From Pine View Farm

March, 2010 archive

Have Cake, Eat It Too, in the Regency 0

Blue Commonwealth on Republicans’ taking credit for jobs created by Democratic initiatives:

Now, (Virginia Lt. Governor–ed.) Bolling has gotten stimulus religion, Last week, according to the Washington Post, the lieutenant governor, speaking on behalf of his boss Bob McDonnell, praised almost 40 energy conservation projects proposed by local governments in Virginia. The cost – funds from the Recovery Act – totals $13.2 million.


“Apparently, being chief job creation officer means taking credit for jobs that other people have created. Bill Bolling should drop the double-talk and admit that the Recovery Act is creating jobs in Virginia. Just one year ago, Bolling said the Recovery Act ‘was not a stimulus plan at all.’ Virginians have to wonder, has he changed his mind? Or did he just think he could get away with hypocrisy?” said DPV spokesman Jared Leopold.

Evidently, Republicans think that they can get away with voting against every proposal of the Obama administration, while simultaneously reaping benefits. After all, the Hypocrisy Hall of Shame now has over 100 GOP members.


Not a Good Idea (Updated) 2

Only a bandaid, and a bandaid that will tear off when the first hurricane comes up the coast.

it’s been a long time since a hurricane came full force up the east coast. Folks forget what they can do.

President Barack Obama’s nod this morning toward opening up the East Coast for offshore drilling heaps significant new focus on Virginia and the triangular tract that has already been approved for exploration.


Mad Kane:

Liberal Drilling? Chill, Obama, Chill!
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Obama’s pronouncement ain’t thrilling.
He plans to expand off-shore drilling.
As a gal from the left
I am Mad and bereft.
Tell me, what has Obama been swilling?


Mithras takes the long view. And again.

Worth considering.


The Fee Hand of the Market 0

Bloomberg investigates the fall of AIG: amongst the factors, traders selling Credit Debt Obligations (CDOs), then changing the collateral supporting the CDOs:

Replacing good collateral with bad helped erode Davis Square III’s (a CDO fund–ed.) value. Declines in quality added to the cash AIG had to pay to holders of its insurance because its Financial Products division, headed by Cassano, made agreements with banks that included what are called collateral triggers. That was a feature other bond insurers didn’t offer, (former non-AIG trader Thomas–ed.) Adams said.

The possibility of downgrading the collateral was mentioned in the prospectus, so that made It All Okay.

Just like you know the pea is going to get switched in the old shell game.


Senator Cosmo Brown’s Cosmology 0

Tom Levenson comments on Cosmo’s piece in the Boston Globe. A nugget:

But the piece itself is almost a type specimen of the GOPs one trick (a sadly effective one): it is nothing more than the usual list of plaints, trumpeted as high crimes and misdemeanors. Everyone of them has been painstakingly debunked, but the trick is to keep on repeating it — the caged-monkey faeces-flinging tactic– until the debunkers weary, and the falsehoods get to parade around the public square unmolested. All it takes is a willingness to check your brain in a jar by the door, and it becomes easy to do this.

Follow the link for point-by-point take down.


Carlyfornication 1

Leavened with ignorance.


“But, Jeez, Mama, Everybody Else Is Doing It” 0

Of course, if you ever tried that with your Mama, you found out quickly not only that everybody else isn’t doing it, but also that hardly anybody is doing it. And got asked, “If everybody else was driving their car off a cliff, would you do that too?” (Not that this is the voice of experience or anything like that.)

Nevertheless, “everybody else (meaning Democrats) is doing it” seems to be part of the Republican Party’s defense for the violence and threats of violence against Democrats surrounding the health care vote (See Note). As is normally the case with Republican Party claims, there’s not much there but intellectual dishonesty.

I heard a particularly egregious example today–something that has kept me awake tonight. I was catching up with podcasts after the Big Final Move and listened to the Radio Times political roundup from last Friday. From the website (follow the link to listen to the show):

This week saw the passage of the biggest domestic legislation in a few generations, in a narrow partisan vote, when President Obama signed the landmark health care bill into law. It also saw Republicans launch a campaign to repeal the Democratic agenda and Obamacare, as well as a rash of threats that caused great consternation in the Beltway and beyond. Joining Marty to make sense of it all are MATTHEW YGLESIAS, a Fellow and blogger at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and CHRIS STIREWALT, political editor, columnist and blogger for the Washington Examiner.

I have no idea who Chris Stirewalt is. Never heard of him before.

Nevertheless, he tried to excuse wingnut Teabagging brick-throwing, vandalism, and threats by saying, in essence, that “Democrats do it too” and, as an example, cited the “9-1-1 Truthers“–those folks who think that the September 11, 2001, attacks were an inside job by the U. S. Government. (Frankly, Truthers make the Area 51 folks seem restrained.)

I don’t know the voting patterns of the “Truthers”; no doubt somewhere along the line the some of them have voted for a Democrat here or there; some of them have no doubt voted for Republicans or even Zoroastrians for all I know.

To imply, as this bozo Stirewalt did, that the Truthers are in some way a manifestation of or subset of the Democratic Party in the way that the Teabaggers represent Republicanism, is unsupported by anything.

I can see three possible explanations for Mr. Stirewalt’s doing this:

  • He is robotically repeating claims he has heard elsewhere and therefore should not call himself a journalist because he is unwilling to research facts.
  • He actually believes his claim and therefore should not call himself a journalist because he is incapable of researching facts.
  • He knows his claim is a lie, but is desperate to find an “everybody else” that “is doing it” and any old everybody else will do.

I’m betting on the last one.


The other part of the Republican defense seems to be, “You shouldn’t be complaining about the violence. Doing so just fans the flames.” It’s sort of like the abusive husband who claims, “Well, she made me hit her.”


Reformageddon 0

Tom Tomorrow
Click for a larger image

Via Atrios.


The Fee Hand of the Market 0

Bringing competition to a Galt.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, the recipient of the world’s biggest bank bailout, was fined 28.6 million pounds ($43 million) by U.K. antitrust authorities for giving confidential future pricing data to Barclays Plc.

The fine was reduced from 33.6 million pounds because RBS admitted the breaches and cooperated, the Office of Fair Trading said today in statement. Barclays isn’t likely to be fined because it brought the matter to the OFT’s attention.


If You Don’t Like the Smell of Pigs, Don’t Move Next to a Pig Farm II 0

Following-up to this post, the court agrees.

A jury has awarded no money to a couple in their lawsuit against the Chesapeake Airport Authority, in what airport officials said vindicated their decision to defend against noise-pollution lawsuits rather than settle.

George and Margaret Osipovs sued the authority in 2004, saying the airport’s noise and traffic decreased the value of their home. Chesapeake Circuit Court Judge Randy Smith ruled in 2007 that the Osipovs’ property had been harmed, but a jury decided Friday not to award any money in damages.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers vow to appeal.


Brawl at Recess 0

When I first saw this weekend that President Obama was fed up with Republican obstructionism on appointments, my reaction was, “Good for him. Take it to them.”

Dick Polman discusses the predictable Republican reaction and sums up the Republican view of bipartisanship (emphasis added):

Naturally, the Republican response to Obama’s move was a textbook case of hypocrisy. They behaved this weekend as if Obama, by making these recess appointments, had somehow invented a whole new form of socialist-tinged tyranny – while somehow forgetting, of course, that recess appointments are encoded as an executive option in the U.S. Constitution.


Today’s Republicans know all this; their real complaint is that Obama now seems so willing to confront them. They like him better when he extends his hand, in the spirit of bipartisanship, so that they can slap it away. . . .


The bottom line is that elections have consequences, and any president of either party is rightly entitled to choose his own qualified team. So says the Constitution, anyway. As for Obama, he need not bother waiting for the Senate Republicans to suddenly recognize that basic right. More recess appointments will surely be necessary; as I noted here six weeks ago, there’s not much point in Obama extending his hand to people whose first instinct is to devour it and then demand his wrist and forearm for dessert.

DelawareLiberal has more on Republican bipartisanship and the one-way street.


Bumpered Sticker 0

He apparently doesn’t like Mr. Obama.

The other driver, identified by police as 70-year-old Nashville retiree Harry K. Weisiger, allegedly accelerated and bashed into the bumper, directly over the Obama sticker. Duren tried to calm his frightened daughter as he pulled to a stop and prepared to get out of the car and deal with what he thought was a routine fender bender.

But the other driver wasn’t finished. He rammed the car again and started pushing it off the road, while the little girl inside screamed in terror. After a few more pushes, the SUV accelerated away, leaving a shaken Duren to call 911 and try to reassure his daughter.


No doubt the defense will plead temporary in-Hannity.


Don’t It Yourself 0

Drop that hammer and nails and back away slowly.

Via Andrew Sullivan.


Mouth to Mouse Resuscitation 0

I have conducted extensive personal research over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this drunk:

Pennsylvania police have charged a man with public drunkenness after reports that he tried to resuscitate a long-dead opossum on a highway.


As Night Follows Day 0

Charles Krauthammer makes stuff up:

As the night follows the day, the VAT cometh.

This is not to say that a VAT is impossible in the United States, though it is highly unlikely. A few persons outside of government have proposed one and been thoroughly ignored. But anything is possible yadda yadda yadda.

But this “as night follows day” stuff is typical Krauthammer fear-mongering.

Wingnuts monger fear because fear is what they know.

Read more »


Senator Cosmo Brown and Mad Dow Disease 0

Gerald Kolman points out the fallacy of Senator Cosmo Brown’s claim that evil librul elitist Rachel Maddow is planning to run for the Senate in Massachusetts.

It can’t be true, he says, for he’s been asked to run himself as the exemplar of the evil librul elitist conspiracy.

Follow the link for the expose.


Bags of Air 1

“Securitization” is taking debts, slicing and dicing them, then bundling them up and selling the sliced dices as assets.

In accounting, an asset (something you have, like a building or a client list or money in the bank) is the opposite of a debit (something you don’t have).

In some cases, debts, which you don’t have, can be accounted as assets, because they are expected to become assets, though they aren’t yet. In other words, you can proceed as if you have them, even though you don’t.

If the debts are good solid debts likely to be repaid, there is nothing wrong with this. The lender can take that expectation of future income and spend it to make something new, even though he doesn’t actually have it yet. That’s how markets “create money.” As long as everyone in the chain keeps repaying, the chain stays strong.

That’s why, back in the olden days when I was a young ‘un, getting a mortgage was an ordeal. The lender wanted to make sure the borrower was almost certain to repay. Back then, the lender made the money from the mortgage payments–more mortgages, more mortgage payments.

Lately, the lender has made money by “securitizing” mortgages: slices full of dices were sold almost as soon as the mortgage was signed. Consequently, the lender came not to care whether the loan was likely to be repaid. The big money was in sales commissions. They forgot that, to keep the chain strong, everyone had to keep repaying.

Persons were tricked into buying dicey adjustable rate mortgages by sales persons who told them that “real estate always goes up” so “you can always refinance when the note comes due” and “think of all the neat stuff you can buy by refinancing and taking the cash out.” (About the only bright side I’ve seen in the housing crash is the almost-disappearance of spam calls and letters urging me to remortgage so I could take the cash out.)

In the credit card biz, securitization has not been much of a problem, because each dice in a slice is so small and the slices so large that the odds of individual defaults (your or my not paying up) do not threaten the whole slice.

The housing thing was different. With “securitized” mortgages the dices in the slices were larger.

Then, when real estate did go down because prices had gone absurdly high, the buyers could not refinance because they could not sell or mortgage the houses for more than they paid for them so as refinance for more money in order to pay off the notes and keep the houses and have even bigger mortgages. No more dices for the slices.

Because the dices in the slices were larger and because the crash was, like Savoir Faire, everywere, suddenly the defaults mattered. And the securitized “securities” turned out to be, well, not secure.

It sounds complicated when you hear it explained in Wall Street-ese. The banksters like it to sound complicated, because complicated sounds serious and important and is also incomprehensible to outsiders; they like to feel serious and important while remaining incomprehensible.

But it amounts to “leave all the money on 21 because 21 is going to keep coming up.” You gotta win!

Then not 21 came up. Whoops! I just sold you the system. You placed the bets, sucka.

So statements like this give me the willies:

Brian Sack, head of the markets group at the New York Fed, said the financial system can’t operate well without leverage and signaled that he supports the return of a “properly” structured securitization market.

“Securitization is a powerful vehicle that should play an important role in the intermediation of credit in the economy,” Sack said in a speech delivered by video conference from New York to an audience in Sydney. “We should also understand that a reduction in leverage to near zero in the financial system is not desirable.”

(Aside: Catch that “intermediation” in there. So serious, so complicated, so incomprehensible. Looks like a fancy word for “middleman.”)

“Leverage” (a fancy word Wall Streeters use for “debt” because it doesn’t rhyme with “bet”) is indeed a powerful and a necessary thing. Being able to borrow money on expectations has helped persons and companies to wonderful accomplishments, from buying cars and houses to building railroads and selling computers cheap.

Historically, that debt has been called “stocks.” In London in 1606, the Virginia Company raised money to support the expedition that eventually founded the first permanent English-speaking colony in the New World by selling–wait for it–stock. It was far from a sure thing. They were borrowing money in hopes of making more money and the investors knew the risks.*

Securitization, not so much, for it is an attempt to turn a minus (someone else’s debt, not a debt owed to me) into a plus (my asset that I can therefore sell because I already have it even though I don’t have it yet but I will someday promise cross my heart hope to die) through semantic tricks. Instead of selling expectations out in the open, as the Virginia Company did, the company that sells “securitized” securities is selling risks as certainties (remember, all this junk had AAA ratings–that bankster for sure things.)

That’s why they want to call them “securities.” They are telling us they are “secure,” for Pete’s sake.

The investors (pension funds, individual persons, mutual funds, other banks) did not know the risks, because the risks were buried twice ten fathoms deep.**

And they were not secure.

They were bags of air.

Under securitization as currently practiced, I can sell you a bag of air. When you open the bag and say, “There’s nothing here!” I can say, “Ahhhhh. Oh well, nobody could have predicted . . . . You’re on your own, sucka,” then ask the guvmint to cover my asset because my asset is too big to flail.

And this bozo from the New York Fed is buying into this whole hocus-pocus-slicus-dicus thing. Too damn Wall Streety for me.

I seriously doubt that there can be such a thing as “properly structured” securitization. Just as I am sure that fire is not caused by phlogiston.

And, if such a thing as “properly structured” securitization exists, it is probably already traded on the–wait for it–blankety-blank stock market.

Bring back Glass-Steagel.


*You can be damned sure that, had the Godspeed, the Susan Constant, and the Discovery not returned, King James I wouldn’t have bailed anyone out. Beheaded, maybe, but not bailed.

**Many persons saw the danger because they saw through the double-talk to recognize that the underlying premise–that real estate always goes up–was invalid. But few persons listened. There was no quick money in prudence.


Hello, Virginia 0

I’m back.


The Joys of Matrimony 0

A Pennsylvania judge has refused to grant a divorce to a same-sex couple married last year in Massachusetts.

The judge’s ruling makes perfect sense. They couldn’t marry in Pennsylvania, therefore they cannot divorce in Pennsylvania.

Nothing that any gay folks ever did had anything to do with my marriages (or the subsequent divorces). If they want to know the matrimonial joys I have know, I say, “Come on down.”


I Like the New Jersey Turnpike 3

I do.

I can’t say much for New Jersey drivers (well, I can, but I shall restrain myself). But I like the turnpike, so long as two Jersyites haven’t tried to make their vehicles occupy one space. Even though atoms are supposed to be really far apart, that still is not possible.

The Jersey Turnpike is a marvelous piece of engineering. Anyone who has driven both it and the Garden State, as I have many times, sees how well-engineered the Jersey Turnpike is. And, unlike the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it is Not Boring. (The Garden State calls itself a parkway. Cars are often parked there. Only Pennsylvania could build a road through some of the most beautiful mountains in the country and make it Borrrrriiiiinnnnngggg.)

One of the NJT’s quaint features, if a feature of such a magnificent paean to the automobile may be considered quaint, is that its rest areas are named after famous Jerseyites, such as Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, and Molly Pitcher.

Now comes word that New Jersey is considering pimping out the names of the rest areas.

James Simpson, the new commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, is contemplating selling naming rights to the turnpike’s rest stops as he scrambles for new revenue.

“The ‘Nike Stop’ . . . maybe that would be worth $10 million,” Simpson said in a recent interview, pondering ways to wring more money out of turnpike concessions.

So I offer a pome, not by Henry Gibson:

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem as lovey as a tree,
    But unlovely as this poem may be,
    Take it. You don’t get no tree.

Read more »


Mixed Nuts 1

Get your a picture of you with Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin and save ten grand as you do.

Via DelawareLiberal.