Friday, February 27, 2009
FNMA: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fannie Mae lost $25.2 billion in the fourth quarter and is asking the government for $15.2 billion in aid as the U.S. housing market worsens."As the US housing market worsens." That's a nice way of saying that Fannie's bondholders are not finished with your phlebotomy. Neither are Freddie's, though it has not yet announced earnings*. Fannie lost $58.7b on the year, which is really good work if you can get it.
Here's a truly amazing story, a company with a stock price of $2.38 manages to lose almost $16 per share in one quarter. We need to lend them some more money, pronto.
GM: General Motors Corp. reported a net loss for the fourth quarter of $9.6 billion or $15.71 per share, compared to a net loss of $722 million or $1.28 per share for the year-ago quarter...
AIG: American International Group Inc. is seeking an overhaul of its $150 billion government bailout package that would ... further expos[e] U.S. taxpayers to its fortunes, people familiar with the matter say...While AIG is not going to announce until Monday, it's expected** to lose $60b for the quarter. That's up from $30b last quarter.
The earnings report is expected to underscore AIG's worsening condition with its total loss for the quarter likely to top $60 billion, these people said.
Now the scary thing is not that the government is "saving" companies that borrowed and burned upwards of $100 billion in the fourth quarter alone. It's that every single one of these companies lost more than twice as much in this quarter as any prior quarter, which means that in three months, we'll be likely reading these same stories again, only with the decimal points moved a place to the right.
"We expect the market conditions that contributed to our net loss
for each quarter of 2008 to continue and possibly worsen in 2009, which is likely to cause further reductions in our net worth," Fannie Mae said in a statement.
It's likely to result in further reductions in your net worth as well.
* "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
** Meaning the results have already been leaked to gain political leverage.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Terminator II. Has there ever been a hero cooler than Kyle Reese? An aluminum cop can in no way compare to that.
Back to the Future II. Jennifer Parker, who was knocked out for the whole movie, probably enjoyed this more than anyone else involved.
Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, if only because of how they destroyed Faramir's character. I saw it in the theater and nearly cried. And I don't cry at movies.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The press snickers at a wrestling impersionator's magic plan to save the St. Louis economy*, but not only is it no stupider than Obama's stimulus plan, it is based on exactly the same faulty premise.
Got a call this morning from a J.R. Moore of St. Louis who told me that he had an idea better than President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan...
Here's how Moore's plan works: Buy lottery tickets...
Unlike other lottery games, Moore says the Pick 4 has relatively good odds for a cheap price. If you play the numbers in exact order (in Moore's case 4-0-2-0) your chance of winning is 1 in 10,000. And a 50 cent lottery ticket can net you $3,000. Spend a buck and you'll make $6,000...
If everyone in St. Louis plays their home address in the Pick 4, Moore believes several local people each day will win -- especially considering that the Pick 4 has two daily drawings...
"That's a dozen or so people in St. Louis who could have $3,000 or $6,000 in their pocket each day," says Moore. "And what are they going to do with that cash? They're going to spend it!"
The bad premise here is easy to see: no matter how the money is divided up, no matter what the odds, there is no money coming out of the lottery that did not first go into it. For every person who wins $10,000, there are 10,000 who lose $1. While there is economic activity - we have moved $10,000 around - there is no more value in the economy for it having been moved.
Obama's stimulus package is based on the same fallacy. Obama is going to spend, say a trillion dollars, which we are assured will create so many jobs that every American will be able to have 2 or 3 of them. Where is the money coming from? It is being borrowed from investors - investors who are therefore withholding that same money from some other borrower. Obama is simply borrowing a trillion dollars out of the economy, spending it back into the economy, and pronouncing the jobs thereby gathered into one place as "created."
The make-believe Macho Man's plan is silly, because all it does is move money around, celebrating the end result while ignoring the equal and offsetting costs. Obama's plan is the darling of politicians and economists all along the Potomac. The difference?
With Obama's plan, politicians and economists get to spend the money.
* And rightly so. It's actually worse than I let on above, as anyone who takes 1-10,000 odds for a 6,000-1 payoff is on the way to the poorhouse, especially if done en masse as 'the plan' posits. The Lottery is a voluntary tax on innumeracy disguised as a retirement plan.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The value of an American home had slumped almost 27 per cent by the end of last year compared to the peak of the property boom, according to the definitive survey of US house prices.While it's perfectly acceptable to ignore Bernanke's warnings* that unless the leprochauns of economic recovery arrive soon the recession will go on, one can celebrate on behalf of a generation that will be able to purchase a decent-sized house while paying hundreds of thousands less in interest to banks that create that money from nothing to lend. This trend, combined with a trend toward savings, is really the best economic news going and is the only way America can build a decent base for long-lasting recovery. That's probably why it's being fought tooth and nail in Washington.
The data was released as Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, warned the recession could extend beyond this year unless the government succeeds in stabilising the financial markets with strong action.
Of course, a continued fall in prices is bad news for a financial industry built on leverage, just like falling prices are bad for people who bought houses with no money down, i.e. with infinite leverage. But it will be better in the long run if they can afford to own a house outright, rather than making taxpayer-subsidized payments to banks for the rest of their lives and owning nothing in the end.
* Actually, it's pretty wise. If Bernanke had any idea what he was talking about, he would have solved the problem with the first 10 trillion dollars he threw at it. I'm afraid I cannot imagine what "stong action" will entail if we have not yet seen it.
Monday, February 23, 2009
American Insurance Group, the insurance giant that is 80-percent owned by the US government, is in discussions with the government to secure additional funds so it can keep operating after next Monday, when it will report the largest loss in U.S. corporate history, CNBC has learned.
Sources close to the company said the loss will be near $60 billion due to writedowns on a variety of assets including commercial real estate.
This is the same AIG, you might recall, that was going to provide a profit for the taxpayers. That was a mere 5 months, and $150 billion dollars, ago. Now it appears that it is sucking up better than $20 billion a month in taxpayer money.
With no bottom in sight. That's the scary part. All of these gurantees, all of these takeovers, all of these purchases and re-capitalizations are assumed to be the bottom and the turning point. Those dishing out your money never seem to mention that all of the Fannies and the Freddies and the AIGs* and soon the Citis and BoAs, are going concerns: they will continue to lose money, quarter after quarter, and the taxpayers are going to to be robbed for all of it.
* The irony in AIG's case is that the company was saved at the behest of the New York Fed. The former head of that bank is now our Treasury Secretary. Man, you can smell the change from here.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- The credit crunch may only be in its early stages and a bigger contraction in lending in coming months could have "serious implications" for the U.S. economy, Standard & Poor's Rating Services said Friday.Reading the third paragraph in conjunction with the first is enough to give one Orwellian fits*; one cannot possibly have a "bigger contraction in lending" while lending is still growing. That's like reducing your debt by refinancing your house to pay your credit cards and taking a vacation to Tahoe on all the money you will save in the future**.
While politicians and others have complained that banks aren't lending, the data on outstanding credit in the U.S. only tenuously supports this idea, the rating agency said.
"What's behind the apparent difference between perception and reality?" Standard & Poor's credit analyst Tanya Azarchs said. "It may be that, while growth in overall credit was positive through at least third-quarter 2008, it has risen at a slower pace than at any time since 1945 -- far below the 8%-10% rate in most years."
Assuming that credit is still expanding, then we are still doing nothing to deal with the underlying cause of our financial troubles: that people already have more debt than their incomes can support. Put into the light, one can see easily the absolute insanity of credit needing to grow at an 8-10% rate, year after year. Are there 8-10% more Americans each year? Of course not. Therefore each existing American is expected to take on 8 or 10% more debt every year in order to keep our economy healthy***.
Perhaps that is why S&P is right for the wrong reasons. Americans cannot take on more debt, therefore they will take on less. When "the numbers" start to show an actual decrease in debt vis-a-vis incomes - and when our cultural expectations reflect an abhorrence of debt equal to our late love of it - then we will be ripe for a generation-long recovery. In the meantime, as I discussed with Jozum today, I expect we shall see our waves of "contraction" and market panic, currently coming at quarterly iterations, becoming worse and worse and closer and closer, until the market our government is fighting so hard finally reduces our debt burden - our demand on future production - to a reasonable and manageable level.
I'm reminded of the words of Paul, given in another context: "When they say, There is peace and safety, then sudden destruction will come on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman; and they will not escape it." At least not until they can pay their bills without going further into hock to do so.
* Or to qualify one as an Obama budget whiz, assuming one has paid his taxes.
** still, it comes as no surprise to discover that something taken as axiomatic in Washington is only "tenuously" supported by facts.
***And they are expected to pay interest to their bankers on that amount, of course.
Lawrence was burning the morning of August 22, 1863. The clatter of hooves drowned out the weeping of the Kansas town's newest widows as William Quantrill's victorious guerrillas fled back toward the safety of the Missouri border, some forty miles east. As they traveled, the band broke into smaller groups, either to escape the pursuit of federal troops or because tired horses, ridden too hard for too long, simply could not keep up with the rest.Unfortunately, I can't finish it all up this weekend, as for the third part I'm waiting on an interlibrary loan of just about the only article I can find that tracks the evolution of the Red Legs. Though to be honest, rather than telling what they did, I'm going to focus on the oral traditions that arose around Hoyt. Then after recounting his part in turning back the Price expedition - including his killing of George Todd, his promotion to brevet brigadier general, and his naming in an epic**** poem - I'm going to wrap it up with a cool quote I found in two biographies of Senator Sumner: Hoyt was a soldier, but of no great distinction.
One group of three men, captured by Cass County, Missouri, troopers before they could cross the state line, were brought before a baby-faced Kansas cavalry officer who had just arrived on the scene. He was of medium height and slender, with a captain's stripes on his Union uniform and leggings of red leather covering the tops of his riding boots. Both the captives and their captors knew what those leggings represented. The officer ordered the first captive to disgorge the loot from his pockets; it consisted mainly of children's toys and cheap buttons, with a mouth organ and some shoe laces mixed in. Looking over the pathetic take, the astonished captain drew his pistol. “I'll kill you just for being a damned fool,” he said. One shot was quickly followed by two more, and all three guerrillas lay dead. George H. Hoyt, Captain of the Kansas Red Legs, put his pistol away and climbed back atop his horse to continue the search. This is what he had come to Kansas to do.
* Chinese, and it was fantastic. We should do that every day.
** I mention that specifically so, should my instructor search online to ensure I'm not plagiarizing it, hopefully this will serve as exculpatory proof.
*** Footnotes are, as you might expect, a problem, as I find myself tempted to write smartassed little comments rather than trying to act like a stodgy historian might.
**** By which I mean a capital felony against the English language.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
After listening to the gravid charges laid upon us to use our superior knowledge of mankind to stomp out inequality and sexual discrimination**, we got around to eating sandwiches and electing officers. Thankfully, I didn't get
He's tired, I take it, of hearing about how the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, how Martin Luther King started the Reformation, and how people think the current economic downturn is anything like the Depression.
"I remember***," he intoned, "the recession of 1981, when we had triple-digit unemployment, triple-digit inflation..." He talked some more about other really important stuff, but the rest I lost trying to recall when this nation ever had unemployment of 100% or higher. Maybe before Plymouth Rock or something.
Hells yeah I voted for him. I mean, anyone who lived through such dark times must have accumulated some historical knowledge along the way.
* the Lambda chapter, so naturally I was humming, "Clap your hands everybody, and everybody clap your hands. We're Lambda Lambda Lambda and Omega Mu." I didn't see Berney Casey around anywhere, though.
** I wonder why the lessons of history seldom fail to correlate with modern political axioms. But then again, I fall into the "pessimist" category they kept mentioning.
*** He's an older guy, maybe even as old as me. Hard to tell, because everyone my age looks really old.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Hi Bill,This note comes from a LadyLawyer whom I respect quite a bit*, and to be honest, it's a question I get surprisingly often these days. That regular - though smart - people are getting interested in gold has often been indicative of a market top, or at least the beginning of a top. However, since I expect that the top will occur when gold and the Dow meet**, I figured it would do little harm to share parts of my response. I don't give financial advice, so this is worth what it costs you:
It's probably been at least three or four years since we've crossed paths, but you may recall that I used to work at the XXX division back when you were on board at the XXX office...
Given the chaos and uncertainty of our country and economy, my husband and I have talked lately about possibly investing in gold and silver. XXX gave me the name of her financial advisor through whom she's purchased shares of companies that produce gold and silver, but [physical gold and silver is] more along the lines of what my husband and I have contemplated.
I wondered if you could recommend any particular companies or programs for purchasing and storing precious metals...
If so, I'd certainly appreciate your words of wisdom! ...
Any "program" must be based on how much and what you wish to buy, but here's a really simple, back-of-the-envelope sort of strategy to get started:
If you just want to put away a little every month, you can find very good deals on ebay. For about $100, you can buy 10-franc gold coins (French or Swiss) and for about $200, 20-franc. For $250, English "sovereign" (1/4 ounce) coins are good. These are recognized denominations that are not overpriced due to collector demand. The smaller the coin the more you will pay per gram of gold, so it's cheaper to buy a sovereign or 20-franc than two 10-francs. Watch the shipping prices: $3 is fair, $10 is what you'll see too often.
If you want to get a little more gold at one time, I can recommend Affordable Jewelry and Precious Metals at www.ajpm.com. They specialize more in 1-oz coins and bars than in smaller coins.
For a beginner's silver stash, I suggest what is called "junk" silver - old US dimes and quarters minted before 1965. If you buy small amounts of silver online the freight will kill you: silver is 60x heavier per dollar of value than gold. But it is often available at your local coin store, or better, a show where there are a lot of dealers so you can compare prices.
There is really no magic to accumulating gold and silver. Buy consistently, but more when the price goes down, less when it shoots straight up. Pay as little in shipping and "numismatic premium" as possible. Buy stuff you want to own, occasionally from different countries (you'd be amazed how many countries minted gold coins) or different eras, just to keep things interesting.
Hope that helps, and it's good to hear from you again, XXX. Take care and let me know if you have any other questions.
* I sometimes wonder if the world would be better if all lawyers were women. Not judges, but certainly lawyers.
** Or at least when they are within hailing distance. That will mark a good time to start buying stocks with gold profits.
President Obama unveiled his much-anticipated plan Wednesday to fight the housing crisis, pledging up to $275 billion to help stem a wave of foreclosures sweeping the country.Which I shall not fail to note just went up by $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the country.
"All of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis..." Obama said in prepared remarks released on Wednesday.
The plan is deceptively simple: give $200b more to Freddie and Fannie - doubling the amount of money they have sucked out of the taxpayer since they were 'rescued' - and put the rest in a slush fund to give to bankers in lieu of the interest they cannot collect from their customers. I'm sure this bold new approach will do the trick.
If I'm not mistaken, the US has just flown past a significant milestone. I have not seen final numbers, but the addition of $275b to all of the stimuli and guarantees and programs and swaps the feds have announced in the past 18 months just might put us over $10 trillion dollars to "fight" the crisis.
And it ain't over yet:
Automakers General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Llc yesterday requested nearly $22 billion in combined additional government aid to survive...Not by a long shot...
Monday, February 16, 2009
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas is suspending income tax refunds and may not be able to pay its employees on time.This has all the warmth and smell of a pissing contest, as the state is only mostly broke. They just have their money in savings instead of checking and the bank is closed for President's day*, and the GOP wants to extract a political favor or two before allowing the transfer to take place.
The state is strapped for cash in its main bank account. Republican legislative leaders blocked an effort by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to transfer funds into the account...
But it is good to see that they are practicing for the day when the general fund runs out. Except that pretty soon, there are going to be no more accounts to transfer from.
* or the modern equivalent, a whole bunch of "lockbox" accounts designed to keep politicians from looting dedicated money to cover the general fund. Like they are doing.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- On Tuesday, General Motors and Chrysler LLC have to submit plans to the government that show how they plan to turnaround their troubled companies. It won't be an easy task...10 million in sales is the best Detroit can expect. And that's not my number. Jim Press of Chrysler said this week that 10 million can be expected not for the next 4 months or 4 quarters, but the next 4 years. There are no conceivable circumstances under which American carmakers, as currently organized, can make money in that environment.
But the automakers could need additional cash sooner rather than later as long as sales remain depressed. GM said in its December plan to Congress that if industrywide sales stayed near the 10 million level through the first quarter, it would need about $15 billion in federal loans by the end of February.
But that's not what the plans will say, I suspect. Even as GM asks for billions more*, they will present a plan that will contain unprovable assertions, untenable assumptions, and unrealistic projections, but the bottom line is that it will "prove" that they can be profitable, and soon.
Everyone will know it's fraudulent, but everyone will be forced to pretend it is brilliant. The other choice is for a Democratic congress and a Democratic president to throw tens of thousands of union autoworkers out of work in the midst of the sharpest economic downturn in 80 years. If they do, and when this becomes the Greater Depression**, it will go down in the history books as one of those decisions that later generations always swear they will avoid, just before they do something worse.
The Democrats should do it anyway. The shareholders and bondholders should be wiped out, the loans recalled, the factories sold. It is only with a clean slate that cars can ever be made profitably in America. But I have a nasty suspicion that we are going to remain firmly in the world of make-believe. For a little while longer, anyway.
UPDATE: They're saved:
Because, you know, the one thing the auto industry has been lacking is knowledge that can only come from a gaggle of government agencies...
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama is creating a task force to oversee the restructuring of the auto industry, a senior administration official said Monday ... [which] will include members from the Departments of Treasury, Labor, Transportation, Commerce, and Energy, the National Economic Council, the White House Office of Energy and Environment, the Council of Economic Advisers and the Environmental Protection Agency...
* And not just more than they have already received, but more than they are worth. GM's market cap is $1.5b, a mere 10% of what the government is loaning them. In short, the government could save 90% simply by buying them out.
** I expect the realization will dawn in 18-24 months, by which time the government's finances will render them helpless to do anything more about it. Then maybe we can recover.
As it seeks to increase housing demand ... [t]he government-controlled mortgage financing company will expand its limit for investor and second-home loans to as many as 10 properties per borrower, according to a Feb. 6 notice to lenders on District-based Fannie Mae's Web site.But hey, at least Fannie has a plan. G7 might consider sending out an RFP for one:
Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Group of Seven finance chiefs vowed to tackle a “severe” economic downturn that will persist for most of 2009 without spelling out new steps to do so.Certainly the world's greatest legislative body considered all the issues carefully when they pledged another trillion dollars toward fixing the world's ills, right?
Today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) predicted that his Senate colleagues would not “have the chance” to read the now 1,000+ page “stimulus bill” before they voted on it. He told CNSNews.com; “No, I don’t think anyone will have the chance to [read the entire bill].” CNSNews went on to report that they could not find one single Member of Congress that had read the latest bill, which contains hand-written changes in the bill pages.No comment seems fitting, does it?
Friday, February 13, 2009
TOPEKA - Lawmakers cut deeper into most state services Thursday to reduce the current state budget by $325.6 million, including a $32.3 million cut to public schools...
[Minority Leader Sen. Anthony] Hensley argued that the $66 cut in per-pupil spending was not a compromise, since the Senate had proposed only a $33 cut.
The reductions could bankrupt almost 50 school districts, he said.
One item that seldom gets mentioned in these horrible "per student" budget disaster stories is how much is already being spent per student: $4433. Put another way, the cuts work out to $32 million out of a $3800 million budget, or less than 1%. If a less than 1% budget cut bankrupts 50 school districts, then they are so poorly run they should go bankrupt and the school buildings sold off to someone who knows how to handle money properly.
Just another reason to expect an announcement this weekend that our Governess is off to Washington** to be the Commerce Secretary. Assuming she paid her taxes.
* Well, it's bad news for people who think taxpayer-supported schools are dandy, but it's the best they are going to get. Since K-12 education is 56% of the general fund, it will not be able to avoid taking the lion's share of the cuts next year.
** Which is rather funny, in that the former head of the Kansas GOP, Mark Parkinson, would take over as Democratic Governor. I wonder if anyone will work with him? This is not a flippant question. Just like Jesse Ventura found it hard to govern Minnesota mostly because no party had an interest in his success, so Parkinson will. That's going to make it very hard for him to govern in any meaningful sense of the word.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- China should seek guarantees that its $682 billion holdings of U.S. government debt won’t be eroded by “reckless policies,” said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to the central bank.Haha ha hahaha haha haha hahaha ha hahahaha haha hahaha ha haha hahaha haha ha hahaha hahaha hahaha hahaha hahahahahaha hahahahahahahahaha.
The U.S. “should make the Chinese feel confident that the value of the assets at least will not be eroded in a significant way” ...
No, seriously. We're good for it.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
And for all of its boldness, the plan largely repeats the Bush administration’s approach of deferring to many of the same companies and executives who had peddled risky loans and investments at the heart of the crisis and failed to foresee many of the problems plaguing the markets."For all its boldness," just words, for by "bold," the New York Times simply means that the ObamaGaithner's Plan 12 to save the economy is more expensive than the plans that have gone before. It's audacious, yes, it's daring, sure, but it's not different.
The beauty of the plan lies in its open ironies, trying to force the same banks suffering under bad loans to make more loans, trying to save companies by rewarding those who have run them into the ground. They are trying to see in the dark by holding a hammer in front of them, not because a flashlight wouldn't be better, but because they are advised by hammer manufacturers: the same hammer manufacturers who advised the progressive progressives love to hate.
I was reading some comments on the plan - I forget where - ostensibly by Republicans horrified by the "socialism" of Obama. If this plan passes, they warn, it will be the end of America. But this plan has already passed, multiple times. If this current iteration passes*, it will not be the end of America any more than the last ones were. This *is* America: we are people of action. We will do something, even if that means holding a hammer in front of us to pierce the darkness.
Fortunately, it's not so dark as the President makes it out to be, or at least it has been darker. So long as there are still anarchists marching in Lawrence protesting state violence half a world away, life is still pretty good in America.
* It will, for there are always just enough Republicans to assure it.
Monday, February 09, 2009
- Bon Jovi, $210m
- Bruce Springsteen, $204m
- Madonna, $185m
- The Police, $149m
- Celine Dion, $95m
- Kenny Chesney, $86m
- Neil Diamond, $81m
- Spice Girls, $80m
- The Eagles, $56m
And the sad part is, it's like they've not even trying. I mean Bon Jovi sold out 99 shows in a row, and the Eagles played a total of 34, or about once every 2 weeks.
* or even 1968. Seriously, Neil Diamond was born before the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Friday, February 06, 2009
There is reason to think that the Bush administration was already succumbing to pressure to release detainees who could not be tried criminally, even if they still posed a danger. By the Pentagon's estimate, some 60 former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield. This number has prompted some skepticism, but no one denies that some detainees have resumed combat.Rather than prompting skepticism, the fact that 5 dozen released 'terrorists' have returned to the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq ought to produce howls of scornful laughter. But I suppose it's not unlike the issue of Congress fighting over a few million in squandered money while passing a trillion dollar boondoggle stimulus package: little numbers are more important than big ones, if only because they are comprehensible.
Obama is in the (long, drawn-out, and questionable) process of adding 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, and yet BOTW worries that by shutting down Guantanamo Bay, we have released one opposing fighter for every 500 American troops we will soon be sending to that ungovernable hellhole. 60 native fighters are completely irrelevant to whether or not American goals are ever implemented there.
Perhaps there is a better way to go about this: don't take prisoners in the first place. It is without a doubt the fact that America cannot imprison everyone in the world who might be "dangerous." It cannot even imprison a meaningful number of them. So long as we insist on going overseas looking for monsters to slay, we will always find an unlimited number of people who might fit the bill. There is truly nothing to be gained by bringing a few dozen of them back over here.
Here's a guy who
- was John Brown's defense attorney after Harper's Ferry, chosen most likely because his babyface would make him an unlikely suspect in the Secret Six's plan to break Brown out of jail.
- Captained the famous "Red Legs*" pro-Union terrorist** gang, instilling fear in the hearts of loyal and confederate Missourians alike.
- Was run out of the Union Army for forcibly breaking up the first Kansas Colored Regiment, then reinstated and eventually commissioned a (brevit) Brigadier-General by President Johnson for bravery in battle.
- Gave a speech in Fort Scott immediately following Quantrill's sacking of Lawrence, ostensibly to recruit men for the Kansas 15th Cavalry, but which was so inflammatory and "lawless" that even other Union soldiers denounced it. He wanted to kill every moving thing within a two-county "buffer zone" in western Missouri, from Arkansas to Iowa.
- Killed Bushwacker George Todd, Quantrill's second in command, at the Second Battle of Independence.
- Became Attorney General of Kansas.
- Was twice elected to the Massachusetts House.
- Accomplished the above before dying at the age of 39, and from what I still cannot discover.
I pretty much decided to pick him as a subject for my historical study in Kansas and the West when I was talking to my professor today about him, and she gave me a look that made it plain that she had absolutely no idea whom I was talking about.
The only problem with me writing about him is that, sharing a surname though a distant relationship at best, whatever I write about him is liable to be looked upon - albeit briefly, I hope - as a "family glory" sort of history, but I can live with that. Well, that and for the graduate-level class we are supposed to do a mere 10 pages and I could easily do 5x that.
I've got to find a way to pare it waaaay back. And I need a title, or rather a subtitle. "Captain Red Legs" will be fine for the former. But "The Short and Bloody Career of George H. Hoyt" for the latter doesn't quite seem to do the man justice.
* And is therefore quite possibly the basis for the Captain "Red Legs" Terrell character in The Outlaw Josey Wales.
** In the most pure sense of the word.
*** The Massachusetts senator beaten unconscious on the senate floor by one of his pro-slavery peers.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
President Obama imposed tough new rules to rein in corporate pay, capping executive compensation at $500,000 a year for companies receiving taxpayer funds...So what is this?
"...in order to restore trust, we've got to make certain that taxpayer funds are not subsidizing excessive compensation packages..."
WASHINGTON -- The White House's nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has earned more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since the beginning of 2008, with some of the payments coming from troubled financial firms...In all fairness to Mr. Panetta, he didn't actually work on Wall Street*; he gave speeches to Wall Street recipients of Treasury Department largess at $28k a pop and was a director for a lobbying firm**.
But given the fact that now three of Obama's appointees have
I'm guessing he's going to have to forego advisers altogether and bring us HopeChange all by himself.
* which, in classic Obama double-irony, adroitly balances his lack of qualifications to lead CIA.
** The important point, though, is that he was not a lobbyist.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
So your boss offers you $20,000, and a voucher for a free car - as long as that vehicle is $25,000 or less. Would you take it? ...Of course it's not as good, and such offers will get even more not as good until one day you will come to work to find chains on the gate. If your industry is dying, the faster you can get out of it with free-and-clear cash, the better off you'll be in the long run.
[W]ith the GM announcement, that means nearly 92,000 United Auto Workers members could opt out of their jobs by the end of the month.
This GM offer doesn't appear to be as good as ones made previously...
But there is a strange irony in layoffs, especially involuntary ones, in a dying company, which I experienced at the aforementioned House of Lloyd*. During the first round of layoffs, once it became undeniable that the company had to lose some baggage or go under in weeks, the baggage** was sent away with a decent severance check, help in finding new jobs, all the stuff the company could do to make the transition easier.
By the second round of layoffs, all the low hanging fruit had been plucked, so they started to release people a little higher on the skill chain. But I noticed the severance was about half what it had been just a couple months prior. In fact, if you got cut in the first culling, your severance probably lasted longer than that of people who got it in the second round.
By the third and fourth round, hey, thanks for the hard work, pick up your COBRA forms in HR on the way out. My contract was not renewed Dec 31, remaining employees were crying on the local news a week later. A lot of them wished they had been laid off 8 months prior.
The offers for GM employees don't get any better from here on out. With January sales down 48.8% and only 2 months of bailout money left, this might be a good time for auto workers to decide what city they have always wanted to live in, move into a nice rental there, and start to look for a job that is going to outlast the first Obama administration.
Highly-paid union autoworker is likely not one of them.
* Though by this point I was no longer an employee but a contractor, which had its own advantages and disadvantages. If I remember correctly, Craft and Jozum were both long gone as well.
** by which I mean people management didn't want to work with. I felt sorry for a few of them, as the programmers tended to be the type who would have the hardest time finding similar jobs.
Monday, February 02, 2009
"I apologize for the errors and profoundly regret that you have had to devote time to them," Daschle said in the letter...Blah, blah, blah, we know, ok?
But it did get me to thinking. These Democrats cheating on their taxes can't be doing it so they can keep all the money they earned trading in on their power. Democrats aren't greedy - by definition - so there must be another reason for them declining to pay taxes.
It is widely accepted economic dogma that tax cuts stimulate the economy. We also know from experience that Democrats are both foresighted and selfless. Therefore what it appears they were doing, knowing that the then-current administration was going to gum up the economic works, was implementing personal tax cuts in an heroic effort to keep the economy going.
In other words, Geithner and Daschle and whatever appointees we still must suffer through were not trying to get rich on the taxpayers' dollar, they were single-handedly trying to save America.
They were doing it for you.
His stunning statement came less than three hours after another Obama nominee also withdrew from consideration, and also over tax problems.Bungling. That might be a word worth getting used to.
Nancy Killefer, nominated by Obama to be the government's first chief performance officer, said she didn't want her bungling of payroll taxes on her household help to be a distraction.
* tax cheats are people who don't pay their taxes but who have not been appointed to anything by the President.