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Winter on the Nebraska Coast 2210

January 21, 2010

If things keep up, who knows, it could happen.

Meanwhile I woke up this morning and evidently it’s still January in the frozen North 2010.

Cabin fever season.

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 10:49 am

    New study out with good evidence that the animals that populated Madagascar originally floated there from mainland Africa.

    Professors Matthew Huber of Purdue and Jason Ali of the University Hong Kong say that the prevailing flow of ocean currents between Africa and Madagascar millions of years ago would have made such a trip not only possible, but fast, too. The findings, based on a three-year computer simulation of ancient ocean currents, will be published in the journal Nature and were posted on Nature’s website on Jan. 20.

    ~snip~

    The question has always been how the animals arrived there in the first place. Madagascar appears to have been an island for at least 120 million years, and its animal population began arriving much later, sometime after 65 million years ago.

    ~snip~

    The Purdue professor was able to show that 20 million to 60 million years ago, when scientists have determined ancestors of present-day animals likely arrived on Madagascar, currents flowed east, toward the island. Climate modeling showed that currents were strong enough — like a liquid jet stream in peak periods — to get the animals to the island without dying of thirst. The trip appears to have been well within the realm of possibility for small animals whose naturally low metabolic rates may have been even lower if they were in torpor or hibernating.

    Huber’s computer modeling also indicates that the area was a hotspot at the time, just as it is today, for powerful tropical cyclones capable of regularly washing trees and tree islands into the ocean.

    “It seems likely that rafting was a distinct possibility,” the study concludes.

    Reminded me of the evidence for hominids on Crete we were talking about a week or so ago. The scientists in this new study seem to know their stuff about plate tectonics and ocean currents. Could be very possible that a similar scenario played out on Crete, although this newer study makes a point to mention that all the animals who likely floated to Madagascar were very small and nothing of human size made it there. Then again, we keep seeing evidence that ancient humans were probably a lot smarter than people have given them credit for.

    Anyhoo, interesting stuff to wonder about.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 21, 2010 10:59 am

      Hmmm. Soon as I post that I find another study on primate origins which suggests that primates may not have developed in one small area and spread to places like Madagascar but were widespread before the period of continental drift started. This one is a little tougher to wrap my head around. Seems like the argument depends on the fossil record being incomplete, since the first article mentions that there were no animal fossils on Madagascar dating from the time it split from Africa.

  2. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 12:24 pm

    FDIC head Sheila Bairis in a little hot water over some improprieties with some mortgage loans she took out with BofA while she was working with BofA on bailing them out.

    Bair was teaching financial regulatory policy at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst when President Bush appointed her to head the FDIC in 2006. Her family rented a house in Washington until they borrowed $898,000 from Bank of America in July 2009 to buy a $1.1 million six-bedroom home in the Maryland suburbs. Seven weeks later, they borrowed $204,000 from Bank of America to refinance the Massachusetts house as a second home.

    Mortgage documents for that 14-room home include a provision, known as a second-home rider, stating that Bair and her husband must keep the house for their “exclusive use and enjoyment” and may not use it as a rental or timeshare.

    Yet the couple has been renting out part of the house since they left for Washington, with Bair listing income from the “rental property” in Amherst as between $15,000 and $50,000 a year on her most recent financial disclosure form as head of the FDIC.

    Banks generally consider loans on rental properties to be riskier and charge more for them than for loans on second homes. For a $204,000 loan, according to Bank of America rate sheets examined by the Investigative Fund with the help of a mortgage broker, closing costs on a rental property could be $4,000 higher and the interest rate could rise by a half-point.

    Bair declined a request for an interview. Asked about the second-home rider, Andrew Gray, Bair’s spokesman, said that the fact that Bair had renters at her Massachusetts home was “generally known” and that the couple had disclosed it to Bank of America.

    I think the key here is that a mortgage rate could have been higher for a rental property but it wasn’t necessarily automatic if the borrower was deemed a good credit risk. That’s the way I’m reading it at least. To find out if anything untoward took place I guess you’d have to find out if Bair contacted any other banks for a mortgage and if those banks told her the rate would be higher for a rental property.

    Not sure if there’s anything to see here or not, however there are plenty of other places to get a mortgage from other than BofA and you’d think Bair could have found one of them to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. A quick search shows there are quite a few credit unions for federal employees who probably could have handled her needs and boosted her credibility at the same time.

  3. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 12:34 pm

    Seen a few reports now that the relief effort in Haiti has been bungled due to priority being given for whatever the hell the US military is doing over actually helping the people there. Here’s one of them. This part from one of our military geniuses defending their presence there is worth noting:

    Yet Lieutenant General PK Keen, deputy commander of the US Southern Command, reports that there is less violence in Haiti now than there was before the earthquake hit.

    Not sure where this guy gets his figures from, but let’s assume for the moment that he is correct. I think a significant portion of their population being, you know, dead, just might have a little to do with that.

  4. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 12:46 pm

    Good one from Tom Dispatch on “looting”.

  5. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 12:57 pm

    Good read here on how the financial industry manipulates the “free market” – How Supposed Free-Market Theorists Destroyed Free-Market Theory.

    In the years leading up to the crisis, the proliferation of fine print, complex products, and hidden costs and dangers – and the push against government regulations over them – exemplified the larger pattern. While touting complexity as a form of innovation and railing against every attempt at government interference, supposedly pro-market forces used that complexity to clog the gears of free market machinery and to reduce competition and maximize profit.

    ~snip~

    What’s really galling though isn’t that supposed free-market advocates are so hell-bent on distorting the market wherever necessary to inflate profit. What’s worse is the extent to which the same interests successfully advocated the rules that allowed this to happen under the well-worn guise of–you guessed it–freedom to contract and freedom to choose. That is, through their well-financed and well-oiled lobbyist teams, they facilitated the destruction of the freedom to contract and free choice while pretending to do the opposite. They killed the free market in the name of saving it.

    While I agree with his basic premise, he let’s Milton Friedman off the hook waaaaaaaaaaaaay too easily as he seems to claim that those who came after Friedman distorted his otherwise good ideas. He fails to acknowledge that Friedman cheered these clowns on for years all over the world as they looked for for ways to game the system in their favor.

  6. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 2:11 pm

    During the course of the gay marriage trials currently going on in California it has come to light that the Mormons deliberately tried to hide their involvement with the Prop 8 campaign.

    One key email that got the attention of Julia Rosen at the Prop 8 Trial Tracker blog was one between officials of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and the Proposition 8 campaign, which read in part:

    “With respect to Prop. 8 campaign, key talking points will come from campaign, but cautious, strategic, not to take the lead so as to provide plausible deniability or respectable distance so as not to show that church is directly involved.”

    So drinking coffee is a sin but lying through their teeth is OK? MORONi must be very displeased…

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 21, 2010 2:27 pm

      I think dietary restrictions are the last to go. I know an ex-mo who threw over all the sexual rules, etc, but when I pour a cup of coffee he looks at me like I am eating a baby.

  7. artemis54 permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:25 pm

    Ben Nelson’s descendants can enjoy the view while they sip their Mai Tais. Maybe that’s why he’s joining Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu – the unholy trinity again – in supporting Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 21, 2010 2:41 pm

      This is the amendment I saw mentioned a few days ago isn’t it? The one that Harry Reid doesn’t really have to even let get to the floor for a vote. Fuckers.

  8. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 2:44 pm

    So as we approach the [insert name of insurance company] 2010 Midterm [insert name of too big to fail bank] Elections brought to you by [insert name of defense contractor], can we finally stop pretending that anybody can get elected in this “free” country of ours?

  9. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2010 4:35 pm

    Somebody finally listens to Paul Volcker.

    Declaring that huge banks had nearly brought down the economy by taking “huge, reckless risks in pursuit of quick profits and massive bonuses,” President Obama on Thursday proposed legislation to limit the scope and size of large financial institutions.

    The changes would prohibit bank holding companies from owning, investing, or sponsoring hedge fund or private equity funds and from engaging in proprietary trading — what Mr. Obama called the Volcker Rule, in recognition of the former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul A. Volcker, who has championed the restriction.

    Not going to get my hopes up about this too much quite yet, but it at least seems like maybe somebody finally figured out (after watching the Dems get their ass kicked in Mass) that people really don’t like their government handing out money to big business so big business can turn around and rub it in their faces.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 22, 2010 7:59 am

      More on this story here, here, and here.

      Still not getting too excited about this but it is the first sign in a very long time that Obama is even trying to move this country in the right direction. As his proposal stands right now, this would actually do quite a bit to fix this rotten financial system of ours. It may not be a new Glass Steagall but it would prohibit some of the riskiest behavior.

      Been trying to figure out where the catch is (besides the attempts to water it down once the lobbyists start passing out their bribes to Congress ). So far the only thing I can think of is that this proposed legislation would be for bank holding companies(BHC). Businesses like Goldman would fall under the jurisdiction of the legislation because they are BHCs now, but remember they just became BHCs in 2008 so they could be eligible for bailout money and all the damage they did came before they were a BHC. So is there anything to keep them from just switching their status back to what it was before and continuing the same risky trading?

      • cometman permalink*
        January 22, 2010 10:46 am

        Reading through some financial sites and it looks like a lot of people have been thinking along similar lines that banks could avoid the prop trading ban by simply changing their status as a BHC. Zerohedge has a reason why Goldman Sachs at least may not make the switch. Lots of technical stuff and legalese in there, but if I’m reading it correctly, if the FDIC sticks to its guns Goldman would be facing hundreds of millions in extra payments if it were to switch its status. But of course that pales in comparison to the billions Goldman could rake in by sticking to business as usual and switching back to being an investment bank. Durden’s assessment at the end sounds about right to me:

        Something tells us that continuing to have unfettered visibility over global market flow and being able to exploit it using your own prop trading strategies will surely be worth the several hundred million in addition interest over time.

        Also liked his little jab at the beginning about what a farce it is that these banks were allowed to get BHC status in the first place.

        Of course, it is a joke that Goldman was ever allowed to be a bank holding company in the first place (we still can’t wait to deposit our meager savings with Lloyd Blankfein’s organization. When, oh when, will Goldman open a deposit branch on Paper Street?).

        Wonder if anyone has bothered to investigate whether Goldman ever even had any plans to open up a branch or two that provides a checking account? Seems like they ought to at least make a token effort if they’re going to reap the benefits of the free money that comes from their status change. Won’t hold my breath waiting to see if anyone bothers to check.

        On a related note, what once seemed inevitable now is not so sure as suddenly Bernanke may not have the Senate votes to be reconfirmed. Looks like some in the Beltway may have finally started to decipher the tea leaves provided by the tannin tossers (I really thought that term would have caught on more by now :P ). I’m sure they don’t really want to throw one of their own overboard, but neither do they want to lose their majority in a few months either.

        Quite the little pickle they’ve worked themselves into here. The Dems now have to play populist for a little while to save their own hides. It’s going to be tough to convince people they’re serious about cracking down after they were the ones who pushed for these no strings bailouts in the first place. And of course the republicans did oppose the bailout in large numbers, the exact reason for which I still haven’t been able to fathom. So now if the Dems start pushing for actual reform, expect financial industry cash to start flowing back to the republicans. Then how will the party of “No!” justify being against the crackdown on banks, since its doubtful the republicans really opposed the bailout in the first place – they knew it would pass so they logged their protest votes to try to make it look like they hadn’t been doing the bidding of the financial industry for years.

        I’m sure there will be much more to come on all this. I can hardly wait for Hypocrisy Theatre 2010 to begin.

        • cometman permalink*
          January 22, 2010 11:27 am

          Here’s some more already. Nomi Prins doesn’t think much of Obama’s proposal and notes that banks would not even have to switch their status from a BHC to get around the new rules.

          Banks have mucked up their financial disclosures so much that it’s already near impossible to tell how much banks are making from risky trading, much less how much trading is uniquely “proprietary,” versus how much can be classified as customer-driven or used for hedging purposes, which Obama’s rules would allow. Bank of America, for example, has its fixed income, currency and commodities trading figures merged together, making it impossible to see the contribution of Merrill Lynch’s sizeable trading activities, as well as the line between proprietary and possibly customer-oriented trading. Other banks are even more Byzantine. You can’t limit something that isn’t fully disclosed or can be camouflaged on the books.

          Plus, in a crisis, it’s hard enough to price securities, let alone figure out which trading distinction they possess. At last week’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, JPM Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon said, “It’s not always possible to evaluate positions…Although we are a proponent of fair value accounting in trading books, we also recognize that market levels resulting from large levels of forced liquidations may not reflect underlying values.”

          If “it’s not always possible to evaluate positions,” the notion of evaluating which ones are customer-driven and which are proprietary goes out the window. These firms will just call everything customer driven and alter book distinctions accordingly.

        • Stemella permalink*
          January 25, 2010 7:23 am

          The theater is in full force. Reid and Obama have been twisting the arms of the liberal wing, whipping them back in line to give Baldy Ben support. Obama loves whipping him some liberals, yes indeeedy. Fucking asshole. Status quobama lives not to change.

          Yes, and Wall Street breaths a sigh of relief, their puppet is safely still attached to their strings

          Stock futures higher as Bernanke uncertainty lessens

          Can it be any clearer that the banksters are holding all of us hostage?

          • cometman permalink*
            January 25, 2010 10:38 am

            Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The text in the link you posted may have changed in the last few hours but I found this one from Bloomberg saying a similar thing. I haven’t followed the Benanke confirmation news in great detail but i was under the impression that the confirmation vote was supposed to be last week and they postponed it because his support was waning. I thought the postponement may be due to the Obama administration considering other options. Looks like it was just so he’d have time to twist arms for all the wrong reasons once again.

            This makes it pretty clear that your last question is right on the money:

            Fed officials will keep interest rates near zero after their two-day meeting this week, economists forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

            They could be wrong I suppose, but it sure looks like Obama has managed to get enough people’s minds “right”, Bernanke will stay on, and the money for nothing to the banks will continue. I’m assuming that people like Timmeh and Ben still can’t get their chicks for free though, and finding out how much they pay for them may be the only way we ever get rid of this group of fraudsters. Paging Larry Flynt….

  10. cometman permalink*
    January 22, 2010 11:30 am

    Today is the anniversary of the day Obama promised that Gitmo would be closed in one year. Not only is it not closed, but Obama has chosen this day to announce that his Imperial Majesty will continue to hold 50 Gitmo detainees indefinitely without charges.

  11. cometman permalink*
    January 22, 2010 12:40 pm

    NASA – the Oughts were the warmest decade ever. Maybe somebody in a position of power ought to start taking this seriously. Don’t think my riding a bike sometimes and recycling bottles alone is going to cut it.

  12. cometman permalink*
    January 22, 2010 12:42 pm

    Pissed off Hofstra guy weighs in on Obama’s first year – Ouch.

  13. cometman permalink*
    January 24, 2010 2:29 pm

    Maine makes music. This one has been getting somewhat popular on the local radio stations around here. Remind you of anyone you’ve seen on the interwebs with an inflated sense of self importance? Bwahahahahaha!

    • Stemella permalink*
      January 25, 2010 7:16 am

      This could be a kumquat themesong! Oh this is hilarious! hahahahaha

      Thank you Mainah’s – awesome.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 25, 2010 10:46 am

        I think you mean “wicked” awesome :P My favorite part was the line about trying to be the most obnoxious at the sausage hang. Ha! Reminded me of many of the little boy patrols I’ve seen in recent years trying to tell everyone else they’re wrong about everything.

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