Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mrs. Evilhippy on the Financial Crisis

My Helpmeet just posted what I think is a erudite and witty commentary on the current near financial meltdown of Wall-Street and the giant Dr. Evil-like proposed bailout plan, but I'll let her take it from here:

A Pop Culture Guide to Financial Armaggedon

One thing's for sure, and that is, I'm sure not an economist. Any attempts I've made this week to understand the financial mess we are in right now has done nothing but prove this to me over and over again. But for all the unreadable, un-understandable, unprocessable amounts of information I've looked at this week, I thought I'd try to share what little of that which I have been somewhat able to fathom. And since I am no economist, I have absolutely no working knowledge of most of the terminology involved, much less the implications.

So what do I do?

I will liken it to Pop Culture! That's good, right?

Alright, here goes nothin'..

The secretary of the Treasury Department presented a 3 page document to Congress requesting authorization to infuse the stock market with up to 700 billion dollars over the next 2 years. To form a mental picture, just pretend that this is the movie 'Fight Club'. Imagine all of our Representatives and Senators garbed in all black, Project Mayhem style, and everybody is talking at once, freaking out. The economy just had a giant hole shot through its head and is oozing brains out everywhere. Imagine then that George W. Bush is Tyler Durden. He walks in the room and says "You are not a beautiful, unique snowflake! Any attempt to add snowflakery to the plan will make all the snowflakes melt all over the place and that would be just terrible!"

"I will give you brand new sheets of construction paper! You will start over! Your poor scissor skills will all go away!"

Everyone is still confused. How does new construction paper clean up all the blood and brains oozing out all over the floor? Everybody starts arguing again, to which Tyler George Durden Bush starts a chant "His name is Henry Paulson. HiS NaMe iS HeNRy PauLSoN. HIS NAME IS HENRY PAULSON."

Here is a draft of this 3 page bill as proposed. Pay special attention to Section 8 of said proposition that gives Henry Paulson more unchecked power than Almighty God.

As an aside, there are interesting associations to the term Section 8. In the military, it is the dismissal sited when you are crazy, and from a government housing standpoint, it is the name of program used to provide housing aid for the poor.

It is doubtless that this will NOT be signed as presented. The current reports are that there will be oversite for how this money is spent, and most likely, there will be additional stipulations that we, the taxpayers, can recoup some of this money.

It still doesn't answer the question of where we get this money in the first place. And as best as I can find out, it will be borrowed from China (just like the recent stimulus money). It will then be put into the stock market, mostly by buying chunks of 'bad debt' (to the tune of 700 billion dollars worth) from financial institutions (such as sub-prime mortgage loans that are uncollectable now). The effect is that these financial institutions will no longer have all these bad debts on their books, as though they never made them in the first place, causing the value of the company to return to a normal level.

If this sounds like a horrible idea, it is. But the only alternative is to let the vast majority of American businesses go bankrupt, all at once, plunging the nation into the Great Depression 2: Bigger, Badder and Uncut! If I understand it correctly, this almost happened Thursday. What stopped it? And injection of 105 billion dollars, pre-market opening. This is what I read, see if you can make any more sense of it than I did .

But, at least this collapse would have made some form of sense. People are scared. In one day, they tried to get 500 billion dollars worth of their own money out of the chaos that is our current stock market.

Another of the aspects of our current situation that is to some degree understandable is looking at failed institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, who offered a lot of people the chance to borrow money to buy a home that did not have the means to pay back that kind of debt, hence the term sub-prime mortgage lending. And blame is useless here. The Republicans want to say that the Democrats started programs like these. The Democrats want to say that the Republicans have been consistently against regulations that would prevent these types of loans from being legal in the first place.

But the real crazy, the real ugly is all the made up stuff that no one but an economist (or a trader) can understand. You see, we have these things called Derivatives . Right now, we have somewhere in the ballpark of 1000 trillion dollars worth of them. As a country, we don't even necessarily agree with the rest of the world on what to call that number. Is it a sextillion, or is it a quadrillion. Or is it a bazillion-illion-dillion?

There are many, many complications to any attempt whatsoever to explain or define derivatives, and I in no way profess to understanding them. This is the my "are you smarter than a fourth-grader" explanation of just one single one of them. It is called a swap. What you do is not trade money, you just talk to somebody else about how risky their investment is, and then they ask you how risky your investment is (I'll show you mine if you show me yours) and if your risk is better for them than theirs is and their risk is better for you than them, you just swap risks. Viola! The trouble comes in when one of those swappers gets into financial dire straights. In that case, the risks are returned to their original owners, who may or may not have seen it coming and may or may not have the ability to pay the piper.

How is this possible?

The short version is this: They are unregulated. Meaning: No limits, no safety net, no supervision.

Warren Buffet calls them "financial weapons of mass destruction".

The Republican platform has long been against regulations, claiming that the market is essentially sound and will regulate itself.

At least they're organized and seem to agree on something. Most Dems can't agree on a damn thing. And I have no love for either of our Presidential Candidates as they continue to campaign while Congress barks at each other.

What a missed opportunity to show true leadership!

I still have more to say, but this post is long enough. Here are a few more links to what I've found that is the more-understandable breakdowns of what is happening.

Paulson Financial Rescue Plan
Nifty Chart of Disaster
Overview of the Current Financial Crisis

Monday, September 22, 2008

Archive Dive

I have decided I need a weekly feature here. My new idea stolen blatently from Large Hearted Boy, is to weekly delve into the bowels of Archive.org to bring you interesting and free things to watch, read and listen to on the interwebs.

First up,

First is the classic public educational film on surviving thermonuclear warfare:
Duck and Cover

Next up we have a film that may be of interest to some people out there and to me as well:
Victory Garden


Learn about the world heavyweight boxing champions up till 1910 from Heavy-weight champions (1910)

The L. Frank Baum classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Complete Mark Twain, vol.1


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All Zombie Films Are Not Created Equal

There's a certain type of charm to lots of bad films. There's a certain type of soul that shows that even though the film might not be the best or the brightest, it was still loved and cared for.

Bad films can transcend in ways that well put together soulless pap cannot.

Bad films can be great films.

I've seen quite a few great bad films --Street Trash comes to mind immediately, virtually any Troma film directed by Lloyd Kauffman, John Waters films. These films rise above their humble beginnings to attain something greater.

Then there are the truly soulless abominations of cinema that contain neither soul nor substance. These are the films that look like bad film school projects.

Very rarely do I encounter a film that fails within the first few minutes. Usually if the film fails that spectacularly, something brilliant may follow. Sometimes not so much.

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium is one of those abominations.

I will now summarize the first twenty minutes of the film (the part Roxanne and I watched before shutting it off):

In the late sixties there is a hospital with a mad scientist in it creating zombies from a Russian soldier who is apparently a super-zombie. There is a soldier who steals some of the zombie formula and puts it in his thermos. Then the military rush in and start shooting everyone, including a host of zombies who were apparently running rampant at said military hospital. Dude manages to run away from all the killing with all the subtlety of a GI Joe cartoon. Then he turns into a zombie and they shoot him. During the commotion he drops his zombie-juice filled thermos into the weeds.

Flash forward to the present. The military hospital is now an insane asylum populated by bad actors with little direction. This is the point where the movie becomes a strange combination of attempted Tarantino dialogue and girl interrupted. We have crazy guy in glasses, crazy guy who may be gay, crazy other guy, crazy possibly retarded or just stupid or burned out on drugs black guy, and crazy guy who has visions and has a girlfriend who is a cutter with a friend who wears devil horns.


Didn't even get to the zombies in the present. Could. not. do. it.

There is a making of documentary on this DVD which I feel I must see. I am curious if the makers of the film realize how terrible the film is.

Some directors can overcome horrible acting and bad scripts to make something good.

Very few directors can overcome horrible acting, a bad script, bad editing and horrible direction to make something good.

The worst part is the association that this film had with Romero's Dead films due to the title. That is the saddest thing.

I am now done talking about this movie.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Zombie Story, pt. 1

Watching a lot of Zombie stories here lately. Decided to write something Zombie-ish, here's part 1:

Your first instinct, mine too, is to get someplace big like a mall, or a town hall, or a hospital, but your instinct is wrong. Big is good to get you lots of people, but big is also good to get you overrun.

Your first instincts are what get you killed.

Second instincts are good, third instincts are best.

Trust me. The first place I went was the mall. I guess I watched Dawn of the Dead a few too many times and thought it would be a great place to spend the Zombie Apocalypse. All it was was burning and so full of those things you couldn't even pretend to wade through them.

This was in the beginning when some of them were still fast and smart, before they really started falling apart. I hit the local mall thinking I'd find survivors and supplies and I ended up finding neither.

It's not like even in the beginning these things are too hard to handle in a one on one situation. Even the fast and smart ones aren't really that fast and smart. A moderately fast guy on crutches can outmaneuver one of the fast ones.

I saw that happen outside the hospital.

A group of them though--a group of them would take out a Jamaican sprinter.

I haven’t really seen any of them that can take out a truck though.

Just keep the doors locked and the windows up and your eyes open is the best way to go. They’ll bang on the windows, but unless they get clogged up under your wheels you’re good to go.

I think I spent the first few hours running around in shock like everyone else. You don’t really have a way to plan for the Zombie Apocalypse, even if you think you do. I’ve seen Fulci and Romero and Shaun of the Dead and lots of the regional zombie films, and nothing really prepared me for this. The only real thing that I brought away from any of those is to keep my eyes open and be distrustful of the security that groups bring.

Groups just bring you problems.

It’s not that being alone is all that much fun either, but I will take being alone to being left at risk by someone else's problems.

Not that groups of people are a real problem at this point. It's been forty-seven days since I saw or heard from a non-Zombie. In the beginning there was chatter all over the short wave and CB. The television and internet were alive with reports from all over, then, after about a week those started to trickle out and then they stopped.

Now it's radio silence.

All quiet on every front.

Power is still on in a lot of places because my wireless card still picks up the net, but there haven't been any new youtube videos or blog reports in quite a while. I can look out my front door and see an enticing amount of nothing and lack of activity which makes me want to go out and see what's going on, but at the same time all quiet doesn't necessarily mean all dead and not moving.


For those that missed it Tina Fey with the pitch perfect Alaskan/Wisconson accent and Amy Poehler acting like Hillary Clinton probably feels:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Unify through disunity

There's nothing like forming your own group to work on unifying everyone else's groups. Presidential elections are a prime time for this type of thing and there seem to be brand new groups popping up all the time. Don't let the fact that some of them may be run by people they seem to be trying to oppose and that some of them are just arms of other organizations that already exist, that's beside the point, really.

Here are a few of those groups, more as I find them:

Unity 08: Law and Order's Hang 'Em High McCoy stumped for this group earlier in the year, but, unfortunately the man has brought them down already.

DividedWeFail.org: This is an arm of the AARP, but they do have the coolest logo.

WeCanSolveIt.org: Founded by ManBearPig hunter and popularly elected president of the US, Al Gore. This one is more of an environmental one, and you can guess.

One.org: Star power to find unity in something or other.

TillAllAreOne.org: Autobot campaign using the matrix of leadership to light our darkest hour.

Hope all that was helpful.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

For Gunny Walker

Just for Gunny Walker:

The other day I was strolling around the interwebs the other day and I happened to find a bootleg of a concert that Gunny and I were at at MTSU. Here for your (Gunny Walker's) listening pleasure are the Presidents of the United States of America live at Tucker Theater from MTSU. If you listen closely (Gunny), you can hear Gunny singing along.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Spin, Spin, Spin

Watching James Carville being completely flummoxed by how to argue against Sarah Palin with Rep. Michele Bachmann because it seems like the Republicans are spinning so fast on trying to back up a position here that they run the risk of catching fire.

"She easily has more qualifications than Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden combined if you look at executive experience. She's been in an executive position for two years. She's made very tough positions.

She's looked her own party in the eye and said enough with your corruption and she says throw the bums out. She has delivered and she knows how to get things done."

--Michele Bachmann

I like the confusion from Carville trying to distance from attacks on the teen-pregnancy angle and the showing of the picture of the town in Alaska that Palin was mayor of.

How is it that this can at the same time be a horrible negative for McCain, but a positive as well.

It seems from Bachmann that there are already talking points and catch phrases that they have been given to use.

Also interesting on a panel with three women and one man where the man was the one supporting a female presidential candidate and one of the women is for Obama there is someone arguing that to question the qualifications of Palin is offensive to women.

"They tout her experience as mayor of this town in Alaska. This is a picture of the city hall. It looks like a bait shop in south Louisiana."

--James Carville

Republicans and Hillary attacked Obama for a lack of experience in foreign policy and a lack of experience overall, but now are all a twitter for someone who has been governor of Alaska for less than two years and saying she has more experience (albeit Bachmann then qualified it as executive experience) than Obama or Biden put together.

So executive position (albeit governor of Alaska)trumps Senator since 1973 in experience.

Spin Republicans spin.

I think they went all in on the Flop with a K-Q on suit in heads up, but they're really going to need to pull out that gut-shot straight draw on the river.
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