Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'd rather be fly fishin'

'later 'gator

gone fishing - c

Friday, February 27, 2009

"We've gotta get Wilson... and tell him to SELL!"

I told you they'd nationalize banks!

Congratulations, U.S. taxpayers, you are about to become the biggest shareholder in one of the country’s premier financial institutions, Citigroup. Today the Treasury Department took a 36 percent stake in Citigroup bank and will get a majority of board seats.

As the nation frets over which other banks might see similar action, spooked investors are fleeing the stock market into safe-haven government bonds.

"It's not good for shareholders, the news this morning, and that is driving bond prices higher," said Thomas di Galoma, head of U.S. Treasury trading at Jefferies & Co. in New York.

"What does that do to the rest of the market place as it relates to the other, what I consider, zombie banks out there? Will they have to come in and take over another couple? The stock holders basically have what I consider worthless stock at this point." -- source

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~

Banks Cede Control to Governments

[A somewhat dry analysis of what just happened but, nails it.]

~ ~ ~

Trading Places - Final Exchange Scene

The Duke brothers tried to steal the crop report. But Billy-Ray and Lewis, after having been quite ill-used by the Dukes, get the real report and give the Dukes a fake.

The Dukes send their trader to the commodities floor with instructions to buy like crazy. Their fake report shows a tough winter, and so they're betting the price will go way up after the "official" release of the report. The trader starts buying and others see the Dukes trying to corner the market, so they start buying. This drives the price up.

At just the right time, Billy-Ray and Lewis "sell" futures contracts for orange juice. They sell like crazy. They're selling contracts for orange juice they don't even own and can't deliver. (Basically short selling - in commodities all you have to do is be able to deliver at the date in the contract). Their selling drives the price down a bit. It also pads their trading account with a ton of cash.

The secretary of agriculture announces that the winter did not affect the crop, so the pit full of traders freaks out! There's not going to be price pressure, so they're all holding OJ contracts that are seriously overpriced. A mad selling frenzy ensues, driving the price way down.

Again at a point timed for maximum effect, Lewis and Billy-Ray Valentine announce that they'll "buy em" -- they buy back the OJ contracts at a much lower price than they sold them for earlier, netting them a huge profit. They also refuse to sell to the Duke's trader, freezing him out.

The Duke's get a margin call and go bust and our heroes make a lot of scratch. Of course, in real life, trading curbs and circuit breakers would prevent either side of this play, but it is educational and funny to watch.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mmmm... pork!

Mmmm... pork!

All right, hang onto your seat for this one! Today the House passed a $410 billion spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs seven months through September. Now, this is separate from the $787 billion stimulus bill. But here is the kicker. Tucked into this new bill, earmarks -- and lots of them.

Now, here's some of the gems -- $59 million for Pacific salmon research, $1.76 million dollars for a honeybee lab in Texas, $400,000 to train teachers how to stop kids from bullying each other and $200,000 for removing tattoos from gang members.

Sen. Graham: We Need Earmark Reform

British army is fighting British jihadists in Afghanistan

Top Army officers reveal surge in attacks by radicalised Britons

By Kim Sengupta, The Independent

British soldiers are engaged in "a surreal mini civil war" with growing numbers of home-grown jihadists who have traveled to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, senior Army officers have told The Independent.

Interceptions of Taliban communications have shown that British jihadists – some "speaking with West Midlands accents" – are active in Helmand and other parts of southern Afghanistan, according to briefing papers prepared by an official security agency.

The document states that the numbers of young British Muslims, "seemingly committed jihadists", traveling abroad to commit extremist violence has been rising, with Pakistan and Somalia the most frequent destinations.

MI5 has estimated that up to 4,000 British Muslims had traveled to Pakistan and, before the fall of the Taliban, to Afghanistan for military training. The main concern until now has been about the parts some of them had played in terrorist plots in the UK. Now there are signs that they are mounting missions against British and Western targets abroad. "We are now involved in a kind of surreal mini-British civil war a few thousand miles away," said one Army officer.

Al-Qaeda jihadi with a British accent. Story at The Jawa Report.

Somalia is also becoming a destination for British Muslims of Somali extraction who have started fighting alongside al-Qa'ida-backed Islamist forces. A 21-year-old Briton of Somali extraction, who had been brought up in Ealing, west London, recently blew himself up in the town of Baidoa, killing 20 people. The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, has raised the worrying issue of British citizens being indoctrinated in Somalia, and Michael Hayden, the outgoing head of the CIA, warned that the conflict in the Horn of Africa had "catalysed" expatriate Somalis in the West.

But it is in Afghanistan that British forces are now directly facing fellow Britons on the other side. RAF Nimrod aircraft flying over Afghanistan at up to 40,000ft have been picking up Taliban electronic "chatter" in which voices can be heard in West Midlands and Yorkshire accents. Worryingly for the military, this has increased in the past few months, with communications picked up by both ground and air surveillance, showing the presence of more British voices in the Taliban front line.

The men involved are said to try to hide their British connections but sometimes "fall back" into speaking English. One senior military source said: "We have been hearing a lot more Punjabi, Urdu and Kashmiri Urdu rather than just Pashtu, so there appears to be more men from other parts of Pakistan fighting with the Taliban than just the Pashtuns who have tribal allegiances with the Afghan Pashtuns. It is this second group, the Urdu, Punjabi speakers etc, who fall back into English in, for example, Brummie accents. You get the impression that they have been told not to talk in English but sometimes simply can't help it."

Some of the British Muslims had originally trained in Pakistan to commit attacks in Kashmir. But security sources say the rising threat of Indian retribution, especially after the Mumbai attacks, had led to the Pakistani government curbing the activities of the Kashmiri separatist groups, so the fighters are being switched to Afghanistan. The numbers involved in Afghanistan, the intelligence document shows, are relatively few, dozens rather than hundreds, but the pattern of involvement is described as a cause for concern.

Last week, during a visit to Helmand, the Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, was shown Taliban explosive devices containing British-made electronic components. An explosives officer said the devices had either been sent from Britain, or brought over to the country. They ranged from remote-control units used to fly model airplanes to advanced components which could detonates bombs at a range of more than a mile.

Evidence of British Muslims fighting inside Afghanistan and training in insurgent camps in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas has been provided to the UK authorities by the Americans. The US has significantly stepped up its surveillance inside Pakistan as part of a more aggressive policy including cross-border raids by unmanned Predator aircraft.

The Americans are said to have raised the issue of the Pakistan connection, complaining that the UK is not doing enough to curb radical Muslims. The US pointed out that this threatens their own security because UK passport holders can get into the US under the visa waiver program. The Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons' sub-committee on anti-terrorism, which has been examining the activities of British Muslim extremists, said: "We know the problem we have with UK-based jihadists. We also know that a number of them have been arrested trying to leave the country. With the UK intelligence services at full stretch, it is not surprising some of these jihadists had ended up in Afghanistan."

Brigadier Ed Butler, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said British Muslims were fighting his forces. "There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar," he said. "There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands but the British public does not."

Robert Emerson, a security analyst who has worked in South Asia, said: "There is ample evidence that British Muslims had trained in camps in Pakistan. What is emerging now is a picture of them being more active in Afghanistan, either providing support and logistics or in active service. The numbers are not particularly large, but it is worrying."

Jonathan Evans, of MI5, said the number of extremists wanting to travel to Iraq had "tailed off significantly" as Britain begins the draw down of its troops in the country. But there was "traffic" into Pakistan and Afghanistan. "What happens in Afghanistan is extremely important because what happens there has a direct impact on domestic security in the UK," he said. "Pre-2001, they were able to establish terrorist facilities and to draw hardened extremists and vulnerable recruits to indoctrinate and teach techniques. If the Taliban is able to establish control over significant areas, there is a real danger that such facilities will be re-established."

Last week, as Barack Obama ordered 17,000 extra US troops into Afghanistan, a confidential NATO report revealed that more than 30 per cent of the population believed the government of President Hamid Karzai had lost control of the areas in which they live and much of that has slipped back into Taliban control.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pentagon Tester Lacks 'High Confidence' in U.S. Missile Defense

The Pentagon’s weapons tester says he doesn’t have “high confidence” that the Boeing Co.-managed U.S. missile defense would be effective against even a rudimentary North Korean missile.

Testing against the possible trajectories and altitudes of a North Korean missile has been limited and hasn’t generated enough data to run the thousands of computer simulations needed to predict performance, Charles McQueary wrote in his annual report to Congress.

“Additional test data collected under realistic conditions is necessary to increase confidence,” he wrote.

North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile, possibly within two weeks, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The Stalinist state today announced plans to launch a satellite; South Korea’s defense minister said the regime may instead be preparing a long-range missile test.

The U.S. is concerned about the potential for North Korea to develop missiles capable of reaching Alaska or even the western coast of the American mainland. -- more

The Long Arm of the Lawless

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, Stratfor

Last week we discussed the impact that crime, and specifically kidnapping, has been having on Mexican citizens and foreigners visiting or living in Mexico. We pointed out that there is almost no area of Mexico immune from the crime and violence. As if on cue, on the night of Feb. 21 a group of heavily armed men threw two grenades at a police building in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero state, wounding at least five people. Zihuatanejo is a normally quiet beach resort just north of Acapulco; the attack has caused the town’s entire police force to go on strike. (Police strikes, or threats of strikes, are not uncommon in Mexico.)

Mexican police have regularly been targeted by drug cartels, with police officials even having been forced to seek safety in the United States, but such incidents have occurred most frequently in areas of high cartel activity like Veracruz state or Palomas. The Zihuatanejo incident is proof of the pervasiveness of violence in Mexico, and demonstrates the impact that such violence quickly can have on an area generally considered safe.

Significantly, the impact of violent Mexican criminals stretches far beyond Mexico itself. In recent weeks, Mexican criminals have been involved in killings in Argentina, Peru and Guatemala, and Mexican criminals have been arrested as far away as Italy and Spain. Their impact — and the extreme violence they embrace — is therefore not limited to Mexico or even just to Latin America. For some years now, STRATFOR has discussed the threat that Mexican cartel violence could spread to the United States, and we have chronicled the spread of such violence to the U.S.-Mexican border and beyond.

Traditionally, Mexican drug-trafficking organizations had focused largely on the transfer of narcotics through Mexico. Once the South American cartels encountered serious problems bringing narcotics directly into the United States, they began to focus more on transporting the narcotics to Mexico. From that point, the Mexican cartels transported them north and then handed them off to U.S. street gangs and other organizations, which handled much of the narcotics distribution inside the United States. In recent years, however, these Mexican groups have grown in power and have begun to take greater control of the entire narcotics-trafficking supply chain.

With greater control comes greater profitability as the percentages demanded by middlemen are cut out. The Mexican cartels have worked to have a greater presence in Central and South America, and now import from South America into Mexico an increasing percentage of the products they sell. They are also diversifying their routes and have gone global; they now even traffic their wares to Europe. At the same time, Mexican drug-trafficking organizations also have increased their distribution operations inside the United States to expand their profits even further. As these Mexican organizations continue to spread beyond the border areas, their profits and power will extend even further — and they will bring their culture of violence to new areas.

Burned in Phoenix

The spillover of violence from Mexico began some time ago in border towns like Laredo and El Paso in Texas, where merchants and wealthy families face extortion and kidnapping threats from Mexican gangs, and where drug dealers who refuse to pay “taxes” to Mexican cartel bosses are gunned down. But now, the threat posed by Mexican criminals is beginning to spread north from the U.S.-Mexican border. One location that has felt this expanding threat most acutely is Phoenix, some 185 miles north of the border. Some sensational cases have highlighted the increased threat in Phoenix, such as a June 2008 armed assault in which a group of heavily armed cartel gunmen dressed like a Phoenix Police Department tactical team fired more than 100 rounds into a residence during the targeted killing of a Jamaican drug dealer who had double-crossed a Mexican cartel. We have also observed cartel-related violence in places like Dallas and Austin, Texas. But Phoenix has been the hardest hit.

Narcotics smuggling and drug-related assassinations are not the only thing the Mexican criminals have brought to Phoenix. Other criminal gangs have been heavily involved in human smuggling, arms smuggling, money laundering and other crimes. Due to the confluence of these Mexican criminal gangs, Phoenix has now become the kidnapping-for-ransom capital of the United States. According to a Phoenix Police Department source, the department received 368 kidnapping reports last year. As we discussed last week, kidnapping is a highly underreported crime in places such as Mexico, making it very difficult to measure accurately. Based upon experience with kidnapping statistics in other parts of the world — specifically Latin America — it would not be unreasonable to assume that there were at least as many unreported kidnappings in Phoenix as there are reported kidnappings.

At present, the kidnapping environment in the United States is very different from that of Mexico, Guatemala or Colombia. In those countries, kidnapping runs rampant and has become a well-developed industry with a substantial established infrastructure. Police corruption and incompetence ensures that kidnappers are rarely caught or successfully prosecuted.

A variety of motives can lie behind kidnappings. In the United States, crime statistics demonstrate that motives such as sexual exploitation, custody disputes and short-term kidnapping for robbery have far surpassed the number of reported kidnappings conducted for ransom. In places like Mexico, kidnapping for ransom is much more common.

The FBI handles kidnapping investigations in the United States. It has developed highly sophisticated teams of agents and resources to devote to investigating this type of crime. Local police departments are also far more proficient and professional in the United States than in Mexico. Because of the advanced capabilities of law enforcement in the United States, the overwhelming majority of criminals involved in kidnapping-for-ransom cases reported to police — between 95 percent and 98 percent — are caught and convicted. There are also stiff federal penalties for kidnapping. Because of this, kidnapping for ransom has become a relatively rare crime in the United States.

Most kidnapping for ransom that does happen in the United States occurs within immigrant communities. In these cases, the perpetrators and victims belong to the same immigrant group (e.g., Chinese Triad gangs kidnapping the families of Chinese businesspeople, or Haitian criminals kidnapping Haitian immigrants) — which is what is happening in Phoenix. The vast majority of the 368 known kidnapping victims in Phoenix are Mexican and Central American immigrants who are being victimized by Mexican or Mexican-American criminals.

The problem in Phoenix involves two main types of kidnapping. One is the abduction of drug dealers or their children, the other is the abduction of illegal aliens.

Drug-related kidnappings often are not strict kidnappings for ransom per se. Instead, they are intended to force the drug dealer to repay a debt to the drug trafficking organization that ordered the kidnapping.

Nondrug-related kidnappings are very different from traditional kidnappings in Mexico or the United States, in which a high-value target is abducted and held for a large ransom. Instead, some of the gangs operating in Phoenix are basing their business model on volume, and are willing to hold a large number of victims for a much smaller individual pay out. Reports have emerged of kidnapping gangs in Phoenix carjacking entire vans full of illegal immigrants away from the coyote smuggling them into the United States. The kidnappers then transport the illegal immigrants to a safe house, where they are held captive in squalid conditions — and often tortured or sexually assaulted with a family member listening in on the phone — to coerce the victims’ family members in the United States or Mexico to pay the ransom for their release. There are also reports of the gangs picking up vehicles full of victims at day labor sites and then transporting them to the kidnapping safe house rather than to the purported work site.

Drug-related kidnappings are less frequent than the nondrug-related abduction of illegal immigrants, but in both types of abductions, the victims are not likely to seek police assistance due to their immigration status or their involvement in illegal activity. This strongly suggests the kidnapping problem greatly exceeds the number of cases reported to police.

Implications for the United States

The kidnapping gangs in Phoenix that target illegal immigrants have found their chosen crime to be lucrative and relatively risk-free. If the flow of illegal immigrants had continued at high levels, there is very little doubt the kidnappers’ operations would have continued as they have for the past few years. The current economic downturn, however, means the flow of illegal immigrants has begun to slow — and by some accounts has even begun to reverse. (Reports suggest many Mexicans are returning home after being unable to find jobs in the United States.)

This reduction in the pool of targets means that we might be fast approaching a point where these groups, which have become accustomed to kidnapping as a source of easy money — and their primary source of income — might be forced to change their method of operating to make a living. While some might pursue other types of criminal activity, some might well decide to diversify their pool of victims. Watching for this shift in targeting is of critical importance. Were some of these gangs to begin targeting U.S. citizens rather than just criminals or illegal immigrants, a tremendous panic would ensue, along with demands to catch the perpetrators.

Such a shift would bring a huge amount of law enforcement pressure onto the kidnapping gangs, to include the FBI. While the FBI is fairly hard-pressed for resources given its heavy counterterrorism, foreign counterintelligence and white-collar crime caseload, it almost certainly would be able to reassign the resources needed to respond to such kidnappings in the face of publicity and a public outcry. Such a law enforcement effort could neutralize these gangs fairly quickly, but probably not quickly enough to prevent any victims from being abducted or harmed.

Since criminal groups are not comprised of fools alone, at least some of these groups will realize that targeting soccer moms will bring an avalanche of law enforcement attention upon them. Therefore, it is very likely that if kidnapping targets become harder to find in Phoenix — or if the law enforcement environment becomes too hostile due to the growing realization of this problem — then the groups may shift geography rather than targeting criteria. In such a scenario, professional kidnapping gangs from Phoenix might migrate to other locations with large communities of Latin American illegal immigrants to victimize. Some of these locations could be relatively close to the Mexican border like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, San Diego or Los Angeles, though they could also include locations farther inland like Chicago, Atlanta, New York, or even the communities around meat and poultry packing plants in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states. Such a migration of ethnic criminals would not be unprecedented: Chinese Triad groups from New York for some time have traveled elsewhere on the East Coast, like Atlanta, to engage in extortion and kidnapping against Chinese businessmen there.

The issue of Mexican drug-traffic organizations kidnapping in the United States merits careful attention, especially since criminal gangs in other areas of the country could start imitating the tactics of the Phoenix gangs.

Depeche Mode - Wrong

Depeche Mode - Wrong (HQ) << working link

I was marching to the wrong drum with the wrong scum,
Pissing out the wrong energy,
Using all the wrong lines and the wrong signs,
With the wrong intensity,
I was on the wrong page of the wrong book,
With the wrong rendition of the wrong hook,
Made the wrong move, every wrong night,
With the wrong tune played ‘til it sounded right.


Dedicated to both camps...

Pres. Obama's Address to Congress

Republican Response by Gov. Jindal

Iran and US are rivals, not partners

By Amir Taheri, for Gulf News

Until a few weeks ago, advocates of dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran claimed that this was the only way to prevent the mullahs from doing mischief. Now, the tune seems to be changing. The "dialogue" is now presented not only as a means of preventing mischief but also as a way of persuading the mullahs to do good.

According to this new argument, the mullahs could join the "right side" in the name of "common interests".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started the chorus by insisting that Iran had a role to play in promoting regional peace. Richard Holbrooke, the US presidential envoy to southwest Asia, followed by musing about the contribution that Iran could make to stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those statements triggered a torrent of speculation about the Islamic Republic's role in helping the US achieve its objectives in the Middle East. This led to some rather comical suggestions such as the one, advanced by some "experts", that the US use a newly completed road that connects Afghanistan to the open seas via Iran.

Click to enlarge map

The road, we are told, could replace the current logistical route passing through Pakistan that the US has used since 2001. The Pakistan route has been under attack from the Taliban, especially in the strategic Khyber Pass. The decision by Kyrgyzstan to close a US air base near Bishkek further complicates the task of supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Thus, the Iranian route appears as an attractive alternative.

Still, there remains the fact that the Iranian route is vulnerable to attacks by Baloch rebels. More importantly, perhaps, could anyone imagine the US depending on the mullahs for the task of supplying its troops in Afghanistan?

The claim that Iran and the US could become the best of buddies is based on the belief that they have shared interests in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both US and Iran wish to see Afghanistan and Iraq stabilized, Holbrooke tells us.

Neither Washington nor Tehran would want to see the Taliban return to power in Kabul. The Americans do not want the Taliban because they had sheltered the terrorists who brought about the 9/11 attacks. Tehran does not want the Taliban because they represent the most vicious form of sectarian bigotry aimed against Iran's brand of Islam. A similar argument could be made about Iraq.

The US does not want the remnants of the Baath to return to power in Baghdad to prepare for revenge. The mullahs share that desire because they know that such a regime could become their worst enemy. The problem with that analysis, however, is that it assumes too much and ignores a great deal.

True, Iran and the US have an interest in stability in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, each wants its own brand of stability.

The US wants Afghanistan and Iraq to achieve stability through democratization, closer ties to the West, and faster inclusion in the international system. Iran regards that kind of stability as a threat. It dreads the prospect of becoming a theocratic tyranny sandwiched between two democracies to its east and west.

Tehran's theocrats want their own political siblings to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq as part of what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls "the Islamic bloc" in a war of civilizations.

In other words, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, Washington and Tehran may appear to want the same thing while in reality they want the exact opposite. The Islamic Republic and the US work with different constituencies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US is trying to build a new elite in Afghanistan based on the emerging urban middle classes and the ethnic Tajik community that accounts for about 32 per cent of the population.

Iran, on the other hand, has forged special relations with the Hazara Shiites and ethnic Uzbeks while bribing some Pushtun groups to encourage opposition to the American presence.

While Kabul and much of northern Afghanistan could be regarded as an American influence zone, most provinces in the west and northwest of the country are under Iranian influence. These are areas that, under British pressure, Iran ceded to the then newly created Afghan state in the Treaty of Paris (1856).

In Iraq, the US is depending on the Kurds, a good chunk of Arab Shiites, and at least a third of the Arab Sunnis to build a secular democracy. Tehran, on the other hand, depends on Islamists, both among the Arabs and the Kurds, to advance its interests.

Far from being potential partners in Afghanistan and Iraq, as Holbrooke and others seem to think, Iran and the US are rivals, to say the least. To be sure, this need not exclude dialogue or even an accord between Iran and the United States.

However, such a dialogue and any eventual accord would repeat the Yalta experience under which the United States and Britain allowed the Soviet Union to carve its zone of influence in eastern and central Europe.

At that time, too, the Western powers and the former Soviet Union shared common interests in Europe, most especially in making sure that the Nazis and their allies did not return to power in any form. Both wanted stability in Europe. But the Europe that Stalin wanted was quite different from the Europe that Roosevelt and Churchill hoped for.

Over the past 66 years there have been countless debates about whether or not the Western powers should have allowed Stalin to carve an empire in Europe.

Many believe that the Treaty of Yalta was a betrayal by the Western democracies of the eastern and central European nations. Others argue that Roosevelt and Churchill had no choice because they could not have persuaded their people to support a new war to prevent Stalin from acquiring an empire. In other words, the surrender in Yalta was dictated by historic necessity.

The question for those who urge a new Yalta, this time with Iran, is whether or not capitulating to the mullahs is a similar necessity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Macropinna microstoma

A deep-sea fish with a transparent head and tubular eyes

Today there's a new addition to the "real life is stranger than fiction" category. Check out the fish Macropinna microstoma. It has tubular eyes and a see-through head.

The common name for the fish is "barreleyes." Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute investigators recently figured out why this species has such an unusual head. Its eyes can actually rotate within its "skull," so the transparency allows the wary swimmer to keep a literal eye on happenings above it, as well as to the sides and directly in front.

Using video cameras, MBARI researchers Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler revealed the fish's eye movements. When remotely operated vehicles approached the fish, its eyes glowed a vivid green shade in the bright lights of the ROVs. Usually the fish were just hanging out motionless under the deep waters offshore California's central coast. -- source

Macropinna microstoma photos at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Got Ramen?

In America Ramen Costs 25 Cents

In Zimbabwe Ramen Costs 9,364,194.25 Dollars

Years of poor agricultural production, widespread corruption and failed government policies have damaged the nation, which has one of the world's highest inflation rates, estimated at 89.7 sextillion percent. -- Zimbabwe Currency Converter

~ ~ ~

In January 2008 the U.S. money supply stood at $7.3 trillion.

As of January 2009 the money supply now stands at $8.2 trillion.

This means the Federal Reserve has created nearly $1 trillion new dollars out of thin air, in the space of just one year. -- source

~ ~ ~

"Would you like a side of hyper-inflation with your job loss and reduced fat retirement?"

That is the question our government would be asking you if they were your waiter. While I was doing this morning's mortgage market update, that thought came to mind as a great way to sarcastically explain the government's actions thus far.

With job losses mounting, the government claims they need to force through another stimulus package which creates more jobs, government jobs that is. And they did exactly that, well not exactly as the amount of jobs they actually will create versus what they claim will not equal each other, and it will be inversely proportional to how much the cost is. In simpler terms, they won't create the promised amount of jobs and it will ultimately cost more than what they said. Also, history shows that growing the government is exactly opposite of what the government should be doing, at least in a capitalistic society. Maybe the dessert selection will be socialism?

I don't think there are many out there that didn't have money in the markets in one form or another, 401(k)s, IRAs, etc. With real estate prices already tanked, stocks and even bonds crashing (or about to), virtually everyone approaching retirement right now is facing a new reality. That reality is that they will be forced to work a lot longer than they expected. Those of us whom have more time on our hands, well, chances are you are freaking out about your losses right now, but you will recover in the long run, again based on history.

Don't think history repeats itself? Look again.

If we look back at the Great Depression, you can see we are pointed likely towards an even greater one. Why? Last time, our currency was based on gold. Now, it is merely paper currency and Bernanke has already stated that he will run the printing presses, debasing the dollar, creating inflation (even hyper-inflation if need be) in an effort to jumpstart the economy. Looking back to the Great Depression, FDR brought on the New Deals, a move that prolonged the depression, not fixing it as has been proven. Bernanke has scholared himself in the Great Depression, and I believe he thinks the New Deals were what brought the America out the other side, wrongful thinking, but also the same thoughts no doubt that Barack Obama and his congressional buddies have.

Since Bernanke knows that in a paper-based economy he can run the printing presses without limit, there literally is no end to the amount our government can, and will, spend. The end run, again based on history is that when the economy does finally return, and it will, we will realize exactly what the true cost of those government bailouts is, inflation, if not hyper-inflation, and don't expect the CPI (Consumer Price Index), PPI (producer Price Index), or even the PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures Index) to show it, at least not until it is too late. In fact, we may already be seeing inflation reentering the picture, despite the recent data, at least based on the fact that money supply is climbing rapidly.

What does it all mean for mortgage rates, and even the real estate market? People will always need to buy homes, but with rising rates, they may not qualify for a large enough amount to sustain rising real estate prices. If this all unfolds as it may, we may very well see rising mortgage rates and real estate prices remaining steady for a long time, with no real appreciation since people will not be able to afford higher priced homes. Hopefully I am wrong, but it is a reality we may very well face and must be prepared for. -- source

Got Ramen?

Monday, February 23, 2009

China Rethinks Its Stimulus Plan

Internal Divisions and the Chinese Stimulus Plan

By Rodger Baker and Jennifer Richmond, Stratfor

Due in large part to fears of dire consequences if nothing were done to tackle the economic crisis, China rushed through a 4 trillion yuan (US$586 billion) economic stimulus package in November 2008. The plan cobbled together existing and new initiatives focused on massive infrastructure development projects (designed, among other things, to soak up surplus steel, cement and labor capacity), tax cuts, green energy programs, and rural development.

Ever since the package was passed in November, Beijing has recited the mantra of the need to shift China’s economy from its heavy dependence on exports to one more driven by domestic consumption. But now that the sense of immediate crisis has passed, the stimulus policies are being rethought — and in an unusual development for China, they are being vigorously debated in the Chinese media.

Debating the Stimulus Package

In a country where media restrictions are tightening and private commentary on government officials and actions in blogs and online forums is being curtailed, it is quite remarkable that major Chinese newspaper editorials are taking the lead in questioning aspects of the stimulus package.

The question of stimulating rural consumption versus focusing the stimulus on the more economically active coastal regions has been the subject of particularly fierce debate. Some editorials have argued that encouraging rural consumption at a time of higher unemployment is building a bigger problem for the future. This argument maintains that rural laborers — particularly migrant workers — earn only a small amount of money, and that while having them spend their meager savings now might keep gross domestic product up in the short term, it will drain the laborers’ reserves and create a bigger social problem down the road. Others argue that the migrant and rural populations are underdeveloped and incapable of sustained spending, and that pumping stimulus yuan into the countryside is a misallocation of money that could be better spent supporting the urban middle class, in theory creating jobs through increased middle-class consumption of services.

The lack of restrictions on these types of discussions suggests that the debate is occurring with government approval, in a reflection of debates within the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government itself. Despite debate in the Chinese press, Beijing continues to present a unified public face on the handling of the economic crisis, regardless of internal factional debates. Maintaining Party control remains the primary goal of Party officials; even if they disagree over policies, they recognize the importance of showing that the Party remains in charge.

But, as the dueling editorial pages reveal, the Party is not unified in its assessment of the economic crisis or the recovery program. The show of unity masks a power struggle raging between competing interests within the Party. In many ways, this is not a new struggle; there are always officials jockeying for power for themselves and for their protégés. But the depth of the economic crisis in China and the rising fears of social unrest — not only from the migrant laborers, but also from militants or separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang and from “hostile forces” like the Falun Gong, pro-Democracy advocates and foreign intelligence services — have added urgency to long-standing debates over economic and social policies.

In China, decision-making falls to the president and the premier, currently Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao respectively. They do not wield the power of past leaders like Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping, however, and instead are much more reliant on balancing competing interests than on dictating policy.

Party and Government Factions

Hu and Wen face numerous factions among the Chinese elite. Many officials are considered parts of several different factional affiliations based on age, background, education or family heritage. Boiled down, the struggle over the stimulus plan pits two competing views of the core of the Chinese economy. One sees economic strength and social stability centered on China’s massive rural population, while another sees China’s strength and future in the coastal urban areas, in manufacturing and global trade.

Heirs apparent … Xi Jinping, left, and Li Keqiang.

Two key figures in the Standing Committee of the Politburo (the center of political power in China), Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, highlight this struggle. These two are considered the core of the fifth-generation leadership, and have been tapped to succeed Hu and Wen as China’s next leaders. They also represent radically different backgrounds.

Li is a protege of Hu and rose from the China Youth League, where Hu has built a strong support base. Li represents a newer generation of Chinese leaders, educated in economics and trained in less-developed provinces. (Li held key positions in Henan and Liaoning provinces.) Xi, on the other hand, is a “princeling.” The son of a former vice premier, he trained as an engineer and served primarily in the coastal export-oriented areas, including Hebei, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai.

In a way, Li and Xi represent different proposals for China’s economic recovery and future. Li is a stronger supporter of the recentralization of economic control sought by Hu, a weakening of the regional economic power bases, and a focus on consolidating Chinese industry in a centrally planned manner while spending government money on rural development and urbanization of China’s interior. Xi represents the view followed by former President Jiang Zemin and descended from the policies of Deng. Under that view, economic activity and growth should be encouraged and largely freed from central direction, and if the coastal provinces grow first and faster, that is just fine; eventually the money, technology and employment will move inland.

Inland vs. the Coast

In many ways, these two views reflect long-standing economic arguments in China — namely, the constant struggle to balance the coastal trade-based economy and the interior agriculture-dominated economy. The former is smaller but wealthier, with stronger ties abroad — and therefore more political power to lobby for preferential treatment. The latter is much larger, but more isolated from the international community — and in Chinese history, frequently the source of instability and revolt in times of stress. These tensions have contributed to the decline of dynasties in centuries past, opening the space for foreign interference in Chinese internal politics. China’s leaders are well aware of the constant stresses between rural and coastal China, but maintaining a balance has been an ongoing struggle.

Throughout Chinese history, there is a repeating pattern of dynastic rise and decline. Dynasties start strong and powerful, usually through conquest. They then consolidate power and exert strong control from the center. But due to the sheer size of China’s territory and population, maintaining central control requires the steady expansion of a bureaucracy that spreads from the center through the various administrative divisions down to the local villages. Over time, the bureaucracy itself begins to usurp power, as its serves as the collector of taxes, distributor of government funds and local arbiter of policy and rights. And as the bureaucracy grows stronger, the center weakens.

Regional differences in population, tax base and economic models start to fragment the bureaucracy, leading to economic (and at times military) fiefdoms. This triggers a strong response from the center as it tries to regain control. Following a period of instability, which often involves foreign interference and/or intervention, a new center is formed, once again exerting strong centralized authority.

This cycle played out in the mid-1600s, as the Ming Dynasty fell into decline and the Manchus (who took on the moniker Qing) swept in to create a new centralized authority. It played out again as the Qing Dynasty declined in the latter half of the 1800s and ultimately was replaced — after an extended period of instability — by the CPC in 1949, ushering in another period of strong centralized control. Once again, a more powerful regional bureaucracy is testing that centralized control.

The economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping at the end of the 1970s led to a three-decade decline of central authority, as economic decision-making and power devolved to the regional and local leadership and the export-oriented coastal provinces became the center of economic activity and power in China. Attempts by the central government to regain some authority over the direction of coastal authorities were repeatedly ignored (or worse), but so long as there was growth in China and relative social stability, this was tolerated.

With Hu’s rise to power, however, there was a new push from the center to rein in the worst of excesses by the coastal leaders and business interests and refocus attention on China’s rural population, which was growing increasingly disenfranchised due to the widening urban-rural economic gap. In 2007 and early 2008, Hu finally gained traction with his economic policies. The Chinese government subsequently sought to slow an overheating economy while focusing on the consolidation of industry and the establishment of “superministries” at the center to coordinate economic activity. It also intended to put inland rural interests on par with — if not above — coastal urban interests. When the superministries were formed in 2008, however, it became apparent that Hu was not omnipotent. Resistance to his plans was abundantly evident, illustrating the power of the entrenched bureaucratic interests.

Economic Crisis and the Stimulus Plan

The economic program of recentralization and the attempt to slow the overheating economy came to a screeching halt in July 2008, as skyrocketing commodity prices fueled inflation and strained government budgets. The first victim was China’s yuan policy. The steady, relatively predictable appreciation of the yuan came to a stop. Its value stagnated, and there is now pressure for a slight depreciation to encourage exports. But as Beijing began shaping its economic stimulus package, it became clear that the program would be a mix of policies, representing differing factions seeking to secure their own interests in the recovery plan.

The emerging program, then, revealed conflicting interests and policies. Money and incentives were offered to feed the low-skill export industry (located primarily in the southeastern coastal provinces) as well as to encourage a shift in production from the coast to the interior. A drive was initiated to reduce redundancies, particularly in heavy industries, and at the same time funding was increased to keep those often-bloated industrial sectors afloat. Overall, the stimulus represents a collection of competing initiatives, reflecting the differences among the factions. Entrenched princelings simply want to keep money moving and employment levels up in anticipation of a resurgence in global consumption and the revitalization of the export-based economic growth path. Meanwhile, the rural faction seeks to accelerate economic restructuring, reduce dependence on the export-oriented coastal provinces, and move economic activity and attention to the vastly underdeveloped interior.

Higher unemployment among the rural labor force is “proving” each faction’s case. To the princelings, it shows the importance of the export sector in maintaining social stability and economic growth. To the rural faction, it emphasizes the dangers of overreliance on a thin coastal strip of cheap, low-skill labor and a widening wealth gap.

Fighting it Out in the Media

With conflicting paths now running in tandem, competing Party officials are seeking traction and support for their programs without showing division within the core Party apparatus by turning to a traditional method: the media and editorials. During the Cultural Revolution, which itself was a violent debate about the fundamental economic policies of the People’s Republic of China, the Party core appeared united, despite major divisions. The debate played out not in the halls of the National People’s Congress or in press statements, but instead in big-character posters plastered around Beijing and other cities, promoting competing policies and criticizing others.

In modern China, big posters are a thing of the past, replaced by newspaper editorials. While the Party center appears united in this time of economic crisis, the divisions are seen more acutely in the competing editorials published in state and local newspapers and on influential blogs and Web discussion forums. It is here that the depth of competition and debate so well hidden among the members of the Politburo can be seen, and it is here that it becomes clear the Chinese are no more united in their policy approach than the leaders of more democratic countries, where policy debates are more public.

The current political crisis has certainly not reached the levels of the Cultural Revolution, and China no longer has a Mao — or even a Deng — to serve as a single pole around which to wage factional struggles. The current leadership is much more attuned to the need to cooperate and compromise — and even Mao’s methods would often include opportunities for “wayward” officials to come around and cooperate with Mao’s plans. But a recognition of the need to cooperate, and an agreement that the first priority is maintenance of the Party as the sole core of Chinese power (followed closely by the need to maintain social stability to ensure the primary goal), doesn’t guarantee that things can’t get out of control.

The sudden halt to various economic initiatives in July 2008 showed just how critical the emerging crisis was. If commodity prices had not started slacking off a month later, the political crisis in Beijing might have gotten much more intense. Despite competition, the various factions want the Party to remain in power as the sole authority, but their disagreements on how to do this become much clearer during a crisis. Currently, it is the question of China’s migrant labor force and the potential for social unrest that is both keeping the Party center united and causing the most confrontation over the best-path policies to be pursued. If the economic stimulus package fails to do its job, or if external factors leave China lagging and social problems rising, the internal party fighting could once again grow intense.

At present, there is a sense among China’s leaders that this crisis is manageable. If their attitude once again shifts to abject fear, the question may be less about how to compromise on economic strategy than how to stop a competing faction from bringing ruin to Party and country through ill-thought-out policies. Compromise is acceptable when it means the survival of the Party, but if one faction views the actions of another as fundamentally detrimental to the authority and strength of the Party, then a more active and decisive struggle becomes the ideal choice. After all, it is better to remove a gangrenous limb than to allow the infection to spread and kill the whole organism.

That crisis is not now upon China’s leaders, but things nearly reached that level last summer. There were numerous rumors from Beijing that Wen, who is responsible for China’s economic policies, was going to be sacked — an extreme move given his popularity with the common Chinese. This was staved off or delayed by the fortuitous timing of the rest of the global economic contraction, which brought commodity prices down. For now, China’s leaders will continue issuing competing and occasionally contradictory policies, and just as vigorously debating them through the nation’s editorials. The government is struggling with resolving the current economic crisis, as well as with the fundamental question of just what a new Chinese economy will look like. And that question goes deeper than money: It goes to the very role of the CPC in China’s system.

Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails

RIDING THE RAILS: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression

At the height of the Great Depression, two hundred and fifty thousand teenage hoboes were roaming America. Some left home because they felt they were a burden to their families; some fled homes shattered by the shame of unemployment and poverty. Some left because it seemed a great adventure. With the blessing of parents or as runaways, they hit the road and went in search of a better life.

Public perceptions of the road kids differed. There were people who saw the American pioneer spirit embodied in the young wanderers. There were others who feared them as the vanguard of an American rabble potentially as dangerous as the young Fascists then on the march in Germany.

By summer 1932, the "roving boy" had become a fixture on the American landscape. The occasional girl was sighted too, mostly passing unrecognized in male garb. Girls especially never took the decision to hit the road lightly, for they knew they were stepping into a world filled with danger. It was the same for young African-Americans, for whom the beckoning rails could be doubly perilous should they lead into towns where the color of their skin would make them outcasts.

Thomas Minehan, author of Boy and Girl Tramps of America, estimated that 10 per cent of those he met were girls. They traveled in pairs, sometimes with a boy-friend, and not infrequently with a tribe of 10 or 12 boys. Minehan described "Kay," who was 15: "Her black eyes, fair hair, and pale cheeks are girlish and delicate. Cinders, wind and frost have irritated but not toughened that tender skin. Sickly and suffering from chronic under-nourishment, she appears to subsist almost entirely upon her finger nails which she gnaws habitually."

Eighty-five per cent of the white youths said they were seeking work; for the African-Americans the percentage was even higher at 98 per cent. Fifty percent of the African-Americans had been unemployed for two years or longer.

A 1935 survey of 20,000 transients conducted by Herman Schubert at Buffalo, New York, was one of the rare studies to enumerate African-American youths. Sociologist Schubert interviewed 2,308 whites and 662 African-Americans in the 15-to-24 age group. The young African-Americans had been on the road longer than the whites, the median age of wandering for the former about six months as compared with three months for the latter.

Are they bums? Not unless one wants to classify a goodly section of the remainder of the country's population as such," Schubert concluded.

It was a thrill to ride the top of a boxcar running across the Great Plains or to catch the blinds of a famous flyer like The Twentieth Century Limited. It was also a ride accompanied by constant danger that could turn deadly in an instant.

The Interstate Commerce Commission's annual reports show that during the years 1929 to 1939, 24,647 trespassers were killed and 27,171 injured on railroad property. Since railroad agents placed the percentage of minors at one third, there can be no doubt that thousands of young nomads met a gruesome fate on the rails.

Hospitals treated transients only if they were seriously ill. They suffered diseases due to exposure, lack of cleanliness, vermin, contagion or infection. Ill-clad and undernourished, sometimes days would go by without food. "I was hungry all the time. Dreadfully hungry," remembered John Fawcett. "I'd never been hungry before. I went two or three days without anything to eat. In a short time on the road, I lost 15 to 20 pounds. Your hunger hurts physically."

In summer, boys followed the harvests in the West. A young hobo might start with the hay harvest in California and the Rocky Mountain states in early summer. Later on there was corn and wheat in the Mid-West; and in the early fall, hops, berries and fruits in the Pacific North-West. Winter could be spent in the cotton fields of Texas and the South-West. In early spring, a harvester might drift into Southern California for the vegetable and citrus crops.

Before the close of his first month in office, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an act creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC.) Unemployed and unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 25 were eligible to enroll. They were to be paid $30 a month, of which $25 was to be sent directly to their needy and dependent families. So urgent and volatile did the administration view the youth crisis that the first camp was set up on April 17, 1933 — just 12 days after the CCC was officially inaugurated. By early July, 250,000 young men were settled in 1,468 forest and park camps.

"As there's no single answer to why boys leave home, there's no single answer to what will keep them there after —and if — they go back," said one case worker. "But if I had to make such an answer it would be jobs. Just that. Honest-to-goodness jobs that would let a fellow feel that he's a man, running his own life."

Those jobs would only come when the Great Depression ended as the country prepared for war. In 1942, even as the CCC camps were winding down, thousands of "Depression Doughboys," who had served in FDR's "Tree Army," were on their way to Europe and Africa. As trains carrying troops and material crossed the country day and night, the occasional rider was still glimpsed in a boxcar door or sitting on the catwalk. It was the end of the last hobo era. The boys and girls who rode the rails had gone to war.

Boxcar Boy

Riding the rails was a rite of passage for a generation of young people and profoundly shaped the rest of their lives. Self-reliance, compassion, frugality, a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons they learned. Their memories are a mixture of nostalgia and pain; their late musings still tinged with the fear of going broke again. At journey's end, the resiliency of these survivors is a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

Read actual letters from boxcar boys and girls of the Great Depression

Purchase book/movie from author's website

Oh where, oh where has my Afghan gun gone?

A trainee from the 1st Battalion of the Afghan National Army gets his AK47 cleared by a U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier at a firing range after squad live fire training excercises in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 14, 2002. The purpose of this training is to establish the core of the new Afghan National Army, which will foster a safe, secure and stable environment in Afghanistan and help to prevent the re-emergence of terrorist forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bethann Hunt)

As part of international efforts to train and equip the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, collectively referred to as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the U.S. has been responsible for procuring and distributing about 380,000 small arms and light weapons. These include grenade launchers, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortars, pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The Department of Defense and 21 donor nations report the value of these weapons at over $223 million.

Given the unstable security conditions in Afghanistan, lapses in accounting for these weapons is significant.

Types and Quantities of U.S.-Procured Weapons Shipped to Afghanistan (December 2004-June 2008).

Enter the United States Government Accountability Office and a new report that reveals sloppy inventory records for an estimated 87,000 weapons—or about 36 percent—of the 242,000 weapons that the United States procured and shipped to Afghanistan from December 2004 through June 2008.

Serial numbers were not recorded for about 46,000 of these weapons, and for an estimated 41,000 weapons with recorded serial numbers, no records were maintained of their location or disposition. Furthermore, no reliable records were maintained for any of the weapons obtained from international donors from June 2002 through June 2008, which totaled about 135,000 weapons.

Lapses in accountability occurred throughout the supply chain. For example, during the transportation of U.S.-procured weapons into Afghanistan, no serial numbers were provided to verify receipt. Additionally, after receiving weapons in Kabul, no record was made of their serial numbers nor were routine physical inventories conducted at the central depots where the weapons were stored.

Also, monitoring the end use of sensitive night vision devices was not begun until about 15 months after issuing them to Afghan National Army units.

The GAO's conclusion? Units in Afghanistan cannot fully safeguard and account for weapons and weapons provided to ANSF are at serious risk of theft or loss.

Now that just doesn't add up! This is much more serious than a coat room attendant misplacing one's purse (with gun.) Losing track of this amount of firepower is closer to aiding the enemy in misplacing the coat attendant! Pitiful.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Run Upon the Bankers

"The Hand-Writing Upon the Wall" (1803) by James Gillray (1756–1815)-- Napoleon, Josephine, French soldiers and women seated at feast with dishes "Bank of England," "St. James," "Tower of London," and "Roast Beef of old England." Napoleon looks in horror at hand of Jehovah pointing to words in sky: "Mene mene, tekel upharsin."

"The Run Upon the Bankers"

The bold encroachers on the deep Gain by degrees huge tracts of land, Till Neptune, with one general sweep, Turns all again to barren strand.

The multitude's capricious pranks Are said to represent the seas, Breaking the bankers and the banks, Resume their own whene'er they please.

Money, the life-blood of the nation, Corrupts and stagnates in the veins, Unless a proper circulation Its motion and its heat maintains.

Because 'tis lordly not to pay, Quakers and aldermen in state, Like peers, have levees every day Of duns attending at their gate.

We want our money on the nail; The banker's ruin'd if he pays: They seem to act an ancient tale; The birds are met to strip the jays.

"Riches," the wisest monarch sings, "Make pinions for themselves to fly;" They fly like bats on parchment wings, And geese their silver plumes supply.

No money left for squandering heirs! Bills turn the lenders into debtors: The wish of Nero now is theirs, "That they had never known their letters."

Conceive the works of midnight hags, Tormenting fools behind their backs: Thus bankers, o'er their bills and bags, Sit squeezing images of wax.

Conceive the whole enchantment broke; The witches left in open air, With power no more than other folk, Exposed with all their magic ware.

So powerful are a banker's bills, Where creditors demand their due; They break up counters, doors, and tills, And leave the empty chests in view.

Thus when an earthquake lets in light Upon the god of gold and hell, Unable to endure the sight, He hides within his darkest cell.

As when a conjurer takes a lease From Satan for a term of years, The tenant's in a dismal case, Whene'er the bloody bond appears.

A baited banker thus desponds, From his own hand foresees his fall, They have his soul, who have his bonds; 'Tis like the writing on the wall.

How will the caitiff wretch be scared, When first he finds himself awake At the last trumpet, unprepared, And all his grand account to make!

For in that universal call, Few bankers will to heaven be mounters; They'll cry, "Ye shops, upon us fall! Conceal and cover us, ye counters!"

When other hands the scales shall hold, And they, in men's and angels' sight Produced with all their bills and gold, "Weigh'd in the balance and found light!"

By Jonathan Swift, 1720.

MENSA Test: Smart arse!

Puzzle: What do the letters mean?

Example: "24 H in a D" = "24 Hours in a Day".

According to MENSA, if you get 23 of these, you are a "genius".

Only 2 MENSA members achieved full marks.

See how well you do.

MENSA Test (Excel spreadsheet or here)

1 26 L of the A
2 7 D of the W
3 7 W of the W
4 12 S of the Z
5 66 B of the B
6 52 C in a P (WJs)
7 13 S in the USF
8 18 H on a G C
9 39 B of the O T
10 5 T on a F
11 90 D in a R A
12 3 B M (S H T R)
13 32 is the T in D F at which W F
14 15 P in a R T
15 3 W on a T
16 100 C in a R
17 11 P in a F (S) T
18 12 M in a Y
19 13=UFS
20 8 T on a O
21 29 D in F in a L Y
22 27 B in the N T
23 365 D in a Y
24 13 L in a B D
25 52 W in a Y
26 9 L of a C
27 60 M in a H
28 23 P of C in the H B
29 64 S on a C B
30 9 P in S A
31 6 B to an O in C
32 1000 Y in a M
33 15 M on a D M C

MENSA Test Answers (Excel spreadsheet or see first comment below)

The Flying Lizards - Money

Think Andrew Zimmern goes here? You betcha.

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The Flying Lizards - Money <<-- working link

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money

(That's what I want)
That's what I want

You love gives me such a thrill
But your love won't pay my bills
I want money

(That's what I want)
That's what I want

Money don't get everything it's true
But what it don't get I can't use
I want money

(That's what I want)
That's what I want

I want money
I want lots of money
In fact I want so much money
Give me your money
Just give me money

Glenn Beck: War Room

Like most talk radio hosts, I think Glenn Beck, well, talks too much. Regardless, I was glued to his television show last night because his panelists, when they got a word in, offered really interesting commentary. Topic? War gaming unthinkable scenarios. Granted, some will find this program "over the top, creepy alarmist stuff during a financial crisis." Perhaps a little. But, I ask you to consider where we could be if a major epidemic or terrorist attack (millions dead) were to occur today. IMHO, worth a watch. - c

Glenn Beck: War Room - pt 1

Glenn Beck's War room discusses the possibilities of the un-thinkable "economic 911" and where we could be by the year 2014.

Glenn Beck: War Room - pt 2

Glenn Beck: War Room - pt 3

Glenn Beck: War Room - pt 4

Glenn Beck: War Room - pt 5

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In case you had a doubt... "fighter".