Archive for January, 2009

Remind me

  • Why we are still in Iraq.
  • Why we still insist on keeping Iraq as one country.


No one seems to argue for going back to this set of maps (http://unimaps.com/africa1914/index.html) and a great deal of effort went into breaking up this (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/ussr_time_82.jpg).  Today the mainstream of international opinion seems to accept as a given that Arab and Jew cannot live in the same country, and that therefore there should be two states west of the Jordan River.

Why then should one expect a Shiite/Sunni/Kurd blend to be any more stable?  As best I can tell, we are opposed to letting the Kurd go because it would annoy the Turks, we are opposed to letting the Shiites go because they might be dominated in some form by Iran, and we are afraid of letting the Sunnis go because their land has no oil and they would be tempted to try to invade either the Kurd or the Shiite sectors.

What this fails to recognize is that sooner or later we are going to leave Iraq, and from that day forward the Iraqis are going to have to operate on their own.  A federal system is simply a recognition that the groups vote entirely as blocks (ie no one trusts a member of a different clan/religion to look out for his interests); why not skip ahead a step and just let the three groups go?  If that means that there is some Sunni-Shiite war, let’s get it over with quickly, while oil prices are low.

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Accounting 102

There must be something very, very basic I am missing here:

The company says it is going to pay 90% of its dividend in stock.  Why?

Suppose I was previously receiving $100 in dividends.  Now I get $10 in cash and ostensibly $90 in shares – whatever that works out to in shares at the time.

Why not just give me $10 in cash?

The shares are just paid for in other shares – it’s basically a fractional share split (if the stock dividend rate were 3%, for example, it’s just a 1.03 to 1.00 split).  It creates a minor bookkeeping hassle – my basis per share moves every dividend – and there doesn’t seem to be any tax advantage; if anything, the tax situation at the shareholder level is complicated by giving a notional dividend.

What is the wrinkle I am missing?

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I don’t care what funky legal technicality is being used, anytime you are being brought up on “second degree lynching”, you are a bit too bad-ass for the club.  When you are an NFL player’s wife, that’s getting dangerously close to Left Eye territory:


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Boondoggle. Also.

Good to see she is raising money to keep the party patrol going for a few more years.

I am particularly impressed with the Republican boilerplate she assembled:

Our country, founded on conservative principles
How did this get to be accepted wisdom?  The American Revolution was not, say, the French Revolution; it did not seek to reimagine social relations, and, unlike future colonial wars, in our case the colonizers grew so strong they no longer needed the support of the mother country.  Still, kicking out the established king, taking on the planet’s strongest army, and building a government that claimed descent from individual liberties – as opposed to the position that liberties are concessions granted by a government – doesn’t sound like a particularly conservative thing to do.

SarahPAC believes energy independence is a cornerstone of the economic security and progress that every American family wants and deserves.

Energy independence would be awesome.  Someone should probably tell the joker who ran for VP as a Republican that a nation with 3% of the world’s oil reserves and 20% of the world’s oil consumption is not going to be energy independent if oil is its major source of energy.  If we want to expand our oil reserves we need to man up Putin-style and expel the population near southeastern Iraq and northeastern Saudi.  Or, if we aren’t into the whole Crusades thing, start consuming a lot less oil.  That’s security and progress.

Health care, education, and reform of government are among our key goals.

Republicans got us a health care system where we pay more than other countries but are sicker, a school system where we pay more than other countries but have dumber kids, and a government where Larry Craig, Mark Foley, and Lindsey Graham pontificate on family values.  At least David Vitter was cheating with a girl.

Gov. Palin has a long record of achievement and experience in public office.
It’s true, she is the governor.

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Poor Planning

What sort of high speed chase can you have with a U-Haul on PCH?

Someone was not paying attention when they were showing Cannonball Run

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Boston Athlete

It has to be wonderful to be an athlete in Boston.  You take a franchise best known for having the Fridge score on it during a blowout and win three Super Bowls, come within perhaps the most amazing reception in NFL history of a fourth, and have a 101-27 record as a starting quarterback.  You blow out your knee from a contact injury on the football field – not celebrating a field goal (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/football/51044_nfln18.shtml), the stupid things that happen to baseball players (http://flashwarner.com/2006/06/carl_crawford_throws_tantrum_injures_knee.html), or the far stupider and more global things that happen to soccer players (http://www.goalkeepersaredifferent.com/keeper/injuries.htm) – and this is what your hometown hack sports writer has to say about your hanging out in Mexico with your supermodel fiancee:


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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

This one doesn’t make any more sense the second time around:

The banks have not written their crappy assets down to real value because to do so would reveal that the banks have negative net worth.  So clearly, they cannot sell the crappy assets for their real value, since this will force them to recognize the impairment and show just how naked they are.

What Wall Street wants – and, of course, what it will get – is for the government to buy up all of its junk at the imaginary prices Wall Street sets. Not only does this create the moral hazard of everyone holding junk and being bailed out (the original problem of any bailout), it has an entirely separate moral hazard that the bailout goes in direct proportion to how dishonest you are.  A bank that holds to its lies and insists everything is worth 100 cents will get its problems swept away; had the bank been more honest and marked it down, it would take the earnings and equity impairment.

Instead of buying the junk assets, why not buy the good ones?  Buy the going concern banks, the asset management businesses, the capital markets operations, the stuff we want to resume functioning.  Absorb the deposit bases as part of our consideration; we need to honor them anyway.  And let the current equity holders and bond holders own the “bad bank” that is left behind; if there is really some value that the market is missing, they will capture it in time, and if they go bankrupt, it will be their own concern, as those run-off businesses will have no future operations one way or another.

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