Thursday, April 30, 2009

GM Bondholders Propose to trade Debt for Control of the Company

This sounds like a pretty good deal for the taxpayers and would save us having to loan the company even more money if it goes Chapter 11.

The ad hoc committee of GM bondholders said their plan would see them get 58% of the new company in return for debt forgiveness while saving U.S. taxpayers $10 billion in cash. The union health-care fund, based on the $20 billion in benefits owed, would own 41%.

So we have the union health-care fund as a stake holder and the bond holders in control of the company. That means the government does not have to nationalize yet another company and be forced to cover their warranties and other undesirable things. My money is on the Obama team rejecting this offer and low-balling the bondholders. If that is the case the bondholders should force the issue by declaring that they will force the company into Chapter 7 and receiving their money through liquidation.

Chrysler Files for Chapter 11: Non TARP lenders say no deal

I think these Non-TARP lenders did not want to be ripped off by the government so they forced Chrysler into Chapter 11.

On Thursday, a group of funds identifying themselves as 20 of Chrysler's "non-TARP lenders" released a statement saying they had been sidelined during negotiations between lenders and the government. The group, which said it holds $1 billion in Chrysler debt, complained that the four banks were "obviously conflicted" because they had accepted money from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program while they had not gotten TARP money.

The group said its offer to the Treasury Department to reduce its claim to 40 percent was "flatly rejected or ignored."

Yup they did not want to go with that low-ball offer $2.25 billion in cash on their $6.9 billion in secured debt. I mean these guys have the legal rights to get back most of their money if the company goes into Chapter 11 so why shouldn't they take this deal? I mean they have shareholders who they have a fiduciary responsibility to. They should not have to take a low-ball offer and lose millions in principal.

In any case, the company is irreparably damaged and is now owned by like 5 different parties including the UAW. If I was Fiat I would walk away from the deal because you might end up with Darth Vader as a business partner. Whenever I think of any company involved with government money or ownership I hear this line from Empire: "I have altered the deal, pray I don't alter it any further."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Congress Passes Obama's Budget: Cap and Trade Thankfully Omitted

I guess the "down payment" for universal healthcare is now in the works. Wait until Americans have to wait months or years for needed surgery. Then Obama can blame doctors or insurance companies or some other scapegoat when that happens.

Wednesday's House and Senate votes to adopt the nonbinding budget blueprint were only a first step toward Obama's goal of providing health care coverage for all Americans. The budget plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 sets the parameters for subsequent tax and spending bills expected to boost clean energy programs and student aid and extend many of former President George W. Bush's tax cuts.

It seems the tax cut for 95% of Americans was left on the cutting room floor though. I hope no one got used to spending that $13 per paycheck worth of change that Obama threw our way.

As a result, Democrats opted against extending Obama's signature $400 tax cut for most workers beyond next year and cut $10 billion from his budget for non-defense programs. Also gone are revenues from Obama's "cap-and-trade" plan for curbing global warming by auctioning permits to emit greenhouse gases.

That last bit was enormously important because it would have levied a tax on 100% of Americans whenever they flipped a light switch or filled up their car with gas. I hope someone in the Democratic party understands that taxing energy companies just makes them pass "carbon taxes" right on to Americans in the form of higher prices.

I think this energy bill that is supposed to be passed this summer will be vitally important to any recovery effort. Raising taxes during a recession (even using indirect methods) is a recipe for a multi-year Depression. Maybe Obama will channel Carter and tell us to put on a sweater and turn down our thermostats to save money.

Banks Trying to Avoid all Government "Help"

It seems that the strings attached to government money are just too much for many banks to take.

Regulators, engaged in aggressive ad-hockery for the better part of 2 years, have lost credibility. Congress, engaged in egregious political grandstanding, has lost what little trust it had to begin with. Banks, engaged in a fight to remain solvent as well as independent, want to avoid both.

The more Washington insists on influencing the day-to-day operations of the firms it props up, the less inclined banks will be to accept help. Those that can afford to go it alone will do so - even if it means shrinking their operations. This, in turn, could prolong the recession - even as government efforts strive to do the opposite.

I mean some banks are trying to raise capital by almost any means in order to throw off the government reigns on them. They don't want to lose all their best people to Europe or the Middle East because Congress and the AG of New York threatens their lives over their bonuses. Also the idea that the White House can fire you on a whim has some CEOs rethinking "recapitalization" as well.

Obama Extends America's hand to Cuba: The Castros slap it away

I think Obama needs to understand that some of these nations will not change unless their "dear leaders" die. Cuba is a case in point.

The Cuban president suggested the communist government is not willing to appease Washington by embracing small political and social reforms on the island, saying in a speech before an international gathering of government ministers that "it is not Cuba who has to make gestures."

The Castros are in their 80s so it will just be a few more years until they are dead. After that Cuba will probably be a free and democratic society. I call this the "one-man roadblock to peace" principal. You had this with Stalin, Yasser Arafat, and Kim Jong Il. You might have had this with Saddam too if we didn't remove him from power.

These roadblocks are usually old men with shaky heirs that they probably can't entrust their country to. They want to hold on to power and not be marginalized after terrorizing their country for decades. They won't change their ways because there is absolutely nothing in it for them. They already have the billions stolen from the countries treasuries. Why release political prisoners and change to a democratic system when you had the power of life and death over their subjects for years?

However, once they die then new possibilities are opened up almost immediately. Stalin's body wasn't even cold when Russia started instituting reforms. I can see us lifting the embargo the day after both Castros are put into the ground. Until then any US overture is a big waste of time. Sometimes change can only come over the body of a dictator.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apple and Verizon Team Up?

There seem to be some rumors swirling about Verizon and Apple teaming up to deliver an IPhone Lite.

Allegedly, one device would be a thinner, lighter, and lower-priced version of the iPhone--an iPhone Lite, if you will. While the other device would be something akin to the jumbo iPod Touch that we wrote about previously. BusinessWeek's anonymous source describes it as a "media pad that would let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos."

I think the iPhone Lite is just a rumor to extend the AT&T deal at Apples terms. It gives AT&T the idea that Apple could walk-away at any time and join their competitor. I think Apple would just love to sell their iPhone to every cell phone company in the world but just can't due to the AT&T deal. Now AT&T will have to shell out big bucks or Apple will do just that in 2010.

However their new Netbook-like ITouch device looks really nice but I can't see how much margin they can squeeze out of the thing. I just have a hard time seeing this thing selling for more than $300 but I could be wrong.

Specter Leaves the GOP

I'm not so sure if this move will be much of a power change in the Senate.

Specter was facing a nearly impossible primary challenge from his conservative nemesis, Pat Toomey, whom he defeated by just 17,146 votes (or 1.6% of the vote) in 2004. Specter's unpopular vote in support of Obama's stimulus package in February drove many of Pennsylvania's diminishing Republican votes to Toomey, giving him an edge of 41%-27% in one recent poll.

So he cut his losses and crossed the aisle. He still seems to be a moderate and against such abuses as the card check that allows unions to form at Best Buy or Wal-Mart or wherever. If you want to see the power of unions they now own 55% of the nearly bankrupt Chrysler. If you can honestly say that a company that has UAW members on the board (so they will *never* get rid of their wage and benefits baggage) will actually be able to compete on costs with Nissan and Toyota then you are crazy.

If Wal-Mart or Best Buy unionized then we get stuck with the wage increases in the form of higher prices. I guess it will be a great time to go long Amazon because their pricing advantage will be enormous.

Specter might be behind Obama's "rip off the unborn grandkids" budget scheme because he supported the bailout but I'm not so sure. He seems to be a fairly moderate spender compared to some on the Dems. They sure won't be getting a far-left liberal in that job that's for sure.

Brokerage Error Crushes Dendreon Stock: But Provenge Study a Success

There might have been a mishit of some keys at a brokerage firm that went on right before trading was halted.

In a statement, Nasdaq spokesman Wayne Lee said the exchange investigated trades between 1:25 and 1:27 p.m., the same time as the plunge. He said the trades will stand and that the decision cannot be appealed. Trading in Dendreon shares remained halted until market close.

Shares fell $9.74, or 45.2 percent, to $11.81 in afternoon trading before trading was halted. Shares were rising before the study was released at the American Urological Association's annual meeting in Chicago Tuesday.

Out of all the information, this is the part that should be looked at by the FDA.

Median survival was 26 months in men given Provenge and 22 months in the others. Three-year survival rates were 32 percent for the Provenge group and 23 percent for the others -- a 38 percent improvement.

It is either this or having to take Taxotere and face all of its painful side effects. Now the next study has to be if men take Provenge earlier in their prostate cancer cycle then what will happen to the disease. You figure that since your body itself is being helped to kill the cancer then it should work even better.

Also the FDA might be facing a lawsuit from patient groups because basically they kept this thing off the market for 2 years even though they said it was safe and their own advisory panel said it was effective. Imagine all of the lost months that end-stage prostate cancer patients would have gotten to live if the FDA listened to that advisory panel.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Air Force 1 Buzzes New Yorkers

I think these people should understand that *any* low flying jet plane in Manhattan would immediately be thought of as a terrorist attack.

The White House apologized Monday after one of Barack Obama's presidential planes flew alarmingly low over New York city, sending residents into a panic and triggering fears of a new 9/11.

Of course it would have all been cool if it was to rush Obama to an emergency Swine Flu meeting of the United Nations or something. But the reason given was an absolute joke.

Sources said the chief reason for the panic-inducing flight was to create souvenir pictures of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty to be given out - like a presidential tie clip - to family, friends or supporters.

Yup they scared New Yorkers and forced some to evacuate their buildings for presidential souvenir photos. I think there needs to be Congressional hearings on this and whoever is responsible for okaying this mission needs to resign.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Job Opportunity: Pirate Killer!

It seems that shippers might have an added cost of doing business due to these stupid Somali pirates.

In response to questions from a House Appropriations subcommittee, Petraeus said defensive preparations short of armed guards "can work. You can have water hoses and others that can make it more difficult."

But in a wry tone, he added: "It's tough to be on the end of a water hose if the other guy is on the end of an RPG. So you've got to think your way through that calculation as well."

Some ports don't allow ships with armed guards to enter so what these shippers could do is use a helicopter to let the guards off on shore just before they get into port. That is a lot of extra costs but it is better then having to pay millions in ransom if your boat is hijacked.

Plus if they are Americans of Frenchmen on board there is a good chance that the pirates would execute them so guards will certainly go a long way to stopping that.

Janet Napolitano Kind of Aplogizes for Slandering Vets

At least she admitted that one of her people made a mistake:

Napolitano blamed one of her agency's analysts for prematurely sending out the intelligence assessment to law enforcement, according to Craig Roberts, an American Legion member who attended the meeting. The report says veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan could be susceptible to right-wing recruiters or commit lone acts of violence.

I hope that person has be reprimanded for pretty much saying that Vets risking life and limb in Iraq and Afghanistan could go nuts and commit acts of violence once they come home. That fit every Vietnam-era paranoid fantasy on the left of Vets will be crazy from war and start killing people indiscriminately.

Notice though that Napolitano didn't apologize for the actual content of the report but just that it was released early. You got to love that typical politician double-speak.

GM Forced to Shutter Pontiac Brand

Well it seems that yet another venerable car brand will be no more.

General Motors Corp., facing the threat of a bankruptcy filing if it can’t meet a June 1 U.S. deadline, will preserve the GMC truck line and drop its 83-year- old Pontiac brand as part of a government-led recalibration of its business plan, people familiar with the decision said.

This move might be able to save enough money to make GM profitable if it sells as few as 10 million cars a year. It must suck to live in a town that supports a Pontiac plant though. You can see that GM was competing against themselves for some time. I couldn't tell the difference between a Chevy and a Pontiac on their website. They had nearly identical sedans. So I guess only people that had Pontiac GTO or a Trans-Am back in the 60-70s are giving it much thought.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama Does the Waterboarding Two-Step

I think someone finally told him that a wide net into waterboarding will catch quite a bit of Democrats in its clutches along with the Bush people.

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs sought to underscore Obama's resistance to an independent commission two days after the president himself said such an approach would be preferable to a partisan congressional investigation into the questioning techniques that critics say amount to torture.

Gibbs said that after internal White House debate, Obama determined the independent commission "concept didn't seem altogether that workable in this case."

I have to say that this "change your mind when more info comes in" Obama two-step (you could call it wishy-washy) is kind of jarring. I do think it is much preferable to not changing your mind no matter what. It goes back to the maxim of "when conditions change you change your mind" which I think is a fairly sound policy.

In this case I think someone told him that Pelosi, Jane Harman and whoever else will end up targets of the commission and could face charges by his own AG. It would also hurt CIA operations in the future because the legal leg they have to stand on might end up changing every 4 to 8 years. How can these CIA guys know what is permissible when the judges that tell them what is legal get sent to jail every few years?

It would have also created a poisonous atmosphere of partisan recrimination and questions of who knew what and when and other nonsense. The GOP will fight him on everything if they were targeted over actions that the entire Congress took to protect the country. Finally, it would also raise the specter of the new guy in office will have carte blanche in the future to prosecute the old guy in office. They do that in Chile and Myanmar but not the US.

All Obama would gain is to "get Bush" and make liberals feel all good inside. Those bad-guy "Repugs" had to resort to extreme measures so we could get actionable intel out of murderous terrorists. Now they will be punished!

This commission would make the Daily KOS and HuffPo happy but at the expense of national security, the CIA, ruining any chance of bipartisanship, and the Dems caught approving torture being run out of office. So Obama changed his mind when the situation changes.

Amazon Earnings Very Strong: Could it be that people are avoiding the Gloomy Mall?

Amazon just keeps surprising people even though consumers are supposed to be cutting back. Inc. said earnings climbed 24 percent to $177 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $143 million, or 34 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. That easily beat the 31 cents per share that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected.

The company said revenue rose 18 percent to $4.89 billion, slightly higher than analysts' expectations of $4.76 billion.

So they were able to increase the top and bottom line when some companies are facing double digit drops? I think more and more people are just moving their day to day spending from the mall to Amazon and taking advantage of Amazon Prime to save a buck.

I think one factor that might be driving Amazon sales is that malls are now some of the gloomiest places you can go to buy something. I mean Ward Warehouse which is close to my workplace is like a ghost town full of closed shops and restaurants and is mostly made up of darkened hallways and furtive, scared-looking merchants.

If I wanted to pick up some clothes or something I would much rather do a few clicks on Amazon then drive down to a Fallout 3-like wasteland of a mall. Amazon is cheerful and cheap while the mall is full-priced and gloomy. It is not such a hard choice to make.

Poll Shows that 80% Think that More Debt will Hurt Future Generations

In a recent poll it seems that Obama's right direction numbers have finally edged ahead of his wrong direction numbers.

In a sign that Barack Obama has inspired hopes for a brighter future in the first 100 days of his presidency, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows that 48 percent of Americans believe the United States is headed in the right direction — compared with 44 percent who disagree.

I think he should seriously be concerned about this part though:

_While there is evidence that people feel more optimistic about the economy, 65 percent said it's difficult for them and their families to get ahead. More than one-third know of a family member who recently lost a job.

_More than 90 percent of Americans consider the economy an important issue, the highest ever in AP polling.

_Nearly 80 percent believe that the rising federal debt will hurt future generations, and Obama is getting mixed reviews at best for his handling of the issue.

This shows that missteps on the economy or a feeling that Obama is standing in the way of people getting ahead will cost him dearly. And that last number makes it seem that they took this poll at a Tea Party rally or something. It think it is a good thing that 80% of people in this poll think that *even more* federal debt will hurt future generations.

I'm glad that a large majority of Americans are finally understanding that you can't pay off your credit card bill by applying for more credit cards. People are getting the message that more and more debt will short change future generations and force them to either default on the debt or work even harder to pay the interest. Either way Obama and the Dems will be placed squarely on the blame line.

Chrysler Moves Toward Bankruptcy: It Sucks to Be Their Creditor

Well it seems that our $7 billion "investment" in Chrysler is going to be destroyed along with much of the wealth of any of their debt holders.

The only major question that remains unresolved is what happens to Chrysler’s lenders, who hold $6.9 billion in company debt. The government’s most recent offer, presented Wednesday, would give the company’s lenders about 22 cents on the dollar, or $1.5 billion, and a 5 percent equity stake in a reorganized Chrysler. Earlier this week, a steering committee of the lenders proposed that they receive 65 cents on the dollar, or $4.5 billion, and a 40 percent equity stake.

However their UAW workers get to hold onto their pensions and health care benefits.

The Treasury has an agreement in principle with the United Automobile Workers union, whose members’ pensions and retiree health care benefits would be protected as a condition of the bankruptcy filing, said these people, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

So basically if you loaned the company money (the taxpayers are in this camp unfortunately) you get 22 cents on the dollar and some stock in the company once it emerges from bankruptcy. But if you are a UAW member you don't have to worry about your pension or your health care expenses because I assume the taxpayer will be footing that bill.

I don't see anything about the bankruptcy voiding those UAW employment contracts so I assume those will be carried forward. So even when they leave bankruptcy they will *still* be at a salary and benefits disadvantage to the Japanese automakers.

I guess the fear of reprisal from the White House is keeping the debt holders from just forcing the company into Chapter 7 and liquidating Chrysler's assets to Fiat at a fire sale. You figure this action would net them more than a measly 22 cents on the dollar.

This whole thing tells you that if the government takes over your company for any reason then get rid of that companies debt immediately or you face getting only 22 cents on the dollar of your money back. Forget debt covenants or who is supposed to get what and when the government dictates terms. I'm sure the Cerberus Capital people must be hopping mad at this turn of events right about now.

Could the Taliban Take over Pakistan?

I sure hope not. But there seems to be just 65 miles separating the Taliban from Islamabad.

On Wednesday a local Taliban militia crossed from the Swat Valley - where a February cease-fire allowed the implementation of strict Islamic, or Shari'a, law - into the neighboring Buner district, which is just a few hours drive from Islamabad (65 miles, separated by a mountain range, as the crow flies).

So you could say that a mountain range (and not a vast army or even a river) now separates the capital of a nuclear armed nation from falling to Islamic hardliners. Forget about Iranian nukes because Pakistani nukes will be much scarier in the hands of the Taliban. Especially if they are aimed at our troops in Afghanistan.

One medium ranged missile fired by Taliban militiaman could wipe out an entire NATO division or sink an entire carrier group. Just having a few warheads slip out of the country will be enough to give the world a headache for decades to come.

At the same time Pakistan seems more afraid that Baluchistan might declare independence with the help of India.

Also on Wednesday, a top adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made an explosive announcement accusing a long-simmering separatist movement in the province of Baluchistan of being sponsored by archenemy India and Afghanistan. The mysterious deaths of several Baluch leaders over the past few weeks have renewed demands for Baluch independence from the nation of Pakistan.

This might be paranoia but I can see the Pakistani point of view. Historically buffer states are very important when two nations are arch-enemies. That is why Poland kept getting taken over and built up in the course of European history. There seems to be no hard evidence that India is doing this though.

However I can see the advantage India would get from creating an allied buffer state out of part of Pakistan. That is especially true if Islamabad falls to the Taliban and Baluchistan declares independence. This would give India a chance to surge troops into Baluchistan as a "peacekeeping" force and maybe even invade Pakistan in the same vein.

Hell, even the US would gain from the creation of an Indian-allied Baluchistan because India would probably let us pour troops and material into the region to hunt for Al-Quida scumbags. Plus the Indian Army might be more willing to pair up with the US to fight against the Taliban as well. The Indians don't have that long association and aid of the Taliban that Pakistan has had in the past. The Indians might not have any objections with us flying Predators deep into Baluchistan to help them kill off Taliban leaders. In any case, Hillary's job has just gotten *much* harder.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Obama Backs Columbian Trade Pact: First Foreign Policy Homerun!

Here is some credit where credit is due.

The president announced that his team must find a way to pass the agreement. With world trade down 80%, the pact opens new markets to the U.S. He demanded immediate action, asking Colombia's trade minister to fly to Washington this week.

Then it got even better: Obama invited Uribe to the White House and promised to visit Colombia himself, allowing the Colombians to lay out for him their vast economic and social progress, and their desire to integrate into global trade.

The best part about any agreement with Colombia is that it improves the quality of life of the average Colombian. The more access this person has to American markets the better chance they have of succeeding in the world economy. Plus this is the reward for Pres. Uribe for reforming his country and turning it into a stable, pro-US Democracy.

GM to Close US Factories This Summer

I guess they are trying to save money in any way that they can and that means not making as many cars as they did in previous years.

General Motors Corp. is planning to temporarily close most of its U.S. factories for up to nine weeks this summer because of slumping sales and growing inventories of unsold vehicles, two people briefed on the plan said Wednesday.

Too bad they don't get a chance to furlough the workers during that period and make the UAW pay their salaries during the time that the factories are shut down. That could give GM a breather in which they can build up some cash for the long haul.

VMWare Dissapoints on Revenue Numbers

Their revenue seems to have missed the mark this past quarter. This number would worry me if I was long the stock:

VMware said the quarter's service revenue grew 48 percent to $213.3 million. The company added that its business mix continues to shift, with service revenue becoming a larger proportion of total sales. License revenue fell 13 percent during the quarter to $257 million.

That means for the time being people are sitting still and paying their service charges but are not ordering as many new copies of VMWare's Software. I think this may be because companies are trying to conserve cash by making due with what they have. So that means they are not looking to grow (and thus carry more virtual servers) for several quarters into the future. I think the stock might revisit lows and rebound once server software sales start to pick back up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Miss California Against Bailouts Too? A New Conservative Star is Born

I was watching this clip of the Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean on Neil Cavuto and judging by her screen presence and her no-nonsense take on issues she could easily be a conservative star.

She is even against the bailouts and says that no government money should be given to private companies. She does need to clarify her view on welfare. Hell, she is far to the right of me as well. I think targeted bailouts saved us from another Great Depression and Welfare is a very important as a safety net as long as people are moving toward work.

I can see conservatives tuning in to watch an O'Reilly-style show hosted by Carrie Prejean. She has poise, charisma, and is a very good looking as well. The religious establishment would flock to an openly Christian person on the Fox airwaves. She will also face unmerciful criticism by the anti-religious types like Bill Maher and gay groups will brand her as a bigot for practicing her religious beliefs.

She says in her piece that she is thinking of going into politics. This move may or may not be a good idea. On one hand the media wolves would tear her apart because she would be immediately classed as a brainless bimbo.

However she is head-and-shoulders above Sarah Palin in her speaking style. She doesn't seem overly folksy with the "You Betchas" like Palin did. She also wears her religion on her sleeve and can very easily be a really good looking version of Mike Huckabee. In any case you will be seeing a lot more of Carrie Prejean that's for sure.

Chinese Break Ground on Next Generation Nuclear Reactor

At last we may soon see a Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor going up in Sanmen, China. The Chinese are so far ahead of us on this sort of thing that it is mind blowing. We should have at least a dozen of these things going up if Congress actually cares about weening this country off of coal and oil power plants.

According to Westinghouse, 'The AP1000 is the safest and most economical nuclear power plant available in the worldwide commercial marketplace, and is the only Generation III+ reactor to receive Design Certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.'

Interesting Tax Fact About Soaking the Rich

Buried in a pretty good piece about the Tax Day Tea Parties from some economists at Forbes is a little tidbit that I did not know about soaking the rich.

Here is an interesting set of facts. If the government increased the top tax rate from the current rate of 35% to 100% (yes, that's right 100%), it would only collect an extra $400 billion this year. In other words, confiscating all the income that is currently taxed at 35% would not raise enough revenue to cover any of the annual deficits projected in the next 10 years. There is no way that tax hikes on the rich alone can pay for proposed spending in the current budget.

So raising to top tax rate from 35% to 100% will only net an extra $400 billion? You can't even pay for half a bailout with that money. Plus Obama's plan calls for reducing the amount of people that actually pay taxes as well. It looks more and more likely that we will either have tax hikes for everyone or monster debt service to be looking forward to in 2010 and beyond.

Could the Stress Tests Hurt Regional Banks?

It seems that the upcoming "stress tests" could favor big national banks over smaller regional players.

Under one scenario, the test assumes banks will see "no further losses" on these complex securities at the heart of the credit crisis. By contrast, it estimates that the banks' individual loans will lose up to 20 percent of their value.

The methodology "certainly penalizes those banks that are more involved in traditional banking, which frankly have been performing better in recent months," said Wayne Abernathy, a former Treasury Department official now with the American Bankers Association.

He said banks' loan portfolios have lost only about 5 percent of their value so far, whereas the value of complex securities are down 30 to 40 percent.

It makes sense thought that since complex securities are down 30-40% they will probably not fall much further. However since loans are only down 5% so far they could have further to drop. So a "stress test" will have to make that scenario more probable then a further 20% drop in complex securities. It is bad for regional banks since most of their balance sheets are made up of loans and the "stress test" will see if they can absorb a full 25% loss on their portfolio.

However, if these complex securities were valued at only 40% to 50% of their initial value then you could call just about any large holder of them insolvent. I think the Treasury is setting these assets up to be just toxic enough for the banks to get rid of them with that toxic asset removal plan. But they don't want the assets so toxic that the bank will hold onto them rather then take them off their books. It's quite a balancing act with lots of moving parts. My guess, however, is that regional and national banks will pass the "stress tests" with no problems.

Possible Water World Found

This is an interesting development in the search for exoplanets.

Gliese 581 d is probably too large to be made only of rocky material, fellow astronomer and team member Stephane Udry said, adding it was possible the planet had a "large and deep" ocean.

"It is the first serious 'water-world' candidate," Udry said.

Plus this solar system is only 20.5 light years away from earth. A long term mission could actually be launched to this solar system and could get there in a single generation. In the meantime we could aim radio waves at this planet and see if we get any response.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Western diplomats Vote With Their Feet Against The "holocaust-denier-and-chief" of Iran

The funny thing about it is that Ahmadinejoke got to speak at the U.N. conference on racism in the first place. I hope more world leaders stand up to this thug and force Iran to make a change. I think a more moderate leader (who is not a Holocaust denier) would actually help the Iranian economy and not waste money on nuclear bombs and terrorist groups.

Ahmadinejad — the first government official to take the floor at the weeklong event in Geneva — delivered a rambling, half-hour speech that was by turns conciliatory and inflammatory. At one point he appealed for global unity in the fight against racism and then said the United States and Europe helped establish Israel after World War II at the expense of Palestinians.

Dendreon Releases the Hard Data on PROVENGE

Here is a summary of the hard data on Provenge Phase 3 trial.

At the week zero dose of PROVENGE, the expression of CD54 on APCs was upregulated 5.8 fold. At the week two dose, it was 10.1 fold, significantly increased from week 0 (p <>

It seems to have convinced Joel Sendek at Lazard who is now upping Dendreon to Buy from a Hold. He thinks that the company could log $2 billion in sales of PROVENGE. Not bad considering that they booked only $111K in sales in 2008.

Lazard Capital Markets analyst Joel Sendek upgraded shares to "Buy" from "Hold" and boosted earnings estimates for the company because of Provenge, its lead candidate. He also set a $25 price target on the stock, which implies upside of 39 percent over its closing price Friday of $17.99.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama Shakes Chavez's Hand

Well, I guess the Obama charm offensive means coddling dictators and Presidents-for-life now.

Obama walked across a hotel meeting room to meet Chavez for the first time, said a senior U.S. administration official who witnessed it and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the details of the event. The official said Obama initiated the encounter.

Here's hoping Obama doesn't take a blind eye to Venezuelan humans rights violations now that they appear to be bosom buddies all of a sudden.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sarkozy vs. Obama? The Next Big Feud?

I think the Obama people just can't get out of their own way when it comes to working with our allies. First they embarrass us in front of the Queen of England:

By comparison, Obama was treated like royalty in Britain at the G-20. However, the gift he presented Queen Elizabeth, an iPod loaded with Broadway show tunes, left some scratching their heads.

Yes they gave the Queen of England an iPod. No that wasn't a gag gift. I can just picture Queen Elizabeth giving the iPod to an aide with a steely, teeth clenched command "dispose of this thing." First a DVD collection to the British Prime Minister that doesn't play in a British DVD player and then an iPod to the Queen. Maybe when Obama meets the Pope he will give him a Snuggy with a cross drawn on it with magic marker and a Slap-Chop (but unfortunately no Graty after all this is the Pope, not Jesus.)

The funny thing too is that Obama seems to be intentionally snubbing world leaders for some unfathomable reason. Take his poor attitude toward Sarkozy who was probably the most pro-US French Prime Ministers of all time.

Then president-elect Obama refused to meet with Sarkozy in Washington after his election. As president, Obama wrote to former French President Jacques Chirac and pledged that the United States would work with Chirac’s organization to “build a safer world,” words usually reserved for the current head of state. The insults culminated last week at the G-20, when Obama refused an invitation from Sarkozy to tour the American Cemetery and dine in Normandy on his way from London to Strasbourg for the NATO summit. The reason given for the refusal was that the Obama Administration did not want to upset the Germans.

Mr. Obama Goes to Mexico

I hope he clears up that stupid stuff with the Mexican trucks. A recession is no time for a trade war and we are hurting the Mexican economy when we should be helping it. I mean a prosperous Mexico is the best way to deal with the illegal immigrant problem. Also this Latin American arms treaty sounds like a good idea.

Officials say the inter-American arms trafficking treaty would curb guns and ammunition trafficking that threatens regional security. Officials say the move is meant to show the United States is serious about confronting a security threat on its doorstep.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obama the Investing Newbie

No wonder Obama doesn't trust those Wall Street types and doesn't seem to care about investors (ie all Americans with 401Ks) judging by his 2008 tax returns.

Their tax returns showed growing investment income. After reporting zero dividends in 2007 they reported $34,549 for 2008, of which $7,991 qualified for the preferred 15 percent rate Obama has proposed increasing that rate to 20 percent in 2011. The Obamas also reported $1,107 in short-term capital gains for 2008 after carrying forward $3,000 in losses in 2007.

Yup the most powerful man in the world had a $1107 capital gain on nearly $2.73 million in total income. For some reason I was expecting this number to at least beat my capital gain for 2008 since he is said to be quite an intelligent guy. I guess Obama was spending a little too much time on those Profit and Earnings Ratios to be making any money in the market.

US Tax Forms From 1913 to 2008

This is an interesting slice of history for financial historians. The Tax Deadline for 1913 was actually March 1st and not April 15th. I wish we could go back to the taxes paid in 1913 as well. If you make over $250,000 a year you only had to pay 5% of your income and not the 39.6 percent that Obama wants.

Most people would fall into a 1% tax rate if they made from $20,000 to $50,000 in 1913. Imagine how much spending there would be if people only had to pay the government 1% of their money in taxes. Also the 1913 deductions were awesome. I wouldn't mind seeing Obama as Woodrow Wilson (and not JFK, Lincoln, LBJ, whomever) if he enacted these gems:

1. The amount of necessary expenses actually paid in carrying on business, but not including business expenses of partnerships, and not including personal, living, or family expenses

2. All interest paid within the year on personal indebtedness of taxpayer

3. All national, State, county, school, and municipal taxes paid within the year (not including those assessed against local benefits)

4. Losses actually sustained during the year incurred in trade or arising from fires, storms, or shipwreck, and not compensated for by insurance or otherwise

5. Debts due which have been actually ascertained to be worthless and which have been chargedoff within the year

6. Amount representing a reasonable allowance for the exhaustion, wear, and tear of property arising out of its use or employment in the business, not to exceed, in the case of mines, 5 per cent of the gross value at the mine of the output for the year for which the computationis made, but no deduction shall be made for any amount of expense of restoring property or making good the exhaustion thereof, for which an allowance is or has been made

Obama Pushes "Tax Cuts" And Reforms to Tax Code

I'm tired of Obama pushing that lame $13 per paycheck "tax cut" as something other then a symbolic gesture.

In his remarks Wednesday, Mr. Obama touted the tax measures in the $787 billion economic recovery package, which the White House said delivers a tax cut for 95% of all working families.

If he really wanted to cut taxes for 95% of Americans he should have reduced their nominal tax rates. That would have actually resulted in $100s extra per paycheck. Instead it is a lame-assed $13 that the Dems are going to snatch back in their version of the upcoming trillion dollar budget.

However, if Obama actually makes filing your taxes easy then I will be all for it. Paying taxes are a hated part of being an American and should not be something to dread. I wouldn't mind the government sending out a tax bill (or refund) and then electing to file my own taxes if I think the amount quoted is incorrect. The so-called opt-out tax filing plan.

I mean the IRS gets my stock sales already so what keeps them from figuring out my cost basis for me and allowing me to correct any errors? Even a separate capital gains tax bill sent out once a year that I can pay in installments would be a perfect deal for me. In any case if Obama reforms the tax process then I will dub his Presidency a success.

Tea Party Movement: A New GOP Grassroots in the Making

I think this may be a slow but sure way for Nixon's So Called "Great Silent Majority" to strike back against something everyone hates; more new taxes. Maybe this movement will give the GOP its Reagan-era tax cutting spine back.

The protests began with bloggers in Seattle, Wash., who organized a demonstration on Feb. 16. As word of this spread, rallies in Denver and Mesa, Ariz., were quickly organized for the next day. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli's Feb. 19 "rant heard round the world" in which he called for a "Chicago tea party" on July Fourth. The tea-party moniker stuck, but angry taxpayers weren't willing to wait until July. Soon, tea-party protests were appearing in one city after another, drawing at first hundreds, and then thousands, to marches in cities from Orlando to Kansas City to Cincinnati.

I really like the colonial costumes on this group of protesters in Santa Barbara as well.

Somali Pirates Declare War on US Shipping: We Need a WW2 Style Convoy System

I guess this is the first test of Obama's resolve because these pirates are now attacking aid ships that are flying American flags.

Pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at the Liberty Sun, but its American crew successfully blockaded themselves inside the engine room. The ship was damaged in Tuesday's attack but escaped and was heading to Kenya under U.S. Navy guard.

A pirate whose gang attacked the aid ship admitted Wednesday that his group was targeting American ships and sailors.

I mean we won the war against the Barbary Coast pirates with force of arms. I think it is about time we started a convoy system that grouped together all merchant ships and paired them with US Navy escorts. Any boat that approaches a convoy from the Somali Coast will be tagged as hostile and be blown out of the water. This at the very least will prevent any other ships being seized.

Air America Exploits Come to Light

It seems that real Air America (not that liberal radio station) is finally getting some well needed positive attention.

"These Air America documents are essential to understanding a large untold history of America's involvement in Southeast Asia," said Paul Oelkrug, a coordinator at UT-Dallas' special collections department. He said they speak to "the covert side of the Cold War."

The records consist mainly of firsthand accounts of Air America missions and commendation letters from government officials, said Timothy N. Castle, a historian at the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence.

The Fall of Saigon stuff alone will be worth reading once historians get a chance to write books using this source material. That book would contain both the known stuff and the secret stuff all mixed together.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

John Stewart the Democratic Shill?

Now here is an interesting reaction to a character assassination attempt by Stewart on columnist John Breitbart.

If the targets were switched and Democrats had the same five-day-a-week bull's-eye placed on their heads, no one doubts that financier George Soros and Media Matters would wage a well-funded rampage to destroy Mr. Stewart and his scribes. Nancy Pelosi would be demanding a comedy Fairness Doctrine. And "The Daily Show" and its partner in crime "The Colbert Report" would be taken off the air within 30 days of electoral primaries and within 60 days of general elections to comply with McCain-Feingold.

I used to watch the Daily Show just about every night because I though it was funny and had an ironic view toward the what is happening in the world. However, after he bashed the crap out of Jim Cramer for not warning us about the economic mess (I guess Mad Money needs to employ a psychic to placate Stewart) I stopped watching the show. Cramer's job is to pick stocks and be entertaining and not be Allison from Medium.

The worst part is Cramer was an Obama supporter but he dared to take the President to task on his economic fix-it plans. So Stewart eviscerated him for it. What sin did Cramer commit other then having an entertaining show about stocks? Was criticising Obama's budget (which even some Dems don't like) worth being attacked day-after-day by the Daily Show? I understand such hatred toward Rush or Hannity but Cramer is an Obama-guy.

Also hiding character assassination behind the mantle of "its just a comedy show" is just a lame excuse. Those out of context clips of Cramer saying Lehman was safe right before the company went belly up is case-in-point. No attempt was made to show that Cramer was actually talking about trading accounts and not the common stock. Then when they are called on it they just shrug and say "we are a comedy show so we don't have to be right about every little thing. *smirk*

I still watch Colbert because he is funny and a geek like me. He hasn't yet degenerated into shouting "F*ck you!" at CNBC people and cutting a bunch of out-of-context attack-dog clips together and calling it comedy.

Phase III IMPACT Study a Success: Dendreon Triples

At long last it seems that Dendreon and their Provenge drug are getting their just rewards.

An experimental medicine from Dendreon Corp improved survival in men with advanced forms of prostate cancer, the company said on Tuesday, bolstering chances of it becoming the first approved therapeutic vaccine for any type of cancer.

Shares of Dendreon (DNDN.O) more than tripled in heavy morning trading to as high as $22.10 as the study results suggested a revolutionary form of therapy is on the horizon for one of the most common cancers. Unlike traditional vaccines that prevent disease, the company's Provenge medicine treats it.

The FDA doesn't like to approve new forms of therapy so they had a right to be cautious. Now the hard data will come out April 28 at the American Urological Association's annual meeting in Chicago. I think the data will confirm the FDA Advisory panel's findings in 2007 that this drug is safe and it prolongs the life of the people who take it.

We also see a few mea culpas coming from the stock analyst community who either had the stock at a Hold or a Sell for the most part.

Merriman Curhan Ford analyst Joe Pantginis, one of two analysts who had a "sell" rating on Dendreon shares, admitted to getting it wrong.

"While we were wrong on our call for the outcome of the story, seeing the risk as too high, today's news is a great outcome for Dendreon," Pantginis said.

"We are especially excited that the cancer immunotherapy space has finally seen a win in a Phase III study. Importantly, we can now envision the first cancer immunotherapy on the market," he added.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Long Dendreon Saga To be Settled Tomorrow

It seems that they will release information from their IMPACT study at 9:00 AM ET. It seems that the 16% move today was short covering ahead of the information.

The study includes more than 500 men with late-stage prostate cancer who have not benefited from drugs that sharply lower testosterone -- the male sex hormone which fuels progression of the cancer.

Seattle-based Dendreon has said it aims to seek U.S. approval of the medicine soon afterward if the trial shows at least a 22 percent reduced risk of death, versus a placebo.

I'm hoping for good information because those late-stage prostate cancer victims have only one other therapy to choose from and it is like living death from what I hear. Provenge is supposed to prolong their lives fairly comfortably for months and could lead to a whole new field of cancer-killing therapeutic vaccines.

These things actually allow the immune system itself to fight against the cancer. I'm always amazed how well the body heals itself and it seems that Provenge could be the first in a series of drugs that help the body do this. You figure a cancer patient would rather have their own body killing the cancer instead of being bombarded with radiation and getting sick because of it.

Feds Might Take Equity Stake in GM

Great now the American people will directly own shares in a car company as well as an insurance company, a bank, and 2 mortgage companies.

The U.S. government may take an equity stake in a leaner version of General Motors Corp. to reduce debt owed to the U.S. Treasury, Bloomberg News reported late Monday on its Web site, citing people familiar with the matter.

I better see some dividend checks on the stocks that the Treasury Department now owns on my behalf. Or at least give me a deal on a new GM car now that I and every other taxpayer is suddenly long GM stock.

The Top 10 Telescopes of All Time

I have to agree with their assessments.

In 18 eventful years, the Hubble Space Telescope has lived up to its namesake, one of the greatest astronomers in history. Considering its famous rocky birth, breathtaking postcards home, and world-renowned discoveries, it would be hard to argue that a single other scientific instrument has had more widespread impact than Hubble.

V2G Technology Might Let You Return Power to the Grid

It seems that some scientists are developing a way to allow an electric car to return power back to the grid.

When the car is in the V2G setting, the battery’s charge goes up or down depending on the needs of the grid operator, which sometimes must store surplus power and other times requires extra power to respond to surges in usage. The ability of the V2G car’s battery to act like a sponge provides a solution for utilities, which pay millions to generating stations that help balance the grid. Kempton estimates the value for utilities could be up to $4,000 a year for the service, part of which could be paid to drivers.

It would be insteresting to put your car into V2G mode and then get a small check from your utility every month. Add this to an ability to connect your solar panels to the grid you could make some extra pocket money by selling power back to the power company.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why the Obama's Can't Get a Dog: Animal Nutcases Would Kill the Breeder

I have a feeling that the Obama's may not get that Presidential pooch anytime soon judging from what went down for the breeder that sold the Biden family their dog.

When the story got out, Brown faced backlash from pet lovers who thought the Bidens should have opted for a shelter over a breeder to find their new puppy.

PETA seized the moment as an opportunity to blame the killing of shelter animals on people who buy from breeders. The organization's TV commercial, "Buy One, Get One Killed" ran in Delaware after the Biden puppy story made headlines.

Dog wardens from the state showed up at Brown's Wolf Den kennel, repeatedly, for inspections.

"I was cited for a piece of kibble on the floor and five strands of dog hair. They took a picture of that, they walked around, snapped pictures and don't tell you why," Brown told the newspaper.
She was found "not guilty" for each citation, but hiring a lawyer for the court hearings has cost her $4,000 so far in legal fees.

Brown says she and Biden both received death threats from animal activists.

Yup, death threats and PETA asswipes lie in wait for any breeder dumb enough to provide the Obama family with a dog. So basically PETA and animal rights nutcases are going to prevent the children of the most powerful man in the world from getting a pet. I hope there is some serious backlash against PETA for basically strong arming breeders so that Sasha and Malia can't get a dog.

If I was the Obama family I would just avoid all this mess by going down to the Washington Humane Society and having his kids pick out a nice cat. Maybe less animal activists will jump all over his family that way.

Dungeons & Dragons Co-Creator Dave Arneson Dies

It seems all the old pioneers of DnD are passing away.

"(Arneson) developed many of the fundamental ideas of role-playing: that each player controls just one hero, that heroes gain power through adventures, and that personality is as important as combat prowess," according to a statement from Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. that produces Dungeons & Dragons.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Obama Seeks $83.4 Billion in Supplimental War Money

I wonder if the Dems are going to support him on this or will there be a bunch of Code Pinkos there to change their minds. Or is Afghanistan still considered the so-called "good war" to the leftists.

Obama's request, including money to increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan, would push the costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The additional money would cover operations into the fall.