signed off on a watered-down version that would limit trans fats only at establishments owned by companies with at least $20 million in annual gross sales.

ACLU suggests US may be spying on three other financial services

Raw Story:

The three systems are:

* Bolero: The Bill of Lading Electronic Registry Organization is an electronic exchange of trade for documents such as bills of lading (descriptions of shipped goods that control ownership of property when it is in transit). Owned in part by SWIFT, Bolero counts many of the world's largest corporations as customers.
* CHIPS: The Clearing House Interbank Payment System, another financial transfer service, is privately owned by the New York Clearing House Association. It primarily handles international funds transfers denominated in U.S. dollars for banks and their large customer transactions. Customers include most of the major U.S. banks.
* Fedwire: A wire transfer service run by the Federal Reserve, Fedwire allows U.S. banks to transfer funds to other participants on behalf of each other and their customers.


Mmmmm. Big brother.

I feel safer

Ah, the DHS:

The Homeland Security Department wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars last year on iPods, dog booties, beer-making equipment and designer jackets, congressional investigators have concluded.

More than 100 laptop computers and a dozen boats also bought by Homeland Security employees are missing, the investigators found.

Poor training, lax oversight and rampant confusion over what employees are allowed to buy with government-issued purchase cards left Homeland Security "vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse," according to a draft report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative and auditing arm.


The beer making equipment was clearly used to research the techniques of terrorist microbrewers.

What the Fed should be good at

US expands evacuations

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice directed the State Department to waive a requirement for Americans evacuated from Lebanon to pay for their travel costs, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.


There are a few things that the Federal Government should be good at, one is protecting our citizens that are overseas. We're the only nation that taxes overseas citizens; we should at least give them something for their money.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Watch the volume on this one

This is one of the funniest/saddest/stupidest videos I've seen in a while:



Via Andrew Sullivan.

Viruses leap to smart radio tags

RFID tags are a concern for many privacy advocates. This sounds like fun:

Computer viruses could be about to take a giant leap and start spreading via smart barcodes, warn experts.

Security researchers have infected a Radio Frequency ID tag with a computer virus to show how the technology is vulnerable to malicious hackers.

The researchers warn that RFID tags could help mount many different types of attacks on computer systems.

Makers of radio tag systems were urged by the group to introduce safeguards to guard against RFID-borne bugs.

From the "Why don't you get a gun safe department"

Thank you for calling 911. Please hold:

Homeowners once looking for protection, ex-hunters and wary parents were among those who pulled up to The Pyramid Saturday to unload their rifles, semiautomatics, shotguns and revolvers.

The gun turn-in program that ran throughout the day was held by the Memphis Police Department in cooperation with WMC TV-5 and Soul Classics 103.5.

Not intended to round up the firearms of lawbreakers, the event was aimed at law-abiding citizens who have the power to stop their own guns from falling into violent hands, said Sgt. Vince Higgins, spokesman for Memphis police.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Free market

Hmmm.

To implement monetary policy, short-term repurchase and reverse repurchase agreements are used to temporarily affect the size of the Federal Reserve System's portfolio and influence day-to-day trading in the federal funds market.


Is the Fed attempting to stop the stock market decline by introducing $9.5 billion in temporary reserves via Treasury repos?

Overkill

Radley Balko released his paper on hypermilitarized police today [PDF]. Interesting and very disturbing.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This bodes well for freedom

From All Headline News:

A leading insurance provider has announced plans to implant chips into patients who are suffering from chronic diseases. The chip will allow medical personnel to access patient's medical histories.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Going out of business sale?

Foreign Companies Buy U.S. Roads, Bridges:

On a single day in June, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road. An Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway, and Texas officials decided to let a Spanish-American partnership build and run a toll road from Austin to Seguin for 50 years.

Few people know that the tolls from the U.S. side of the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, go to a subsidiary of an Australian company — which also owns a bridge in Alabama.


Bankruptcy sale! Everything 20-50% off!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pakistan's ISI masterminded 11/7

This does not bode well if it's true:

Forty-eight hours after bombs ripped through Mumbai, the needle pointed to Pakistan. Intelligence agencies on Thursday confirmed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the “mastermind” of the blasts that killed about 200 people.

The Mumbai Police, meanwhile, identified the trio who planned and executed 11/7: Rahil, Zahibuddin Ansari and Faiyaz, linked to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Of them, Rahil had reportedly made an abortive bid to trigger a blast at Byculla railway station on March 11 — the eve of the anniversary of the 1993 Bombay blasts.

The agencies, which briefed National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi, said the blueprint for Tuesday’s blasts was made by the ISI while the “plan” was executed by “local Indian operatives”.


Israel invades Lebanon, Pakistan coordinates a terrorist bombing and Iraq is descending into chaos. The world is on the brink.

Is the United States Bankrupt?

An article from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis website discusses the possibility of national bankruptcy (emphasis mine):
Consider, for starters, Gokhale and Smetters’s (2005) analysis of the country’s fiscal gap, which measures the present value difference between all future government expenditures, including servicing official debt, and all future receipts. In calculating the fiscal gap, Gokhale and Smetters use the federal government’s arbitrarily labeled receipts and payments. Nevertheless, their calculation of the fiscal gap is label-free because alternative labeling of our nation’s fiscal affairs would yield the same fiscal gap. Indeed, determining the fiscal gap is part of generational accounting; the fiscal gap measures the extra burden that would need to be imposed on current or future generations, relative to current policy, to satisfy the government’s intertemporal budget constraint.

The Gokhale and Smetters measure of the fiscal gap is a stunning $65.9 trillion! This figure is more than five times U.S. GDP and almost twice the size of national wealth. One way to wrap one’s head around $65.9 trillion is to ask what fiscal adjustments are needed to eliminate this red hole. The answers are terrifying. One solution is an immediate and permanent doubling of personal and corporate income taxes. Another is an immediate and permanent two-thirds cut in Social Security and Medicare benefits. A third alternative, were it feasible, would be to immediately and permanently cut all federal discretionary spending by 143 percent.

The Gokhale and Smetters study is an update of an earlier, highly detailed, and extensive U.S. Department of the Treasury fiscal gap analysis commissioned in 2002 by then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. Smetters, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Economic Policy at the Treasury between 2001 and 2002, recruited Gokhale, then Senior Economic Adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, to work with him and other Treasury staff on the study. The study took close to a year to organize and complete. Gokhale and Smetters’s $65.9 trillion fiscalgap calculation relies on the same methodology employed in the original Treasury analysis. Hence, one can legitimately view this figure as our own government’s best estimate of its present-value budgetary shortfall.


The cheery article then concludes
Countries can and do go bankrupt. The United States, with its $65.9 trillion fiscal gap, seems clearly headed down that path. The country needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. It needs to adopt generational accounting as its standard method of budgeting and fiscal analysis, and it needs to adopt fundamental tax, Social Security, and healthcare reforms that will redeem our children’s future.

Bulls bet on gold to top $1,000

From the Telegraph:

A sudden surge in demand for gold options cashable at over $1,000 an ounce is the clearest sign to date that hedge funds and savvy traders are betting on a big rise in bullion prices.

UBS said investors had begun to show keen interest in "call" options to expire in December with strike prices of $1,000 an ounce and above.

Trust us! We're the government!

A big, fat duh:

In a policy reversal, President Bush has agreed to sign legislation allowing a secret federal court to assess the constitutionality of his warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, a senior Republican senator announced Thursday.

By having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court conduct the review instead of a regular federal court, the Bush administration would ensure the secrecy of details of the highly classified program. The administration has argued that making details of the program public would compromise national security.

However, such details could include politically explosive disclosures that the government has kept tabs on people it shouldn't have been monitoring.

Why an inflationary bust is inevitable

From Money Week:

So, in order to generate nominal GDP growth of US$751 billion, in 2005, total credit market debt had to increase by US$3,340 trillion — 4.4 times faster than GDP. Now, as is the case for the current account deficit, which hovers around 7% of GDP at present, the optimists will say that debt growth that is four times larger than GDP growth is sustainable. This may be the case for now, but the point is that, in the 1950s and 1960s, debt and GDP grew at about the same rate, with the result that in 1980, when Paul Volcker tightened meaningfully, total credit market debt was “only” about 130% of GDP.

Then, in the 1980s, debt grew at about two-and-a-half times GDP, in the 1990s at about three times GDP, and now at more than four times. In other words, as GaveKal Research pointed out, in order to sustain the asset bull markets and the economic expansion, debt growth will have to accelerate soon to initially five times GDP, later to six times, and if we extrapolate the trend that has prevailed since the 1960s, eventually to more than 20 times GDP.


Debt growth at 20 times GDP? Yowch. Not to worry, I'm sure Ted Stevens can help out.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Conservatives Without Conscience



I just ordered the book. Sounds interesting.

America: Freedom to Fascism

Freedom is my Anti-Gov

Not looking good

Iran's president speaks up:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has warned that continued Israeli strikes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can lead to an "explosion" in the Islamic world that would target Israel and its supporters in the West.

Oil prices close at new record high

CBC news:

Oil prices hit a new high closing price of $76.70 US a barrel on Thursday, as violence in the Middle East roiled the market.

The price of light sweet crude oil for August delivery was up $1.75 US per barrel from Wednesday's close on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The previous high close for oil was $75.78 US on July 7.


And it's going to keep going up. Has WW3 officially started now?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rapebear!

If you don't want to cut government programs

Just ditch the tool designed to measure their successfulness. From Cato:

The Program Assessment Rating Tool was developed by the Bush administration in 2002 to track the effectiveness of government programs by requiring federal programs and agencies to submit periodic questionnaires describing their goals, progress, and results. PART is a well-intentioned effort to bring financial accountability to the federal government, and in 2005 it won an innovation award from Harvard.

Unfortunately, accountability seems to be a dirty word in Washington. The House Appropriations Committee recently approved a bill that would cut off PART's funding, effectively shutting it down.

The reason? As committee spokesman John Scofield notes, "It's nice to get a cute little number . . . but PART tends to be an excuse to cut Congress' priorities."

Essentially, House appropriators are concerned that increased attention to the ineptitude of the government will compromise their efforts to expand it.


They'll get rid of ear marks and pork when you rip it from their chubby, money grubbing hands.

Nine percent spending hike

From The Heritage Foundation:

This year’s nine percent spending hike is the largest since 1990. This is occurring even though the economy is healthy. Lawmakers should not assume they can continue increasing spending at this rate and be bailed out by equally fast revenue growth.

...
Since 2001, federal spending has leaped 45 percent.


Like drunken sailors.

Iranian oil bourse moved back to September

The dollar is still be replaced by the Euro:

Iran will start the initial phase of its planned Iranian oil bourse at the end of September, the news agency ISNA reported last Wednesday. An unnamed oil ministry official told ISNA that his ministry had already presented the relevant documents to the economic and finance ministry and the bourse organisation.

The building that will house the oil bourse has reportedly already been purchased in the southern Iranian island of Kish. Petrochemical and oil-related products will be made available to customers in the first phase but the volume of the shares to be traded is not yet clear, the official told ISNA. Economics and Finance Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari said last April that the issue had already been agreed upon and that the oil ministry had given the go-ahead for the opening of the bourse. The exchange will have a positive impact on oil sales, not only in Iran but in the wider Gulf region and is slated to replace the current dollar-based oil exchange with one based on the Euro, he said.


Russia has lifted its currency controls and paid of its debt and central banks are moving away from the weak dollar. This is what happens when the US engages in reckless geopolitical and fiscal policy.

America's savings hoax exposed

Spend, spend, spend!

One: Stop wasting your time and money on useless repetitive studies. Stop droning on with the same tired mantra: We know America is a debt-ridden, consumption-addicted nation with a bankrupt public policy on savings, run by myopic politicians whose main goal is re-election and kowtowing to special-interest money. Neither party has the will or the guts to stand up and get into action. That's reality folks!

Two: Only one thing will reverse America's failed savings policy: a catastrophe! Past prosperity has lulled us to sleep. But that's coming to an end. The Brookings Institution warns that if we do nothing for the next 10 years, problems will get so bad that balancing the budget would require a 40% plus cut in benefits and spending, or offsetting tax increases. They also acknowledge that politically nothing will be done until a crisis explodes.

Three: What can you do? No news here. Ten studies and things keep getting worse. Yes, 33% listen and invest regularly. But the other 67% are oblivious, addicted to short-term consumption and immediate gratification. Solution? Save 10% or more.


I should be surprised at the 67%, but for some reason I'm not. The housing boom lulled many into a false sense of security. Watching double digit gains in home equity is nice and all, but a bust always follows a boom. These things move in cycles, and considering the size of this boom, the landing may be very hard.

The nanny state marches on

Bipartisan asshatery via the Daily Show.

$200 Billion Broadband Scandal

Ouch.

The Harms and Outcome

* Costs to Customers — We estimate that $206 billion dollars in excess profits and tax deductions were collected — over $2000 per household. (This is the low estimate.)
* Cost to the Country — About $5 trillion dollars to the economy. America lost a decade of technological innovation and economic growth, about $500 billion annually.
* Cost to the Country — America is now 16th in the world in broadband. While Korea and Japan have 40-100 Mbps at cheap prices, America is still at kilobyte speeds.
* The New Digital Divide — The phone companies current plans are to pick and choose where and when they want to deploy fiber services, if at all.
* Competitor Close Out — SBC, BellSouth and Verizon now claim that they can control who uses the networks and at what price, impacting everything from VOIP and municipality roll outs to new services from Ebay and Google.


I want my 45 Mbps pipe!

Monumental stupidity

These games? They make you kill things!

Guidry added that the law is "not going to curtail the free speech of anybody," but then he used the old "games are training kids to kill" argument. "This is more than speech. This is truly training for violence," he said. "You assume the character of a mass murderer. You go out and kill people as violently as you can because you score more points."


Mr. Guidry, video games also taught me how to rocket jump! That's why you see me sailing through the air everywhere I go. It's the perfect form of travel (assuming you find health packs laying around).

White House Lowers '06 Deficit Estimate

Yay?

The Bush administration yesterday lowered its estimate of this year's federal budget deficit to $296 billion -- a figure that prompted the White House to claim vindication for its tax cuts, and Democrats to issue new denunciations of the nation's fiscal problems.


It's like having someone throw you into a steaming pile of manure, but the pile is slightly smaller than you thought it would be.

Is inflation really under control?

No.

The Treasury department parrots the Fed line that consumer prices, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), are under control. But even many mainstream economists now admit that CPI grossly understates true inflation. The most glaring problem is that CPI excludes housing prices, instead tracking rents. Everyone knows the cost of purchasing a home has increased dramatically in the last ten years; in many regions housing prices have more than doubled in just five years. So price inflation certainly is alive and well when to comes to the largest purchase most Americans make.


The CPI has been a joke for a while. As long as you don't eat, don't use energy, don't buy a house, and don't use healthcare, everything is fine!

Just the facts ma'am

There are some interesting charts about The National Budget, Debt & Deficit over at MarkTAW.com. The spike at 2000 and the following rapid decline would be funny if it weren't so sad. Notice any patterns?

That's right. Deficits don't matter.

Syria Will End Dollar Peg, Moves Reserves to Euros

I guess this is what happens with $8.5 trillion in debt:

Syria, accused by the U.S. of supporting terrorism, plans to end its currency peg to the dollar by December to reflect closer trade ties with Europe, central bank Governor Adib Mayaleh said.

The Central Bank of Syria has already converted half its foreign-exchange reserves to euros, Mayaleh said in a telephone interview from Damascus, without being more specific. Syria's reserves, including gold, totaled $4.1 billion at the end of 2005, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, similar to the amount held by Lithuania's central bank.