Ron Peterson

I caught wind of this TED talk from CNN. It's nice to see women's issues getting such attention. Eve Ensler is probably best known for the play "The Vagina Monologues". I was particularly struck by this CNN byline:

...and launched safe houses in the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq.

I grew up in SD, and to see my state in this list is rather appalling. But appropriate, given my home state's stance on the abortion issue. Not every South Dakotan leans so far right, and so I thought I'd share this.

Reading the news this morning, I stumbled upon an organization called The Girl Effect who's mission is to improve living conditions in the developing world by helping the girls in those societies get a leg up. Check it out. (I love their logo.)

Wow, did Peter Shiff call it. Watch this video. Admire Peter's prescience, to be sure; but I especially enjoy watching his narcissistic detractors preening themselves, especially Arthur Laffer - he of the laughable laffer curve from which trickle-down Reagonomics and other supply side corollaries derive.

If you want to get an insider's perspective of the machinations of Wall Street, you could do worse than to read Michael Lewis. Author of an earlier expose titled "Liar's Poker", he has a new article online which details how Wall Street made sausage from financial detritus. A great, although alarming, read.

One of the fascinating tidbits he discusses is the linkage between the folks taking long positions and the short sellers. Common wisdom in my crowd is that the shorts are the devilish market manipulators. Maybe, but it cuts both ways. Turns out that folks pushing mortgage backed securities were playing off the short positions to create new assets out of, well, nothing.

Eisman was perplexed in particular about why Wall Street firms would be coming to him and asking him to sell short. “What Lippman did, to his credit, was he came around several times to me and said, ‘Short this market,’ ” Eisman says. “In my entire life, I never saw a sell-side guy come in and say, ‘Short my market.’ ”

...

That’s when Eisman finally got it. Here he’d been making these side bets with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank on the fate of the BBB tranche without fully understanding why those firms were so eager to make the bets. Now he saw. There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used Eisman’s bet to synthesize more of them. Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when Eisman bought a credit-default swap, he enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower.

Thank goodness we're giving these people the money they need to sort this all out.

What blog would be complete without a comment on today's historic events? Truth be told, this whole mess is too complicated for me to understand. However, I think I've found a kindred spirit in Representative Marcy Kapture:

Haiti has been devastated by several hurricanes this season. Poor land management practices are largely to blame for the ravaging floodwaters off the unprotected mountains. The people there need help. The death toll there is now over 1,000 people. Jeff Masters' great weather blog alerted me to the Lambi Fund of Haiti. According to Dr. Masters, it's a well run charity, and obviously a good cause.

For some time now, Republicans and Democrats alike have been attempting to exonerate themselves and complicit telecommunications companies for breaking laws (FISA) governing how and when they could conduct surveillance on law-abiding citizens.  The latest so-called "compromise" legislation on the matter brings them one step closer to eviscerating the fourth amendment. I find such contempt for our Constitutional liberties deeply discouraging.

At least the Supreme Court recently upheld the right of habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. I would hope they would be also apt to strike down any law authorizing wiretaps without warrant. The next President's appointments could be pivotal.

This interview with George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley does a nice job of explaining what's going on.


If you care to learn more about this issue, or would like to keep track of what's going on, I would suggest you follow Glen Greenwald's blog (RSS Feed).

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
- John Adams [1772].