Thursday, December 20, 2007

Celebrity gossip juicy celebrity rumors Hollywood gossip blog from Perez Hilton

Celebrity gossip juicy celebrity rumors Hollywood gossip blog from Perez Hilton: "When the National Enquirer reported on July 28th about Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy, lawyer's for the Nickelodeon star threatened legal action against the publication.

Now, a source at the Enquirer has leaked us the letter Jamie Lynn's lawyers sent them at the time.

It's priceless!

It reads:

“Ms. Spears is a devout Christian with a spotless reputation, who lives in accordance with the highest moral and ethical standards in accordance with her faith.

There is no “rumor” concerning Ms. Spears’ (non-existent) pregnancy, except perhaps for the baseless “rumor” just now being created by the National Enquirer.

Ms. Spears is not pregnant. It is pathetic for the National Enquirer to attempt to create a wholly baseless “rumor” that Ms. Spears is pregnant, so it can run a malicious story and false story which would be emotionally devastating to a morally upright 16 year old girl.”

Ha ha ha ha!!!!!"

Accept the Pain

So as I go through the mental/emotional landscapes that are fraught with pain and anguish, my brain needs to read obsessively about the methodology I am using. I hope it is finding comfort and believes that this notion of accepting the pain will in fact relieve it of the pain.

So I sat there, when the pain came and my breath got short and that potent debilitating mix of anger, frustration, hopelessness threatens to overwhelm my system's ability to process. And I tried to not process, to not think but instead to accept it as real and mine. The quest continues....

Several concepts are central to Hinduism:

1. The first is karma, which is the principle that governs the unfolding of events and is based for a person on the integrity with which he has lived previous lives. Karma is not imposed by an outside, punitive force, or God, but is rather an “exercise of the moral law in the universe,” these laws being inherently within the universe. Karma is encompassed by God/The Ultimate, as is each person’s soul. As both karma and souls are part of God/The Ultimate, karma is not external to the individual, but each is a part of the same greater whole.

2. A related belief is samsara, the process of successive rebirths until one reaches moksha, the complete release from the cycle of rebirths.

3. Hindu traditions promote living with integrity, causing no harm, and progressing further on a spiritual path by living according to dharma, stage-of-life–appropriate guidelines or “patterns of life,” or by one’s “sacred duty.” A central life’s work is to become detached from overinvolvement in the world that’s apparent to us, which is seen as illusory and temporary, and turn toward God/The Ultimate. Many of these concepts are shared by or are similar to concepts in other eastern religions, for example, Buddhism.

Clusterfucked

Michael Pollan - Argiculture - Disease Resistant Staph - Concentrated Animal Feed Operations - Sustainability - New York Times: "The first story is about MRSA, the very scary antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria that is now killing more Americans each year than AIDS — 100,000 infections leading to 19,000 deaths in 2005, according to estimates in The Journal of the American Medical Association. For years now, drug-resistant staph infections have been a problem in hospitals, where the heavy use of antibiotics can create resistant strains of bacteria. It’s Evolution 101: the drugs kill off all but the tiny handful of microbes that, by dint of a chance mutation, possess genes allowing them to withstand the onslaught; these hardy survivors then get to work building a drug-resistant superrace. The methicillin-resistant staph that first emerged in hospitals as early as the 1960s posed a threat mostly to elderly patients. But a new and even more virulent strain — called “community-acquired MRSA” — is now killing young and otherwise healthy people who have not set foot in a hospital. No one is yet sure how or where this strain evolved, but it is sufficiently different from the hospital-bred strains to have some researchers looking elsewhere for its origin, to another environment where the heavy use of antibiotics is selecting for the evolution of a lethal new microbe: the concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh yeah this bodes well

Morgan Stanley to Sell Stake to China Amid Loss - New York Times: "Morgan Stanley posted its first quarterly loss ever on Wednesday after taking an additional $5.7 billion write-down related to subprime mortgages. The investment bank said it would sell a $5 billion stake to the China Investment Corporation, that country’s sovereign wealth fund, to shore up its capital.

The sale, which would give China about a 9.9 percent stake in one of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks, is the latest example of a foreign investor shoring up a Western financial firm in the wake of the housing meltdown."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Screwing the pooch

Closing the mortgage barn door

An important job qualification for a Federal Reserve chairman is the ability to express oneself in a reserved manner. But even by that standard, Ben Bernanke's official statement today accompanying the Fed's announcement of proposed new guidelines for mortgage lenders is impressive.

A highlight:

As the mortgage market has become more segmented and as risk has become more dispersed, market discipline has in some cases broken down and the incentives to follow prudent lending procedures have, at times, eroded.

With that quote ringing in your ears, I strongly recommend readers interested in learning more about how the subprime mortgage embarrassment blossomed to read an ongoing special report put together by Bloomberg News. Part 1, by Mark Pittman, published Monday, zeroes in on a group of Wall Street investment bankers who designed a new subprime mortgage derivatives contract in 2005. Part 2, by Bob Ivry, gets up close and personal with Quick Loan Funding Corp., a subprime lender in Costa Mesa, Calif. that worked overtime making loans to bad credit risks -- in order to satisfy demand from Wall Street (Citigroup in particular) for high-yielding subprime debt.

One quote from Quick Loan's principal, Daniel Sadek, stands out:

"If the loans were so bad, why did Wall Street keep buying them?'' Sadek says.

Elsewhere, Sadek notes that his company made most of its money selling its loans to banks -- who repackaged them into risk-disguising securities that were then resold across the planet.

This is a point that cannot be stressed enough, but keeps getting lost in the overwhelming media coverage that the ongoing housing bust is currently commanding. Incentives to follow prudent lending procedures did not "erode," as Bernanke put it. Incentives to follow imprudent lending procedures flooded the market. Wall Street is at least as guilty, and possibly more so, for creating this mess as the mortgage lenders who made all the dodgy loans and the speculators looking to make a killing or unwise home buyers who took on loans that they couldn't afford. Wall Street created the demand for those loans.

Rape and Pillage

Jesus' General: "Without the rule of law, there is only the rule of force — and wherever the rule of force is in effect, you can be sure that it will be used to reinforce and exploit the privileges of those groups which have traditionally held power over all others. It is thus unsurprising, although terribly disturbing, that women in Baghdad's 'Green Zone' fear to travel alone. I'm not talking about traveling around Iraq and being afraid of insurgents, but traveling around the Green Zone itself and being afraid of Americans."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

First they come for...

Steve Kurtz - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Steve Kurtz is a professor of art at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, former professor of art history at Carnegie Mellon University and a founding member of the performance art group, Critical Art Ensemble. He is primarily known for his work in Bio-art, and Electronic Civil Disobedience, and because of his arrest by the FBI in May 2004. Because Kurtz's work often deals with social criticism, many see his treatment by authorities as a form of censorship by the federal government."

Saw this documentary last night. deeply disturbing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Steven Pearlstein - It's Not 1929, but It's the Biggest Mess Since - washingtonpost.com

Steven Pearlstein - It's Not 1929, but It's the Biggest Mess Since - washingtonpost.com:

"And looking across the sector, J.P. Morgan's CDO analysts estimate that there will be at least $300 billion in eventual credit losses, the bulk of which is still hidden from public view. That includes at least $30 billion in additional write-downs at major banks and investment houses, and much more at hedge funds that, for the most part, remain in a state of denial."

As part of the unwinding process, the rating agencies are in the midst of a massive and embarrassing downgrading process that will force many banks, pension funds and money market funds to sell their CDO holdings into a market so bereft of buyers that, in one recent transaction, a desperate E-Trade was able to get only 27 cents on the dollar for its highly rated portfolio.

Meanwhile, banks that are forced to hold on to their CDO assets will be required to set aside much more of their own capital as a financial cushion. That will sharply reduce the money they have available for making new loans.

And it doesn't stop there. CDO losses now threaten the AAA ratings of a number of insurance companies that bought CDO paper or insured against CDO losses. And because some of those insurers also have provided insurance to investors in tax-exempt bonds, states and municipalities have decided to pull back on new bond offerings because investors have become skittish.

If all this sounds like a financial house of cards, that's because it is. And it is about to come crashing down, with serious consequences not only for banks and investors but for the economy as a whole.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fitness trumps fatness in longevity study - Yahoo! News

Fitness trumps fatness in longevity study - Yahoo! News:
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When it comes to living longer, fitness may trump fatness, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday. Men and women who were fit, as judged by a treadmill test, but were overweight or obese had a lower mortality risk than those of normal weight but low fitness levels, the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed."

Social mores

In the course of my job, I end up hearing a far wider variety of living situations and life stories than I heard in my previous job. Mind you, the bulk of my career was spent working for a manufacturer in Massachusetts. While MA is often considered a haven of wild eyed liberals, it actually has the lowest divorce rate in the country and in general some of the most evident social rules of any of the 5 states I have lived in so far. So, that I did not hear very many salacious stories of relationships gone awry is not very surprising.

In the real world though, people seem unfazed by the disasters people regularly create in their lives.I realize the phrasing of that sentence is full of implied judgment. I'm trying to work on my compassion and understanding for my fellow humans and the struggles they go through in this space, but it is a particular challenge for me to take seriously someone who has been married four times. I mean, how does one keep a straight face at the fourth till death do us part ceremony?

Other personal calamities are far easier to understand. These are the ones that challenge some of my deeply held notions around how much control we really do have over our lives. There is so little understood about how the psyche works combined with the infinite complexity that is the family you are born into and the people you meet along the way who color the way you operate in the world. I do believe that there exists some level of universality, but I am at a loss as to where or what the universality is. Even something seemingly obvious like the pursuit of happiness gets awfully fuzzy when you get out in the world and start listening to people and what they say motivates them.

I usually think complexity is beautiful and it drives me to observe further, to try to ponder from different view points and to believe that if I could really see certain threads that connect, I might actually begin to accurately perceive life. I now am starting to think and feel that "accurate" perception is a faulty framework to begin with and this greatly challenges my desire to keep pondering the world around me.

Limbo-from Sunday's flight

I am again flying across the country. Turbulence is fair to middling and I am trying to work. Instead my head is wondering furiously across it's current landscape. I try to focus on my breathing and say "this is it. Wherever you go, there you are. Pay attention to this moment." My head is clearly displeased with this approach. It seems nearly desperate to think about anything but the here and now.

I was at meeting (Society of Friends silent worship) this morning. A woman got up to speak about the importance of being a lamb in terms of faith. That you have to believe that the universe/light/shepherd will guide you better than your ego can.There are many long running themes in my life that I pay particular attention to. This idea of obedience to (fill in the blank) is the correct way to engage the universe and its "plans" for you has always been anathema to me. Instead of rejecting it outright though, I tried very hard to instead observe my visceral reaction to it and see if I couldn't understand why I find this idea so offensive. It was my first experience with the meditation approach that actually shifted in the moment how I was processing something. No real epiphanies, my mind went off in a tangent on why obedience to/faith in any external authority is useless. I then thought of the section of Eat, Pray Love where she walks through the idea that the way to the universal divinity is to go inward, not outward. I didn't engage my mind with this rebuttal although I am now trying to incorporate the possibility of an inward guide into my model.The approach to this is supposedly to accept the thinking mind as it is, but to try to observe it without judgment and with compassion. This is why I did not immediately try to rebut my mind's response to the obedience question. I was trying to observe the way it worked.

The funniest thought that happened was "what if I don't like the mind if I am successful in actually seeing it?"

Friday, November 30, 2007

Is pixie dust like original sin?

Treasury close to subprime aid plan: sources: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Treasury Department is finalizing a plan with mortgage industry leaders that will hold interest payments steady for many subprime borrowers facing higher rates and possible foreclosure.
.....

"'Your purists are going to scream to high heaven that their contract is being altered, but your pragmatists are going to say, 'Do I want to reduce cash flow or see my Triple A-rated bond go south?' Pragmatists are going to do the deal,' Marta said.

He said it was 'hard to overstate the severity' of the effect of massive mortgage foreclosures on Wall Street, where exposure to subprime mortgages has been 'spread like pixie dust.'"

Implosion on its way

Collateralized Debt Obligations: "A Triumph of Greed Over Fear" - Seeking Alpha:

"'More than anything else, this borrowing represents a triumph of greed over fear.'

When you boil all the risks down to their essence, its all about reputation, as shown with the decision by BSC to bail out their wayward progeny. But there is a limit to the amount of capital which BSC or any prime broker can deploy to prop up the sagging market for CDOs. Look for the Fed to get involved in the CDO mess sooner rather than later, but hopefully before a major dealer is taken down. Just imagine what happens to the dollar and to the US financial markets if the Fed begins to accept this toxic waste as collateral on emergency discount window loans."

Mental Landscapes continued

"When we commit ourselves to paying attention in an open way, without falling prey to our own likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices, projections and expectations, new possibilities open up and we have a chance to free ourselves from the straitjacket of unconsciousness."

So as I attempt to explore in a non judgmental way, the many crags and crevices of my mental landscape I am truly surprised but what I find there. More disturbing is what it looks like when I honestly consider how coping mechanisms/perceptions/fears manifest in how I walk through the world. I previously imagined myself to be a honest forthright person. No bullshit etc.

Well, hah.

That is a joke. Except not funny at all. Really kind of depressing and I know I am supposed to be doing this in a non judgmental way, but there is absolutely a voice in my head now saying "Tsk, Tsk all the lifetime wasted that you could have been living without this (fear/misperception/faulty expectation). I'm thinking its a long ass way from here to true compassion for me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

California Dreaming!

US Mayors Warn Worst of Mortgage Crisis Ahead:
"'Today the foreclosure crisis has the potential to break the back of our economy, as well as the backs of millions of American families, if we don't do something soon,' said Palmer, a Democrat, who serves as president of the mayors group.

The Global Insight report forecast U.S. homeowners would see property values fall by $1.2 trillion in 2008, with almost half of those overall losses coming in California. California property values are expected to drop by 16 percent in 2008, the report said, costing the most populous state almost $3 billion in property taxes.

The report said the weakening U.S. property market would have knocked some $676 billion from home values, but another $519 billion in losses could be tied directly to the financial problems facing borrowers unable to meet escalating monthly mortgage payments."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Anger

In Buddhism, the five hindrances (Pali: pañca nīvaraṇāni)[1] are negative mental states that impede success with meditation (jhana) and lead away from enlightenment. These states are:

  1. Sensual desire (kamacchanda): Craving for pleasure to the senses.
  2. Anger or ill-will (byapada, vyapada): Feelings of malice directed toward others.
  3. Sloth, torpor and boredom (thina-middha): Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
  4. Restlessness and worry (uddhacca-kukkacca): The inability to calm the mind.
  5. Doubt (vicikiccha): Lack of conviction or trust.
I am in the middle of reading Wherever you go, There you are and have just finished Eat, Pray, Love. This sudden dive into meditation writings is due to a recent revelation that "I am ANGRY". Mind you there are nouns that could follow that statement and be true, i.e. "I am angry at (fill in the blank)", but those statements would not truthfully describe why the drive for meditation. I think that it would be fair to say that I have always been somewhat angry. To me though, it often offered clarity in confusing situations rather than preventing me from experiencing life. It would appear that perception no longer holds and I honestly believe that my anger is actively a hindrance to a well lived life.

Which, you know, great. Elizabeth Gilbert made a point in on her website. She has an FAQ on the book and one of them is whether she felt selfish for tkaing the year off to focus on herself. In her answer she describes how everyone around her suffered because of her depression/anger/frustration/general unhappiness. This makes sense to me. I can see me getting angry at things people tell me that should in no way generate anger in me, but it does and then anything I say in response is affected by the anger. They know it, I know it and it leaves me feeling awful. So I am going to spend the time to try very hard to fix the anger. Wish me luck.

U.S. government tricks hide trillions in debt - Investing Insight - Sympatico / MSN Finance

U.S. government tricks hide trillions in debt - Investing Insight - Sympatico / MSN Finance:
"Some numbers don't add up But if you examine another figure, the gross U.S. federal debt, you'll see something strange.

First, the U.S. debt has increased in each of the past eight years, even in the two years when surpluses were reported. Second, the gross federal debt, which includes the obligations held by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, has increased much faster than the deficits -- about $3.3 trillion over the same eight years.

That's $2 trillion more than the reported $1.3 trillion in deficits over the period. Can you spell 'Enron'? In other words, while the reported deficits averaged $164 billion over the past eight years, U.S. government debt increased an average of $418 billion a year.

That's a lot more than twice as much. How could this happen? Easy. The U.S. Treasury Department simply credits the Social Security, Medicare and other trust funds with interest payments in the form of new Treasury obligations. No cash is actually paid. The trust funds magically increase in value with a bookkeeping entry. It represents money the American government owes itself. So what happens if the funny money is taken away? When the imaginary interest payments are included, Social Security and Medicare are running at a tranquilizing surplus (that $181.5 billion mentioned earlier). But measure actual cash, and the surplus disappears.

Have we seen worse of mortgage crisis? - Yahoo! News

Have we seen worse of mortgage crisis? - Yahoo! News:
"Some 2 million homeowners hold $600 billion of subprime adjustable-rate mortgage loans, known as ARMs, that are due to reset at higher amounts during the next eight months. Subprime loans are those made to people with poor credit. Not all these mortgages are in trouble, but homeowners who default or fall behind on payments could cause an economic shock of a type never seen before.

Some of the nation's leading economic minds lay out a scenario that is frightening. Not only would the next wave of the mortgage crisis force people out of their homes, it might also spiral throughout the economy. The already severe housing slump would be exacerbated by even more empty homes on the market, causing prices to plunge by up to 40 percent in once-hot real estate spots such as California, Nevada and Florida. Builders like Chicago's Neumann Homes, which filed for bankruptcy protection this month, could go under.

The top 10 global banks, which repackage loans into exotic securities such as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, could suffer far greater write-offs than the $75 billion already taken this year. Massive job losses would curtail consumer spending that makes up two-thirds of the economy. The Labor Department estimates almost 100,000 financial services jobs related to credit and lending in the U.S. have already been lost, from local bank loan officers to traders dealing in mortgage-backed securities. Thousands of Americans who work in the housing industry could find themselves on the dole. And there's no telling how that would affect car dealers, retailers and others dependent on consumer paychecks.

Based on historical models, zero growth in the U.S. gross domestic product would take the current unemployment rate to 6.4 percent. That would wipe out about 3 million jobs from the economy, according to the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute.

Fresh Pain for the Uninsured - Yahoo! News

Fresh Pain for the Uninsured - Yahoo! News:
"Until recently her mother, Carolyn, who waits tables at the same roadside diner, sent Hot Spring $100 a month under the nonprofit hospital's longstanding zero-interest payment plan. Dial says she couldn't make payments herself because she spends more than $150 a month for other treatment and insulin.

Sophisticated Help

In October she learned that Hot Spring had transferred her account to a company called CompleteCare, one of the many small firms fueling the little-known medical debt revolution. Enticed by the enormous potential market of uninsured and poorly insured patients, financial giants such as General Electric (NYSE:GE - News), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB - News), Capital One (NYSE:COF - News), and Citigroup (NYSE:C - News) are rapidly expanding in the field or joining the fray for the first time. CompleteCare informed Dial that under the complicated terms of her newly financed debt, her minimum monthly payment had shot up more than fourfold, to $455. Dial says she doesn't have anywhere close to that amount left over after rent, food, and other doctor visits: 'Every extra dime I have goes to paying medical bills.'"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blackstone posts 3Q loss on IPO charges - Yahoo! News

Blackstone posts 3Q loss on IPO charges - Yahoo! News:
"The mortgage black hole is worsening...it is deeper, darker, scarier than what the banks originally thought,' he told analysts during a conference call. 'My sense is they don't have a clear picture of how this will play out, and their confidence is low.'

James said the banks — pressured by massive writedowns from losses linked to subprime mortgages — will keep lending standards tight for the time being. He believes the market for leveraged loans, which buyout funds use to finance deals, appears to be picking up after a crippling summer."

Is Raising Kids a Fool's Game? - Yahoo! News

Is Raising Kids a Fool's Game? - Yahoo! News:
"Now that 'children no longer provide any economic benefit to their parents, but are rather costly impediments to material success, people well adapted to this new environment will tend not to reproduce,' Longman writes. 'And many others who are not so successful will imitate them, and for good reason.' Families might choose to have only one child so they can afford to splurge on one while maintaining their own comforts of living (um, that would be me)."

The problem, experts say, is that U.S. lawmakers and corporations aren't addressing many of the challenges facing families. Longman points to the continuing culture wars between work and family: "Everyone who wants to may join the paid labor force, but almost no one gets a family wage or enough help from government to defray the costs of raising children." He figures the critical moment will emerge during the next decade, "as millions of Baby Boomers start crashing past the boundaries of old age, and as today's teenagers find themselves saddled with massive student loans, rising taxes, and growing frustration over the difficulty of forming or affording a family."

The hope is that some savior will invent policies to ease parents' financial pain. "We need somebody somewhere to think of a new vision of what families can be," Skolnick says."People want to get past the family value wars."

Until then, as Longman puts it bluntly: "Child rearing is fast becoming a sucker's game. Though the psychic rewards remain, the economic returns to individual parents have largely disappeared, while the cost of parenthood is soaring."

Click here to join the debate on whether kids are worth the cost.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced | the Daily Mail

The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced | the Daily Mail: "The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines. And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it. According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Minyanville - NEWS & VIEWS-Article

Minyanville - NEWS & VIEWS-Article:
"5. What We Need Are More Fake Plastic Trees The New York Times this morning spells out what all this means pretty clearly: '[I]n an ominous portent for the national economy, Mr. Whittey has grown tight with his money. His home is worth far less than it was a year ago, and his equity has evaporated. And like many other involuntary adopters of a newly economical lifestyle, he can borrow no more.'"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bitch Ph.D.

Bitch Ph.D.: "[I]t's nuts to say women aren't 'as visual,' though really what they mean is that women are supposed to leave ogling naked bodies up to men. is fucking dead on. I haven't much thought about the claim that women aren't as visual as men, usually made in defense of 1) the fact that our culture is obsessed with female attractiveness, or 2) pornography. But it's totally insane! What the hell does that even mean? If women aren't as visual, why are they, by the same cultural narratives, more concerned with fashion, interior decorating, sunsets, and pretty flowers? Why does being an artist make you a girly-man? Perhaps what 'women aren't as visual' really means is that 'women aren't as easily aroused by visual stimulation designed to arouse.' However, we have a problem. Stimuli designed to arouse (i.e. porn) are usually designed to arouse men. No wonder. Even so, these same stimuli often arouse women anyway."

FT.com / World - Rising food prices to hit consumption

FT.com / World - Rising food prices to hit consumption:
"Poor countries are likely to have to cut food consumption after an “alarming” increase in their agricultural commodities bill, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation warned on Wednesday.

The FAO said its biannual Food Outlook report that high and volatile prices of grains, such as wheat and maize, could curtail procurement in many countries."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fucking Vultures

Borrowers Face Dubious Charges in Foreclosures:
"Now that big lenders are originating fewer mortgages, servicing revenues make up a greater percentage of earnings. Because servicers typically keep late fees and certain other charges assessed on delinquent or defaulted loans, 'a borrower's default can present a servicer with an opportunity for additional profit,' Ms. Porter said.

The amounts can be significant. Late fees accounted for 11.5 percent of servicing revenues in 2006 at Ocwen Financial, a big servicing company. At Countrywide, $285 million came from late fees last year, up 20 percent from 2005. Late fees accounted for 7.5 percent of Countrywide's servicing revenue last year.

But these are not the only charges borrowers face. Others include $145 in something called 'demand fees,' $137 in overnight delivery fees, fax fees of $50 and payoff statement charges of $60.

Property inspection fees can be levied every month or so, and fees can be imposed every two months to cover assessments of a home's worth. 'We're talking about millions and millions of dollars that mortgage servicers are extracting from debtors that I think are totally unlawful and illegal,' said O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer in Shelby, N.C., specializing in consumer bankruptcies. 'Somebody files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they make all their payments, get their discharge and three months later, they get a statement from their servicer for $7,000 in fees and charges incurred in bankruptcy but that were never applied for in court and never approved."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

John Perkins - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

StumbleVideo - John Perkins - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Life as we know it

Beliefs & practices of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers):
"Throughout their history, Quakers have refused to take oaths.

Their belief is that one should tell the truth at all times. Taking an oath implies that there are two types of truthfulness: one for ordinary life and another for special occasions."

A truthful life is elusive maybe impossible.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

70 punished in accidental B-52 flight - Yahoo! News

70 punished in accidental B-52 flight - Yahoo! News:
"he missiles were supposed to be taken to Louisiana, but the warheads were supposed to have been removed beforehand. A main reason for the error was that crews had decided not to follow a complex schedule under which the status of the missiles is tracked while they are disarmed, loaded, moved and so on, one official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The airmen replaced the schedule with their own 'informal' system, he said, though he didn't say why they did that nor how long they had been doing it their own way."

ATS Premium: Barksdale Missile Number Six: The Stolen Nuclear Weapon, page 1

ATS Premium: Barksdale Missile Number Six: The Stolen Nuclear Weapon, page 1:

"Conclusion Six nuclear weapons disappeared from Minot AFB in North Dakota.

Five nuclear weapons were discovered at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

Which leads to my chilling conclusion:

Someone, operating under a special chain of command within the United States Air Force, just stole a nuclear weapon."

Bigfoot Research Organization, yup

Pa. hunter's images stir Bigfoot debate - Yahoo! News:

"RIDGWAY, Pa. - It's furry and walks on all fours. Beyond that, about the only thing certain about the critter photographed by a hunter's camera is that some people have gotten the notion it could be a Sasquatch, or bigfoot. Others say it's just a bear with a bad skin infection."

....

He contacted the Bigfoot Research Organization, which pursues reports of a legendary two-legged creature that some people believe lives in parts of the U.S. and Canada.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daily Kos: John Edwards: The Moral Test of our Generation (major speech, full text)

Daily Kos: John Edwards: The Moral Test of our Generation (major speech, full text):
"Companies like Wal-Mart lobby against inspecting containers entering our nation’s ports, even though expert after expert agrees that the likeliest way for a dirty bomb to enter the United States is through a container, because they believe their profits are more important than our safety.

What has become of America when America’s largest company lobbies against protecting America? Trade deals cost of millions of jobs. What do we get in return? Millions of dangerous Chinese toys in our children’s cribs laden with lead.

This is the price we are made to pay when trade agreements are decided based on how much they pad the profits for multinational corporations instead of what is best for America’s workers or the safety of America’s consumers. We have even gotten to the point where our children’s safety is potentially at risk because nearly half of the apple juice consumed by our children comes from apples grown in China. And Americans are kept in the dark because the corporate lobbyists have pushed back country of origin labeling laws again and again.

This is not the America I believe in."

Friday, October 26, 2007

American Tears - CommonDreams.org

American Tears - CommonDreams.org:

"I read the news in a state of something like walking shock: seven soldiers wrote op-eds critical of the war — in The New York Times; three are dead, one shot in the head. A female soldier who was about to become a whistleblower, possibly about abuses involving taxpayers’ money: shot in the head. Pat Tillman, who was contemplating coming forward in a critique of the war: shot in the head. Donald Vance, a contractor himself, who blew the whistle on irregularities involving arms sales in Iraq — taken hostage FROM the U.S. Embassy BY U.S. soldiers and kept without recourse to a lawyer in a U.S. held-prison, abused and terrified for weeks — and scared to talk once he got home. Another whistleblower in Iraq, as reported in Vanity Fair: held in a trailer all night by armed contractors before being ejected from the country."

plans


So in the spirit of following though with my assault against indifference, my new plan is Machu Picchu in 2008. I have wanted to go for a long time, but kept making other travel plans. Now that I fear that the opportunity to go may not be there indefinitely, I am going to go now rather than later.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

cipher

The word “cipher” in former times meant “zero” and had the same origin (see Zero — Etymology), and later was used for any decimal digit, even any number. There are these theories about how the word “cipher” may have come to mean encoding:

In the course of my life I struggle with the attempting to "decode" the pursuits of my brain to those that might be interested in those pursuits. Some pursuits are well known, the concept and realization of power in society, the coming resource wars, the struggle with the inherent inefficiencies of emotions vs the need for experiential knowledge of how those emotions make us human.

Some things that I could never have hoped to explain I have since found elegantly depicted in books, art, comics and the insights of those I have had the opportunity to meet. Those moments of recognition of a thought tangent, an amoebic concept realized provide me with relief, comfort that what swirls is only a swirl because I have yet to happen upon the external realization of that swirl. I will also sometimes feel guilty that those depictions are almost never coming from me and thus in the comic scheme of things I am only a taker, never an enlightener. That guilt is partly what motivated me to start this blog. I thought if I took snippets of the things, information, images etc that find recognition in my swirl maybe it would be my own version of communication that someone else could recognize. I think it's fair to say that I am still a long way off, but here is another attempt regardless.

Recent events, some cumulative, some actually recent and visceral have forced a real necessity to work to align my internal model of "how things work" with how I interact with the world. I would prefer that part of my life work include truly walking through the world true to my perception the world I sometimes fear is really only in my head. I have had moments of real clarity in my life where the infinite connectivity is deeply obvious and operable. This is not one of those. I feel things that deeply conflict with my opaque sense of order. Irrational rage, disappointment, impossible connectivity and, to my complete surprise, no desire whatsoever to run from the conflict.

The moon is 94% full tonight, so maybe that is why. Maybe I really am not afraid anymore of the mess. Maybe I need to balance the impending doom of resource constraint, that threatens to eviscerate the painfully thin veil of civilization I have always known, with irrational hope and exuberance that by playing, participating in the mess we can escape a unimaginably dark fate.

So that is my plan tonight. I could quite possibly wither and retreat tomorrow. Right now, though, I am listening to Bruce Springsteen and working really hard to say fuck it and jump into the morass. There was a night in high school where someone got the bright idea to jump off the train track bridge into the reservoir. I felt terror then too and said fuck it and I jumped. It felt great and I remember smiling about it for months afterward. Of course there are those moments when I felt fear and said fuck it and ended up broken and bleeding on the rocks, but as much as that is true we have to remember the jumps that were great. There will always be fear, pain, confusion, anger and worse apathy. That is true. What the bitch is that those exist whether or not you ask for them. It's the exhilaration and joy you have to fight for. So fight.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Texas seminary espouses the gospel of gender inequality - The Boston Globe

Texas seminary espouses the gospel of gender inequality - The Boston Globe:
"'If we love the Scripture, we must do it,' said Smith, who gave up her dreams of a career when her husband said it was time to have children. 'We must fit into this role. It's so much more important than our own personal happiness.'

More moderate Southern Baptists disagree, and they counter with their own biblical references. When Jesus dined at the home of two sisters, he praised Mary, who spent the evening studying his teachings, above Martha, who did chores. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes that 'there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ.'"

We are so screwed

FT1.com - Greenspan questions 'superfund': "Alan Greenspan on Friday raised doubts over the plan to create a $75bn-plus investment fund to buy the assets of troubled investment vehicles, warning it could prevent the market from establishing true clearing prices for asset-backed securities. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve said the 'super fund' proposal by Citigroup (NYSE:C) , Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase - with the backing of the US Treasury - could undermine confidence in credit markets. Mr Greenspan told Emerging Markets magazine: 'It is not clear to me that the benefits exceed the risks.'"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Star-Telegram.com | 10/07/2007 | Nuke transportation story has explosive implications

Star-Telegram.com | 10/07/2007 | Nuke transportation story has explosive implications:
"Last month, six W80-1 nuclear-armed AGM-129 advanced cruise missiles were flown from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana and sat on the tarmac for 10 hours undetected.

Press reports initially cited the Air Force mistake of flying nuclear weapons over the United States in violation of Air Force standing orders and international treaties, while completely missing the more important major issues, such as how six nuclear cruise missiles got loose to begin with.

Opinion columns and editorials appeared in America's newspapers, some blasting the Air Force for flying nukes over the U.S. and some defending the Air Force procedure. None of the news reports focused on the real questions of our nuclear security.

Let me be very clear here: We are not talking about paintball cartridges or pellet gun ammo. We are talking nuclear weapons.

There is a strict chain of custody for all such weapons. Nuclear weapons handling is spelled out in great detail in Air Force regulations, to the credit of that service. Every person who orders the movement of these weapons, handles them, breaks seals or moves any nuclear weapon must sign off for tracking purposes."

Washington abuzz with talk of dragonfly spies - Technology - smh.com.au

Washington abuzz with talk of dragonfly spies - Technology - smh.com.au: "US agencies are staying tight-lipped about robobug research, writes Rick Weiss. VANESSA ALARCON saw them at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square in Washington last month. 'I heard someone say: 'Oh my god, look at those',' the university student recalled. 'I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But those are not insects.'"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's really not OK

The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The kids are all right

Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).

Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

Friday, October 05, 2007

In Basra, vigilantes wage deadly campaign against women - Yahoo! News

In Basra, vigilantes wage deadly campaign against women - Yahoo! News:
"BASRA, Iraq — Women in Basra have become the targets of a violent campaign by religious extremists, who leave more than 15 female bodies scattered around the city each month, police officers say.

Maj. Gen. Abdel Jalil Khalaf , the commander of Basra's police, said Thursday that self-styled enforcers of religious law threatened, beat and sometimes shot women who they believed weren't sufficiently Muslim.

'This is a new type of terror that Basra is not familiar with,' he said. 'These gangs represent only themselves, and they are far outside religious, forgiving instructions of Islam.'

Often, he said, the 'crime' is no more than wearing Western clothes or not wearing a head scarf.

Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi women had had rights enshrined in the country's constitution since 1959 that were among the broadest of any Arab or Islamic nation. However, while the new constitution says that women are equal under the law, critics have condemned a provision that says no law can contradict the 'established rulings' of Islam as weakening women's rights."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Burmanet » Daily Mail: Burma: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle

Burmanet » Daily Mail: Burma: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle:
"Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma’s ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.”

Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand. Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy was in Burma’s new capital today seeking meetings with the ruling military junta."

pay attention

theTrumpet.com:
"In August, when fallout from America’s popping housing bubble began to hit the market, trust in America cracked—and with it, so too did confidence in the global economic system.

Hamid Varzi, writing for the International Herald Tribune, summarized world opinion this way: “The U.S. economy, once the envy of the world, is now viewed across the globe with suspicion” (August 17).

He continued: “The ongoing subprime mortgage crisis … presages far deeper problems in a U.S. economy that is beginning to resemble a giant smoke-and-mirrors Ponzi scheme. And this has not been lost on the rest of the world.”

Trust in America is quickly disappearing. Why? Because America single-handedly brought the international financial system virtually to its knees by foisting off fraud-ridden subprime debt on an unsuspecting world, which resulted in the ensuing credit crunch."

....

So American banks sliced and bundled their subprime mortgages together into packages. Using complex computer models, and by geographically and otherwise diversifying the bundled mortgages, American banks convinced world-renowned and trusted American investment-rating agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to give the mortgage securities higher valuations than regular subprimes would typically rate.

Later it became public knowledge that these same ratings agencies, which foreign investors were relying on for impartial advice, were being paid by the very banks and lenders that were bundling and selling the subprime mortgages—a huge conflict of interest that produced some terribly misleading data for foreign investors.

It has also emerged, at least in Moody’s case, that the agency knew for years that the mortgages securities they rated as safe were more than 10 times as risky as other similarly rated bonds (Daily Reckoning, September 3).

New Music

Whole Bruce Springsteen album "Magic" is awesome. SO is this:

Annie Lennox Lyrics – Dark Road Lyrics

It’s a dark road
And a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says
That you’re never gonna find me there, oh no
I’ve got an open door
It didn’t get there by itself
It didn’t get there by itself…

There’s a feelin’
But you’re not feelin’ it at all
There’s a meaning
But you’re not listening any more
I look at that open road
I’m gonna walk there by myself…

Uuhhhh

And if you catch me I might try to run away
You know I can’t be there too long
And if you let me I might try to make you stay
Seems you never realise a good thing till it’s gone…

Ohhh … uuhhh .. uhhhh

Maybe I’m still searchin’ but I don’t know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still burnin’ in my dreams
There’s no water that can wash away this longin’ to come clean…

Hey .. yeah .. yeah …
Ohh .. uhh … uhhh

I can’t find the joy within in my soul
It’s just sadness takin’ hold
I wanna come in from the cold
And make myself renewed again
It takes strength to live this way
The same old madness everyday
I wanna kick these blues away
I wanna learn to live again

Hey .. hey .. hey
Hey .. hey .. hey

It’s a dark road
And a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says
That you’re never gonna find me there oh no
I’ve got an open door
It didn’t get there by itself… ooh
It didn’t get there by itself

————————————————–
Dark Road Lyrics - Annie Lennox Song Words

Study examines pregnant obese women - Yahoo! News

Study examines pregnant obese women - Yahoo! News:
"Current recommendations developed by the Institute of Medicine in 1990 say women should gain at least 15 pounds during pregnancy, and the guidelines place no upper limit on pregnancy weight gain. The study found that women of different weights should gain or even lose different amounts of weight.

'The fear has been that not gaining weight would have a deleterious effect on the fetus,' said Dr. Raul Artal, study author and chairman of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

'Not only were there no deleterious effects, but there are benefits. Women, by not gaining weight in pregnancy, reduce their risk of hypertensive disorder, have less C-sections and have babies of normal weight.' He added, 'The guidelines are outdated and we have to change them.'"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Panic?

Winter (Economic & Market) Watch » Calling a Spade a Spade: It’s Crack Up Boom:
"Further demonstrating the absurdity of Ministry of Truth claims that inflation is contained around 2-3%, comes this look at the extreme blowback in commodity prices in the month of September. I am almost alone in using the term crack up boom (* see footnote for the Von Mises description) , and I suppose it’s all semantics, but I truly now believe the burden is on the Orwellians to prove otherwise. Is a 8% one month increase in the CRB index a crack up boom? I’d say so.

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) – Commodities had the biggest monthly gain in 32 years, led by wheat, crude oil and gold, as the dollar’s slump enhanced the appeal of energy, grains and precious metals as a hedge against inflation. The 19-commodity Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index was up 8.1 percent this month, the most since July 1975."

No conflict of interest here!

Blackwater contractor wrote government report on incident - CNN.com: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The State Department's initial report of last month's incident in which Blackwater guards were accused of killing Iraqi civilians was written by a Blackwater contractor working in the embassy security detail, according to government and industry sources."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

So this job means that I travel a lot. This means that I spend lots of time by myself in strange places probably looking like I don't know where I am going. This makes me nervous. So I was driving home from MA to Philly and having one of my "what are you doing with your life?" conversations with myself and I realized how deeply uncomfortable/afraid I am with even the thought of physical confrontation.

Those of you know me, I'm not a real hugger. I mean if I have known you for years, I can hug it out with the best of them, but that whole social "hi" hug thing that people are wont to do? Hell no. Back up bitches. There are all sorts of reasons for this, some benign, but some reasons are true malignancies. Thus, given that my life goal is to live fully present, mindful and unafraid as consistently as possible, it became clear to me that this fear would need to be addressed. Enter Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is essentially learning how to street fight in a safe environment and I stress safe. I've only had three classes, but given that we are practicing choke holds and submission poses and I haven't freaked out, the level of safe this place achieves is amazing to me. That said, today we did choke holds and it was uncomfortable. It is disconcerting to be thinking in terms of protecting your throat and keeping your hands up in front of your face etc. It is more than disconcerting really. I knew I was afraid of physical confrontation. I can't even watch realistic scenes of violence on television or in movies. Even knowing that did not prepare me for the overwhelming sensation of "I don't want to know this" that happens when someone is lightly choking me. Seriously, it must be some sort of significant human defect to essentially feel more comfortable with the idea of getting attacked and getting knocked out or killed, than deal personally with the violent aggression necessary to defend oneself. And anyone who has seen me drive knows I do not lack aggression!

So I suck at it, but I'm going to keep going and I am going to hope that is the right thing and what I learn really does help me achieve my goal.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

AlterNet: Sex and Relationships: Pornography and the End of Masculinity

AlterNet: Sex and Relationships: Pornography and the End of Masculinity: "But I've changed my mind. No, I'm not a prude, or anti-sex. Nor do I think there should be a national campaign to snuff out all porn. In fact, I sometimes watch certain kinds of porn. But what has become clear to me is that, under the guise of the First Amendment, a huge and powerful porn industrial complex has grown out of control. And a big part of its growth is fueled, not just by the internet, but by continually upping the ante, increasing the extremes of degradation for the women in tens of thousands of films made every year. I am convinced, although it is, of course, difficult to document, that the huge audiences for porn and the pervasiveness of the themes and behaviors of degradation are having a negative impact on the way men behave and the way society treats women."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

good to know

: "Performance Doesn't Determine Character Beyond acknowledging the value of mistakes, there's a deeper reality that will help you free yourself from a debilitating fear of failure. That fear is often the result of an unacknowledged belief that the results of your efforts and your quality as a person are inexorably linked.

In truth, there's no connection between the results you achieve at work (or in sports) and your quality as a human being. This simple but profound insight can free you to be a more natural and mentally tough performer in all aspects of your life. The reason is that if you link mistakes to who you are as a person, you'll exaggerate the emotional responses of your actions.

Either consciously or subconsciously, your emotions lead you to think that if you perform poorly you did something wrong -- or worse, that you're a bad person. But just because things don't work out doesn't mean you've erred. You may have made the absolutely right decision and failed in the execution. Or maybe you selected the right course of action and did everything you were supposed to do, but your competitor got lucky.

It's equally important to know that just because something worked out well doesn't mean you did something right or were thinking correctly. You may have made the wrong decisions and just got a lucky break. If it worked this time, don't count on it happening again, especially when the stakes are high.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How this 12inch miracle tube could halve heating bills | the Mail on Sunday

How this 12inch miracle tube could halve heating bills | the Mail on Sunday: "It sounds too good to be true - not to mention the fact that it violates almost every known law of physics. But British scientists claim they have invented a revolutionary device that seems to 'create' energy from virtually nothing. Their so-called thermal energy cell could soon be fitted into ordinary homes, halving domestic heating bills and making a major contribution towards cutting carbon emissions."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are you artistic or logic - Maybe both... : All My Faves | Blog

Are you artistic or logic - Maybe both... : All My Faves | Blog:
"Look at the dancer below. What do you see? Is she turning clockwise or counter-clockwise? You just can’t help but love these optical illusions."

Joseph Tainter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joseph Tainter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"For example, as Roman agricultural output slowly declined and population increased, per-capita energy availability dropped. The Romans 'solved' this problem by conquering their neighbours to appropriate their energy surpluses (metals, grain, slaves, etc). However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc. grew with it. Eventually, this cost grew so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures could not be solved by the acquisition of more territory. At that point, the empire fragmented into smaller units.

We often assume that the collapse of the Roman Empire was a catastrophe for everyone involved. Tainter points out that it can be seen as a very rational preference of individuals at the time, many of whom were actually better off (all but the elite, presumably). Archeological evidence from human bones indicates that average nutrition actually improved after the collapse in many parts of the former Roman Empire. Average individuals may have benefited because they no longer had to invest in the burdensome complexity of empire."

please tell me this is a joke?

Marry Our Daughter - Home:
"Rachel says she doesn’t have to choose between marriage and a career like other girls because being married is the only career she’s interested in. She’s ready to stand by her man and support him in every way possible. She has two dogs and two cats so her husband can’t be allergic."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Broadsheet: Women's Articles, Women's Stories, Women's Blog - Salon.com

Broadsheet: Women's Articles, Women's Stories, Women's Blog - Salon.com:
"Apparently, the Inuit -- the 150,000 or so indigenous peoples that populate the northern regions of Russia, Canada and Greenland -- are giving birth to many more girls than boys. According to scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, some Inuit villages are producing twice as many girls as boys and, in one village studied, only girls have been born in recent years.

It's tempting to imagine global solutions to the sex imbalance such as arranged marriages between Indian boys (from girl-starved regions) and Inuit women, but the implications of this news are too harrowing for absurdist digressions. The baby-girl boom is being blamed on the high levels of estrogen-mimicking, man-made chemicals in Inuit mothers' blood. Scientists found that the higher the amount of chemicals such as PCBs, flame retardants and DDT in an Inuit woman's blood, the fewer boys she gave birth to, suggesting that hormone-mimicking chemicals are triggering sex changes during the first three weeks of pregnancy. It was also discovered that boys who are born in Russian Arctic villages suffer from being underweight and premature."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Greenspan concedes mortgage dilemma - Yahoo! News

Greenspan concedes mortgage dilemma - Yahoo! News:
"Some blamed Greenspan's interest rate policies for feeding the housing frenzy. Sales had hit record highs and house prices galloped from 2001 to 2005. Then the market fell into a deep slump. The Greenspan Fed from early 2001 to the summer of 2003 had slashed interest rates to their lowest level in decades.

It was done to rescue the economy from the blows of the bursting of the stock market bubble, the 2001 recession, the terror attacks and a wave of accounting scandals that shook Wall Street. Critics say the Fed kept rates too low level for too long, encouraging a Wild West mentality in housing.

Greenspan, however, defended the institution's actions. 'They are mistaken,' he said of the critics. 'It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function. This required that we keep rates modestly low,' he said."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Daily Kos: Confirmed: Ocean circulation patterns changing.

Daily Kos: Confirmed: Ocean circulation patterns changing.:
"The Greenland ice cap is melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off. ... Robert Correll, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, said in Ilulissat today: 'We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at two metres an hour on a front 5km [3 miles] long and 1,500 metres deep.

That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one year to provide drinking water for a city the size of London for a year.' ... He had flown over the Ilulissat glacier and 'seen gigantic holes in it through which swirling masses of melt water were falling. I first looked at this glacier in the 1960s and there were no holes. These so-called moulins, 10 to 15 metres across, have opened up all over the place. There are hundreds of them.'"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Assholes

Chip implants linked to animal tumors - Yahoo! News: "When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients' medical records almost instantly.

The FDA found 'reasonable assurance' the device was safe, and a sub-agency even called it one of 2005's top 'innovative technologies.' But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had 'induced' malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats."

The FDA is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, which, at the time of VeriChip's approval, was headed by Tommy Thompson. Two weeks after the device's approval took effect on Jan. 10, 2005, Thompson left his Cabinet post, and within five months was a board member of VeriChip Corp. and Applied Digital Solutions. He was compensated in cash and stock options.

Brain type may dictate politics | Science | The Guardian

Brain type may dictate politics | Science | The Guardian: "Political differences might be explained by a fundamental variation in how our brains are 'wired' to process information, according to a study published today. Scientists have found that the brains of people calling themselves liberals are more able to handle conflicting and unexpected information than the brains of their conservative counterparts. The study points to a likely neurological basis for complex personality and behavioural traits. David Amodio, of New York University, writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, says conservatives were found to be 'more structured and persistent in their judgments'; in tests they had 'higher average scores' on measures of the personal need for 'order, structure and closure'. Liberals showed 'higher tolerance of ambiguity and complexity'."

Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds - New York Times

Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds - New York Times:
"The Lancet study focused on a variety of food colorings and on sodium benzoate, a common preservative. The researchers note that removing this preservative from food could cause problems in itself by increasing spoilage.

In the six-week trial, researchers gave a randomly selected group of several hundred 3-year-olds and of 8- and 9-year-olds drinks with additives — colors and sodium benzoate — that mimicked the mix in children’s drinks that are commercially available. The dose of additives consumed was equivalent to that in one or two servings of candy a day, the researchers said. Their diet was otherwise controlled to avoid other sources of the additives. A control group was given an additive-free placebo drink that looked and tasted the same.

All of the children were evaluated for inattention and hyperactivity by parents, teachers (for school-age children) and through a computer test. Neither the researchers nor the subject knew which drink any of the children had consumed. The researchers discovered that children in both age groups were significantly more hyperactive and that they had shorter attention spans if they had consumed the drink containing the additives. The study did not try to link specific consumption with specific behaviors. The study’s authors noted that other research suggested that the hyperactivity could increase in as little as an hour after artificial additives were consumed.

The Lancet study could not determine which of the additives caused the poor performances because all the children received a mix. “This was a very complicated study, and it will take an even more complicated study to figure out which components caused the effect,” Professor Stevenson said.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Things a Man Should Know About Women - Esquire

Things a Man Should Know About Women - Esquire:
Never let her arrive at an event alone.

Sometimes women want it when you don't, and for you not to give in on such occasions sets a terrible precedent.

Her job is just as important as yours.

If she works out, compliment her muscles."

Friday, September 07, 2007

7 U.S. troops killed in 2 Iraq attacks - Yahoo! News

7 U.S. troops killed in 2 Iraq attacks - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD - Four U.S. Marines were killed in fighting in Anbar province, and three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq, the military said Friday.

Britain's Defense Ministry announced Friday the death of British soldier killed two days earlier. It gave no details on where or how the soldier died."

No End in Sight

NO END IN SIGHT examines the manner in which the principal errors of U.S. policy – the use of insufficient troop levels, allowing the looting of Baghdad, the purging of professionals from the Iraqi government, and the disbanding of the Iraqi military – largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today. How did a group of men with little or no military experience, knowledge of the Arab world or personal experience in Iraq come to make such flagrantly debilitating decisions? NO END IN SIGHT dissects the people, issues and facts behind the Bush Administration’s decisions and their consequences on the ground to provide a powerful look into how arrogance and ignorance turned a military victory into a seemingly endless and deepening nightmare of a war.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Daily Kos: Reality check: "The Arctic ice cap has collapsed"

Daily Kos: Reality check: "The Arctic ice cap has collapsed": "Loss of Arctic ice leaves experts stunned David Adam, environment correspondent Guardian Unlimited Tuesday September 4 2007 The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows, scientists have announced. Experts say they are 'stunned' by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone."

CEO pay and benefits on the rise: report - Yahoo! News

CEO pay and benefits on the rise: report - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top executives at major businesses last year made as much money in one day of work on the job as the average worker made over the entire year, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Chief executive officers from the nation's biggest businesses averaged nearly $11 million in total compensation, according to the 14th annual CEO compensation survey released jointly by the Institute for Policy Studies based in Washington and United for a Fair Economy, a national organization based in Boston. At the same time, workers at the bottom rung of the U.S. economy received the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade.

But the new wage of $5.85 an hour, after being adjusted for inflation, stands 7 percent below where the minimum wage stood a decade ago.

"CEO pay, over that same decade, has increased by roughly 45 percent," the study found.

On average, CEOs at major American corporations saw $1.3 million in pension gains last year. By contrast, 58.5 percent of American households led by a 45- to 54-year old even had a retirement account in 2004, the most recent year these figures were available.

According to the report, between 2001 and 2004, retirement accounts of these average households gained only $3,775 in value a year.

The top 386 CEOs in the study took in perks, such as housing allowances and travel benefits, worth on average $438,342 in 2006. It would take a minimum wage worker 36 years to earn the equivalent of what CEOs averaged in just perks alone.

The 20 highest-paid individuals at publicly traded corporations last year took home, on average, $36.4 million. That's 38 times more than the 20 highest-paid leaders in the non-profit sector and 204 times more than the 20 highest-paid generals in the U.S. military.

American executives significantly out-earn their European counterparts, the study found. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average of $12.5 million, a third as much as the 20 highest-paid U.S. executives took home last year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

College Guys More Romantic Than Gals - Yahoo! News

College Guys More Romantic Than Gals - Yahoo! News: "The romantic guy might be found right on our college campuses. A recent study finds male undergraduate students were more likely than women to choose intimate relationships over their careers and education.

While the results seem to contradict stereotypical notions of gender roles (women choose family and men choose high-powered jobs), perhaps it's a case of how 'romance' is defined. Do guys equate a romantic relationship with a chance to get lucky?"

Overall, 61 percent of the guys chose a romantic relationship rather than achievement goals, while 51 percent of gals chose romance. The boys and men were particularly more likely to swap a career, education and traveling for "charming companions."

More specifically, just 20 percent of female students chose romantic relationships over careers, specifically, while about 35 percent of the males picked romance. About 15 percent of females said they would ditch education for romance compared with nearly 30 percent of male respondents.

"I think that those are the issues in which people find tension often in real life, between having a career and making time for relationships," Mosher told LiveScience.

Guys will be guys

Rather than revealing guys' romantic sides, the results could support the view that guys think with their…

"Maybe for the men they're thinking close romantic relationship, but that doesn't necessarily mean long-term commitment of getting married and having children," Kruger said.

Kruger also pointed out that evolutionarily, guys tried to achieve high-status positions to ensure better mating opportunities. "So in a way it's kind of like saying, you're doing all this stuff to strive for something, but if you can get that 'thing' without additional striving, wouldn’t you?" Kruger explained.

The study researchers, however, suggest female students in the study may have been so strongly committed to success along career paths they were hesitant to drop these goals for romantic relationships.

As to why romance ruled for male students, the study researchers noted that unlike women, men seem to derive more emotional support from their opposite-sex relationships than from same-sex pals.

China denies its military hacked into Pentagon network - Yahoo! News

China denies its military hacked into Pentagon network - Yahoo! News: "BEIJING — China denied charges Tuesday that its military had hacked into a Pentagon computer network, the second time in a week that the nation has fended off accusations of cyber-attacks from within its borders.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the latest charges 'reflect a Cold War mentality.' Britain's Financial Times reported in its U.S. edition Tuesday that Chinese hackers had broken into a Pentagon computer network in June, leading to a shutdown of a system that serves the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates .

The newspaper quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that the source of the attack had been traced to the People's Liberation Army. Other unnamed officials said they also were fairly certain that the attacks came from within China's military."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

SUCKERS:)

Nearly a month of 110 or more in Phoenix - Yahoo! News: "Phoenix reached a shoe-melting, spirit-crushing milestone Wednesday: 29 days of temperatures 110 degrees or higher in a single year. The previous record of 28 days was set in 1970 and matched in 2002, according to the National Weather Service. The streak is enough to vaporize any humor left in the phrase 'It's a dry heat.' The average number of days 110 or higher in a given year is 10. 'It's a dry heat because we're in a desert!' Ollie Lewis said as she walked to a bus stop in downtown Phoenix. Austin Jamison, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Phoenix, said an oven produces dry heat, too. 'You can put your head in the oven, but that's not comfortable.'"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Daily Kos: Obama's radical proposals on mortgages

Daily Kos: Obama's radical proposals on mortgages: "The intro pulls no punches, and is very heartening to me - not because it's good news that a 'devastating' financial crisis is likely, but because it is, as far as I can tell, the first acknowledgement by a senior politician anywhere of the gravity of what's unfolding. If you read my diaries, you may have noted that I personally think that the financial crisis will be massive, and I also note how important it is that Democrats put the blame properly where it belongs, i.e. in the feudalistic, class warfare economic policies of the right, which use massive debt (borne by the poor) to hide the capture of an increasingly large share of the economic pie by the ultra rich. The first step is to not deny the economic realities, and to speak up against that wall of debt, and it is good to see Obama making that step clearly."

Monday, August 27, 2007

indifference

Broadsheet: Women's Articles, Women's Stories, Women's Blog - Salon.com: "Police: Woman raped, witnesses do nothing Minnesota police report that a security camera caught a 26-year-old woman being beaten and raped for over an hour in the hallway of an apartment building. What's more, the security footage shows at least 10 neighbors peeking out of their apartments and venturing down the hallway to investigate the commotion -- but no one intervened. The police were finally called nearly 90 minutes into the attack, reports the Star Tribune. (One man claims to have called the police when the alleged victim knocked on his door, asking for help; they have no record of his call.) When police arrived, they found Rage Ibrahim, 26, lying in the hallway with the alleged victim. By then the woman was unconscious and had scratches on her face and blood on her thigh."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties - Forbes.com

Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties - Forbes.com:
"Most of the lawsuits are brought by former employees of giant firms. Some plaintiffs have testified before members of Congress, providing examples of fraud they say they witnessed and the retaliation they experienced after speaking up.
Julie McBride testified last year that as a 'morale, welfare and recreation coordinator' at Camp Fallujah, she saw KBR exaggerate costs by double- and triple-counting the number of soldiers who used recreational facilities. She also said the company took supplies destined for a Super Bowl party for U.S. troops and instead used them to stage a celebration for themselves.
'After I voiced my concerns about what I believed to be accounting fraud, Halliburton placed me under guard and kept me in seclusion,' she told the committee. 'My property was searched, and I was specifically told that I was not allowed to speak to any member of the U.S. military. I remained under guard until I was flown out of the country.'"

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Now we know who and why

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Now we know who and why: "In a clear sign that the credit crunch is still affecting the nation's largest financial institutions, the Federal Reserve agreed this week to bend key banking regulations to help out Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC), according to documents posted Friday on the Fed's web site.

The Aug. 20 letters from the Fed to Citigroup and Bank of America state that the Fed, which regulates large parts of the U.S. financial system, has agreed to exempt both banks from rules that effectively limit the amount of lending that their federally-insured banks can do with their brokerage affiliates. The exemption, which is temporary, means, for example, that Citigroup's Citibank entity can substantially increase funding to Citigroup Global Markets, its brokerage subsidiary. Citigroup and Bank of America requested the exemptions, according to the letters, to provide liquidity to those holding mortgage loans, mortgage-backed securities, and other securities.

So, how serious is this rule-bending? Very. One of the central tenets of banking regulation is that banks with federally insured deposits should never be over-exposed to brokerage subsidiaries; indeed, for decades financial institutions were legally required to keep the two units completely separate. This move by the Fed eats away at the principle."

Top Swiss banker attacks US lending standards as 'unbelievable' - Telegraph

Top Swiss banker attacks US lending standards as 'unbelievable' - Telegraph: "Switzerland's top banker has warned of massive losses from the unfolding credit crisis, describing the collapse in US lending standards as 'unbelievable'. Jean-Pierre Roth, president of the Swiss National Bank, said market turmoil was far from over as tremors from the sub-prime debacle continued to rock the world. 'We're certainly not at the end of the story. There are question marks surrounding the development of the American economy,' he said. 'Something unbelievable happened. People who had neither income nor capital got credit with very attractive conditions. Now reality is striking back,' he said."

Truth is disturbing

Daily Kos: Rolling Stone: an article that could end the war: "What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureauc­racy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Innovating stupidity

Tougher US immigration leading to 'reverse brain-drain': study - Yahoo! News: "'The United States benefits from having foreign-born innovators create their ideas in this country,' said Vivek Wadhwa, a Harvard Law School fellow and co-author of the report. 'Their departures would be detrimental to US economic well-being.' The study by researchers at Duke, New York and Harvard universities is the third in a series of studies focusing on immigrants' contributions to the US economy. In this study, 'Intellectual Property, the Immigration Backlog, and a Reverse Brain-Drain,' the researchers concluded that the number of skilled workers waiting for visas is significantly larger than the number that can be admitted to the United States. 'This imbalance creates the potential for a sizeable reverse brain-drain from the United States to the skilled workers' home countries,' the foundation said. The report said a majority of immigrant company founders, including many in the tech sector, came to the United States as students. Many ended up staying in the United States after graduation, with a number founding new companies. It said 31 percent of the startups in tech centers had an immigrant key founder, including 52.4 percent in California's Silicon Valley. The researchers said Indian immigrants founded more companies than those from the"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

no shit sherlock

Poll: Family ties key to youth happiness - Yahoo! News: "Turns out the real answer is quite different. Spending time with family was the top answer to that open-ended question, according to an extensive survey — more than 100 questions asked of 1,280 people ages 13-24 — conducted by The Associated Press and MTV on the nature of happiness among America's young people. Next was spending time with friends, followed by time with a significant other. And even better for parents: Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Unlucky in Love

still to come,
the worst part and you know it,
there is a numbness,
in your heart and it's growing,
with burnt sage and a forest of bygones,
i click my heels,
get the devils in line,
a list of things i could lay the blame on,
might give me a way out,

but with each turn,
it's this front and center,
like a dart stuck square in your eye,
every post you can hitch your faith on,
is a pie in the sky,
chock full of lies,
a tool we devise,
to make sinking stones fly,

and still to come,
the worst part and you know it,
there is a numbness,
in your heart and it's growing.

To call it a rough week is kind. There are all sorts of things you should learn from experience. To be specific, I know that if I drink more than 3 cosmos in a night, I will regret said action in the morning. Most of the time I adhere quite easily to this known fact, but still at this late stage in my life I will occasionally down a volume of cosmos that render me utterly useless.

Then there is the stuff you really don't know. Why do some people end up Paris Hilton and others child soldiers in a war over resources? Now neither of these are appealing obviously, but the question plagues me. I've tried so many ways to approach the issue: Acceptance, Defiance, Inquisition etc. I've wrestled with the relative value of struggle, the reality that humans with control of vast resources are nearly always incapable of wielding said resources effectively. I mean fucking Oprah is now telling herself that her largess is as a result of positive thinking. Oh Oprah, how you have betrayed us, but I understand. The idea that your life, existence, the universe is in anyway attributable to luck is depressing. Luck is not only completely beyond our control, it is also a complete mystery. No one even has a theory on how luck gets doled out. Similarly, there is no quota for the suffering any one person needs to bear. Now, you may argue that my pessimism is in fact "creating" bad luck. My response to that lovely cop out, is fuck you and the bullshit you rode in on.

I may not be able to penetrate the mysteries of the universe with any particularly useful insight, but I have read others much more reasoned insights and I feel that it is safe to conclude that no one has any notion of why things work out the way they do. I mean you are just as likely to find your bliss in crystals as you are in the pursuit of power.

So yes I think I am unlucky in love and if there was a way for me to give an offering to the gods that would change my luck, I would gladly oblige.

Daily Kos: UPDATED - McClatchy: Huge Fed Doleouts Followed Pro-GOP Agency Briefings

Daily Kos: UPDATED - McClatchy: Huge Fed Doleouts Followed Pro-GOP Agency Briefings:
"But, you know, it isn't just the power point parades or the pep rallies or the largesse being doled out to GOP candidates in trouble that's being investigated for Hatch Act violations. There's this, and if it has traction, it could open up a very interesting avenue into the big crimes: ...fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias revealed key new details about the Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) probe into Karl Rove and other White House officials reported today by the Los Angeles Times. Iglesias said that on April 3, he filed a Hatch Act complaint with the OSC, charging that Karl Rove and others may have violated the law by firing him over his failure to initiate partisan-motivated prosecutions. These Hatch act investigations may end up being more potent than anybody realizes. Remember, Watergate started out as a third rate burglary."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus - New York Times

Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus - New York Times: "Until this year, only pregnant women 35 and older were routinely tested to see if their fetuses had the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. As a result many couples were given the diagnosis only at birth. But under a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age. About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion. Convinced that more couples would choose to continue their pregnancies if they better appreciated what it meant to raise a child with Down syndrome, a growing group of parents is seeking to insert their own positive perspectives into a decision often dominated by daunting medical statistics and doctors who feel obligated to describe the difficulties of life with a disabled child."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

They really are watching you....

U.S. to Expand Domestic Use Of Spy Satellites - WSJ.com: "Access to the high-tech surveillance tools would, for the first time, allow Homeland Security and law-enforcement officials to see real-time, high-resolution images and data, which would allow them, for example, to identify smuggler staging areas, a gang safehouse, or possibly even a building being used by would-be terrorists to manufacture chemical weapons."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 08/08/2007 | Hedge funds may pose a risk to U.S. economy

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 08/08/2007 | Hedge funds may pose a risk to U.S. economy: "The funds — managed pools of investors' money, often supplemented with huge borrowings from banks — often bet on highly speculative and exotic financial derivatives, such as 'options,' which more regulated mutual funds aren't allowed to buy, and that poses risks to all the U.S. financial institutions that are tied to them, as much of Wall Street is. It poses risks to the broader economy as well, and those risks are impossible to measure because no one knows how risky hedge fund assets are. The big systemic risk is that 'people don't know anything about (hedge fund) activities,' said Steven Brown, a finance expert at New York University's Stern Business School. 'When you have a complete lack of disclosure, everybody is locked in the same category, and the sins of the few are visited on the many.'"