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Your Breakfast read, served by The Confluence

Morning reading

  • Considering the mood of the country after the Republican rule, the enormous mandate the Democratic agenda received from the American people and his shellacking of McCain, Obama had the opportunity to bury Reagonomics once for all and decisively shift the direction of the country. He did some of it but I think he wasn’t bold enough, at least in the first 100 days.
    Obama Overthrows Reagan’s Government-Bad Dogma to Rescue Market
  • Are these still the US of A, or has the Bush cabal turned this into some Banana Republic?
    US refuses to let jet into its airspace because it is carrying a journalist who criticizes US foreign policy

    Hernando Calvo Ospina has written articles about the United States involvement in Latin America, and is currently writing a book about he CIA. The exact reason for him being on the terrorist watch list is unknown, and we’ll probably never know what criteria are used for adding people to it.

    And here’s the account of that “evil” journalist:
    The criminalization of journalism

    Again in the air, and preparing for another four hours of travel, a man who identified himself as the copilot came to me. Trying to look discreet, he asked if I was “Mr. Calvo Ospina.” I told him yes.

    “The captain wants to sleep, that’s why I came here,” he said, and he invited me to accompany him to the back of the plane. There, he told me that I was the person “responsible” for the detour. I was astonished.

    My first reaction was to ask him: “Do you think I’m a terrorist?” He said no, that’s the reason I’m telling you this. He also assured me that it was strange that this was the first time it happened on an Air France plane. Shortly before we landed in Martinique, a stewardess had told me that, in her 11-year career, nothing like that had ever happened to her.

  • This is getting scary.
    U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu

    Asia on high alert for flu virus

    Mexican swine flu spreads to Europe

  • SoS Hillary Clinton engaged in a very delicate dance.
    Clinton’s Mideast Pirouette

    She’s transitioned with aplomb from the calculation of her interests that she made as a senator from New York to a cool assessment of U.S. interests. These do not always coincide with Israel’s.

  • Paul Krugman is still shrill.
    Money for Nothing
  • The latest of Timmy countdown. How much longer is he going to last?
    Geithner, as Member and Overseer, Forged Ties to Finance Club

    Today, Mr. Geithner is Treasury secretary, and as he seeks to rebuild the nation’s fractured financial system with more taxpayer assistance and a regulatory overhaul, he finds himself a locus of discontent.

    Even as banks complain that the government has attached too many intrusive strings to its financial assistance, a range of critics — lawmakers, economists and even former Federal Reserve colleagues — say that the bailout Mr. Geithner has played such a central role in fashioning is overly generous to the financial industry at taxpayer expense.

  • Gulp! Even Larry doesn’t see the end of the tunnel yet.
    US economy to continue down, says Summers

    “I expect the economy will continue to decline,” Mr Summers said in an interview on Fox News, predicting “sharp declines in employment for quite some time this year.”

  • Huh! We’re using Monte Carlo Simulations to stress-test the banks?
    Gambling on Monte Carlo simulations

    If the inputs and assumptions are wrong then the Monte Carlo simulations will be of very little use. In that sense they’re very similar to the magic worked by David Li’s Gaussian Copula. They give a false sense of security.

    And that’s precisely, some might argue, what the US government is going for with its bank stress tests anyway.

    (For geeks out there here is the stress test methodology)

  • A former Wall Street insider talks about what went on. For those who read Liar’s Poker nothing surprising but still…
    American excess: A Wall Street trader tells all

    I understood it well. I put on 45 pounds in my first year at the bank, and, as you might guess, it was not from eating McDonalds. Occasionally I ate stuff like sushi, but mostly it was steak. We went to the good places like Sparks, Peter Luger’s, and the Strip House. We tended to look down on chains like Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris-they were for car dealers or stock brokers, not traders. Regardless of where we ate, we ate in quantity. My standard strategy was to order half a dozen appetisers, plus a steak and lobster, plus a few desserts and much wine as I could drink, as long it was under a few hundred dollars a bottle. Followed by a digestif, typically a 30-year-old port. There’s not any way to justify this except to say I was trying to catch up to my colleagues. We would treat those restaurants like Roman vomitoriums. And it wasn’t the food so much as the wine. Being a junior employee, I couldn’t really order bottles that cost more than a few hundred dollars, but the senior guys could get nicer stuff – Opus One, Chateau Latour. As long as we were out with a client, the bank paid. I remember being stunned the first time I saw a dinner bill for ten grand. But that was just the beginning.

    What it boiled down to was austerity for everyone else and rampant consumption for ourselves. I never saw anyone literally set fire to money, but I did drink most of a bottle of 1983 Margaux ($2,000).

  • Is this story ever going to end?
    U.S. forces say kill 7 al Qaeda suspects in Iraq

    Iraq says U.S. raid violated security pact

  • Brilliant! IBM program to take on ‘Jeopardy’ champions
    Computer Program to Take On ‘Jeopardy!’
  • Oh great! Some Australian trying to suck up to Riverdaughter by beating up on us. What have we ever done to people besides fixing companies to make them more efficient and more competitive. Sigh!
    MBAs: Most Bloody Awful, Aussie radio documentary on the problem with biz-school
  • Why does the church hate “great sex”?
    Church giving ‘great sex’ sermons might get booted
  • Sunday: Israel/Palestine rears its ugly head again

    Palestine UN Partition Plan- 1947  How far back will we go?

    Palestine UN Partition Plan- 1947 This map?

    The issue that caused the “Great Schism” on The Confluence (or the excuse anyway) is back in the news.  Rahm Emanuel has signaled to the Israelis that there will be conditions on our support.  From Mid-East Peace Pulse:

    Rahm Emanuel told an (unnamed) Jewish leader; “In the next four years there is going to be a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn’t matter to us at all who is prime minister.”

    He also said that the United States will exert pressure to see that deal is put into place.”Any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory,” the paper reports Emanuel as saying.  In other words, US sympathy for Israel’s position vis a vis Iran depends on Israel’s willingness to live up to its commitment to get out of the West Bank and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state there, in Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

    Obama is also not going to be taking last minute invitations to have a talk over drinks with the Israeli Prime Minister next time he’s in DC for an AIPAC conference.  Our protection of Israel from the Persian meanies in Iran seems to be contingent on Netanyahu bargaining in good faith. (H/T Corrente)  Plus, Obama is easing up on restrictions of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.  I’m not sure how far the pendulum should swing in this regard.  After all, Hamas has links to terrorism and Israeli’s do have a legitimate concern for their safety.

    Or this one?  Pick one quickly.  We havent got all day.

    Or this post 1967 one? Pick quickly. We haven't got all day.

    On the other hand, electing an right winger like Netanyahu sounds like an attempt by Israelis to move the Overton window as far hardline as possible in anticipation of a change in US policy.  Maybe they think they can reach some homeostasis by pushing ferociously back to where they started at the end of the Bushie administration.   But it looks like the US is saying the jig is up and we will be expecting compliance from Israel for a two state solution regardless of who is prime minister.  I have a feeling that recitations of past horrors inflicted on the Jewish people may be met with “Tell it to the chaplain”.  There may be an expiration date on emotionalism.  Israelis can still make legitimate claims about the threat of terrorism but inhumanity cuts both ways these days.

    Sounds like Hillary and George Mitchell have their work cut out for them.

    In other news:

    From the files of No $%@! Sherlock, it has come to the attention of some Washingtonians on the Democratic side that Obama is not a fighter:

    Mr. Obama has not conceded on any major priority. His advisers argue that the concessions to date — on budget items, for instance — are intended to help win the bigger policy fights ahead. But his early willingness to deal or fold has left commentators, and some loyal Democrats, wondering: where’s the fight?

    “The thing we still don’t know about him is what he is willing to fight for,” said Leonard Burman, an economist at the Urban Institute and a Treasury Department official in the Clinton administration. “The thing I worry about is that he likes giving good speeches, he likes the adulation and he likes to make people happy.”

    So far, he said, “It’s hard to think of a place where he’s taken a really hard position.”

    In some of his earliest skirmishes, Mr. Obama eventually chose pragmatism over fisticuffs.

    So funny that the left blogosphere worked so hard to push back the Republicans and elect Democrats who would finally act like Democrats and what did we end up with for a President?  A shmoozer who hijacked the Democratic party and has jettisoned all that Democratic stuff to ride out four years of the worst economic crisis we’ve seen since the Great Depression by catering to the Blue Dogs.  It sounds like some Democrats in the party who caved to the Obama faux juggernaut last year are starting to realize that he is going to seriously damage the party’s reputation.

    Obama has taken a pragmatic approach because he doesn’t want to get into a partisan fight- with his own party.  This man has been given every opportunity to turn around the hardass, mean-spirited policies of the Bushies and he chooses to sit on his hands and deal pragmatically.  Where is the big Change™ agent?

    Markos Moulitsas has a lot of explaining to do.