“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why is Emigrant Bank Still in Business?

Looking for a story about government malfeasance, greed, lack of banking control and the shafting of the American taxpayer, meet Howard Milstein, billionaire and TARP recipient:

Bank deposits are really loans from the public to a bank.

Assets are the loans that the bank makes to the public.

From the late 2006-2007 and through today, Emigrant Bank has raised billions of dollars on the Internet, all of it insured by you know who, the FDIC, through a program called Emigrant Direct Through this program Emigrant bank borrowed billions of dollars from the American public.

Emigrant is a private bank owned by a billionaire family of real estate speculators.

With all those billions Emigrant still found it necessary to take $269 million from the TARP even though it's owners have an estimated wealth in excess of $3 billion. To date Emigrant has not repaid them yet the FDIC is still allowing Emigrant to take in more and more deposits. All of these deposits are FDIC insured.

Emigrant took the money and used it in its various subsidiaries including Emigrant Realty Finance, LLC and amongst other things speculated on California commercial real estate through its different affiliates. Emigrant made risky commercial loans and continuous legal loan sharking. Several mortgage brokers openly refer to Emigrant Bank as a predatory lender. Scroll down through this thread. Emigrant pays depositors 1.1%, then loans it out at 9% on mortgages to consumers with weak credit. According to the referenced thread, the loans typically have a default rate of 18%.

With that how could Emigrant be losing money?

Most banks, when they have troubled loans, do there best to sell the bad assets and convert them to cash. Banks enjoy tremendous leverage in their operations, as high as 20:1. That means $1 million in cash capital can support up to $20 million in loans. Great when the $20 million is generating 9% or 18% interest.

But what happens when the loans go bad?

A million dollar bad loan means the bank needs to reduce its lending by its leverage. 20:1 leverage means reducing loans by $20 million, increasing reserves or injecting new capital. That is standard enforcement procedure practiced by bank examiners. That is not what is being done by Emigrant Bank.

Emigrant Bank, owned by real estate speculators, believes that their foreclosed properties will go up in value.

How do we know that? Howard Milstein is also part owner of the New York Times and wrote an oped piece in the New York Times on his philosophy of what the government should do about mortgages and banks.

Emigrant transfers bad assets to an affiliated company called RETAINED REALTY INC, 5 E 42ND ST, NEW YORK, New York , the same address as Emigrant Bank They can get away with this because the FDIC is not doing their job. The FDIC and TARP enables Emigrant to risk tax payer money on real estate speculation and running a very bad bank.

The financial statements of Emigrant Bank scream for it to be taken over. Emigrant has taken $269 million in government funds. Why was Emigrant given this money? Bad loans of course, mostly residential and gobs and gobs of commercial real estate.

What is Emigrant Bank doing to improve its financial situation and bad loans?

How many mortgages do you think have been modified by Emigrant?

None, not one.

Emigrant has an affiliated company called Retained Realty that takes over the foreclosed properties and uses TARP money and FDIC insured deposits so that a related company can inventory distressed real estate, betting on the future value. If real estate value goes up, Emigrant and the Milsteins win. If it goes down the US taxpayers lose.

Where is the FDIC? MIA.

Largest privately held bank in the U.S. still hasn't paid back Uncle Sam's TARP loan

Every major financial institution in New York has settled its debt with the Treasury -- except Emigrant Savings Bank.

Investment news

By Aaron Elstein
February 22, 2010, 8:13 AM EST

A year after taxpayers bailed out the nation's financial system, every major bank in New York has settled its debt with Uncle Sam except one: Emigrant Savings Bank.
The 160-year-old institution, the nation's largest bank in private hands, has yet to repay its $267 million in rescue money. The unprofitable bank is so riddled with dud loans and poor investments, it might need another infusion of bailout cash unless the Milsteins, the real estate family that has owned the bank since 1986, inject millions more into the enterprise.

Data filed with the Federal Reserve Board by Emigrant's parent, New York Private Bank & Trust Corp., spell out the difficulties at the institution, which has $16 billion in assets. Delinquent loans and other nonperforming assets tripled, to $1 billion, over the 12 months that ended last Sept. 30. As a percentage of loans, they are three times higher than at comparable banks. Despite the elevated number of troubled loans, the bank's loan-loss reserves and capital levels are substantially lower than peers'. Emigrant posted a $229 million net loss through the first nine months of 2009; early last year, the bank told Crain's its distressed loans would not result in losses unless real estate values declined another 40%.

Perhaps most alarming, the bank flunks a crucial measure of financial health: Its capital is exceeded by its nonperforming assets and loan-loss reserves. This measurement is known as the “Texas ratio,” and a reading above 100% indicates that a bank is in danger of failing. IndyMac Bancorp, for example, had a Texas ratio of 140% before it collapsed in 2008. The Texas ratio at Emigrant's parent is 113%.

“It means your sandbags to protect against the flood are getting deluged,” says Gerard Cassidy, a banking analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Mr. Cassidy finds it startling that Emigrant is in such a situation. The bank has more than $11 billion in customer deposits at 34 branches in the city and suburbs and through an online operation. The Milsteins built their fortune—estimated by Forbes to be $3.8 billion—on savvy real estate investing, and Chief Executive Howard Milstein has in years past deftly steered the bank clear of the mortgage problems that sank rivals.

“Emigrant has never shown a Texas ratio anything close to what it is today,” Mr. Cassidy says.

Mr. Milstein was traveling and unavailable for comment, according to a spokesman. In response to e-mailed questions, the spokesman writes that operating results remain “strong,” and he attributes the bank's reported losses to accounting rules.

“Many of the accounting losses on Emigrant's financial statements are not the result of actual losses but are required to be reflected,” he emphasizes. “Emigrant expects that asset values for a significant portion of these assets will improve.”

The bank, the spokesman adds, has “very substantial reserves for potential actual loan losses and believes they far exceed what will actually be experienced.”

Like many big banks, Emigrant has been tripped up by souring residential mortgages, bad business loans and subpar private equity investments. But Emigrant, with roots as a savings and loan writing home mortgages, seems to have made the classic mistake of joining the party just as the punchbowl was running dry.

The institution's commercial and industrial loan portfolio jumped by 60% in 2007, to nearly $1 billion. Mr. Cassidy wonders if Emigrant started buying more loans originated by other banks. Whatever the case, the recession soon hit, and the bank now isn't collecting interest payments on fully one-third of C&I loans.

Emigrant seems to have upped its bet on the Milstein family favorite—real estate—at the wrong time. Fully 60% of its investment portfolio is in mortgage-backed securities, triple the level in 2006. It isn't clear if these securities contain government-guaranteed mortgages, but analysts say even if they do, they've probably lost value.

Its $150 million private equity arm, Emigrant Capital Corp., is also suffering from unfortunate timing, with four investments in 2006 as the M&A whirl hit overdrive. Two companies, representing 20% of the division's investment portfolio, filed for bankruptcy last year: Forward Foods, the maker of Detour protein bars, and Jolt Cola, the super-caffeinated soft drink. Jolt's founder has since sued Emigrant for allegedly driving his company into the ground and seeks $31 million in damages. Emigrant wouldn't comment.

All of this has left Emigrant with a thin capital base, even with the bailout millions. Using a strict definition of capital that analysts often turn to in hard times, Emigrant's tangible capital ratio is only 2.6%, compared with 5.5% for its peers. (Emigrant prefers to cite another form of capital, known as Tier 1; under this definition, the spokesman says, the bank's capital ratio is more than 12.5%, about twice the regulatory requirement.)

“They need as much capital as they can get their hands on,” says Fitch Ratings analyst Eric Newell, who last summer cut the bank's credit ratings from investment grade to junk. His outlook is “negative.”

As the bank's fortunes have declined, the Milsteins have stepped in to shore up its coffers. In 2008, they injected $110 million into Emigrant, and in 2007 they put in $60 million, according to Fitch.

Might family members dig into their pockets again to help their bank? Mr. Newell says Fitch can't count on such a scenario.

“Our ratings don't take their support into account,” he explains, “because we don't have the ability to assess their desire to provide it in the future.”

[This story first appeared in Crain's New York Business, a sister publication of InvestmentNews.]


  1. I am looking for a new warehouse...

    As I drive from one commercial park to another it strikes me as amazing the % of empty space...

    It's about 30-40%, what I am trying to get across to the landlord I am approaching is that the empty spaces are growing not receding and if they want me to sign a deal they must drop their price.

    Many of the landlords are still asking market prices from 2 years ago...

    But everything I read says jobless recovery, once a company is put out of business it is not an overnight fix to fill those empty spaces...

    Couple that with the other shoe about to drop with commercial real estate and it's underwater state i can only see more banks getting hit...

    I love the 28 yr old salesguys that pick me up in their 55k volvo's and benzs with $300 shoes and $1200 dollar suits telling me WHY they want $5.95 a sq foot plus $2.49 CAM for a shell of a building...


    I guess they are not to impressed with me...

    I just offer them 20k a year in dependable cash flow for a space.

  2. It never occurred to me that the Bankers would forget how to "Bank."

    Just amazing. How can you have "Capitalism" when the "Capitalists" don't understand "Capital?"

    Don't know why I'm surprised, though. It happens about every seventy, or eighty years.

  3. My sister works for a commercial real estate company she said the biggest problem is the landlord not budging in the rent. She said none of them are coming down in price. The retailers want to move in but the rent is outrageous so the building stays empty. It doesn't make sense to me.

  4. Why is this bank still in business? It is a private bank, big but certainly not too big to fail.

    Why is taxpayer money and guarantees being used to help billionaire real estate speculators gamble with public money?

  5. As part of my investigation, I called seven companies that advertise as mortgage workout specialists. Six of the seven had clients who had both commercial and residential loans with Emigrant.

    One in North Jersey had "about ten". All of them tried negotiating with Emigrant post TARP. Emigrant refused to answer phone calls and none of them was able to get Emigrant to even negotiate.

  6. From Matt Taibbi's "The Great American Bubble Machine" in Rolling Stone Issue 1082-83.

    Fast-forward to today. It's early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

    Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm's co-head of finance.) And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion- dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an "environmental plan," called cap-and-trade. The new carbon-credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that's been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won't even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

  7. How Does Goldman Sachs Operate?
    Posted by Larry Doyle on July 6th, 2009 6:37 PM | ShareThis

    Goldman Sachs is widely regarded as the top Wall Street bank. What makes Goldman so special? Is everything on the up and up? Is it one massive conspiracy? At the request of a number of readers, allow me to share my perspectives on Goldman Sachs, in general, and my thoughts on Matt Taibbi’s article in Rolling Stone magazine, “The Great American Bubble Machine.”

    Goldman Sachs has always had a tremendous investment banking franchise along with outstanding risk management capabilities within its trading operation. That said, in the ’80s and ’90s Goldman was certainly one of the best shops on the street but it had plenty of company. In my opinion, Goldman separated itself from the Wall Street crowd after the repeal of Glass-Stegall which had previously separated commercial and investment banking operations.

    With the repeal of Glass-Stegall, most investment banks looked to grow origination capabilities in order to compete with the large commercial banks. At the same time, most commercial banks looked to grow their investment banking and trading operations.

    I had heard that GS made money by using the inside information that it's clients brought to it when seeking IPO's and buying positions BEFORE the IPO's hit the market....

  8. OT IRAN

    Iran trumpets capture of "US terror agent" Jund Allah leader
    DEBKAfile Special Report February 24, 2010, 10:38 AM (GMT+02:00)
    Tags: Intelligence Iran Jund Allah

    Iran seizes Jund Allah leader Abdol Malek Rigi
    Dubai again figured in a key intelligence affair when Tuesday, Feb. 23, an Iranian bomber forced down a Kyrgyzstan airliner heading out of the emirate to seize its most wanted fugitive, Abdol Malek Rigi, leader of the Baluchi Jund Allah underground movement.
    He was shown in a triumphal Iranian TV broadcast being taken away in handcuffs, accompanied by four masked men.
    Iranian intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi accused the UK, the US, Israel of "aiding and abetting" the Sunni Muslim Jund Allah, which is said to strike against Tehran government targets from a base in neighboring Pakistan. He said Rigi visited an American base 24 hours before his capture, but did not state its location.
    He was arrested with two other members of his group. DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terror sources term Rigi's capture a major coup for Iranian intelligence and correspondingly a resounding setback for Western clandestine operations against the Islamic regime.

  9. Melody: My sister works for a commercial real estate company she said the biggest problem is the landlord not budging in the rent. She said none of them are coming down in price. The retailers want to move in but the rent is outrageous so the building stays empty. It doesn't make sense to me.

    My girlfriend's brother works in a sweat shop out of his home in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines(literally a sweat shop, he has a tin roof but no ceiling so it turns into an oven by day). He owns two sewing machines and there's five more sewing machines there for five employees (including a very nice looking girl that makes Jay's wife jealous). Anyway, the owner of the five sewing machines drops off pre-cut material, and the folks in this sweatshop/house sew them up, then turn them inside out, and voila! They have a camera bag. Then the owner picks the bags up and drops off more material. Now the owner has fallen on hard times and he wants to sell the five machines for fifty thousand pesos. My girlfriend took the money I was going to spend for her birthday, and her allowance (she gets an allowance because I make three times more than she does), and she threw in four hundred bucks of her own, and she offered that owner PHP 45,000. So later today Fely's brother will own seven sewing machines. And she says if he every pawns one of them she's going to kill him.

  10. doug takes a leap of faith, declaring that the Federals well manage "Defense", to close out the last thread.

    I must disagree. The Federals poorly manage our defense.

    They spend an exorbitant amount of money and do not deliver either security to the civilian population of the Homeland, nor degeat the border bandits that attack US interests, whirled wide.

    That 3% of the whirled population spends more than 97% of the rest, and still cannot defeat the tribal societies that pester it, that is telling of the Federals mismanagement of our "Defense".

  11. In the last fifty years, the Federal Defense system has not won a war. Though they did manage to displace Saddam's army from Kuwait. The high point of 50 years of effort, that was besmirched by the subsequent mismanagement of the Shia revolt against Saddam.

    Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, Afpakistan all stand as examples of less than best performance.

    Those USAF nukes flying about the US, unauthorized? Another example of extremely poor management.

    Even the Federals acknowledge their lack of capacity, this exemplified by the Blackwater boys and the important role that civilian contractors (Mercs) now hold in our play book.

  12. For the pure capatilists, libertarians, and GOP faithful (Larry Kudlow, Mr. Laffer, the staff at CNBC, et al) who complain that the US is uncompetititve because we have a nominal tax rate that is the second highest in the industrialized world, it should be instructive to note that just prior to the big crash last year, Goldman Sachs while making hundreds of billions in profits reported paying a 1% "effective tax rate".


  13. God said multiply, and did she ever...

    The rest of us are slackers.

  14. Businesses never pay taxes anyway, they just pass it on to their customers in higher prices. What Kudlow craves is a stable tax rate so they can calculate that pass-through, rather than take it in the shorts, even temporarily, with a tax rise (or closed loophole, which is the same thing) that they cannot hand off to the consumer. In Washington State, we are about to raise cigarette taxes another dollar, and more taxes on candy and soda pop, and go to the highest sales tax in the country. That's fine with me, I don't smoke, watch my carbs, and the higher a voluntary sales tax goes, the more impossible it will be to do an involuntary income tax. But smokers are going to start going to Idaho or Oregon or the Indian reservations a lot more.

  15. Trish, I am going to show you how to make this:

    Do this:

    Ny times story

    you need to start by typing:

  16. You know that a number of others here have shown me how in the past and I've ignored their well-meaning efforts?

    Reihan Salam at NRO (via Sully):

    I'm a Thielian

    I don't agree with everything Peter Thiel has to say. But I think he gets a lot of the big things right. Thanks to Gary Wolf of Wired for conducting the interview, which you should read in its entirety. I've added emphasis and comments below.

    Wired: You say that we have big problems in the US economy and that investors have unrealistic expectations. We’ve certainly been through a major crisis, but over the long term the stock market seems to grow fairly reliably.

    Thiel: People take it for granted that their retirement funds can earn 8.5 percent a year. That’s what their financial planners tell them. And sure, you look back over the past 100 years, the stock market has generally gone up 6 to 8 percent a year. But in a larger historical perspective, that kind of growth is exceptional. If you had done the equivalent of investing in the stock market from, say, 1000 to 1100 AD, you would not have made 8 percent a year. During the fall of the Roman Empire, you’d have been lucky to get zero. We’ve been living in a unique period of accelerating technological progress. We’ve gone from horses to cars to planes to rockets to computers to the Internet in a very short time. It’s not automatic that that continues.

    On the question of whether we're living through an innovation slowdown — I think the answer is probably yes — check out Brad Plumer's fascinating essay on whether we need technological breakthroughs to address large-scale environmental challenges.

    In 2005, Jonathan Huebner, a physicist working at Pentagon's Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, published a controversial paper looking at the rate of U.S. patents awarded over time. He argued that the rate of technological innovation has actually been slowing since around 1873—the age of Edison—and that the world could be entering a new Dark Age of innovation by the 2020s.

    Back to the interview.

    Wired: What happens if we don’t get the growth everyone expects?

    Thiel: If it doesn’t happen, people will go bankrupt in retirement. There are systemic consequences, too. If we don’t have enough growth, we will see a powerful shift away from capitalism. There are good things and bad things about capitalism, but inequality becomes completely intolerable to society when everything’s static.

    One could argue that this is already happening. This is part of the reason I agree with Jeffrey Sachs and Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff on the dangers posed by extremely large budget deficits and mounting public debt: over the long-term, a heavy debt burden will stymie growth, thus exacerbating the serious social problems that derive from joblessness.

    Wired: You’re worried about economic stagnation, but you’re optimistic about artificial intelligence and space?

    Thiel: I think we have to make those things happen. We should be looking at technologies that might lead to really big breakthroughs. As a starting point, let’s just go back to the science fiction novels of the 1950s and ’60s and try to run the past 40 years again.

    This sounds right to me.

    02/22 05:14 PM

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  18. Bartlett, also via Sully:

    On Starving the Beast
    Bruce Bartlett
    The idea of using budget deficits as cover to cut spending that couldn’t otherwise be cut—a concept known as starving the beast—seems to be resurfacing (see here and here). This is a view I once held back in the 1970s. Just cut taxes, I thought, and pressure to balance the budget will manifest itself in the form of spending cuts that will reduce the size of government and increase growth, which would further reduce the size of government as a share of GDP.

    The problem is that this idea presupposed that there was significant support in Congress to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, there has been no serious concern about the deficit in either party since the end of the Clinton administration. While both parties share some blame in this regard, there’s no question that more of it belongs to Republicans. They cut taxes willy nilly during the George W. Bush years, massively expanded entitlement spending by enacting the Medicare drug benefit without paying for a penny of it, started two wars without paying for them either, and approved all pork barrel projects proposed by any Republican no matter how worthless.

    In the process, Republicans also destroyed whatever political support there was for a balanced budget—along with their own credibility on the deficit. Consequently, the whole premise of starve-the-beast theory has gone straight down the toilet. Yet, to my amazement, Republicans and Republican lackeys continue to talk about cutting taxes with no corresponding spending cuts as if it is the height of fiscal responsibility. (See this silly Larry Kudlow column and Diane Rogers’ evisceration of it here.) When pressed, they fall back on starving the beast even though there is not one iota of evidence giving it operational meaning since at least 1996, when Ross Perot last ran for president. It has become, in fact, nothing but a license for Republican fiscal irresponsibility.

    A couple of years ago I went through the history of starve-the-beast theory in great detail here. Ironically, the originator of the idea turned out to be none other than John Kenneth Galbraith. To the extent that I personally had any role to play in putting this awful idea into play I regret it.

    JKG. Who knew?

  19. Did the money boys at Emigrant Bank, those real estate speculators, did they attend Yale?

    Did their managing directors?

    Ameros to doughnuts?

  20. I've noticed a few people here posting articles from Stratfor Global Intelligence lately.

    George Friedman, the founder of Stratfor, has a new book out titled "The Next Hundred Years" in which he forecasts geopolitical events he expects over the next century. I was browsing through it at Barnes and Noble last night and it had some interesting chapters (World War by 2060 and not with the countries you would expect, eventual war with Mexico, etc.) I didn't buy it ($15.98) since I figured I could get it for half off in a few months but I did scan through one article on China.

    Like many, Friedman is forcasting that China will begin a decline prior to ever reaching superpower status. Like others, he cites the history of the country, geographic and demographic problems, their political structure, the tensions between provinces, the coast vs. the inland regions, the shortage of water and natural resources, the banking system and asset allocation system which parallels that of Japan, the export orientated economy, the rapid growth over the past 30 years which he views as unsustainable, the growing disparity in incomes, among others things. However, unlike many who predict China's decline will come in two to three decades, Friedman is predicting the process will be well on its wau by 2020.

    He predicts the country decline will occur in one of three ways. First, that growth and rapid modernization will lead to tensions that will force the central government to crack down and back away from capitalistic trends. Or second, that the capitalistic trends will continue and expand weakening central government control and thus the power the government currently has to rapidly modernize the country in key strategic areas. Or three, which expects, that capitalistic trends will continue and will result in various provinces, major cities, and regions being pitted against each other in competition for business, resources, and government patronage.


  21. I do like me some hillbilly truculence with my morning coffee.

  22. Let me give you my forecast for China. It's kind of like my forecast for the weather.

    More of the Same until it Changes.

  23. He argued that the rate of technological innovation has actually been slowing since around 1873

    Hillbilly truculance is one thing; pure stupidity is something else.

  24. The Mexican Army, the young officers of the last 20 years, expects another invasion, from el Norte.

    It fits their historical perspective, third, or is fourth times usually the "Charm", no?

    The deep question about Mexico, the oligarchy there. The Cartels are not independent of the oligarchy, nor the oligarchy independent of the Cartels.

    While the Government is not monolithic, by any stretch of the imagination.

    Who do those US trained Los Zetas really work for?

  25. He wants to spend a few trillion on a trip to pluto, or some such.

    The truculant hillbilly is looking at gene-splicing to better enable us to feed the world, and Solar, and Desalination Projects so people can have electricity, and clean water.

  26. LuKafe Intensivo and a little backwoods pugnacity. Mmmm-mm.

    Make the rest of the day go down a treat.

  27. Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano (a.k.a: Z-3, El Lazca, El Verdugo) is a Mexican drug trafficker who heads the Mexican criminal paramilitary gang known as Los Zetas, the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel.

    Lazcano enlisted in the Mexican Army at age 28 and was later incorporated to the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFES), an elite Special Forces group dedicated to fight the war against drug cartels in Mexico. Eventually, drug lord Osiel Cárdenas from the Gulf Cartel, bribed and recruited Lazcano and other 30 Special Forces soldiers as his gunmen or mercenaries, giving rise to Los Zetas gang. Heriberto Lazcano was placed as third in command (Z-3), and after the death of Arturo Guzmán Decena (Z-1) and Rogelio González Pizaña (Z-2), he became the commander. Lazcano's lieutenant is Miguel Treviño Morales.

    Lazcano is wanted by the federal authorities of both the United States and Mexico on multiple murders and drug trafficking charges. A $5 million bounty is offered in the U.S. and $2 million bounty is offered in Mexico.

  28. Nonsense is nonsense, Trish.

    Frontwoods, or back.

  29. While the Guats we've trained are in the mix, as well.

    The Kaibiles' record and reputation led the Roman Catholic Church's Interdiocese Project for the Recovery of Historical Memory (Proyecto Interdiocesano de Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica, REMHI) to recommend that the group be disbanded in its April 1998 report, "Guatemala: Never Again" (Guatemala: Nunca Más).

    According to Jane's Intelligence Review "The army has refused to disband the Special Forces Training and Operations Centre, housed at El Infierno, in the vicinity of Poptún, Petén." In December 1998, Jane's reported that there were three groups of Kaibiles, one consisting of instructors, and two consisting of 162 commandos apiece. Each group was divided into four 38-men platoons, further subdivided into squads of nine soldiers.
    [edit] Recent history
    Kaibil unit patrolling in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Currently there are Kaibiles stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of the United Nations MONUC peace-keeping force. On 23 January 2006, eight Kaibiles were killed and five others were wounded during an ambush by guerrillas in Congo's Garamba National Park. They were on a botched secret mission to try to capture or kill Vincent Otti, the deputy commander of Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).[citation needed]

    More recently, some former members of the Kaibiles (along with members of the Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13 street gang), have formed relationships with the Los Zetas mercenary group. Los Zetas are a group of elite Mexican paratroopers and intelligence operatives who deserted their Special Air Mobile Force Group in 1991 and have since been hired as "enforcers" by the drugs traffickers of the Gulf Cartel.[3]

  30. Trish, I am going to show you how to make this:

    Do this:

    Ny times story

    you need to start by typing:

    <a href="">Ny times story</a>

  31. doug wrote:

    "The fact remains that you cannot point to one enterprise, other than defense, where the government does a better job than private enterprise"

    Sounds more like an article of faith to me as opposed to anything grounded in reality.

    How's this for the beauty of the current US 'free-market' health care:

    "Yet, no system does perverse incentives like the supposedly market-driven U.S. model.

    One compelling example was raised at last weekend's gathering of state governors in Washington by Atul Gawande, a Harvard University health policy professor. Doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston, Dr. Gawande explained, developed a simple "checklist" for asthma patients that included calling parents to make sure kids were using their inhalers and even handing out vacuum cleaners to their families to reduce dust at home.

    The checklist helped cut asthma-related admissions and ER visits by an astonishing 87 per cent. Hospital administrators weren't so thrilled. Young asthma patients were Boston Children's biggest single source of revenue and not even a non-profit institution could afford to lose them.

    When health-care providers have a paradoxical reaction to helping patients, there is a fundamental problem with the system."

  32. I've never been a fan of Stratfor and see links to them less and less around the net.

    Doubtless they have their many satisfied, time-starved customers but I didn't manage to find them particularly valuable.

  33. rufus,

    Our economics system dependence on growth is problematic, to put it mildly. The near term demographics are a SERIOUS problem with respect to maintaining growth in any but the artificial monetary sense (i.e. grow the money supply).

  34. You know, Rat, common sense tells you those guys have to have some Serious backing.

  35. I'm sorry. What, rufus? I wasn't listening.

  36. Monday, March 16, 2009

    The Evolution of 'Los Zetas,' a Mexican Crime Organization

    By Sam Logan

    During a conference call on 6 March with journalists, US Senator John Cornyn said that the Gulf and the Sinaloa drug trafficking organizations – including, presumably, the Zetas Organization – could together muster an army of some 100,000 guns. Compared to the 130,000 troops within Mexico's regular army, it appears that Mexican organized crime is powerful enough to topple a nation, but Campbell, speaking to the cyclic nature of Mexican organized crime, warned against making such assumptions.

    "There's a system of cartel infiltration in the government for its own benefit, and this system has been going on for 50 years," Campbell said.

    "This short term, sensationalistic treatment [of Mexican drug trafficking organizations] is not going to ruin the US or overthrow the Mexican government."

  37. desert rat said...
    The Mexican Army, the young officers of the last 20 years, expects another invasion, from el Norte.

    well why not? are you not occupying another's land?

  38. Our problem, Ash, is keeping up with technology.

    "Growth" will be easier with the old farts out of the workforce.

  39. The Senator from Texas sees it as a "manageable" part of the status que, rufus.

    Nothing to see, just a 100,000 men at arms, ever ready to involved in supporting cross border criminal activities.

  40. Right now, Ford has One, Really Big Problem. They can't get the old farts to leave. They need to modernize, but they can't do it with a bunch of unneeded geriatrics hanging on.

    *I'm being a little flippant with the term, geriatrics, here; but you get the picture.

  41. The Romans had the same problem, eh?

  42. The above comment was referring to the "border problem."

  43. We sure are, wi"o". The US took some of it through armed extortion.

    California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado.

    We then invaded their remaining territory, multiple times.
    Black Jack Pershing and Major General Smedley Butler USMC both gaining combat experience in Mexican campaigns.

    "From the Halls of Montezuma ..."

  44. Wishing the old farts would go away doesn't solve the problem of YOU old farts still being here and growing older. Demographically speaking we are looking a long term downward pressure on the Stock and Bond markets coupled with a smaller tax base and more sicker old farts demanding their services from the 'system'. Simply put - fewer people paying in than drawing out.

  45. Guatemala: Lovely country and comically corrupt narco-terror state.

    Really, what's not to love?

    Thanks, T. I'll look into it.

  46. Yeah, Ash, but those "paying in" should be much more productive that the old farts were when they were working.

    Productivity, Ash. It's the magic word.

  47. Robert E Lee and US Grant, amongst others, campaigned in the Mexican War of 1846.

    There is a long history of US military aggression and intervention, against and in Mexico.

  48. Over the past two years Mexico City has vaulted up to the (for lack of a better term) Prestige League among foreign postings.

    Joining, by my count, about six others.

  49. There is a long history of US military aggression and intervention, against and in Mexico.

    Lest we forget WHO the Mexicans were....

    and WHO did they destroy/occupy to proclaim themselves "mexico"

  50. From Times Online

    February 24, 2010

    Son of Hamas founder spied for Israel for more than a decade

    James Hider in Jerusalem

    The son of one of Hamas’s founding members was a spy in the service of Israel for more than a decade, helping prevent dozens of Islamist suicide bombers from finding their targets, it emerged today.
    Codenamed the Green Prince by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, supplied key intelligence on an almost daily basis from 1996 onwards and tracked down suicide bombers and their handlers from his father’s organization, the daily Haaretz said.
    Information he supplied led to the arrests of some of the most wanted men by Israeli forces, including Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader often tipped as a potential president who was convicted of masterminding terrorist attacks, and one of Hamas’ top bomb-makers Abdullah Barghouti, who is no relation of the jailed Fatah chief.
    Mr Yousef, a 32-year-old convert to Christianity who now lives in California, has revealed the intrigues of his years as a spy in a new book called Son of Hamas, much to the concern of Shin Bet, whose operations will be revealed in detail. While the revelations may give a boost to Israel’s intelligence service, whose external counterpart Mossad is still grappling with the diplomatic fall-out of last month’s Hamas assassination in Dubai, there will be concern that the account may give too many insights into the murky world of espionage.
    However, Mr Yousef’s work will be far more damaging to Hamas, whose brutality he denounced. Dubai police have suggested that Mahmoud al-Mabhuh, the top Hamas militant found dead in a hotel room in the emirate on January 20, may have been betrayed by an insider from the Islamist movement itself.
    And Mr Yousef had harsh words for the movement that his father helped form, and which now rules the Gaza Strip after a bloody takeover in summer 2007. “Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis,” he told the daily. “That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis."
    Mr Yousef’s former Israeli handler, identified only as Captain Loai, praised the resolve of his agent, whose codename derived from the colour of Islam – and Hamas’ – banner and from his exalted position within an organization that regularly kills those suspected of collaborating with the Jewish state.
    "So many people owe him their life and don't even know it," he said. "The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours — the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts."
    Mr Yousef, whose father is still in an Israeli jail cell, from where he was elected as an MP in 2006, went as far as tracking down would-be kamikazes himself in the streets of the West bank during the Second Intifada which erupted a decade ago and left thousands of Palestinians and Israelis dead. On one occasion he followed a bomber from Manara Square in the centre of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.

  51. “We didn't know his name or what he looked like — only that he was in his 20s and would be wearing a red shirt," said the former handler. "We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger."
    Mr Yousef, who converted from Islam to Christianity a decade ago – in itself, a dangerous act – was arrested by the Israelis in 1996 and within a year had been recruited by Shin Bet, then released to begin working as an informant.
    Speaking by telephone from California, Mr Yousef told Haaretz he worried that the Israeli Government might release some of the prisoners he helped put behind bars in exchange for Gilad Schalit, a young Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas from the Gaza border more than three years ago.
    “I wish I were in Gaza now," he said. "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Schalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Schalit. That must not be done."

  52. Yes, productivity gains are very important but what suggests to you that future gains will exceed the gains we've seen historically? The gains in productivity need to be greater to overcome the demographic problem, no?

  53. Them "Mayan" rulers weren't no stroll in the park, either.

  54. Much more so than US, wi, the Mexicans have integrated the original native population into the general fabric of their society and culture.

    While the Western Europeon influence is manifested in their Federal District. The ruling oligarchy culture is definably Europeon, old school Iberian.

  55. Optics, lasers, biotechnology/gene splicing, computer speed, GPS, nano-technology . . . . . .

  56. The oligarchy culture is being challenged by US, on their turf using the IBEC model. That banner now being carried by the boys from Bentonville, Walmart Inc.

    Successfully so.

  57. desert rat said...
    Much more so than US, wi, the Mexicans have integrated the original native population into the general fabric of their society and culture.

    Wanna back that up in any way shape or form?

    not to say the USA has treated it's 1st people in any great shake...

    The high levels of hatred and racism that exists in the Spanish culture towards the indians is widespread and rampant through out mexico on south...

    In America we name our football teams, our boy scout Order of the Arrow lodges after them, cities, rivers, we have reservations and yes direct transfers of wealth and health care to them...

    is it perfect, no, has it been brutal, sure...

    but over all, your statement..

    desert rat said...
    Much more so than US, wi, the Mexicans have integrated the original native population into the general fabric of their society and culture.

    is just a broad, sweeping non specific opinion....

    fact is spanish, brits, english, german french etc are all colonizers...

    even the aztecs and mayans come from asia and they too are occupiers...

    embrace the concept...

    he who survives aint the occupier, it's the victor

  58. The Real Demographic problem is the Health Care Problem. Solve HC, and you're home free.

  59. The planning and implementation for the systematic cultural transformation of Mexico, over 60 years in the making.

    Nelson Rockefeller would be proudly pleased at the progress so far.

  60. A "Bearish" EIA Report, and Oil takes off, again.

    We're going to have a couple of back to back "Bullish" reports one of these days, and gasoline will blow through $2.90 so fast it'll set your hair on fire.

  61. In the US, wi, the Indian population was decimated, as well as discriminated against.

    In Mexico and points south, there is and was discrimination, but not the widespread attempts at resettlement as seen here.

    While the current popular view of of the Aztecs, amongst some Mexican ethnics, another mythical creation, by La Raza propagandists.

  62. Health Care is certainly a problem the demographics compounds but so is the pension system at risk (private and SS).

    There is also the problem of the smaller tax base and the net real outflow of money from public markets. I don't see an easy way out of the conundrum. It isn't just the US facing these demographic problems but many countries in the world. China's got the 1 child program to work through...

  63. But, as in all things, it is eminently better to be considered an "American" than a "Mexican", even if you are really an "Indian".

    The real force that deposed the Aztecs, were not Spanish, but the thousands of indig tribal allies that rallied to Spanish leadership in a combined campaigned against the Aztecs ruling from what is now Mexican Federal District.

    The Capital did not relocate, only the ruling elite changed.

  64. Yeah, but China's got no way to go but up.

    Money's no problem. We print our own, remember?

    Our BIG problem, coming up, is Energy (specifically, transportation fuels.) Old folks don't drive much.

    But, they DO eat up that Health Care.

    Soc. Sec is pretty easy, in all honesty. Index to costs, not wages, add 2% to the SS tax (that's what we'll end up doing,) apply the payroll tax to higher incomes (that, too.)

    The problem could be summed up: "Driving Grandpa to the Doctor."

  65. The most important concept, Ash, is to understand that in a fiat system, "Money" is an illusion.

    It's a form of "Confidence." A "Con" game, if you must.

    It's an ephemeral concept in cyberspace.

    Money is a "Contract," of sorts, but not a "Construct."

    In short, it's Not to be taken, "Seriously" (unless you don't have any, that is) :)

  66. "The high levels of hatred and racism that exists in the Spanish culture towards the indians is widespread and rampant through out mexico on south..."

    Yeah, verily.

    But you're also talking about by-our-standards pathologically class-conscious societies without the broad mobility and relative benevolence that large middle classes historically engender and maintain.

    The transition is long and fitful and established cultural biases may anyhow remain well after that transition is complete.

    (See: Europe.)

  67. yes, money is ephemeral, hence my references to "real" and my first note "growth in any but the artificial monetary sense (i.e. grow the money supply)."

    We can flood the place with money and say, look, DOW, 30k, but if it costs you 5 bucks to wipe your A$$, well, you aren't very far ahead. Being the 'reserve' currency has its benefits but I'm curious, and doubtful, as to how much longer that horse can be whipped. It looks like the Euro is going to suffer for a while so the greenback should strengthen but once that comes to pass...well, you can always place stacks of it in the Bathroom.

  68. ...and sit on your gold throne.

  69. Well, there are certainly no guarantees, Ash. A group of humans can screw up almost anything. A large enough group CAN screw up anything. 300 Million is a pretty large group.

    But, I don't see any problems that are, inherently, Unsolvable.

    Other than the fact that our fate is in the hands of politicians, that is.

  70. heck, it isn't the end of the world (unless you are lacking health coverage) but it gives me pause when looking ahead for planning purposes.

  71. The EU challenge, ash, is greater than that faced by US.

    The dollar will remain King, for at least another twenty years, for planning purposes.

    There is nothing, in the wings, that can replace it.

    Count on a continued and steady state inflation, of 2 to 3% a year for that same period.

    If there is increased hype about counterfeiting, by other States like NorK, than the dollar could be phased out, replaced with a North American currency.

    Since it has been almost a century since there has been a major revamp, it may well be due.

    The dollar would have to be systematically devalued, with a higher than expected rate of inflation, for that to happen ;-)

  72. if the poobah's in power can maintain a nice steady 2 or 3 percent rate of inflation nirvana will be ours to experience. The US current account deficits and trade deficits suggest that management of monetary policy will not easily yield inflation at target. Yes, the Euro is facing troubles but once that resolves (or as it progresses) eyes will once again return to the US fiscal bind.

    Unfortunately the change of an exchange currency has not, historically that I am aware of, been achieved in a comfortable manner - note the major wars that engulfed the world whilst the pound fell from its perch as exchange currency.

  73. "History suggests that a currency is supplanted the same way Ernest Hemingway said a man goes broke: gradually, then suddenly."

    The above from a rather long, rambling, but interesting article titled:

    "Why the U.S. dollar may be heading for a slow fall"

    from the same article:

    "Morgan Stanley Asia chairman Stephen Roach isn't so sure. He said that if the U.S. eventually resorts to trade sanctions against China - not unthinkable in a U.S. election year, with the unemployment rate near 10 pe rcent - Beijing would likely retaliate.

    China might boycott a Treasury auction, he said, which could cause the dollar to plummet and interest rates to spike.

    “I spend a lot of my time talking to the Chinese about that, and if it happened, I think they would feel compelled to stand up and take strong retaliatory actions, even though, yes, there would be consequences for them as holders of Treasuries and other dollar-denominated assets,” Mr. Roach said. "

    Even though War hurts all participants we seem to wage it anyway...

  74. The stars may lie, but the numbers never do.

    New home sales plummet 11.2 percent in January to annual rate of 309,000, lowest on record

    "...home sales dropped 11.2 percent last month...economists who had expected sales would rise about 5 percent over December's pace."

    "... Consumer Confidence Index fell almost 11 points to 46...a long way from the 90 reading that economists generally view as depicting healthy consumer attitudes."

  75. Dubai identifies 15 new suspects in Hamas killing

    ...more suspects may be named...

    ...and still no report on the origin of Mr Mabhouh's fake passport...

  76. On a lighter note, this poor, oppressed Palestinian didn't get the talking points memo and spied for XXXXXX for a decade. Oh, he took no money for his services and would join the IDF if allowed.

    ...bad seed, I guess...

    Son of Hamas founder spied for Israel for more than a decade

  77. whit,

    Those tender green shoots of recovery are taking a beating today...on the housing front anyway...

    It is encouraging to know, however, that some of the same big brains that brought us to this mess will be planning health care delivery.

    Nearly 25% of all mortgages are underwater

  78. Well, China might as well get "suited up" then, because if they don't let the Yuan rise a bit there Will be Sanctions.

    They're going to, though. Sometime between now, and Summer. It's in their interests to do so.

    Stephen Roach is greatly overestimating their importance at the treasury auction. And, they know it.

  79. T,

    Sorry! I had not seen your post. But somethings just can't be said enough :)

  80. Allen Sorry! I had not seen your post. But somethings just can't be said enough :)

    Really? Okay, if you insist:

    Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
    I think of Melody, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
    For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

    Hee hee!

  81. I just returned at looking at warehouse space...

    that makes at least 14 3k-4k spaces within 2 miles of my current space


  82. Well, Quirk, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. is an organization which is, or at least was, Chaired by Mr Lester Crown. President Obama's chief financial benefactor.

    Look for that policy paper to become just that, policy.

    As wiki reports:

    Michelle Obama was listed as a director on the Chicago Council website until her husband started gaining more attention during the 2008 Democratic nomination race.

  83. New York Times - Sebnem Arsu

    ISTANBUL - Tensions between Turkey's powerful military and the government escalated sharply on Wednesday as a court ordered the formal arrests of 12 officers on charges they had plotted a coup.

  84. Wall Street Journal -

    General Motors Co.'s deal to sell the Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. (STHIM.YY) for $150 million fell through, signaling the end of a brand that just a few years ago was one of GM's hottest.

  85. I know Rat.

    When I saw that it was the "Chicago" Council I didn't even bother googling it.


  86. Inside the Border War
    National Geographic presents a 44 minute documentary on the goings on la frontera.

  87. "In arguments earlier this month before a federal appeals court in Philadelphia, lawyers for President Barack Obama made the case that the government should be able to easily track the location of cell phone users without first securing a warrant. In making this argument, the Obama Administration mimics the position taken by its predecessor...

    The government’s reasoning rests largely on two pillars — one legal, the other practical — but both of which ought to be rejected by the court.

    Bad guys use cell phones to communicate with each other to arrange drug deals, rob banks, and commit all manner of other crimes. The government wants to know where these lawbreakers are — or where they have been — and one of the easiest ways to do that is to be able to track the places where they used their cell phones. While we all want the police to apprehend those who would do us harm; there is more to the equation than simply making that often difficult task as easy as possible.

    The government also relies on the legal fiction that simply by using a cell phone, a person “consents” to a third party (their telecommunications carrier) having information from which their location can be determined. The government then argues that the users have no “expectation of privacy” such as might entitle them to have the government obtain a warrant from a judge before it can access records of where the individuals have used, or are using, their cell phones."

    Big Brother Wants to Track Cell Phone Usage

    Incremental? Sure, but it won't be long before they will be looking to put those "1984" style monitors in your new HDTV.

    Luckily, I uderstand they help improve reception.


  88. "Where's my gun?"

    I can reload and press shotgun shells for you.

  89. Via the Washington Examiner comes news of a brewing showdown in Fairfax, Virginia, where the school system is looking for a whopping tax increase to pay for teacher retirements and benefits...

    Here's verbiage from the Fairfax County Taxpayers Association (FCTA), which is against that move:

    "The FCTA asked why the school board is urging the supervisors to raise taxes by $81.9M although only $9M is needed to pay for next year's expected increase in student enrollment...

    "The school superintendent acknowledged that the reason is the increased cost in employee benefits, especially pensions. According to the schools' proposed FY2011 budget, employee benefits costs are increasing by $98M, of which $71M is for pensions and another $15M is for retiree medical benefits...

    "The school board has been less than straightforward with the community about this. During her opening remarks at the forum, school board chairman Kathy Smith talked about cuts to band and sports, and bigger class sizes, but never acknowledged that the cuts were being made to pay for increased benefits costs. School board members urged the audience to ask the supervisors to raise taxes..."

    Public Pensions Costs Rising

    Every state is facing this problem. Here in MI, we have a $2.6 billion budget shortfall that we're working on. All sides have their own solutions, but all up them involve significant cuts in public worker benefits.


  90. Prepublication blurbs claim the kid will blow the lid off Hama’s carefully groomed image as freedom loving martyrs and portray the organization as the pathological, murderous, Jew-hating, tyrannical bunch we have come to love. And the lad also reportedly destroys the delusion that Hamas wants a “fair” peace with XXXXXX; instead, Hamas will be satisfied with nothing less than the total destruction of XXXXXX, replaced by a rabidly fundamentalist Islamic state.

    While admittedly hearsay, the young man did eat at his father’s table for much of his life. The success XXXXXX enjoyed when working with him strongly argues for the lad’s depth of knowledge of this terrorist organization and its enablers.

    Top-level informer affair embarrasses Hamas

    The book, Son of Hamas, will be released next week, I believe.

  91. Melody said...
    "Where's my gun?"

    I can reload and press shotgun shells for you.

    1st thing of value you have ever said at the bar...

    welcome and pull up a seat...

  92. Maybe you should copy and paste that comment and put it in the sidebar, ya know...just in case it's the only one I give you.

    But I'll take that seat, thank you.

  93. The landslide on Tuesday morning buried 35 houses in Ciwidey district of Bandung regency of West Java, according to West Java Disaster Management Agency.

    Metro television footage showed a huge amount of soil buried the houses.

    Indonesia has been frequently hit by landslide and flood during the wet season which occurs regularly from December to April.

    Indonesia's Landslide

  94. Too bad Japanese CEOs don't commit seppeku anymore, aka Hairy Carrie.

  95. Same story on commercial real estate here. Some centers have stood 30-60% vacant for well over a here. They were too proud to drop their rents but apparently some of them have come to their senses lately and the stores are starting to fill.

    Residential real estate activity seems to be picking up and even though the new home business is still in the doldrums, there seems to be a flurry of interest in remodeling.

  96. Fitch's performance expectation incorporates prospective views regarding commercial real estate market value and cash flow declines. A detailed list of rating actions follows at the end of this release.

    The transaction is primarily collateralized by subordinate commercial real estate (CRE) debt: 49% of total collateral is either B-notes; mezzanine loans; non-senior commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS); or non-senior CRE collateralized debt obligations (CDO). Although the collateral pool also has a substantial concentration of whole loans (48%), many of these are secured by transitional properties that are lagging behind their original business plans.


    RFC 2007-1 is a $942 million CRE CDO managed by CWCapital Investments. As of the December 2009 trustee report and per Fitch categorizations, the CDO was substantially invested as follows: CRE whole loans (48.0%), B-notes (13.5%), mezzanine loans (12.3%), commercial mortgage-backed securities (21.9%), and CRE CDOs (1.4%).

    RR Ratings

  97. "Under the new arrangement, U.S. law enforcement officers, most likely from an agency such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, would work alongside recent graduates of the new Mexican federal police academy who were trained by FBI and DEA advisers as part of the U.S. aid package."

    US to Imbed Agents in Jaurez

    Gee, what could go wrong with this plan?


  98. Maybe we don't want our Euro "allies" to hurt themselves.

  99. General McChrystal should be nominated for a Nobel prize of some sort.

    Feelings...Whoa, Whoa, Whoa...Feelings

  100. One of Mr. Paterson’s earliest steps after becoming governor in March 2008 was insisting that the State Police end any meddling in political matters.

    Mr. Paterson called on Mr. Cuomo to investigate the State Police, saying he believed there was a unit within the agency collecting information on public figures. He said such concerns led him to admit publicly, on his first full day in office, to having had extramarital affairs.

    Mr. Cuomo’s report, issued in September 2009, did not find a rogue political unit per se but did find evidence of political interference by senior police officials, including an episode in which a police superintendent ordered changes to a domestic violence report involving a Republican congressman, John E. Sweeney, to make it less damaging. Mr. Paterson and his superintendent, Mr. Corbitt, have pledged to overhaul the agency.

    Paterson Aide

  101. The GOP's misguided hunt for heretics

    By Kathleen Parker
    Wednesday, February 24, 2010; A13

    The RINO hunt is back on, and the coveted trophy is Scott Brown.

    Inevitably and predictably, the new senator from Massachusetts -- Mr. 41, Mr. I-Drive-A-Truck, tea party poster dude -- has disappointed his base by, alas, representing his constituents.

    It's the purity test all over again; only this time, the stakes are high and the weird are turning seriously pro.

    Not that the tea partiers are weird, not most of them, anyway. But some are at risk of flying off into the blood-red zone of wing-nuttery. One of the sessions at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) questioned whether Abraham Lincoln was "friend or foe."

    Lincoln foes can't be said to define CPAC conferees -- and certainly not the GOP -- but the growing libertarian strain within the party (see Ron Paul's straw-poll victory) combined with an anti-RINO (Republicans in Name Only) attitude is making life increasingly difficult for moderates such as Brown.

    Brown came under fire from social conservatives barely a week into his new job, even though his pro-choice position was well-known, at least to readers of this column.

    Now he's caught the attention of fiscal conservatives and tea partiers who, though they favored Brown for his anti-health-reform and anti-stimulus positions, now call him a traitor for supporting a cloture motion on the Democrats' $15 billion jobs bill.

    Thousands posted angry comments on Brown's Facebook page, including the ever-popular "YOU LIED!" Brown said that though the bill was imperfect, it would put Americans back to work. He also said he hoped his vote would be a "strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington."


    Writes Avlon: "Hunting for heretics pretends to be a principled fight for ideological purity, but behind that mask is an uglier impulse, an attempt to intimidate and insist on conformity . . . a reminder of what the Czech dissident-turned-president Václav Havel once wrote:

    'Ideology offers human beings the illusion of dignity and morals while making it easier to part with them.' "

    Who emerges pure enough from this fray of fraying parts will be interesting to watch, but things could get messy as the tea party movement gains momentum and old alliances show signs of weakening. The other day, the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol made a remark on "Fox News Sunday" that may predict fissures to come:

    "The tea parties are the best thing that has happened to the Republican Party in recent times."


    Less than 10 years ago, Kristol's father Irving Kristol, the founder of the neoconservative movement, concluded that neocons couldn't align themselves with libertarians because the latter have no values. Neocons' natural allies, said the elder Kristol, were religious conservatives. From that alliance came what Bill Kristol's magazine designated as "Big Government Conservatism" and Bush 43-era policies unbeloved by most Americans these days.

    And now? Tea partiers don't much favor endless wars or care about social issues dear to evangelicals. Another CPAC panel that drew a packed crowd despite scheduling opposite Newt Gingrich was titled: "You've Been Lied To: Why Real Conservatives Are Against the War on Terror."

    Are neocons abandoning the old party base and following the new wave of power created by the tea party movement? As one tea drinker put it to me: "How the neocons square limited government at home with big government nation-building abroad will be interesting to watch."

    Buchanan recently (and favorably) compared the tea partiers to "the Red Army commissars who sat at machine guns behind their own troops to shoot down any soldier who retreated or ran."

    Yikes, Pat. Couldn't have come up with a kinder one?

  102. Seen on a recent Citibank (C) statement: "Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change.

    Time to run on the bank!

  103. ThinkProgress:


    Beck may have received a standing ovation at the convention, but many high-profile conservatives have been less enthusiastic about his GOP criticism. Right-wing pundit Bill Bennett wrote, “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. … And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund said that several Republicans “complained that Mr. Beck is indirectly encouraging third-party candidates to challenge them this year, threatening to divide the conservative vote.”

    One of the most prominent voices to jump into the fray is popular right-wing radio host and author Mark Levin, who went on Facebook yesterday and ripped Beck:

    I have no idea what philosophy Glenn Beck is promoting. And neither does he. It’s incoherent. One day it’s populist, the next it’s libertarian bordering on anarchy, next it’s conservative but not really, etc. And to what end? I believe he has announced that he is no longer going to endorse candidates because our problems are bigger than politics. Well, of course, our problems are not easily dissected into categories, but to reject politics is to reject the manner in which we try to organize ourselves. [..]

    Finally, Beck is fond of congratulating himself for being the only or the first host to criticize George Bush’s spending. This is demonstrably false. … And as someone who fought liberal Republicans in the trenches when campaigning for Reagan in 1976 and 1980, I don’t need lectures from Beck, who was nowhere to be found, about big-spending Republicans.

    On his radio show yesterday, Levin added, “Decide what you are. A circus clown, self-identified. Or a thoughtful and wise person. It’s hard to be both. You can’t wear the clown nose and not wear the clown nose at the same time.” He also told Beck to “stop dividing” conservatives at a time when there is unprecedented “unity” in the movement.

    Meanwhile, Jeb Bush thinks Palin is intellectually incurious and ill-suited to the office of the presidency.

  104. And I've been hanging on to this one from PA Public Radio:

    Joe the Plumber (aka Samuel J.Wurzelbacher) headlined state Representative Sam Rohrer’s Mobilize for Liberty event in Harrisburg today, giving the Berks County lawmaker his support a few hours after Rohrer mustered just a dozen votes in the State Republican Committee’s gubernatorial endorsement meeting.

    Joe’s endorsement is apparently quite the coup. He says more than 200 politicians have asked for support this year, but so far, he’s only backed five. “I need to talk to candidates before I endorse,” he told me afterwards, explaining that his bar is pretty high. “We have a series of conversations – 20 to 30 minute conversations – and I grill them. I ask them questions about energy, education – make sure they’re straight.” Wurzelbacher says he also vets candidates online.

    So why Rohrer? He says they share many of the same values – the Second Amendment, states’ independence, “integrity, honesty.” Plus, “Sam is really favored amongst the tea parties. It takes a lot for them to get behind an individual.”

    Wurzelbacher touched on several different points during his speech, and many of them were surprising. He said he doesn’t support Sarah Palin anymore. Why? Because she’s backing John McCain’s re-election effort. “John McCain is no public servant,” he told the room, calling the 2008 Republican nominee a career politician.

    I pointed out he’d just be plain old Sam Wurzelbacher of Ohio — Joe the Plumber wouldn’t exist – without McCain. His response was blunt. “I don’t owe him s—. He really screwed my life up, is how I look at it.”

    Wurzelbacher said, “McCain was trying to use me. I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy.”


  105. Nor'easter with a twist. Yup, that's what they're calling it. I'm feeling the anxiety already. We're in the 6-12 but right on the boarder or 15-18. Grrr....

  106. A nor'easter? Katie bar the door.

  107. Meanwhile meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg has a video clip of nutty ol' Ron Paul at the Corner:

    The Federal Reserve: Is There Nothing it Can't Do?

    Jonah then gives us the shorter Ron Paul: The Fed might have been in on Watergate, Saddam Hussein and something or other in Greece.

    I can hear the giggles.

  108. Trish reports:

    "Meanwhile, Jeb Bush thinks Palin is intellectually incurious and ill-suited to the office of the presidency."

    You have brought this to our attention because you think it means something.

    Explain, if you will, just what "intellectually incurious" means. You could begin by telling us what an intellectual is and how that bears on the ability to be an effective president.

    And, explain, if you will, in what way Jeb Bush thinks that Palin is "ill-suited" to the job. You could begin by telling us what Jeb Bush thinks are the requisite abilities to be president and which of these he thinks Palin is lacking.

    Personally, I know only one thing about Jeb Bush's perception of the presidency: He thinks that his brother was a great president.

  109. It's all over sometime; it's all over sometime; it's all over sometime...

  110. Sounds like you'll be getting 13.5.

  111. Since giving birth, Bristol Palin has become increasingly outspoken, urging young Americans to abstain from having sex to avoid becoming a teenage mother like herself.

    "Having a baby is a huge responsibility and I think that teenagers should just wait to have sex," she told a panel in New York last year as the abstinence ambassador for The Candie's Foundation.

    Last week Bristol responded to jokes on her mother's Facebook page about the animated TV show, Family Guy that appeared to mock her 22-month-old brother, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

    Pregnancy Drama

  112. "You have brought this to our attention because you think it means something."

    Yes, viktor. It means that Jeb Bush believes that (and I'm paraphrasing) the office requires an interest in and understanding of a complex society and world and in his estimation she simply isn't interested in such complexities. Although he deems her quite charismatic.

    And, of course, such opinions within the GOP are not news.

    My series of posts was only intended to remark the, ah, ferment? foment? within the GOP and conservatism itself.

    Because I find it somewhat fascinating.

  113. Still, Chuck Tompkins, the corporate curator in charge of animal behavior for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said Tilikum was not an unusually violent orca.


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  114. As I'm sure you occasionally do yourself.

  115. Joshua Daniel Bruce is one of three Australians named among 15 suspects in the killing of senior Hamas figure Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai last month.


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  116. You know she's, like, five feet and an inch or something?

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  117. This video contains content from Vevo, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

    Who is it?

  118. Isn't that the shits, sam?

    It's Shakira's "Tango."

  119. Viktor can hook you up with the Vevo video, I'm sure.

  120. Personally, I've had about enough intellectually curious people to last me a lifetime.

    I'm ready for someone that can get the trash picked up, and balance the budget.

  121. Trish said:

    "Yes, viktor. It means that Jeb Bush believes that (and I'm paraphrasing) the office requires an interest in and understanding of a complex society and world and in his estimation she simply isn't interested in such complexities. Although he deems her quite charismatic."

    In other words: you have no idea of what you are talking about.

    "My series of posts was only intended to remark the, ah, ferment? foment? within the GOP and conservatism itself."

    Maybe. Or maybe it was just a hit piece on Palin and, by implication, the conservative wing of the GOP.

    You are quite welcome to dislike Palin and her values but innuendo and vague generalizations about her are a cheap substitute for argument.

  122. Ooooookay, Mr. Gene Splicing.


  123. Jeb MF'n Bush was the asshole that endorsed McCrazy in Fla and gave us the worst candidate in 100 years.

    A candidate that couldn't beat a black, communist, Mohammedan. And, a punk one at that.

  124. Many's the time I got drunk "after" voting. This is the first time I wanted to get drunk "Before" voting.

  125. It doesn't matter. I think, all in all, Americans are much more interested in the political views of Pee Wee Herman than they are of another Bush.

  126. "In other words: you have no idea of what you are talking about."

    Viktor, I don't think she's a bright woman. Whether she's not bright because she doesn't want to be or because she can't be, is really beside the point.

    I absolutely believe that a genuine engagement of ideas - that an interest leading to inquiry of same - is what Republicans need and (to swipe from Quirk) deserve. The party once prided itself on just such intellectual commitment and provided the happy reason for my interest in and support of it.

  127. And, what, Trish, has so convinced you that she's not a "bright" woman?

  128. Trish, I think you dislike her because she's NOC (not our class.)

  129. Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Shrub?

    Intellektually curius to a fault them boys were.

  130. Of course, they understood from the start that "Missile Defense" would work, something that the Mental Giants of the Intellektully Elite such as John F'n Kerry, Al Gore, Barak Obama, and the entire Democratic Congress never figured out.

  131. Might I recommend a quick read before bed?

    Intellectually Curious Giants of the Republican Congress: circa 1900 - 2010

  132. Or,

    Intellectual Curiousisms of Jeb Bush

    It gets curiouser, and curiouser.

  133. Here is a man that is Scientifically Curious (in other words, a "useful" human being.

    He's studying Gene Manipulation of Algae for Biofuels.

    Now, he may not be the "Star" of the cocktail party, but he may help you get there, and put food on the sideboard when you arrive.

  134. New York Times -

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  135. WASHINGTON — The Obama administration sharply criticized Israel on Wednesday for designating the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, both in West Bank cities, to the list of Jewish heritage sites marked for renovation and preservation.

    The government's decision, announced Sunday, sparked Palestinian protests and has drawn criticism from other quarters, including the United Nations. The Palestinians claim all the West Bank as part of a future state and also protested the Israeli move as a provocation, a largely symbolic gesture. The move heightened long-standing tensions, particularly in Hebron, where Palestinians planned to march Thursday to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Baruch Goldstein massacre.

    US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the administration viewed the move as provocative and unhelpful to the goal of getting the two sides back to the table.

    Toner said US displeasure with the designations of the Cave of the Patriarchs in the flash point town of Hebron and the traditional tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem had been conveyed to senior Israeli officials by American diplomats.

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