Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for March 15th, 2010

Rest in peace, Ted Olbermann

Posted by Charles II on March 15, 2010

He had a hard last few months.

Donations to the National Association of Free Clinics in lieu of flowers.

Keith’s brief overview of his father’s life is here.

Posted in Keith Olbermann, Sad things | Comments Off on Rest in peace, Ted Olbermann

The Bear Case

Posted by Charles II on March 15, 2010

This has been a nasty season to be a stock market bear. If you went short the market when it was at over-bought levels in mid-January, and held beyond when it drifted down 8%, you are now probably sitting on some unrealized losses (very soon to be realized if you had March options). If you bought after the peak, your losses (realized or not) are probably substantial. An August $18 put on the Bank of America purchased in mid-February at $3.90 is now at $2.22 (though this may also be because the fear of lawsuits is receding). Trading options is not for the faint of heart.

So, is there a reason to be optimistic on the market? Retail money has certainly been appropriately cautious, which is a good sign. When the lady at the diner is giving you stock tips on technology companies is the time to cash in. When she’s buying krugerrands and stocking up on basic grains, it’s probably a great time to buy stocks. There are also good reasons to discount the claims that portfolios are already very aggressive in stocks. M-1 and M-2, the best measures of liquidity, are at new highs. That means that there is a lot of money sloshing around checking accounts, if not actually under the mattress. Nor should the very large sums of bad commercial real estate mortgages and prime mortgages be too off-setting. The system has already worked off almost two years of elevated defaults. While that means maybe 3-5 years to go before they start to approach normal levels, the kind of mindless fear that drives panics is now bounded by a more definite sense of the size of the crisis.

But there are a lot of reasons to believe that there is at least one more leg to the bear market. First is valuation.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in economy, financial crisis, mortgage crisis | 2 Comments »

People In Minnesota Love Them Some Mass Transit

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 15, 2010

Just as the ridership numbers for the Hiawatha light-rail line far exceeded initial expectations, the ridership numbers for the North Star commuter rail service managed to be slightly higher than projected despite two trips having to be cancelled due to mechanical glitches.

Thanks go to Jesse Ventura for pushing this through over the objections of then-House leader Tim Pawlenty (who amazingly switched to being a “supporter” of the line once it was a done deal). Thank you, Jesse!

Posted in transportation, when government is a good thing | Tagged: | Comments Off on People In Minnesota Love Them Some Mass Transit

Looks Like Pete Peterson Wrote Out Yet Another Check

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 15, 2010

Because this anti-Social-Security story reads like he’d custom ordered it:

For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits — billions more each year.

Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.

Oh noez! That’s eight whole years earlier than predicted! Eeeek!

Except that’s not that big of a deal, as AARP explains:

Myth: The fund starts getting into trouble in 2018.

Not true. The year 2018 is when Social Security benefit payments are expected to exceed payroll tax revenues. That’s not exactly cataclysmic. Reason: from 2018 through 2027, incoming tax revenue combined with interest earnings will still be enough to pay benefits and build the trust fund balance. Beginning in 2028, as mentioned, the trust fund principal will have to be tapped, and that’ll get us through 2042—even if we do nothing.

Clearly a tune-up is needed to extend Social Security’s life beyond that horizon. “But dismantling the whole system would be like buying a new car because the one you have has a flat tire,” says Peter R. Orszag, a senior fellow of economic studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

But of course the privatizers want to get at the trillions in Social Security’s trust fund, so they can skim 14% to 20% straight off the top, as compared to the fraction of 1% in overhead costs of Social Security as it’s currently configured. This would reduce your benefits by 14% to 20% — something the privatizers don’t want you to know.

Oh, and the reason why Social Security might be putting out more this year than it takes in? The bad economy and stock market. What do the privatizers want you to do? Let them take your money out of nice, safe, fraction-of-1%-overhead Social Security and put it in the casino that is the open stock market. I think you can see what’s wrong with that concept.

Posted in 'starving the beast', big money, privatization, Social Security, You're On Your Own-ership Society | 2 Comments »

Honduran dictatorship, Day 48

Posted by Charles II on March 15, 2010

A quick look at the blogs.

Adrienne has a great cartoon (with English translation) from Tiempo that you should just go read. Just go!

Adrienne has a sobering link to the recent State Department country report on Honduras. I thought the most hallucinatory passage was the following, but it’s in strenuous competition from many others like it:

Prior to the June coup, there were reports that the government or its agents [who were committing common crimes and drug trafficking] committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, particularly of youths and children by vigilante groups that may have included members of the security forces. Following the June coup, there were reports that the de facto regime or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings [for purposes of political repression.

So, see? The coup didn’t change anything because there was killing before and killing afterward.

From an interview translated by Adrienne Pine of Gilberto Rios of Los Necios:

The people from the U.S. embassy offered arms to the Resistance to make it military. Nobody would have guessed that we could march for 200 days in peace. It was strategic to avoid deaths.

Let that sink in. He alleges that the US government wanted violent conflict between its puppet government and the Resistance. (See RAJ’s take here)

In Part II of Juan Almendares’s translated piece at Adrienne’s, an excerpt of the psychotropic propaganda being pumped out by the Honduran pro-coup press about the eviction of squatters at Bajo Aguan:

The interviewer asks: “There is reporting that many foreigners from Nicaragua and Ecuador have entered the zone. ¿Have they entered the zone?” The Police Sub-Chief responds in the affirmative. The Police Sub-Chief’s statements, the military intelligence report coincide with the assertions of Mr. Miguel Facussé, one of the owners of African palm plantations, who claims: “the peasants have AK-47s, there are foreigners with Cuban, Nicaraguan, Ecuadorian accents, there an insurrection is simmering, I don’t think it is the people themselves, but they are being agitated from outside.” (Hondudiario Digital.com, March 8, 2010.)

It’s just amazing that they have so many guerrillas who can’t be produced, so many foreigners who can’t be deported, so many invisible weapons. What’s even more amazing is that there are Hondurans stupid enough to believe this nonsense.

RNS on the State Department’s hate affair with populism.

Brother John on land issues and why they are central to conflict in Latin America.

In a report by Claudia Korol, COPINH is holding the second annual gathering to re-found Honduras in La Esperanza. Giorgio Trucchi at Rebelion on a speech by Carlos H. Reyes on the need to”re-found Honduras.

Eric Torres Alvarez has a film on the coup up at Axis of Logic.

Mark Weisbrot has a vid of Hillary Clinton’s Latin America tour on The Real News.

And that’s what I have time for.

Posted in Honduras, Latin America | Comments Off on Honduran dictatorship, Day 48

 
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