Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Four Tops 
Seven Rooms of Gloom. A capella.


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FDIC looking weaker and weaker 
I wrote earlier this year that the FDIC promise is paper thin.

It's getting thinner.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. may take the unprecedented step of ordering banks to prepay about $36 billion in premiums to replenish the deposit insurance fund that has been severely depleted by a rash of bank failures.
The FDIC board likely will call for "prepaid" bank insurance premiums at its public meeting Tuesday to discuss the issue, three industry executives and a government official said. The banking industry prefers that option over a special emergency fee — which would be the second this year. The executives and the official spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has yet to be made public.

It would be the first time the FDIC has required prepaid insurance fees. Under the plan, banks would have to pay in advance their insurance premiums for 2010-2012, bringing in about $12 billion for each of the three years, two of the executives said. That is the normal amount of insurance fees, though it could vary somewhat according to growth in total insured deposits — the basis for determining the fees.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

RIP William Safire 
The man who coined the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" is no more.

Though as a conservative, he was not a member of the New York Times' tribe, they understood him better than most, and nail the essence of the man in the final two graphs.

Splash, out


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Angela Peacock Returns 
If PTSD and "Military Sexual Trauma" are such widespread phenomena among women veterans, and if this soldier's profile is so similar to others, as the article states, why is it they keep interviewing the same Angela Peacock?

I think Paul Reikoff keeps her number on speed-dial. A rapid-deployment victim. The poster girl for PTSD.

Angela's on the prayer list, big time. Lord knows lots of veterans have had trouble coming home. But come on, CNN! Up your game! Do your own research! Don't get led around by the nose by the Huffington Post/IAVA axis!

I already started a tag with her name. I'm thinking I'm gonna have to start a Google Alert to track Angela Peacock sightings!

Splash, out


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Saturday, September 26, 2009

AUDIT THE FED!!! (Or maybe not.) 
There's a bipartisan effort afoot in Congress to pry open and audit the Fed's books.

I say, beware the law of unintended consequences.

One of the reasons the federal reserve's discount window operations are effective in preventing bank runs and collapses when member banks encounter short-term liquidity problems is because discount window operations are confidential. If we blow this, we take away an important arrow in the Fed's quiver.

Large depositors are very careful with their investors' money - and are not protected by FDIC. They maintain a watchful eye on bank strength and solvency.

If discount window transactions are not confidential, then the mere act of seeking much-needed assistance at the fed discount window is likely to create a run on the banks, thereby creating the liquidity disaster that the fed discount window was designed to prevent.

Congress is playing with fire, and not more than a handful of them know how big that fire is, or even that they've got matches in their hands.

Splash, out


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Ha ha ha ha ha! 

Back in January of this year, I wrote that Obama's decision to commit to closing Guantanamo Bay Prison down without first having a plan for disposition of each one of the inmates was dumber than a sack of hammers. Indeed, I wrote that Obama was painting himself into the biggest legal corner in living memory, and that his "ready, fire, aim" decision-making process was indicative of his fundamental unseriousness and and the intellectual unseriousness of the American left.

It turns out reality caught up to these dreamy-eyed morons, as unicorn shit and pixie panties and Skittles from on high were not enough to empty the prison by that idiotic, self-imposed "deadline."

The Washington Post account is by far superior to the CNN account (no surprise: their reporters have a much thicker rolodex of well-placed sources in government than CNN), and makes the backstory clear: The outgoing Bush Admin officials and career diplomats clearly warned the Obamabots against trying to close Gitmo without placing the inmates first. The arrogant, starry-eyed libtards thought they were better, and threw the government at the mercy of foreign governments they could not control.

Craig oversaw the drafting of the executive order that set Jan. 22, 2010, as the date by which the prison must be closed.

"It seemed like a bold move at the time, to lay out a time frame that to us seemed sufficient to meet the goal," one senior official said. "In retrospect, it invited a fight with the Hill and left us constantly looking at the clock."

"The entire civil service counseled him not to set a deadline" to close Guantanamo, according to one senior government lawyer.

Think of it: The entire civil service. And this crackhead overrulled them all. I hope Obama told him what I would have told him: "You made me look ridiculous, and a man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridiculous!!!"

Looks like Craig's been taken off the case. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, he's been heavily involved in vetting White House appointees.

So now we know who's responsible for Van Jones, too. Brilliant!

Splash, out


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WIth scarlet majors at the base 
The great Michael Yon takes a vivid look at how the British Army public affairs machine is interfering with the press.

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I slag on journos enough 
but I do want to pause to reflect, with gratitude, on the risks many of them take and the hardships they endure to bring us the story.

This is the story of CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth, who nearly lost her life in the service of the cause of an informed public.

Splash, out


P.S., As I recall, there was some fantastic journalism coming out of Sarajevo at that time, and Christiane Amanpour was responsible for a lot of it. She's not perfect, but she's got balls of solid rock. Well, ovaries of solid rock. Whatever.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Just up late looking for chorale music. I remember hearing this in college for the first time in 1989 and being profoundly moved by this 1955 recording.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Experts Agree, Iran is developing a nuclear delivery system 
This report just came out today.

VIENNA (AP) - Experts at the world's top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.
The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency's leaders share Washington's views on Iran's weapon-making capabilities.

At least our Eastern European allies feel secure in our commitment to protect them.
Oh, wait!

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quote of the Day 
"I bark at no man's bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the White House no matter who he is."

--Davie Crockett, Congressman, 1833.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

There were 31 dollars worth of insider stock sales last month for every dollar's worth of insider buys.

I'd like to know if that's accompanied by a spike in volume or not. And I'd expect there to be some profit-taking after this. I'm advising clients that tax rate increases are coming - as are most financial advisors, I'd imagine, and so some of this might be an attempt to realize capital gains this year, rather than give the revenue-desperate Congress a chance to hike capital gains taxes effective Jan 1.

But still, not a bullish sign at all.

Splash, out


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Is Tom Ricks getting too close to the Generals? 
The Columbia Journalism Review's Mike Hoyt asks the question.

No time to do a detailed blog today. Off to AT in the morning.


Splash, out


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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Disability Developments 
In a landmark expansion of civil rights for individuals with disabilities, a Minnesota panel upholds the basic human right of children with autism to dress like common street whores.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Countercolumn News Ticker 
Kabul turns down offer to become "sister city" with Washington D.C. ...

Obama's plan to 'have a beer' with nation's fourth graders hits unexpected legal snag ...

Length of Obama speech draws comparisons to Beslan ...

Hyannisport Police: number of women date raped at Kennedy wake "surprisingly low ..."

Diageo stock plummets after news of Sen. Kennedy's passing ...

With Lion of the Senate" gone, "Jackal" and "Hyena" of the Senate assume leadership of Congressional Democrats ...

Obama Administration moves to "reallocate" professional baseball scores ...
"The time is now for the Cubs to get their fair share"

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Cool cake art 
For bonus points, the music for the first three minutes is played by Curfa, made up of a bunch of my close friends down here in South Florida.

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RAND Study on Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan 
For those so inclined.

This study explores the nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan, the key challenges and successes of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign, and the capabilities necessary to wage effective counterinsurgency operations. By examining the key lessons from all insurgencies since World War II, it finds that most policymakers repeatedly underestimate the importance of indigenous actors to counterinsurgency efforts. The U.S. should focus its resources on helping improve the capacity of the indigenous government and indigenous security forces to wage counterinsurgency. It has not always done this well. The U.S. military-along with U.S. civilian agencies and other coalition partners-is more likely to be successful in counterinsurgency warfare the more capable and legitimate the indigenous security forces (especially the police), the better the governance capacity of the local state, and the less external support that insurgents receive.

Splash, out


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"We need to kill her." 
Radical Islam Facebook page calls for the murder of a 17 year-old Florida girl.

Ronald Reagan Remix - The Gipper on Socialized Medicine 
Reagan remixed. Based on a speech from 1961.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

While America Slept: Van Jones is out. 
Dateline, AP. 2:06 AM on a sunday, eastern time, on labor day weekend. Likely after the print deadlines for the sunday papers, at least on the east coast.

President Barack Obama's adviser Van Jones has resigned amid controversy over past inflammatory statements, the White House said early Sunday.

So it's not a matter of news delay. The most transparent administration in history didn't even announce it until sometime after midnight.

Splash, out


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Stranger-owned life insurance 
These contracts are abortions, and I'd like to personally adjust the actuarial outlook for any of these Wall Street scumwads trying to push these.

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

Why? Well, we have insurable interest laws for a reason. Do you really want a sociopath like Bernie Madoff owning a substantial interest in wanting you dead?

But let's put aside the obvious perversity in granting Wall Street a windfall when they kill you. Let's just look at the math- the math the New York Times misses:

The primary purpose of life insurance is death benefits. DEATH BENEFITS. Why? To protect widows, orphans, and business partners. That's it.

When an insurance company sets its premiums on a block of business, they have to take into account the expected lapse rate. A certain percentage of all life insurance contracts will never pay a death benefit - because they either lapse or get cashed in well prior to the death benefit. Indeed, term insurance is DESIGNED to lapse without paying a claim. This is part of why term is so cheap... the premiums are well below the expected mortality for any given age group. Because of lapse rates. This is part of why young families and small businesses can afford the protection they need.

When you have third parties buying up life insurance... parties whose primary interest in the insured is identical to that of a corpse-eating zombie - they will keep policies in force that would otherwise have lapsed or surrendered. Lapse rates will fall. Premiums will rise. Life insurance will become less affordable. And families and small business will have to make do with less protection. Dividends fall on par whole life contracts. further raising premiums neccessary for a given level of protection. Seniors will have to pay longer before dividends offset premiums. Some won't be able to. And we will have forgotten why we have life insurance to begin with: To protect future widows, orphans, and dependents of small business owners from unexpected financial catastrophe due to death.

This is one asset class we can definitely do without.

Splash, out


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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lying Talking Points Memo 
As if to underscore the notion that liberals can't even cover the smallest subjects without lying about them, here's Talking Points Memo on the photography of US dead and dying soldiers and marines in the War on Terror:

Yesterday, War Department Secretary Gates excoriated the Associated Press for publishing a photo the the dying Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard in Afghanistan (above left). WTF! For those of you with short memories or who were not alive in 1968, I can tell you that photos of dying American soldiers in Vietnam were a regular part of the day's news.

Here's the photo TPM's writer, John Taplin, runs to illustrate his point.

The photograph, taken in 1965 or 1966, I believe, by Time Life's Larry Burrows, was one of the most famous photos of the war. Here's the lie: No one in the photograph was dying.

One commenter, Ripper McChord, has it about right:

A Marine's life belongs to the country. His death is his own. I've interviewed th parents of dead servicemen and this is a personal grief that only Gold Star families know.

A right to watch his last minutes?

No. certainly not. Perhaps a privilege--if he or his parents so allowed, but they directly asked for privacy.

A duty to watch his death? Only if your a voyeuristic moron who's never seen a car accident or watched "Saving Private Ryan." Can anyone really say that encroaching on the sacred sacrifice this young man made actually shows them something they haven't seen in a thousand horror movies or enlightens the public debate one iota? Like hell. If that's your argument, you're just mirroring the anti-abortion activists who put photos of bloody fetuses on billboards for shock value and politics.

Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard was a human being who volunteered to serve you and me. His life and death deserve more consideration than crass political sport.

That said, I do not support a blanket ban, imposed by our government, on publishing images of dead and dying troops. Such images have been a part of war reporting since the camera appeared on the battlefield, and unpleasant and gruesome as they are, I believe that the images taken of dead soldiers at Gettysburg, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and later and famously, the photos of American dead on the beach at Buna should be part of the record.

The SecDef should confine his efforts to the pursuit of war, not telling journalists what they may or may not publish. There should be narrow exceptions made in order to protect operational security and to protect the integrity of the family notification process.

I think the final call should be made by the fallen service member's family, and by the enlisted members of the fallen service member's unit. NOT by the media outlet, and not by the Secretary of Defense

Splash, out


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Obama's Retirement Reform Proposal 
If Obama and his Administration gave a good god-damn about retirement security, they could start by reigning in obscene spending so we won't have to inflate American's retirement savings into oblivion, or tax the bejeezus out of distributions from 401(k)s, 403(b)s IRAs, SEPs, and annuities, in order to have a prayer of paying off our debt.

Instead, our Dear Spender proposes replacing cash refunds with taking on even MORE government debt.

If he really wanted to help people, he would push for waiving the 10% withdrawal penalty on 401ks and IRAs for people under 59 1/2 who are unemployed, or for the purpose of starting a new business (and hiring!). All that's needed is to expand the definition of qualified hardship withdrawals to include unemployment income.

But he won't.

Instead, he screws around the edges. Unused vacation pay?? Sounds like an idea only someone who's had his head so far up the Union's ass for years would love.

He wants to put long term retirement savings in government savings bonds, of all places? With interest rates at historic lows???? If he were in private practice, he'd get sued nine ways from Sunday.

And then, Dear Leader wants to send the paper savings bonds directly to the workers? So they can stuff them in a drawer somewhere? No third party administration? No transfer agent to keep track of beneficiaries? This sounds like a banana republic plan.

I'm all for having a default 'opt-in' for retirement plan participation. That's been a good idea for a long time - though there are a lot of details to work out, including figuring out a reasonable 'safe-harbor' solution for plan sponsors who don't want liability for taking either too much risk or too little risk with the money. There are ERISA headaches when a plan sponsor's executive class gets a 6% return over years because of a reasonable allocation to equities, while the worker bees get 2% returns because the worker bee assets were deposited into money markets. Lots of companies have declined to offer retirement plans precisely BECAUSE of this kind of ERISA liability.

(Incidentally, an automatic opt-in provision helps executives, who can't max out their own plans, under "top hat" rules, unless they meet participation requirements among the rank and file.)

The plan to issue savings bonds instead of tax refunds? It's a massive screwing of the working and middle class. With interest rates low, massive spending and inflationary expectations, such a deal is a very bad one for workers (and a great one for the IRS!).

It's also a massive redirection of spending power from main street USA to K Street, Washington. All it does is ensure government bureaucrats once again take the first cut of any tax refund checks.

(What gets me is that libtards will, if pressed, and in the same breath, argue at once that we need increased participation in 401(k)s but we shouldn't partially privatize Social Security because equities are too risky to rely on for retirement savings.)

All in all, I'm thoroughly unimpressed with Obama's proposal.

Why the Hell is he wasting bandwidth on this garbage, anyway? He ought to be pressing the case for his abortion of a health care reform package, or mustering up public sentiment to fight and win in Afghanistan. (That's the one he thought was important, remember?)

Instead, he's blowing political capital on these distractions, impaling himself against the Republican pikes over health care reform, and letting the Afghanistan war effort shrivel and die for lack of rhetorical oxygen and leadership from the President.

The likely result is that Obama will fail at all three initiatives.

I want him to fail on health care reform. Utterly. I do NOT want him to fail to win in Afghanistan.

Splash, out


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Why the argument that "we already ration" is bogus 
Liberals are fond of arguing that insurance companies already set limits on care, therefore it's fine for government to do the same thing. They are so stupid, they forget that they are making this argument in nearly the same breath as they deny the proposed existence of "death panels" whose purpose is to do exactly what they insist we already do, and what we must do to control costs, eliminate waste, and discover cost efficiencies.

Their argument is as stupid as they are, and that's saying something.

For proponents of a single-payor system, and ESPECIALLY for proponents of a system in which it is illegal to pay out of pocket for medical care, there is a HUGE difference between what the libtards falsely call "rationing."

In a private market, I am free to select my own menu of benefits and exclusions, deductibles, caps and limits. Case in point: One major carrier in my area, United Health, offers a standard $3 million dollar lifetime benefit cap. I can pay a little extra per month in premiums and enhance that lifetime cap to $5 million.

From the perspective of economic freedom and, I'll say it, basic human rights, between having my insurance company deny a claim and having the government deny treatment. Here it is:

My insurance company would tell me: "We're sorry, but this treatment is not covered by your plan. If you and your doctor want to do it, you are free to purchase it yourself. By the way, here's a list of in-network doctors. They offer discounts."

My government will tell me: "We're sorry, you may not get this treatment."**

Splash, out


**My current President will tell me, in so many words, "You may be better off taking the pain pill."

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Obama Administration Blames Bush for Underresourcing Afghan War for Years ... 
I would point out, though, that Obama elected to keep the same Secretary of Defense. He also sacked the guy he says was underfunded and neglected.

"This was underresourced, underfunded, undermanned and ignored for years," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"The president is focused on ensuring that we meet measurable benchmarks. ... It's going to take some doing."

I'd hate to be the President that has to clean up after this crew in power now.

But if I were, I sure wouldn't be passing the buck backwards nine months into my term.

Splash, out


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