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Shockfront

Thursday, 05 March 2009

Falling off the Correlation Cliff

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The graph at the right is the five year history of the DJI daily average (until 27/02/09). There are still a few hundred points to trim from that number, as the DJI tumbles further today, as final hour computer trading (dumping) grinds down a few more points to dull nubs.

There has been a lot of talk about why this is happening, the most ridiculous of it belching forth from the incontinent mouths of the usual suspects like CNBC, Fox "Business News" (now with more T&A!), Limbaugh, etc., claiming that the stock market plunge is a response to Obama's planned spending spree, and his leftist agenda, which started, of course, when Wall Street got a hint that Obama might actually win the election.  Wall Street doesn't like a leftist agenda.  So much for "leftist agenda"; Wall Street was Obama's biggest backer.  

Of course, anyone with eyeballs can see that Wall Street cliff diving began in earnest in mid-2007, shortly after the first of Wall Street's ignoble practitioners, Bear Stearns, began floundering in a pool of their own financial vomit.  Furthermore, I simply do not recall these said same dipshits arguing such nonsense during Bush's first two years in office, which saw the Dow slide 30% from 10,646 on January 2, 2001 down to 7,673 by March 2003.  But that was then!  This is now!  Then they could blame Clinton!  Now, they can blame Obama!  Oh,
[...]More

Sunday, 01 March 2009

March on the Pentagon

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An event for March 21 is slated for Washington, D.C., haven of the military industrial complex and its jackanapes, influence peddlers, revolving door bureaucrats, and a host of other luminaries.

PentagonMarch.org is trying to stir up the shock troops to make known the rising -- or what should be rising -- hostility to unbridled and almost entirely counter-productive weapons spending, especially in the midst of the financial and economic meltdown.  How many $1 trillion efforts the US government can make is limited, or it should be limited, but even so, there seems an appalling lack of question regarding the profligacies of the Pentagon.

The battle cry is "jobs and education not wars and occupation,"  which apparently doesn't appreciate how much Lockheed Martin and others of their ilk actually are involved in the education of America's youth. Not enough to damage the bottom line, of course, but just enough to sway impressionable kids into seeing the value of at least certain kinds of "science and math" in order to pursue lucrative careers as the next generation's weapon-building geniuses.  The gaming industry, too, does its part to instill a certain hedonistic pleasure in exploring various kill scenarios.  Modern American war making is, after all, mostly just a video game for the American public.
More

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Visualizing the Financial Collapse

Jonathan Jarvis demonstrates the housing collapse, the financial collapse, and all the other collapses in between; the effects of mortgage mills and investment demand for mortgage derivatives.  



Unfortunately, what Jarvis fails to mention is the crucial role played by various mortgage exotica, like ARMs and interest only mortgages (often both were slapped together), and how the subprime mortgage market, as a fraction of the over all mortgage market, skyrocketed during the boom years of the bubble.  Investment demand pressured for ever increasing numbers of shaky subprime mortgages, which eventually blew up once principle payments kicked in and interest rates started to climb at the behest of Greenspan and the Fed.  The subprime mortgage scam was specifically designed to present easy payments early, only to explode a few years thence.  It was assumed by almost everyone that home prices would continue to rise, creating an ability to sell and move on to the next easy mortgage payment before the current debt service terms kicked in.

Those years of the mortgage market resembled in kind the Pentagon's recruitment problems during Bush war epoch.  Demand for fresh meat in Iraq and Afghanistan drove recruiting standards down, as the
[...]More

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Zardari Under Fire From All Sides

Not only do the Taliban have Pakistan's President Zardari backing off, he is coming under siege by India again today, after Indian Police released a highly detailed 11,509 report charging Pakistani Colonel Sadatullah with direct connections to the Mumbia terrorist attacks in November.  The Indian police traced 294 VoIP phones calls made to "Pakistani handlers" by the terrorists during the attack.

In conjunction with this prosecution, or perhaps because of it, the president's (formerly Musharraf's) Supreme Court judges have seen fit to ban opposition rival Nawaz Sharif from running for office.  Naturally, in a country that likes to think it is a democracy, Pakistanis rioted in the streets.
Thousands of protesters marched across Pakistan on Thursday, torching pictures of President Asif Ali Zardari as a nervous government put paramilitaries on alert and detained 30 lawmakers.

Security forces sealed off the Punjab provincial assembly but thousands of people stormed the barricades for a sit-in outside the governor's residence in Lahore, punching their fists in the air, witnesses said.

It follows a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday which barred opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, from running for office.

The protesters torched two large hoardings showing Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and beat pictures of Zardari with sticks and shoes before setting them ablaze.
Zardari's term as president is not long for this world.
More

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

US Sees More Air Power as Solution to Problem of Air Power in Afghanistan

The same day the IHT published this story by Elizabeth Bumiller, of all people, where the online edition is entitled
Afghan civilian deaths show limits of air power
the IHT also published the same front page story about the trajectory of US foreign policy in Afghanistan under the title,
U.S. puts accent on air power in Afghanistan
That's an odd discrepancy, because I am reading the European paper edition of IHT, which you can see on the excellent website, lekiosque.fr, an archive of magazines, and newspapers ("Quotidiens" for the quotidian).

Regardless the title, Bumiller's story is essentially a paean to the service of dedicated pilots and their stern efforts to restrict air strikes.  Indeed, the US military seems to have learned what an Afghan wedding looks like; they haven't hit one of those in a few months.

But the titular discrepancy serves a purpose.  It illustrates the pathological duality of US foreign policy, which at the same time recognizes the damage done by certain policy, yet insists that the solution to the failing policy is more of it

We see exactly the same mindset in the response to the financial crisis:  
What?  Too much cheap credit created a housing bubble that is now collapsing and taking every over-leveraged
[...]More

British Gov't "Vetoes" Release of pre Iraq War Discussion

The Brown government is in full corrupt state protection mode these days.  Beyond demonstrating a robust lack of understanding of the financial crisis -- or at least pretending that shoveling money onto the banks will salve the nation -- and exhibiting a timourous inability to reign in the fearsome foibles of British bankers -- just as in the US -- Gordon Brown's sniveling wretches are throttling any attempts to expose Tony Blair's cabinet and discussions they had in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  The likelihood that Blair's ministers discussed the potential illegality of the invasion seems certain, yet Brown's government has "vetoed" the release of meeting minutes requested under Britain's own Freedom of Information Act.
Campaigners had demanded to see the minutes of two meetings, on 13 and 17 March 2003, amid allegations that the Cabinet failed to discuss properly or challenge the decision to invade Iraq. The legality of the war was also discussed at the meetings.

The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, had ordered the release of the minutes, arguing that their publication was in the public interest. His decision was supported by an independent tribunal last month.

But for the first time, the Government has decided to make use of "Section 53" of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, allowing it to veto the release of the documents. The clause was added to the Act as a way of placating ministers who wanted final control over the release of sensitive documents.

Using the power, rather than challenging the tribunal's decision at the
[...]More

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Taliban, Pakistan Agree on "Permanent" Cease-fire

[Update below]

While it may not be entirely clear just what the word "permanent" means in Pakistan or to religious fanatics, but this is the latest out of the SWAT valley.
Taliban militants and a provincial government in Pakistan have agreed to a permanent cease-fire in the Swat Valley, an official said.

Syed Mohammad Javed, the commissioner of Malakand, which includes Swat, said the Taliban has agreed to make a 10-day cease-fire declared this week permanent, CNN reported Saturday.

The same day, a bomb blast in northwest Pakistan targeted a NATO oil tanker on its way to Afghanistan.

CNN reported one person was killed and two others were injured in the remote-controlled blast, which occurred in the Landi Kotal area of Khyber Agency, one of seven semi-autonomous tribal agencies along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Update:
  Well, that didn't last too long. Although perhaps kidnapping doesn't exactly violate terms of a "cease fire." However, if Taliban are to be believed, hey, those kidnapped are really just experiencing some down home Swat Valley hospitality.
Pakistan's government says Taliban militants have kidnapped a government official and his six bodyguards in the Swat valley, despite ongoing peace talks there.

Authorities say Khushal Khan and his guards were abducted as they drove toward Mingora, the main town in Swat in northwestern Pakistan.

A spokesman for the Taliban confirms the official is with the militants, but characterizes Khan as a guest of the Taliban, not
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Latvian Government Collapse; latest political fallout of Wall Street Debacle

Click on image for a larger version
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Ivars Godmanis resigned as prime minister on Friday
The latest in our ongoing series on Wall Street generated government collapse around the world has us looking at the resignation of the Latvian government amid wobbly banks and financial turmoil.
Latvia's center-right coalition government collapsed Friday, a victim of the country's growing economic and political turmoil and the second European government, after Iceland, to disintegrate because of the international financial crisis.

The government in Riga, faced with forecasts of a severe drop in the economy this year, was the first in Eastern Europe to succumb to turmoil caused by the crisis. Its collapse rounded out a week that saw worries about feeble investment, banks and output in Central and Eastern Europe coursing through international markets.

Latvia has had a history of revolving-door politics and complex coalitions since pulling free of the Soviet Union in 1991. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, who presented his resignation to President Valdis Zatlers on Friday, had been in power only since December 2007. But the precipitous plunge of Latvia's economy, which helped provoke the worst riot since 1991 last month, played a major part in the government's downfall.
The interesting feature
[...]More

Friday, 20 February 2009

Lockheed Martin: America's Science Teacher

A couple of interesting items popped up today, as Lockheed Martin stock saw a rise of 0.76%, up on the day to $77.75.


Lockheed Martin Challenges Pennsauken Middle School Students During National Engineers Week
To commemorate National Engineers Week, Lockheed Martin (LMT) engineers used ping pong balls and robots to challenge middle school students to embrace the sciences and mathematics and eventual careers as engineers and scientists
in order to build more bombs.

But wait, there's more.
Engineers from Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories (ATL) used rubber bands, ice cream sticks, string, paper, and ping pong balls to demonstrate basic engineering principles to nearly 60 8th grade students from Howard M. Phifer Middle School in Pennsauken, N.J.,
and learn how to turn ice cream and ping pong balls into weapons. 


Lockheed Martin on Board as Key Sponsor for Inaugural San Diego Science Festival

Lockheed Martin (LMT), committed to fostering a pioneering scientific spirit,
in order to build bombs,
has donated $100K to become the largest corporate donor and event co-host for the San Diego Science Festival, a grassroots collaboration of over 125 leading science organizations in San Diego. Planned
[...]More

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Legacy of Africa: Kill the Locals, Extract the Goods, Dump the Waste

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Industrial interests ravage and strip the natural resources of Africa; war and conflict often accompany the resource stripping operations, the processes of which are happily smeared out by the overt death and destruction.

After mineral extraction, the raw matériel wends a complicated path toward European, American, Israeli, Russian, Australian, Canadian and Asian manufacturers, who turn the raw minerals into televisions, cell phones, jet engines, missiles.

But what happens when planned, rapid obsolescence renders those goods near useless?  Why, they end up back in Africa, only now in the form of toxic refuse illegally dumped in various locations around the continent.
Tonnes of toxic waste from municipal dumps in the West are being dumped illegally in countries like Nigeria and Ghana, an investigation has found.

Hundreds of thousands of broken items like TVs and computers are being sold to dealers on the pretext of re-use.

Under EU law, such household appliances must be dismantled or recycled.

But they are stripped of raw metals by those working on poisoned waste dumps, the report by Greenpeace, Sky News and Britain's Independent newspaper found.

Greenpeace said the young people working on such dumps often break apart the electronic items for parts, but in doing so are exposed to poisonous chemicals like mercury, lead and cadmium.

"We basically managed to track a TV going from the UK allegedly as second-hand equipment to Nigeria," Iza Kruszewskahe, from the
[...]More

Monday, 16 February 2009

Tech Crunches

Big, high tech items have been crashing into each other lately.  Just last week, we learned that two satellites collided in the low earth orbit domain, a "decommissioned" Russian military satellite and a commercial comsat operated by Iridium.  Most hope for the best, which means the majority of the detritus falls into the atmosphere and burns up.
Click on image for a larger version
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Despite being an "extremely unusual, very low probability event," the Russian satellite "struck" Iridium's on-orbit, money-making machine  -- those feckless Russians, doing things in space when they clearly shouldn't be there.  And now everyone involved is busy keeping track of 6,000 more bits of junk cruising around a few hundred kilometers above the earth.

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Ouch!
Not to be outdone by this rash and unaccountable event, the British and French navies have managed to smack a couple of submarines together
[...]More

Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Anbar Tribes Threaten Armed Revolt in Wake of "Rigged" Election

Though the provincial elections in Iraq have been widely portrayed as a violence-free success -- muted, apparently -- but successful nonetheless, the reality is that just days later, the local elections appear to have been as much of debacle as some seen here in the US in recent years.

But we don't want to hear that, of course. What we want to hear is that Iraqis have embraced the Bush experiment of democracy for Iraq, and gushingly so. What we don't want to hear is that the entrenched power in Baghdad have learned well from their American tutors on how to disenfranchise voting blocks who are oppositional.

Tales of thousands of Iraqis missing from voting rolls, while painfully familiar to American ears, have caused some serious ire amongst various factions, who are now claiming that the election was rigged, especially in the western Anbar province, home of the Sunni Awakening councils.

…thousands of Iraqis were unable to vote because their names were inexplicably missing from voter lists. Some confused Iraqis even wandered neighborhoods looking for a polling place that would accept their vote.

The extent of the no-vote could not be determined, but thousands of Iraqis in some locales took to the streets to protest.

The biggest complaint among potential voters was that their names were missing from the rosters at polling stations. Some walked from station to station searching for a polling place that had their names. Iraqis were to vote where their ration card was registered.

"I am looking for my name and I've been to five polling stations in the neighborhood and I still can't find my name," said
[...]More

Monday, 26 January 2009

Ethiopian Troops Retreat from Somalia

Almost exactly two years after they illegally invaded Somalia, with full-throttle CIA support, Ethiopia's invasion force is withdrawing, or has withdrawn -- these things are always shady and grey -- finally realizing that there was no end in sight to fighting local Islamic groups. 
Ethiopia said Sunday it has withdrawn all its troops from Somalia, two years after the soldiers were deployed to prop up Somalia's transitional government.

The troops arrived in the Ethiopian border town of Dollow on Saturday and were greeted warmly by residents and officials there, the country's defense ministry told CNN.

As troops withdrew from around the Somali capital, Mogadishu, last week, forces from different Islamist groups -- including the hard-line Al-Shabab, which the United States has designated a terror organization -- took control of bases the Ethiopians abandoned.

"The city is almost under Islamist rule," said a local journalist who did not want his name revealed. "You can hear different names of the Islamist groups taking control in many parts of the city."
It's probably not too much of stretch to imagine US and NATO forces landing on the beaches there, looking for those damnable pirates. Perhaps they'll even stay long enough to establish a few military bases in order to take the fight to evil doers on the horn, keep things under watch.More

Iceland's Government Collapses Under Wall Street Fallout

The lates in the series on governments that have collapsed in the wake of the Wall Street's self-inflicted woes. Iceland:
Iceland's ruling coalition resigned Monday, three months after the collapse of the country's currency, stock market and several major banks, and following months of public protests, Kristjan Kristjansson, a spokesman for the prime minister told CNN.

The government also fell after the resignation of the government's commerce minister in response to the country's financial mess.

The minister, Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, resigned Sunday, saying the government had failed to restore confidence in the three months after the collapse of the financial system.

Senior government officials from the two parties that make up Iceland's coalition government -- the prime minister's Independence Party and the Social Democrats party -- had met Sunday to discuss the government's future but nothing was resolved, a spokesman for the prime minister said.

Sigurdsson's resignation followed Saturday's demonstration in which about 6,000 to 7,000 people in front of the parliament building called for the government of Prime Minister Geir Haarde to step down.
More

Friday, 16 January 2009

Hiatus

Shockfront will be on hiatus for several weeks as operations move to Amsterdam.  Yes, Amsterdam.More
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