Monthly Archives: November 2008

Mumbai Update

The Mumbai Attacks have come to a bloody end.  Indian Security forces have taken back control at the hotels and the offices.  The death toll sits at 195, but Indian officials say there may be a few more, as not everyone has been accounted for.  As many as 295 have been wounded, at least according to the Shantraram Jadhav, an official at the Mumbai disaster control office.

The hard and very dangerous parts are next:  Who and Why. 

Two lunatics, with a cell phone, an email account and a grudge can be a ‘previously unknown terrorist group’ and call themselves the Deccan Mujahideen. 

With a little imagination we could start rumours about a radicalized Anglican/Episcopalian sect determined to tip over recycling bins on Blue Box Day, calling themselves the St. Barnabas’ Blue-Box Bad-Ass Bastards. The name needs work, but the concept is sound.

Let us not jump to any easy conclusions around Mumbai, but be mindful that there is a very long tradition of intolerance in the area.  Pakistan and India do not get along, even on good days, which explains why both countries have working nukes and missiles aimed at each other. 

Violent religious extremism from all the majors in the area is commonplace, often expressed as rioting and bombing.  Perhaps we should let the "Who" slide for a bit until we get some more information.

"Why" is a little easier to answer, but does cross that line of "Never discuss religion, sex or politics", a line which I have no qualms about crossing with both feet, one arm and a stylish hat.

Every major and minor religion on this planet has an equivalent of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  I did the research and I’ve posted the list before, here. There are 29 versions of "Do unto others.." including one from Hegel that is barely comprehensible, but covers off atheism at the same time.  Take a read if you don’t believe me. 

(I am working on a more contemporary version along the lines of "You don’t fuck with me and I won’t fuck with you, deal?"  It’s still a work in progress, but suggestions are welcome.)

For the sake of an inclusive argument, let’s call "Do unto others…" in its’ various incarnations as a fundamental Galactic Truth.

Where it goes off the rails is the interpretation of the fundamental Galactic Truth by other people:  Commentary, or ‘additional clarification’ added by religious leaders to spin things is the dangerous area. 

Nowhere does the fundamental Galactic Truth say "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you, except if they’re heebs, pull-starts, push-starts, or friggin’ dogans.  Or Democrats."  That nonsense in italics has been added by religious leaders and by our own dumb vicious stupidity as a species, over thousands of years. 

With enough ‘interpretation’ and a willing audience, you could use the interpretations as a justification for any kind of mayhem you care to mention.  The Crusades comes to mind.  So does Eric Rudolph blowing up doctors’ clinics.  The Mumbai Attacks "Why" is nothing more than not living up to the very high bar set by a fundamental Galactic Truth. 

Go back to the fundamental Galactic Truth and look for the asterisks, italics, exceptions and caveats.  There are none, even in Fred Hegel’s version. None whatsoever.


We don’t have all the details on the Munbai attacks yet, but the bare bones are enough to chill you.  Groups of fighters attacked several places in Mumbai two days ago.  Two hotels, a hospital, a cafe, a Jewish outreach organization and the train station were the principal targets.  Hostages have been taken, specifically Western hostages, the fighters going out of their way to find the Brits and Americans. 

So far, the fighters have killed 120 and wounded close to 400 people.  Numbers are still fluid and rumour is still the common coin of information.  Let’s put it this way:  It’s serious and bad. 

Odds are you knew Mumbai as Bombay, the old colonial name for a big city of 20 million on the west coast of India.  Mumbai is the financial hub, India’s largest city and fairly prosperous.  The Mumbai Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in Asia.  Bollywood is based in Mumbai, so that would make the city an amalgam of New York and Los Angeles if you need a North American-equivalent context.

The How of the Mumbai Attacks is sketchy.  Some reports have things starting with speedboats coming from freighters offshore, the speedboats full of heavily armed fighters with lots of extra supplies, intent on shooting everything and anyone that moved while they raced to their targets in vans, cars and Land Rovers.  Some have called it a paramilitary attack, while other commentators suggest that it is a rag-tag collection of armed crazies with the battle skills of drunk 18-year olds with guns.  At either extreme, wounded is still wounded and dead is still dead. 

The Why is the hardest part to divine right now.  Is it a terrorism attack to send a message to the White Devils?  Is it some other religious grudge match?  Is it a straight-up Al Qu’aeda deal?  We don’t know yet and may not know for a few more days. 

That’s the real problem:  There are enough religious and territorial battles going on in the region that you need local knowledge and a player’s guide to keep them straight.  There’s very deep religious hate between several groups, stretching back to before colonial days that you can’t stay on top of if you don’t live it every day.  I don’t and most news outlets in North America don’t either, so there is a knowledge gap.  Even BBC Worldwide with their resources can’t quite get the full handle on the Why, yet.

Suffice to say 120 dead is enough.  This isn’t just some local settling of scores.  We’ll get more details in the next few days and it won’t be good.

Mason Baveux and Thanksgiving

I’m busy getting ready for a business trip next week.  On Monday I asked our esteemed commentator and pitch-hitter, Mason Baveux to compare and contrast Canadian and American Thanksgiving.

Thanks lad fer givin me another shot at the blog writing.  I’m getting the hang of ‘er and I don’t have to get my drink on like last time from watching the voting.  Plus, I’m startin to get a handle on this HyperTex Tampax Protocol stuff, ‘cept it sounds a little too feminine for me.  Just the same.  Thanksgiving.

OK, now us Canadians had our turkey last month, on the 13th of Oct.  You Yanks are getting stuffed tomorrow, which would be Nov the 27st.  You’d think we’d line these two holidays up a bit better, but there’s a reason why we don’t.  Lemme explain it out for you.

The whole shebangs been going on since before there was a North America.  Thanksgiving’s a harvest festival, meaning the locals got the crops in and then sat down to put the feedbag on before the snow flied. 

In Europe, or the UK more like, she started raining for two friggin months, with a day or two of snow.  She was too wet to plow or do much more than sit around the fire and say "Fook, she’s rainin; again.  Yep, she’s rainin’ and we got fog too. Fook this, crack open ye olde flagon of ale and let’s get lit up!"  Which is how they passed the winters in Bill Shakespeare’s time.  The same’s true at Lahr in Germany, when the base was open there, which it isn’t anymore.

My Indian buddy, Peter Three-Skidoos told me about how the First Nationals used to celebrate the same thing over here, before the Europeans came over.  Same idea of party it up before the snow flies.  And Peter isn’t an Indian Indian, like from Calcutta with the curry.  He’s 100 percent Ojibway First National:  Like he says, his family met my family when we came over about 400 years ago, so he should know, right?

I did some looking up about it on that Wiki-tiki-tavi-pedia thing.  Seems the first thanksgiving by white folks was done in 1548, in Newfie, fer Christ sake.  The explorer Martin Frobisher, who was looking for the Northwest Passage, finally got back to his base camp on the Rock.  Marty Frobisher and the rest of the lads cracked the rum open and had a go to celebrate Not Dying.  Good a reason as any.

The Americans got into it late, as usual.  We’re not counting some Spaniels, or Spanyards who did it up September 8th, 1565 near St. Augustine Florida.  There were 600 of them, so’s I suspect there was a hell of a party.  I think they had it near the Arby’s in St. Augustine.  I’ve been there you know.

The American folks who claim the first one up, were what were called the Berkeley Hundred, in Dec 4 1619 near Jamestown Virginia.  They weren’t into the turkey then, they were just glad to not be dead from sailing across the ocean.  It was more a prayer service than anything.

The first Americans who did something like the kids story Thanksgiving were the Pilgrims at Plymouth Mass.  Before the car, there was the town Plymouth and they did it in 1621.  Seems that a First National called Squanto and his tribe, the Wampanomags taught the Pilgrims how to catch turkeys and eels and how to use the foods that grew there in Plymouth.  That would be pumpkins and cranberries and squash and sweet potatoes.  And turkey.

If Squanto and the Wampo tribe lads hadn’t been there to help the Pilgrims get their heads out of their arses, the Pilgrims would have all starved to death that winter and we wouldn’t have Plymouth cars.  They’d be called Worcesters or Massachusettses.  Worchester Belvedere?  That’s no damn good.

For the longest time where Thanksgiving showed up on the Canadian and the American calendar moved around a bit.  Up here we kept it in October, as that’s more or less when the last of the corn comes in.  Down south, the seasons longer, so the US Thanksgiving sometimes would run later the more south you went. 

For a while, both of us kept to the British tradition in October, but when the Yanks had their Revolution in 1776 they wanted to get rid of all the British leftovers, so they looked for a later date.  It wasn’t until Honest Abe and Civil War that you Yanks settled on November and that’s where she sits now.

As for what we do up here, we do the same thing.  We cook a big goddam turkey and more vegetables than the third floor ward at the Penatanguishine Home for the Insane.  There’s bread stuffing, cranberries, both jellied and whole, mashed spuds, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, boiled carrots, green beans and enough gravy to float a skiff.  You eat until your pants don’t fit, then loosen the belt and have seconds or thirds.

When you can’t see no more, you push back and take a break.  In our house we used to have gravy bread for the last course.  If you’ve never had gravy bread, I’ll give you the recipe.  You take a slice of white bread, put it on the plate.  Then you pour turkey gravy on it until is just starts to think about floating.  Then you eat it.  An old family recipe that.

Then there’s the pie.  Pumpkin pie, apple pie, mincemeat pie and sometimes lemon pie.  You get whipped cream on the pumpkin, but not on the lemon pie as that’s just wrong.  And Apple Pie without Cheese is like a Kiss without a Squeeze.

For drinks, well, you’ve got the traditional basics:  Rum and Coke.  Rum and Ginger.  Rum and Diet Coke for those who are watching their weight.  After you’re done, sometimes there’s Rum and Coffee, but lately it’s been Bailey’s and Coffee, or Rum and tea for them what drinks tea.  The usual measure is three fingers of Rum or Bailey’s and top the mug up with coffee.

By this time you’re half in the bag and can’t feel your legs anymore.  Some of the family go out hunting, if its close to deer season.  Well, more proper, they go jacklighting off the ATV’s or the snow machines, if we’ve had a early snow. 

Sometimes they get a deer, but more often than not they just shoot the hell out of the highway signs.  I’ve never seen them bring back the highway signs, but the deer always come back across the ATV if they’ve had some luck. 

By now most of us have had a snooze and its about time for cards.  Cribbage is the game of choice.  Now there’s a choice of rum or beer.  I’ll stick to the beer about then, as I can’t count cribbage if I’m full of rum.  On the rum, it’s 15-2, 15-4 and then I get confused and it goes to hell from there.  On the Red Cap, it’s fine.  I can peg and count at the same time.  There’s always an argument or two.

Around midnight, we give it up and go home.

I kinda like the old ways some days.  Just a day for saying "Hey, we’re not dead today!  Thanks!"  The rest is good, but not always necessary, so’s your could say I’m from the Marty Frobisher school of Thanksgiving.

Thank you Mason.  As always, insightful.  And I’m certain you won’t mind if I offer my and your best wishes to our American friends for a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Unnatural Acts in Georgia

We’re going to investigate something that may cause your hair to stand up, so consider yourself cautioned:  It involves sexual acts.

At age 17, Wendy Whittaker, a high school sophomore, was caught performing oral sex on a 15 year old classmate.  In 1997 she pled guilty to sodomy and got five years’ probation.  Now, Wendy Whittaker is 28 years old and, since she pled guilty is a registered sex offender in Georgia.  Therefore, she cannot live within 1,000 feet of a place where children congregate, like a school or a church. 

Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle found Whittaker’s name was on the deed to her house and gave her and her husband 48 hours to move:  Her house is within 1,000 feet of a church. 

There is a Georgia Supreme Court ruling, S.B.1, that says residency rules for sex offenders cannot be enforced against offenders who bought homes before July 1, 2006.  Wendy Whittaker and her husband bought their place in 2007. Whittaker has filed a federal case and doesn’t have to move until the case is heard, so at least there is a stay while the wheels of justice grind along.  The Atlanta-Journal Constitution has the story here, if you want to follow a little more closely.

Let us deconstruct here: 

First off, how many of you can you tell the difference between a blow job and being butt buggered? 

Show of hands please?  Five, seventeen, forty four, seventy one…I thought so.  Most of you can tell the difference between the two acts.  (There is someone over there in the dark, near the exit who claims they can’t, but, is also offering to be a test subject for the weekend.  We’ll discount their opinion for the time being) 

Second, how many of you have engaged in an act of consensual oral intimacy?  Show of hands please? 

Oh, come on, don’t be such a prude, nobody can see you.  Don’t lie either.  Five, seventeen, forty four, seventy one, two-twenty…I thought so.  About the same as the general population. 

Technically, you have engaged in an Unnatural Act, which is punishable in several states of the US of A.  Georgia’s law recognizes sodomy as the sole Unnatural Act, therefore anyone charged with tasting the pudding is charged with sodomy.

Back to question #1, it is painfully obvious that the State of Georgia cannot tell the difference either.  That "painful" pun was intended by the way.

Some states are proposing what are called "Romeo and Juliet" exemptions to their sexual offender laws to remove those of a young age who have engaged in non-violent consensual (but still technically illegal) behaviours.  This only makes sense and do note the qualifiers:  Non-violent.  Consensual. 

A Romeo and Juliet law has nothing to do with rape, violence, sexual predators, child sexual abuse or the rest of the spectrum of sexual assault.  Even the dough-headed can tell the difference between the two ends of the argument.

Except the politicians in Georgia.  After all, you can’t make political hay by being sensible now can you? 

Let's Do Some Measuring

Let’s see if we can figure this out.  Citigroup is blessed as Too Big To Fail by the US Federal Government.  Therefore, the US Treasury under Hank Paulson the FrankenFinancier bags up a $20 Billion Happy Meal for Citigroup.

Fair enough that President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy has gone Socialist in his last few weeks on job, but there’s a disconnect I’m not getting.  Citigroup really hasn’t done much, compared to other people.

At Citigroup today, their stock went up a bunch.  The same folks are in charge on the management team.  It seems that being a group of total financial incompetents and internationally-focused screw-ups running a bank nets you $20 Billion.

Using that rule then, let’s do some measuring.  Let’s see what Citigroup didn’t do.

Citigroup didn’t start a war in a foreign country.  Citigroup hasn’t killed several thousand people.  Citigroup didn’t land on an aircraft carrier, or stand under a Mission Accomplished banner.  Citigroup didn’t pass tax laws that essentially let The Base run rampant. 

Citigroup didn’t pass the Patriot Act or set up Homeland Security.  Citigroup didn’t let New Orleans become a third world country during Hurricane Katrina.  Citigroup didn’t come up with a doctrine that sets the Vice-President separate from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government as its own private entity. 

Citigroup didn’t try to ignore various laws regarding domestic or foreign spying, kidnapping, torture, water-boarding or offshore prison camps. Citigroup didn’t lose bales of cash to contractors in Iraq and Citigroup hasn’t outsourced half their jobs to private firms.

Citigroup hasn’t cut a full pardon for Scooter Libby or Conrad Black, yet, but give them time.  And best of all, Citigroup hasn’t wiped his feet on the US Constitution. 

Nope, about all Citigroup has done is so completely screw their banking business that they are now the happy recipient of $20 Billion as their reward for being complete fiscal dorks.

Which leads me to believe that Henry Paulson’s last act will be to grant President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy at least $200 Billion as a going away gift.

After all, Dubya has done so much more than Citigroup has. 


Forty Five Years Ago

I was home from school, (Grade 1 at Arch Street Public) because I had a cold and was eating Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup in the living room with my Mom and Grandma. 

We were watching the soap operas on WWNY Watertown (via rabbit ears in Ottawa) in beautiful black and white on the big Electrohome TV with the folded match packet holding the tuner knob in place on Channel 7.

Walter Cronkite came on, at a strange hour, as it wasn’t news time.  I knew this, even at six.  He said that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas Texas. 

All the grownups didn’t move far from the TV for quite a while and I still remember the funeral coverage a few days later.  I didn’t understand the nuance and context:  None of us did, grownup or child, but at least as a child, I knew that it was something Very Important.  Even in school, they rolled in the big educational tv’s up on the chrome stands so we could watch some of the coverage. 

Later, via history, learning and curiosity, I understood more of what had occurred; the why and where and how.  But today, at approximately this time of day, I see the murder of JFK as the first overt act, part of a continuum of American History that leads us to where we are today.

November 22 will always be the day that Hope Died. 

Perhaps January 20th, 2009 will be the day that Hope is reborn.  I’d like to think so.        

Henry Doesn't Listen

Henry Paulson, the Treasury Department FrankenFinancier has decided that the Rules No Longer Apply to Him.  In the past few weeks, the TARP loan program, also known as "Bailout The Base" run by Henry, is breaking the very specific rules set up for the program. 

TARP was designed to take over toxic loans from financial institutions, to free up capital and help financial institutions regain some liquidity.  Henry has defined this as a money dump with no strings, into the general revenues of his speed dial buddies.

The outrage isn’t that Paulson is doing it as President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy said he could, because Dick said he could.  The outrage is that Congress and the Senate have not done a single thing to stop it. 

Congress and the Senate wrote the enabling legislation.  There is no oversight, legislated review people have not been appointed and the Treasury department is pushing money out the door like the great old days of the Iraqi Provisional Government under Paul Bremner:  Poly wrapped bricks of cash and no receipts required.

This isn’t a financial fix anymore.  TARP has become a land rush by The Base to grab as much money as they can and run for the hills before someone looks too closely.  The Base knows that if the money is gone, then only a few clerks can be held responsible and those are just little people who don’t matter.

Which brings up the book The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.  Klein is a legit journalist without either lefty or righty bias and holds to those inconvenient concepts of evidence, sources and research.  If you want to make your blood pressure go up, this link leads to her blog and the backstory on the fiscal fornication that is the hallmark of the reign of President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy.

I will caution you that after reading a few pages you might have an uncontrollable desire to gather some neighbours, a few pitchforks, some pine-tar torches and a length of stout rope.  You might want to commence an angry midnight march up Pennsylvania Avenue in DC.  Don’t do it.  Homeland Security is watching. 



Piracy Returns

In the piece of ocean that runs around the right hand side of Africa, more or less from Madagascar to the Cape, pirates are looming large.  Shake your head for a minute, as these pirates are not Jack Sparrow or Bluebeard, but contemporary pirates in high speed power boats, armed to the teeth, who take over ships.  Sometimes they take the cargo if it’s small enough, but mostly the pirates hold the crews and ships for ransom.

Currently, the going rate is $2 Million for a crew, but the pirates have been known to settle for $12 dollars and a carton of Marlboros.  Yesterday the pirates took over a $100 million dollar cargo of crude oil in a supertanker, the Sirius Star

The ship owners aren’t really worried about the cargo, just the crew, as they should be, but there is a concern that the pirates aren’t very good at seamanship and might crack the tanker open by running it aground.  The Sirius Star can carry 2 million barrels of crude oil and at 300,000 tons is more than three times the size of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) at 97,000 gross tons.  The Sirius Star is not a small ship.

Pirates have taken cargo ships of every size and even container ships carrying your xBox or Playstation as part of the cargo.  Pirates have also put the grab on international relief supplies, grabbing a ship full of wheat earlier this year.

One notable pirate effort about three months ago netted a cargo ship containing Russian armoured tanks and weapons.  The pirates are almost always armed with machine guns and Rocket Propelled Grenades, also known as the Hezbollah Happy Stick or the Beirut Knock-Knock.  The mariners are armed with a flare gun and sharp pencils, so things are in the pirate’s favour.  

Piracy however, is not just limited to the Indian Ocean side of Africa.  Java and the China Sea are also big piracy areas.  Again, fast power boats with heavily armed pirates storm aboard to rob and kidnap for ransom. 

Which leads me to a simple solution to the piracy problem.  In the Second World War, the Germans had a fleet of what were called Merchant raiders, or Hilfskreuzers.  They were fast freighters that were armed; their objective to sink other merchant ships, disrupting commerce.

Of the German merchant raiders of WWII, like Pinguin, Michel and Kormoran the tactic was to add bits of superstructure, like theatrical stage props so the ship could not be recognized by other mariners.  On occasion, crew members would walk baby carriages around the deck, dressed as women and civilian men, to appear to be an innocent ship with passengers.  Then, within range of the guns, the merchant raider would open fire.  The Allies did it too:  So did the Japanese.

To combat contemporary piracy about all that is needed is one or two older, but reasonably fast freighters with attractive cargoes.  List the ship names and cargo as one would normally do and sail on around.  Along with the crew of 25 or so mariners, would be a couple of platoons of very grumpy soldiers.  The UN could provide the basics, but countries like the US, Canada, Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the Czech Republic could take it in turns to provide a platoon or two for Piracy Control duty.

Upon the unwelcome arrival of the pirates along side the ship, (the single overt act needed to justify things) the Piracy Control Officers would start shooting.  Not some flimsy NATO round either.  I’d want to see a .50 cal delivering The Bad News. 

A .50 is old, uncomplicated, belt-fed technology that will chop the pirate speedboats into flaming fibreglass flotsam in a few seconds:  The bullet is exactly one half-inch around, about as long as your little finger and moves at 2910 feet per second.  The beauty of the weapon is it doesn’t demand a billion-dollar contract with Lockheed, expensive GPS technology or repositioning international warships.  All the system needs is a skilled and willing pair of hands on the butterfly and someone to feed it another belt.

For the pirates left alive, let them swim home across 20 miles of ocean, but fish out one and send him back ashore with a simple message attached to his shirt:  "Dear Sirs, Eff-off and don’t do that again.  With kindest personal regards, The UN."

Then drive the ship around the corner, adjust some of the profile with theatrical set pieces, paint on a new name and sail back the other way, keeping to another fake ship, cargo and schedule. Odds are the pirates use this tool, Lloyds Register, to see what ship is where, carrying what.  Remember to change the locator beacon too.

Or, simply lag behind another freighter by a mile or two.  See if the message has been received.  If not, repeat the topical application of .50 cal rounds.  It shouldn’t take more than a couple of trips a month for six months to explain things.

Yes, it is politically incorrect, needlessly violent and very likely fatal to the pirates who are being deprived of their day in court.  One must remember that the pirates aren’t offering their victims a day in court either, as slitting the captured captain’s throat and tossing him overboard is not uncommon to achieve the crew’s cooperation.  Fair is fair. 

It might mean we don’t get an ecological disaster from pirates running a tanker aground somewhere and your might just get your xBox for Christmas. Call it enlightened self-interest.


The Auto Industry Bailout or Not?

The Big Three auto makers have their hand out to Washington right now, looking for some love from the government.  The amount they need is around $25 Billion dollars in restructuring, loan guarantees and general financial padding to get through the next couple of years. 

This isn’t a big surprise as Ford, GM and Chrysler have been posting huge losses and lousy sales figures for several quarters as other brands have been eating the Big Three’s market share for years. 

The reason the Big Three are in trouble is simple:  The products suck.

As an admitted gear-head, I have a reasonable appreciation of what makes a good vehicle and enough common sense to see what the implications of an auto industry bailout might mean:  It leads to contradictions but we can deal with that later.

To wear the ‘free-market’ hat for a moment, the products offered are some of the most bipolar ever.  You have hulking SUV’s that are hybrids; flexfuel 2-ton pickups and rebadged offshore transportation appliances that combine all the enjoyment of a colonoscopy with the ride quality of a blender full of pea gravel.

This is what you get when you have accountants building cars and is exactly what the Big Three have been doing for many years.  My free-market hat says "Wave Bye Bye to our Auto Industry!"

However, like all questions, there are two or three sides to this equation.  Another side says that North America has lost too many industries already.  We’re coming close to a continent that doesn’t actually make things; all we do is service-sector each other:  The clerk from Wal-Mart going to Pizza Hut once a week where the server saves his tips to go to Wal-Mart once a week to buy something.  This isn’t a viable economic model even in academia.

The Auto industry in North America employs approximately 1 in 10 people.  This includes the sub contractors and support companies.  We have to count the sub contractors in the pile for a good reason.  GM does not make a lot of the components that go into your family transportation.  It’s farmed out to companies like Lear-Siegler or Magna.  As an example, a lot of the drive train, lighting and interior trim of the Chevy Silverado pickup truck is made by Magna and shipped to GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly.

Looking at another side of the equation: 

There are between 3.5 and 4 Million people employed by the Big Three slice of the auto industry. 

The financial services (read that as Wall Street) sector employs barely a half-million people. 

One of those two groups actually makes a product.  The other shuffles paper.

One of those groups is deeply invested in the Republican Party as the mechanism to allow rampant financial shenanigans the defy all common sense and even the basic rules of arithmetic.

One of these two groups is getting a $750 Billion dollar bailout from the US Treasury.  (Hint:  It isn’t the auto industry)

Now, which is more deserving?  Based on past performance and economic impact, the auto industry is significantly more deserving of assistance.  Also based on past performance, the auto industry can and has shown that they can change very quickly.  GM, to their credit, is playing catch up with the green movement.  Ford, less so while Chrysler is wandering in the desert looking for a clue, but they’ll get the memo shortly.

Interestingly enough, the Big Three need a modest $25 Billion to get them through the bad times.  Wall Street, via Henry the FrankenFinancier, has no clue as to how much, except to say they need more.  More and More, then some more and $750 Billion is only the start.

The difficulty is that if the Treasury opens the wallet to the Big Three, the fear is that there will be too many hands out.  The airlines will want some, along with the coal industry, the trucking industry, the rail roads and agribusiness monsters like Monsanto or Archer-Daniels Midland will all cry poor.  The solution is to tell the airlines and such to pound sand into a bodily orifice.

As an aside, up here in Ontario, the Premiere had a meeting last week with GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota to listen to their concerns.  The Big Three said Give Us Money.  Honda and Toyota said, "Nope, we’re good thanks."  This tells me that the non-Big Three have their collective stools assembled.  The Big Three, less so.

Final judgement?  The Big Three have more economic impact over a wider area than Wall Street ever will.  They deserve a bailout with several strings attached of course.  Perhaps take the $25 Billion out of the TARP $750 Billion. 

For Wall Street, based on past performance, $25 Billion would be considered a rounding error.


Throw a TARP Over It

Henry the FrankenFinancier’s money tap is wide open right now.  The program, called TARP, Troubled Asset Recovery Program (what we also call Bailout The Base) is Henry and President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s last run down the all-you-can-eat buffet line.  Technically, TARP was supposed to buy up the troubled assets of banks, the toxic loans and financial fecal matter that were trashing Wall Street.

It turns out that TARP isn’t buying bad debt with their $700 Billion:  The Treasury is buying bank stocks, to pump the money into the banks’ balance sheets, instead of picking up the crap loans.  If you want to get you some, here’s the application form.  Notice there are only five pages to it, but you’re limited to $25 Billion or 3 percent of your Total Risk-Weighted (shitty, or really shitty) Assets.

Which begs the question, who has been funded so far?  Henry the FrankenFinancier won’t tell us, except to say that "…by October 26th we had $115 Billion out the door to eight large institutions."

Even more puzzling, is GE Capital:  They’re now buddies with the the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in the US, to the tune of $139 Billion.  Last I looked GE Cap was into real estate and leasing aircraft to commercial carriers.  In the fine print, GE Cap has a piece of a federal savings and loan bank, some private-label credit cards and an industrial loan company, all of which get the nod for FDIC loan guarantees. 

GE, being a stellar AAA-rated company saw everyone else getting some and figured ‘Why not?"  The hook, such as it is, is the FDIC charges for the insurance and gets to look over your books.  Based on past performance, the look-see takes twelve minutes while the coffee is being brewed in the boardroom.  The rest of the hour consists of telling lies about your golf game:  The audit is over when you give the auditor a reach-around.

Despite the "Economic Meltdown" and the attendant media spotlight, several compensation companies said "…that if the big companies don’t pay out the big bonuses, they’ll lose their top talent – people they want to keep around for when pastures turn green again."  Technically, the TARP loans were to go into new loans, but with Henry the FrankenFinancier shovelling the money into bank stock, the TARP cash gets laundered and will eventually pay for employee compensation.

Factoid:  From the CBS article above, even without bonuses, the mean annual salary for a securities industry employee was just under $400,000.  According to Bloomberg, Goldman, Sachs had set aside $6.8 Billion for bonuses and Morgan Stanley had pieced off $6.4 Billion as their Fun Fund. 

To scale this down to the more human size, let’s take a simpler example. 

You work in a factory making widgets.  You inadvertently make four hundred orange ones, instead of blue ones, because you were goofing off a bit and made a mistake.  You have now cost your employer $1,000 in lost revenue as the orange ones don’t sell worth a crap, even in Singapore.  Your boss does what?

Choice A:  Gives you 100 shares of common stock in the company, pays for your membership at the local health club and writes you a personal thank you note for being a loyal, valued employee.  You also get a plaque and a "Teamwork" pin.

Choice B:  Hits you upside the head with a Johnson bar, offers to put your hands into a punch press for a few strokes, cancels your health insurance and fires your sorry butt With Cause, so you can’t get unemployment insurance.  You are given nine seconds to run for your life out the door of the factory, while bleeding profusely.

Out here in the real world, Choice B seems to be prevalent.  Why isn’t that the case on Wall Street?  Oh, sorry, I forgot.  We don’t have Henry on the speed dial.