Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blog Notes: November Contents Now Up!

Over at the WordPress blog: Click here.

One month left til this blog goes dead!

Blog Notes: Eh.

I have a bunch of Doom dispatches that I should be posting.

Instead, I'm closing the blog early for today.

I shouldn't eat in the evening while blogging. I lose my motivation.

Up next will be the post linking to November's Contents.

Tomorrow begins the final month of this blog!

Cagney & Lacey

One of the hottest shows on CBS Monday night at 10PM was Cagney & Lacey.

It turns out it has an official website.



And producer Barney Rosenzweig has written a book.

(I must go off on a tangent here. He originally did it POD with iUniverse and there's a frank discussion of what that was like. I'm hoping Rosenzweig will investigate the possibly of an eBook edition -- for people like me who can't deal with paper any longer.)

I'm pretty sure I watched the entire Daly/Gless series when it aired -- or at least once it was parked in that Monday at 10PM spot. Some TV series become "appointment TV" -- and Cagney & Lacey was one of those for me.

And now, the great opening titles:

No Frogs, No Bees ... And No Acorns?

Acorn Watchers Wonder What Happened to Crop
The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.

Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill.

But Simmons really got spooked when he was teaching a class on identifying oak and hickory trees late last month. For 2 1/2 miles, Simmons and other naturalists hiked through Northern Virginia oak and hickory forests. They sifted through leaves on the ground, dug in the dirt and peered into the tree canopies. Nothing.

Too early to tell what this means.

Have the frogs gotten better?

Have the bees returned?

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #444: UnFood

Yuk - the sausage rolls with just 6% pork
Big supermarkets’ budget food is selling well but its quality is poor
SOME of Britain’s biggest supermarket chains are compromising on quality by selling budget items such as sausage rolls with as little as 6% pork.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco are working hard to market their low-cost lines as they compete with discount chains to attract cash-strapped shoppers.

This is often coming at the expense of quality, however. An analysis of low-cost foods at the two chains has found, in addition to the sausage rolls, fisherman’s pies with 9% fish and square cheese slices with 11% cheese. The products have been bulked out with ingredients such as water, animal fat and sugar.

Emphasis added by me.

Ew.

But what this reporter missed is something very important in a Comment:
As a retired Chemist I read the labels with some interest. Lists of ingredients now tend to include margarine. It seems that "hydrogenated vegetable oil" is a no no. However margarine IS by definition hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Cynical manipulation of the public by big business as usual.

Emphasis added by me.

Be careful what you stock up on. With some of these items, it'd be healthier to starve.

Another Excerpt From Writer Tito Perdue

The hallucinogenic and mysterious novel he's writing, The Node, continues with Excerpt Five.

Previously here:

See Writer Tito Perdue In Person!
Writer Tito Perdue: A Second Novel Excerpt
Writer Tito Perdue: Excerpt Of New Novel
Writer Tito Perdue: New Novel!
Writer Tito Perdue: New Website

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advice That Is Still Good

Delete RedSwoosh.exe

In my continuing battle with this goddammed Microsoft-sabotaged PC, I called up Task Manager at one point early in the day and noticed something very strange.

RedSwoosh.exe was listed. But I'd seen that before.

This time, however, it was -- when Task Manager was sorted to CPU usage -- irregularly popping to the top at the list and eating 97-98% of CPU!

WTF?!!?

I did some research. Red Swoosh as a sole company no longer exists. It was purchased by Akamai and there is no way to get information about the program from them (at least that I could discover).

I remember a long time ago having Red Swoosh recommended somewhere for some sort of P2P app.

And then today I also discovered that Red Swoosh is used by the FoxTorrent plug-in. I have that plug-in, but never used it, and it's been turned off.

So, I uninstalled the FoxTorrent plug-in and then I went to Control Panel and uninstalled RedSwoosh.exe.

I haven't done comprehensive testing, but I can say for today, the PC has seemed peppier.

If any of you have been experiencing intermittent sluggishness on your PC, look for RedSwoosh.exe and uninstall it.

Batman: Murdered By Bankruptcy

As in writing bankruptcy.

Batman killed by his OWN dad
Bruce Wayne – who by night is Batman – gets murdered by a man claiming to be the father he thought was dead.

In a highly controversial new storyline Bruce, who first appeared in 1939, is killed by Simon Hurt – the leader of the shady Black Glove organisation.

Simon claims he is really Dr Thomas Wayne, saying he faked his own passing when Bruce was a child.

That's about as bankrupt as possible.

Previously here:

Holy Eejitcy, Batman!

Today For Today And Not For Tomorrow

Update: Broken link fixed. Sorry!

the flimsiness of everyday life
It is clear that nothing new is ever built well. Contemporary architectural design seems to take its cue from a combination of the Big Brother house and the office of a focus group, all lime green and oranges, loud circles and fun fun fun. Sitting in the Building Centre with Owen the other day, we discussed what it meant, or must mean. Nothing must remind anyone of the past, everything must be perky, like toys for grown-ups. Relational aesthetics as anti-modernism. Architects must make their mark all the way down, designing bespoke fixtures that break almost immediately and are too expensive to replace. Construction is poorly done, and radically unsuitable for the fiddly baroque toy furnishings that characterise the architecture of the past decade. And yet - wildly over-budget, we have a set piece! Think of the added value to the area! How many mini-Bilbao-effects can we set in motion...

This is an excellent essay. Go read it.

I'm too tired to dredge my mind for all of its implications, but there are many.

And it's yet another Exhibit to add to the daily-enlarging file titled England Is Doomed.

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #443: Crush

By now, everyone has probably heard about the Wal-Mart employee trampled to death when a Black Friday mob rushed the store's entrance.

Rex Hammock comments with I find it tragic that the NYT would call the Walmart death a “fitting” beginning to the holiday season:
Again, this is in a country where, even in good times, people will drive 30 miles to save 1% on sales tax. This is a country where each year, we read about fist fights breaking out over Tickle Me Elmos and Wii Fits. But today, because we are in the midst of a “crumbling economy,” when people line up for something the New York Times itself has hyped, the paper uses that fact as proof for how awful things are. Again, people are so desperate they’ll do anything for $400 flat-screen TVs.

Emphasis added by me.

Yes, Rex. And for gasoline too.

Now imagine how much worse it will be when the goal is to get food.

See TEN THOUSAND iPhone Apps On ONE Page

148Apps

And the page does load fast and it is ten thousand -- and each icon is clickable through to its iTunes App Store listing.

Absolutely spectacular work.

-- Via Twitter from wmacphail

UK's The Do-Not Press On Hold



As you'll soon see, The Do-Not Press I hold in very high regard. It's been a long while since I've been to their website. Something made me go today and I was very disturbed to see this:



The Do-Not Press introduced me to Ken Bruen, via The Hackman Blues they published:



That cover had to be the most-successful publisher branding I've ever encountered.

I found Bruen on the shelves of the New York Public Library. And because The Do-Not Press published all of its crime fiction in that distinctive blue wrapper with red-dot logo, their books stood out on the shelves and I was also introduced to the works of the late John B. Spencer.

Unfortunately, whoever bought those books at the NYPL must have left because there were never any others from The Do-Not Press (this despite my repeated requests for them!). And since it's a UK publisher, distribution in the U.S. was just about non-existent.

Now they seem to have nearly closed-up shop, no doubt another victim of all the book publishing turmoil going on in England.

Well I have a word of advice, Do-Not Press: eBooks!!!

I want to buy all your crime fiction, dammit. I trust your brand and I'm certain I'd love every word you've published.

Why don't you and some other hard-pressed small publishers get together, hire someone to figure out eBooks and ePub for you, format all your print books into ePub eBooks, and then start selling them to eager people like me me me?!

And see if you all can make the case to the parasite agents and their blessed writers to do it at a sensible price.

Another Reason For Public Library eBooks

Chicago doubling its library fines
Starting Jan. 1, the Chicago Public Library will double the daily fine for overdue library books to 20 cents instead of the current dime. If you return the book very late, you'll face a top fine of $10 instead of $5. Lose a book and you'll still have to pay the full replacement cost.

And:
The new fine will be in the same range as other major urban library systems. The New York Public Library charges 25 cents a day, while the fee is 30 cents in Los Angeles and 15 cents in Seattle.

eBooks borrowed from public libraries go POOF! when they expire. They check out, but never have to be checked back in.

Free reading without fines.

Penguin Books Does iPhone App

I'm not able to wrap my head around this one.

First, the posts that led me to it:

Readerville: Penguin Embraces the iPhone; Amazon Does Not?

INDEX // mb: Penguin US Launches iPhone App

Here's some snaps from its iTunes App Store listing:





Readerville notes:
[. . .] the notion of being able to download books directly from publishers is almost mind-bending.

Well, that's what Sony has in mind for the wireless version of its Sony Reader.

As for me, I find this app to be very strange. I really don't know what to make of it. It's like they've set up a "Penguin Books Channel" on the iPhone. Will other publishers do this too? That'd pretty much be a nightmare, having to launch separate apps for each publisher. Isn't that what Safari Bookmarks and well-designed websites are supposed to provide?

As it is, there are now multiple eBook readers and multiple comic book readers available for the iPhone. Each app does things its own way and can -- in most cases -- only read files formatted for it. What Teleread's David Rothman justifiably calls the "Tower of eBabel" has gained a few new floors with the iPhone.

Dying Dinosaurs Of Print: CHOOSE!

Over at Kung-Fu Monkey, Leverage co-creator/producer John Rogers posted: Streaming Mac to 360: Rivet.

It's all about how on-demand streaming video via the Net is not the future -- it's right now.

This coincidentally dovetails nicely with my recent DVD epiphany.

And there's one paragraph that I must quote:
The tone of voice when I talk about these things tend to be a disdainful "Well, sure but how are we supposed to monetize this?" Right question, wrong tone. We. Don't. Have. A. Choice.

Emphasis added by me.

The music industry has been usurped by technology. Now television has been too. And movies.

The one remaining industry is book publishing.

Google has already stolen all of the historical backlist.

All that's left is recent and not yet published.

It's as if the book publishing industry was situated on a giant iceberg -- which suddenly cracked apart, leaving publishers on a precarious floe.

Over there in a big rescue ship are eBook readers screaming, "We'll save you! Just publish eBooks quickly and at reasonable prices!!!"

On the other side are the pirates on a self-built makeshift archipelago in international waters free from all law enforcement. They don't care what book publishers do. They have worldwide distributed teams with scanners and free proofreaders ready to "set everything free."

And on the horizon are writers themselves in small boats trying to figure out how to best survive on their own, liberated from the constraints of ink-and-paper publishing.

Book publishing -- unlike music, unlike TV, unlike movies -- Still. Has. A. Choice.

Will it allow eBook readers to rescue it?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Converting Kids Print Book To eBook

It is entirely coincidental I have three posts in a row about Amazon! Unless there's a conspiracy "in the air" against me ...

Kindle-izing a Kid’s Book
Ten days ago, we took on a project to convert a kid’s book for the Amazon Kindle. This one had quite a few detailed graphics and used many different, specialized fonts to set off particular sections, highlight key pieces, and provide highly graphical chapter opening pages. Problem is, Kindle only supports one font (a Times variant).

What to do?

There's more text and some screensnaps!

More Amazon eBook Nightmare Talk

Kindle Gossip
I think they’d be better of licensing the library. Kindle software on the iphone and the Sony Reader and the Dell Mini and the whatever with access to an ever expanding Amazon e-book library makes more sense than trying to version 2 of the ugly stick.

OK, now I'm getting worried.

I'm a big believer of things "being in the air" -- that people can pick up what's about to happen.

This is the second post speculating like this in the past few days. (I just posted: Amazon eBook Rentals?!)

Is something like this going to happen in 2009?!

Amazon eBook Rentals?!

Amazon to Sell Online Mobile Rentals??
Has the Kindle 2 release been delayed for commercial, technical or strategic reasons? Why would Amazon miss out on the Christmas season sales?

Perhaps the answer is down to a change in strategy. Perhaps the explosion of smartphone applications has fired a shot across their bow and woken them up to the fact that maybe; just maybe, the kindle isn’t and never will be sexy or cover all the bases. No matter how many Ophra endorsements are given it’s still a clunky device which will find it hard justify the consumer investment. Maybe Amazon has realized that if there is a significant mobile swing and the world goes online as opposed to offline they are in a better position than anybody to take that market, or at least go head to head with the potentially biggest ebook retailer – Google.

Let’s step back and look at potential Amazonian moves. These may be far from the reality of what happens but they could happen:

Amazon introduces a Kindle mobile application for the major mobile platforms.

Amazon promotes an online book service based on their mobi format.

Amazon smartens up the Kindle reader and make it interoperable with the online service.

Amazon offers online rentals for both kindle and mobiles.

He's not the first to wonder about a Kindle reading app for cellphones. But he's speculated several puzzle pieces others haven't.

A move like this would be positively ... Microsoftian.

Suddenly, the Sony Reader -- and all others -- would be stranded.

Words that strike fear into everyone's hearts: Kindle eBook Reader for iPhone!

eBooks: Studying Vs. Reading

This post is from August but the Comment to it raises an important point.

Med Students: Would a College Edition of Kindle be Worth it?

From the Comment:
When I study, I usually have four or five open books in front of me with only a glance needed to go between one of the other, all marked up, with my notes as well. Studying on a Kindle just doesn’t add up to this.

That being said, I would definitely buy such a device for the times when it is really called for, i.e., a long plane flight where you might want to take a few books but don’t want to carry around 25 extra pounds, etc.

He's right. Look at this:

the dual-display ebook reader project



It's been a long time since I had to deal with textbooks, but that Comment brought back memories of -- yep! -- having more than one book open at a time.

Subliminally, perhaps that's why I focus on eBooks for personal entertainment use. It'd really be hell to jump between multiple texts on all current eInk devices.

Of course, Study Tables would be great ...



SharePoint Nick Meets eBook Pricing

Sony eBook Reader
So although there are no storage, transport, shelf or shop staff costs for ebooks, you actually have to pay more for them!!!

Ridiculous! If the ebooks were half the price of the paper books I’d buy one without thinking but while the ebook prices are this way they can *%$* off!

Will the dying dinosaurs of print keep trying to tell people their common sense personal observations are out of whack?

Hey, dying dinosaurs, these are the people who want to buy your eBooks.

Just not at the ridiculous prices you've been setting!

Previously here:

eBook Pricing 101: The Magic Formula
eBooks And Pricing

Writer David Hewson Meets Sony Reader

Author meets the future: how electronic is it?
[L]et’s say it out loud, reading on screen just isn’t the same.

At least not on a conventional flat screen, which the Sony very much does not have. I won’t bore you with the technology but it is nothing like the flat screen in your TV or computer monitor. This is a kind of electronic ink. A tedious fact in itself were it not for two things: it actually looks very good indeed, sharp and very much like real text. And it has no backlight so the Sony uses no power whatsoever when you are simply reading a page -- only when you ‘turn’ to a new one.

How close to paper is it? Very close, particularly in bright daylight (when most electronic screens are utterly readable). The background isn’t as white a you’d expect, and you can’t see much in dark situations where a laptop would be very readable. But it’s a lot better than I expected, and I was quite happy flicking through books very quickly with it indeed.

So there’s the first lesson I learned about the Sony. You need to see it to believe it. Prejudices, for or again, really don’t count for much because this is quite unlike anything else you’ve ever encountered before.

Here’s the second big surprise: the size and feel of the thing. It’s tiny, little bigger than a paperback book, beautifully made, with a sturdy and expensive-looking satin metal shell encased in a cover that feels very like brown leather (which it isn’t). I’ve seen other book readers and they all, let’s be frank, look like calculators that have spent too long in McDonalds. The Sony isn’t plasticky, doesn’t shout ‘geek’ and feels very, very nice in the hand.

This is the first part of what promises to be several installments.

eBooks Vs. ePrint

eBooks and Digital Editions
All the Exact Editions publications already work on the iPhone, all our pages are web pages, so its not in our plans to develop a comparable solution for fungible text. We think (and more important Google Book Search thinks) that pages and page lay-out matters. This 'conservative' or 'post modernist', 'hyper-referential' preference comes with predilections for colour, illustrations, complex layout, paginated references and citations. All the gorgeous apparatus of print that is lost when books, magazines and newspapers are boiled down to a simple ASCII/XML stream.

And:

Hardware Standards Proliferating
The very diversity of these devices will make it impractical for publishers to create different versions of their properties for different platforms. Rather than re-format and re-package content for devices with varying interfaces and form factors, much better to offer a digital edition that can be served and used through any valid web browser. Let the browser take the strain as Apple have done so magnificently well with the new Safari on the iPhone. Safari defeats the small scale of the screen by allowing web pages and images to be squeezed and slid around within the browser.

Just when I think, "At last! ePub! A standard! We can all move forward now!", comes Exact Editions offering another counter-argument.

I'd like to Fast Forward five or ten years from now to see what everything has settled on.

Romance Fans Tell Me To Fuck Off!

No, like seriously. And without even a link to me, that's how mad they are!

The Romance Apologia Scale
Last week I wrote about my own reader bias. When Mike Cane first confronted me with his incredulity that I rarely read male authors, my first response was a defensive one and an apologetic one. No, I don’t read solely female authors. But I think my first response should have been “why not?” because the fact is, I get plenty of penis point of view and always have. I’ve been through 7 years of post secondary education. I remember in philosophy class that my professor called the cadre of philosophers DWEBS - Dead White English Boys. The entirety of my education was dominated by men. The only female professors I had was in history (she was a women’s history specialist) and in contracts in law school. My bosses have all been male. I would venture that 85% of the opinions I read are authored by men. Judges on the bench? Largely white and male. The penis and its thought process is everywhere - i.e., Viagra is covered by insurance but birth control is not.

Keep reading down for the Quiz.

Surely Answer 4 was inspired by me!

(And here I be, with not only Dear Author in this blog's bookmarks, but writers Ann Somerville and Zoe Winters too!)

Bye-Bye Borders = Hello eBooks!

Publishing Models, Translations, and the Financial Collapse (Part 8)
If Borders were to go bankrupt — and this is still an if — it would be one of the greatest catastrophes to hit the publishing world in decades. Even after liquidating as much stock as possible, publishers would receive massive returns, millions of dollars would be lost, and going forward, publishers would have 1,100 fewer stores to sell to.

All the more reason for every publisher -- big and small -- to ante up and really, truly bet on eBooks.

No returns.

And with the Sony Reader's vision of wireless to come, publishers (and writers!) can set up their own stores to sell their own eBooks.

Sure, people can still order print books from Amazon -- but do publishers really want Jeff Bezos to have a second hand around their necks?

With the right marketing, eBooks can fill the gap: The Bookstore Comes Home. (Note, I do not consider that good marketing, but it is one of the points that should be made, I think.)

The Tyranny of DVD

J&R had a really impressive and tempting Black Friday DVD sale. So tempting that at opening time, over 100 people had already lined up for it! (I was passing by, not a participant!)

Among the goodies: complete season boxed sets of Monk and House and others for only $15-$20!

I was really drooling over the possibilities of that ... but then thought ahead.

1) How often would I want to watch those? After Hill Street Blues did its run, it had a very limited syndication life. I tuned in to one episode and ... it was already dated! It seemed old, but not in a good way.

2) I already have several boxed sets of TV series. I don't watch them as often as I thought I would. In fact, while watching some of them, I was beginning to resent watching them again. Another 25-50 minutes gone from my life -- and for what?

3) DVD boxed sets weigh something. If I had been stupefyingly rich and indulged myself in every boxed set that looked good, I'd have even more things and even more weight to lug around when moving!

4) There really is only a very, very limited number of things I could stand to see more than 3-4 times. In movies, for example, Die Hard never seems to get old or tired for me. Same with The Final Countdown and The Long Good Friday. TV-wise, certain -- but not all -- episodes of The Twilight Zone. And Dennis Potter's two groundbreaking serials: Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective are immortal. Those are just a few examples. But the total wouldn't be as many as I think if I were to compile a list.

I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way? I'm beginning to think a service such as Hulu is now a very good idea. Throw the repeats up on the Net. Let me watch them with ad breaks. I get it for free whenever I want it, you make money -- and I also won't have to hoard more stuff and weight to lug around.

ECTACO jetBook At Blowout Price!



Teleread reports the ECTACO jetBook is $100 off at Newegg, making it now hit the Golden Spot of $199.00 for an eBook reading device.

I wrote about the jetBook in two posts: Micro Fondle: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader and in More About That ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader.

Since then, ECTACO has announced ePub and MobiPocket support will be coming:
With The International Digital Publishing Forum newly released EPUB specification format based on XML, this is the new standard for eBook production and leading eBook device manufacturers.

Ectaco announced that the jetBook eBook reader will support both - most popular in US MobiPocket format and open EPUB format in Q1,2009. Many professionals think that this event will make jetBook the greatest eBook reading platform in the US and Europe

-- but what's unclear here is whether the current hardware will support it. Also unclear is whether it will suppoort DRMed ePub and MobiPocket files.

Buyers of the original Sony Reader PRS-500 had to trade-in that model for $100 towards the PRS-505, because the 500 hardware could not support ePub and PDF reflow.

So while $199 is an absolutely great price (especially when ECTACO's own "holiday sale price" is $309.95), it still might not get any capability beyond what it currently offers.

ECTACO jetBook website

Writer Emma Larkins Does A Turkey Story

Storytime: Trippin' on Thanksgiving Joy

She actually got in all the story suggestions she was given, with as few words as possible.

And then she gets cruel and vindictive and mean:
And to the wonderful people who offered suggestions, here is your challenge, should you choose to accept it: write a Christmas story on your blog!

I didn't know she was that heartless!


Actual real-life photo of Emma Larkins issuing story challenge!

Lots From Writer Jimmy Lee Shreeve

I've given up expecting his blog to look the same way twice. He's just changed the template once again. I've lost count of how many times this makes.

He's got some great posts up:

Way of the Crow: Be True To Yourself
-- which ties into my posts here and here

Zen wisdom: An interview with S├ębastien Foucan -- parkour/free-running expert

Take the plunge: canalboat living -- an introduction to his article in The Independent about those wonderful English houseboats

Canal boat living: Rise of the eco river gipsy -- introduction to a second article about those houseboats, this time at Telegraph.

Previously here:

eBooks: The Invisible Worm
Writer Jimmy Lee Shreeve: Site Redesign #2
J.K. Rowling Gets Shreeved
Writer Jimmy Lee Shreeve: Site Redesign

Quote: Writer Ann Somerville

One thing puzzles me
Yesterday someone tried to insult me by saying ‘you don’t even pretend to be nice’. I took that as a huge compliment, because seriously? People who pretend to be nice, suck. We all know people like that - women like that. As someone I know puts it, they throw the rock and hide the hand. It’s all ‘bless my heart’ and ‘my, we don’t talk like that here’ and then it’s stabbity stabbity and flying monkeys as soon as they’re crossed.

Free eBook From Zoe Winters



A PDF file available here.

Also at that post, details of other file formats coming shortly.

Note to Zoe and all others: I need big covers. Something at least 440-pixels wide for blog pimpage here.

Mumbai: S.A.S.-Like Counter-Attack

Massacre in Mumbai: Up to SEVEN gunmen were British and 'came from same area as 7/7 bombers'
Around 20 masked officers had raided the centre this morning, dropping from helicopters onto the roof, in an operation dubbed Operation Black Tornado.

Time for me to repeat a favorite video of mine, from the movie The Final Option:



Previously here:

God Bless The S.A.S.!

Second Free Charlie Huston eBook!



It's in PDF format and the link is at the bottom of this post.

Previously here:

Where’s The Next Free Charlie Huston eBook?
Free eBook By Charlie Huston!

More About Bond. James Bond.



A second viewing of Quantum of Solace -- this one after seeing Casino Royale -- made everything clearer. The first time I saw it, I didn't know about the Vesper Lynd story.

I can see this is at least a trilogy of movies now.

Bond got information about Quantum from the Economic Hitman who was killed in the desert as well as Vesper Lynd's phony boyfriend.

The next movie is Bond Goes Wild On Quantum's Ass.

I did, of course, make up that title.

Writer Anthony Neil Smith isn't fond of the new James Bond.

One point I agree with him about:
WE DON'T LIKE HYPER-FAST EDITING, YOU HOLLYWOOD MORONS!

I call it abusive editing -- because it makes me feel like I'm being slapped around!

Previously here:

James Bond Vs. James Bond
Reference: James Bond Timeline
The Name's Grim. James Grim.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

This blog will be closed tomorrow.



No blogging.



No Twittering.



No online at all.

Major Terror Attack In Mumbai, India

All other activities here have been suspended while I monitor the major terror attack happening in Mumbai, India.

Live scrolling Twitter feed.

Live IBN/CNN streaming video.

Live photos on Flickr.

Thanks to everyone on Twitter for sharing!

Twitter has been ahead of American TV from the start.

My sympathies to all the victims of this horrible attack.

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #442: Destruct

This Is Not A Normal Recession: Moving on to Plan B
There are many types of of structured instruments including asset-backed securities (ABS), mortgage-backed securities (MBS), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) all of which provide a revenue stream from loans that were chopped into tranches and turned into securities. There are many problems with these complex securities, the biggest of which is that there is no way to unravel the individual pools of loans to isolate the bad paper. That's why subprime mortgages had such a destructive affect on the secondary market, because--even though subprimes only defaulted at a rate of roughly 5 percent--MBS sales slumped nearly 90 percent. Why? Former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill explained it like this: "It's like you have 8 bottles of water and just one of them has arsenic in it. It becomes impossible to sell any of the other bottles because no one knows which one contains the poison."

Exactly right. So why weren't these structured debt-instruments "stress tested" before the markets were reworked and the financial system became so dependent on them?

Greed. Because the real purpose of these exotic investments is not to provide true value to the buyer, but to maximize profits for the seller by increasing leverage. That is the real purpose of MBS, CDOs and all the other bizarre-sounding derivatives; higher profits with less capital. It's a scam. Here's how it works: A mortgage applicant buys a house for $400,000 and puts 10 percent down. His mortgage is sold to Wall Street, chopped into pieces, and stitched together in a pool of similar loans. Now the brokerage can use the debt as if it were an asset, borrowing at ratios of 20 or 30 to 1 to fatten the bottom line. When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken into conservatorship by the government, they were leveraged at an eye-popping 100 to 1. This shows that nearly an infinite amount of debt can be precariously balanced atop a paltry amount of capital. This explains why the $4 trillion aggregate value of the 5 big investment banks and the $1.7 trillion value of the hedge funds is now vanishing more quickly than it was created. Once the mighty gears of structured finance shift into reverse, deleveraging begins with a vengeance pulling trillions into a credit vacuum.

Emphasis added by me.

You know what's screwy? This is exactly a laissez-faire market at work and there are people who refuse to recognize that! This is a Comment posted to this blog in response to my scourging the "Austrian school" of economics:
This crisis was neither a failure of laissez-faire capitalism nor Ayn Rand's ideas, it was a failure of intensive regulation —with Greenspan's hypocritical contributions.

Hello! These structured investments had no regulations governing them at all! That's as fucking laissez-faire as gets!

Back to this post:
So far, the Federal Reserve has provided nearly $2 trillion through its lending facilities just to keep the financial system upright. The Treasury is currently distributing $700 billion to key banks and other financial institutions that are perceived to be "too big to fail". In truth, the "too big to fail" mantra is a just public relations hoax to conceal the web of counterparty deals that make it impossible for one institution to fail without dominoing through the rest of the system and wreaking havoc. That's why AIG is still on life-support with regular injections of taxpayer money; because it had roughly $4 trillion of credit default swaps (structured "hedges" that are not traded on a regulated exchange) for which AIG does not have sufficient capital reserves. In other words, the taxpayer is now paying the debts of an insurance company that didn't set aside the money to pay its claims. (As yet, No SEC indictments for securities fraud) In fact, the Fed and Treasury are now providing a backstop for the entire structured finance system which is frozen solid and shows no sign of thawing any time soon.

Emphasis added by me.

Hey, Ayn Randroids and "Austrians," don't squeak about the free market. Read here how no capitalist would touch CitiGroup to rescue it! It's as Ralph Nader said: Capitalism will never die because Socialism will keep rescuing it!

There is much detail in this post about how Paulson's and Bernanke's efforts are nothing more than smoke-and-mirror feel-good triage (my terms) rather than fundamental repairs.

The post concludes:
Rome is burning. It's time to stop tinkering with a failed system and move on to "Plan B" before it's too late.

They have no "Plan B."

I do:

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #441: Nash V. Smith
Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #431: Acceleration
Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #427: 777

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #441: Nash V. Smith

A Beautiful Mind (Adam Smith was wrong)



The blonde is all outstanding global debt: National, Corporate, and Consumer.

If everyone wants repayment, no one is going to get it.

Nations, societies, and the world we have known all fall.

If everyone ignores the blonde -- all debt is forgiven -- everyone prospers.

All Sink or All Swim in a nutshell.

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #440: Not 777

The G-20’s Secret Debt Solution
If you think this weekend’s G-20 meetings in Washington are only about designing short-term fixes to the financial system and regulatory reforms for banks, hedge funds, brokers, mortgage companies and investment banks … think again.

Behind the scenes, a far more fundamental fix is being discussed — the possible revaluation of gold and the birth of an entirely new monetary system.

Emphasis added by me.

Wait. Don't get excited yet.

More:
It would be a strategy designed to ease the burden of ALL debts — by simultaneously devaluing ALL currencies … and re-inflating ALL asset prices.

That’s what central banks and governments around the world are going to start talking about this weekend — a new financial order that includes new monetary units that helps to wipe clean the world’s debt ledgers.

It won’t be an easy deal to broker, since the U.S. is the world’s largest debtor. But remember: Debts are now going bad all over the world. So everyone would benefit.

Emphasis in the original.

Sounds exciting now, doesn't it? Sounds just like what I've proposed (and which I still believe is inevitable).

But wait. Don't get excited yet.

More:
The Big Question: What gold price would be legislated to reflate the U.S. and global economy?

I can’t tell you what gold price the G-20 would ultimately agree to. But here’s what they will be looking at …

* To monetize 100% of the outstanding public and private sector debt in the U.S., the official government price of gold would have to be raised to about $53,000 per ounce.

* To monetize 50%, the price of gold would have to be raised to around $26,500 an ounce.

* To monetize 20% would require a gold price a hair over $10,600 an ounce.

* To monetize just 10%, gold would have to be priced just over $5,300 an ounce.

Those figures are just based on the U.S. debt structure and do not factor in global debts gone bad. But since the U.S. is the world’s largest debtor and the epicenter of the crisis, the G-20 will likely base their final decision mostly on the U.S. debt structure.

Emphasis in the original.

By this point, you should start smelling a rat. I did.

But wait. This point confirms what I said here:
Second, I do NOT advocate a fully convertible gold standard. Never have. There isn’t enough gold in the world to make currencies convertible into gold. It would end up backfiring, restricting the supply of money and credit.

Emphasis added by me.

Yep. The bottom line with gold is: Fuck that. There's not enough. There never will be enough. Using that as a standard of value is simply anti-human. It's worse than tying our fortunes to oil (especially with arguments for the Peak Oil hypothesis all around).

And the next bit, which I will not quote, is the rat: A recommendation to buy gold.

How can he recommended gold when he's already argued it would restrict overall growth?

The other rat is the possible G20 discussion of debt handling. It would be a parlor trick that would essentially give National and Corporate debt a huge break -- while screwing all the rest of us.

Debt has to be wiped out for all three levels: National, Corporate, and Consumer. I've detailed that here. Nothing short of that will work.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #439: Austrians

Another personal interjection.

From time to time, I can't help bumping into posts from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It has a blog here.

It also has this post, which presents a capsule overview of the "Austrian school" of economics and how it believes a free market should work versus the manic and depressive cycles we periodically experience: Economic Depressions: Their Cause and Cure

Ayn Rand and her ilk were supporters of the Austrian school.

I was never convinced.

I'm still not convinced.

Earlier today I posted excerpts from Jack London's The People of the Abyss.

I keep seeing that nightmarish vision of a poverty-filled and coldly uncharitable society as the natural consequence of Austrian economics.



What else can I be expected to conclude when in this post -- "Neanderthal" Economics -- I see this:
In one of his most important books, America's Great Depression, Murray lists six ways government could delay market adjustment, which he says would create the "favorite 'anti-depression' arsenal of government policy." These include the following:

1. Prevent or delay liquidation
2. Inflate further
3. Keep wage rates up
4. Keep prices up
5. Stimulate consumption and discourage saving
6. Subsidize unemployment

Emphasis added by me.

The People of the Abyss is a document clearly showing the effects of not "subsidizing" unemployment. (And notice the Nazi-like sneer implied by the use of that term, subsidy, instead of the neutral insurance!) The People of the Abyss is a testament to people being reduced to being beggars and even to committing suicide because there is no safety net.

There is something inhumanly callous about any system of economics that ignores what Jack London terms "the thing happening."

Ayn Rand's acolytes imagined a broad sweeping vision of a world drenched in liberty due to economic freedom. I think that's a delusional view of life. Not everyone is motivated by money. There is no syllogism in life where money = X behavior. People are not like computers, with output equaling input.

Alan Greenspan -- a member of Ayn Rand's core "Collective," who read Atlas Shrugged as it was being written! -- discovered that aspect of human reality -- too late:
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.

Who other than bankers and financiers should have been motivated by money and to its preservation? That's their line of work, for god's sake!

And yet the Austrians would have us fed to them -- as trustworthy defenders of capital and its preservation?

Don't tell me about gold-backed currency. Or gold itself. Is gold limitless? Unlike oil, there isn't an abiotic hypothesis that would explain an expanding supply of it. That means growth is limited to the amount of available gold. That's a worse prospect than the Peak Oil hypothesis!

How many Jews in Nazi Germany tried to buy their freedom? Shouldn't that money have granted them that? Very often, all it got them was murdered and their wealth stolen.



So much for the overriding motivation of Dollar Uber Alles!

Of course, the Austrians, being good little bean counters and true-believing ideology-huggers, would probably argue that their system depends on a rational world.

Tell me: On what fucking planet does that exist? It's not this one!

So, no. I couldn't swallow von Mises and Company back in the early 1980s -- and today I can't tolerate its nonsense at all.

Bank Collapse Watch: CitiGroup 4

Citigroup collapses! Banking Shutdown Possible
It pains me deeply to announce that, despite the massive government rescue, yesterday’s collapse of Citigroup could ultimately lead to a shutdown of the global banking system.

For many years, I hoped this would never happen, and I thought we might be able to avoid it.

Emphasis added by me.

More:
More recently, in the wake of the biggest financial failures in history — Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Wachovia and others — rather than liquidate the failed firms’ bad assets, the authorities have been engineering shotgun mergers. The end result is that they have been sweeping most of the bad assets under the carpet of larger banks like Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase, each of which already had abundant bad assets of its own. Adding insult to injury, Treasury Secretary Paulson’s decision this month — not to buy up the bad assets from many of these banks — has only heightened this concern. Rather than dispose of the toxic waste, the regulators have been rolling up the garbage to the larger banks.

And now, here we are, nearing the end of the road with the largest banks of all endangered and with no larger bank that can swallow them up. It’s a day of reckoning that leaves me no choice but to issue this three-part warning:

* Despite the U.S. government’s massive Citigroup bailout, it is going to be difficult for the global banking system to survive the shock to confidence for very long.

* Even if insured depositors do not pull out their funds, uninsured institutional investors are likely to run with their money, threatening to bring the system down.

* And alas, even if you have your money in a safe bank with full FDIC coverage, you could be adversely impacted.

Emphasis added by me.

So far, he's saying what I've been screaming here for months!

And if you thought that one quadrillion dollars figure I've been referencing was insane, open your eyes with this:
Derivatives are bets made mostly with borrowed money. They are bets on interest rates, bets on foreign currencies, bets on stocks, bets on corporate failures, even bets on bets. The bets are placed by banks with each other, banks with brokerage firms, brokers with hedge funds, hedge funds with banks, and more.

They are often high risk. And they are huge. According to the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), on June 30, 2008, U.S. commercial banks held $182.1 trillion in notional value (face value) derivatives. And, according to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), which produced a tally six months earlier for the entire world, the global pile-up of derivatives, including institutions in the U.S., Europe and Asia, was more than three times larger — $596 trillion.

That was ten times the gross domestic product of the entire planet … more than 40 times the total amount of mortgages outstanding in the United States … nearly 60 times greater than the already-huge U.S. national debt.

Emphasis added by me.

That's a little over 400 trillion short of one quadrillion dollars. That other 400+ trillion is out there. They just haven't found it and factored it in. Do they need to? Isn't that amount staggering in and of itself? It dwarfs the income of the entire fucking world!

What happens when the music stops? A metaphor:
The Mafia knows all about systemic meltdowns of gambling networks. In the numbers racket, for example, players place their bets through a bookie, who, in turn is part of an intricate network of bookies. Most of the time, the system works. But if just one big player fails to pay bookie A, that bookie might be forced to renege on bookie B, who, in turn stiffs bookie C, causing a chain reaction of payment failures.

The bookies go bankrupt. The losers lose. And even the winners get nothing. Worst of all, players counting on winnings from one side of their bets to cover losses in offsetting bets are also wiped out. The whole network crumbles — a systemic meltdown.

Emphasis added by me.

This is precisely what we are facing. This is what I saw face to face on January 1st!

What have I been saying? Exactly this:
As I warned at the outset, at some point in the not-too-distant future, governments around the world may have no other choice but to declare a global banking holiday — a shutdown of nearly every bank in the world, regardless of size, country, or financial condition.

What could happen in the banking holiday? In the past, we’ve seen some financial shutdowns that eventually helped resolve the crisis. And we’ve seen others that only made it worse. Often, savers are forced to leave their money on deposit, giving up a substantial portion of their interest income for many years. And, in other cases, the only way they can get their money back sooner is by accepting an immediate loss of principal. But no matter how it’s resolved, when banks have made big blunders and suffered large losses, it’s the multitude of savers that are invariably asked to make the biggest sacrifices and pay the biggest price. No one else has the money.

Emphasis added by me.

Have any of you stopped to wonder what happened to people who had more than the FDIC-insured $100,000 (now $250,000) on deposit in one of the banks that have failed? It's easy to not care about them at a distance because we don't have that kind of money. But I'm not blind to the fact that money could have been made honestly and through hard work and even a few smart (but not greedy!) investments. Those people took a hit and who cried for them? Where's their bailout? Do you think the FDIC came back to them later on, after raising their limit, and said, "Oh, here's another $150,000?"

This is where he and I sharply part company. This is his advice:
Question #4. “Throughout history, many governments have defaulted on their debts in a more subtle way — by devaluing their currency. Why are you recommending Treasury bills, which are denominated purely in dollars, if one of the consequences of this disaster could be a decline in the dollar?”

The trend today is toward deflation, which means a stronger dollar. But even if that changes, the solution will not be to abandon the safety and liquidity of Treasury bills. It will be to separately set some money aside and buy hedges against inflation, like gold or strong foreign currencies that tend to go up in value when the dollar falls.

Emphasis added by me.

That's an illusion. It will look like deflation for a while. But when that hyperinflation kicks in, we're the United States of Zimbabwe. There is absolutely no escaping the vengeance of hyperinflation. Economic orthodoxy demands that, just as economic orthodoxy (rightly) demands 1 + 1 = 2.

There is no safe place.

And there is only one way out.

The only question that remains is, How long before they recognize that?

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #438: Revisions

Slight Rise in Consumer Confidence

Which is a Smiley Face headline on an article that reveals downward revisions of past economic stats.

I put this here only for the sake of completion. I'm not going to break out these numbers.

I've said again and again not to believe the figures when announced. They always get revised. And usually for the worse!

Holy Eejitcy, Batman!

Batman to be killed off after 70 years

Yeah, because, you know, it's easier to fucking kill an icon than think of new ways of using him.

Quote: Writer L.J. Sellers

How it sometimes happens:

Virtual Sitdown with L.J. Sellers
I started my first novel after tossing aside a piece of dreck and thinking, I could write a better novel than that. Then the compulsive part of my brain said, Oh yeah? Prove it. So I spent a couple of weeks brainstorming and outlining a novel, then sat down and cranked it out in about three months. It wasn’t publishable, but it was better than that piece of dreck that somehow made it into print.

Crap can be a motivating force.

Previously here:

Writer L.J. Sellers Asks The Question Of 2009
Print Book Publishing: DOOMED

Jacques Cousteau Never Called Them That!

First there were sea kittens.

Now there are sea spiders.

Both are good eats!

What Thing Will Happen To Us?

All the financial rescue plans are based upon a conceit.

It is this: That the world outside of the numbers will remain as it is.

That conceit alone can kill all of us.

The People of the Abyss by Jack London
(first published by Macmillan, 1903)

Chapter 8: the Carter and the Carpenter
The Carter had buried his wife and children, with the exception of one son, who grew to manhood and helped him in his little business. Then the thing happened. The son, a man of thirty-one, died of the smallpox. No sooner was this over than the father came down with fever and went to the hospital for three months. Then he was done for. He came out weak, debilitated, no strong young son to stand by him, his little business gone glimmering, and not a farthing. The thing had happened, and the game was up. No chance for an old man to start again. Friends all poor and unable to help. He had tried for work when they were putting up the stands for the first Coronation parade. 'An' I got fair sick of the answer; "No! no! no!" It rang in my ears at night when I tried to sleep, always the same, "No! no! no!"' Only the past week he had answered an advertisement in Hackney, and on giving his age was told, 'Oh, too old, too old by far.'

Chapter 9: The Spike
It seems that not only the man who becomes old is punished for his involuntary misfortune, but likewise the man who is struck by disease or accident. Later on, I talked with another man, -- 'Ginger' we called him, who stood at the head of the line -- a sure indication that he had been waiting since one o'clock. A year before, one day, while in the employ of a fish dealer, he was carrying a heavy box of fish which was too much for him. Result: 'something broke,' and there was the box on the ground, and he on the ground beside it.

At the first hospital, whither he was immediately carried, they said it was a rupture, reduced the swelling, gave him some vaseline to rub on it, kept him four hours, and told him to get along. But he was not on the streets more than two or three hours when he was down on his back again. This time he went to another hospital and was patched up. But the point is, the employer did nothing, positively nothing, for the man injured in his employment, and even refused him 'a light job now and again,' when he came out. As far as Ginger is concerned, he is a broken man. His only chance to earn a living was by heavy work. He is now incapable of performing heavy work, and from now until he dies, the spike, the peg, and the streets are all he can look forward to in the way of food and shelter. The thing happened -- that is all. He put his back under too great a load of fish, and his chance for happiness in life was crossed off the books.

Chapter 17: Inefficiency
As an illustration of how a good worker may suddenly become inefficient, and what then happens to him, I am tempted to give the case of M'Garry, a man thirty-two years of age, and an inmate of the workhouse. The extracts are quoted from the annual report of the trade union:
I worked at Sullivan's place in Widnes, better known as the British Alkali Chemical Works. I was working in a shed, and I had to cross the yard. It was ten o'clock at night, and there was no light about. While crossing the yard I felt something take hold of my leg and screw it off. I became unconscious; I didn't know what became of me for a day or two. On the following Sunday night I came to my senses, and found myself in the hospital. I asked the nurse what was to do with my legs, and she told me both legs were off.

There was a stationary crank in the yard, let into the ground; the hole was 18 inches long, 15 inches deep, and 15 inches wide. The crank revolved in the hole three revolutions a minute. There was no fence or covering over the hole. Since my accident they have stopped it altogether, and have covered the hole up with a piece of sheet iron . . . . They gave me £25. They didn't reckon that as compensation; they said it was only for charity's sake. Out of that I paid £9 for a machine by which to wheel myself about.

I was laboring at the time I got my legs off. I got twenty-four shillings a week, rather better pay than the other men, because I used to take shifts. When there was heavy work, to be done I used to be picked out to do it. Mr. Manton, the manager, visited me at the hospital several times. When I was getting better, I asked him if he would be able to find me a job. He told me not to trouble myself, as the firm was not cold-hearted. I would be right enough in any case . . . . Mr. Manton stopped coming to see me; and the last time, he said he thought of asking the directors to give me a fifty-pound note, so I could go home to my friends in Ireland.

Poor M'Garry! He received rather better pay than the other men because he was ambitious and took shifts, and when heavy work was to be done he was the man picked out to do it. And then the thing happened, and he went into the workhouse. The alternative to the workhouse is to go home to Ireland and burden his friends for the rest of his life. Comment is superfluous.

Chapter 18: Wages
All of which is hard enough. But the thing happens; the husband and father breaks his leg or his neck. No 9 cents a day per mouth for food is coming in; no 9 1/2 mills' worth of bread per meal; and, at the end of the week, no $1.50 for rent. So out they must go, to the streets or the workhouse, or to a miserable den, somewhere, in which the mother will desperately endeavor to hold the family together on the 10 shillings she may possibly be able to earn.

Chapter 21: The Precariousness of Life
Old age, of course, makes pauperism. And then there is the accident, the thing happening, the death or disablement of the husband, father, and bread-winner. Here is a man, with a wife and three children, living on the ticklish security of twenty shillings ($5.00) per week -- and there are hundreds of thousands of such families in London. Perforce, to even half exist, they must live up to the last penny of it, so that a week's wages, $5.00, is all that stands between this family and pauperism or starvation. The thing happens, the father is struck down, and what then? A mother with three children can do little or nothing. Either she must hand her children over to society as juvenile paupers, in order to be free to do something adequate for herself, or she must go to the sweat-shops for work which she can perform in the vile den possible to her reduced income. But with the sweat-shops, married women who eke out their husband's earnings, and single women who have but themselves miserably to support, determine the scale of wages. And this scale of wages, so determined, is so low that the mother and her three children can live only in positive beastliness and semi-starvation, till decay and death end their suffering.

And:
Yet this mother and her three children we are considering, have done no wrong that they should be so punished. They have not sinned. The thing happened, that is all; the husband, father, and bread-winner, was struck down. There is no guarding against it. It is fortuitous. A family stands so many chances of escaping the bottom of the Abyss, and so many chances of falling plump down to it. The chance is reducible to cold, pitiless figures, and a few of these figures will not be out of place.

And:
To the young working-man or working-woman, or married couple, there is no assurance of happy or healthy middle life, nor of solvent old age. Work as they will, they cannot make their future secure. It is all a matter of chance. Everything depends upon the thing happening, the thing with which they have nothing to do. Precaution cannot fend it off, nor can wiles evade it. If they remain on the industrial battlefield they must face it and take their chance against heavy odds. Of course, if they are favorably made and are not tied by kinship duties, they may run away from the industrial battlefield. In which event, the safest thing the man can do is to join the army; and for the woman, possibly, to become a Red Cross nurse or go into a nunnery. In either case they must forego home and children and all that makes life worth living and old age other than a nightmare.

Chapter 22: Suicide
Misfortune and misery are very potent in turning people's heads, and drive one person to the lunatic asylum, and another to the morgue or the gallows. When the thing happens, and the father and husband, for all of his love for wife and children and his willingness to work, can get no work to do, it is a simple matter for his reason to totter and the light within his brain go out. And it is especially simple when it is taken into consideration that his body is ravaged by innutrition and disease, in addition to his soul being torn by the sight of his suffering wife and little ones.

And:
Frank Cavilla lived and worked as a house decorator in London. He is described as a good workman, a steady fellow, and not given to drink, while all his neighbors unite in testifying that he was a gentle and affectionate husband and father.

His wife, Hannah Cavilla, was a big, handsome, light-hearted woman. She saw to it that his children were sent neat and clean (the neighbors all remarked the fact) to the Childeric Road Board School. And so, with such a man, so blessed, working steadily and living temperately, all went well, and the goose hung high.

Then the thing happened. He worked for a Mr. Beck, builder, and lived in one of his master's houses in Trundley Road, Mr. Beck was thrown from his trap and killed. The thing was an unruly horse, and, as I say, it happened. Cavilla had to seek fresh employment and find another house.

This occurred eighteen months ago. For eighteen months he fought the big fight. He got rooms in a little house on Batavia Road, but could not make both ends meet. Steady work could not be obtained. He struggled manfully at casual employment of all sorts, his wife and four children starving before his eyes. He starved himself, and grew weak, and fell ill. This was three months ago, and then there was absolutely no food at all. They made no complaint, spoke no word; but poor folk know. The housewives of Batavia Road sent them food, but so respectable were the Cavillas that the food was sent anonymously, mysteriously, so as not to hurt their pride.

The thing had happened. He had fought, and starved, and suffered for eighteen months. He got up one September morning, early. He opened his pocket-knife. He cut the throat of his wife, Hannah Cavilla, aged thirty-three. He cut the throat of his first-born, Frank, aged twelve. He cut the throat of his son, Walter, aged eight. He cut the throat of his daughter, Nellie, aged four. He cut the throat of his youngest-born, Ernest, aged sixteen months. Then he watched beside the dead all day until the evening, when the police came, and he told them to put a penny in the slot of the gas-meter in order that they might have light to see.

Out of order, but a fitting climax:

Chapter 19: The Ghetto
The application of the Golden Rule determines that East London is an unfit place in which to live. Where you would not have your own babe live, and develop, and gather to itself knowledge of life and the things of life, is not a fit place for the babes of other men to live, and develop, and gather to themselves knowledge of life and the things of life. It is a simple thing, this Golden Rule, and all that is required. Political economy and the survival of the fittest can go hang if they say otherwise. What is not good enough for you is not good enough for other men, and there's no more to be said.

Emphasis by me throughout.

Bank Collapse Watch: ALL OF THEM!

Does this finally make the point any clearer?

Citigroup's Uneasy Victory
Federal regulators got a fresh inside look at Citigroup's books over the weekend—and it wasn't pretty.

The result: a new $306 billion federal bailout for the bank. On the one hand, it provides more clarity as to the lengths the government will now go to shore up the U.S. financial system. On the other hand, investors continue to be wary about whether Citi was worth saving from oblivion. Worse, some of them worry that if a bank with one of the highest capital ratios nearly went under, who's next?

"You had a tremendous amount of people looking inside at Citi in the last few days to figure out how bad it was, and they came away thinking that the capital markets can't handle this," says David Ellison, manager of the $185 million FBR Small Cap Financial Fund. "So, Citigroup wasn't a going concern. What does it tell you about the industry and everybody else all around the world that has the same assets?"

Emphasis added by me.

When does the light bulb come on? When does the dawn break? When it is as clear as glass?

Every bank in the entire world is bust. The contamination is global. This is Game Over!



We are being carted off in metaphorical boxcars to the concentration camps of Depression 2.0 and Hyperinflation. Total and utter systemic destruction of the entire world we have known.

Every dollar being thrown at this is being deflated down to about ten cents. And that's me being optimistic. The pessimistic side of me believes every dollar tossed is actually going negative. Not only isn't a dollar destroying debt, it's creating brand new debt. In exactly the same way Michael Lewis detailed in The End.

Read between these lines, dammit:
Under the guarantee, Citi will assume any losses on the $306 billion portfolio up to $29 billion on a pretax basis — meaning the government will assume 90% of any losses.

According to people familiar with the negotiations, the government struck a plan to "ring-fence" around about $300 billion in questionable assets, which will remain on Citigroup's books. That was the only group of assets for which the feds and Citi could agree on a potential value, sources say. That amounts to just 15% of Citi's total assets, which are a shade over $2 trillion.

The plan is not only good for the system, say those sources, but it provides cheap insurance for the government compared with the costs of a financial system in meltdown mode.

Sources also say that the calculations on the value of the portfolio were made on the "very unlikely event" that the U.S. economy has a downturn as severe as the Great Depression. The values of the assets in that $300 billion pool were based on projected cash flows for the life of the assets and not on their current and fluctuating distressed prices.

Emphasis added by me.

CitiGroup is a stinking Tower of Shit!


-- from Sinfest

Let me repeat the key sentence:
Worse, some of them worry that if a bank with one of the highest capital ratios nearly went under, who's next?

One of the highest capital ratios! And that capital is supporting nothing but shit!

And the government could only agree on a Depression 2.0-valuation of fifteen percent of that shit!

The rest of it is such shit that it should be called Shit 2.0!

CitiGroup has one trillion dollars off the books. Is that Shit 2.0 -- or is it even worse: Shit 3.0?!

How much clearer does it need to be? Look at this:
There's only one reason to agree to such terms, says Ellison: to stay alive. "There are capitalists all over the place, but no one wanted to do the deal," he adds. "This is chemo. They need this capital to stay alive."

By one measure — tangible common equity to tangible assets — Citi already was on life support. The ratio is a strict definition of shareholder capital (setting aside infusions from TARP or the government) compared with the book value of a bank's assets. It's not a number that necessarily defines the overall financial health of a bank, but it's one gauge to measure capital adequacy. A bank that ranks low on this measure doesn't necessarily rank low on other measures. For Citi, that ratio is 2.4% vs. a more typical ratio for big banks of 5% to 6%.

That means a 1% decline in the value of Citi's assets, or $20 billion, would reduce common shareholders' equity by about 42%. Says Bill Mann, financial analyst for Motley Fool: "What's scary is that it wouldn't have taken much for the bank to be wiped clean."

Emphasis added by me.

What are CitiGroup's assets?! Shit! And Shit 2.0! Securities based on fraudulent mortgages for homes which are plummeting in value. The Government could see the price of homes going into the toilet -- they had to have shared that news with all the banks prior to making it public. That had to force CitiGroup's hand! CitiGroup did the numbers and they came up COLLAPSE!

The true bottom line:
If Citi was in dire need of government intervention, what about other big banks? Joel Cohen, co-CEO of Sagent Advisors, a financial advisory firm and former co-head of global mergers and acquisitions at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, isn't encouraged: "There's still a lot of this bad stuff on banks' balance sheets."

Emphasis added by me.

Go ahead, try to put that figure into a spreadsheet: "a lot".

It's already been quantified: One quadrillion dollars. That's one thousand trillion dollars.

How long will we have to wait for that to pass through the intestines of economic orthodoxy? How much more pain will that create -- and to how many? And who will be left holding a bag of Shit 2.0 in the end? We will -- as our nation (as well as other nations) throws our current and future tax dollars into this new Toilet 2.0.

Are we going to get to one thousand bank failures? Only twenty-two have been seized thus far. How long for the nine-hundred and seventy-eight others to fall?

This is not the end. This is only the beginning of things.

How long before everyone recognizes the one way out?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bank Collapse Watch: CitiGroup 3

No, I'm not removing CitiGroup from Bank Collapse Watch status. The government sponsorship is a sham.

What The Citi Deal Doesn't Do
Citigroup's stunningly complex rescue deal with the federal government buys it enough time to restore confidence, but leaves many issues unresolved.

The company still faces surging credit costs, potential losses from loans on its books and a massive restructuring project aimed at eliminating 53,000 employees by the spring. Its management remains intact even after the government rescue, but it is still unclear what the Citigroup of the future will look like.

Chief Executive Vikram Pandit wants to shed $500 billion of unwanted assets (he's 35% of the way there), exit unprofitable businesses and redirect Citi, all at a time when profits from its mainstay corporate and investment bank are hurting from the softening economy.

Emphasis added by me.

Ever been behind in rent to landlord? Ever bought extra time, hoping you'd come up with the back rent -- but you currently had no way in the world to do that? This is the position of CitiGroup.
The government will buy $20 billion in preferred shares in Citi, nearly doubling its equity investment in the company since October. It is also guaranteeing losses on $306 billion of assets in exchange for a $7 billion fee. Citi has to cut its dividend to 1 cent and will absorb the first $29 billion of losses on the troubled mortgage and other assets, with the government stepping in after that.

The guarantee is believed to cover most of an estimated $314 billion of residential and commercial mortgage loans and securities and some of $9.4 billion in related hedges, according to analysts at CreditSights. Those assets have weighed on Citigroup all year as the credit markets seized up.

But that leaves unguaranteed another $362 billion of credit card and consumer loans and $428 billion in corporate loans, asset-backed securities, derivatives and other assets. "We believe these assets are not guaranteed by the U.S. government for the most part and are not immune to weakness in the overall economy," CreditSights says.

Emphasis added by me.

So we'll wind up eating another third of trillion dollars?

Because no way no how is this going to work.

And still in the shadows, lurkling still unmentioned, is that one trillion dollars of off-the-books stuff CitiGroup is scared to death will come to light.

You think with this, CitiGroup is finished begging at the public trough?

Hardly!

There will be a second round.