Friday, January 30, 2009

Michael Steel Elected GOP Chairman

He seems like a pretty decent choice for GOP chairman according to his background. He was an Air Force brat, has a international relations degree from Johns Hopkins and was a seminarian for 3 years. Then he pursued a law degree from Georgetown. Then he was a lawyer and then Lt. Governor of Maryland then failed at a Senate bid. He also has some fire in his belly as well judging from these comments:

"We're going to say to friend and foe alike: We want you to be a part of us, we want you to be with us, and for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over," Steele said.

I'm just waiting for the MSM to say that Steele got the job because he was black. Just like how the New York Times said that Sarah Palin got the VP nomination because she was a woman.

O.K., the women thing might have been a little bit of a selling point. Not nearly so much as the national guard commandership, of course. But if the millions of Democratic women who are still ticked off at Obama for stepping in front of Hillary in the line want to look elsewhere ...

Obama Creates Middle Class "Task Force"

It seems that this could have been part of Biden's stipulations on being the VP because he will be heading this thing up.

Obama set several goals for the task force, including expanding opportunities for education and training; improving the work-family balance; restoring labor standards, including workplace safety; and protecting retirement security.

The president and vice president said the task force will include the secretaries of commerce, education, labor, and health and human services because those Cabinet departments have the most influence on the well-being of the middle class. It also will include White House advisers on the economy, the budget and domestic policy.

Biden pledged that the task force will conduct its business in the open, and announced a Web site,, for the public to get information. He also announced that the panel's first meeting will be Feb. 27 in Philadelphia and will focus on environmental or "green jobs."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amazon Kills Numbers: Could they be Cloud Computing King?

Now this is a real recession proof stock all right.

In North America, Amazon’s total sales rose 18 per cent, contrasting with the overall 3 per cent decline in US holiday e-commerce sales estimated by ComScore Media Metrics this month.

Amazon’s global net sales also rose 18 per cent to $6.7bn. International sales – including the UK, France, Germany, Japan and China – rose 19 per cent to $3.07bn. At constant currency rates, the international sales would have risen 31 per cent.

So their revenue rose 18% in the US and if not for dollar strength they would have gained 31% overseas? That is just nuts during a recession like this. It seems like Amazon and Netflix are the recipients of this nesting and hunkering down as people lose their jobs.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown on how many people are using their Amazon Prime service to buy everyday goods at a discount. It might be time to ride the Amazon rocket again because this stock trades great whenever they blow out numbers like this. This part is especially interesting as well.

Bezos said the environment was now ripe for Amazon to begin discussing providing web services for larger companies. Amazon provides a cloud computing platform that offers far-flung users access to storage and computing power in Amazon's data center.

"People in this macro environment, they're looking for ways to save money and cloud computing does that. There's a lot that can be done there," Bezos said, calling it a "silver lining" in the grim economic environment.

This is a high margin business because you are pretty much charging companies to store data and run applications on Amazons trusted servers. Amazon has the infrastructure in place so all they have to do is sign up companies that want to cut costs and they get a nice fat revenue stream in the process. Why would think that a web retailer has the chance to become the "king of cloud computing?"

Senator McConnell Tells it Like it is to GOP

I have to agree with some of the sentiments of Sen. McConnell.

McConnell called for the GOP to embrace its conservative principles — and resist diluting its message — to bring people back and attract new rank-and-file. Still, he added: "It's clear our message isn't getting out to nearly as many people as it should ... Too often we've let others define us. And the image they've painted isn't very pretty."

He acknowledged GOP fears that certain demographics from certain regions have shunned the party. And, he warned: "In politics, there's a name for a regional party: it's called a minority party."

I have to agree that the GOP needs to cleave back to conservative principles of small government, no more meddling in the private lives of Americans, low taxes for everyone, and a strong military presence in the world.

Also the letting others define them is as big a problem as any. The MSM has painted the GOP as a bunch of white war mongers, who torture people, and are listening to peoples private phone calls. The GOP is also portrayed as religious nutjobs who care more about gays getting married then they do about what the majority of Americans care about.

They aren't even the party of the rich anymore since billionaire hedge fund guys and upper middle class exurbanites are all switching to the Dems. They are currently the party of rural America and the South.

I think the demeanor of the party needs to go from Dick Cheney to Mike Huckabee. That means the GOP needs to be civil, respectful, and push their issues with a quiet forcefulness. No more in-your-face neocon wrestling matches.

When someone like Bill Maher says that Martin Luther King was deranged because of his religious beliefs Huckabee just said paraphrasing "do you really believe Dr. King was mentally insane?" Don't attack Maher as a person but attack his beliefs. Assume the Dems are nice enough people but they are just strait-up wrong when it comes to some things. Then go about telling people why the Republican way of doing things is better.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stimulus Bill Passes the House: $819 Billion Final Tally

Now that is a lot of money but it seems that the Senate Bill may be much more palatable to GOP members.

Already a more bipartisan — and costlier — measure is taking shape in the Senate, and Obama personally pledged to House and Senate Republicans in closed-door meetings on Tuesday that he is ready to accept modifications as the legislation advances.

Rahm Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman who is Obama's chief of staff, invited nearly a dozen House Republicans to the White House late Tuesday for what one participant said was a soft sales job.

If there are no business tax cuts in this thing then I think it will just be a half-measure that won't prevent businesses from shedding yet more workers. It seems that the FED is working on the mortage side and the Congress is working on juicing the supply side. Let's hope John Maynard Keynes is right because $819 billion is quite a price to pay to be wrong.

Obama Disses Washington DC's Toughness

It he is critcal of Washington DC closing schools because of ice he must really be down on how Hawaii shut down schools and the entire state government because there was the threat of possible wind.

"Can I make a comment that is unrelated to the economy very quickly?" the new president told reporters at a gathering with business leaders. "And it has to do with Washington. My children's school was canceled today. Because of, what? Some ice?"

The president said he wasn't the only one who was incredulous.

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled," Obama said to laughter. "In fact, my 7-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess. You wouldn't even stay indoors. So, I don't know. We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness."

FED Thinking of Rewriting Mortgages

I'm glad the FED is now thinking of entering the mortgage work-out business.

Under the program, the Fed has a number of options to provide relief, including lowering the amount the homeowner owes on the mortgage, reducing the interest rate or lengthening the term of the loan.

It's unclear how many homeowners would benefit. However, the relief plan would apply to the billions of dollars of mortgage assets the Fed is holding on its books because of last year's bailouts of Bear Stearns and insurer American International Group.

I guess they can do that because they actually own these mortgages so they can do whatever they want to them to keep people out of foreclosure. I guess it is the FED equivalent of changing someones interest rate on a credit card. This was kind of funny though:

The Fed's Bear Stearns' portfolio is valued at $27 billion, although the central bank doesn't say how much of that is in home mortgages. The Fed's AIG assets include one portfolio valued at nearly $20 billion of residential mortgage-backed securities and a second portfolio valued at nearly $27 billion of collateralized debt obligations, which are complex financial instruments that combine various slices of debt.

I wonder how many of the home mortgages that the FED owns are covered by that $20 billion in mortgage backed securities? If it is a large amount then they are working both sides of the trade. They fix the mortgages by changing the interest rates or decreasing the amount that the person owes and then they reap the benefits when the security goes back up due to the reduction in default risk. Oh the power of a monopolist bank.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Meets with GOP Leaders over Stimulus

I hope Boehner and the GOP firmly outlined their own middle class tax cut plan to Obama in this meeting. I want to see people making less then $33,950 but more then $8,350 get a larger then $500 tax cut. The GOP Tax Cut really does cut taxes for the middle class who are hurting from the recession.

"We think the country needs a stimulus," McConnell said on NBC's "Today" show. But he also said that he believes most people do not believe recovery be accomplished through projects like "fixing up the Mall," a reference to funding to repair the National Mall in Washington. He said Republicans want a bill that devotes 40 percent of its total to tax cuts.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Needs to Go Back to Harvard and Take Professors Barro's Economics Class

All this talk of Keynesian multipliers the Obama Team has been throwing around has got some economists refuting his line of thinking. I was never sure how spending $800 billion was going to create 4 million jobs so I did a little research. It seems that Prof. Barro would rather take these actions instead:

Much more focus should be on incentives for people and businesses to invest, produce and work. On the tax side, we should avoid programs that throw money at people and emphasize instead reductions in marginal income-tax rates -- especially where these rates are already high and fall on capital income. Eliminating the federal corporate income tax would be brilliant. On the spending side, the main point is that we should not be considering massive public-works programs that do not pass muster from the perspective of cost-benefit analysis. Just as in the 1980s, when extreme supply-side views on tax cuts were unjustified, it is wrong now to think that added government spending is free.

In other words Prof. Barro is saying that a one-time $500 tax credit isn't such a good idea. Instead marginal taxes should be reduced for the middle class so they can use that money to buy things or invest. So instead of taking $2 of every $10 a person makes the IRS takes only $1 leaving you with an extra dollar to spend or invest that you didn't have before. I can see Americans appreciating a few hundred in each paycheck for years instead of seeing $500 in one chunk.

Also getting rid of corporate income tax would save some companies billions of dollars that they could use to retain workers or expand their businesses. Maybe the stimulus could enact a plan that a company does not have to pay corporate income tax if they agree to keep a certain amount of workers employed. Call it a Layoff Cap on employee firings. Or they can use that money to pay down debt or to ramp up R&D or something. As long as they don't hoard the money in their cash accounts it will stimulate growth.

I also agree that any new public works projects need to be looked at under a microscope in order to catch bridges to nowhere lurking out there. That money needs to be used only when it can have some kind of tangible benefit from the project. So a bridge about to fall down or a collapsing sewer system needs to be given the money instead of some park, fountain, or a bridge to 800 people on some island.

That bad highway building is what sunk the Japanese stimulus efforts in the 90s. They spent billions on projects that the Japan Highway Public Corporation wanted and not on things that people actually needed. So they ended up with massive highways that no one uses both due to super high toll prices and from competition from one of the best rapid transit systems in the world. If they used that money to cut their corporate taxes then who knows what good would have come from it?

Just As I Suspected: War Coverage Starting to Soften

I knew that if Obama won we will start getting more human interest stories out of American war zones and this is one.

One person determined to inject some normalcy into their lives is Oliver Percovich. A 34-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, he plans to open this country’s first skateboarding school, Skateistan, this spring. He sees sport as a way to woo students into after-school activities like English and computer classes, which are otherwise reserved for the elite.

Yup this is a story about a guy promoting skateboarding in Kabul. The story mentions how these kids love skateboarding despite suicide bombings and pressure from hard line Taliban-types that want to keep boys and girls activities separate.

This stuff seemed curiously absent when the Bushies were in charge of Afghanistan. Now that Obama is boss the human interest stuff starts to bubble out.

I think that is one of the best things that will come out of the Obama Presidency. The press is a valuable tool to let Americans know that good things happen in these war torn countries. It isn't just a drumbeat of suicide bombings, Taliban death squads, and civilian deaths.

Geithner in at Treasury: At Last!

It seems his idiotic tax problems hasn't derailed his chance to fix our economy.

In swift order reflecting the urgency, Obama was expected to attend Geithner's swearing in Monday evening at the Treasury Department. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Geithner has made amends — he has paid the taxes and penalties — and possesses the talent the nation needs to steer the nation out of the crisis.

If the GOP blocked this guys nomination I would leave the party permanently. I think Geithner might be one of the few people in this country that has faced these crises before and has come up with solutions to it.

If his nomination was killed due to not paying taxes that he has actually paid with interest and penalties then forget about the GOP. The GOP was rushing too fast toward being labeled as this generations' Herbert Hoovers and I'm glad that cooler heads prevailed in the Senate.

Netflix: It sure seems Recession-proof to me

It seems that people staying home and nesting to save money during the recession is really paying off judging from these quarterly numbers. I mean people out of work or cutting costs are going to nest as much as possible.

Netflix believes the weakening economy is still working in its favor. Management predicted it will attract 700,000 to 900,000 more subscribers during the current quarter, yielding earnings ranging from 25 cents to 33 cents per share on revenue of $387 million to $393 million.

I think some of this growth is from Xbox360 users using Netflix's streaming video option to "Watch it Now." I haven't used this feature much since I have the 3 DVD plan right now and it pretty much gives me all the DVDs I have time to watch at any given time. I do see myself using this more if I wasn't using my Xbox360 to play games.

Also I think Netflix is finally becoming the movie service of choice with many Americans. Blockbuster has always forced you to waste gas, park, and then stand in a line to rent movies. I know they have a Netflix-like mail service but it just isn't as popular for whatever reason. Blockbuster now offers a streaming service but it seems it is pay-per-view and not all you can watch like Netflix is.

So this recession might be the right time to cement Netflix as the leader in both mail-order DVD rentals and streaming rentals as well. The more nesting and saving that people do the more likely they will be saying "I'll just Netflix that movie instead of seeing it at the theatre or getting it from Blockbuster." I have been saying this for years but maybe a critical mass of Americans will be saying it as well.

Obama Keeps Promise of Direct Diplomacy with Iran

It seems that going after a nuclear bomb gets the Obama administration to meet you face to face.

Rice said the U.S. remains "deeply concerned about the threat that Iran's nuclear program poses to the region, indeed to the United States and the entire international community."

"We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran, as well as continued collaboration and partnership" with the other four permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia — plus Germany, Rice said.

I hope Hillary Clinton is a better Secretary of State then Albright was. I mean the North Koreans strait up fooled her and they ended up with the bomb. We can't afford such a thing with Iran because Israel will not be deterred. If Iran gets the bomb mark my words there will be a wider war in the Middle East.

Blackberry Storm Generates Complaints

Well it seems that the IPhone killer may just become a dismal failure if they don't do something fast. It seems it was rushed to market and that may be the trouble. I hated the thing and was ready to throw it against the wall but the IPhone was smooth and easy to use at least at the Apple store. Whatever the case I think these so-called IPhone killers aren't killing much of anything.

Verizon and RIM rushed the device to market, perhaps before it was really ready, according to the Journal article. The newspaper notes that Jim Balsillie, RIM's co-CEO said the companies reached the Black Friday deadline "by the skin of their teeth," after they had missed a planned October debut.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The 5 Greatest Depression Stocks

There are some very interesting names on this list. So we have Submarines, Radios, Bombers, Themostats, and Paper packaging/Cardboard,. So essentially we could see them as 4 tech companies and a company that makes something everyone needs.

The defence companies made technologically advanced products like subs and bombers that had incredibly expensive purchase prices. Then government spending in the form of the defence department paid those prices in order to attain that technology. We then have a demand catalyst like WW2 and the Cold War that served to push them out the door in massive numbers.

It is hard to see a situation like this developing again so they might be perfect storm companies. They appreciated due to them making a very expensive good sought after by the government during a once in a lifetime period. It is hard to see something like them today.

However Zenith could have been the Apple of the 30s-50s since they made a device that everyone wanted. While Honeywell Regulator used technology to transform a mundane thing like keeping people warm into an accepted convention like central heating. Perhaps you could equate it to a company like First Solar or Sunpower that takes a mundane thing like sunlight and turns it into energy.

International Paper & Power made something that people didn't demand as badly as a radio but it was still something that people couldn't live without like paper and cardboard. This would have to be a left field company that made something everyone will need in 20 years but actually end up taking for granted. Perhaps RFID technology or maybe nanotechnology could fit the bill. If you did get a handle on this company perhaps you too might see your $1000 investment turn into $21 million in just 22 years.

1. Electric Boat: Unsinkable Submarine Maker
Cumulative Total Return 1932 to 1954: 55,000% (Rank in Top 50: 1)

Where is it now? A unit of General Dynamics Churning out hundreds of PT boats and submarines during WWII (as well as building the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world's first nuclear sub, during the Cold War) more than kept this stock afloat.

2. International Paper & Power: Paper, Not Plastic
Cumulative Total Return 1932 to 1954: 30,503% (Rank in Top 50: 4)

Where is it now? International Paper Long before plastic packaging (or the digital age, for that matter), paper was king when it came to correspondence and containers. Indeed, four of the 50 best stocks from 1932 to 1954 were in companies that made paper, paper bags and corrugated cardboard.

3. Zenith Radio: Tuned In
Cumulative Total Return 1932 to 1954: 24,146% (Rank in Top 50: 7)

Where is it now? Part of LG ElectronicsOnce upon a time radios were so big they weren't personal consumer electronic devices; they were furniture. Back then American, not Asian, manufacturers dominated the market for civilian and military use.

4. Douglas Aircraft: Bombs Away
Cumulative Total Return 1932 to 1954: 23,586% (Rank in Top 50: 8)

Where is it now? Bloodline leads to Boeing It's little wonder a military contractor that helped make the B-17 bomber (as well as iconic civilian planes such as the DC-3 and DC-9), would fare well during WWII and the Cold War. North American Aviation (P-51 fighter, B-25 bomber) also made the list.

5. Minneapolis Honeywell Regulator: Thermostats Were Hot
Cumulative Total Return 1932 to 1954: 21,608% (Rank in Top 50: 9)

Where is it now? Honeywell International Central heating is taken for granted these days, but only thanks to pioneering advances like the company's original Butz Thermo-Electric Regulator "damper flapper," which helped keep offices and factories at just the right temperature.

Blagojevich Compares His Corruption Trial to Pearl Harbor

There is nothing like comparing the backlash of him trying to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder to the death of 2117 American Servicemen from hostile enemy fire.

"Dec. 9 to my family, to us, to me, is what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States," Gov. Rod Blagojevich told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. "It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected. And just like the United States prevailed in that, we'll prevail in this."

The US "prevailed in that" because 416,800 people were killed trying to fight against the Nazis and the Japanese. Gov. Blagojevich just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar trying to solicit money from children's hospitals and sell Senate seats so he and his wife can retire in luxury. This guy is just too funny for words.

GOP Tax Cut Plan Better for Middle Class

It seems the Dems are again going to stick it to the middle class when it comes to tax cuts.

The tax cuts that won committee approval included a $500 credit for workers making up to $75,000 per year. Couples with incomes up to $150,000 a year would receive a $1,000 credit. Individuals with incomes up to $100,000 and couples earning up to $200,000 would qualify for lesser tax breaks.

The Republican alternative envisioned a different approach.

It called for reducing the current 10 percent bracket to 5 percent, affecting a taxpayer's first $8,350 in income, and lowering the existing 15 percent bracket to 10 percent, covering income from $8,351 to $33,950.

So instead of getting a measly $500 tax cut the GOP plan would give a middle class person making $30,000 a year a $1650 tax cut right off the bat. That is $137 a month in savings which could mean a whole week worth of groceries extra per month. The Dem plan gives you just $41.66 a month which is not enough to take a family to the movies.

The Dem plan is only better for people making less then $8350 a year because it gives them an extra an $83 worth of tax breaks per year. That comes out to a measly $6.91 a month which is less then an Arby's value meal.

What the GOP plan needs to do is that if you are making $8350 a year you should be put into a 0% tax bracket because how much money could the government be making from people making such low wages?

So the GOP can say that poor people would get a full $869 per year more under their plan. Then the Dems would not be able to parrot "tax cuts for the wealthy" when the poor would be get back $835 a year under their plan.

Geithner to Red China: Stop Manipulating Currency!

Or else we won't do anything because it will damage our economy. In other words America is just like a person issuing the empty threat of "I've got my eye on you" and then closing one eye and then pointing to the other. This is what he said.

"President Obama — backed by the conclusions of a broad range of economists — believes that China is manipulating its currency," Geithner wrote in answer to questions submitted to him by members of the Senate Finance Committee.

"President Obama has pledged as president to use aggressively all the diplomatic avenues open to him to seek change in China's currency," Geithner said.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Gets to Hold onto His Blackberry! You are Kidding!

It seems Obama wants to potentially jeopardize national security by holding onto his Blackberry.

Obama plans to use his BlackBerry to communicate with "senior staff and a small group of personal friends. It's a pretty small group of people," Gibbs said in the first White House press briefing held by the new administration. He declined to say who would be allowed to email the president.

Although emails sent by Obama for official government business would be part of the official White House record, Gibbs pointed out that U.S. law allows limited exemptions for strictly personal communications.

What the hell? This thing better have the mother-of-all-security measures on it or it just opened a massive hole in the security net surrounding the President. Forget about the fact that his emails could be used against him in court but a man-in-the-middle attack against this thing could allow access to the email of the most powerful man in the world.

I would bet you that a details-oriented guy like Obama will probably keep just about any email he receives so one hacked Blackberry could lead to a treasure trove of national security information. He now carries a device that every Intelligence organization in the world would love to get a peek at just to see the top secret stuff it contains.

I mean Obama isn't some CEO but the head of the most powerful nation in the world. A guy follows him around with the nuclear football that can wipe out humanity for Pete's sake. I hope his network security people are up to the challenge because a hacked (or lost!) Blackberry could be this nations worst nightmare.

Obama Staff Does NOT Understand the Responsibilities of Working in the White House

Or that seems evident from this Washington Post article.

Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.

What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.

I think these staffers need to understand that they are now in charge of the most powerful nation on the planet. We have the capability of wiping out all intelligent life on Earth with the single push of a button. These staffers shouldn't have time to be Instant Messaging their friends when they are facing 2 wars and the greatest financial calamity since the great depression.

They should have known from the start they they can't have access to outside e-mail. That is a security breach of the first order. As Sarah Palin knows an outside email account could easily get hacked by a 17 year old boy let alone a trained Chinese or Russian Cyber-Spy. This part is especially funny:

One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos

Oh my God! They have Office 2003 on these machines and not ILife or ITunes or whatever passes for productivity software in Macland. I'm sure this guy resigned on the spot after learning that he has to touch a hated Micro$oft product and sully his hands with dark age software like Office 2003.

Plus someone needs to tell this fool that laptops are scarce because they have the potential to leave the White House with a document on them labeled "nuclear_secrets.xls" or "secret-intelligence-briefing.doc" on them. I'm pretty sure that the "few people in the West Wing" that have laptops also have the very top level clearances and know the potential damage that a lost laptop could cause.

Here's some words of advice for the Obama's "sleek, new iPhone kind of future" team. The time for sending out Chat requests to your friends or updating your Facebook status are over. You can no longer search for a new apartment on Craigslist because it might just be listed by Chinese spies who have filled the place with listening devices and secret cameras.

You are now in a job that one intercepted Tweet to the wrong person or one laptop that walks off in the hands of a Iranian spy could spell the deaths of thousands of even millions of people. Your hacked Yahoo mail account has the potential to hurt national security or even get Americans killed.

I think the sooner that these Obama IPhone Officials 2.0 understands that they are now in charge of the well-being of the entirety of the United States of America the better they will be equipped to keep us safe. Until then their Facebook Status should be set to "Busy. Doing America's work. Check back in 4 years."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Takes 2nd Oath: Just in Case

It seems that Obama had to take the Oath of Office a 2nd time just to be sure.

After the flub heard around the world, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesday night at the White House — a rare do-over. The surprise moment came in response to Tuesday's much-noticed stumble, when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too

I could hear crazy conspiracy theorists like Rev. Wright saying that they flubbed it on purpose in order to be able to impeach Obama later on due to a technicality in the Oath of Office. Good thing Obama took the thing again or who knows what "the Man" would have done.

Caroline Kennedy Withdraws Senate Bid

Maybe she was just trying to Rickroll the people of New York. I have a feeling that some of the party elders took her aside and told her to start her political career by winning a race instead of being placed into the Senate by genetic fiat.

Kennedy, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, has never held public office but launched an unusual public campaign to replace Clinton, who was sworn in on Wednesday as President Barack Obama's secretary of state and immediately afterward resigned from the Senate.

Once she gets a few good years at City Council or as Attorney General or something she can use that vast Kennedy treasure hoard to run for the Senate. She will probably win too since the Kennedy name might be able to push out any Democratic challengers and the GOP is looking fairly weak in New York. Until then I think she should think about voting in every election and paying better attention to politics.

Obama Shows Some Fiscal Responsibility and Bars Lobbyists

It seems that the executive branch will be tightening their belts in this time of fiscal hardship.

The pay freeze, first reported by The Associated Press, would hold salaries at their current levels for the roughly 100 White House employees who make over $100,000 a year. "Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," said the new president, taking office amid startlingly bad economic times that many fear will grow worse.

His lobbyist rules seem pretty strict as well:

Obama's new lobbying rules will not only ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff. Those already hired will be banned from working on matters they have previously lobbied on, or to approach agencies that they once targeted.

The rules also ban lobbyists from giving gifts of any size to any member of his administration. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban would include the traditional "previous relationships" clause, allowing gifts from friends or associates with which an employee comes in with strong ties.

I wonder if Congress will adopt these rules as well. It would be nice to see people like Senator Dodd and his sweetheart Countrywide mortgage be a thing of the past. I hope Obama could set an example that the rest of Washington can follow.

Obama's First View of the First Day

This is the view that you would have at your first day of work at the toughest job in the world. The job interview lasted nearly 2 years and cost almost a billion dollars. One slip up and thousands of people (or even millions) will be dead. One bad call and we will have the 2nd Great Depression. I bet that manila envelope is full of scary crap that will make Obama's hair even grayer. I wouldn't wish this view on anyone. Good luck Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What they Ate at the Inauguration Luncheon

Now this is an interesting tidbit of history.

1st Course:
Seafood Stew
paired with Duckhorn Vinyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

2nd Course:
A Brace of American Birds (Pheasant and Duck) served with Sour Cherry Chutney and Molassas Sweet Potato
paired with Goldeneye, 2005 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

3rd Course:
Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glase
paired with Korbel "Special Inaugural Cuvee" California Champagne

Wow 2 wines and a champagne with lunch? I think we might get a drunk Obama hanging from the chandelier before the night is through.

Al Quida Has Nowhere to Hide in Pakistan

Upon reading this blog post about the situation in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan I think Obama's anti-terror job may be getting easier.

Pakistani officials believe that the multimillion dollar rewards on bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders may now be practical. You can't capture an al Qaeda big shot without the assent of local tribal leaders. For a large chunk of that reward, that assent may now be had from some chiefs, and bin Laden knows it. He also knows that eight senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed by U.S. Hellfire missiles in the last six months. Rumor has it that big money was paid for the information that made some of these attacks possible. It's bad enough that al Qaeda is losing senior people, it's worse that they are now seen, by local tribesmen, as a way to get rich. Al Qaeda leaders now know what it's like to be terrorized.

Who could blame those tribal leaders? I mean they are taking in these Arab and Central Asian terrorists that have no history with the Pashtun people and protecting them pretty much for no shared purpose. Then all they get in return is a chance for Pakistani troops to blow them up.

Most people would have sold Al-Quida down the river in exchange for a chunk of cash and a peaceful existence away from interference from Islamabad. And that may well be what is happening. Too bad we couldn't sway more of these tribal leaders to play ball with us in exchange for financial aid, security guarantees, or whatever they might want.

Obama Flubs Oath of Office but Gave Great Speech

I saw the Oath of Office this morning and hopefully it won't be a harbinger of bad things for Obama. It sure was a tortured sort of thing. Here it is:

Here is his Inauguration Speech

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Obama Business: Booming

It seems that the President-Elect is spawning all sorts of value-added industries as his popularity soars.

In the weeks following Obama’s election, the Chicago Sun-Times began selling commemorative copies of their November 5th paper on eBay (EBAY) for $350 a pop. Through the sale of Obama-related merchandise, the New York Times (which has been selling authentic Obama photos and assorted Obamabilia on their website for as much as $1,099] has sold close to $2 million in Obama-related merchandise; the Los Angeles Times has sold close to $1 million.

I thought this action figure was especially cool. I might even buy it as a keepsake if his stimulus bill props up the economy and I get a chance to reap some of the stock related rewards. I would of course wrap it in a toga and place a golden wreath upon its benighted head.

He has even invaded the comic book realm in the pages of Amazing Spider-man. I am just wondering if Obama saves Spider-man or the other way around? Maybe he can give Peter Parker the White House photographer role. But knowing Spider-man's enemies Obama would probably get crushed by the Rhino or thrown off a bridge by the Hobgoblin or something.

Jobs seeking a Liver Transplant?

I guess his health is a true moving target.

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs is considering a liver transplant as a result of complications after treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2004, according to people who are monitoring his illness.

I'm pretty sure that legions of Mac lovers would be only too glad to give Jobs their liver after they died. Also he could live up to 20 years with a new liver if he is lucky. At least it is clearing up some of the uncertainty regarding the stock. We could also see if the people that Jobs leaves in charge are up to the task.

FED to think of Forming a Bad Bank

It seems that the FED is trying to pull out all the stops to get credit moving again. This one sounds nuts but it just might work.

Today’s remarks come days before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, and signal a readiness among regulators to undertake what’s likely to be the most radical effort yet to unfreeze lending. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke earlier this week urged a “comprehensive plan” to address illiquid assets, floating the idea of a “bad bank.”

I guess this bad bank would be one massive ball of crappy assets that the good banks have shed from their balance sheets. It sounds like the financial version of Anti-virus quarantine. It sounds like an interesting idea as long as the government doesn't lose a chunk of money trying to hold onto these things.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bank of America Moves Up Quarterly Numbers to 7am Tomorrow

It seems they couldn't wait until Jan. 20 to release these numbers after the stock just about collapsed in the last few weeks.

The switch from Jan. 20 may provide investors with details on what kind of help the U.S. may give to the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank and New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co., the brokerage it acquired earlier this month. The U.S. will offer the bank at least $15 billion in fresh capital, according to The Wall Street Journal and trade publication American Banker.

I almost pulled the trigger on buying this stock because an extra $15 billion in extra government money is peanuts compared to all the money doled out to AIG and other failing banks. I think a lot of the fear is what evil lurked in the portfolio of Merrill. Once they clear this up then the "fear deficit" will be taken off of the stock.

Obama Says Jump and the Senate Says "How High?" on TARP funds

As if there were any doubt at all the Senate has voted to release the other half of the TARP money with just a few objections. Let's hope Geithner gets through his asinine tax problems and gets confirmed at the quickstep so he can spend some of this money. That $100 billion to stop foreclosures was needed yesterday.

Senators defeated, 52-42, a resolution that would have prevented the release of the second half of the $700 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, enacted last year to boost the sagging U.S. economy.

“It’s money that can be spent, may be spent, by the new president, Barack Obama,” Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin said before the vote. “I want to give President Obama the tools he needs to breathe life back into this economy.”

Jobs' Health Worse than People Think?

At least according to Jim Goldman at CNBC.

The fact is, late last week I spoke to two well-known tech industry executives, both of whom are very close to Jobs, and one of whom had been speaking to Jobs regularly up until a couple of months ago. Neither has an axe to grind, and neither needs to manipulate Apple stock to make more money. Trust me when I tell you that both have plenty.

What struck me was that both felt compelled to come to me to tell me that they had "serious misgivings" about the state of Jobs' health. One said, based on his contact with Jobs personally, that he was in "serious denial" about just how bad the circumstances had become. The other explained to me that he was "deeply concerned" about Jobs, and the sudden lack of communication, the non-return of emails, ignoring chat requests, unreturned phone calls was a strong indication to him that Jobs was in "dire" shape.

Of course these two executives don't have access to Jobs' medical charts but they do know the guy better then most people do. So when he doesn't return calls they get worried and Apple longs should be worried as well. I mean the Apple board has a fiduciary responsibility to let us know how the CEO is doing. And without a direct word from Apple then all we have to base the health of one of the most important CEO at any tech company on rumors and hearsay.

New Transparency at Treasury Regarding the Government Banking Stake

This should be an interesting document once it becomes available on the web.

Summers said the Treasury would make public its investments in every company, the “quantity and strike price of warrants received” and the schedule of payments the government would receive. All the information would be posted on the department’s Web site.

You could seriously use this document to figure out what money went where and how bad each of the companies are doing. It would be a nice historical document to see how much the Treasury will make once these stocks start to go back up in the future. It would also be interesting to see how good a sweetheart deal that the Treasury got for investing our money.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

U.S. Joint Forces Command Says Mexico Might Be in for "Sudden Collapse"

How is "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse," for a scary euphemism? I guess Mexico has just joined Pakistan for the honor of potential chaos and bloodletting that the US will probably get sucked into.

The command's "Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008)" report, which contains projections of global threats and potential next wars, puts Pakistan on the same level as Mexico. "In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

The sound of drug gangs killing off the government of Mexico should have every Governor of every border state waking up in a cold sweat. Imagine how many refugees will cross the border if there was a civil war between the Mexican military and the heavily armed drug gangs (some of which were US trained anti-drug agents turned rogue.) I hope the Pentagon has their Mexican invasion and peace keeping plan up to date.

New Yorkers Favor Cuomo over Kennedy

At least they are favoring someone that was actually elected to a political post and actually ran for governor but failed and not just selected due to being "American royalty" like Caroline Kennedy.

Voters favored Cuomo over Kennedy, 31 percent to 24 percent, with 29 percent divided among others, according to the poll. Forty-eight percent said Kennedy isn’t qualified for the job, while 37 percent said she is. Kennedy is the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy and has never held public office.

I mean if Kennedy spent a few years as City Councilwoman or any other political post then she would have a leg to stand on. But since she has barely voted in the past few years this should disqualify her.

Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave for 6 months?

It seems that a minor hormone problem may have been much more serious then he has led us to believe. 6 months of medical leave sounds like a bad deal to me.

Jobs, 53, said in a letter last week that he would remain at Apple's helm despite the hormone problem, and that he had already begun a "relatively simple and straightforward" treatment. But in an e-mail to employees Wednesday, Jobs backtracked.

"During the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought," he wrote.

Of course this tanked the stock after hours. All together the stock dropped almost 8 points for the entire day. I think he really needs to seriously think about his succession plan so that some of the uncertainty about the stock is cleared up. All this secrecy about his health is not good for shareholders. In the meantime we may see the stock settle into the high 60s or so since I have read that a healthy Jobs is worth about 30 points to the stock.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Funny Comcast Options Trades

I was reading the Fast Money recap and this part caught my eye.

Pete Najarian noted unusually bullish options activity in Comcast(CMCSA Quote - Cramer on CMCSA - Stock Picks). He said company is seeing a growing number of people staying at home watching TV and an increasing number of people upgrading their Comcast functions.

So I checked and there was a strange trade at the Jan 09 30 Call in which someone bought 20,000 of them for .01 each. Also there was another 1,892 of the Jan 09 35 Call this time at .05 cents. This is a strange trade considering how far out of the money it is since the stock is only trading at $15.33. You figure it wouldn't double with just 3 days until expiry like that. All I can think of is that it could have been an error since it is such a round trade like that.

However there was 10,858 Feb 09 17.50 Calls traded on the same day which was almost more then the entire Feb Open Interest combined. These were bought at $0.60. So someone is anticipating some good news at the company going into their earnings on Feb 18 to the tune of $600K.

Maybe channel checks are saying they might guide higher or something. I think Najarian's speculation that more people are staying home and upgrading their cable has some legs to it. It might even be a play on the Analog to Digital Switchover happening on Feb. 18. I mean maybe lots of people will switch over to cable instead of either upgrading their TV (too expensive in a recession) or buying a converter box (I mean the $40 coupons have just run out.) Unless the FCC jumps in and extends to deadline we may see millions of new cable subscribers.

Now that Didn't Take Long

Welcome to the effigy burning club Mr. President-Elect. This one is courtesy of our pals the Mullahs of Iran.

Obama Throws his Weight Around even to the Dems on TARP money

Obama might go against his party right out of the gates depending on what they do when it comes to allocating the 2nd half of the Bailout money.

Tested before taking power, President-elect Barack Obama privately delivered a pre-inauguration veto threat to fellow Democrats on Tuesday, saying they would not deny him use of the remaining $350 billion in federal bailout funds.

I like to see Obama taking a strong stand on helping homeowners with that 2nd $350 billion. It would be interesting to see what Geithner is going to do with the money. I hope he buys some of those foreclosed homes to get them off of the market. If they can get the supply and demand picture in line they can start the recovery again.

Geithner Didn't Pay Self-Employment Taxes Promptly: So What?

He said he wrote a check for the taxes and made an honest mistake.

Timothy Geithner paid most of the past-due taxes days before Obama announced his choice in November, according to materials released by the Senate Finance Committee. He had paid the remainder of the taxes in 2006, after the IRS sent him a bill.

The still-unpaid taxes were discovered by Obama's transition team while investigating Geithner's background. Obama's staff told senators about the tax issues Dec. 5.

Why didn't the IRS discover these irregularities and send him a bill? The Obama people had to audit his taxes and ended up finding out that he owed extra money. Geithner wrote the check and paid his dues so this shouldn't even be an issue. If the GOP blocks Geithner because of this then they really have lost all sense of reality.

Tech Spending to Be Down in 2009 but Up by 2010

It seems that the recession may drop tech spending into the negative catagory for the first time since the aftermath of the tech bubble bursting in 2002.

Global business and government spending on computer, software and communications products and consulting services is expected to decline 3 percent this year, Forrester Research said in a report due out Tuesday.

It seems that some companies will be doing better or worse depending on what they sell. Software companies will probably grow slightly since companies have to pay those licensing fees no matter what. They may even check out add-ons that could improve their efficiency and save on costs.

However hardware sales will be down since most companies can run most of their stuff on their current setup and are waiting for Windows 7 before they make an upgrade. Companies will also think about doing away with desktops all together and go to cheap Netbooks and Blackberries for their worker connectivity. This might mean more cloud computing as well. This should be bad for Intel for a while since their Atom chips have a lower margin then their other chips.

Also server sales will probably lag due to virtualization. You don't need 10 boxes when you can fit 10 virtual servers on one box. I think as virtualization gets more robust the server farm as we know it might cease to exist.

Technocrat Genachowski to Lead FCC

I think the Obama team may have landed another big winner as the FCC chairman. He has an impressive resume in many different fields that should serve him well in an agency that is partly responsible for much of the tech landscape in the US.

The 46-year-old Genachowski is no stranger at the FCC. He cut his political teeth at the agency in the mid-1990s as a top aide to two Democratic chairman during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Before becoming Obama's chief technology adviser, Genachowski co-founded a pair of venture capital firms that invest in technology startups. He also spent eight years as a senior executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp., a large media and Internet company with diversified holdings.

Perhaps just as important, Genachowski spent one year as clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and two years as clerk at the Supreme Court. Some of the most contentious FCC rulings end up being challenged in those courts and the agency has suffered more than a few high-profile losses.

So that means he has government experience, business experience, and even legal experience as well. I like that IAC and tech venture capital background because he may be the guy that kicks the cable companies in the ass and gets us Korean, Japanese and European broadband speeds. It is unconscionable that the country that invented the Internet is 15th when it comes to broadband.

I'm also really hoping he will be more interested in keeping the US moving forward as a tech power then with trying to censor Janet Jacksons boobs. From reading his resume and his close ties as an Obama friend since law school I think this may be the best FCC chairman they could have gotten for the job.

Hillary Talks Tough During Confirmation Hearing

At least she is saying that all options are still on the table when it comes to Iran getting the bomb.

Clinton responded: "The president-elect has said repeatedly it is unacceptable. It is going to be United States policy to pursue diplomacy — with all of its (tools) — to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. As I also said, no option is off the table."

She said the new administration would pursue a broader approach to the problem of Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I'm not sure what a broader approach to Islamic extremism is but if it calls for more troops in Afghanistan and a joint operation with Pakistan into those tribal areas then I am all for it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush Prevented Attack on Iran

It seems that Iran was almost attacked by Israel but the US put the kibosh on it.

The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America’s 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.

This part probably shouldn't have been published.

The covert American program, started in early 2008, includes renewed American efforts to penetrate Iran’s nuclear supply chain abroad, along with new efforts, some of them experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies. It is aimed at delaying the day that Iran can produce the weapons-grade fuel and designs it needs to produce a workable nuclear weapon.

Why does the New York Times print the existence of covert programs against Iranian nuclear ambitions? All I can think of is that this is a way of letting the Iranians know that they are being watched by the CIA. Perhaps the hacks are in place and the moles are already embedded so there really isn't any reason to be secretive about the existence of the program.

Now Obama needs to come out and say that they are cancelling the program but continue it in secret. If he is called on it he just says that he changed his mind and kept the thing running after he made the statement. I think preventing Iran from getting the bomb is foreign policy job one.

New York Times Declares Obama a One Term President

I thought they would wait until after the inauguration to declare him a one term President like this.

If his stimulus plan "doesn’t work out, he may very well be a one-term president,” said Jeff Zeleny, who covered Obama’s campaign. “It’s hard to imagine that he could be reelected if the economy’s in the exact same position four years from now.”

I would actually be harder to imagine that the economy will be in the *exact same position* 4 years from now no matter what Obama does. I would agree that if Obama does exactly nothing for 4 years then he won't be reelected. I do know, however, that Obama and his aides are a lot smarter than that.

Obama To Tap 2nd Part of Stimulus

I guess they are after that second $300 billion in order to stabilize the housing market.

The letter says Obama intends to use the Troubled Asset Relief Program to help community banks, small businesses, consumers and homeowners as well as large financial institutions. It says Obama intends to launch a "sweeping effort" to mitigate foreclosures.

I wonder if they are going to use some of that money to by foreclosed homes in order to get some of the supply off of the market. Once supply and demand evens out in the housing market then we will start seeing a real recovery.

Bush's Last Press Conference

I think this one statement kind of sums up the President:

"I'm a Type A personality. I just can't envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach," he said. But, he added, it would probably be a pretty low-key day with him and his wife, Laura, at his ranch in Texas. "I wake up in Crawford on Tuesday morning — I mean, Wednesday morning, and I suspect I'll make Laura coffee and, you know, go get it for her."

Yup he messed up the day he is going to leave office. But you can take the measure of the man by saying he messed it up too early instead of too late. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy that is so drunk with power he cannot give up the office. I hope he now gets the chance to be baseball comissioner like he always wanted.

Friday, January 09, 2009

AMT relief Suddenly Added to Obama Plan

Now this is an interesting development from the Dems.

Further, Democrats sought inclusion of relief for upper middle-class families hit by the alternative minimum tax. The so-called AMT was originally designed to make sure the very wealthy did not escape taxes, but it now hits many more people because of inflation, despite measures by Congress every year to prevent it from reaching tens of millions of middle-income families.

I think a lot of the jockeying from the Congress is for them to put their stamp on this bill instead of Obama getting all the credit for it. The bad part is that someone like Pelosi is actually tasked with running financial matters:

• Even before Obama’s plan was formally unveiled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made plain her displeasure with parts of Obama’s emerging fiscal plan, which she believes does not move fast enough to raise taxes. “I couldn't be more clear,” she said Thursday at her weekly news conference. “Put me down as one in favor of repeal [of the Bush tax cuts] as soon as possible.”

In other words put me down as Herbert Hoover who raised taxes during a recession in order to make it deeper and more pronounced. I think Pelosi needs to listen to Obama's economic team who were able to talk him out of raising taxes until we are actually clear of the recession. Any tax hikes in the next 2-3 years are going to put us right into the 2nd Great Depression.

Blagojevich is one funny guy

You have to admit that this guy is on another level when it comes to living in a fantasy world. This quote is case in point:

Rod Blagojevich says the Illinois House's decision to impeach him was no surprise because he's been engaged in a struggle with lawmakers since his re-election in 2006. The governor spoke to reporters Friday in Chicago hours after members of the House voted 114-1 to impeach him.

Blagojevich says his efforts to improve health care and cut property taxes for Illinois residents are related to his impeachment because members of the House resisted those moves.

I think the part about extorting money from that hospital and trying to auction off Obama's Senate seat and his 100 other crimes had something to do with it as well. I mean this guy can put any Tammany Hall boss to shame.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dems Turn on Obama's Tax Cuts

It seems there isn't a consensus of opinion on the Democratic side after all.

They were especially critical of a proposed $3,000 tax credit for companies that hire or retrain workers.

"If I'm a business person, it's unlikely if you give me a several-thousand-dollar credit that I'm going to hire people if I can't sell the products they're producing," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., a member of the committee.

Conrad is on the mark when it comes to hiring people but he glossed over the retraining part. I can see some employers getting the tax credit by sending some of their employees to classes or seminars in order to qualify. So you pretty much send someone to an Excel class at the Learning Annex or something for a few hundred dollars and then use the rest of that money for other purposes. It is only a sop to small businesses in the first place.

Palin Hits Back Against Kennedy and Couric

It is nice to see the Bulldog w/ Lipstick start to hit back against how she was treated by the media.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out and I think that as we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.”

So far the media has been pretty low key about Caroline Kennedy only saying she is unqualified to be a Senator. One thing you do know is that there aren't teams of reporters sneaking around Boston or New York trying to drum up dirt on her or her family. Also there haven't been any false rumors circulated about the legitimacy of her daughters or any of that crap they smeared Palin with. This is an interesting strikeback against Couric too:

Palin criticized Couric for the way CBS “spliced it together,” saying that “so many of the topics brought up were not portrayed as accurately as they could have, should have, been.”

She also expressed frustration with Couric’s characterization of her since the interviews. After being shown a clip of Couric complaining to David Letterman that no post-election interviewer has asked Palin why she would not tell the CBS anchor what newspapers she reads, the Alaska governor responded: “Because, Katie, you’re not the center of everybody’s universe.”

Also what does it matter what newspapers she reads? Is that some kind of bar that a VP candidate needs to hurdle? If you posed this question to a candidate in 8 years there is a good chance that they will say none. I mean sitting down to read a physical paper is going to be seen in 10 years in about the same way as cranking your Model T to get it started is seen today. It will just be a quaint pastime of another era.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Could Panetta Uncover Democrat War Crimes?

According to the Wall Street Journal the Dems may have known about waterboarding and other tough interrogation methods since 2002. That means they could be deemed as war criminal because they did nothing to prevent these things from happening.

The briefings were first available to the Chairmen and ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees. From 2003 through 2006, that gang of four included Democrats Bob Graham and John D. Rockefeller in the Senate and Jane Harman in the House, as well as Republicans Porter Goss, Peter Hoekstra, Richard Shelby and Pat Roberts. Senior staffers were sometimes present. After September 2006, when President Bush publicly acknowledged the program, the interrogation briefings were opened to the full committees.

If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding. And if Democrats thought it was illegal or really found the CIA's activities so heinous, one of them could have made a whistle-blowing floor statement under the protection of the Constitution's speech and debate clause. They'd have broken their secrecy oaths and jeopardized national security, sure. But if they believed that Bush policies were truly criminal, didn't they have a moral obligation to do so? In any case, the inevitable media rapture over their anti-Bush defiance would have more than compensated.

So any Democrat Congressman had the opportunity to make a name for himself as a whistleblower? That person would be lauded as hero to the left and the MSM since they would have prevented the US from allegedly torturing Al-Quida scumbags for information.

True, it would have ended that persons career in Congress but isn't taking a stand what a "progressive" is supposed to do? Hell, they could have even leaked the information to the press Deep Throat-style if they really wanted to protect their job.

What is kind of interesting about this is that Senator Rockefeller is opposing Panetta as the head of the CIA.

A senior aide to Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the senator “would have concerns” about a Panetta nomination.

Rockefeller “thinks very highly of Panetta,” the aide said. “But he’s puzzled by the selection. He has concerns because he has always believed that the director of CIA needs to be someone with significant operational intelligence experience and someone outside the political realm.”

Maybe the concerns that Rockefeller has is that if Panetta is installed at CIA he will do all he can to uncover the shady intelligence gathering techniques that they have been involved in. Panetta would certainly want to know who knew what and when. So you would think that the Senate Intelligence Committee will be heavily scrutinized in any potential Panetta fact-finding expedition.

I mean the Democrat members of the Committee are supposed to have known what the CIA was doing since 2002. I mean they had the ability to shut down the money for the program if they didn't like their methods. I can see why Rockefeller would like to cut Panetta off at the knees before he gets the chance to turn over any rocks at CIA.

My guess is that Senator Rockefeller or another key Dem at the Senate Intelligence Committee will end up with the top CIA job. Panetta will pull his name out in a few weeks. I think that would be a good thing because the CIA agents that did the waterboarding and such did so with the complicity of the Bush administration, and through its inaction, Congress as well.

Obama Meets with the Ex-Presidents

Now this is a really historic event seeing Obama join the fraternity of Presidents like this. I think he can learn a lot from these guys. Just ignore anything Carter says about the economy.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What Causes Nightmares?

This is an interesting article on what things cause nightmares. I almost never get them so maybe I am avoiding these things correctly. The causes in the article are:

1. Stress and Anxiety
2. Spicy Food and eating right before bedtime
3. High Fat Content Food
4. Alcohol
5. Drugs (I know people on sleep meds that had some doozy nightmares)
6. Illness

European Jews Targeted in Europe

It seems that Muslim hate-mongers are vandalizing Jewish temples right in the heart of Europe.

Assailants rammed a burning car into the gates of a synagogue in Toulouse, in southwest France, Monday night.

A Jewish congregation in Helsingborg, in southern Sweden, was attacked Monday night by someone who "broke a window and threw in something that was burning," said police spokesman Leif Nilsson. And on Sunday slogans, including "murderers ... You broke the cease-fire," were daubed on Israel's Embassy in Stockholm.

I guess that is what you get for taking large numbers of people into your country that do not share your values or way of life. I'm pretty sure that these "assailants" do not think of themselves as Frenchmen but only as Anti-Semites.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Panetta at CIA has Intelligence Community Scratching Heads

It seems that some people are as incredulous as I am when it comes to putting Panetta as the head of the CIA.

"I'm at a loss," said Robert Grenier, a former director of the CIA's counterterrorism center and 27-year veteran of the agency who now is managing director of Kroll, a security consulting company.

The lack of intelligence experience puts Panetta at "a tremendous disadvantage," Grenier told The Associated Press in an interview.

Also this defence from the Obama Administration is some really weird reasoning as well:

The official said Panetta had been a consumer of CIA intelligence when he was at the White House. He said he was selected for his administrative, management and political skills which will allow him both to control and advocate for the agency.

That is like saying since I take aspirin I can head the FDA. I mean I too have various unrelated skills that could help me succeed at the FDA. I mean I could also rely on trained scientists to do most of my job and just muddle by. I, however, won't do the same kind of job that an MD with a background in drug research would do. Of all the Obama administration confirmation hearings I predict that this one will be the toughest.

Yay! Obama is Set to Give me $40 of My Own Money Back to Me Every Month

Well it seems that there will be some tax cuts included in the new stimulus package that is being talked about in the Congress.

If the two-year plan is enacted, workers would see larger paychecks almost immediately because taxes withheld by the government would drop. The break would be retroactive to Jan. 1, and couples receiving a $1,000 tax cut would begin receiving an extra $40 in twice-monthly paychecks as the government tries to spark more consumer spending.

Since I am not a couple, I will be getting that agreed on $500 a year tax cut. That means I would get $40 a month of my own money returned to me. I guess that is good news but I would much rather get that $500 in a lump sum so that I could buy an Asus N10-J A-1 Netbook with it.

Too Bad Oil Bulls: Iran Can't use the Embargo Threat against Israel

There was a sharp rally in oil once Israel started to bomb Gaza. It seemed to start because there was the fear that the Saudis and Iran would stop selling oil to the West like they did in 1973. Too bad the Iranians are in such a sorry economic state that they wouldn't dream of stopping oil shipments.

But even in Iran, it's unlikely that Bagherzadeh's call would get much traction. A day after the suggestion, Iran's OPEC governor said the oil producing group was to meet in February, a month ahead of schedule, to take stock of the current market situation.

The conflicting messages highlight the challenge confronting Tehran's hardline government. Like other oil producers in the region, it depends on oil revenue for as much as 90 percent of its foreign income — and is suffering badly as oil prices fall.

It would be financial suicide to cut the sales of something that provides 90% of your foreign income when you have 30% unemployment and are thinking of raising your taxes just to keep your economy afloat.

I think subsidizing proxy wars with Israel using Hezbollah and Hamas is easy with $147 a barrel oil but it is simply impossible with $40 a barrel oil. It also shows me a nice tell as to why Israel chose this particular time to strike Gaza. Iranian missile and weapon resupply money just isn't there anymore. Plus, oil prices will probably not go back to $147 any time this year.

So Hamas has its back up against the wall without hope of resupply or escape. That is the bad part about basing your "destroy Israel strategy" on the fluctuating price of commodities. Now is the time for the Fall of Berlin with Hamas playing the roll of the Nazis.

GM Q4 Sales Numbers Says SUV is Dead

As if this needed to be said it seems that Large Trucks are still out of doing junk even though gas prices are way down.

Car sales fell 24.9% to 87,506, but the total included a 42.6% jump in Malibu sales to 17,355 units and an 18.8% increase in Impala sales to 21,148.

Light truck sales fell 25% to 132,524 units and included a 66.1% plunge in demand for the TrailBlazer to 4,087 vehicles and a 34.4% drop in Sierra sales to 12,980.

For the full year 2008, GM sold 3 million vehicles, down 23% from 3.8 million the year before.

It is interesting that the Malibu and Impala seem to be growing by double digits like that. I really like the look of the new Malibu but the new Impala looks super boring and it just reminds me of a 90s Camry.

They also need to shutter that TrailBlazer plant and retool it to build Malibus (if that is possible) because a 66% YoY drop in sales shows you that SUV demand may never return. I mean people would rather buy a truck for hauling and take the gas hit or a sedan for driving and save that gas money. Or if they can afford it they just own both a truck and a sedan at the same time.

I think SUVs are just the car equivalent of McMansions. They are both big pieces of junk that are too expensive and offer little value for their price tags.

Obama's First Cabinet Screw Up: Panetta at CIA

Well, I guess Obama wanted a new look at CIA but he just gave the top intelligence post to a person that seems inexperienced in that field. From reading his biography it seems he would make a great head of Conservation because he did lots of Marine conservation work on the California Coast. The Committees he was on was Budget, Agriculture, Police, and Domestic Hunger. There was no Intelligence Committee anything in that roundup.

I guess he got the job because he was the chief of operations and planning of the intelligence section when he was in the Army from 1964-1966. You would think that Obama would want to get a career CIA guy with a Dem leaning in there. I'm not sure how well Panetta will work with the career spies that the CIA already has in place.

I guess Obama wants a total outsider as the head so that they stop the extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, and coercive interrogations that the CIA carried out. I really hope that we got all the information we could out of the terrorist scumbags that we have in custody because the Intel train has just pulled into the station.

Predictions for 2009: Entertainment and Sports

Here I didn't do as well going 2 out of 6 for entertainment (only getting the rise of the nobody celebs and Winehouse going to rehab) but did score some successes in Sports. I called the Boston Celtics win, the Chinese Olympics being a big success with hardly any protests, and OJ Simpson going to jail. Well here are 2009s picks:

1. Britney Spears returns to national promanence and people forget her freak-outs of 2007. There are many stories about how she overcame adversity etc. She meets a member of another band and is married by the end of the year. It doesn't last until the end of 2010.

2. Lindsey Lohan breaks up with Samantha Ronson and goes back to dating guys again. The gay thing was just a phase. Her career continues to flounder and she is known even more for her personal life then her box office successes.

3. Box Office falls off for 2009 as more people take to playing video games and staying in with a DVD then going to the movies. The top 5 movies of 2009 are X-men Origins: Wolverine, Monster vs. Aliens, Night at the Museum 2, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Twilight 2. Disappointments of 2009: GI Joe, Avatar, Ace Ventura 3, Dragonball, Angels and Demons

4. Jennifer Aniston has a public mid-life crisis and is seen doing strange things in public. The press says she is having trouble giving up Brad Pitt. It is actually her publicist trying to give her more "edge."

5. becomes mainstream and is mentioned more and more in the main stream press. It is sited as the death of cable TV and DVDs at the same time. It becomes the content end around that the cable channels need to free themselves from the grip of the cable company.

1. The Major Sports winners are:
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers, NBA: LA Lakers, MLB: New York Yankees, College Football: Florida Gators (but Utah is talked about as the "real" national champion,) College Basketball: Pitt Panthers

2. The BCS will be forced to change to an "and 1" system where the National Championship game is picked after the BCS games are finished. There is pressure from the Obama administration to move to a playoff system or they get their nonprofit status pulled by Congress. There are hearings on the future of the BCS system by the end of the year called by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

3. Lance Armstrong returns to the Tour De France but is a shadow of his former self. He tries mightily but the younger riders edge him out.