Sunday, December 26, 2010

Might explain the turkeys

Considering the big Christmas feast, this item might explain why Guambat's little rats are such turkeys:

You are what your father ate
As they say, you are what you eat. And if you’re a mouse, you’re also what your father ate.

So say researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Texas at Austin. In a study published this week in the journal Cell, they report that a father’s diet influences how metabolic genes function in his offspring.

The research team fed some male mice a normal diet, while other mice got a low-protein diet. All the males mated with females who ate the same healthy diet. Sure enough, the offspring of the protein-deprived fathers had hundreds of genetic changes that weren’t seen in the mouse pups whose fathers ate the normal amount of protein. The changes were observed even when the fathers never met their offspring.

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Nuclear War: RSVP

North Korea Says U.S., South Korea Drill ‘Inviting Nuclear War’
North Korea said the U.S. and South Korea are “inviting a nuclear war” by conducting military drills, even as a Seoul-based think tank predicted that Kim Jong Il’s regime may hold another atomic test next year.

South Korea’s Dec. 20 artillery drill on Yeonpyeong Island near the disputed sea border was an intentional provocation, and North Korea is closely watching “the reckless behavior of the warmongers inviting a nuclear war,” the communist country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said today, citing commentaries in the Rodong newspaper.

The comments follow a threat North Korea made yesterday to wage a “sacred war” using nuclear weapons if attacked. North Korea may conduct a third nuclear test next year as it needs to refine its plutonium bomb, South Korea’s state-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said in a report posted on its website yesterday.

Meanwhile, those fun-lovin' folks in the Northern wasteland were dancin' and having parties:

Dancing Parties Held
Dancing parties of youth and students took place here and in various provinces, cities and county seats of the country on Friday. They were to celebrate the 19th anniversary of General Secretary Kim Jong Il as supreme commander of the Korean People's Army and the 93rd birth anniversary of anti-Japanese war hero Kim Jong Suk.

As song "Please Receive Our Salute" reverberated far and wide, youth and students presented merry dances, extending profound thanks to Kim Jong Il who has developed the KPA into invincible revolutionary armed forces of Mt. Paektu and brought about a great change in building a rich and powerful country.

They also presented graceful dances to the tune of songs "The Tuman River Full of Memories" and "Triumphant War Song in Forest," looking back with deep emotion on Kim Jong Suk's noble revolutionary career and undying feats.

Dancing parties held in various parts of the country successfully represented the will of the youth and students to devotedly defend Kim Jong Il and give steady continuity to the tradition of Juche.

Guambat hasn't yet got around to sending regrets.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The fine line between temptation and provocation

S.Korea readies major military drill near tense border
South Korea prepared Wednesday for a major live-fire drill involving fighter jets and tanks near the tense North Korean border, as Seoul and Washington reacted warily to overtures from Pyongyang.

South Korea's military said Thursday's ground and air firing exercise 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the mainland border would also involve self-propelled guns and 800 soldiers.

Similar drills have been held at the same firing range at Pocheon many times before

South Korea's navy meanwhile began a four-day firing drill Wednesday off the east coast, a relatively distant 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the border with the North, mobilising six warships plus helicopters.

The military said it would practise responses to intrusions by North Korean submarines and patrol boats.

And South Korean marines were posted to guard a Christmas tree that was lit up Tuesday near the land border, reflecting fears that the North might fire on the display as a propaganda symbol.

Per CNN:
South Korea will hold its largest-ever winter live-fire drills Thursday in an area adjacent to North Korea, the South Korean Army said on Wednesday.

Prior post on this: North Korea's shell game


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bank robbers

Brett Arends looks back, in disgust, on 2010, at the Great Bank Heist:

The great bank heist of 2010
They dodged the bullet of real reform, probably for all time. They bounced back to post huge profits, helped by legal theft from the middle class. They completed their takeover of both political parties — and bought themselves a new Congress even more pliable than the old one.

Middle-class America is flattened, devastated and broke. The bankers that caused it all have escaped punishment. They’re raking in huge profits. Oh, and the tax cuts just got extended for high earners, too!

In 2010, Wall Street’s year, Schwarzman’s only real sin was getting caught flaunting his contempt for the nation.

Far worse went on behind closed doors.

Consider the Dodd-Frank reform act — all 2,300 pages of it. Sure, it fills in a few regulatory gaps, ends a couple of the more gratuitous abuses. You have to throw a few scraps to the masses.

But most of the reforms are meaningless. New rule books and committees. Bah. They’re like half-built fences. Anyone can just walk around them.

Meanwhile, missing from this giant “reform” bill was any actual, serious reform like threatening crooked bankers with real jail time. Or ending the “other people’s money” racket of securitization, or smashing “too big to fail” megabanks into smaller firms that can never again threaten the republic.

Instead we’ve enshrined “too big to fail” as national policy. A standing taxpayer guarantee to the biggest banks. What a deal!

It’s amazing when you think about it.

Look at the chaos and catastrophe these guys have left in their wake. One middle-aged man in five is out of work. Tens of millions of families have been financially wiped out. The national debt has nearly doubled.

If inner-city gangs had done this to America, we’d have martial law. If Arabs had done it, we’d have launched another war.

Wall Street bankers? They’ve walked away scot free. And they’re actually being rewarded.

By keeping short-term interest rates near zero, the Fed is basically robbing your grandmother, and other hard-working savers, and giving to Wall Street. The banks

borrow from us for free, and then lend us back our own money at interest by purchasing Treasury bonds.

And in a perfect circle of cynicism, the beneficiaries of bailouts are now spending some of their loot lobbying our Congress to overrule us on reform.

The commercial banks and investment firms spent a total of $118 million lobbying just in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That included $4 million spent directly by Citigroup Inc., nearly $3 million by Bank of America Corp., $3.5 million by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and $2.8 million by Schwarzman’s Blackstone.

This is in addition to the vast campaign contributions the top brass at these firms have lavished on pliable congressman, and indirect political lobbying through trade bodies like the American Bankers Association.

But it’s unfair to give the bankers all the credit for subverting democracy.

They couldn’t have done it without the Democrats.

Wall Street has spent years capturing the party establishment.

Think of the lavish campaign checks. The lucrative hedge fund “adviser” jobs. The pervasive influence of pinstriped “progressives” like Larry Summers and Bob Rubin.

This was the year the investment paid off. Big time.

the Democrats would have got a lot more credit — and contributions — from the rest of America if they’d stood up to Wall Street.

Sucking up to Wall Street didn’t help them anyway. Wall Street still turned Republican. The American Bankers Association, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, Citigroup, Bank of America, even Goldman Sachs: This time around, more than half their donations went to the GOP.

Most Americans don’t realize it, but this talk of a “grassroots” and “anti-establishment” election was a bunch of hooey. What really happened was that Wall Street has just bought itself a new, even more compliant Congress.

The new Republicans are already fawning over the bankers. They’re promising to stop the restrictions on (ahem) “financial innovation.” Congressman Spencer Bachus — the next chairman of the House Financial Services Committee — actually said “Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” Let the good times roll!

It was the greatest heist in history. The bankers pulled it off under everyone’s nose.

As the old punchline goes, Rudolph the Red knows a reign, dear.

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North Korea's shell game

As mentioned in a prior post, North Korea Krowed:
If the U.S. and the south Korean war-like forces fire even a shell into the inviolable land and territorial waters of the DPRK, they will have to pay dearly for this.

But now, now that, as North Korea describes it,
The U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet military warmongers perpetrated such reckless military provocation as firing thousands of bullets and shells from the sensitive area of Yonphyong Island

This was nothing but a childish play with fire of cowards without an equal as they made much fuss, firing shells left unused during the military provocation on November 23 after shifting by stealth the waters to be a scene of the projected shelling and its target for fear of the KPA's second and third retaliatory blows for self-defence.
Now, there is such a huge back-down so fast that their face was left hanging in the parapets, they merely simper:
The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation like one taking revenge after facing a blow.

The second and third powerful retaliatory strike to be made by the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK knowing no limit as declared before the world will lead to blowing up the bases of the U.S. and south Korean puppet warmongers.

The world should properly know who is the true champion of peace


Thursday, December 09, 2010


Guambat is gone walkabout in some old familiar turf. He'll get back to his burrow above the Philippine Sea in just a few days.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Go on -- eat your veggies

It must be all them commies in the Senate what wants to control your diet.

Senate Backs Biggest Food-Safety Overhaul in 70 Years>
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would gain more power to police food companies under the bill that passed today in a 73-25 vote. The measure, backed by the food industry, public- health groups and consumer advocates, adds inspections and lets the FDA force recalls, rather than relying on companies to voluntarily remove contaminated foods from store shelves.

The bill had awaited a full Senate vote since winning unanimous approval a year ago by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. It was prompted partly by recalls of cookie dough, spinach, jalapenos and salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed at least nine people and sickened more than 700 in 2008 and 2009.

The House, which passed a food-safety bill last year, has agreed to adopt the Senate version, bypassing the need for a conference to integrate the two bills, Harkin said Nov. 18. Once both chambers have approved the measure, lawmakers will send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate bill calls for the FDA to inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities within a year of enactment, and double its number of foreign inspections in each subsequent year for five years. The measure would require inspections every three years for U.S. manufacturing and processing plants the FDA deems to be at a high risk for contamination, and every five years for all other domestic facilities.

The legislation would require most food producers to develop hazard prevention plans and would give the FDA access to those records when requested. Some local food producers with annual sales under $500,000 would be exempt from that rule under language written by Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana, an organic farmer.

“This landmark legislation provides FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation’s food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food- safety strategies,” Pamela Bailey, president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington, said in a statement. Nestle SA of Vevey, Switzerland, and Northfield, Illinois-based Kraft Foods Inc., the world’s two biggest food companies, are among the more than 300 members in the group.

The Senate legislation “doesn’t fix the real problem” with the food safety system and may drive up food prices by $300 million to $400 million as companies pass compliance costs onto consumers, said Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who opposed the measure.

The Senate rejected, in a 62-36 vote, an alternative food- safety proposal by Coburn that would have required FDA technology upgrades and more coordination between that agency and the Department of Agriculture.

“The problem with food safety is that the agencies don’t do what they’re supposed to be doing now,” Coburn said in today’s debate. “They don’t need more regulation; they need less.”

Guambat reckons we ought to keep the foxes out of Congress and put 'em back in the hen-house where they belong.

Guambat wants his salmonella over easy.


60% of Fannie/Freddie repurchase requests remain unrescinded

Banks Resisting Fannie, Freddie Demands to Buy Back Mortgages
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are facing growing resistance as they attempt to push failed home loans off their books and onto the balance sheets of banks including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The two government-owned mortgage companies are enforcing contracts that require lenders to buy back loans that didn’t meet underwriting standards. At the end of September, the companies reported, banks hadn’t responded to $13 billion in buyback requests. A third of those were at least four months old and Freddie Mac has begun to assess penalties for the delays.

Lenders say they are resisting buybacks because McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac and Washington-based Fannie Mae are unfairly second-guessing old appraisals, accusing originators of failing to verify income, or pinning failed loans on minor technical errors.

About 40 percent of repurchase requests are rescinded after lenders provide additional paperwork, said John A. Courson, chief executive officer of the Mortgage Bankers Association, a Washington trade group.

“We’re burning a lot of stockholder resources, and clearly a lot of Fannie and Freddie resources, to have 40 percent of these things rescinded,” Courson said in an interview. “It hurts the banks and frankly we’re wasting government resources, too.”

Courson, of the mortgage bankers group, said the industry’s concerns about the buybacks go beyond the volume. “It’s the nature of the requests, where so many try to assert a defect that has no actual bearing on the individual loan’s performance,” he said.

Lenders say that while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are asserting that loans went bad because of faulty underwriting, the leading cause of default is actually unemployment.

“If a loan paid for five years, then the client lost their job and somebody goes back and says, ‘You didn’t dot that I or cross that T,’ technically the originator has to buy that loan back,” William C. Emerson, chief executive officer of Detroit- based Quicken Loans, said in an interview. “Loans are being put back for very vague, gray reasons.”

“This is the first time in history you’ve seen this much pushback against the GSEs,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry trade publication in Bethesda, Maryland. “It’s just the volume of it. It’s bigger numbers. And this time the reasons are a lot grayer.”

Democrats and Republicans alike are pressing for the GSEs to return to solvency and repay taxpayer funds.

“We need to pursue all available legal claims to limit the losses to taxpayers,” said Representative Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who serves on the House Financial Services Committee.

The GSEs should get what they’re owed and leave it to regulators to take action later if buybacks cause problems for banks, said Phillip Swagel, a former assistant Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush

“It’s better to uncover everything and for people to face up to their obligations,” Swagel said.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say the mounting buyback demands are the result of growing delinquencies, not new enforcement.

“There’s no new policy. This is something that’s always been done,” said Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German. “The fact that more defaulted loans are triggering reviews that may lead to repurchase requests, given the volume of defaults, is not entirely surprising.”

Overall, 33 percent to 39 percent of loans questioned by the GSEs are leading to buybacks

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CYNIC writ large

Guambat is occasionally cynical, but he doesn't know the first thing about cynicism. For that, look to David Weidner:

The bar is high for WikiLeaks shocking us about banks
the worst that comes is embarrassment and minor tension.

Wall Street isn’t the Vatican. There isn’t much of a reputation to diminish.

Sure, some documents may lead to investigations and denouncements. It may require bank CEOs to issue apologies.

But really, what can shock us now? Mortgage fraud? Government influence? Hiding bad assets? Affairs? Name-calling? Market manipulation? Influence peddling?

There is no more game in shaming when shamelessness is the new norm.

Be that as it may, with BofA the apparent shamee, Zero Hedge finds insanity if no shame:

Following Wikileaks Revelations, The Tricky Dick Rushes To The Rescue, Sees Bank of America Worth $21 In Bankruptcy This is certifiably one of those days when the insanity refuses to end. The latest laugh out loud episode come from the lunatic who has outstayed his "analytic" welcome by about 2 years following his Buy recommendation on a soon to be bankrupt Lehman Brothers (sorry Dick, nobody will ever let it go):

The Rochdale analyst, continues to reprise the role of the evil grandpa-in-law who just. refuses. to. leave. even though it is about 12 hours past his credibility-time, now sees Bank of America as worth $21 in bankruptcy [that's per share, vis 11$ now].

You really can't make this shit up.

To wit: from a very funny Dick:
"In death, this company would be worth 91% more than it is worth in life." You may laugh now.


China's Chosen* One? The 51st State? Daydreaming.

After the UK's Guardian told us how China was losing patience with North Korea's dear leaders and was ready to abandon North Korean, it is now backing up a few steps for a reality check.

As you would, but not in such a schizophrenic, sycophantic way as this opinion piece by Chun Lin:

China's break with North Korea is overblown
At first it seems as if the WikiLeaks cables give us a glimpse of what is really going on around the Korean peninsula, hinting at Chinese exasperation at recent North Korean aggression. But as is often the case with this part of the world, the "facts" we take for granted are more complex than they appear.

North Korea's recent shelling of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong is a case in point. ... the provocation was provoked.

This does not amount to a defence of North Korea.

The larger background consists of a historical cold-war climate in the region, and, more recently, an increase in military activity following the end of President Kim Dae-Jung's "sunshine policy" towards the North.

Current naval exercises have now been joined by American forces.

The confrontation on the Korean peninsula isn't "the last hangover from the cold war" (as Isabel Hilton has argued here) – the remaining US military bases around China and America's ongoing paranoia are. However obedient Beijing tries to be, America continues to declare it a "threat" that needs to be contained.

This year sees the 60th anniversary of the Korean war. The Chinese remember that conflict mainly for the heroic struggle of their volunteers in Korea

Meanwhile, back in the Land that time Forgot, the North Korean word seems to follow exactly the key points made in the Guardian piece quoted from above. Who's writing for whom?

S. Korean Puppet Group's Military Provocation Flailed
The United Confederation of Koreans in Russia in a statement issued on Nov. 27 accused the south Korean puppet group of committing such reckless military provocation as firing shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK around Yonphyong Island in the West Sea of Korea on Nov. 23.

In a word, the recent provocation was a product of the anti-DPRK and anti-reunification confrontation policy of the south Korean authorities, it noted.

The Federation of Korean Economic Workers in China said in a statement issued on Nov. 26 that it was quite natural that the Korean People's Army standing guard over the inviolable territorial waters of the country took such resolute military step as reacting to the south Korean puppet group's military provocation with a prompt and powerful physical strike. The statement went on:

Nevertheless, the puppet group is seeking to stage the largest-ever combined exercises by introducing latest war hardware including the U.S. nuclear carrier George Washington into the West Sea of Korea while crying out for "punishment" and "retaliation" against someone just like a thief crying "Stop thief!"

[Read the whole article and compare it to the whole Chun Lin piece in the Guardian, not just the extracts quoted above.]

In a flurry of bluster, North Korea continues:

US-S. Korean Maneuvers for War Aggression against DPRK Flailed
The U.S. warlike forces are escalating the military pressure upon the DPRK, talking about "strong military support" to south Korea.

This proves that the U.S. was behind the recent Yonphyong Island incident as was the case with the "Cheonan" case and the U.S. was the arch criminal who deliberately planned and wire-pulled the incident.

The "military threat" touted by the U.S. imperialists is nothing but sophism intended to justify their reckless military provocations and find a pretext for igniting a war.

US-S. Korea's Escalating Moves for War Aggression against DPRK Flayed
The DPRK-targeted adventurous war maneuvers kicked off by the U.S. and the south Korean war-like forces in the West Sea of Korea on Nov. 28 may spill over into an all-out war any time, warns Minju Joson Tuesday in a signed commentary.

If the U.S. and the south Korean war-like forces fire even a shell into the inviolable land and territorial waters of the DPRK, they will have to pay dearly for this.

They would be well advised to properly understand who their rival is and stop at once their moves for a war of aggression against the DPRK.

Interesting that. Just a day or so ago**, North Korea was bluffing that any incursion of any kind nor matter how small would trigger all out war. Now it will take a shelling to get their attention.

Sounds more to Guambat like North Korea may have suddenly lost its back.

See this quote from this story, quoted in this post:
"The army and people of the DPRK are now greatly enraged at the provocation of the puppet group while getting fully ready to give a shower of dreadful fire and blow up the bulwark of the enemies if they dare to encroach again upon the DPRK's dignity and sovereignty even in the least."

Guambat is more inclined to believe the Chinese story being peddled that they've no use for any more of North Korea's antics. Which is not to say that they will back away, if at all, in a hurry or undignified manner. The Pacific Way takes time and at least a strong effort at grace. Face is principle. It could get to be rough going before smooth sledding.

But, Guambat sees a much greater and more powerful North Asian economic bloc when North Korean gets folded into South Korea. It is good business for China, as well as Japan, and will have spill over effects for this whole region. Again, this too will take time. West Germany is still struggling to absorb East Germany.

And, whilst smoking that pipe, Guambat sees an opportunity for the US to draw down on its military presence in foreign Asian countries like Japan and Korea, with big savings in terms of the the expense of money and diplomacy that entails, should this come to pass.

It will certainly raise the need for a stable and robust US permanent sovereign presence on the Western Pacific. Could that be the key that unlocks the door to the 51st US State of The Marianas?

What's in that pipe, anyway?

*PS: "Chosen". "Chosun". get it?