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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bomber Who Killed 7 in Afghanistan Wasn't Searched

By now, most have heard that seven employees of the CIA were killed in Afghanistan. Now, it's being reported that he was an informant and invited onto the base.

The bomber who killed seven CIA employees and wounded six more at a remote outpost in southeastern Afghanistan had been invited onto the base and had not been searched, two former U.S. officials have told The Associated Press.

A former senior intelligence official says the man was being courted as an informant and that it was the first time he had been brought inside the camp.

The official says a senior and experienced CIA debriefer came from Kabul for the meeting, suggesting that the purpose of the meeting was to gain intelligence.

The former intelligence officials and another former official with knowledge of the attack spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

This news broke just in the last couple hours. Everyone is planning New Years but watch this blow up over the weekend.

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!

13 AG's Threaten Suit

Good catch for Politico.

Thirteen Republican state attorneys general are threatening to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Senate health care bill.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said he had “grave concerns” about the deal Senate leaders cut with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to secure his crucial vote for the health care package.

“The current iteration of the bill contains a provision that affords special treatment to the state of Nebraska under the federal Medicaid program,” writes McMaster. “We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed. As chief legal officers of our states we are contemplating a legal challenge to this provision and we ask you to take action to render this challenge unnecessary by striking that provision.”

There's plenty of politics here. Henry McMasters is running for Governor in South Carolina and so are several of the 13 that signed the provision. The article didn't say what constitutional ground these folks would challenge under but I assume it's the fourteenth amendment which stipulates everyone is treated equally under the law. As such, a state can't get special favors that other states don't get.

Video, Quote and Word of the Day

egress (noun)

the act of going out or leaving

Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.

William Shakespeare

Parking Meter Firm Defends Rate Hike?

I don't which is the bigger Chicago story of 2009, losing the Olympics or the debacle surrounding the parking meters. They're certainly cut out of the same cloth. On the eve of the new year, the beneficiaries of the parking meters are defending their latest rate hike.

Avis LaVelle, a spokeswoman for Chicago Parking Meters LLC, touted technological
advances such as the ability to use credit cards at the pay boxes in defending the higher costs to drivers."It's a greatly enhanced system that offers motorists many more conveniences than before," LaVelle said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, one of five aldermen to vote against the meter lease in December 2008, called the argument that Chicagoans have benefited with better parking meter technology because of the lease laughable.

Of course, it's laughable. These folks are now near a 400% increase in the rates for parking in Chicago since they took over.

Of course, it makes absolutely no difference. At this point, the only folks that view Chicago Parking Meters LLC favorably are friends and family. Their awful image makes not the slightest difference. They're the only game in town. That's what happens when the mayor hands a private company a monopoly on parking meters.

When you're a monopoly, image is ultimatelyirrelevant.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Inside the Mind of Dr. Anna Chacko

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, for only $3.99, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

5[1][1].29.09 Second Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial

That's a copy of a civil complaint filed on behalf of Kristi George against Dr. Anna Chacko and the hospital that employed both at the time of the incidents in question, St. James Hospital. Both George and Chacko worked at St. James Hospital in Butte, Montana from July of 2007 through September of 2008. The complaint lists how Dr. Anna Chacko systematically maligned, disparaged, and lied about Kristi George in an attempt to have Kristi George fired. In fact, Chacko began, according to the complaint, to attack George on Chacko's first day of work even though George was still on vacation then. As such, Chacko was attacking George even though they hadn't yet really met and certainly hadn't yet worked together. (of course, it's important to note that this complaint was filed on behalf of George and so it's fair to call it one sided. This case has since been settled and sealed)

To understand the inner workings of the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko you need to ask yourself a very important question about this complaint. That question is why. Why did Dr. Chacko disparage Kristi George? In fact, in its own demented way, this wasn't personal. Now, I'm sure that Kristi George may likely take issue with that characterization. After all, if someone attacks you while you're on vacation, you might find it personal. In fact, Dr. Chacko attacked Kristi George because of her job title. Kristi George was the radiology manager at St. James, an administrative position. One of the duties of the radiology manager is to buy radiology equipment when necessary. In an honest process, the radiology manager brings in all legitimate firms and then compares prices, service, quality, etc.

An honest process wasn't what Dr. Anna Chacko was looking for, and so, Kristi George needed to be marginalized. In fact, within a couple months, Dr. Chacko was able to convince the CEO, James Kiser, to remove the responsibility of purchasing equipment from George and instead give it to herself. From there, Dr. Chacko proceeded to purchase more than two million dollars worth of radiology equipment and almost all went to GE. In fact, everywhere Dr. Chacko goes, GE gets a lot of her business. Some of the radiology equipment that Dr. Chacko purchased is about to be repossessed as the hospital is struggling to make the payments on them. According to a private investigator, each and everytime Dr. Chacko is able to make a radiology equipment purchase, she invariably winds up with a piece of land, money in her account, or some other perk. So, taken together, Dr. Chacko went after and attacked Kristi George because she's honest and held the wrong title at St. James.

To further understand the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko let's take a look at an article from Pittsburgh about her. (Chacko took over as head of radiology in the Pittsburgh VA after leaving St. James)

Miller said the decision followed Chacko's allegations that one of her superiors, Dr. Mona Melhem, "potentially compromised patient care and subjected patients to increased doses of radiation."

The agent involved in these doses is called Thallium. That's the agent that Dr. Chacko complained was harming patients. Thallium is a radioisotope used to perform heart scans. Her complaints were so vociferous that the Inspector General was forced to investigate. The Inspector General concluded the VA did nothing wrong in administering thallium into their x ray exams.

Well the IG should have. Multiple radiologists I spoke with told me that while Thallium is radioactive it's very low grade. A sort of competing agent is Molybdenum. (it's not quite that simple but let's leave it there) That's also low grade. All the radiologists I spoke with said that which you use is entirely contextual and dependent on a series of factors. One thing that's important to note is that Thallium is much more readily available than Molybdenum, which is only made in one lab in Canada.

To understand the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko, you also need to know that she's a part owner in a company called, Moly99Montana. I can't be certain what Moly99Montana is for but I have a big hunch. Now, imagine if a head of radiology in a VA hospital were able to convince the brass at the VA that Thallium was dangerous. Imagine further that the same doctor owned a company that produced the competing agent, Molybdenum. Imagine that this same doctor already had a long standing relationship with a powerful company that had the resources to help produce Molybdenum on a mass scale. Since there's only one other lab producing this, there's little competition. Once Thallium is deemed too dangerous, there will need to be some company to supply Molybdenum. Soon, the same doctor has just orchestrated so that their company is the sole provider of molybdenum to the entire VA system. Welcome to the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko.

Dr. Chacko arrived at the Pittsburgh VA in October of 2008. One person that was significantly responsible for bringing her over was Dr. Mona Melhem. It would surprise some to learn that Dr. Chacko then proceeded to viciously attack Dr. Melhem for the entire time that Chacko was at the Pittsburgh VA. In fact, Dr. Chacko complained about Dr. Melhem to both the IG's office and to the whistleblower tipline. Why would Chacko attack the person that brought her over?

That goes back to an incident that occurred before Dr. Chacko even arrived at the Pittsburgh VA. In this incident a rare strand of legionella was destroyed by the administration of the VA. The strand was the culmination of years of research by Dr. Joseph Vu, who had been fired months earlier by the VA. This incident received so much attention that Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina's 13th district held an investigation in his science sub committee. The conclusion of that investigation put much of the blame on the same Dr. Mona Melhem.

So, when Dr. Chacko came into the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Mona Melhem was a weakened and vulnerable leader. If you were going to try and take out anyone in the Pittsburgh VA, Dr. Mona Melhem was going to be the easiest target. If you take out someone in the leadership, your own power grows. With that power, you're free to do as you please, like say buy all the GE equipment you want. In fact, Dr. Anna Chacko was pushing the VA to replace millions of dollars worth of radiology equipment and replace it all with GE equipment and Dr. Melhem was one of the people that resisted. Dr. Chacko was still putting pressure on the administration to replace said equipment at the time of her removal.

Finally, Dr. Anna Chacko worked as the director of radiology at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) from 2001-2005. Lahey Clinic is a rather well respected clinic and much of its staff is long term there. Some have been there most if not all their careers, thirty and forty years. In fact, a couple of the radiologists on the staff had previously been the director of radiology at Lahey and had stepped down and ceded power. As such, these were doctors of power and prestige.

Of course, between staff and support, there are those that have only been there months or a few years. To understand the mind of Dr. Anna Chacko, you go back to the initial meeting she had with staff. At this meeting she opened up by saying something like,

I know some of you were against my hiring, but moving forward we're working as a team

This was a shot across the bow, as the person who told me the story described Chacko's words. The process was in fact contentious to hire Chacko. In fact, one could assume that the process to hire the head of radiology at an institution like Lahey would always be contentious. So, Chacko may have known that some were against her or she may have just assumed it.

Chacko then spent the next five years playing mind games with each and every person in the department. She was abusive and demeaning with the lowest level staffers: secretaries and the like. She'd call the radiology main number and if the secretary didn't answer she'd run out of her office and scream at the secretary mercilessly in front of the staff. Chacko eventually disallowed the secretaries from taking lunch and forced them to eat at their desks.

The radiologists with intermediate years of service Chacko would also play mindgames with. She'd bring a radiologist into her office and then ask

why does so and so hate you

Then, Chacko would bring in so and so and reverse the process.

Finally, those with respect, Chacko wouldn't try and intimidate and demean. Instead, she'd try and ally them with her. If there was a radiologist that Dr. Chacko wanted gotten rid of, she'd bring in one of the respected radiologist, talk bad about her target and something like,

help me get rid of them.

Chacko would then try and use those with prestige and power as allies against any doctor or other employee she didn't like.

Welcome to the world of Dr. Anna Chacko.

Of course, here's my full dossier of Dr. Anna Chacko.

The Putback Amendment V Fair Map

Over the last month or so, I have featured several posts on the Putback amendment. The Putback amendment is a proposal by an Illinois activist named John Bambenek that tries to dramatically the structure and procedures of our government in order, in the hopes of Bambenek, to make the government more responsive.

The Putback amendment is comprehensive and so I did three separate posts on it. It includes a mechanism to allow the rank and file within the legislature to get their bills to the floor. With this amendment, any legislator would need to get 25 legislators to sign off on a discharge petition and that would get said bill onto the floor. Currently, it only goes through the rules committee and the rules committee is manned by the leadership. It also removes so called "shell bills" which are blank bills that filter through the legislature and allow the legislature to write the meat and bones in private and quickly have it voted on.

The amendment also has language that helps with ballot access. It limits challenges to those that are rooted in fraud and/or deception or ineligibility. It also allows for a more transparent and open process for redistricting. (That's only the beginning of course so please visit the links for a comprehensive analysis of the amendment)

Over the last month or so, another amendment has been introduced to the public to compete with the Putback amendment. It's called the Fair Map amendment. The first major difference is that this amendment only deals with the question of redistricting. Currently, the way the law is structured is this. First, a bill has to come out of both chambers and survive a gubernatorial veto. In each time, the Democrats controlled one and the Republicans the othe, so that's never happened. Next, the leadership each pick four people from each party. Then, five of those eight have to agree on a map. Of course, if there's 4 partisan Republicans and four partisan Democrats on said committee the chances are slim that any such agreement will be formed. In fact, it's never happened. The third step is to pick either Democrat or Republican out of a hat and have their map go.

The Illinois Fair Map amendment changes this process slightly. The leadership would still have to pick four people, but now they can't be legislators, staff, lobbyists, etc. Furthermore, the committe must choose a ninth person up front. The map must be drawn based on specific criterion, something the Putback amendment also requires, so that partisanship is eliminated.

According to Bambenek, the first problem here is that this amendment wouldn't pass constitutional muster. Any amendment to the State of Illinois' constitution must contain two different things: a structural change and a procedural change. In the Putback amendment, a structural change is that the bicameral legislature becomes unicameral. A procedural change is that now a legislator can bring their bill to the floor with 25 votes in a discharge petition.

The Illinois Fair Map amendment only has a procedural change. There is no structural change. So, according to Bambenek, this won't survive constitutional muster. Yet, the Fair Map amendment, only a month old, is the one receiving all the attention. The Chicago Sun Times has already given it their seal of approval.

Illinois voters, prep your John Hancocks. Citizen petitions began circulating Thursday to fix the perverse way Illinois draws its state legislative districts -- a way that stacks the deck in elections in favor of incumbents.

Don't be shy about signing on the dotted line.

The goal is 500,000 signatures by April, enough to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot asking voters if they want to strip from legislators the power to draw legislative districts and give that power to an independent, bipartisan commission. Nine other states already do it this way.

What has the Sun Times said about the Putback amendment. Nothing that's what. Ditto for the Tribune. In fact, there's been scant reporting of the Putback amendment in any of the Chicago media. Bambenek held a press conference in Chicago's posh Union League Club and the only member of the Chicago media to show was the local Fox affiliate and they didn't even use the footage in a broadcast.

That almost certainly has everything to do with who's backing each of the two amendments. The Fair Map amendment is backed by Tom Cross, Illinois House Republican leader, and it's being helped by the powerful and respected New York law firm, the Brennan Group. That gives the Fair Map amendment credibility the Putback amendment doesn't have. After all, John Bambenek, the leader of the Putback amendment, is a relative political unknown.

In fact, in the establishment, the issue of constitutionality is dismissed. After all, a respected law firm like the Brennan Group would never get something like that wrong. So, it appears that the Putback V Fair Map amendment will wind up much like everything else here in Illinois politically, the establishment versus the outsiders.

Rogers V Roubini

As I, along with most of the financial media, have reported, Nouriel Roubini, the famed economist who predicted our current crisis, has predicted the mother of all asset bubbles. By this, he believes that investors are using the cheap dollar to invest in assets. These investments are being driven not by fundamentals but by the weak dollar and so this is creating a bubble. One of the assets that Roubini has targeted for a bubble is gold. Now, another famed investor has taken issue with that. Jim Rogers, no slouch himself, believes that Roubini doesn't know what he's talking about.

I am most perplexed about this alleged bubble which is out there.

Rogers told Wall Street Cheat Sheet.Rogers has been bullish on gold and other commodities for the long term, often arguing that the weakening U.S. dollar will make commodities a better investment, pushing gold toward $2,000 an ounce, hundreds of dollars higher than where it is now.

Roubini, on the other hand, says investors are borrowing dollars to buy emerging market stocks and commodities, which is inflating the value of those assets.

Now, the beauty of debates like this is that while all sides have mammoth intellect they are ultimately worthless. Only time will tell whether or not there is a bubble. Both men will emerge wealthier whether they're right or not.

Roubini has earned a lifetime's worth of a reputation for predicting this crisis. He could get everything wrong moving forward and still make millions speaking and teaching. Rogers has already made his money.

For me, I'm perplexed by two things. This isn't the first criticism of Roubini's theory. Most simply dismiss Roubini's theory without giving much explanation for why. It's true that we may still be years away from the bubble popping. There's plenty of money to be made until then, presumably. Roubini's theory is based on a simple logic. Our fiscal and monetary policy is weakening our currency. Investors are using that weak currency to invest in assets they otherwise would not. That is forming a bubble. That's the theory.

We'll see if he's right but so far no one has challenged the theory. For my money, I don't know if Roubini himself is right but I do know that our policies are forming a bubble somewhere.

Update on the Terrorist Hijacking

President Obama called the lapse in security a "systemic failure".

I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It's been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son's extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list.

There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.

The conservative media is all over a report that Chris Dodd cut security funds for a pet project.

Seeking some pork barrel projects for his state, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., proposed an amendment reducing aviation security appropriations by $4.5 million last July in favor of firefighter grants — a notoriously ineffective program, according to experts, the Washington Examiner reported.

The money Dodd blocked was specifically "for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems." Dodd proposed the amendment because the firefighters union is a pet constituency of his, according to the Examiner.

That obviously doesn't look good and Dodd was already in big trouble.

Meanwhile, Dan Burton became the first, though certainly won't be the last, to call for Janet Napolitano to resign.

the guy who blew away a pumpkin to replicate Vince Foster's "murder" and called
President Clinton a "scumbag" — is the first Republican out of the box to call for DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's resignation.

Never mind that half of Burton's press release implicates the FBI, DOJ, State Department and foreign governments just as much as DHS

That's from Glenn Thrush of Politico who's clearly no fan of Burton. Pete Hoekstra also offered open criticism of Napolitano. It's hard to see how she survives. This story isn't going away. It's only going to expand and Napolitano is simply not up to the job. That becomes more and more clear everyday.

The most troubling news was this.

President Obama has acknowledged that the United States had early signals that a terrorist attack was being plotted in Yemen and failed to take adequate steps to prevent it.

According to a page one story in the New York Times, two federal officials told the paper that U.S. intelligence was aware that a Nigerian Muslim was preparing an attack, yet officials did nothing to give warning of such an attack.

The paper reported Wednesday: "Two officials said the government had intelligence from Yemen before Friday that leaders of a branch of Al Qaeda were talking about 'a Nigerian' being prepared for a terrorist attack."

So far, all we know is that a bureaucratic breakdown prevented different branches of our government from sharing information and so the would be bomber got on a flight despite there being plenty of information to put him on a no fly list.

If this sounds familiar, we also had a similar break down in intelligence gathering that lead to 9/11. Managing the multiple layers of the federal government is one of the toughest jobs of the Chief Executive. During Bush's hey day, that was one of his strengths. We were sharing intelligence and that was a main reason a second attack never happened.

One of Bush's weakest spots was his constant insistence on releasing folks we had in GITMO. It turns out that it's very possible two former GITMO detainees were involved in this plot. That was a very underreported story because everyone in the media wanted GITMO closed, but Bush deserves plenty of criticism for his insistence on releasing bad guys.

Video, Quote and Word of the Day


an omen

As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.

Adabella Radici

Morning Market Report

It feels like a war movie in the markets. In that, it's very quiet. You're just waiting for the bombs to drop. The last two weeks or so have seen far less volatility than we've been used to. The markets have made their moves slowly, almost under the radar. The Dow crossed over 10500 and it's holding steady at 10544 right now. All three indices are relatively unchanged this morning.

Bonds are also quiet this morning. The ten year is still yielding 3.80%. The three month T bill has "shot" up to .071%. It's now just about safely above zero. The yield spread between the two and ten year is also about steady at 2.72%. That's still near all time highs and in ranges never seen prior to the last year. That's a massive point to intermediate term inflation. Bonds in London are largely unchanged and slightly worse in Germany.

Here's a story from the Oy Vay column.

The federal government will provide a new multibillion dollar cash infusion to stabilize auto financing company GMAC Financial Services, according to people
familiar with the matter. Sources say the financial aid could be $3.0-$3.5 billion and could come as soon as the next few days.

Given the staggering amount of the bailouts, it's hard to get upset about the GMAC bailout. Of course, there's absolutely no reason to give the financing arm of GM a bailout but that's what we've done. This isn't the first set either. The government has been propping up GMAC as long as it's been propping up GM itself. In for a dime in for a dozen they say.

On another note, we have breaking positive economic data.

Business activity in the U.S. Midwest expanded far more than expected in December, hitting its highest in nearly four years on a massive recovery in employment and accelerating new orders.

Midwest business activity rose to 60.0 in November. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said Wednesday its business barometer rose to 60.0 from 56.1 in November, marking its highest reading since January 2006.

We'll see how the market digests this.

On the commodities front, crude oil is up slightly. It's up to $78.30 a barrel that's up about 80 cents. It was up even more this morning until weak inventory numbers "pared the gains". Gold is down just slighly. It's at $1089 an ounce, down about $7 an ounce.

Tomorrow the weekly first time jobless claims come out and we'll see if there's any more excitement in this year.

Council Nominations

The Council nominees are up.

Council Submissions
Wolf Howling - Ashura – A New Phase To The Revolution
Right Truth - 300 terrorists in Yemen planning terror attacks: Bare your body and pay them money!
The Razor - Hard Choices Needed to Stop Terrorism
Bookworm Room- The Princess and the Frog — Disney’s Gift to American Blacks
The Provocateur - Sarah Palin: Crazy Like a Fox
The Glittering Eye - The Underwear Bomber
Soccer Dad - What’s There To Debate
Mere Rhetoric - Obligatory Post About New Organ Harvesting Story That Provides “No Evidence” For Organ Harvesting Libel
The Colossus of Rhodey - Liberal Trek
American Digest - The Emperor’s New Speech Impediment
Rhymes With Right - A Global Warming Observation
Joshuapundit - The Christmas Crotch Bomber – How He Almost Succeeded And How To Stop Him In The Future
Honorable Mentions
The OyVay Blog - Tweeting About Iran
Non-Council Submissions
Submitted By:The Watcher– Commentary/Jonathan Tobin - Comic Book Hate: a New Chapter in Anti-Israel Bias at the New York Times
Submitted By: Wolf Howling – Doug Ross @ Journal - Judicial Watch Announces Most Corrupt Politicians of 2009 Awards
Submitted By: Joshuapundit – Seraphic Secret Suicide in Slow Motion
Submitted By: Right Truth – Powerline - Obama and the Iranian protesters — mutuality of interests but not of spirit
Submitted By: The Razor – Volokh Conspiracy - The Unorganized Militia Once Again is Needed
Submitted By: Bookworm Room – Impeach Obama - Does The Left Want To Impeach Obama Too?
Submitted By: The Glittering Eye – Serious Medicine Strategy - Surgery For Life: How Romanticism and Religion Are Working With Science To Improve Medicine
Submitted By: Soccer Dad – The Volokh Conspiracy - Assessing Airport Security Measures
Submitted By: Mere Rhetoric – Hudson New York - Shhh…Mubarak is building a wall
Submitted By: The Colossus of Rhodey – Discriminations - Are Republicans More Principled Than Democrats?
Submitted By: American Digest– Rhymes with Cars & Girls - The Smart People Crowd
Submitted By: Rhymes With Right – Gates Of Vienna - The Death Bells of the Occident
Submitted By: The Provocateur – Dick Morris - Griffith’s Switch Illustrates Death of Moderate Dems

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Blindside and Cynicism

Intro: There will be a bit of a spoiler here so if you're planning on watching the Blindside please proceed with caution.

The Blindside is the best movie I've seen in a long time. I enjoyed it so much that I can't remember the last time I saw a better movie. For all those not familiar with the story, the Blindside is the true story of Michael Oher. He is currently finishing up his rookie year with the Baltimore Ravens. Until he was sixteen, he bounced around from one foster home to another. He was living the way too typical wrong side of the tracks story. In fact, by the time he was sixteen, he was living on the streets. Then fate stepped in. He was taken in by the Tuohy family. The Tuohy's are a wealthy family from the good part of Memphis, where the movie and true story are set. Oher became a part of the family. Despite never having a stable home life, and so presumably good diet, Oher was always freakishly big. So, he went out for football and eventually became very good. He became a top recruit and eventually an All American at the University of Mississippi.

In the movie, the NCAA investigated Oher's recruitment to the University of Mississippi because both the Tuohy's were alumni and major donors. In fact, the NCAA considered them boosters. So, the NCAA believed that the Tuohys took in Oher with the intent of grooming him to play football in their alma mater. As I watched the movie, I thought that only an organization as cynical as the NCAA itself could think of something so cynical. For someone to do something so devious isn't merely cynical but simply Psychopathic. To shower someone with love, care, and attention all as part of some larger plot to help their favorite school's sports program really stretches the imagination of deviousness.

The beauty for me of the Blindside was two fold. First, this is a movie in which each and every major character was a good person, a character you root for. Despite this, the movie had plenty of conflict and drama. Second, this is a Christian movie, but subtly so. The reason the Tuohy's did what they did is because they're all good Christian. They truly did love their neighbor as themselves. Religion isn't really in the movie. Instead, their actions exemplify their Christianity. They aren't good Christians because they go to church each Sunday, though I'm sure they do, but because of the way they live their lives.

The NCAA couldn't possibly think that anyone could love a perfect stranger simply because that's the right thing to do. So, the NCAA believed this whole thing was part of a larger plot by the Tuohy's to get Michael Oher to their alma mater.

In dicussing the movie afterwards, I was stunned when a friend told me they didn't like the movie and they told me they didn't like it because it was fake. It was fake, in their minds, because they believed that in real life the Tuohy's did in fact take Michael in to groom him to be a star athlete at their alma mater. As such, the movie was presenting a Cleaver type family when in reality they're all faking it.

Such cynicism is stunning and in fact plain shocking. Some people see so little good themselves that they can't possibly believe when someone does something good just because doing good is the right thing to do. I expect that from the NCAA. That's an organization that long ago lost any sense of right and wrong, if it ever had it. To hear anyone else say something so cynical is just plain scary.

No Room for Moderation

In an article I nominated for the Watcher's Council, Dick Morris talks about what Parker Griffith's move to the Republicans means for moderates in the Democratic Party.

Parker Griffith’s decision to step out of line and refuse to drink the Democratic Kool-Aid illustrates the Achilles Heel of the Democratic regime in Washington: The radical reign of Pelosi and Reid is held up by pillars of moderate and conservative Democrats who come from districts that regularly vote Republican. To survive in these red precincts, Democrats must act like Republicans, advocating a balanced budget, opposing big spending, and fighting against socialized medicine. But, in Washington, Pelosi and Reid use their backing to bring a radical left leadership to Congress.

Once it sufficed for a moderate Democrat merely to vote “no.” But American voters are onto their tricks and realize that a Democrat — any Democrat — will vote “yes” when his party leaders need it. The unanimous Senate Democratic support for Obamacare shows that there are really only two types of Congresspeople: Democrats and Republicans. All other shadings and adjectives are mere decoration.

Morris goes onto surmise that moderates merely demand more bribery and that ultimately there are only Republicans and Democrats in the legislature. Furthermore, Democrats are being lead by the "radicals" as Morris calls them, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

In fact, Americans for Limited Government have been making a similar point recently.

Yesterday, Americans for Limited Government released the voting records of some 90 Blue Dog and other so-called “moderate” House Democrats on twelve key votes in 2009.Bottom line: When it comes to profligate spending, the Blue Dogs are anything but watchdogs. And the moderates make Paris Hilton look tight-fisted.

The ALG analysis includes votes on the $789 billion “stimulus”, bankruptcy mortgage “cramdowns,” ACORN funding, a $108 billion International Monetary Fund expansion, the Waxman-Markey carbon emission caps, the $2.1 trillion “public option” health system, the $154 billion assistance program for bankrupt states, and the $290 billion debt limit expansion.

Here's what I said in the aftermath of the elections about the Blue Dogs.

Yet, their real power will be in crafting legislation. The Blue Dogs are just as likely to be voting with the Republicans (if not frankly more likely) as they are with the Democrats. They are certainly a lot more afraid of a radical Congress than are the Republicans. Republicans are hoping for a far left Congress so that they can use it as bludgeon against folks JUST LIKE the Blue Dogs in 2010. The Blue Dogs would of course be the recipients of just such an attack. Blue Dogs are so fiscally conservative that they favor the tool of PAYGO, offsetting spending increases with spending cuts elsewhere. They are also generally socially conservative. It was Blue Dog Rep, Heath Shuler, that introduced the very pro enforcement anti illegal immigration bill, the SAVE Act. Finally, it was the Blue Dogs that couldn't be gotten in order to pass the Iraq War funding bill with a timetable. On all these crucial issues, the Blue Dogs
will be up for grab so to speak.

As it's turned out, the Blue Dogs have often been rainmakers but almost always for favors for themselves. Bart Stupak was able to craft very stiff anti abortion language in the House. Joe Lieberman, not technically a Blue Dog because they're in the House, was able to strip the public option out of the bill. For the most part, their votes were essentially bought. The agenda has been driven by the left wing of the party.

What's also happening, however, is a similar process on the Republican side. That process is being driven by the Tea Parties. It's in its infancy. It will have a major test in Florida. That's where down the line conservative, Marco Rubio, is facing the moderate Governor, Charlie Crist, for the U.S. Senate.

The Tea Parties are one of the most powerful forces in politics today. Where they hold the most power is in the Republican primaries. That's where they are the overwhelming force. The Tea Parties, as I've pointed out, are stuck in a tension between becoming their own party and overwhelming the Republican party. While they make up their minds, they are determined to purge the Republicans of all so called RINOs. That includes names like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe. Crist is their first target but all these folks are in their cross hairs as well.

It isn't just politicians. Moderate pundits and thinkers like David Frum and David Brooks are often maligned and ridiculed by folks sympathetic to the cause of conservatism.

I've pointed out that this is not only suicidal but frankly totally disingenuous. Ask any conservative who their favorite Democrat is and about 99% will tell you Joe Lieberman. Why? It's because Lieberman bucks his party, shows independence, and "votes on principle". Well, McCain, Graham, Snowe and Collins do the same thing. Of course, when they're bucking your own it's not so great.

What is clear is that both parties are now being driven by the extremes and moderation won't be tolerated in either party.

Video, Quote and Word of the Day


a chain

Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Putin Roars

Vladimir Putin is saber rattling.

Russia needs to develop "offensive strike systems" to preserve strategic balance with the United States, without producing its own missile defense, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Putin's comment, made at a press briefing in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, echoed a similar call from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week.

Just try and put this one into perspective. Obama has made overtures to reduce our nuclear weapons stockpile. He wants to rid the world of nukes, loose and otherwise. Now, Putin is saying that Russia needs to build more offensive weapons to maintain a balance in the world.

Separating Fact from Fiction in the Attempted Hijacking

The bombing plot story is all part of the most under reported story of the year. That's the story of the growing terrorist threat within Yemen. In fact, right now, there's a pseudo proxy war going on within Yemen between Iran and the West. At the same time, Al Qaeda is gaining a foothold there.

It's still not certain that the would be bomber is part of Al Qaeda but that becomes more and more certain daily.

The statement that was posted on the Internet; al-Qaida in the Saudi Arabia said the 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab coordinated with members of the group, an alliance of militants based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (born December 22, 1986) is a Nigerian man who allegedly tried to detonate an explosive or incendiary device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009 which was en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan.

In fact, it appears that two of the planners were once residents of GITMO.

ABC News’ Brian Ross reported: “Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the Al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents.”

That's why the way our government has treated this following his arrest is that much more troubling. Farouk was arrested and put into our criminal system. Farouk is no criminal. What he attempted to do on that Northwest flight was no crime, but rather an act of way.

Because Farouk is in our criminal system, we can presume that his attorney has instructed him to stay silent. If, however, he were treated as an enemy combatant, our CIA/FBI would be interrogating him right now. So, if in fact he is part of a larger cell, we'd be getting that information as we speak.

Instead, he's likely invoked his right to remain silent and we're getting nothing from him. That's what Congressman Peter King has asked for.

The key question to answer is where in the government bureaucracy there was a breakdown. This guy's father ratted him out. You simply can't have a bigger red flag than that. So, why was he not on a do not fly list? That's the key question to answer. Of course, it will take days and weeks and months before we really have an answer. This incident can only be positive if that question is answered, the right people are held to account, and the problem is fixed.

This means the problems were all caused on the ground. So, right now, there's extra things being asked of people in the air. For instance, electronic devices are allowed to be used in less quantities. That adds a layer of inconvenience without resolving the main problem, which is keeping bad guys off our flights.

Finally, the most important question is whether or not Secretary Napolitano is up to the job. Her performance over the weekend was abysmal. Meanwhile, it's very likely that the communication breakdown was caused by her. Secretary Napolitano may need to be the first to go as a result.

With that said, it is, in my opinion, important to avoid turning this into a partisan witch hunt. Republicans have wasted no time doing this.

Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Democrats on intelligence and screening failures leading up to the failed Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 — a significant departure from the calibrated, less partisan responses that have followed other recent terrorist activity.

The strategy — coming as the Republican leadership seeks to exploit Democratic weaknesses heading into the 2010 midterms — is in many ways a natural for a party that views protecting the U.S. homeland as its ideological raison d’etre and electoral franchise.

President Obama’s GOP critics have been emboldened during the past 48 hours by the stumbling initial response of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who spent Monday retracting her Sunday claim that “the system worked” in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab’s near takedown of a jet ferrying nearly
300 people from Amsterdam to Detroit

I know how politics work. I get it. The problem with finger pointing is that it solves no problems. These are matters of life and death. Simply accusing Obama of incompetence and trying to use this incident to score points will weaken the President, strengthen the Republicans, but it will keep no one safe.

Morning Market Report

The equity markets have fairly quietly made their move in the last couple weeks of the year. The Dow is up over 10500 again. It's pushing near one year highs. There's breaking economic data. Consumer confidence just came out and it has reached a three month high and beaten expectations.

U.S. consumer confidence improved more than expected in December, hitting a three-month high as job market pessimism eased and consumers' expectations reached a two-year high, according to a private report released on Tuesday.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 52.9 in December from a revised 50.6 in November.

The Dow et all are all up this morning but each .33% and less. We'll see how the markets will digest this news. All three are pushing twelve month highs. Oil is about even. It's trading at $78.63 a barrel, down slightly. Gold is also about even. It's trading at $1105 an ounce. That's down a couple bucks.

Bonds are also about even. The ten year is at 3.82%. That's better a couple basis points but still way worse over the last couple weeks. The big news was the move of the two year yesterday. That popped nearly ten basis points. The two year is now yielding 1.08%. That's significantly tightened the yield spread between the two and ten year bond to 2.74%. Bonds in London are much worse this morning while they're about even in Germany.

We have near across the board gains in both Europe and the Far East today. The Hang Seng in China was up .09%, the NIKKEI in Japan was up .04%, and the Straits Time Index in Singapore was up .49%. In Europe, the FTSE in London was up .74%, the DAX in Germany was up .36%, and the Spanish index was up .09%.

It's also a quiet day in currencies so far. The dollar is down .31% against the Euro, up .02% against the British Pound, and up .13% against the Japanese Yen.

Finally, here's some positive real estate news.

Home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose in October for a fifth consecutive month, putting the housing market and economy farther along the path to recovery.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index increased 0.4 percent from the prior month on a seasonally adjusted basis, after a 0.2 percent rise in September, the group said today in New York. The gauge was down 7.3 percent from October 2008, the smallest year-over-year decline since October 2007. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News anticipated a 7.2 percent drop.

I'm going to have more to say about Fannie/Freddie in another post. It's impossible to say anything about any real estate number since there's been so much artificial stimulation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Chutzpah of the Chicago Tribune

So, there I was reading the Sunday Chicago Tribune when I came upon this editorial. It's a call to arms you see.

If you enjoy the political culture as is -- with the next corruption scandal never far off and with your public officials borrowing future generations into penury in order to prop up today's treacherously uncontrolled spending -- then you should support candidates who'll protect the status quo.

If, however, the failure of too many politicians to make urgently needed reforms infuriates you, then reach for a broom.We hope you're among the millions who are infuriated. And we hope you'll reach for that broom. If you're just coming up to speed on Illinois politics, fine. We'll help because, next year, you have to be a change agent:

The Tribune is having their Network moment. They're mad as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore. It's time to elect good politicians. It's not a moment too soon. After all, the county and state primaries are just about a month away and in this one party county and state those are as good as the general elections.

We've got a vital primary in the Cook County President's race and doggone it, it's time to elect a good leader already. That's the message from the Tribune.

Now, I'm all for the media helping the voters in their selection of candidates. That's a top priority of all media. Of course, the Tribune's been around for a hundred plus years and there's been elections all throughout. I'm not saying that the Tribune is cynically responding to a wave of cynicism among the electorate and hoping no one will include them in the, maybe I am.

After all, the last poll the tribune itself ran, the top two candidate in the Democratic primary, Brown and Stroger, had 90% plus name recognition, and the rest 60% and lower. Now, if the citizens of Cook County don't know who's running for Cook County Board President call me cynical but isn't some of the blame on the media for not telling them about it.

I'd be less cynical if the Tribune hadn't acted as cheerleader and chief propagandist for the Olympics movement but as a watchdog, you know the job of the press. It's been five years since the Chicago Hired Truck scandal broke. Donald Tomczak is in jail for taking bribes. He literally had bags of money delivered to his office. You know who's not in jail. Whoever delivered him the bags of money. It appears the Tribune investigation of the scandal stopped at Tomczak. The money, you see, just magically appeared at his doorstep. Again, I wouldn't be so cynical if someone at the Tribune noticed that money doesn't just magically appear.

Frankly, what really makes me cynical about this movement is how this particular editorial itself ends.

This editorial launches our pre-primary push to answer that question. Subsequent editorials will explore how a reconstituted Illinois can confront three mighty challenges:--The wreckage from current spending and borrowing -- and the taxing to pay for it all.--The need for ethical reforms to better curb corruption and to reduce the concentration of power in the hands of those Illinois oligarchs.--The disturbingly low level of job creation here as state government policies nudge employers to locate and expand elsewhere.

That's right folks. Electing good politicians in Illinois is so important, that this particular editorial was an introduction. Just you wait. Starting next week, the Tribune will really become the watchdog we all know they can be. Until then, the clock ticks until the primary and another seven days will wind down before the Tribune gets serious about helping the electorate to elect good politicians. Me cynical?

Are the Blue Dogs Moderate?

No says Americans for Limited Government. They've done an analysis of what they call "some of the most controversial votes of 2009". Of these, 856 were Yea and only 207 were Nay. Of course, it's important to note that the "controversial votes" were entirely determined by ALG themselves.

Here's the votes they accounted for: 789 billion "stimulus", bankruptcy mortgage "cramdowns," ACORN funding, a $108 billion International Monetary Fund expansion, the Waxman-Markey carbon emission caps, the $2.1 trillion "public option" health system, the $154 billion assistance program for bankrupt states, and the $290 billion debt limit expansion.

This is being selective and it's without context but still the results are remarkable. The Blue Dogs are supposed to be moderate and certainly fiscally conservative. Nancy Pelosi is a San Francisco liberal. Many of these votes are some of her biggest pet projects and about 80% of the time they voted with Pelosi.

Incidentally, speaking of cap and trade...that's on life support.

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year.

“I am communicating that in every way I know how,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least a half-dozen Democrats who've told the White House or their own leaders that it's time to jettison the centerpiece of their party's plan to curb global warming.


What A Mess

One day after proclaiming on national television that allowing the would be terrorist on the Northwest flight wasn't a security breakdown, Secretary Napolitano backtracked.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has backed off comments she made on Sunday on CNN saying that "the system worked" in response to questions about how a would-be-bomber got explosive material aboard a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day. "Obviously this individual should not have gotten on the plane carrying that material. And we can explain all of the reasons, but they're not satisfactory," Napolitano said on CBS' "The Early Show" Monday.

Meanwhile, it took all of twenty four hours for conservatives to put the blame square on the shoulders of the Obama administration.

There is a reason why Obama hasn’t given a public statement. It’s strategy.Here’s the theory: a two-bit mook is sent by Al Qaeda to do a dastardly deed. He winds up neutering himself. Literally.

Authorities respond appropriately; the President (as this president is want to to) presides over the federal response. His senior aides speak for him, letting reporters know that he’s videoconferencing regularly, that he’s ordering a review of terrorist watch lists, that he’s discoursing with his Secretary of Homeland Security.

But an in-person Obama statement isn’t needed; Indeed, a message expressing command, control, outrage and anger might elevate the importance of the deed, would generate panic (because Obama usually DOESN’T talk about the specifics of cases like this, and so him deciding to do so would cue the American people to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation

That, coincidentally, is how long it took for the Obama administration to declare that this was NOT part of a larger terrorist plot. That's 22 hours more than it took the Obama administration to initially declare that the Fort Hood shooting was NOT an act of terror. Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin claims this is proof that Jihadis aren't motivated by poverty.

The Nigerian elite enginnering student studied at one of Britain’s leading universities, “lived a gilded life” and “stayed in a £2m flat.”

The Independent says Abdulmatallab’s privileged status is “surprising” — “a very different background to many of the other al-Qa’ida recruits who opt for martyrdom.”

Actually, there’s nothing surprising about it. The only surprise is that so many supposedly informed people — from British journalists to our own commander-in-chief — continue to perpetuate the myth of the poor, oppressed jihadist.

Note to Michelle Malkin, UBL is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million. If the folks that believe this nonsense aren't swayed by UBL's personal fortune, they aren't going to be swayed by this particular story.

There's calls for investigations everywhere. Yet, we still don't know how this guy got on the plane. This guy's own father turned him in. If that's not a red flag, nothing is. Of course, this is a system wide breakdown.

What we have now though is complete and total political posturing and opportunism. Pundits, pols, and editors alike are all jumping over themselves to draw a higher analysis from this. Surprise, surprise, eveyone's analyses are pretty much in line with their own preconceived notions. Republicans are dying to call this a failure of homeland security by an incompetent White House. Liberals are dying to call this an isolated incident by one lone nut.

It's not even 72 hours. How can anyone draw any conclusions yet? Yet, they all are. Let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Video, Quote and Word of the Day

This is making the rounds. Is Baucus drunk?


a curse

We can often endure an extra pound of pain far more easily than we can suffer the withdrawal of an ounce of accustomed pleasure.

Sydney J. Harris

Terror in Iran

Clashes between protestors and police in Iran are again turning deadly.

A number of opposition figures were arrested Monday in the wake of violent nationwide protests a day earlier, Web sites reported, including three top aides to the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi and the leader of a banned political group, Ibrahim Yazdi.

Mr. Moussavi’s 43-year-old nephew Ali Moussavi was among 10 people reported killed during the protests, becoming another flashpoint in the conflict.

Another opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, was among those who lashed out at the authorities for using deadly force during the protests.

Here's the latest from Twitter.

Heavy Clashes at Hafte Tir Sq, Police Shooting Tear Gas


Iran forces take the killed bodies, in order to prevent the families to show them to the public


They lost all fear, risk their lives, up to us to provide as much support as we can!


Security forces UNABLE to arrest Mohsen Armin today.

Mohsen Armin is the subject of several tweets. He's an Iranian politician that's been one of the leaders of the opposition.

Here's another video that's raw footage of the violence.

The analysis is mixed. Here's one analyst that believes all of this is still fragmented and disjointed and so ultimately doomed to fail. Here's another that says this is a "tipping point". The situation remains fluid.

Morning Market Report

Let's start out today by talking about bonds. Those have quietly become a story lately and almost no one has noticed. The ten year is again weaker this morning, though just slightly. That's good news considering what's happened over the last week and a half. The ten year is up to 3.82%. It reached a low of 3.19% in November. It's more recently been in the 3.3% range. To put this into perspective, after the refinance boom ended, bonds averaged about 4.2% from 2003-2007. That was a guage to see where they were at. So, 3.8% is still very low. It's also getting dangerously high. That's because we're carrying nearly $13 trillion worth of debt and much of it will be financed by these ten year bonds. The yield spread between the two and ten year also continues to set all time records. It's currently at 2.83%. The three month t bill has raised itself from the critically negative levels to .041%. Bonds in England and Germany were relative unchanged today so we'll wait and see how domestic bonds respond.

Meanwhile, there was relatively good news on the retail front.

The spending bounce means retailers managed to avoid a repeat of last year's disaster even amid tight credit and double-digit unemployment. Profits should be healthier, too, because stores had a year to plan their inventories to match consumer demand and never needed to resort to fire-sale clearances.

Retail sales rose 3.6 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 2.3 percent drop in the year-ago period, according to figures from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which track all forms of payment, including cash.

Now, it's important to keep in mind that 2008 was an awful year for retailer and so I'm not sure how good this news really is. This is sort of like a .200 hitter getting excited because their batting average increased by ten percent.

The most interesting news if you will of the weekend came from Paul Krugman who said it was a "reasonably high chance" that we'd see a double dip recession. That means the economy will recover for a while and then fall back into recession. That happened to Reagan in 1982-83 and to FDR in 1937-38.

Paul Krugman was on ABC's The Week on Sunday declaring a "reasonably high chance" of a double dip coming next year.

Actually, he doesn't sound quite as gloomy as you might guess. Yes, he describes the entire recovery so far as being driven by government spending and inventory rebalancing, but the odds of a double dip he does place at lower than 50/50, so that's good. Obviously he wants much more spending.

I almost never agree with Krugman so I won't be one of those people that suddenly calls him an oracle since we do. It's very important to note that Krugman, from the beginning, has insisted that the stimulus wasn't nearly big enough and this is more of that skepticisim.

In commodities, oil is pushing $80 a barrel again. It's currently at $78.57 a barrel. It reached below $70 a barrel only two weeks ago. Gold is back above $1100 an ounce. It's currently at $1105 an ounce. It reached over $1200 an ounce and shot back down. It's been slowing pulling itself up since it reached a low in the $1080 range.

All three indices are opening just slightly higher this morning. They're all up about .25% forty five minutes in. Retailers are strong following the retail numbers. Markets in both Europe and the Far East were both up nearly across the board. The Hang Seng in China was down .17% but that's the only major indice that was down. The NIKKEI in Japan was up 1.33% and the Straits Time Index in Singapore was up .63%. The broader Chinese index was up 1.51%. In Europe, the FTSE in London is even, the DAX is up .7%, and the Spanish index is up .44%. All indices are up or even in Europe.

The Dollar is mixed. It's down .01% against the Euro, down .13 against the British Pound but up .41% against the Japanese Yen.

Here's a couple things of final note. China says its economy is growing faster than expected. Let's keep in mind that a week and a half ago, it was annouced that the U.S. again revised its most recent GDP data to a growth of 2.2%. It was originally measured at 3.2%, then revised to 2.8% and now 2.2%. So, everyone should keep that in mind when you hear initial data for any number.

Then, there's this news, a prediction from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

If Morgan Stanley is right, the best sale of U.S. Treasuries for 2010 may be the short sale. Yields on benchmark 10-year notes will climb about 40 percent to 5.5 percent, the biggest annual increase since 1999, according to David Greenlaw, chief fixed-income economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. The surge will push interest rates on 30-year fixed mortgages to 7.5 percent to 8 percent, almost the highest in a decade, Greenlaw said.

In fact, if MSDW is right, we're all in big trouble. That would severely stunt any recovery. It could even lead to inflation. This goes back to what I spoke about in the beginning. That is that U.S. Treasury bonds are weakening and no one is noticing. If the rate on the ten year bond is 5.5%, then mortgage rates will be in the neighborhood of 7%. You can forget any sort of housing recovery with those rates. Such high borrowing costs would almost certainly mean a double dip recession. Every market observer had better start to pay attention to bonds.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Legislative Lessons of Health Care Reform

Joe Lieberman got his way and not only was the public option removed but so to was the lowered eligibility for Medicare. What's not reported quite as much was the multi hundred million dollars that Lieberman negotiated for the University of Connecticut along with his fellow Senator from Connecticut Chris Dodd.

Mary Landrieu was able to negotiate $300 million in federal aid from the health care bill. Here's how Landrieu described her vote.

It’s not $100 million, it’s $300 million, and I’m proud of it and will keep fighting for it,” she told reporters after a floor speech announcing her support of a vote to begin debate on health care reform.

Meanwhile, Bill Nelson of Florida was able to win this concession.

a provision he said will let about 800,000 Florida seniors enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans keep their extra benefits

Why, just a week earlier, Bill Nelson was on Greta telling the public that this bill was essentially a non starter.

We all know about the concessions that Ben Nelson won.

What do all of these people have in common? They all held out their yes votes until the end. Mind you, they aren't the only ones to get concessions for their home states, but nearly each and every Senator that got one made it known at one time that their vote wasn't decided.

What did my Senator, Dick Durbin, get? Nothing, that's what. Then again, Durbin's vote was never in doubt. We call this horse trading but that word doesn't nearly describe the ugliness of the process.

So, the lesson is hold out. Then, you can get stuff. In the House, the only hold out left is Bart Stupak. He's holding out for stronger anti abortion language. Then again, so was Ben Nelson. Suddenly, he got an exemption for his home state and the anti abortion language wasn't as important.

The deal makers are those who's votes are in doubt. They make the rules, and in this Congress, that also means they get free stuff for their states. That appears to be the lesson.

Video, Quote and Word of the Day


to speak or write at length

One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.

Golda Meir

Point Counter Point Weekly Addresses

This was the first time that President Obama was joined by his wife, Michelle, for the weekly address. This address done for Christmas focused mostly on our fighting men and women who are enjoying Christmas from the comforts of a military base.

The Obama's did show off the official White House Christmas tree. This tree isn't as controversial as the tree outside which reportedly was decorated with, among other things, an ornament of Mao and other sexually explicit ornaments.

That said, this was a good and wholesome address in which the Obama's thanked our troops and gave everyone else simple ways to thank the troops as well. This includes sending phone cards, care packages, and other items that the folks in the military are in need of.

The Republicans handed their address to a rising star within the party, Duncan Hunter. No, this isn't the former Presidential candidate but rather his son. Hunter is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and he has the charisma and presence to do some big things in politics.

He also spent the majority of his address thanking the troops and wishing them and the rest of us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. He spent about half the address, however, taking back handed shots at the Democrats and their policies. Hunter talked about the policies the Republicans have favored which would have "provided jobs without adding to the deficit", "decreased not increased the size of government", and "not added to the debt". Hunter ended the address by proclaiming that we should commit to policies that won't add to our deficit and kill jobs like Cap and Trade and Card Check.

It was a slick way of attacking Democrats without being so in your face. Given the occasion, it would have been out of place. Hunter showed some good political acumen in the way he pulled it off though I could have gone without the partisanship in this address.

The Scourge of Fannie/Freddie

This past week, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reared their ugly heads with two stories. First, here's the most important one.

The Obama administration's decision to cover an unlimited amount of losses at the mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the next three years stirred controversy over the holiday.

The Treasury announced Thursday it was removing the caps that limited the amount of available capital to the companies to $200 billion each.Unlimited access to bailout funds through 2012 was "necessary for preserving the continued strength and stability of the mortgage market," the Treasury said. Fannie and Freddie purchase or guarantee most U.S. home mortgages and have run up huge losses stemming from the worst wave of defaults since the 1930s.

Beyond that, we found out that the two mortgage giants will be paying their top execs handsomely over the next few years.

The chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each could earn as much as $6 million this year and next, despite huge continued losses at the seized mortgage giants and a government bailout tab of more than $100 billion that the Obama administration said could rise even higher.

Fannie Mae Chief Executive Michael Williams will earn a base salary of $900,000 in 2009 and 2010, with a deferred base salary of $3.1 million each year to be paid "only if the enterprise meets performance metrics" set by its board and subject to government review, according to filings Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. An additional $2 million is possible annually, identified as "target incentive opportunity." Freddie Mac Chief Executive Charles E. Haldeman Jr. will get the same compensation package.

Four additional Fannie Mae executives will earn base salaries above $500,000 and have compensation packages for 2009 and 2010 that could pay each of them at least $2.7 million annually. One other Freddie Mac executive will receive a base salary over $500,000 and could earn as much as $1.15 million a year.

Stories about executive pays and bonuses aren't necessarily all that important in the larger scheme of things. After all, whether or not the CEO of Fannie Mae makes $6 million next year or $6 isn't going to make or break our economy. Those stories are fueled mostly by class warfare, envy, AND the sense that incompetence at the top is being rewarded and HANDSOMELY.

In the first story, the government announced that they would raise the debt they will cover for Fannie/Freddie to an unlimited amount. It was $200 billion each. Here's how a Treasury spokesperson characterized the decision.

(the move was) necessary for preserving the continued strength and stability of the mortgage market,

That's all nonsense. The government wouldn't be making the debt ceiling unlimited unless their number crunchers thought that was necessary to cover the necessary losses. A year and a half ago, when this crisis first hit with Fannie/Freddie, I pointed out their two problems. First, there's only two of them and so they are essentially monopolies, or technically duopolies. Second, they are extensions of the government making them quasi socialistic. I said the solution would be to break them up and privatize them.

Since then, the government has gone backwards. They're no longer merely extensions of the government but wholly owned subsidiaries of the government. This leads to all sorts of moral hazards. That's why we're here in the first place.

The problem is that mortgage securitization is necessary to the entire mortgage world. Since they're the only securitization game in town, we have to prop them up. So, if they're about to collapse without a significant lifeline, we have to bail them out.

Long ago, I said that we must use this as an opportunity to reform both. Instead, the government has made the situation worse. Now, these two giants hold the real estate market, the economy, and with it everything else at the barrel of their financial gun. They can't fail, and so we must continue to bail them out. Instead of fixing the problem, we've made it worse.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Video, Quote and Word of the Day



I couldn't help but say to [Mr. Gorbachev], just think how easy his task and mine might be in these meetings that we held if suddenly there was a threat to this world from another planet. [We'd] find out once and for all that we really are all human beings here on this earth together.

Ronald Reagan, 1985

Dr. Chacko In Montana's Sphere (UPDATED) With New Document Drop

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, for only $3.99, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

Crystal Cox has posted my tip to her about Dr. Anna Chacko. When Dr. Chacko arrived in Butte, Montana to work for St. James Hospital, the CEO was James Kiser. Kiser was the one responsible for hiring Dr. Chacko. In fact, a source familiar with the hiring process said that Kiser took a hands off approach. In fact, the same source told me that Kiser once admitted that he hadn't called any of Chacko's past employers or references.

In reality, it was Scott Steinfeldt that was most responsible for hiring Dr. Chacko. Scott Steinfeldt arrived at St. James Hospital about a year prior to Dr. Chacko. He and Dr. Chacko were friends and had worked together before. In fact, the two of them were princples in several companies including Moly99Montana, Chaco Corp, and Radiology Solutions LLC. Steinfeld was brought in to manage the imaging center, Intermountain Imaging. Here's a puff piece about the imaging center in which Steinfeldt is quoted.

Scott Steinfeldt, executive director of the Intermountain Imaging Center, said the new team is providing a "critical, essential component" to patient care.

Intermountain Imaging Center is an outpatient radiology center located in St. James, and was recently put under the auspices of the hospital. The two companies have a cooperative agreement and are "integrated financially and clinically," Steinfeldt said.

Both companies understand the importance of a stable, reliable radiology department."

A radiologist's value to a hospital is immeasurable," Steinfeldt said.

Within two months of this story being written, Steinfeldt was fired from the imaging center. It closed down as a joint venture in May of this year. Prior to May, it was run as a joint venture between the non profit St. James Hospital and a group of local radiologists.

Kiser "resigned" from St. James in March of 2008. Chacko herself moved on to the Pittsburgh VA in September of 2008. James Kiser has recently gotten a new gig as the interim CEO of St. Joseph's Hospital in Polsom, Montana.

The first person that Dr. Anna Chacko went after was Kristi George. What follows is a copy of George's complaint against St. James and Dr. Anna Chacko. It's important to note that this is the complaint filed by George's attorneys. So, it's obviously from the side of Kristi George. That case has since been settled and the findings have been sealed. (that's a common occurrence in legal matters involving Dr. Anna Chacko)

5[1][1].29.09 Second Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial

What's most interesting in these pages are numbers 12-16. (that's the counts not the pages) This relays the period when Dr. Chacko first began being employed by St. James Hospital. According to the complaint, Dr. Chacko immediately made malicious and false statements about George. She "began criticizing and complaining about George's work performance". Why is this interesting? It's because Kristi George was still on vacation when Dr. Anna Chacko first arrived at St. James. Kristi George doesn't even arrive at the hospital from vacation until count 16. It's a nice trick to criticize someone's work performance when you haven't yet worked with them, but welcome to the world of Dr. Anna Chacko.

Of course, the complaint wasn't merely against Chacko but the hospital itself. As such, Kristi George asserted that not only did Dr. Anna Chacko create a hostile work environment, but that the hospital failed to supervise Dr. Chacko properly. James Kiser was the hospital's CEO during this period.

We'll see if the media in the area notice his dubious history. Here's the full dossier of Dr. Anna Chacko.