Wotka World Wide

Saturday, April 30, 2011

When it comes to news from China, often times the best news to follow is what the authorities want censored. The Latest Directives From The Ministry of Truth has weekly posts about what is being censored. It is very Orwellian, but with the technology of communication today, it seems like those who are curious are reading the leaks of the censor's lists like a Chinese 'Drudge Report' to find out what is really happening in their country.
China ably demonstrates why high speed rail is a complete waste of $$$:

For the past eight years, Liu Zhijun was one of the most influential people in China. As minister of railways, Liu ran China’s $300 billion high-speed rail project. U.S., European and Japanese contractors jostled for a piece of the business while foreign journalists gushed over China’s latest high-tech marvel.

Today, Liu Zhijun is ruined, and his high-speed rail project is in trouble. On Feb. 25, he was fired for “severe violations of discipline” — code for embezzling tens of millions of dollars. Seems his ministry has run up $271 billion in debt — roughly five times the level that bankrupted General Motors. But ticket sales can’t cover debt service that will total $27.7 billion in 2011 alone. Safety concerns also are cropping up.

Thomas Friedman couldn't be reached for comment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Syria has been shooting mourners attending funerals, among other atrocities against civilians, but that won't stop them from joining the U.N. Human Rights Council. Sickening. But yet more proof that the U.N. is a complete joke and not worthy of all the support the U.S. provides.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

More DC priorities: military diversity. Just what we need.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Left's obsession with the Koch brothers is really getting ridiculous. The Weekly Standard has a nice response to the scathing New Yorker piece from last year that has informed much of the hatred from major lefties (despite containing enough inaccuracies and innuendo to fill a supermarket tabloid).

I find it hard to believe that two men who routinely give tens of millions of dollars to charity every year are so vilified. Especially when they have been supporting free market economics for over thirty years, not just since Obama has been elected. Throw in their opposition to foreign wars, belief in gay rights and advocacy of drug legalization, and you start to wonder how these guys are such big targets today. But the Left needs someone to vilify. They need their two minute hates, like at the anti-Koch protest outside a Koch-sponsored conference in California earlier this year, where some protesters advocated lynching some Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia for being Koch pawns. Somehow they became an issue is the Wisconsin union protests too.

I suppose it was inevitable, with George Soros funding every progressive cause under the sun, that lefties would start looking for a corollary on the right. And I guess the Kochs fit the bill, but it seems to be a pretty big stretch to me.
More examples of bank shenanigans that helped cause the sub-prime mortgage bust in 2008:

The Permanent Investigations Subcommittee report added new flesh to the litany of tales of greed and neglect fueling the housing bubble whose bursting sank the economy. For example:

• Two Washington Mutual loan offices in Los Angeles were writing subprime loans with such soaring default rates that company officials reported their failures to higher-ups. Not only was no disciplinary action taken, but also the loan officers were rewarded with trips to Hawaii for setting sales records.

• Internal Washington Mutual documents lifted any mystery about the reason the firm plunged into the subprime market. According to the company's data, upon sale of a subprime mortgage to investors or Wall Street, the firm booked a 1.5 percent gain on sale, more than seven times the 0.19 percent gain from selling a conventional, fixed-rate mortgage.

• Mass ratings downgrades by Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's in July 2007 exposed the risky nature of mortgage investments that the same ratings agencies considered to be as safe as Treasury bills a few months earlier. But internal emails show that the credit rating agencies knew their ratings wouldn't "hold," yet delayed taking action "to preserve market share."

• Goldman Sachs was net 'short" by more than $10 billion at times, but when the price of short bets rose in the spring of 2007, its traders tried to engineer a new version of a 'short squeeze," which occurs when people betting against a security are forced to buy it back because it's gaining value. In this case, Goldman sought to mark down the value of bets against the housing market, allegedly to scare some players into selling so the firm could more cheaply enlarge its bets on, and its profits from, a housing slump.

I'm sure these types of tales will trickle out for years. The rating agency actions are the worst in my view. Their actions helped to set the high market for sub-prime mortgage securities, when they knew they were no where close to AAA.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Finally some Republicans in Washington are starting to talk seriously about cutting the budget. And it is about time:
Republicans will present this week a 2012 budget proposal that would cut more than $4 trillion from federal spending projected over the next decade and transform the Medicare health program for the elderly, a move that will dramatically reshape the budget debate in Washington.

The budget has been prepared by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, and it represents the most complete attempt so far by Republicans to make good on their promises during the 2010 midterm elections to cut government spending and deficits.

Though Rep. Ryan based the Medicare portion of his budget on a previous plan created in collaboration with a Democrat, Alice Rivlin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and long-time budget expert, the current plan isn't likely to get much Democratic support. Instead, it will set up a broad debate over spending and the role of government heading into the 2012 general election.

The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills. Mr. Ryan and other conservatives say this is necessary because of the program's soaring costs. Medicare cost $396.5 billion in 2010 and is projected to rise to $502.8 billion in 2016. At that pace, spending on the program would have doubled between 2002 and 2016.

Mr. Ryan's proposal would apply to those currently under the age of 55, and for those Americans would convert Medicare into a "premium support" system. Participants from that group would choose from an array of private insurance plans when they reach 65 and become eligible, and the government would pay about the first $15,000 in premiums. Those who are poorer or less healthy would receive bigger payments than others.

A lot of what is being suggested was recommended by President Obama's debt reduction commission. But don't think that will stop Democrats from immediately using the proposal to score political points suggesting Republicans want to cut off health care for seniors. However, serious minds from both parties will have to get together at some point with the goal of implementing similar reforms if progress will ever be made in reversing our growing $14 trillion debt.