We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Tuesday, October 30. 2007
A California doc with some good proposals for medical insurance, at Pajamas. Practical, and not scary for the poor. Got to listen to the docs in the trenches, not the pandering pols.
Five years for one manly punch? Something wrong there.
Rudy: Hillarycare would have killed me. Surber
NYS: A driver's license that labels you as illegal
The world's oldest clam. Blue Crab. Yum - vintage clam.
The new Cardinal of Baghdad.
If global warming causes more rainfall, why try to blame droughts on it? Flopping. And yes, I am still waiting for more hurricanes. I love stormy weather.
Mukesh's new billion dollar home.
Gender and Science: Globe
You're a good man, Brian Lamb
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Here, in the mild Southeast, tropical weather provides most of our annual rain fall. No storm in the gulf, no rain. I'm rooting for more tropical storms
What will World War IV cost ?
How about $32,000 each, $5 gas and a military draft for your kids
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Last Update: 7:19 PM ET Oct 29, 2007
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- First, let's clear the air: Someone please tell the White House we're already fighting World War III. Yes, they're great at picking buzzwords, but the truth is our global "war on terror" has engaged (or enraged) every nation on the planet.
And according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates it's costing America a whopping $2.4 trillion. That's $8,000 for each of us. So what'll the coming WWIV add? And how will it impact your retirement? Scary huh!
WWIV already? Yes, the White House is preparing us for an invasion of Iran. That case has been made by many neocons, most recently by Norman Podhoretz in his new book, "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism." And as Pat Buchanan reacted on MSNBC's "Hardball" about all their warning signals: "I don't see how [the White House] can avoid attacking Iran and retaining their credibility going out of office."
So what will WWIV cost you and me personally? This is crucial, folks, because every dollar spent on expanding our global "wars on terror" will be one less dollar for your retirement nest egg, your health care, your kids education, your grandkids lifestyle -- all of which are being outsourced to a free market system that's forcing you to take personal responsibility rather than get benefits from government or Corporate America.
Shortly after I posted a column on "Disaster Capitalism" (outsourcing government and military operations to mercenaries and Corporate America) the President did threaten Iran about starting "World War III." See previous Paul B. Farrell.
And suddenly, before you can say "veto," Congress and the media have once again caved, accepting the inevitability of WWIV in 2008, beginning with an attack on Iran.
Estimating costs easy, but politicians in denial
OK folks, I'm not a Pentagon strategist, but have some experience, starting with volunteering for the Marines in Korea. Since then stuff like military strategies, weapons, economics and financing wars have fascinated me. Everything: Big stuff like Alexander Hamilton's commitment to repay Revolutionary War debt, detailed by a Goldman Sachs vice chairman. And little stuff like the Civil War when J.P. Morgan financed a deal to buy old rifles from the U.S. Army for $3.50, refit them and sell them back to the Army for $22 each, proof "Disaster Capitalism" is nothing new for Wall Street!
Economic forecasting is also not new for me. Over the years I've had to estimate the cost impact of a Navy Weapons Systems Research Lab and the debt load of the N.Y. State New Towns Development Corporation. At Morgan Stanley I analyzed the Federal New Town Program for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and some troubled banks, even predicting that deregulation would create a debt bubble and collapse the S&L industry.
In fact, such estimates are quite simple, just politically inconvenient. One was even classified secret by the government. So let's estimate the potential economic costs of the coming WWIV:
Economic costs can be estimated by extrapolating from demographics. We're already fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have a combined population of 60 million. Generals are already telling us our volunteer military and equipment are near "broken," strategically unable to engage on new fronts.
Still we are planning to attack Iran, a country of 65 million, at a time when its neighbor Pakistan, a country of 165 million, is rapidly destabilizing and it is a country that already has nuclear weapons and also offers sanctuary to Taliban and al-Qaida extremists. Others will be stirred to retaliate. So we could increase our exposure to hostile enemies by four times.
In addition to demographics, land mass is another factor in estimating military costs: Remember, we haven't been able to find Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan for four years, even with a $50 million "dead or alive" bounty. And today our so-called ally Pakistan is offering him and his warriors a safe haven.
If we attack Iran our battlefield terrain exposure increases by 635,000 square miles on top of the 420,000 square miles in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, plus another potential 340,000 square miles in Pakistan and others. The geography alone could overwhelm a military already stretched thin. The costs will go through the roof. A military draft will be essential.
Will they listen?
I have no illusions that our political leaders will give more than lip service to any estimates of war costs. After all, they are already ignoring estimates from the CBO as well as the Government Accountability Office, driven by an ideology convinced that "deficits don't matter."
But living in denial can't erase the fact that the added debt of WWIV will have an enormous impact on America. And it will certainly have a profound personal impact on every single investor, far, far more damaging than any failure to save "enough" for retirement. Or failure to pick the right index funds. Or failure to set up a diversified portfolio.
Why? Because the cost of WWIV will overwhelm all those other mistakes we make as individual investors.
So what can you personally expect as your cost from WWIV? We know an attack on Iran will also trigger widespread insurgencies in other Muslim nations siding with Iran, likely Pakistan and Syria. We can also expect Russia and China to increase their indirect support to insurgents, to keep the war fires burning and keep the price of oil high, further undermining America's credibility and diminishing the value of the dollar as a reserve currency.
The added debt costs of World War IV seem obvious: An estimated cost of $10 trillion to fight for a decade is not unreasonable, four times the cost of the current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global "wars on terror." And personally that will add roughly $32,000 more debt for every American -- which is more than half what the average American currently has saved for retirement.
Underneath all these numbers, however, I feel a deep sense of sadness. Since the President's "WWIII" threat, the economic lobe in my brain has been flashing new danger signals, reminding me of a warning by Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips in "Wealth & Democracy:" "Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt, and ultimately burning themselves out."
Once again, the lessons of history have been lost on the posturing of macho egos.
Halloween's a great time for spooky warnings, even if no one listens. But maybe you also hear a growing drum beat, echoing the Iraq war run-up. Unfortunately, no new leaders seem willing to stand up to the coming "darkness" ... to use Robert Redford's recent comment in The Week magazine on the release of his new film, "Lions for Lambs:"
"I had great hopes that people would see movies like 'The Candidate' and 'All the King's Men' and say 'Hey if we're not careful, we might get snookered.' I discovered we Americans enjoy the distraction of entertainment but aren't really interested in the deeper message. We don't like to look inward; we don't like the darkness."
And that's what really saddens me: Because, paradoxically, by not looking within the darkness gets darker until it consumes our souls, like in "The Night of the Living Dead." Happy Halloween! End of Story
Sharpton chides Cheney over Confederate flag
BY JOE GOULD and DAVE GOLDINER
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Tuesday, October 30th 2007, 12:59 AM
EXCLUSIVE: The Confederate flag hangs inside a garage at the Clove Valley Rod and Gun Club.
Nobody got shot, but Vice President Cheney still fired up controversy Monday when he went hunting at a private club that hangs the Confederate flag.
A Daily News photographer captured the 3-by-5 foot Dixie flag affixed to a door in the garage of the Clove Valley Gun and Rod Club in upstate Union Vale, N.Y.
"It's appalling for the VP to be at a private club displaying the flag of lynching, hate and murder," said the Rev. Al Sharpton. "It's the epitome of an insult."
Sharpton demanded Cheney distance himself from the exclusive club where the Stars and Bars was flown, and said he might hold a prayer vigil there.
Club officials threatened a reporter with arrest when he sought comment.
The flag fiasco is especially upsetting because blacks have recently been subjected to an upsurge of racial threats, including nooses left in Jena, La., and Columbia University, he said.
"This is an outrage - he ought to leave immediately," Sharpton told The News. "He ought to apologize to the American people for being there in the first place."(more)
Why doesn't somebody find out where Twanna Brawley is and parade her around with Preach'n Al...this guy needs a bad whoop smackdown (more)
I saw that, wasn't sure whether to bother commenting on loony Rev Al.
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Monday October 29 2007
A clam that lived on the seabed in the frigid waters off Iceland's north coast has been hailed as the longest-lived animal ever discovered.
The mollusc, which is thought to have lurked beneath the waves until at least the age of 405, would have been a juvenile when Galileo picked up his first telescope, Hamlet was first staged and the gunpowder plot failed to blow up King James I. (more)
Musical tribute by ELVIS not to be missed ..it's at the 1 minute 50 seconds mark of this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T85TYRGtyks
Well it was just announced that Stan O'Neill at Merrill Lynch will leave immediately.
As a broker who worked for Merrill when Mr O'Neill took the helm I can tell you he was a frigg'in disaster from day one and looked for all the world and most of the company as the "token" first black CEO of a Wall Street Firm.
Now he lost Merrill more money than any other CEO ever..by a wide, wide, margin.
Merrill Lynch & Co., the world’s largest brokerage firm, reported a net third-quarter loss of $2.4 billion Wednesday and acknowledged writing off $8.4 billion in assets from failed investments in subprime mortgage-linked securities.
The massive write-off exceeded the Wall Street giant’s net earnings for all of 2006. It equals about one-eighth of the investment bank’s total market capitalization.
The announcement sent shock waves through Wall Street, setting off a sharp decline on the New York Stock Exchange that was only reversed when data showing a continuing decline in the housing market persuaded traders that the Federal Reserve Board would impose a further cut in interest rates when it meets next week.
The impact of Merrill Lynch’s bleak report was magnified by the fact that only two-and-a-half weeks before Chairman and CEO Stanley O’Neal had estimated that the firm’s write-off resulting from the meltdown in the housing and credit markets would total $5 billion—a huge sum, but considerably less than the $8.4 billion the company reported on Wednesday.
Merrill’s shares plunged 6.3 percent and all of the major rating agencies downgraded the company’s credit. A spokesman for Standard and Poor’s called the $2.4 billion loss “startling” and the write-off “staggering.”
I wonder how many millions he'll get for this "wonderful management" 50 million? 100 million? ..not to worry it'll be a big big number ....you can't fail on Wall Street at that level...at least in the pocketbook..your investors may all be broke but you'll be just fine.
Interesting article from a guy who would seem to possess all the credentials to make his claims wholly valid. Aside from the FACT that if we do not bomb Iran (no one is talking about putting boots on the ground) Israel will thus creating a far worse situation tha if we do it. To crush Paul B. Ferrell's myopic view of costs I offer the unseen of Bastiat as applied to war and not solely economics.
Equally important is what Fredric Bastiat labelled That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen .
In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause - it is seen. The others unfold in succession - they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference - the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, - at the risk of a small present evil.
In fact, it is the same in the science of health, arts, and in that of morals. It often happens, that the sweeter the first fruit of a habit is, the more bitter are the consequences. Take, for example, debauchery, idleness, prodigality. When, therefore, a man absorbed in the effect which is seen has not yet learned to discern those which are not seen, he gives way to fatal habits, not only by inclination, but by calculation.
This explains the fatally grievous condition of mankind. Ignorance surrounds its cradle: then its actions are determined by their first consequences, the only ones which, in its first stage, it can see. It is only in the long run that it learns to take account of the others. It has to learn this lesson from two very different masters - experience and foresight. Experience teaches effectually, but brutally. It makes us acquainted with all the effects of an action, by causing us to feel them; and we cannot fail to finish by knowing that fire burns, if we have burned ourselves. For this rough teacher, I should like, if possible, to substitute a more gentle one. I mean Foresight. For this purpose I shall examine the consequences of certain economical phenomena, by placing in opposition to each other those which are seen, and those which are not seen
The effect unseen of allowing a state sponsor of terrorism to gain the bomb is an unseen that we can't begin to calculate. We may burn ourselves with casualties but who would not fight rather than to live on ones knees?
Maggies Farm is name of a news print circulated for several months in Colorado Springs, circa 1972.
We didn't want to work for Her then, either.
I hope the new Chaldean Cardinal focuses attention upon Iraqi Christians that have not fled the country and builds a large baptisary, to boot, for the great unwashed that fowl the land.
Should the Demonrats take the helm in '09', me thinks, the open doors and windows will surely procure a renewed dastardly draft, though God forbid.
Here's hoping the greater SE gets an early Noel full of storming weather.
How about a 159 MILLION DOLLAR severance package for a man who created the biggest losses in Merrill history
Investors Business Daily
By EUGENE ROBINSON | Posted Monday, October 29, 2007 4:30 PM PT edited by Habu
The real story on Wall Street isn't that E. Stanley O'Neal, whose grandfather was born a slave, is being shoved out of the top job at Merrill Lynch, the gargantuan investment bank.
More important is the fact that . . . well, Tom Wolfe said it best in "The Bonfire of the Vanities," his romp through the world of hubris and high finance, with this description of the novel's protagonist:
From cotton-picker to Uber-Master.
"On Wall Street he and a few others — how many? — three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? — had become precisely that . . . Masters of the Universe."
Actually, O'Neal rose to such heights that the number of his professional peers was nowhere near 300 — more like three or four.
The downfall has been pretty spectacular. Merrill Lynch had to disclose last week that the company took a loss of $8.4 billion in the subprime mortgage meltdown — much greater than the damage suffered by other huge investment firms such as Goldman Sachs.
Merrill's board of directors — most of whose members were chosen by O'Neal — has to share responsibility for that debacle; it's not as if the board was unaware of how O'Neal was investing the firm's money. Apparently, though, there was one thing that O'Neal failed to tell the board: that he had approached the CEO of Wachovia Corp. about a possible merger of the two companies.
That's not the sort of thing you want your board to hear through the grapevine.
On Monday, O'Neal was reportedly negotiating the terms of his departure. If you're worried that he'll be destitute, dry your eyes. O'Neal has been one of the best-paid executives on Wall Street — he took home around $48 million last year — and the New York Times reports that he may get a severance package of at least $159 million That's crazy money.
Puh-leeze. Diversity is about leveling the playing field, opening doors and giving people a chance. By all accounts, O'Neal rose to the top the old-fashioned way — fighting, scraping, biting, scratching.
He was hired as CEO in 2002 to shake up what was seen as a complacent, slow-moving corporate culture. He did just that, cutting nearly 24,000 jobs, eliminating corporate perks and taking the company — once known as "Mother Merrill" for its comfortable ambience and its settled predictability — into riskier and more lucrative arenas, such as the subprime mortgage market.
O'Neal produced huge profits for the firm; last year, net income was a record $7.5 billion. On the job, at least, he made no attempt to be a nice guy. The Wall Street Journal reports that O'Neal would rake his executives over the coals if quarterly earnings reports showed that rival Goldman Sachs was outperforming Merrill in some area.
What's really significant is that there is a Stan O'Neal. And a Dick Parsons, the African-American CEO of Time Warner, rumored to be on his way out, too, after a long and profitable run. And a Ken Chenault, the African-American CEO of American Express, who is staying put, far as I know. And a Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, widely acknowledged as the first African-American billionaire.
Just two or three generations removed from slavery, they rose to control big chunks of the American economy. They attained Master of the Universe status by being smarter and tougher than their peers — and now a much bigger cohort of black corporate executives is coming up behind them. It just goes to show what happens when you open a door.
Baloney, he was a token and everyone at Merrill knew it at the time. It was a time for corporate American to "DO the Right Thing" ....there were much better men to run Merrill than O'Neill. Habu