Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oui on peut!

Anyone know where I can get the album?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spam Email of the Day- 24 Oct 2008

This stuff it proliferating. I can deal with a week and a half of this stuff. I'm getting very worried about 4-8 years.

Here's the first email:

Here is a creative approach to redistribution of wealth as offered in a local newspaper...

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

My response:

No, that would be communism. Or just being a jerk.

Socialism is when everyone chips in a little for there to be a safety net for who need it. There are plenty of examples of "socialism" at work that nobody complains about. Europe is filled with "socialists," yet the Eurozone is a significantly larger economy than the US (translation: "socialists" make more money than "capitalists," even after factoring in higher taxes). The police department, fire department, public library, Medicare, and Social (you see, that SOCIAL word) Security are all "socialism" in the US. All are pretty successful. Should the fire department only put out your house if you have the ability to pay them first for putting the fire out?

If you're against the fire department and the police department, by all means, start movement to shut them down. Start a petition drive. Contact your representative. By all means, take some action. Take your money back from those filthy "socialists." I'd love to see how much support you get.

It's also ironic that you complain about Obama when the current president, who I'm willing to bet you voted for, is funneling how many billions (trillions?) of your tax dollars to Wall Street and others in bailout after bailout?

I'm getting testy. Had to get some detox entertainment: Bullworth on Hulu.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spam Email of the Day - 23 Oct 2008

On the bright side, there's only a few more days until election day. On the other hand, it could be a long 4-8 years.

Plot To Kidnap Obama Exposed!

Thanks to our top notch US Secret Service protection, a brazen new plot to kidnap Presidential hopeful Barack Obama has been exposed! These kidnappers are not only getting brave (maybe desperate), they’re also getting more inventive

I think someone originally got the joke from Tiger Droppings.

My response:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Links of the day - 10/21/08

FBI struggles to handle Financial Fraud cases. 36% fewer case officers than 2001. Since then, we've had Enron, Worldcom, A.I.G., and a host of others.

40% of Gulf of Mexico oil production STILL shut in due to Gustav and pals.

Second Bomb blast hits pipeline. Canadian terrorists? We all know how the last war with Canada went.

"Massive" find was bypassed by Exxon. In one of the deepest, most technically challenging drilling feats in industry history, Freeport, et. al. seem to have hit a big find. In July, this would have been all over the news. Now, hardly a peep. It could be the biggest domestic oil find (4 billion barrels?) in over a decade, but that's no guarantee it will ever see production. First off, even with the best technology, you need more than 1 appraisal well to judge the economics of a reservoir. This has already been one of most expensive holes ever dug by man. Drilling 2 more will be even more costly. Second, the oil might not flow right. Deep wells tend to have flowrate problems, which was one of the reasons that Jack #2's good flowrates was such a big deal a few years ago. Thirdly, the economics might not make sense at today's prices. I doubt the project will work with $50 a barrel oil. Probably not even $60 a barrel. All that being said, this appears to be one hell of a find.

Graphical depiction of GM/Chrysler Merger.

A modern day WPA will save the economy. From Wired. Strident call for infrastructure reconstruction from the next administration. High on the list should be a national, electrified rail system starting with this one in California. Oh yeah, and Cat 5 Levees for New Orleans.

Jalopnik DOTS: 1966 Chevy Pickup. Classic truck sitting on the street in the land that rust forgot. Probably a straight six and a three on the tree.

Keith Olbermann's high school history teacher just passed away. Look at what found in 1991:

Early Obama voters meet with hecklers, slashed tires. Also, possible voting machine problems? We'll have to see.

Hedge Fund Manager calls it quits

Jeffery, you have a new hero:

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don't worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer's company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government.

Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man's interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft's near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won't see it included in BP's, "Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions," television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM's similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country?

Ah, the female. The evil female plant -- marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let's stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,

Andrew Lahde

Saint Lahde?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Alfred E. Smith Mememorial Dinner Speeches

Here's McCain's speech:

The first few seconds got cut off. If you're interested in the rest, try here.
Obama's Speech:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Project Truck Update: Boys with Toys Edition

Continuing to repair the hood. Broke out the full arsenal last time:

First, sandblasted the hole.

Next, got dressed up in my canadian tuxedo to start welding.

If my welding teacher, John Gerrets, ever sees this weld, I promise I can do better. I was trying to minimize burn marks and warping of the outer surface of the hood.

See. Here's the patched hole. 3 very minor burn spots corresponding to the spot welds.

Covered the hole in bondo. I'll smooth it out and make it so you'll never know there was a hole there. Plus, the hole will be reinforced from the bottom, so the repair will last.

Couple of Subprime Chain Letters

I work in a fairly conservative office and get forwarded all sorts of political emails that are total crap. I try to rebut them the best I can and then publish them to show what people are reading. Click the spam tag to see some of the ones I've gotten in the past.

Here's the first one forwarded to me:
So, tell me, who do you think is responsible for the current financial mess we are? I can tell you that the Democrats have at least an equal share in the blame. Contract [sic] to what Nobama wants you to believe, it is not all Bush and McCain’s fault.

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending

Published: September 30, 1999

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people [emphasis in original] and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''

Under Fannie Mae's pilot program, consumers who qualify can secure a mortgage with an interest rate one percentage point above that of a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage of less than $240,000 -- a rate that currently averages about 7.76 per cent. If the borrower makes his or her monthly payments on time for two years, the one percentage point premium is dropped.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.

Fannie Mae officials stress that the new mortgages will be extended to all potential borrowers who can qualify for a mortgage. But they add that the move is intended in part to increase the number of minority and low income home owners who tend to have worse credit ratings than non-Hispanic whites.

Home ownership has, in fact, exploded among minorities during the economic boom of the 1990's. The number of mortgages extended to Hispanic applicants jumped by 87.2 per cent from 1993 to 1998, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that same period the number of African Americans who got mortgages to buy a home increased by 71.9 per cent and the number of Asian Americans by 46.3 per cent.

In contrast, the number of non-Hispanic whites who received loans for homes increased by 31.2 per cent.

Despite these gains, home ownership rates for minorities continue to lag behind non-Hispanic whites, in part because blacks and Hispanics in particular tend to have on average worse credit ratings.

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed that by the year 2001, 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low and moderate-income borrowers. Last year, 44 percent of the loans Fannie Mae purchased were from these groups.

The change in policy also comes at the same time that HUD is investigating allegations of racial discrimination in the automated underwriting systems used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to determine the credit-worthiness of credit applicants.

Here's my response to that email:

Yes, Democrats had a role to play, but it's not just subprime mortgages that are going under. It's also prime mortgages. Sure, there was pressure by Clinton, but there were still regulations in place to keep Fannie and Freddie from taking unqualified mortgages. It's way too complicated to pin the blame on Clinton with 1 sentence from an 8 year old newspaper article to change that.

Here's the crux of the entire financial crisis: you own suprime mortgages. I own subprime mortgages. It's also failing prime mortgages. Those mortgages got bundled up into Mortgage-Backed Securities called Structured Investment Vehicles (SIV's). Those SIV's got bought and sold over and over and now everyone owns some. I'll bet you a dollar that somewhere in your 401(k) is a good chunk of mortgage-backed SIV's. Furthermore, because the SIV's dressed up and supposedly you could still get the real estate behind the vehicle if the mortgage failed, the investment vehicle was supposedly safe. They were rated as "safe" investment vehicles. Had they beed labeled as "speculative," all but a handful of investors would have shunned them and we wouldn't have gotten into this mess in the first place. THAT is the real cause of the financial crisis. Selling chiecken shit, but calling it chicken salad.

Also, if it were the fault of minorities not paying their mortgages, why are the hardest hit areas in Las Vegas suburbs, Cleveland, OH and Boca Raton, FL?

Guess when the most mortgage backed securites were sold? 2005. When did the housing market peak? 2005. Those are simple facts.

If you want to learn more, I'd recommend reading either Paul Krugman with the New York Times (very good at breaking complex problems into easy to understand components) or The Cunning Realist ( I think you'll like the Cunning Realist. He's a lifelong Republican, but he's a "Republican for Obama"-type. I think you'll like his style and all.

Here's the second email:
Click through this.
Attached is an excellent PowerPoint showing the history behind the current financial crisis and failure of Fannie Mae. Democrats continue to point to the Bush administration but there is a much deeper story.

Subject: Fannie Mae


During this political season let's be reminded of these wise words:

· You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

· You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

· You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

· You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

· You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred

· You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.

· You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.


Here is a quick look into 3 former Fannie Mae executives who have brought down
Wall Street.

Franklin Raines was a Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Fannie Mae.
Raines was forced to retire from his position with Fannie Mae when auditing
discovered severe irregularities in Fannie Mae's accounting activities. At the
time of his departure The Wall Street Journal noted, " Raines, who long defended
the company's accounting despite mounting evidence that it wasn't proper, issued
a statement late Tuesday conceding that "mistakes were made" and saying he would
assume responsibility as he had earlier promised. News reports indicate the
company was under growing pressure from regulators to shake up its management in
the wake of findings that the company's books ran afoul of generally accepted
accounting principles for four years." Fannie Mae had to reduce its surplus by
$9 billion.

Raines left with a "golden parachute valued at $240 Million in benefits. The
Government filed suit against Raines when the depth of the accounting scandal
became clear. . The Government
noted, "The 101 charges reveal how the individuals improperly manipulated
earnings to maximize their bonuses, while knowingly neglecting accounting
systems and internal controls, misapplying over twenty accounting principles and
misleading the regulator and the public. The Notice explains how they submitted
six years of misleading and inaccurate accounting statements and inaccurate
capital reports that enabled them to grow Fannie Mae in an unsafe and unsound
manner." These charges were made in 2006. The Court ordered Raines to return
$50 Million Dollars he received in bonuses based on the miss-stated Fannie Mae

Tim Howard - Was the Chief Financial Officer of Fannie Mae. Howard "was a
strong internal proponent of using accounting strategies that would ensure a
"stable pattern of earnings" at Fannie. In everyday English - he was cooking the
books. The Government Investigation determined that, "Chief Financial Officer,
Tim Howard, failed to provide adequate oversight to key control and reporting
functions within Fannie Mae,"

On June 16, 2006, Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., asked the Justice Department to
investigate his allegations that two former Fannie Mae executives lied to
Congress in October 2004 when they denied manipulating the mortgage-finance
giant's income statement to achieve management pay bonuses. Investigations by
federal regulators and the company's board of directors since concluded that
management did manipulate 1998 earnings to trigger bonuses. Raines and Howard
resigned under pressure in late 2004.

Howard's Golden Parachute was estimated at $20 Million!

Jim Johnson - A former executive at Lehman Brothers and who was later forced
from his position as Fannie Mae CEO. A look at the Office of Federal Housing
Enterprise Oversight's May 2006 report on mismanagement and corruption inside
Fannie Mae, and you'll see some interesting things about Johnson. Investigators
found that Fannie Mae had hidden a substantial amount of Johnson's 1998
compensation from the public, reporting that it was between $6 million and $7
million when it fact it was $21 million." Johnson is currently under
investigation for taking illegal loans from Countrywide while serving as CEO of
Fannie Mae.

Johnson's Golden Parachute was estimated at $28 Million.


FRANKLIN RAINES? Raines works for the Obama Campaign as Chief Economic Advisor

TIM HOWARD? Howard is also a Chief Economic Advisor to Obama

JIM JOHNSON? Johnson hired as a Senior Obama Finance Advisor and was selected
to run Obama's Vice Presidential Search Committee

MADE THE MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Would you trust the men who tore Wall Street
down to build the New Wall Street ?

McCain or Obama? Stay updated on coverage of the Presidential race while you browse - Download Now!

Note- I'll get around to uploading the attached Powerpoint later.

Here's my response to that email:
First off, Lincoln never said one word of that. Those quotes ("The 10 Cannots") are by Rev. William John Henry Boetcker.

As far as the 3 individuals you claim are Obama "advisors," well, that's also false:

One of them was briefly on the VP search team before resigning. The other two have no known link to the Obama Campaign.

If you want a list of "who to blame" here's a start:

Don't get too hung up on subprime mortgages. They are only a small slice of the mortgage-backed securities going under. Remember that a subprime mortgage was one that DIDN'T qualify to be purchased by Fannie/Freddie. The areas that are hardest hit by the mortgage crisis (Las Vegas, Boca Raton, Cleveland) were NEVER hotbeds of subprime loans. Also, AIG's failure was a result of financial derivatives, not mortages. There's more to this.

The reason Republicans get blamed is simple: they were in power when the bubble burst. The most mortgage-backed securities were sold in 2005. Housing prices started to fall in 2005. In 2005, Republicans controlled majorities in the House, the Senate, 6 out of 9 Supreme Court appointments, and, of course, the Presidency. Those are all basic facts that we can all agree on. Had it been Democrats holding at least some of those offices, it would be a different story. Why does that matter? The Chairman of the Federal Reserve is appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress. Same with the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Congress is in charge of overseeing the management of Freddie and Fannie, along with the FHA (Executive Branch). The courts review shareholder lawsuits. All of these organziations have 1 basic job: make sure that Wall Street doesn't sell chicken shit and calling it chicken salad. They can sell risky investments, but they have to call it risky investments. Had the risks of mortgage-backed securities been properly labeled, none of this would have happened.

Part of the reason the market is now partially recovering is Republicans have abandoned their "government is always the problem, the private sector is always right"mentality. I'm not saying the opposite is true, but there are cetain things (roads, bridges, schools, police, the military, consumer protection, Wall Street regulation) that are necessary funcions of any government.

Newsweek had an in-depth article about the questionable housing deals by both candidates:

From Keating and McCain to Obama and Rezko, Americans of all walks of life tried to get rich off the housing bubble with money borrowed from the Chinese.

If you want to know more about what really caused this mess, start reading either The Cunning Realist (a lifelong Republican blogger) or Paul Krugman (who won a Nobel Prize in Economics yesterday).


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Project Truck Update: More Engine Chrome Edition

A quick update on how I spent my Friday afternoon:

The engine started in a sad state. I've been slowly rehabilitating it.

Stripped off the old valve covers. They're covered in grease because the gasket is broken. Put a new gasket on (with some Gaskacinch-type silicone along the engine block) and that fixed the oil leak. I also installed nice, shiny valve covers:

I have more chrome to install later. Need to clean up and paint the engine. I've heard good things about Rustoleum black semi-gloss for engine compartments.

Shooting Sarah Palin in a Barrel

More like lobbing dynamite into the barrel.

As great as she's been for riling up the base, the internet has LOVED tearing her to shreds. Here's a few of my favorite examples:

Mad Dog Palin. Matt Taibbi really ate his Wheaties before cranking this column out.

Things Palin can Name. Because she can't name newspapers, Supreme Court decisions, and she says NU-cular.

According to her past opponents, Palin is an excellent debater who uses her ignorance as an asset. Perfect for the modern, dumbed-down political landscape. Sure enough, the media declares she "won" the debate. Exiled rips that crock of shit to pieces.

Jews for Jesus for Palin? That should play well in Florida.

UPDATE- 1 more just for good measure: Palin as President.

Wall Street Gets Blue Balls

HOLD ON TO YOUR TOUPEES! This has been a wild ride.

I honestly wonder how necessary Bush's first economics speech was. The situation was that much worse than it was 6 months ago. Did someone just lean over and tell him that for the first time? I wonder if part of the sharp fall is because of him panicking the markets.

Fuld gets punched in the face and AIG execs party at taxpayer expense. Here's the receipt. Oh yeah, and they're now getting even more taxpayer money. When will the criminal prosecutions and asset forfeiture proceedings start?

For some historical perspective, here's an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education focusing on the Panic of 1873. Probably a lot more applicable to today's crisis than the Great Depression.

Oyster runs us through some numbers. Speaking of numbers, what would it take to close the markets?

UPDATE- Now that I've bitch-smacked delicious into working, I'll post a few more links.

The Candidates Own Questionable Real Estate Deals. From McCain and Keating to Obama and Rezko and also the Veeps, crooked real estate deals have infected the system.

Bethany McLean, author of "The Smartest Guys in the Room" takes on the crisis. She basically said that all the wonderful post-Enron reforms suggested were never acted upon, prime among them were shareholder rights and revamping corporate board composition. I read that book and was just floored about how blatantly evil those guys were. Fucking granny in the ass, the death star, the list goes on and on. Also, had it not been for one incident when Bush was running for Governor in Texas, Ken Lay would probably be our Secretary of Treasury right now.

Alan Greenspan bets the system's stability on traders not being greedy. Dumb fuck. I want a refund on your book. The whole book talks about the joy of the free market and about how he had to bailout the free market when it got out of control. He's half Adam Smith, half Karl Marx.

International take on the bailout. After the US went around forcing other countries to implement "shock therapy" responses to economic crises, the US does the exact opposite.

The national debt clock runs out of digits. They've got a new board on order, but until then, the $ sign is replaced by a 1.

*Title Also, who knew the bronze Wall Street bull was anatomically correct?

Monday, October 6, 2008

DJIA Jumps Off Building, Bounces on Concrete

Down 800 points before a modest recovery.

How did we get into this mess? Well, let's look at history. Here's a nice sample to look at:

Jim Cramer's quote about today: "Whatever money you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market right now, this week."

Anyone notice the Louisiana Banks commercial during the Saints game? Louisiana Bankers rep reading right off the teleprompter. "Your money is safe. Very safe." I feel better now.

On one serious side note, Whitney Bank was the only local bank to make it through the Great Depression intact. They've always been EXTREMELY conservative with their lending (why they survived the Depression). My barber still has a thermometer from "Whitney Savings and Trust" (pre-FDR name). A lot of old folks in New Orleans refuse to bank with anything other than Whitney. They regard it as safe as a mattress.

UPDATE- Matresses might still be safer: Whitney seeking bailout money for bad Florida loans.

Go Reggie!

I now officially apologize for every mean thing I've ever said about Reggie Bush.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Foreclosure Alley

Shocking video. Personalizes the tragedy.

Yesterday's vote

Voted yesterday. Depended heavily on Dangerblonde's slate of judges. I voted the ticket when it came to the judges.

Jeffery points out the irony of New Orleans voters selecting an indicted congressmen and voting to fund the Inspector General the same night.

The new school board looks underwhelming, to say the least.

My big question: The Secretary of State's Election Results show $Bill and Cedric Richmond. Did the media screw up their projection? What gives?

UPDATE- Just to make sure I wasn't going insane (always a distinct possibility), I read through the precinct by precinct results for anomalies. The highest precinct total was actually for Moreno, not Richmond. As a further sanity check, I dumped the results to Excel and summed up the precinct ballots and got the same totals as the Secretary of State.

UPDATE 2- Oops. Forgot Jefferson Parish results where Moreno got another 5K votes and Richmond only got 1K.

UPDATE 3- Best wrap-up of $Bill making the runoff.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Project Truck Update: No More Ugly Cowl!

Been doing some body work and continuing to paint the water pump. Lots of clear coats on the water pump will make it very shiny which will go well with all the engine chrome. I'm trying to get a new passenger door prepped for painting and installing.

While I was waiting on the paint to dry, I got a little mischievous with a hammer and removed that awful cowl on the hood.

Using a claw hammer to tear something to shreds is fun.

Took the hood off the truck to work on it on the ground. The thing is enormous. It's at least 4' x 8'. It's bigger than some modern cars!

The nice thing is now you can see the wonderful bullet shaped line that extends to the front.

We had a lot of sanding to do. Candice and I took shifts as our hands got numb.

But, eventually, it was ready to prime. Notice the U-shaped rusted area. The cowl trapped water underneath during the rain and that ate out a good chunk of the hood, but the metal is so thick, there's plenty left. Nothing a little welding + bondo can't handle.

I'm going to go back with a sandblaster and take care of a few details, but I didn't want the areas I worked on to be taken over by rust.

Best Local Blog Posts - September Edition

Here is my take on the best blog posts from NOLA bloggers in September in chronological order:

WCNO: How much misinformation can Jeff Masters put in one blog post? Correcting out-of-towner misconceptions about the city.

SCR: Eminence Front. "Evidently, we are not sufficiently scared." Countering overreaction before it came trendy.

WCBF: Attempting to Pivot to An Alternate Vision. Eli did so much good reporting on the Facilities Master Plan, it's hard to nail down just one post. Also spot on the airport deal.

SCR: Roll Call. The Heroes of Gustav.

WCBF: Southern Scrap. Devastating indictment of the company.

HC: "Mayor Declares I Heart Wrecking Balls" Also, a heartbreaking story from an NOFD wife.

WCBF: "We do not have a record but at least you have the land." Honestly, shit like this makes me never want to buy a house in New Orleans. If I were this poor lady, I'd rent a Bobcat and take a trip to Park Island.

AZ: "A Modest Proposal, Metry Edition" I think that a lot of Louisiana would like to show up to LaBruzzo's office and sterilize him.

PGR: "Pouring Drano down the New Orleans brain drain" Locals being neglected for carpet-baggers, especially with education.

PGR: "Remember the good old days?" Also, "“Staggering from crisis to crisis”"

Ray: "This is Our Katrina... In Connecticut?" A well deserved smackdown. It's Katrina because of a possible increase in public school enrollment? Please. Also, a hearty fuck-you to Lamont. You couldn't knock of Leiberman and now you continue to fail.

BONO: "ASCE Buttons Its Lips" Appalling behavior by a professional organization. The entire leadership should be cleared out. They are a blight on the reputation of engineers everywhere.

Blogspotting NOLA - Oct 4th

First Draft: "Clutching at Straws." On self-delusion. Also gives a book review of the "The Fall of Berlin 1945," a book I've been interested. Along with William L. Shirer's book, it's among the WWII must-reads.

YRHT: "Permanent Pump Stations Delayed Until 2013?" More news from Matt McBride.

BONO: "Ninjas vs. Pirates?" Unleash the weirness.

Kevin Allman named Gambit editor. Congratulations. The Times-Picayune is in a slow death spiral from self-inflicted wounds. I hope Gambit steps up and takes their place.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Science Links and Videos

Ants commit suicide to save colony. The evolution of altruism?

Summer vs. Winter Gasoline Blends. Why gas prices always go down in the fall (even in non-election years).

Ocean dead=zones bigger than previously thought. Great report by Wired. Those dead zones were exacerbated by the corn-ethanol mandate from a few years ago. Remember, this is what Bush promised would "free us from our dependence on foreign oil."

Beware guys: "Sharing bed drains mens' brains.

And a couple of cool videos:

Mythbusters on gas densities affecting sound propagation - Watch more free videos
Very well designed table saw.
Table saws eat lots of fingers every year. Just imagine how many gruesome injuries could be avoided by popularizing this relatively simple device. Semi-related: Oilfield deaths up 70%. Lots of inexperienced workers, attracted by high pay, are out there and filling in for recently retire veterans.

October 4th Races

Oyster's recommendations here. Eli's here. Also, if you haven't read Eli's scathing critique of the Times-Pic endorsements, please take the time to do so.

As far as endorsements go, I only have 2 really:

Percy Marchand for School Board.

Jim Harlan for Congress.

I kicked in $10 for each candidate, too. Here's my reasoning:

Percy Marchand knows what's up with the Facilities Master Plan. He is opposed to gigantic high schools that will give an inferior education to smaller schools with smaller class sizes. I also got to shake his hand at Rising Tide.

Jim Harlan is a Democrat running in a very conservative district. How he can be within striking distance of Steve Scalise is absolutely beyond me. I can't figure it out, but I've asked around and everyone I know in his district seems to hate him. No particular reason. They just think he's sleaze. If anyone knows why, I'd love to hear.

Harlan started out as an engineer working on alternative energy in the 70's. He's a successful venture capitalist and he understands that drilling has its place, but is far short of a comprehensive energy plan. He's also a Harvard School of Government graduate. He knows calculus (a duh thing for us engineers, but a big deal for a politician)! He has a hell of a resume. How can we let someone like this get away?

Past that, I'll give a mention to Amy LaFont (running for school board and one of the few candidates who showed up to Rising Tide).

I plan on voting for Capitelli for D.A. It's a two-horse race between him and Canizzaro and I'm sure either will do a good job there.

Unfortunately, I can't support Harlan with my vote. I've got to vote for someone in the less than impressive field for 2nd Congressional. I'm probably going to vote for James Carter. Yeah, he's weak, but he's probably going to avoid indictment in the near future and I got a chance to chat with him about crime mapping at a meeting at the Sound Cafe in the Bywater after Helen Hill's murder. If you haven't noticed, I like voting for people I've at least met. Politicians, get out there and shake some hands!

I do have one anti-endorsement:

I got a flyer from the Regular Democratic Organization of Louisiana. Now, I've been working my way through T. Harry William's Huey Long and I've been reading quite a bit about the "Old Regulars," the ultra-conservative political machine that dominated post-reconstruction New Orleans politics. Any candidate they endorse deserves to lose. I have no idea who is running the show there now (Huey Long broke their power up a long time ago), but it looks like they endorse some real stinkers this time and the sum total of the slate looks like it came from a landfill. Don't know who to vote for? Look up their endorsements and then vote for the other guy.

How God Intended Us to Cook

Fire. Add meat.

I had always grown up with charcoal grills and I thought it gave a better flavor. Many years later, I discover the joy of gas grills. The flavor isn't quite what charcoal is, but it is SO much easier. After my charcoal grill got stolen, I had been meaning and meaning to get a gas grill. I went to Lowe's last night and for $100 (actually $150 with tax and propane tank deposit), picked up a gas grill and started cooking.

Damn it tastes good. Perfect weather right now, too. In the summer it's too hot to grill. Your meat is half cooked before you put in on the fire.

That is all, carry on.


Jeffery's pre-debate thoughts here.

I watched that debate and I couldn't bear it after a while. Palin wasn't nearly as bad as I thought she would be in the first half. And then they got to foreign policy. If she's qualified to be one heartbeat away from being leader of the free world, I'm qualified to be Emperor Clay the First of the known fucking universe. I honestly would like my time that I spend watching that debate back.

Biden fumbled a little at first, then settled in. By the second half, he was using her face as a hockey puck. If she was just a little less dumb, she would have realized it and dropped out of the running to "spend more time with her family."

I couldn't even bear to watch the end. The only reason to watch it would have been like NASCAR: watch an enormous wreck.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Putin's got company

Gorbochev forms new political party to take on Putin.

Why do I care? It's another chance to post this video:


I loved it last time and I'm still not sick of it.

Kvetching for Obama

A couple of great Daily Show clips:

And Sarah Silverman explains why you need to get your Jewish grandmother in Florida to vote for Obama:

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.