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The Daily Digest - Nov 21

Friday, November 21, 2008, 10:40 AM

Your donations are keeping the site alive

Thursday, November 20, 2008, 5:45 PM

Six weeks ago, I posted a note to this blog introducing myself as the site's volunteer Business Manager, and describing my decision to add advertising to the site to recover some of the site's operating costs. 

That announcement led to some lively discussion, and suggestions from members that we should also consider other options such as an easier-to-use mechanism for direct donations, and an affiliation with I'm writing today to update you on our progress, and to report that overwhelmingly, direct donations have been of crucial importance to keeping the site just barely running in the black.


The Daily Digest -Nov 20, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008, 1:26 PM


Chris here.

I’d like to introduce D. Sherman Okst whom many of you know as Davos on the site. I’ve really liked the links that Sherman has been finding and posting throughout the site and I asked him if he’d be willing to post them directly to a blog where more people might see them. Sherman has graciously offered to do this and so I want you all to welcome him as a contributor at large for the Daily Digest.

Welcome Sherman!


The Daily Digest

Thursday, November 20, 2008, 11:30 AM

This is a new feature.

It provides news snippets and links on a more frequent basis.  The plan is to try and get this up every day, but we'll see how that goes.  For now, enjoy.

Jobless claims jump unexpectedly to 16-year high


New claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week to a 16-year high, the Labor Department said Thursday, providing more evidence of a rapidly weakening job market expected to get even worse next year.

The government said new applications for jobless benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 542,000 from a downwardly revised figure of 515,000 in the previous week. That's much higher than Wall Street economists' expectations of 505,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

That is also the highest level of claims since July 1992, the department said, when the U.S. economy was coming out of a recession.



New Martenson Report Ready

Thursday, November 20, 2008, 1:25 AM

In this Martenson Report/Alert, I detail the breakdown in the stock charts of several very large banks and insurance companies, relate these breakdowns to their past use of accounting shenanigans (Level III assets) and derivatives, and make the case that we are closer than ever to a financial breakdown. This is only my third alert ever and is warranted by the companies involved and what they signify.

Financial breakdown?


Financial Crisis Tab Already In The Trillions

Wednesday, November 19, 2008, 6:25 PM

When this sort of information goes mainstream (CNBC), it's time to batten down the hatches.


The art of deception: Hank Paulson speaks

Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 2:22 PM

The key problems that we face are all expressions of the fact that our monetary system is based on debt, and this enforces an exceptionally short-term investing and planning horizon, along with the need for continuous exponential expansion.

Thus our primary ailment today is a failure of our money system. Practically everything else that we read about today – bank failures, foreclosures, rapidly depleting resources, etc – are merely symptoms of this failure.

We are facing a money crisis, not a banking crisis. We are not experiencing a failure of our credit markets, but a failure of our money system. The apparent inability of our policy makers to understand this crucial distinction all but assures that their attempts to “fix things” will do more harm than good.

This OpEd piece by Hank Paulson, published today by the NYT, is a monument to wasteful, off-target thinking.


State finances in disarray

Monday, November 17, 2008, 4:02 PM

I had a most pleasant weekend off - the first in a very long time - and spent some of it pondering an unusual recent event.

We are raising turkeys, five very large, gorgeous bronze birds.  Last Thursday they started making their alarm sounds, meaning that something was not right.  Rushing out, I saw that "Skunky McGee", our ancient resident neighborhood skunk, was in their pen toodling around. He's nearly all white, we know his habits quite well, and his appearance at 9:30 in the morning was a bit late for him to be out and about.

It took me far too many beats to realize he wasn't toodling around looking for errant food scraps, he was chasing our turkeys in an unbalanced, tippy version of the skunk waddle.  As I stared in wonder, he caught one, and began, well, chewing on it.  You see, skunks are not usually predators of anything larger than a lawn grub, so he was incapable of really doing much more than begin a long process of gnawing.  He started near the tail. 

It was at this time that the word finally popped in my head: "rabies". » Read more


Fannie & Freddie insolvent and losing money

Friday, November 14, 2008, 1:25 PM

I want to recall that, at the time of the Fannie and Freddie bailouts at the beginning of the summer, Hank Paulson, backed up by a compliant Congressional Budget Office, made the claim that any bailout of Fannie and Freddie was largely symbolic and not likely to cost the taxpayers much, if anything at all.

Here's a blast from the past from the July 22 issue of USA Today:

Fannie, Freddie could cost us $25 billion
WASHINGTON — Congress' top budget analyst says a federal rescue of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost taxpayers as much as $25 billion.

But Peter R. Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, predicted in a letter to lawmakers Tuesday that there's a better than 50% chance the government will not have to step in to prop up the companies by lending them money or buying stock.

Paulson went on to reiterate those claims.  At the time I found those claims to be ludicrous, as they would require loss ratios for Fannie and Freddie that were not just smaller, but a tiny fraction of the losses that the rest of the mortgage industry had already booked. » Read more


Financial Distress

Thursday, November 13, 2008, 1:25 PM

The broad stock market is now testing the recent lows.  But the real story is in the financial stocks themselves.

This is as close to an all out breakdown as I can imagine.

For starters, I have been keeping a close eye on Citigroup because they hold massive amounts of both derivatives and so called "Level III assets", those unknowable piles of junk assets that management gets to park off to the side at whatever value they want to put on them because there is no open market for them.  

This chart says "bankruptcy coming soon." » Read more