A Really Big Hsu...
[Update: The new post with more complete data, including municipal elections, is here.]
Democratic fundraiser, New York apparel baron, and recently outed fugitive Norman Hsu elected to turn himself in today to authorities in San Mateo, California. Some of Hsu's political beneficiaries have been scrambling to divest themselves of Hsu's contributions, following the revelation that he was wanted in California for skipping out on an agreed-to 3-year prison sentence, following his conviction on investor swindling charges.
Specifically, those vowing to return Hsu's money or turn it over to charity include: Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Joe Sestak (D-PA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), John Kerry (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Bill Richardson (D-NM), and Patrick Murphy (D-RI). [Update: Shep Smith tells us Ted Kennedy has also pledged to disgorge himself of Hsu's contributions. As detailed in the second chart below, Teddy's one of the many whose receipts from Hsu's shady network far outweigh Hsu's direct contributions, so we'll see whether Kennedy's planning to offload the whole questionable sum or just the official Hsu monies. Clinton and Obama have elected to keep the shady bulk.]
Phew! Washed our hands of that scandal.
"There's no way to keep the money," said Doris Chandler Duke, a former ambassador and a major Clinton supporter who belongs to the community of long-time, established donors. "The man may be cleared of all charges and it could blow out to sea, but in the meantime, you don't want to be associated with any donations that might be dishonorable."
Right. Except it's not just Hsu's own contributions which tend to give off that odor of dishonorableness. What originally brought Mr. Hsu to the forefront this week was not his fugitive status, but rather the curious patterns of political contributions attributable to various associates of Hsu's, some of whom appear to be of far meagerer means than their political lavishings would suggest. Most notable was the case of the Paw family in California, who became Hillary Clinton's 3rd highest contributing household in the country, a "distinction" somewhat incongruent to their apparent economic posture.
Clinton and (as far as I can tell) thus far all of Hsu's other recipients have balked at the opportunity to disassociate with the larger Hsu debacle by ridding themselves of contributions from his associates which may - one is forgiven for supposing, and as the FEC is probing - have actually come from Hsu himself. The pattern and timing of these contributions, in light of the financial wherewithal of some of the individuals involved, not to mention the swindling credentials of the ringleader and his soon-to-be incarcerated status, seem to be sufficient to cast a very harsh, ugly light on these other contributions.
To give you an idea of the scope, Clinton has vowed to turn over $23,000 in Hsu contributions to charity. But including gifts from Hsu's associates, Clinton has raked in nearly $175,000 from this crew since 2004. You can appreciate why she might be reluctant to part with that much warm, filthy lucre.
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal published a list of contributions made (and raised) by Hsu since 2004. Using the associates identified in that table as a starting point (the Paw family of California, the Lee family of Queens and Pennsylvania, the Su family of Long Island, and Peter Tan and Stanley Lim of California), I began to go through state and local campaign finance disclosures to see if Hsu's group had taken a shine to any other races.
Indeed, they have.
I'm still working to incorporate the municipal data, but below are the summary results of a nationwide scour of all state and federal campaign finance disclosure documents published since the 2004 cycle. Already, you'll find 65 Democratic candidates (even one Republican(!), though he lost...) running for everything from State Assembly to President. You'll find them running in 32 states. You'll find 9 Democratic campaign committees and 10 Democratic state parties in the mix.
I wonder how long it'll take until they've all pledged to give up the ill-gotten geetch.
Immediately below are presented the top 11 recipients of Hsu's direct contributions and fundraising among the associates in question. Below that, please to enjoy a table of the aggregate receipts of every state and federal candidate, ballot measure, state party, campaign committee, and advocacy group that has taken money from Hsu and his suspect network.
I'll be putting up more exhibits as I carve through the underlying data a little more, and there will be loads more to gaze upon once I've integrated the municipal data. Loads. Lodes, even.
With the state-level data added, we've now shot past $1.3 million. The municipal data looks to drive the total significantly higher. So stay tuned.
Once I've knocked it fully into shape and prettied it up for public display, I'll make available the Google spreadsheet with the raw data so you can do your own futzing with it.
Hillary Vows To Give [At Least Some Of] Hsu Contributions To Charity
That's according to Fox News Channel. An AP story details other Democratic candidates making similar similar gestures., upon learning of Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu's fugitive status stemming from an unserved 3-year prison term Hsu won for grand theft swindling back in 1992.
Al Franken, a Senate candidate in Minnesota, Rep. Michael Honda of California and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania said they would divest their campaigns of donations from Norman Hsu, whose legal encounters and links to other Democratic donors have drawn public scrutiny in the past two days.
But what will they do about the contributions Hsu fetched on their behalf from other donors? The Paw family alone, despite their apparently limited economic means, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hsu's favored candidates (frequently on the same day Hsu chose to make his own - often maxed out - contributions). The curiously bountiful Paws are currently Hillary's third highest contributing household in the country.
Will Hillary and Mr. Hsu's associates' many other beneficiaries - Democratic candidates scattered throughout the country seeking every office from Assembly to Mayor to Governor to President - wait for the FEC's investigation (or any investigations taken up by state election boards) to sort out which contributions were legitimate and which may have been illegally obfuscated Hsu money? Or will they choose to err on the side of propriety and cast off all the suspicious funds?
The latter might be tough, as the dollar amounts involved are substantial, frequently outweighing Hsu's declared contributions severalfold.
Update: Well, there's our answer.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will give to charity the $23,000 in donations that she has received from a fundraiser who is wanted in California for failing to appear for sentencing on a 1991 grand theft charge.
Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said the $23,000 included contributions from Hsu to Clinton's presidential campaign, her Senate re-election and her political action committee. The campaign did not plan to return any money Hsu raised from other donors, Singer said.
Schumer Angling For Treasury Secretary Gig?
An already buoyant day on Wall Street turned giddy late in Wednesday's session when a letter from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to Chuck Schumer was made public. Investors appeared charmed by Bernanke's assurance that the Fed was "prepared to act as needed to mitigate the adverse effects on the economy arising from the disruptions in financial markets."
Bernanke was responding to a letter that both he and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson received from Schumer last week, in which Schumer first applauds the Fed for having injected sufficient liquidity into the debt markets to ward off a more full-blown credit crisis, then implores the recipients to wield their clumsier weapon of heavy-handed regulation. While Chuck assures us his recommendations don't constitute a borrower bailout, he goes on to detail how the Fed might force a borrower bailout upon lenders.
He's a deft euphemism-spinner though.
I urge you to use your leverage over financial institutions—whether banks, lenders, servicers, or brokerages—to encourage them to match the federal government’s efforts to provide funding to nonprofit groups working to prevent foreclosures, and to work with the nonprofits to help borrowers who need of loan modifications. Using your influence over the market players in this regard is an acceptable course of action that is urgently needed in today’s world. In the past, the regulators have shown no reluctance to “jawbone” financial institutions to issue more credit. In today’s world, the analogous action is asking these same institutions to help accomplish refinancing.
So why is Senator Schumer playing at central banker anyway? After all, this tactic of sending out blustery let-me-tell-you-how-to-do-your-job letters on U.S. Senate letterhead is more the province of the A-list posturers, typically those with designs on higher office, as exemplified by New York's other Senator's swiftly-smacked-down heel nipper sent off to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month.
But Chuck is one of the few Democratic Senators not suffering from POTUS fever this year, so what gives? Why the sanctimonious grand-standing and job description over-reaching?
From a NY1 (local Time-Warner political news channel) e-mail teaser fresh from the inbox:
In a wide-ranging interview with NY1 political anchor Dominic Carter, Senator Charles Schumer says he wouldn’t rule out being interested in a cabinet position in a Democratic White House...
Schumer's academic degrees are in politics and law, not finance or economics. And he's never had a private sector job of any sort. Still, given his membership on the Senate Banking and Finance Committees and his chairmanship of the Joint Economic Committee, I'd wager he's got his eye on the Treasury job under a prospective Clinton 44 (who he has formally endorsed).
As an RCN customer, I'm forbidden from looking upon NY1, but I'll keep an eye out for a link after the interview airs.
Steve Jobs Is Trying To Kill You
Behold the Jesus Car. Certain to reunite you with your Maker ahead of schedule.
A Volkswagen spokesperson told German magazine Capital that an iCar may be on the way. Steve Jobs and VW Chairman Martin Winterkorn got together in California a few days ago to "plan an intensive co-operation with the building of vehicles." It might even be called an iCar.
...[I]f rumors from last month are true, we might see additional niceties on board, such as Wi-Fi and maybe even a Mac mini, totally driving drivers to distraction.
Awkwardly machine-translated from German, a Volkswagen spokesperson put it thus:
"The two enterprises hold conversations, which are, confirmed however still in an early stage" a Volkswagen speaker appropriate Capital information...
At the end the development of a "i-Car in such a way specified" could stand.
From Now On, When the Phone Rings You Say, "Vandelay Industries."
JERRY: I'm Vandelay Industries?
JERRY: And what is that?
GEORGE: You're in latex.
JERRY: Latex? And what do I do with latex?
GEORGE: Ya manufacture it.
ELAINE: Here in this little apartment?
JERRY: And what do I say about you?
GEORGE: You're considering hiring me for your latex salesman.
JERRY: I'm going to hire you as my latex salesman?
JERRY: I don't think so.
Previously: Hillary's Magwitch?
Helmsley's Dog Inherits $12 Million. Grandkids: Bubkes
Something tells me Granny Leona wasn't one of those doting, spoiling grandmothers.
Leona Helmsley's dog will continue to live an opulent life, and then be buried alongside her in a mausoleum. But two of Helmsley's grandchildren got nothing from the late luxury hotelier and real estate billionaire's estate.
Helmsley left her beloved white Maltese, named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund, according to her will, which was made public Tuesday in surrogate court.
She also left millions for her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was named to care for Trouble in her absence, as well as two of four grandchildren from her late son Jay Panzirer -- so long as they visit their father's grave site once each calendar year.
Otherwise, she wrote, neither will get a penny of the $5 million she left for each.
Helmsley left nothing to two of Jay Panzirer's other children -- Craig and Meegan Panzirer -- for "reasons that are known to them," she wrote.
But no one made out better than Trouble, who once appeared in ads for the Helmsley Hotels, and lived up to her name by biting a housekeeper.
"I direct that when my dog, Trouble, dies, her remains shall be buried next to my remains in the Helmsley mausoleum," Helmsley wrote in her will.
Really, though, how many cashmere doggy sweaters and diamond-studded collars can one pooch have? If only there were some completely frivolous way to flush away serious canine scratch.
[Scroll for updates]
One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport. Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee.
It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker.
The Paw family's political benefaction - modest living conditions notwithstanding - makes them Hillary's third highest contributing household. Just ahead of the Maloofs.
The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.
Kent Cooper, a former disclosure official with the Federal Election Commission, said the two-year pattern of donations justifies a probe of possible violations of campaign-finance law, which forbid one person from reimbursing another to make contributions.
Accompanying the article is a table of contributions made by Hsu, the Paws, and other contributors since 2004, culled from federal election records.
The Paw family is just one set of donors whose political donations are similar to Mr. Hsu's. Several business associates of Mr. Hsu in New York have made donations to the same candidates, on the same dates for similar amounts as Mr. Hsu.
Those New York business associates, as identified by the Journal, include Daniel Lee and Yu Fen Huang (who may well be married, as they're listed at the same street address) and Soe Lee (who actually now appears to live in Pennsylvania).
While the FEC probe will look at possibly suspicious payments to federal candidates, it occurred to me that similar patterns might exist among the New York State financial disclosures. The opportunity to illicitly boost one's contributions could be far greater in state elections, where the individual contribution limits are much higher (more than $50,000 for statewide candidates and $150,000 in aggregate per contributor per year).
According to the NYS Board of Elections website, Lee, Huang, and Lee tend to follow Hsu's lead locally too. During the 2006 cycle, Hsu gave $52,000 to Democrat Eliot Spitzer's campaign for Governor (spread over 6 donations) and $50,100 to Democrat Andrew Cuomo's campaign for Attorney General (spread over 9 donations). Danny Lee made only one contribution to each candidate, both transactions occurring within a day of a major Hsu contribution.
Since winning their respective elections, both candidates have received another $10,000 from Hsu.
But Spitzer and Cuomo aren't the only New Yorkers fortunate enough to win Hsu & Co's favor. Congressman and 2009 NYC Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) received $4,250 ($700 shy of the limit) from Hsu last month. That same day, Danny Lee and Soe Lee each kicked in $1,500.
[See updated table below]
Earlier this year, NYC Councilman John Liu (D-Queens) received $4,950 from Hsu, either maxing out or exceeding the contribution limit, depending on what Liu is running for (the filing is incomplete). In the months since, Danny Lee and Yu Fen Huang (the two who reside at the same address) and Soe Lee have tipped another $13,000 into Liu's coffers. Huang and Soe Lee (non-co-habitants) made their contributions on the same day.
These appear to be the only state or local campaign contributions Huang or either Lee has made in the last 8 years.
So what do the patterns mean? Well, pretty much nothing, in and of themselves, beyond suggesting Hsu is merely an effective Democratic fundraiser who occasionally convinces his friends and colleagues to support the candidates he supports.
But the propriety of the Paw situation is so dubious that it's hard to imagine the FEC investigation not turning up some kind of irregularities. If and when it does, and if those irregularities suggest that Hsu has been funneling his own funds through other individuals to skirt campaign finance laws, then the New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Campaign Finance Board ought to waste no time launching their own investigations, for which the above transactions would be logical starting points.
Update: It hadn't even occurred to me that the Paws themselves, the modest-dwelling political fat cats from Daly City might also take an interest in New York's local races, but wouldn'cha know it - they do. Turns out the family is supporting Anthony Weiner in the 2009 Mayoral race. And they showed that support on a very familiar day.
Updating the table above:
Hat tip for that find goes to the author of the Journal story, Brody Mullins, who suggested taking a peek specifically for the Paws in the state disclosures, which I'd dopily neglected to do.
Update: Norman Hsu is reportedly a fugitive.
The Los Angeles Times will report on this website later tonight and in Wednesday's print editions that a major Democratic Party fundraiser named Norman Hsu is wanted by authorities for skipping out on an agreement to serve up to three years in prison after pleading no contest to grand theft swindling charges.
Hsu's lawyer confirmed today that his client was the one involved in the California case but said he did not remember pleading to a criminal case nor facing jail time.
"He is a fugitive," said Ronald Smetana of the California attorney general's office. "Do you know where he is?"
Yes! Of course we do. He's at 160 Wooster Street, #3C, New York, NY, 10012. At least he was as recently as July 11th, when he made that contribution to Anthony Weiner. Here's a map. Go round him up.
If he's not there, try the office at 561 7th Ave (between 40th and 41st), Suite 1301.
(HT: Dan Riehl)
Hate Removing Your Shoes At the Airport? There's Hope.
Not much though.
The good news: Shoe security science has finally given us a machine capable of scanning passengers' shoes even when occupied by feet.
The bad news: It doesn't work.
Airline passengers hoping to someday go through security without ever having to take their shoes off will have to wait: The nation's airport security chief says a new shoe-scanning machine needs improvement.
"It's not good enough for prime time," Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief Kip Hawley said of the ShoeScanner, which scans footwear while worn.
Tests have revealed "security deficiencies" that prevent the machine from consistently finding weapons and bomb parts, Hawley said.
Screening officials were aware of some of the machine's potential problems when it was approved for the Orlando test, so the TSA quietly added some backup security measures, Hawley said. The extra measures are "labor-intensive" for screeners and make mass deployment of the ShoeScanner unrealistic, he said.
Bias: It's Not Just For News Desks Anymore
It's now all the rage in the ad sales office too.
[Freedom's Watch's] commercials are well done, and convey the simple message that the Iraq war is important and winnable, and that we should allow our troops to see the mission through.
Freedom's Watch has placed its ads on Fox and CNN, but CNBC and MSNBC have refused to run the ads. ... Freedom's Watch has written to CNBC and MSNBC to protest their decision; here is the text of that letter:
John Kelly Senior Vice-President of NBC News Network Sales
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Dear Mr. Kelly,
We understand that MSNBC and CNBC (the “Networks”) are refusing to sell advertising time to Freedom’s Watch (“FW”) to air a series of educational advertisements. It is our understanding that the purported basis for the denial is a Network policy denying access to groups that wish to sponsor advertising on controversial issues of public importance.
Given your recent history of airing such ads (see below), we must wonder if your denial to FW is a subjective decision because the network officials disagree with the FW ads’ message?
For example, the Networks aired an advertisement entitled “Shameless Politicians” sponsored by Move America Forward regarding the war on terror in October 2004. In November 2006, the Networks aired advertisements sponsored by the American Medical Association entitled “Patient Voice” concerning the controversial issue of access to health care and coverage for the uninsured. During July 2007, the Networks aired advertisements sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition. Your history of airing other issue advocacy advertisements makes the denial of FW advertisements troubling and raises the issue of whether your denial is based on an editorial disagreement with FW's message.
Religion Of Peace Getting Slightly Less Peaceful
Extreme Makeover: Islam Edition: Al Qaida clerics distributing revised editions of Koran.
ABU DHABI — Qatar has banned the import and distribution of unauthorized Korans.
Officials said the Islamic Affairs Ministry has ordered mosques and clerics to use only Korans and other Islamic text approved by the government, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Al Qaida-aligned clerics have employed Korans revised to promote the doctrine of Islamic war against the West.
Officials acknowledged that Korans revised by Al Qaida-aligned clerics have been distributed in Qatar. They said some of chapters in the Islamic text were removed.
The Qatari daily Al Sharq reported that an unidentified Qatari national has financed the publication and distribution of the revised Korans. The newspaper quoted Qatari sources as saying that many such Korans had been sent to the Gulf emirate.
Gonzales Resigns, John E'wards Promptly Passes the Hat
Wasting no time, the would-be Presidential ambulance chaser who's happy to peddle everything from his wife's cancer to his Coulter-besmirched feelings in search of filthy campaign lucre has leapt on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales with familiar inelegance.
On his campaign site, E'wards invites you to "Write your own goodbye note" to Gonzales. It's unclear what happens to your note upon submission; the only discernible effect is the redirection of your browser to a new and very special contribution gateway, cooing:
Thanks for writing your own goodbye note to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the man who brought you Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and illegal spying on Americans.
Campaign senior advisor Joe Trippi kicks off the candidate's newest thematic pledge drive with this e-mail:
[A]s pleased as we are to see Gonzales go, the fight is far from over. While Bush has named a temporary replacement, reports are coming in that he may try to permanently replace Gonzales with another crony from his administration — someone like Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
That’s right — Bush may actually replace the man who brought us a political purge of U.S. attorneys and illegal spying on Americans with the man who brought us the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Support the campaign that is saying ‘no’ to crony out, crony in — make a donation today.
Richardson-Lopez Reminds World To Vote For Him Because of His Race
It's still not - per se - a qualification for the Presidency.
Balls Of Fury
A demonstration has been held in south- east Afghanistan accusing US troops of insulting Islam after they distributed footballs bearing the name of Allah.
The balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag which features the Koranic declaration of faith.
The US military said the idea had been to give something for Afghan children to enjoy and they did not realise it would cause offence. ... Some displayed flags from countries all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, which features the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith.
The words, which include the name of Allah, are revered, and Muslims are very sensitive about where and how they can be used.
It's like a hate crime and a war crime all rolled up in one giant ball of evil U.S. imperialism. That it was cloaked as a sincere attempt to bring joy to Afghan children makes it all the more despicable.
Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year, was finally deported to Mexico on Sunday. Now a Mexican Senate committee has passed a measure urging Mexican President Felipe Calderon to protest this deportation with the United States. According to Mexican Senator Humberto Zazue:
We cannot remain quiet in view of this injustice and must ask for firm action from our authorities.
This cry of "injustice" comes from a country that deported 211,000 illegal immigrants in 2004. By comparison, the US, with three times the population, deported only 204,000 illegal immigrants that same year. Recall that Mexico grants citizenship to a mere 3,000 immigrants annually versus a generous 500,000 for the US.
Perhaps Mexico and its Senate can address some of their own immigration injustices before criticizing the policies and lawful actions of their northern neighbor.
Vlad the Angler
According to an International Herald Tribune article, Russian President Vladimir Putin may be aiming to extend his term of office beyond the country's constitutional limits by wooing voters with his physique.
Pictures of the bare-chested 54-year-old Russian leader on some kind of official fishing trip were splased on the presidential website, prompting swoons and speculation throughout the motherland.
One radio talk show host speculated that the pictures were meant to enhance Putin's personal appeal to voters — a strong signal that he doesn't plan to relinquish power. When the commentator, Yevgeniya Albats, went on to suggest that his half-naked photo shoot was unbecoming a Russian leader, female listeners peppered her with emails expressing admiration for Putin's physique.
Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that women who visited its Web site posted comments on Putin's "vigorous torso" and said they "were screaming with delight and showering (him) with compliments."
Lil' Bush: Gone In 300 Seconds
Having seen the Lil' Bush internet pilot a couple months before the show actually began to air on Comedy Central, I was worried that this would be another atrocious CC non-starter (e.g. Distraction, Pulp Comics, Halfway Home), serving only to help usher the network off to a slow, twisting demise - a regrettable fate for those of us who appreciate the channel's finer and relatively cerebral satirical shows (e.g. South Park , Upright Citizens Brigade, and the about-to-be-mercifully-resurrected former Fox magnum opus Futurama).
Still, despite its unmitigated decrepitude, Lil' Bush has managed to survive for more than two months in the hot seat, so, in flipping around tonight, I decided to settle in and finally watch a few minutes. The internet-dwelling "Spirit of Christmas" South Park pilot, after all, (while still comedy gold) was a far cry from what the show turned out to be. Maybe Lil' Bush had managed to scrounge up some measure of humor in its run-up from horrendous pilot to Comedy Central flavor-of-the-season.
Suffice it to say, my hopes were ill-founded. Golly Moses, this thing is an exquisite wreck. Try as I might, I couldn't bear more than 5 minutes' worth. It's not even the constant and painfully predictable Bush-bashing (He's dumb! Cheney's evil! Condi is George's bookish classmate/servant!) that makes it so thoroughly unwatchable.
Well, that's part of it. The utterly unsurprising bits about the Presidential tyke's intellect and religious fanatacism just get a little stale after 6+ years of B-list comics and late night pseudo-political shows (on, um, the same network) bludgeoning these hilarious gags into oblivion.
Still, overplayed and shockingly repetitive "humor" notwithstanding, there's just so much more to disdain. The clincher for me was the boldly derivative bit about Cheney's visit to hell (after - get this - suffering a heart attack! Oh. Oh... my sides). In the Lil' Bush universe, it turns out that Satan is - wait for it - gay! And flamboyantly so! Did you see what they did there? You see, because Satan is a big, menacing, evil type of character, they're casting the horned one against type. It's genius. Just imagine the comic possibilities.
Or, if you're wanting for imagination, go watch South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. Or any of the several episodes of the show in which the gay devil features prominently.
Are the writers of this show so hurting for edgy pop political shtick that they need to rip off one of their fellow Comedy Central shows for material? And 8-year-old material, at that? Let me guess - for the season finale: Bush gets an anal probe.
Lil' Bush was already on derivative material probation, given the strong similarities of its premise to that of the stupendous Clone High.
With the introduction of its me-too Alternative Lifestyle Lucifer, the show clinches its status as purified animated dreck.
Previously: Lil' Chance of Success
DKos: Minneapolis Bridge Failure Argues For Socialized Healthcare
Feast your brain on that.
If fatally crumbling public infrastructure isn't evidence of the stunning effectiveness of government enterprise, I don't know what is.
(Well, maybe this.)
Update: Speaking of socialized medicine, here's a gem...
I'm going to be honest with you—I don't know a lot about Cuba's healthcare system. Is it a government-run system?
- former Sen. John Edwards
Backstory here. Edwards was asked in Oskaloosa, Iowa if the U.S. should adopt a Cuba-style health care system and that was his answer. ABC has a gotcha of sorts, noting that he'd previously told a frog-throated supporter that he'd watched Sicko. But he added that he didn't get "all the way to the end," and the end of the movie is the Cuban part. And really, how are you supposed to know that Cuba has state-run services until you've seen Sicko?
Hillary: Channeling Che or Mimicking Marilyn?
A new missive has been relayed by the Clinton campaign, this one advertising one of those "conversations" next month in New York. The announcement features an artsy new image of the candidate, an abstraction of the cover art from her book Living History.
We know from Hillary's celebrated Sopranos parody that her campaign appreciates the power of pop culture in campaign advertising. So the obvious question here is: which immortal pop icon is the new logo meant to evoke?
Two spring to mind.
One was a woman scorned by a philandering U.S. President. The other was a left-wing radical.
Where've I Been?
Away, as it turns out. In Brazil for a wedding, where I thought I'd have occasional opportunities to throw up a post. Alas, no. Hence, the spontaneous hiatus.
Back now though, so let's get back to it.
Lord Of the Flies: The Reality Show!
This has spectacular potential. So long as they don't botch it with a bunch of meddling adult supervision.
40 Kids have 40 days to build a brave new world without adults to help or hinder their efforts. Can they do it? These Kids, ages 8-15, will turn a ghost town into their new home. They will cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses, haul their own water and even run their own businesses including the old town saloon (root beer only). Through it all, they'll cope with regular childhood emotions and situations: homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule they've ever known.
Will they stick it out? In the end, will these Kids prove to everyone, including their parents, they have the vision to build a better world than the pioneers who came before them? And just as importantly, will they come together as a cohesive unit, or will they abandon all responsibility and succumb to the childhood temptations that lead to round-the-clock chaos?
AFP: Fake, But Tear-Jerking
Okay, Okay, I'm Awake
Well, despite another final-hour tumble, which dragged the Dow below 13,000 for the first time since April, we still have yet to see the recent sell-off earn its upgrade to official "correction" status, though it's now just a rounding error away.
Since the market topped out on July 19th, the Dow has pulled back 8.1%, the Nasdaq Composite 9.6%. Not pictured (I only have two Y axes to play with) is the S&P 500, which has come down 9.4% since its peak.
Earlier in the session, Wall Street appeared poised for an up day, as this morning's mild retail inflation report seemed to inspire confidence in the increasingly prevailing wisdom that the Fed will cut rates by as much as half a point in its September policy meeting. But by mid-afternoon, the credit boogieman was back on the brain and fretful selling resumed.
If you're panicking, quit it. We may have a ways yet to fall (though if I had to guess, I'd guess we've seen the bulk of it, so long as there are no gargantuan, truly destabilizing credit market surprises yet to emerge), but we're still up somewhere between 15% and 25% over the last twelve months, even after having pulled back 8-10% in the last few weeks. If we shed another few percent as we plow through this historically weakest part of the trading year and wring our hands awaiting the Fed's next policy statement, not only will it still fail to constitute a significant market downturn, but it should offer some unusually compelling bargain hunting opportunities for less flappable investors.
Previously: Wake Me In Another Few Hundred Points
NYC Spending $30k/Day Not Filtering Water Supply
I'm not sure which is more appetizing - the pointless squandering of taxpayers' money or the swill being pumped into their homes.
One of the costliest construction projects in city history, a $2.1 billion water filtration plant in the Bronx that has been troubled by delays, community opposition and charges of mismanagement, is now being fined $30,000 a day by the federal government because there is no primary contractor to start the work.
The rest of the city’s drinking water ... is of a higher quality than Croton’s and so far has not needed filtering.
The Croton system’s water, however, is often plagued by discoloration, odor, bad taste and occasional fly larvae, according to the city, though none of those conditions pose public health risks.
In addition to the whopping daily fines, the project promises to further soak New Yorkers by virtue of its ever-ballooning cost estimates. The city's Department of Environmental Protection, the agency overseeing the project, took a bold - if not particularly credible - crack at waving away the billion dollar overrun.
Steve Lawitts, the agency’s first deputy commissioner, said the plant’s 2003 projected cost of $992 million had been determined without calculating for inflation, which would have put the cost at $1.7 billion in 2007 dollars.
Yeah... someone's going to want to go ahead and page Dr. Bernanke, because at 14% per year, U.S. inflation is 12 percentage points outside the Fed comfort zone and nearly triple that of China.
$992 million in 2003 dollars (even assuming they're January 2003 dollars) is the equivalent of $1.14 billion today, not $1.7 billion. Lawitts is blithely overstating the inflationary effect by 280%. I'm starting to see how these cost overruns slip through.
But if you like needless, avoidable wasting of resources, you're going to love the reason taxpayers are subject to whatever sloth and gougery might suit our sole project bidder.
[N]egotiations between the city and the project’s low bidder, a joint venture led by the Perini Corporation, abruptly broke off after the Department of Investigation became concerned about the company’s ability to meet city requirements for hiring women and minority subcontractors, officials said.
The cost of the city's affirmative action-driven bidding process?
The project’s only other bidder was the Skanska Construction joint venture, whose $1.3 billion bid was $200 million more than the Perini consortium’s price.
Study Confirms: You're a Chump
Survey says... willing.
The Sophos Facebook ID Probe involved creating a fabricated Facebook profile before sending out friend requests to individuals chosen at random from across the globe. To conduct the experiment, Sophos set up a profile page for 'Freddi Staur' (an anagram of 'ID Fraudster'), a small green plastic frog who divulged minimal personal information about himself. Sophos then sent out 200 friend requests to observe how many people would respond, and how much personal information could be gleaned from the respondents.
Sophos Facebook ID Probe findings:
- 87 of the 200 Facebook users contacted responded to Freddi, with 82 leaking personal information (41% of those approached)
- 72% of respondents divulged one or more email address
- 84% of respondents listed their full date of birth
- 87% of respondents provided details about their education or workplace
- 78% of respondents listed their current address or location
- 23% of respondents listed their current phone number
- 26% of respondents provided their instant messaging screenname
The 10 Greatest Crimes Against Humanity
If even one more horrid trilogy ("Daddy Day Spa" anyone?) reaches fruition before any of these 10 thwarted projects is resurrected, then the terrorists have already won.
The ball's in your court, Hollywood.
Wake Me In Another Few Hundred Points
After a couple sessions of relative peace and harmony, the equity markets were back in bloodletting mode today, with the major indices each off by more than 1.5% on this morning's moderately underwhelming earnings and outlook from Wal-Mart, along with a mixed inflation report (hot headline, cool core) for July.
Still, even the combined effect of today's pullback and the last few weeks' worth of unusually high and downward-biased volatility haven't yet conspired to deal us a market "correction" strictly speaking.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average still needs to bleed another 500 points before it will have fallen 10% from its all-time high of 14,000 set on July 19th. The Nasdaq Composite has fallen a bit further from its multi-year high of 2,724 set the same day, but still has a ways to go before it officially earns its stripes.
All the News That's Fit To Edit Anonymously Using Naughty Words
I poked around for about 10 minutes and found the following:
At age 15, Rice began classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist.
At age 15, Rice began classes with the goal of becoming a concert penis.
jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk jerk
(I assume that's a clever ploy to boost the President's ranking in the results for search keyword "jerk".)
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III (born January 12, 1951 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) is a popular American entertainer and radio talk show host. A commentator with a conservative point of view, he discusses politics and current events on his show, The Rush Limbaugh Show. For over 17 years (and continuing as of 2005), Rush Limbaugh has an audience estimated between 13.75 and 20 million listeners weekly according to the Arbitron ratings surveys, the largest radio talk show audience in the United States.
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III (born January 12, 1951 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri) is an idiotic American entertainer and radio talk show host. A commentator with a ridiculous point of view, he discusses politics and current events on his show, The Rush Limbaugh Show. For over 17 years (and continuing as of 2005), Rush Limbaugh has an audience estimated between 13.75 and 20 million listeners weekly according to the Arbitron ratings surveys, the largest radio talk show audience in the United States. Most of them are legally retarded.
Rush Limbaugh is as much a political symbol as he is a broadcaster, comedian, and political satirist.
Rush Limbaugh is as much a political symbol as he is a broadcaster, racist, bigot, jerkoff, comedian, and political satirist.
Update: This is fun.
GEORGE W. BUSH IS THE WORST PRESIDENT TO SLEEP IN THE WHITE HOUSE!
Five minutes earlier (this was about 2 years ago), a user from the same Senate IP edited Senator Robert Byrd's page, replacing the section on Byrd's KKK membership with:
ROBER (sic) LIVES! LONG LIVE DA BIG BYRD!
Update: Ohh-mmmh... Instalanche. Oh, that feels nice. Took just over two years, but that's worth the wait. Yes, yes, that'll work fine.
The "last neglected minority" cries out for respect, demands a day of recognition, and circulates a petition on which the signatures are undoubtedly all smudged.
(HT: HA headlines)
Good Night, Sweet Architect
Rove steps down, effective 8/31, turning in a scorecard of 5-and-1 over his 14-year political partnership with George W. Bush.
While the official story insists Rove is resigning to spend more time with his family, unconfirmed reports have Rove signing on with the "tough, tenacious, fatally flawed" Hillary campaign.
Morris On Clinton On Clinton
Debunkery in its purest form, from Clinton 42's former campaign manager.
Go to www.hillaryclinton.com and check out Bill Clinton's syrupy five minute ad for Hillary. He introduces the commercial by saying that he wants to share some things we may not know about Hillary's background. His version of her biography is about as reliable as if it appeared in Pravda!
So, I wanted to make a few corrections:
Bill says: Hillary never wanted to run for public office, but she did want to work at public service.
The true facts are: When Clinton was considering not running for another term as Governor of Arkansas in 1990, Hillary said she would run if he didn't. She and Bill even had me take two surveys to assess her chances of winning. The conclusion was that she couldn't win because people would just see her as a seat warmer for when Bill came back licking his wounds after losing for president. So she didn't run. Bill did and won. But there is no question she had her eye on public office, as opposed to service, long ago.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Give the whole piece a read. It's wafer-thin.
Morris' link sends you to the campaign site's front page, which will force even intrepid webgoers to wade through more syrupy videos than they can likely bear, so go here to jump straight to the pack of nuance in question.
Late To the Autosimpsonization Party
Stocks STILL Up For the Week (But Barely)
As of 3:30 on Friday, with 98% of the trading week behind us, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq Composite, and the S&P 500 are all still modestly higher than last Friday's closing levels, notwithstanding the carnage of the last couple days.
More dramatic losses may have been forestalled by the Fed's decision to inject $38 billion in liquidity into the market - largely via repos of mortgage backed securities - the largest open market operation the Fed has undertaken since September of 2001, when combined with yesterday's $24 billion.
As for the policy outlook, interest rate futures are now pricing in close to a 100% chance that the Fed will break its streak of 9 consecutive pauses with an ease in rates at its September meeting, and not by a quarter point, but by a half, which would lower the fed funds rate from 5.25% to 4.75%.
Market Continues Its Up Week
Yes, today was a bloody one on Wall Street, with the major indices each shedding between 2% and 3% on yet more mortgage woes, inspired by French bank BNP Paribas announcing it was freezing funds holding subprime loans. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its biggest point drop since the February pullback, finishing down 387 points for the session.
Still, the Dow's net week-to-date move is a positive one. At 13,271, the average is 89 points higher than last Friday's close. What's more, this modest net gain is just enough to offset last week's modest net decline of 84 points.
Despite the wild volatility that has gripped this market ever since the we glanced off of 14,000 on July 19, volatility not seen in years, the violent pivoting isn't translating into much of a net move. Even after today's bloodletting, the Dow is just 5% below that all-time high of 14,000. During the week after the record high was set, the Dow took its rather swift 5% dip. But in the two subsequent weeks, it has barely moved at all (once you net out all the terribly violent day-to-day swings, that is).
So for all the reported "panic" in the equity markets, we're not to be particularly impressed thus far by the size of the decline. We can't even call this a "market correction", such as the term is generally understood, until the size of the decline at least doubles from here.
But while the pullback thus far fails to impress, not so the volatility. Following the last couple days' relative calm, our 10-day moving average gauge has jumped right back toward that multi-year high set Monday.
Sign #3 Your Pet Croc Is Unhappy
If you need water, I'm your rain.
If you need fire, I'm your flame.
I hope our children remember this good.
We threw those ashes and there we stood.
As crocodile tears fall...
faces 12th floor balconies...
A CROCODILE survived a fall from the 12th floor of a block of flats in Russia after trying to escape through a window.
Diving out of the window has become a habit for the crocodile, called Khenar, with concerned neighbours saying it was the third time the animal had used that method to flee.
It lost a tooth in the latest fall but was otherwise unscathed.
The first escape-cum-plummet may well have been more instinct than carefully planned terrarium break. Likewise the second. And I don't know if Pavlov ever studied large aquatic reptiles, but by the third time the croc leapt from this guy's hi-rise, we've got to consider the possibility that the poor toothy bastard just wanted out.
(HT: HA headlines)
Federal Reserve Language Watch
The Fed left its interest target unchanged at 5.25% today and released the following policy statement (marked up to show the language changes from the the previous statement six weeks ago):
Federal Reserve Release
June 28August 7, 2007
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 5-1/4 percent.
appears to have beenwas moderate during the first half of thisthe year , despite the ongoing adjustment in the housing sector. The. Financial markets have been volatile in recent weeks, credit conditions have become tighter for some households and businesses, and the housing correction is ongoing. Nevertheless, the economy seems likely to continue to expand at a moderate pace over coming quarters, supported by solid growth in employment and incomes and a robust global economy.
Readings on core inflation have improved modestly in recent months. However, a sustained moderation in inflation pressures has yet to be convincingly demonstrated. Moreover, the high level of resource utilization has the potential to sustain those pressures.
In these circumstancesAlthough the downside risks to growth have increased somewhat, the Committee's predominant policy concern remains the risk that inflation will fail to moderate as expected. Future policy adjustments will depend on the evolution of theoutlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Thomas M. Hoenig; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner;
Cathy E. Minehan;Frederic S. Mishkin; Michael H. Moskow; William Poole; Eric Rosengren; and Kevin M. Warsh.
All in all, there's a lot in there for investors to like. The key messages here seem to be 1) that credit concerns aren't the end of the world and that economic fundamentals remain strong, and 2) that the committee is beginning to see a more pronounced risk of overplaying its inflation hawkishness.
In other words, economic conditions are good - but not so good that the Fed isn't beginning to shift from a counter-inflation bias toward a neutral or even accomodative stance. The market is still trying to decide how it feels about the statement, resulting in a violent ambivalence in afternoon trading. The final hour of the trading day has been particularly turbulent lately, so things could change dramatically over the next 60 minutes, but for now, the indices are all trading moderately higher.
Son Of a...
NYC word police are back in action.
The New York City Council, which drew national headlines when it passed a symbolic citywide ban earlier this year on the use of the so-called n-word, has turned its linguistic (and legislative) lance toward a different slur: bitch.
The term is hateful and deeply sexist, said Councilwoman Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn, who has introduced a measure against the word, saying it creates “a paradigm of shame and indignity” for all women.
The bill would also ban use of the word "ho" within city limits. How cosmopolitan!
Opponents are squarely missing the point, arguing the merits and alternative meanings of these words.
“Half my conversation would be gone,” said Michael Musto, the Village Voice columnist, whom a reporter encountered on his bicycle on Sunday night on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Christopher Street. Mr. Musto, widely known for his coverage of celebrity gossip, dismissed the idea as absurd.
“On the downtown club scene,” he said, munching on an apple, the two terms are often used as terms of endearment. “We divest any negative implication from the word and toss it around with love.”
Darris James, 31, an architect from Brooklyn who was outside the Duplex, a piano bar in the West Village, on Sunday night was similarly opposed. “Hell, if I can’t say bitch, I wouldn’t be able to call half my friends.”
Proponents are - somwhat stupefyingly - stupefied by the opposition, off-the-mark as it may be.
They may not have been the kinds of reaction that Ms. Mealy, a Detroit-born former transit worker serving her first term, was expecting. “They buried the n-word, but what about the other words that really affect women, such as ‘b,’ and ‘ho’? That’s a vile attack on our womanhood,” Ms. Mealy said in a telephone interview.“
Maybe. But it's not government's job to stop verbal attacks on womanhood, no matter how vile. Attempts to do so constitute a vile attack on individual liberties.
Happily, as with the n-word ban, this bill would be utterly pointless, in that it can't be enforced. But pointlessness doesn't imply meaninglessness. A symbolic trouncing of the right to free speech in its most literal, vocalized form, is just comically misguided.
Ms. Mealy acknowledged that the measure was unenforceable, but she argued that it would carry symbolic power against the pejorative uses of the word. Even so, a number of New Yorkers said they were taken aback by the idea of prohibiting a term that they not only use, but do so with relish and affection.
Good thing this city doesn't have any actual problems for lawmakers to worry about.
An Inconvenient "Smidgen Of Truth"
Fake and inaccurate? Dan Rather, Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, eat your fabulist hearts out.
I do so hope Newt doesn't wind up running in 2008, because we desperately need his intellect to remain unconstrained by the deadening shackles of public office.
That is, assuming this whole "environment" thing is for real.
If Newt's green-speak doesn't affright your cozy political notions about environmentalism, try this one on.
Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated.
Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance.
Yep. And there's more.
Another day, another monster last-hour move in the equity markets. The S&P 500 put up the biggest percentage gain, rising more than 2.4%, but since we've been focusing on the Dow lately, let's just keep doing that.
No slouch, the blue chip average soared more than 280 points today, which was enough to put it back within 4% of its all-time high of just over 14,000.
Below is your updated Dow volatility chart, which shows the 10-day moving average absolute value percentage change, which reached a new multi-year high today for the severalth consecutive session.
And if you're curious, the hideous thing below is the same gauge plotted over the last 20 years. Note the violent spikes timed with notable market inflection points. If you squint really hard, you might be able to see that those spikes tend to precede the turning points, so the periods of wild volatility aren't just measured effects of the trend reversals, but frequently signals thereof. The current spike is still humbled by its bubble, post-bubble, and pre-crash-of-'87 brethren (in part due to my re-calibrating for percentage - rather than absolute - swings), but it's still volatility unlike anything we've seen in more than four years. And it's still climbing.
It occurs to me that this blog has featured far too many graphs in recent days, so consider this your weekend respite.
Courtesy of HamNation, it's Better Living Through Bathroom Etiquette.
Ethertubes video. It's the next best thing to watching actual TV.
Volatiler and Volatiler
Seems today's leery eyebrow-raise was justified. The equity markets not only maintained their recently elevated volatility, but amped it up. Friday's session saw another big triple-digit move in the Dow (unfortunately, to the downside). The index was lower pretty much all day, but for the 4th day in a row, the final hour of trading saw a massive move, leaving all major indices lower by more than 2%.
Yesterday, I looked at a measure of Dow volatility (specifically, the trailing 10-day average absolute value of the index's point change) and found it climbing to levels not seen since October of 2002. A chart of that volatility (updated for today's ugliness) is below.
Meh... the real scale of the ugliness is a little hard to discern, all squished up at the end there. Here's the same measurement, plotted over just the last month.
See what I mean?
October 2002 is noteworthy in that it marked a significant turning point for U.S. equity investors. The post-bubble downturn had finally run its course and the market began to mount what would turn into a 5-year bull market run.
As volatility has a tendency to increase when market trends are reversing, it stands to reason that the trough of 2002 would see a spike. With Friday's turbulence pushing average volatility further above anything since late 2002, one wonders (well, I wonder, anyway) whether another change in prevailing market direction is being signaled.
A more traditional gauge of market volatility, the CBOE Volatility Index (the so-called "Fear Index") has also popped up recently, but at 25, still has a ways to go before nearing its 2002 peak levels above 40.
For what it's worth, judging by macroeconomic fundamentals and corporate earnings, I view stocks to be by and large attractively valued and likely to continue upward once we get through this spastic period. And for all the market's vim and vigor of late, it could just be convulsing its way through a more convincing correction than we've seen lately, before resuming an upward trajectory.
On the other hand, if credit and/or housing concerns continue to dog the market like they've so enjoyed doing lately (and especially if people keep saying scary things like this), the mounting market turmoil of the past few weeks may prove prescient after all.
Patriot Submariners Not Letting Up On Redcoats
I thought we already had this conflict pretty much sewn up.
New York police discovered a submersible floating in the East River near a docked cruise ship on Friday and detained three men in what they said was not a terrorist-related incident.
The partially submerged spherical sub and a small inflatable boat were spotted approaching a security zone around the Queen Mary 2 ...
"All three males are expected to be charged with a number of violations and both vessels will be secured by the Harbor Unit," it said.
The submersible had a small round hatch on top and appeared to be a replica of the Turtle, an early submarine used in the U.S. Revolutionary War.
The original Turtle was deployed in New York Harbor in 1776 in a failed attempt to plant explosives in a British ship. Appropriately enough, its 2007 counterpart was detained in New York Harbor as it approached the security perimeter of a British ship.
Haven't they heard we've won the war? What do they keep on fighting for?
And has anyone put a call in to Old Saybrook High School?
Party of 19
47th Consecutive Month of Job Growth, 1 Away From Record
As I've been noting these last few months, the Bush economy is hurtling ever closer to a possible record-setting period of unbroken job creation. Today, the Labor Department released its preliminary employment situation summary for July, showing an increase in seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls of 92,000.
While this was down from a revised estimated increase of 126,000 in June, it nonetheless extended the economy's streak of consecutive job creation to 47 months, a trend that began just three months after Bush signed the 2003 investment income tax cuts into law. The only longer period of job creation on record (48 months) immediately followed Reagan's 1986 tax cuts.
But that wonderful voodoo that supply-side tax cuts do do so well doesn't just work for Republican Presidents. The longest uninterrupted period of job growth during the Clinton Presidency (33 months) immediately followed his signing of the 1997 capital gains tax cuts into law. (Of course, that streak had the misfortune of coinciding with the internet bubble, the aftermath of which wasn't such a hot job market, but it still goes on the books as Clinton's longest run without negative job growth.)
These three streaks (Reagan's 48, Bush's 47-and-counting, and Clinton's 33) are the three longest periods of unbroken job growth on record. How much more unmistakable does the economic stimulus effect of pro-growth, supply-side tax cuts need to be before redistributionists take their fingers out of their ears?
Bear in mind that unless Congress acts to make the 2003 tax cuts permanent, this most recent prosperity catalyst automatically expires in 2010 (and possibly sooner, depending on who we choose in 2008).
Wall Street enjoyed yesterday's wild ride so much, it decided to take another spin today. There weren't quite as many violent crossings of the center line, but it was once again a session of vacillation, right up until the last hour of trading, when the major indices staged a convincing rally. It wasn't quite as dramatic as yesterday's late afternoon rocket ride, but it was enough to clinch the Dow a triple digit gain for the session.
If it seems like the Dow has seen an unusual number of triple digit days recently, it has. The index hit its all time closing high of 14,000 on July 19 and in 7 of the 10 sessions since, it has jumped or fallen more than 100 points.
Over those 10 sessions, the average absolute value change in the index was a hefty 155 points. That trailing 10-day average hasn't been so high at any point since mid-October 2002, a week during which the world was gripped in a kind of perfect storm of uncertainty. (In the span of 6 days, the Senate authorized the use of military force in Iraq, the D.C. snipers claimed their ninth victim, the EU decided to add 10 member nations, and hundreds were killed and injured in the Bali nightclub bombings.)
For what it's worth, that disquietingly volatile period in October 2002 was also an important inflection point for the equity markets. It was that week that the market finally hit the bottom of its protracted post-bubble crash, and began the long climb that has seen the Dow surpass its peak bubble levels and nearly double from that October 2002 trough.
It's not particularly surprising that we find that spike in volatility at the 2002 trough, as volatility tends to increase during reversals of market trends. The mildly grim question now is whether the current spike in volatility augurs another trend reversal. The trend has clearly been our friend the last few years and it'd be a shame if it should decide to peter out.
We'd have to see a little more whipsawing before August 2007's volatility matches up to October 2002's, but given that we've gone this fitful without nearly as much headline assistance, we're to be forgiven at least for casting a leery eyebrow raise at tomorrow's trading session.
And Edwards Is Carter On Valium
Wall Street's Whiplash Wednesday
Anyone else starting to get nauseous?
Wall Street careened through a difficult session Wednesday, changing directions several times as investors were beset by ongoing concerns about U.S. home loans and the credit market.
Stocks had for a time seemed to be holding their gains, but the market resumed its zigzags, suggesting that any advance could perhaps be punctured by further bad news about soured subprime home loans, those made to borrowers with poor credit.
The back-and-forth session further revealed the fractious nature of the stock market after a series of triple-digit swings in the Dow Jones industrials over the past week.
Jason Bateman Solves Energy Crisis
Goodbye, dependence on foreign oil. Hello, gasoline-synthesizing mutant germs.
With this holy grail tech as little as 3-5 years away, it's time to celebrate by hopping in your Hummer and doing a couple hours' worth of donuts in the parking lot.
LS9, a company based in San Carlos, CA, and founded by geneticist George Church, of Harvard Medical School, and plant biologist Chris Somerville, of Stanford University, had previously said that it was working on what it calls "renewable petroleum." But at a Society for Industrial Microbiology conference on Monday, the company began speaking more openly about what it has accomplished: it has genetically engineered various bacteria, including E. coli, to custom-produce hydrocarbon chains.
To do this, the company is employing tools from the field of synthetic biology to modify the genetic pathways that bacteria, plants, and animals use to make fatty acids, one of the main ways that organisms store energy. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms strung together in a particular arrangement, with a carboxylic acid group made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen attached at one end. Take away the acid, and you're left with a hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel.
Stephen del Cardayre, a biochemist and LS9's vice president for research and development, says the company can make hundreds of different hydrocarbon molecules. The process can yield crude oil without the contaminating sulfur that much petroleum out of the ground contains. The crude, in turn, would go to a standard refinery to be processed into automotive fuel, jet fuel, diesel fuel, or any other petroleum product that someone wanted to make.
Next year LS9 will build a pilot plant in California to test and perfect the process, and the company hopes to be selling improved biodiesel and providing synthetic biocrudes to refineries for further processing within three to five years.
Speaking of the implications of this on the "climate change" debate that you're beginning to mull over, how vehemently do you suppose the more vehement ecoists would oppose this technology, were it to come to fruition? In a land of cheap fuel aplenty, after all, the existing market-based incentive to conserve (to drive fuel-efficient cars, to carpool, not to do donuts in the parking lot) goes up in smoke. Sure, the geopolitical outlook may improve drastically, worldwide prosperity would accelerate, hundreds of millions of people would be lifted out of poverty, etc., but the allure of legislating a reversion toward a more eco-friendly, crisis-mode consumption level - say, via a crippling carbon tax - might be too great a temptation.