Archive for April 26th, 2010

Pandas: the evil truth


Jim Treacher explains.


For other 30-somethings, it’s just a hobby


Stacy McCain finds fault with young bloggers and their “intellectual grievance culture.”

JFTR, Stace, we’re not all like that.


Nationalize US banks?


Former IMF chief economist, Simon Johnson, thinks it’s necessary in the short term to get to the root of one of the major problems that caused the GFC.

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

The American Right would have a fit if Obama suggested that, but Johnson insists it would only be temporary.

The challenges the United States faces are familiar territory to the people at the IMF. If you hid the name of the country and just showed them the numbers, there is no doubt what old IMF hands would say: nationalize troubled banks and break them up as necessary.

Nationalization would not imply permanent state ownership. The IMF’s advice would be, essentially: scale up the standard Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation process. An FDIC “intervention” is basically a government-managed bankruptcy procedure for banks. It would allow the government to wipe out bank shareholders, replace failed management, clean up the balance sheets, and then sell the banks back to the private sector. The main advantage is immediate recognition of the problem so that it can be solved before it grows worse.

In fact, Johnson goes even further.

This may seem like strong medicine. But in fact, while necessary, it is insufficient. The second problem the U.S. faces—the power of the oligarchy—is just as important as the immediate crisis of lending. And the advice from the IMF on this front would again be simple: break the oligarchy.

An overhaul of anti-trust legislation is also proposed.

Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.

The entire article is well worth consideration. Either way, something has to change. Some economists out there are far from convinced the crash is truly over. Anyone who’s signed up to Newsmax email alerts will be familiar with this. Me? I dunno. But what I do know is that my investments (global) still aren’t making any serious headway (although they’re not hemorrhaging anymore), and that’s a bit of a bugger. That, and my Australian tax dollars aren’t being used appropriately… and I suspect many of my American buddies feel the same about theirs.


The rise of the Palin Brand


Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine has an in-depth look into the cash and ratings magnet that is Sarah Palin in 2010. If she’s on Fox, their ratings go up. Likewise for Saturday Night Live. And the millions keep pouring in.

The numbers are staggering. Over the past year, Palin has amassed a $12 million fortune and shows no sign of slowing down. Her memoir has so far sold more than 2.2 million copies, and Palin is planning a second book with HarperCollins. This January, she signed a three-year contributor deal with Fox News worth $1 million a year, according to people familiar with the deal. In March, Palin and Burnett sold her cable show to TLC for a reported $1 million per episode, of which Palin is said to take in about $250,000 for each of the eight installments.

It’s certainly been a turnaround since her debt ridden days following the 2008 US election campaign. Finally, she decided to do what so many others were doing – cashing in on the Palin Brand. Whether it’s headlining Tea Party rallies, going on Fox, being bagged at MSNBC, being the star attraction at fundraisers, or giving yet another public speech, Palin is a fixture on the US political landscape that’s not going away any time soon.

As for a 2012 presidential run? I’ll have a bet each way. It’s too early to tell. Regardless, if she does decide to run, she’ll have amassed a considerable war chest by then, let alone what she could generate in election donations. It would be akin to what Obama managed. But will she necessarily run on a GOP ticket? I wouldn’t be surprised if she did run, but as an independent.


H/T

Cool pic of a hot sun


Not that it affects climate change, though. That’s due to the small human contribution of an odourless, colorless, life-essential trace gas in the atmosphere and oceans.

The high-resolution images, which are ten times more detailed than those of high-definition television, were taken from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which took off from Cape Canaveral in February.

Data from the spacecraft will transform scientists’ understanding of the Sun’s magnetic field, and its solar flares and coronal mass ejections that send spurts of charged particles tearing out into space, sometimes towards Earth.




Obama OKs hyperfast missiles


Credit where credit’s due.

HAUNTED by the memory of a lost opportunity to kill Osama Bin Laden before he attacked the World Trade Center in New York, US military planners have won President Barack Obama’s support for a new generation of high-speed weapons that are intended to strike anywhere on Earth within an hour.

That’s a handy ability to have.

White House officials confirmed last week that the president, who won the Nobel peace prize last year, is considering the deployment of a new class of hypersonic guided missiles that can reach their targets at speeds of Mach 5 — about 3,600mph.

That is nearly seven times faster than the 550mph Tomahawk cruise missiles that arrived too late to kill Bin Laden at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1998.

Second time lucky?

Meanwhile, China and Russia are concerned. Frankly, China should be more concerned at how much they’re helping out Iran and North Korea. And Russia should just concentrate on keeping Gazprom profitable.


NK general promoted for sinking SK ship: possibility


When the the South Korean warship, the Cheonan sank about a month ago, no one was sure how it happened at first. But then last week, it emerged that it was likely a torpedo. And today, we see a photo of a formerly three star North Korean general now sporting four stars.

On March 26 a explosion sank the Cheonan, a 1,200-tonne South Korean corvette, near the countries’ border with the loss of 46 lives.

Seoul officials suspect a torpedo attack – possibly in revenge for the November clash. They have not so far publicly blamed Pyongyang pending a full-scale multinational investigation.

The general — sporting his four stars — was shown briefing the North’s leader Kim Jong-Il in front of a camouflaged military base at an undisclosed location.

JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said Kim was not among those named in a mass promotion of generals to mark this month’s birth anniversary of the North’s founder Kim Il-Sung.

“It is extremely rare for a general who wasn’t included in the main promotion to move up a rank in a separate move,” an unidentified official told the paper.

As per usual, however, it’s near impossible getting any thruths out of that backwards Commie gangster paradise.


It would depend on whether they’re Vulcans or Klingons


And Stephen Hawking is predicting they’re Klingons.

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” said the astrophysicist in a new television series, according to British media reports.

What if they were Protestant Klingons? But perhaps that’s moot.

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach,” warned Hawking.




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