Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, January 22, 2010 8:21 pm

Odds and ends for 1/22

Double dip: There were 482,000 new unemployment claims for the week ending 1/16, which was 36,000 more than the previous week and 42,000 more than expected. Worse, new emergency unemployment claims, for those who’ve exhausted regular benefits, were up 652,364 to 5,654,544. If this is a green shoot, it’s the kind of green you see when things are rotting.

Theft of a lifetime: The chief strategist for a major international bank accuses the U.S. and U.K. central banks of conspiring to steal wealth from their respective countries’ middle classes. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, but only a little.

Risky business: President Obama has proposed ending proprietary trading by bank holding companies to reduce the level of risk in the market and, therefore, the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out more banks, something Paul Volcker supports. Banks have protested that this is unnecessary on the grounds that prop trading really isn’t a big part of their business (Goldman Sachs puts its prop-trade revenue at 10% of the total). However, observes Zero Hedge with a nice little chart, “the market begs to differ.” Goldman’s own analysis suggests that while prop trading accounts for perhaps 10% of Bank of America’s revenues, because of prop trading’s high margins it accounts for up to 45% of BAC’s earnings. If that’s true, BAC stock, which is supposed to double in price by the end of 2011, could fall 50% instead.

Related: Real conservatives like Obama’s proposal. American “conservatives,” however, not so much.

So, will Goldman Sachs stop being a bank holding company so that it can continue its proprietary trading?: Probably, although it’s kind of in a pickle because currently it has almost 21 billion reasons not to.

Best health-care reform political analysis. Ever: I don’t think it’s correct on the substance, but whether it is or not, I just love the pretty words: “The only path to national health care reform is to pass the Senate bill. Unless Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership can herd three distinct groups of cats — the Blue Dogs, the Stupak coat-hanger crowd and the progressives — HCR is going down in flames, quite possibly for another generation. This is where we’re at. It sucks. It also blows, a seemingly self-canceling phenomenon that is only witnessed in the rarest, most [rear-end]-tasting conditions. And we are witnessing such conditions this very day — a perfect storm of sucking and blowing. That said, if passing the Senate bill verbatim is a once-in-a-lifetime Suckicane meeting a Category 5 Blowphoon head-on, then NOT PASSING ANYTHING AT ALL takes us into the Bruckheimer-Emmerich territory of summer blockbuster-class suckstinction-level blowvents.”

Quote of the day, from Matt Taibbi, on the prop-trading restrictions: “Obviously this is good news, but what I find irritating about it is that the government only starts listening to its voters once the more corrupt option turns out to be untenable.” Yo, Matt, that ain’t true only about banking, either.

The New York Fed and AIG: A timeline, by Bloomberg. Nice.

People thought Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t ruin the Wall Street Journal. People were wrong, although the author concedes the problem is a bit more nuanced than he first claimed.

So if Glenn Beck isn’t talking about going after progressives through the political process, then what’s he talking about? Because when you say you’re going after your political opponents like the Israelis went after Eichmann, you probably know your audience understands that what awaited Eichmann was a gallows.

Barney Frank may actually have a good idea: Blowing up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and creating a new system of housing finance. F&F didn’t cause as much of the current housing-bubble crisis as most of their critics claim, but they did contribute, oh, yes, they did.

And they say this like it’s a bad thing: ABC thinks there may not be enough votes in Congress to reconfirm Ben Bernanke. Let’s hope they’re right. Bernanke is a big reason we’re in as much trouble as we are right now.

They’re the Christian Taliban, they’re stone (no pun intended) killers, and they’re based in Newark: Yeah, that’s right: Read about the connections between the PrayforNewark social-action group, the bill in Uganda to execute gays, and the Dominionist movement in the U.S. These are scary people.

If this had been my daughter, the lawsuit would’ve been filed before the sun went down: TSA employee plants bag of white powder in college student’s carry-on luggage. Plenty of witnesses — who were afraid to speak up. Excellent! Just what you want when you’re trying to prevent terrorism — people who see something hinky but are afraid to speak up for fear of being arrested!

Apparently they can use lasers to zap away fat!: Which sounds cool, and I am so on board (assuming I can find the money) … just as soon as they figure out where the fat goes.

Saturday, December 26, 2009 9:34 pm

Odds and ends for 12/26

Wheat from chaff, signal from noise, pick your phrase: Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., catches a lot of grief over a lot of subjects. Some of it, but only some, is undeserved. Zero Hedge offers a more-or-less complete, more-or-less accurate summary of the rest.

Welcome to today’s edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions: Today, Salon’s David Sirota asks, “Are we making the same mistakes with the banks that we did leading up to war in Iraq?” Answer: Yes. This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

Interesting take on democracy: Sarah Palin schedules a book-signing at a public arena in her hometown — and has security bar some past critics from entering, just like Bush 43 used to do at campaign events. Even McCain didn’t, to my recollection, do anything that stupid. Although, to Caribou Barbie, that would be a bug, not a feature.

When the SEC won’t do its job, you want a New York City DA who will kick ass and take names. The retiring Robert Morgenthau has done that admirably for 35 years. Unless the SEC tomorrow is affilicted by sudden attacks of initiative, ethics, competence and honor, his successor is going to have to do even better.

The tsunami of ’04: Digby recalls: “This was one of the most hideous catastrophes of a decade of hideous catastrophes. But the consensus is that they’ve managed to come back fairly smartly. I recall watching the footage on the days after Christmas back in 2004 and then seeing the global response and feeling that the post-9/11 paranoia might be starting to lift a little bit. Global cooperation was in, at least for a little while. US soldiers were deployed to help, not make war. It was horrible and life affirming at the same time. Nine months later came Katrina.”

Obama supports gay rights, except when he opposes them. The Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Managment is withholding benefits to dependents of gay federal employees in a part of the country, the 9th Circuit, more sensitive to gay rights than any other in the country. So far, two members of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — one a liberal Carter appointee, one a very conservative Reagan appointee — have called the administration out at the administrative level. If this turns into litigation, it seems almost inevitable that Obama, who once pledged to be a “fierce advocate” of gay rights, will lose and gays will win. For a lot of folks, including, on this issue, me, that would be sweeping a double-header.

Want to reduce the deficit? Hey, so do I. Here’s one way: Stop using private contractors.

Home, sweet home, even 80 years on: When people were losing their homes almost 80 years ago, the government didn’t throw a bunch of money at rich bankers. It actually made places for people to live, and it did it so well that whole communities that sprang from this project remain viable today. Traces of others remain, including one here in N.C., that offer insights perhaps useful even today.

ACORN caught red-handed doing … uh, well, nothing, actually. Nobody tell Andrew Breitbart, though; he’s having fun and it IS a holiday, after all.

Dogs, fleas: The 2010 Conservative Political Action Committee convention will be co-sponsored by the John Birch Society, which is not horribly unlike letting the Klan co-sponsor the Republican National Convention. Why do conservatives hate America?

Killing health-care reform: Jason Linkins argues that there is, in fact, a rational liberal case for doing so. See what you think.

“Later, I ran them down his back and made a Christmas Stegosaurus like the one Jesus rode“: TBogg has some Christmas fun with Beckham the bassett:

Friday, November 20, 2009 9:33 pm

Odds and ends for 11/20

Huge win for the good guys, by which I mean taxpayers: House Finance Committee overwhelmingly and with true bipartisan support votes to audit the Fed. Barney Frank, previously a supporter, voted against. He’s going to need a damn good explanation.

Welcome to the 21st century, beehortches: Muslims want an anti-blasphemy law? Well, I want a jet pack and I ain’t getting that, either.

Come for the counsel, stay for the funny anecdotes (or vice versa): The NYT asks a shrink to tackle the fraught topic of holiday family get-togethers.

Transact this: Economist Dean Baker on the case for a financial-transaction tax. Short version: Yes, it would raise (microscopically) the cost of capital, but like booze and cigarette taxes, it would discourage something harmful: in this case, the kind of high-frequency, high-volume, low-value trading currently dominating the stock market. (Let’s face it, when the market can go up significantly on a day when more than a third of all trading involves the stock of just four companies — four basically insolvent companies — does the economy really benefit?)

Show some respect: A large majority of Americans, and 53% of Republicans, think it’s OK for the president of the United States to bow to the leader of a foreign country he’s visiting when it’s custom to bow in that country, according to a poll from that hotbed of pro-Obama liberalism, Fox News (question 18).

Shorter Amanda Hess, for the win: Why is sexism only a problem when it affects Sarah Palin?

Funding priorities: Can we please all agree that whatever else goes into health-care reform legislation, it ought not contain a dime for stuff that doesn’t work? Or has Teh Stoopid rendered even that common-sense position untenable?

Consumer advocacy: Elizabeth Warren sez, “We need a new model: If you can’t explain it, you can’t sell it.”

Once-a-century confluence?; or, Who are you and what have you done with the senator?: When Sen. James Inhofe and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer agree that it’s time SecTreas Tim Geithner resigned, maybe it really is time Tim Geithner resigned.

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