April 30, 2009

Terrifying Chart of the Day

Via Zero Hedge again, here is a chart comparing the broad financial position of the US at the start of the huge bull run in 1982 vs. now:


Just point this chart out to anyone who tries to tell you that we're turning the corner, that the market has bottomed, etc.  As the government has refused to take the hard road by forcing bankruptcies in order to get the excessive debt out of the system, we're in for a long hard slog (whether that be 1970s style or 1990s Japan style) at best.  At worst, the bumbling by the administration and the Fed will severely exacerbate the problem, although it may kick the can down the road a bit.

We're in completely uncharted territory here, as the financial and government oligarchy are attempting to respike the punch bowl while the markets still have alchohol poisoning.  The stock market is trying to get drunk again, but I don't think it will work.  More likely, it will start projectile vomiting and end up in the hospital, getting its stomach pumped, followed by a long stint in rehab.

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April 29, 2009

Fun with government idiocy

Ok, let's imagine that this actually comes to pass, and the government installs GPS devices in all our cars. Think of all the fun you could have:

  • Steal your neighbor's car and park it a few blocks away in a supermarket lot. Take out the GPS thingy and stick it to the underside of a long-haul truck.
  • Remove the GPS thingy and stick it to your kid's scooter. Think about the government trying to figure out why you drive your car back and forth in front of your house for hours every day.
  • Take your GPS thingy and put it on the car of the nice little old lady down the street, who only drives to church and back, once a week. That is, if you can find a place to squeeze it among the other thousand or so GPS thingys on her car.

There are plenty of other possibilities. People are increasingly sick of government intrusion, and this kind of device would be open to a hilarious range of civil disobedience.

Seriously though, even if you accept the premise that we should be taxed on milage (as an addition to or replacement of gasoline taxes), there is a much better way to implement this.  It's called a freaking odometer.  Ya know, that thingy in your car that tells you how far you've driven.

To my knowledge, every state already has yearly car registration requirements, so any additional tax could be collected based on odometer readings at that time.  Don't even try to tell me that it would be harder to scam a government GPS system than an odometer -- it wouldn't.

In other words, this is at best another potential government boondoggle, or at worst a thinly disguised attempt to increase government intrusion into our lives.  Messing with this system would sure be fun, though.

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Terrifying Graph of the Day

Via Zero Hedge, here is a graph of the spread between Mortgages and the US Treasury 10-year bonds:

Due to the Fed's buying of Mortgage Backed Securities, this spread is now at an all time low. This is completely insane. One of the main reasons we are in this financial mess is because of a complete lack of risk evaluation during the lending process. This chart indicates that, thanks to actions by the Fed, we are now willing to lend more recklessly than ever in an attempt to keep the party going.

Look closely at the progress of the chart. As the economy was turning at the start of the dot.com collapse, the Fed (under Greenspan) flooded the market with cash. A lot of that cash obviously found its way into home mortgages as the spread narrowed quickly from a recessionary 200 bps to just above 100 bps.

Then, during the second half of 2002, the market attempted to return to a more normal state of affairs at around 150bps. However, instead of stabilizing, with the Fed apparrantly unable to get rid of the excess money in the system, the spread quickly collapsed again, bottoming out at under 100 bps in the beginning of 2005. This, of course, aligns quite neatly with the peak of the home-loan insanity, when anyone who could fog a mirror could get a mortgage for pretty much any amount they liked.

Then, as things started to implode, this spread widened out again to around 200bps. Note that if the market had truly overreacted, this spread should have shot up a lot more to compensate lenders for the increased risk of lending in a highly recessionary environment. All the market did was try to price in an appropriate amount of risk, and return to some semblance of sanity in lending standards.

But the financial oligarchy wouldn't have any of that! Instead, the Fed has crushed this spread right back down, to such an extent that, from a credit-risk perspective, we're now even worse off than we were in 2005. Anyone who thinks this could possibly end well is a complete and utter moron. Mortgaging the future, indeed.

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April 28, 2009

Gross things that bug you

Ever had a tooth extracted?  These days they pack the bone with a graft in the event that you want to have an implant.  Painful, but no problem.

Here's what bugs me ... they then pack the loose gum with some healing gel crapola that works fine ... but it shrinks, leaving the final stitches really loose.  Then, because you're a typical OCD freak who can't leave anything alone, the loose stitches drive you nuts until you work them out with your tongue.

Er ... where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, lotta blood and a return trip to the dentist to tighten up the stitches.  Sometimes modern medicine is just too good for the human race.

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Diary of an Ex-Smoker -- Day 21

I had at least three clear thoughts today ... which is a new high score since I quit smoking.  Yay me!

Plus, if I can still add, or divide, or whatever the fuck mathematical operation is involved ... I'm now at 3 weeks smoke free!

Thank god for Commit Lozenges ... at 4 mini-pacs of those a day, my current NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) habit is only 2x as expensive and 3x as addictive as smoking!   Yay?

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 09:59 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Adding Malkin to the Blogroll

Michelle Malkin is far more conservative than I will ever be. However, she is philosophically consistent, and is willing to base her writings on her philosophy rather than partisan politics.

She regularly calls out Republican pols when they differ from her philosophies, has been a huge Tea Party supporter, and has a very clear sense of self outside of the political arena.

Are her writings political in nature? Yes, very much so. This is not my particular baliwick, yet I appreciate her ability to compartmentalize her philosophy from her politics. First, she is a conservative ... second, she applies that philosophy to politics ... third, she combines that into her economic views.

I often disagree with her starting point (I'm far more socially liberal), yet her writings are highly consistent, so that it is easy to follow her logic. On economic fronts, I agree with her a large majority of the time. Her weakness in this area is merely one of information; however, this is also a strength. She doesn't pretend to an economic education that she does not have.

Again, Michelle Malkin is a conservative first and foremost. As I've noted before, I think this is putting the cart before the horse (and there is zero doubt she'd honestly disagree with me on this point), but given the consistency of her approach, she is always worth reading.

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Has the breaking point been reached?

The big news today is that Arlen Specter has changed parties to Demcorat from Republican.  For once, I agree that this is bigger news than the various economic revelations.

The reason this is such big news is because it gives the Dems full and obvious control of the legislative branch of Government.  They had this control already, in practice, but it will now be impossible to spin anything onto the GOP.  Not that I care much about party politcs, but it's a significant shift.

The most important point, however, is that the GOP is now, across the board, a true minority party.  For those of us with a libertarian / conservative philosophy, this is a very good thing.  This represents a real chance for the GOP to stop with the Rovian triangulation and work towards re-establishing a governing philosophy that is much friendlier to a free, fair, and open society.

Do I think the GOP will take advantage of this opportunity?  Sadly, no.  I have no faith in almost anyone involved in our current, thoroughly corrupt system.  I still believe that a popular revolt, that eventually sweeps aside both parties, will be necessary.  I sincerely hope to be proven wrong.

So, let's hope that the 'conservative consolidation' continues ... goodbye Collins and Snowe .... don't let the door hit ya Graham ... buh bye McCain ... etc.  I despise the current incarnation of the GOP, but I'm also realistic enough to realize that the in-place infrastructure would take longer to replace than to co-opt.  Smaller, stronger, smarter ... and positioned for a rebound with actual values instead of just a bunch of talking points.

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Arlen Specter could not be reached for comment

New Evidence Suggests Some Dinosaurs Survived for Half a Million Years After Asteroid Impact

The snarky title to this post aside, which I was unable to resist, dinosaurs are cool.  So if you like dinosaurs, just read the short article.

However, I can't resist taking a pot-shot at the nearly illiterate moron who wrote up the piece.  While it might be mildly amusing (read: mind-numbingly painful) to go through the whole thing and pick apart all the mistakes, this one jumped out at me:

The whole idea that a space rock destroyed the dinosaurs has become controversial in recent years. Many scientists now suspect other factors were involved, from increased volcanic activity to a changing climate. Either way, some 70 percent of life on Earth perished, and an asteroid impact almost surely played a role.

Er, any chance that the increased volcanic activity or a changing climate could have been caused by an asteroid impact?  And really, space rock?  What is this, freaking asteroids for dummies?

I realize that just regurgitating whatever press release this piece is based on would be kind of embarassing, but at least make a little effort when you re-write the damn thing.

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April 27, 2009

Insane Finish to Talladega 500

I may be mostly a hermit, but somewhere in my family history must be some 'inbred hillbilly yokel' genes, because I like watching NASCAR. Talladega is usually good for massive wrecks and yesterday's race provided even more than the usual destruction.

There were two 'Big Ones' ... where one car starts getting a bit out of line, there's some bumping, and before you know it ... twisted metal everywhere. There were also a few smaller wrecks, including amazing driving saves by Michael Waltrip and Kurt Bush as they were sliding sideways across the infield.

However, the last lap of the race was simply insane:

Edwards is a great driver,but he let his desire to win the race overcome common sense on his second block. To his credit, he not only had enough class and showmanship to run across the finish line, he took full responsibility for the crash. Unfortunately, there were 7 injuries to spectators from debris when Edwards hit the catch fence. Thankfully, most were minor, and the worst appears to have been a broken jaw.

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April 26, 2009

Sunday Night Sanity

I know that posting something evenhanded and non-partisan on the state of the economy and markets isn't going to get me any friends. Good thing I don't give a shit.

So here's some excellent commentary on where we stand: Hussman's latest.

If one thing is clear from the last decade, it is that investors have no concern about the ultimate cost of the wreckage as long as they can keep a bubble going over the short run.

So sad, but so true.  When I was working in Japan, after the burst of their bubble, the talk was about the 'hollowing out' of their economy.  With our current federal/financial oligarchy directing capital to moribund institutions, rather than towards future productivity (or, ideally, just getting the hell out of the way), I expect to hear that phrase used for our economy as well.

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April 25, 2009

Diary of an Ex-Smoker -- Day 18

Oral fixation? Yeah, I can think of ways to help with that ...

Dita posted mostly in response to this at DPUD. I find this picture far more satisfactory. Plus, it does remind me that there are much better things to put in your mouth than smokes.

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 08:39 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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I'm going to order at least a dozen of these

The most wanted playing cards for the Iraq War were great. Now econo geeks can get a set for the financial crisis. I doubt I'll agree with the exact rankings, but the idea rocks.

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April 24, 2009

Diary of an Ex-Smoker -- Day 17

Hmmm, let's see ... there's a lot of interesting shit out there ... do I give enough of a crap to post anything?  Nope.

Never mind me, I'll just be in the corner over here jonesing for a smoke.

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 07:05 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 22, 2009

Blogroll additions

I'm adding a number of sites to my blogroll.  Eventually my blogroll should reflect the mix of economics, markets, and politics that I think is correct (and that I read).  For now, all the sites going in are economics and finance oriented, with some attention to market details.

As I've said before, I think putting economics before politics is the proper order of things, and I'll add more political sites later.  My personal blog reading history has been mostly political, as I already had a sound base of economics, finance, and markets (EFM).  From what I've seen of the political blogosphere, however, most have zero clue about EFM whatsoever (watching CNBC doesn't count, in fact it's a net negative).

So, as a public service, to the zero people who read my blog, I'll continue to focus my efforts, links, and blogroll towards nonsense EFM, in the hope that all of my (zero) readers will try to educate themselves at least a little bit in these areas.

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 08:28 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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The truth is out there

Edgar Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut, and the 6th man to walk on the moon, has apparantly lost his mind:

"It is now time to put away this embargo of truth about the alien presence," said the astronaut who made the longest moonwalk in history. "I call upon our government to open up ... and become a part of this planetary community that is now trying to take our proper role as a spacefaring civilization."

The rest of the article is equally deranged.

Flying over England on May 20, 1957, "I got this blob - it was not a blip, it was a blob" on his radar screen, big as an aircraft carrier, he said. "Then he took off at Mach 10," something around 7,000 mph. The 77-year-old retired professor of civil engineering choked up as he retold how he was forbidden by a "spook" ever to speak of the incident, even to his father.

The incident came out in late 2008 when Britain declassified a batch of Ministry of Defense files on unidentified flying objects. "It was such a relief for them to let me know that I can talk about this," he said between sobs.

With the completely credulous tone of the article, and the utter lack of research into contrary opinion and information, it's tempting to fisk the whole thing. Being an essentially lazy bastard, I'd much rather just point and roll my eyes. Plus, more than anything else, the poor old guy leaves me feeling sorry for him.

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April 20, 2009

Diary of an Ex-Smoker -- Day 13

Ha! And you thought I'd gone back to smoking!

What?  You had guessed that I was feeling so pathetically sorry for myself that I couldn't post?  Ok, that's about right.

Anyway, for today, here is my new perspective on time-honored sayings:

  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life -- WITHOUT SMOKING
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush -- UNLESS THE ONES IN THE BUSH HAVE SMOKES
  • All we have to fear is fear itself -- EXCEPT FOR FEAR OF NEVER SMOKING AGAIN
  • Welcome to the Hotel California -- WHERE WE TAX SMOKES SO MUCH THAT IT RUNS ABOUT $400 A FUCKING PUFF

Ok, you get the idea.  I'm doing better, but still rather bitter.

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 09:26 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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The gauntlet has been thrown down

Everyone who's anyone is a fan of MP's facecockings at DPUD. One problem: The ante has been raised. Good luck MP.

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I still haz blog?

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April 18, 2009

Are you lying or just insulated?

One of the things I have noticed in the perusal of the conservative blogosphere, in regard to the Tea Parties, is that most commentators feel the need to say that 'I have never heard of this use of teabagging'. Um, please.

Is this distateful, sophmoric humor, unfit for any serious discussion of the tax protest movement? Of course. But to pretend that you didn't know the sexual act to which the phrase referred? In most cases, give me a break.

How does one spend any time online and not know what this (and many other phrases) mean in the pop-culture lexicon? How does admitting that you know what this means hurt your argument?

I'm comfortable enough with myself to (1) admit I know the sexual definition of 'teabagging', (2) admit that I'd have had to live in a cocoon of my own devising if I didn't know what that meant, but (3) still ridicule those who used the phrase in this context as a childish way to attempt to delegitimaze the movement.

For those who are 'above it all'? Methinks thou dost protest too much. Or, go read a few threads on Fark and at least gather some information, even if it might hurt your tender eyes.

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 10:11 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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That's some serious drama

WTF happened to LGF?  I mean, I haven't read the site in ages, as it was mostly a one-note site.  Which is fine, but once you've educated yourself on the topic of radical Islam, there isn't much of a point in following it anymore.  Sure, there was the very nice contribution to Rathergate, but a flash in the pan success doesn't mean you should just turn off your brain and start running on autopilot.

Now?  Goddamn.  Shrapnel everywhere.  Hey, I'm no stranger to disagreements, but you clarify the issue and move on ... one way or another.  This is just silly levels of drama.

And, yeah yeah, no links.  Everyone knows where to find the relevant sites if drama is your thing.

Posted by: Hermit Dave at 09:12 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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