Thursday, February 28, 2008

Military Families Targeted in Financial Scam 
Fortunately, this one's been busted up.


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Muni troubles 
I missed it earlier, but a commenter asked me what I thought of the current difficulties surrounding municipal bonds.

I think it's very exciting.

Look, cities and counties and states are not going to go out of business any time soon. All of them have the power to tax and to raise revenue. Some of them will take it on the chin in the short run, because of the decline in property tax receipts. But the dry up in muni bond demand affects far more bond issuings and auctions than ones supported by property taxes.

What's happening is that entities that want to raise money, and bondholders who want to sell, rather than retain their bonds and collect the interest payments on them, are having to deeply discount their bonds in order to unload them on the aftermarket. It's crazy. There is nothing seriously wrong with these issues that warrants these yields to maturity that look like credit card interest rates, when you take the discounts into account.

Warren Buffett thinks they're fundamentally sound, too. At least, the ones being issued for cheap. How do we know? Because he just launched a business insuring municipal bond interest payments.

I'm fairly confident he's made a few purchases, as well - quietly, which he doesn't have to declare - and for fundamentally the same reasons: Our cities, by and large, will continue to make their promised interest payments and principal payments on time.

Splash, out


Light blogging recently ... 
Meh. So it turns out I have a life. Who knew?

I mean, quite aside from the bloggy, obsessive-compulsive blur that was 2004-2005.

I should have deployed this year. I hate election years. The whole country has lost, like, 15 IQ points across the board, and that happens every election year.

And Democrats are stabbing each other now, over their political differences?

I always knew those dorks were stupid and crazy. But I didn't think they were so stupid and crazy that any of them could think that their candidate was worth getting emotional over.

I guess there's no end to their neurosis, huh?

Splash, out


Monday, February 25, 2008

Obama on the American Flag 
"I won't wear that pin on my chest."


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beancounters Blocked MRAPs, costing lives 
That's the conclusion in this report, obtained by CNN.

• Budget and procurement managers failed to recognize the damage being done by IEDs in late 2004 and early 2005 and were convinced the best solution was adding more armor to the less-sturdy Humvees the Marines were using. Humvees, even those with extra layers of steel, proved incapable of blunting the increasingly powerful explosives planted by insurgents.

• An urgent February 2005 request for MRAPs got lost in bureaucracy. It was signed by then-Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, who asked for 1,169 of the vehicles. The Marines could not continue to take "serious and grave casualties" caused by IEDs when a solution was commercially available, wrote Hejlik, who was a commander in western Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005.

Gayl cites documents showing Hejlik's request was shuttled to a civilian logistics official at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in suburban Washington who had little experience with military vehicles. As a result, there was more concern over how the MRAP would upset the Marine Corps' supply and maintenance chains than there was in getting the troops a truck that would keep them alive, the study contends.

• The Marine Corps' acquisition staff didn't give top leaders correct information. Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, was not told of the gravity of Hejlik's MRAP request and the real reasons it was shelved, Gayl writes. That resulted in Conway giving "inaccurate and incomplete" information to Congress about why buying MRAPs was not hotly pursued.

• The Combat Development Command, which decides what gear to buy, treated the MRAP as an expensive obstacle to long-range plans for equipment that was more mobile and fit into the Marines Corps' vision as a rapid reaction force. Those projects included a Humvee replacement called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and a new vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The MRAPs didn't meet this fast-moving standard and so the Combat Development Command didn't want to buy them, according to Gayl. The study calls this approach a "Cold War orientation" that suffocates the ability to react to emergency situations.

• The Combat Development Command has managers -- some of whom are retired Marines -- who lack adequate technical credentials. They have outdated views of what works on the battlefield and how the defense industry operates, Gayl says. Yet they are in position to ignore or overrule calls from deployed commanders.

That ought to get a big "no shit, Sherlock" from longtime Countercolumn readers:

After all, here we are over ten months into the most widely anticipated war since Yeats wrote The Second Coming, units are still scrambling to acquire the rare “up-armored” M1114 Humvees, and we still haven’t come up with a practical, authorized vehicle-hardening solution that commanders who’s units are rotating into Iraq this spring can actually implement before they hit the war zone?

Rummy doesn't look great in this instance. But then again, neither does Cohen or any of his predecessors.

I don't buy the notion that the Commandant of the Marine Corps was never told of the seriousness of the situation. If the Commandant wasn't monitoring the War in Iraq, where his Marines were decisively engaged, then what the f*ck was he doing all day?

Playing Parcheesi with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force? Somehow I doubt it.

On the other hand, you've got to do your purchasing for the NEXT war. Not the last one. Good for the procurement officers for figuring that one out. But what they didn't figure out was that when your predecessors didn't remember that, you have to do your procurement for the next war AND the one you're in.

Splash, out



Don't You Dare Question Their Patriotism 

Exhibits A and B.

(From the Zombietime page linked below.)


Wild Country Safari 
The indispensable Zombietime has loads of pics from today's protests in Berkeley.


France and the Holocaust 
The well-meaning frogtards are all up in arms again, this time over a proposal to have every French child "adopt" a child victim of the Holocaust.

In a speech praising faith that also drew fire from secularists, Sarkozy told France's Jewish community on Wednesday that every 10-year-old schoolchild should be "entrusted with the memory of a French child victim of the Holocaust".

The proposal unleashed a storm of protest from teachers, psychologists and his political foes who said it would unfairly burden children with the guilt of previous generations and some could be traumatized by identifying with a Holocaust victim.

Pardon me for mentioning this, but the time for worrying about the national guilt over such matters would have been before the French collaborated with the Nazis, Marshall Petain signed a document declaring that Jews were "enemies of the state," and turned over more than 70,000 people to their fate in the Nazi death camps.

I would further suggest that now that a sizeable minority of French residents are even now rabidly and even murderously antisemitic, that a little bit of circumspection might be a good thing for the children of France.

They don't want to confront their guilt? All the more reason to rub their filthy gallic noses in it.

Splash, out,


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Comcast: Stuck on Stupid 
I can't figure this out for the life of me:

Comcast Corp. announced plans for its first dividend in nearly a decade and committed to a timeline for buying back nearly $7 billion in stock, a salve to investor complaints the cable giant isn't friendly to shareholders.

The moves Thursday come as Comcast's stock price has withered and just a month after one of the company's biggest investors accused Comcast of a litany of missteps and called on the company to commit to shareholder givebacks, including a dividend.

If the stock is so damn undervalued that it makes sense for the company to commence a share buyback program, announced ahead of time, then why on earth is it issuing a dividend at all?

The only good reason to stick shareholders with the tax headache of a dividend - ESPECIALLY where there is no history of a dividend before - is because the company cannot figure out a way to invest that money internally at returns greater than that expected of the market as a whole, or greater than the risk-free rate of return - however you slice it.

But obviously, that's not the case here. By buying back its own shares on behalf of shareholders, Comcast's management is saying that they believe that this purchase will generate superior return on investment as compared with, well, anything else they can think of, consistent with their overall tolerance for risk.

Now, since Comcast hasn't paid a dividend before, we know that nobody bought Comcast stock as an income investment with growth potential. And we know that Comcast thinks its stock is undervalued, or they wouldn't commit their capital to buying it back.

Which raises the question: Why are they screwing their investors with a dividend in this particular instance? Why not take the cash and buyback additional shares?

Why even announce it? All you do is drive up the stock and lower the expected returns of your longtime stockholders?

In this case, according to the Wall Street Journal, Comcast is committing a full third of its cash flow to the dividend.

If Comcast is correct that its stock is undervalued, well, what an atrocious waste of capital.

Enjoy those taxes, suckers!

Splash, out



The best lack all conviction ... 
While Die Wurst are full of passionate intensity.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Note to John Cole.. 
Ok, so a bunch of misguided libtards working for Obama hang a Che Guevara flag in their office... and Ed Morrissey is the problem?????

Note to John Cole: Pull your head out of your ass.

Splash, out


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Thursday, February 07, 2008

So Brazil beat Ireland 1-0 
The way I see it, Ireland won 10-1 on a alcohol-adjusted basis.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Simon Jenkins calls for surrender in Afghanistan 
It's not that the Taliban are so tough. It's that our so-called European allies have become such pussies.

Fiddle Blooging 
I remember meeting Brandon Apple as an impossibly tall lad of about 16, at the Old Time Fiddle Championships in Clarksville, TN ten years ago and he was nutso good then, too.

Here he is ruining the waltz for all other players:

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Liberal Bureaucrats Should Be Beheaded 
Part Deaux.

Patriotism should be avoided in school lessons because British history is “morally ambiguous”, a leading educational body recommends.

History and citizenship lessons should stick to the bare facts rather than encouraging loyalty to Britain when covering subjects such as the Second World War or the British Empire, the Institute of Education researchers said. Teachers should not instill pride in what they consider great moments of British history, as more shameful episodes could be downplayed or excluded.

The slave trade, imperialism and 20th century wars should be taught as controversial issues while students are deciding how they feel about their country, the report says.

Three quarters of teachers felt obliged to tell students about the danger of patriotism. The survey suggested neither pupils nor teachers wanted patriotism endorsed by schools.

Sounds like these educrat losers are ripe to contemplate the moral ambiguousness of Western values from within a reeducation camp to me.

Splash, out


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Paul Kedrosky has loads of intelligent analysis here. The money quote, which I think is spot-on: "Google is dominating a tipping market."

It's interesting. Yahoo has got to feel torn between two lovers. I do think that Yahoo's service would be vastly improved by outsourcing search functions to Google's vastly superior search engine. But Google is trying to build up its own communities as well, and may not wish to give Yahoo a boost without being well compensated.

On the other hand, as we move into an era of streaming high-def media content on demand, Microsoft's media server has a definite head start... and a large online community of its own.

Yahoo has got to be feeling the pinch, and will break one way or another though, because absent a deal, they're about to get DUSTED by Facebook and other evolving social media sites. Yahoo 360 just didn't seem to get traction.

UPDATE: I like Lee Distad's analogy: "Tying two pigeons together to create an eagle."

Splash, out



Friday, February 01, 2008

NFL Cracks down on church Superbowl parties 
I think churches should organize boycotts of Superbowl advertisers until the NFL pulls their heads out of their asses.

For years, as many as 200 members of Immanuel Bible Church and their friends have gathered in the church's fellowship hall to watch the Super Bowl on its six-foot screen. The party featured hard hitting on the TV, plenty of food -- and prayer.

But this year, Immanuel's Super Bowl party is no more. After a crackdown by the National Football League on big-screen Super Bowl gatherings by churches, the Springfield church has sacked its event. Instead, church members will host parties in their homes.

If that wasn't dumb enough for you, there's more:

Large Super Bowl gatherings around big-screen sets outside of homes shrink TV ratings and can affect advertising revenue, McCarthy said. "We have no objection to churches and others hosting Super Bowl parties as long as they . . . show the game on a television of the type commonly used at home," he said. "It is a matter of copyright law."

Horse hockey. Large groups of 400 people gathering to watch the game do NOT lower TV ratings, for any intelligent advertiser. These church parties turn what would be 1 or 2 people watching the game in any family to a whole-family event. These church parties INCREASE the number of people watching the game. They don't decrease it. And they increase it for the same reasons that exempting sports bars increases the viewership. The NFL should get out of its own way, and stop hiring retards. If I were an advertiser in the Superbowl, I'd be telling the NFL spokesperson to take a long walk off a short pier.

The ONLY argument I can think of is a weak one: Sports bars may pay a licensing fee to air NFL games in their work place. But since sports bars don't generally let large groups of minors in to watch the game, I doubt you can claim that the churches would be unfair competitors.

If I were the NFL, I'd strike deals with the larger churches to authorize the sale of NFL paraphernalia on church grounds, and share the revenue with the churches as a fundraising vehicle.

Where we get such bonebrains I don't know.

Splash, out,


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The Rhetoric of body counts 
Megan McArdle looks at the worst article on Iraqi civilian casualties ever.

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