Friday, November 28, 2008

DoD Linux?

Just been thinking about the recent hacker breakin to the Pentagon's computers. The defense IT people are talking about banning the use of flash drives, CD's, DVD's and removable media of all types. Windows has the unpleasant habit of uploading code from removable media and executing it. This means you can infect a Windows computer by merely inserting a flash drive or a CD. The infecting code can do anything it likes, starting with sending the entire contents of the hard drive out over the Internet. Remember the infmaous Sony rootkit that infected the user's machine for meaning playing an audio CD on it.
The only way for DoD to keep anything secret on a computer, is use something other than Windows. Linux anyone? DoD could create it's own version. In fact, should this happen, they ought to offer it free to us civilians. "DoD Linux" would be a sure fire seller to anyone wanting to use computers and not give away everything on them to his competitors.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How many bean counters can dance on the head of pin?

According to Aviation Week, the Pentagon is planning to boost the number of contract overseers in the Defense Contract Management Agency to by 8%, from 9000 to 9720. Wow.
The entire defense budget is around $500 billion. At least half of that ought to be things that are not contract, like pay for the troops. So we have 9720 bean counters slowing work on maybe $250 billion worth of contracts. Each bean counter only has $25 million worth of contracts to "oversee" (hinder is a better word). With fighter planes going for $100 million each, that yields four bean counters per aircraft produced.
Used to work in the aerospace/defense business. The huge building had two floors. On the ground floor was the productive stuff, engineering, manufacturing shops, drafting, the stockroom and so on. Upstairs, using just as much floor space, and more people, were the bean counters who complied with the oceans of gov'ment paperwork. For every productive person on the program, Raytheon had one non productive bean counter.
We would get a lot more defense for the buck if we dropped the paperwork and got on with the job.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stress Reliever

Fox TV News was showing a new product, a stress relief room, where in stressed out people can work off their stresses by breaking things, hurling glassware and crockery against the wall. Participants were required to wear safety face masks and eye protection. Price was not mentioned on air. Sounds cool.
Only, up here, we get to relief our stress every time we haul our recycling down to the town dump, excuse me "transfer station". You just stand at the bin for glass and hurl your beer bottles against the concrete backstop. They shatter beautifully. It will be beer bottles, beer is about the only thing still packaged in glass these days. If we all gave up our beer drinking, it would reduce the glass recycling to nearly zero.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Las Vegas vs Wall St. Is there a difference?

At Vegas large sums of money change hands. Marks become poorer and casinos become richer. On Wall St money is supposed to move from investors into economic development. With the brokers retaining a small commission for their "services". Unlike Vegas, economic good is supposed to come from Wall St activities. At least most of the time.
Some ordinary activities such as trading in stocks and bonds, do serve the economy. Some activities such as "securitizing" sub prime mortgages, and "credit default swaps" have ruined the economy.
The incoming administration should plan to discourage the distructive Wall St operations while encouraging the constructive ones. Was it me, I would clamp down on securitization of all types. If a company wants to borrow money, let it issue bonds in its own name. Stock market futures trading does not channel money into economic investment, it is a roulette game. "Credit default swaps" merely encourage buying risky securities, and when the market crashes the swap issuers lack the money to actually pay off. Gullable investors think the swaps insulate them from risk, in actual fact the deal merely costs the investor money and offers no additional security.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What do Republicans beleive in?

Oldest son asked me to recommend a book upholding the principles of the Republican party. I thought about that and I couldn't think of anything more recent than "Conscience of a Conservative" which is kind of dated. All the newer books I know are either boring, or rants of little importance.
The recent campaign did sound bites, vague generalities and character assassination spreading heat but not light.
It comes to me that Republicans believe in free enterprise. This means freedom for anyone to enter any business that pleases them. Licenses should not be required for such ordinary occupations as cutting hair or teaching school. Licensing merely makes it difficult to enter those fields, and serves merely as a means to limit competition. Licenses restrict our freedom.
Free enterprise means the business should be free to offer any products it pleases, of any quality and for any price. Government should not set freight rates, airline ticket prices or the sale price of kitchen appliances. One perfectly legitimate business is buying and selling products from abroad. Over the long run exports have to equal imports. Each import is paid for with an export. Attempts to "protect" domestic industries and workers by taxing foreign trade may help the protected industries, but they hurt the majority of us who don't work in the protected industry. America has been in favor of free trade since WWII.
Free enterprise means no subsidies for farmers, oil companies, solar panels, battery powered cars, and other "worthy" things. The farmers, oil companies, solar power firms, and battery car makers must compete in the marketplace. If their products fill a real need and are priced right they will sell. If not, good riddance to them.
Free enterprise means the best thing society can do for it's poorer members is to provide them with jobs. A job is better than any amount of unemployment insurance, welfare, health care, day care, and other social welfare goodies. With a job, the worker has money and can buy all these services, without a job life is miserable. Business provides jobs, therefore the Government should encourage business, rather than treat business as robber barons.
Free enterprise is more efficient at providing goods and services. Compare US Postal Service with Fedex and UPS. If you want your Christmas presents to get there before Christmas, sent them Fedex, not Parcel Post. Things that can be provided by private enterprise, rather than civil servants, should be.
Free enterprise means business is owned by stockholders, not the government. The government has enough control over us poor citizens thru the law and the courts, the IRS, and the welfare agencies. We don't want to give the government control of the companies at which we work. Face it, your boss has a good deal of control over your life. You don't want your boss to be the government, 'cause then Uncle Sam has got you coming and going.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Skiers over come Bicknell's Thrush

According to the Manchester Union Leader, the long dormant Mittersill ski trails will be open to Cannon skiers. The forest service has agreed to give the Mittersill land to the state of NH in return for a patch of land in Pierson. This deal will increase Cannon's ski trails by 50 percent. The Mittersill trails can be reached with a short climb up over "the Saddle", which gives access to the old Taft Race Course running down into the Mittersill area. Those in the know can find a pair of cutbacks of Baron's Run back to the lifts at Peabody.
The need for a climb will limit the Mittersill skiers to the more energetic, but it will ease the crowds on the Cannon slopes. A trip "over the Saddle" and back takes an hour, compared to maybe 10 minutes to run down Upper Cannon to Avalanche and catch the tram again.
One of these days, when money becomes available, a double chairlift at Mittersill is planned, running up the old Baron's Chairlift line.
It's only taken 3 years that I know of to get the paper work thru the Forest Service.
The conservation community has attempted to block the skiers thru the device of Bicknell's Thrush. This bird nests about 1200 feet in wood lot with cleared land such as ski trails, nearby. Bicknell's thrush was declared to be a species only in 1995. Prior to 1995 it was just another thrush. Shortly after being invented, Bicknell's Thrush was declared endangered, and entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. Fearing that passing skiers would disturb the nesting Bicknell's Thrush, the Forest Service held up the paperwork.
Upon learning that Bicknell's Thrush goes south for the winter and that sking doesn't happen in the nesting season, the Forest Service relented and did the deal.

Lawyers for Capt Jack Sparrow

In a Wall St Journal Op Ed, a couple of Washington lawyers explain the jurisdictional and legal problems that are impeding the fight against the Somali pirates. According to these guys, current law does not have any provisions for dealing with pirates, jurisdiction is unclear, they would have to be indicted and brought before civilian courts, military force cannot be used against common criminals, yadda yadda yadda.
Wow. The entire world has been emasculated by those with law school degrees.
Far as I am concerned, pirates taken red handed can be brought before a court martial and then hung from the yard arm. If the ship lacks a yard arm, firing squad will do. Any warship's captain can convene a court martial, right on the foredeck, and pass sentence then and there. Case closed.
Or do what the Indians did, sink the pirate vessel. They didn't have to worry about legal proceeding after that.
And, in this day and age of radar equipped patrol aircraft, it should not be that hard to spot the pirates at sea and deal with them. And, then we can clean out the harbors from which the pirates operate.
Evidently, dispite lots of TV coverage, the pirate problem isn't yet severe enough to cause real steps to be taken against them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dodging the issue

Watched the Detroit CEO's (Waggoner of GM, Mulally of Ford, Nardelli of Chrysler, and Gettelfinger of UAW) on TV, in front of the Senate banking committee, begging for a bailout. They all talked, about how hard their companies had worked, how dreadful a bankruptcy would be, how just another $25 billion would save them, how much the union had given up.
None of them mentioned the $75 an hour, plush medical and cushy retirements the UAW workers enjoy, and how Toyota, Honda, and BMW pay $25 and hour less. No one mentioned the fact that Detroit's Caliber, Focus, and Cobalt don't sell as well, and don't sell for as much money as Corolla and Civic. Detroit's designs are less desirable, and it's reputation for quality has still not recovered. No one, not even the Congressmen running the hearing, dared to say a harsh word about brain dead management and overpaid workers, the real problem in Detroit.
This taxpayer was left with the impression that another $25 billion would just stave off the inevitable bankruptcy for a matter of months. The domestic car makers cannot survive with more expensive labor and less desirable products. Why waste $25 billion? Do the bankruptcy, get the labor costs down to what Toyota and Honda pay, lay off the suits, drop the poor selling models, dump the excess dealers, cancel the golden parachutes, and get some decent cars into production.
The reason the Detroit suits are begging for my money is simple. The banks won't lend to them any more 'cause the banks figure they are headed for Chapter 11, which means the loans don't get paid back. I think the banks have it right.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Has CAFE killed GM?

Lot's of folk, especially those who work for GM think so. They claim that to get the average fuel mileage up, GM produces scads of econo box cars that loose money. Less CAFE, GM could concentrate on Silverado pickup trucks and Chevy Surburbans which are profitable. Right.
Unfortunately, those little econo boxes make up the bulk of the cars on the road as I drive to work each day. That swirling mass of Rt 128 traffic is three quarters small sedans, like Corolla. The real volume sellers aren't pickups and SUV's, it's econo boxes. For GM to stay in business, it has to compete in the volume market, or go out of business. Unfortunately the GM suits still don't understand this, and so they whine about CAFE making them build the type of car that most people buy.
It may be that making money in the small car business is harder than building big cars. People won't pay as much for a small car as a big car. But small cars are nearly as expensive to manufacture as big ones. Small cars have roughly the same number of parts as big ones. These parts have to be made or purchased, and assembled. Small parts cost about the same as big ones, and it takes the same amount of labor to install them. So your profit margin on small cars is always going to be tight, but plenty of companies (Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Volkswagen for example) have shown that it can be done.
The Detroit companies have to offer small cars as desirable as Civic and Corolla at competitive prices. Or go out of business.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


This blog here says Sarah Palin nearly saved the McCain campaign. I was a front line party worker manning a store front HQ. Every single person who came in enthused about Sarah Palin as the greatest candidate ever. Every single one. We had two kinds of yard signs, "McCain only" left over from the primary, and "McCain-Pahlin". Everyone asked for the McCain-Palin signs. We ran thru four big cartons of McCain_Palin yard signs, whereas the mere two cartons of "McCain only" signs only moved out after we ran out of McCain-Palin signs.
I think choosing Palin was the smartest move McCain made in the whole campaign. It wasn't enough, but it was the right move.

Obama doesn't like guns much

The NRA sent this interesting quote around by email.


This week, it became clear that the new administration's anti-gun agenda even infects the process of staffing the administration. A widely disseminated questionnaire for those applying for administration jobs asks:

"(59) Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage."

/end quote

Hmm. Guess that disqualifies me from a job in the Obama administration. I have a few guns, all of which I've had for forty years or more, never registered them. Don't plan to either. Registration isn't required up here. Yet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paulson ubder the TARP

Jim Lehrer had Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson on his show last night. Lehrer's opens the discussion by saying "We have spent $350 billion on the Troubled Assets Recovery Program and nothing good has come of it. The stock market is crashing, unemployment is up and sales are down". Paulson didn't want to accept this and Lehrer gave him a good five minutes without interruption to make him case. Paulson claimed the the financial system was better and without the TARP money it would be worse, but never did he bring forth a single number to support his position. Hey we are talking about money here, and if nothing else, money can be counted. Paulson should have had figures, and graphs showing how the financial system has done since October. He didn't.
As my savings looses it value day by day, I find it hard to believe Paulson assertion that "the financial system" is getting better. Not unless he has some numbers to back up his arguments.
So then, Lehrer asks Paulson if the government should bail out GM. Good question. Paulson dodges it and makes a quibble that Congress didn't authorize a GM bailout in the TARP program.
Surely a guy like Paulson, ex Morgan Stanley CEO, has some opinion on the wisdom of handing billions of taxpayer dollars to a doomed company like GM. Why didn't he share them with us TV viewers? It's not like he needs the votes of UAW workers to get reelected.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Military Aircraft

Aviation Week carried a listing all the "current" warplanes in the world. That's 89 different aircraft manufactured in 15 different countries. Russia, England, France, Germany, India, Canada, Japan, S. Korea, China, Pakistan, Brazil, Italy, Sweden, and the US. The other 180 odd countries of the world are not advanced enough or large enough to manufacture warplanes. Helicopters are the most numerous (36 different types) followed by jet fighters (23). There are 9 jet and 5 turboprop trainers/light duty fighters. There are only 6 cargo planes and the rarest type is heavy bombers of which there are only three.
The oldest warplane is the venerable B-52 which first flew in 1952. The newest is the EADS Mako, which is so new as to still be in the definition phase (hasn't flown yet).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

MY wishlist

I want to fix the economy. Nothing hurts a man (or woman) more than getting laid off. Everyone would rather have a job, than all the social goodies under the sun (free health care, unemployment benefits, free college, food stamps, free child care, lower taxes, retraining, free retirement). With a job, you have the money to buy all the rest. Unemployed you have nothing. We do the most good for the most people when we make the economy grow and create jobs.
"It's the economy stupid." The economy ought to come ahead of everything else, global warming, conservation, Iraq, public transportation,welfare, and pro union legislation.
We need to fix the real economy, the part that produces real stuff that people willingly buy with money. That's farming, manufacturing, mining, logging, transportation, utilities, communications, and entertainment. Financial services, health care, lawyers, government, and education are not part of the productive economy, they just consume money and don't produce anything one can sell.
The real economy is run by companies and corporations. Helping the real economy means helping companies and corporations do well and produce more. Democrats have a reflexive desire to bash companies and corporations. It's been said that democrats love employment, it's employers they cannot stand.
If the incoming democratic administration can surpress their gut level desire to bash business, here is what might be done.
1. Reduce the cost of health care. This will only happen when the patients know the doctor's bills are coming out of their pockets. Right now insured patients don't care what it costs, 'cause its all paid for. We can subsidize the patients in various ways, but the patients ought to be paying the bills. We are putting 16% of GNP into health care, and companies are the ones who pay it. Sixteen cent of every dollar in sales goes to workers health care.
2. Reduce the corporate tax. Right now it's 35% of profits. Drop that to 17% which is what the average taxpayer pays out. Clarify the accounting rules to make it harder to hide profits by cooking the corporate books. Insist that any profit reported to investors, is taxed. Right now various accounting scams allow businesses to show high profits to investors (potential stock buyers) and low profits to the tax man. That oughta stop.
3. Let the free market allocate economic resources. Don't use taxes or subsidies to favor one industry or product over another. The present market crash was caused by a policy of favoring single family home ownership over renting. Don't subsidize oil production, ethanol production, domestic sugar production, farming, road building, and all those other cushy little deals. Don't fix prices, and don't limit competition by licensing things.
4. Keep in mind that we want higher production. Higher production is better than higher wages or higher business profits.
5. We need domestic energy. Sending $700 billion a year overseas just for fuel is an unbearable burden. Real energy comes from coal, oil, and uranium. Wind power goes off when the wind drops, solar power goes off when the sun sets. Real energy is energy available when you need it.

The PBS wishlist

The clock radio is tuned to NH public radio up here. The Sunday morning commentary was a long wish list of things the incoming Obama administration ought to do. Wow. Every lefty-greenie save the world idea was there.
They want to fund alternate energy, purge all Bush appointees from the civil service, do something about the methane emissions from dairy cows, sign the Kyoto treaty, support locally grown produce, you name it, it was there.
Not a word about Iraq or fixing the economy, these folk are out to save the planet and defeat global warming. Nothing about the price of heating oil or gasoline.
The program was a pastiche of stuff called in by listeners from all over the country. Of course the "non-partisan" NPR folk choose which citizens ideas get on the air. I guess NPR is firmly behind global warming (anti global warming)?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Republicans ought to believe in free enterprize

Free enterprise means the freedom for anyone to go into any business that they please. This story from Arkansas is a clear example of unfree enterprise (otherwise known as regulation). There is no reason to license interior decorators, unless you happen to be an interior decorator. Then the licensing serves to keep competitors out of the marketplace, allowing higher prices.
Free enterprise also means no government price fixing. We abolished price fixing in railroads, trucking, airlines and retail. Those actions reduced prices to the consumers.
Republicans are looking to define their political creed. We could start by saying we favor free enterprise.

Bailout my Chevy from the levee?

GM, Ford and Chrysler are in Washington begging for a federal bailout (handout?). Should we do it? On one hand, I get sentimental about Detroit cars and would like to see them stay in business. I've owned a lot of pretty decent Detroit iron over the the years and it would be nice to be able to buy new ones in the future. It would also be nice to keep the 400,000 UAW workers at the big three employed, along with all the workers at the big three's suppliers.
On the other hand, management runs from poor to absolutely terrible. Product design sucks. The three of them offer 250 "different" models, of which only two are three are nice enough that I'd want to buy one. The 700,000 retiree pensions are such a drag as to sink anyone. They have more retirees drawing pensions than they have workers on the payroll. The health care costs both for active and retired workers are outta sight. Maybe it would be better to let them declare bankruptcy. The workers and retirees would all loose a lot of money, when the court cancels the union contracts and voids the pensions but they would come out of bankruptcy in a position to perhaps make a little money, and a goodly percentage of the workers would still have jobs. Why should my tax dollars go to propping up the ultra plush wages and retirements of autoworkers?

Good Idea

This just popped up in my inbox. Not a bad idea. Sununu is the rare politician who can stand up in front of a TV camera and actually say something, something worth listening to. Most politicians take their cue from Obama and say nothing in rotund rolling phrases.

/begin received email

The next Chairman of the Republican National Committee will set the tone and direction of the party for years to come. The election in January provides an opportunity to elect a Chairman who will revitalize the party and bring us back to our roots. We can select a leader who embraces the status quo or we can select a reformer, a new chairman who is a young, energetic and articulate leader who can re-build our party from the ground up.

Join the Draft Sununu campaign in order to encourage Senator John Sununu to run for Chairman of the RNC.

Join the effort at

/end received email

Good Idea

The next Chairman of the Republican National Committee will set the tone and direction of the party for years to come. The election in January provides an opportunity to elect a Chairman who will revitalize the party and bring us back to our roots. We can select a leader who embraces the status quo or we can select a reformer, a new chairman who is a young, energetic and articulate leader who can re-build our party from the ground up.

Join the Draft Sununu campaign in order to encourage Senator John Sununu to run for Chairman of the RNC.

Join the effort at

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Boeing Strike Settles

And a good thing too. Boeing has a backlog of 900 plus orders for the new all-plastic 787 jetliner at $150 mil a piece. That's $135 billion worth of business, if they can keep it. The 787 is late, and the strike made it later. It hasn't made first flight yet. Yesterday Boeing discovered a mistake in the drawings that will require replacement of thousands of fasteners in the already half built aircraft. Program is two years late and it will get later. Sooner or later, the customers will start canceling back orders and buy Airbus instead.
The terms of the strike settlement are unclear. Aviation Week says the new contract will go for four years, up from three. Pay hikes are 15% over four years. Pension contributions go up $83 a year.
The major work rule issue concerned Boeing's newly instituted practice of having suppliers deliver right to the shop floor. They used to deliver to the loading dock and Intnl Assn of Machinists workers would move the product from the dock to the line. Boeing is only doing this on the 787 line, but wants to make the practice general to the 737 and 747 lines. The compromise allows vendors to deliver to only a few spots on the line rather than everywhere. The machinists claim the jobs of 2920 union forklift operators were saved. Which is an astounishing number of fork lift operators. In USAF we only had a dozen forklifts for an entire Air Force base.
With the rest of the economy sliding down the tube, it's good to get Boeing back to work.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So what went wrong?

I managed to get thru the entire day without turning on the TV, not even to watch the stock market croak. Unwinding from the election is called for. Do not start thinking about the next election, let the victors of this one do a little governing before resuming the unending election battles.
But, while the memory is fresh (and painful) let me set down some causes of GOP defeat. Exhibit A, a photograph I took on the opening of GOP headquarters in Littleton. Group shot of all the local republicans in front of the storefront. "How come everyone in the picture is old and greyhaired?" asked my mother. Whereas Obama was running a children's crusade. Maybe if the GOP decided to legalize music downloads? Hollywood and the labels wouldn't like it, but they don't like the GOP anyhow, so what's to loose? A few campaign contributions?
There were a lot of specific things McCain should have said and didn't. On the other hand Obama said little or nothing of substance during the campaign, so maybe what you say on campaign doesn't matter?
Party platforms. The NH GOP had a state party platform 20 pages long, written in lawyerly obfustication, making it useless as a campaign document. We streamlined it, boiled it down to a few simple statements in ordinary English and presented it to the state party convention. The convention turned down the new platform in favor of the old, the 20 pager that didn't really promise anything. Was that because they feared making even vague campaign promises?
McCain never promised the electorate anything you could put a word too. Hope and change worked well for Obama. Next time the GOP ought to at least promise prosperity and a 14000 Dow.
Trashing Ayres, Wright, Rezko and that Islamic fellow wasn't bad, but you can't win just by pointing out the the other guy has scumbag friends. You have to offer reasons to vote for you, not just reasons to vote against the other guy.
McCain wanted to equalize the tax treatment of helath care between the company workers and the self employed. He presented the plan, but neither he nor Palin explained that feature. The democrats attacked it saying McCain was going to tax health care benefits. The GOP never hit back saying it gives the self employed the same tax break on health care that the company workers enjoy.

Hope disappointed

Things didn't look good early in the evening TV show and it just got worse. So, we have a president Obama, and the democrats swept New Hampshire. We are blue and getting bluer. Democrats retained the state house (no surprize there) won the open senate seat and retained both house seats. As of this morning I don't know how my local candidates did. Bummer.

Well, now that the democrats have Congress and the presidency, let them fix the economy, keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands, and keep the entire middle east out of Al Quada's hands. At least I no longer have to listen to inane TV talking heads endlessly rehashing the latest poll results.
Let us hope that the Obama administration improves the economy rather than kicking off Great Depression II.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How to get a suntan in November

Simple. Sign up for poll standing. Up here in northern Grafton county, we organized poll standers for Littleton, Franconia, Lyman, and Bethlehem, plus Whitefield which is really in Coos country but since Republican organization is a little thin up here, we did Whitefield too.
I nailed together totem poles of campaign signs, passed them out to volunteers. Weeks of telephone calls had rounded up enough volunteers to give sketchy coverage at all the polls.
Rose with the 6:50 alarm clock and rolled down to Franconia with my totem pole sticking out the window of the car. Arrived a few minutes after poll opening to find a few Republican volunteers already on the job. Weather was fine, clear sky and warm. Turnout was heavy, both voters and poll standers. Drove around to the other polling places to see how we were doing. Looked good everywhere. Sunset was shortly after four, it was pitch dark by 5. I finally hung it up after 5, leaving a few other volunteers to cover the last two hours.
GOP did clearly better than '06 where we only had one GOP pollstander in Franconia, and it snowed all day. This time we had 4 to 5 pollstanders all day, as many as the democrats, again unlike '06 when the democrats had us beat hands down.
We don't have any worthwhile election returns yet, but I remain hopeful of a McCain win.

Monday, November 3, 2008

GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage out)

According to the Wall St Journal, insurance giant AIG relied upon a computer model to assess the risk of the trillions of dollars of "credit default swaps" it did. "Credit default swaps" are Wall St code words meaning bond insurance. For a premium AIG insured mortgage backed bonds against default. When the real estate bubble popped in 2006, the insured mortgage backed securities began to default, and AIG had to pay them off. The losses on bond insurance completely overwhelmed the earnings from the rest of AIG's insurance business, and requiring a $105 billion bailout by us long suffering taxpayers.
One has to wonder how senior management at AIG was gullible enough to beleive any kind of computer model could predict the default rate of mortgage backed securities. How can a computer program know the true value of the mortgaged property, keep up with the fluxuation of the real estate market, know the equity in the property and understand the borrower's ability and willingnes to make the monthly payments on time? Short answer, it cannot, and the managers that OK'ed the deals were totaly clueless. Probably all a bunch of MBA's.

If an arm is worth $10 million, what's a leg go for?

A young woman suffered a horrible medical condition. Injection of a drug caused a dreadful infection of her arm, so severe the arm had to be amputated. She sued. She sued everybody in sight, including the maker of the drug. She won in Vermont state courts. The drug maker appealed to the US Supreme Court, claiming that they had complied with all the FDA's rigorous requirements for drug approval, testing, labeling, and good manufacturing practice.
The drug maker has a point. They manufactured a product in accordance with all the rules, and there are plenty of rules. Should they, their employees, and their stockholders be penalized for doing the right thing? Only the Supreme Court can know.
It's terrible for a young woman to loose her arm, but does this justify taking money from a company that did everything the rules demanded?

It's almost over. Thank the good Lord for that

The news media are completely locked onto poll numbers. That's all they report, in between clips of McCain and Obama giving their stump speeches. Everything else in the world is on hold until the election is over.
I think McCain can do it. The poll numbers show strength, and the difference between the two is less than the error in the polls for this January's NH primary. The polls projected an Obama win by 5%, actually Hillary won by 5% which means the polls were off by 10%. And surely Obama has to have scared a lot of voters by now. Think tax hikes, Iraq defeat, and turning a stock market crash into the second great depression.