FDIC games

How is this even remotely okay?

[I]t appears the FDIC will ask for three years of assessments in advance, or about $36 billion according to Reuters. The advantage to the banks of prepaying assessments (as opposed to another special assessment) is the banks don’t have to record the expense immediately.

Need any further evidence that the FDIC is out of money? So, the banks will prop up their insurance fund by $36 billion, but will pretend they’ve still got the cash so they don’t fail and cause the fund to be drawn down. Yeah, that should work great!

I find that $36 billion to be interesting in light of how my calculations currently have the FDIC Deposit Insurance Fund’s pre-assessment balance around -14.8 billion as of last Friday, assuming that the ratio of actual losses to estimated losses is still running at the second quarter’s 1.69 rather than the first quarter’s 1.91. Since there was a $14 billion difference between my calculation and the FDIC quarterly report thanks to the second-quarter assessment, this suggests that the reason the Fed wants to collect advance assessments is because the fund has run out even on a post-assessment basis. I wonder, however, why they don’t want to tap their credit line as everyone had assumed they would.

One interesting theory is that the reason the FDIC bank closures have suddenly slowed down of late – three in two weeks – is that they are having problems coming up with the cash to cover the losses.

UPDATE – Make that $45 billion upfront. In cash, please. And you can be certain that losses will reach $100 billion long before 2013; they’ve already blown through $50 billion in three quarters this year.

This is a joke, right?

This disinterest in communication not only smacks of reprehensible irresponsibility on the part of the present inhabitant of the White House, but outrageous farce:

“I’ve talked to the president, since I’ve been here, once on a VTC ,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal told CBS reporter David Martin in a television interview that aired Sunday.

“You’ve talked to him once in 70 days?” Mr. Martin followed up.

“That is correct,” the general replied.

I’ve been an advocate of bringing the troops home from the occupied countries since 2004, but even if I hadn’t been, they must be brought home immediately now. If the titular Commander-in-Chief can’t be bothered to even talk to the freaking commanding general, this farcical pretense of playing at war must immediately stop. American soldiers deserve far better than to be shipped off to play mercenary globocop / political pawn while their so-called commander ignores them. Every military family with men stationed in the theater should be furious about this incredible abdication of responsibility.

There was never any serious doubt that the war in Afghanistan would ultimately fail, but this is downright insane. It also appears to conclusively settle the question about Obama’s fitness for office. And if you know anything about military etiquette, you’ll recognize that Gen. McChrystal is flashing a subtle, but perfectly clear signal regarding his opinion of his civilian superior here.

Evading the obvious

Steve Sailer points out the salient point that is never discussed whenever the topic of immigration is broached:

Immigration is probably the single broadest, deepest, most intellectually challenging topic in all of public policy. There’s no knottier or more significant question you can ask than: When the government elects a new people, how many and whom should it elect?

The harsh reality is that everyone, including the most starry-eyed immigrant enthusiast who thinks Guatemalans emit vibrant rainbows instead of methane and jihad-sworn Saudis merely want their shot at the American Dream of a white picket fence and 2.5 wives, believes in limits on immigration. There is no way that anyone is going to cheerfully permit 300 million Chinese to immigrate next year, so the conversation isn’t actually about whether to limit immigration or not, but rather, which immigrants and how many them will be permitted entry. As the old joke goes, we’ve already established what the lady is, now we’re just haggling over the price.

Given the way that many immigrant cultures have actively conspired to significantly modify Constitutional WASP America to suit their foreign preferences, it appears likely that history will eventually judge much of the immigration that was permitted in the previous century to have been a tremendous mistake. And it appears even more likely that this current wave of immigration from the Third World will work about as well for America as Visigothic immigration did for the Roman Empire.

WND column

Evolution, Economics, and Evil

The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics
Michael Shermer
Rating: 7 of 10

It is no secret that I hold a rather low opinion of various books produced by a few well-known atheists. Without exception, they are riddled with factual ignorance, easily demonstrable illogic and fraudulent appeals to science. While Michael Shermer is every bit the atheist that Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins are, his scientific expertise happens to be applicable to his subject matter and his approach is entirely different. And unlike the New Atheists, Shermer makes intelligent use of both science and logic in utilizing various aspects of evolutionary theory to consider homo economicus.

By the way, something that I didn’t manage to work into the column was Shermer’s articulation of “Darwin’s Dictum”, which he developed from a letter Darwin wrote to Henry Fawcett.

“About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorize, and I well remember someone saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!

Shermer writes: “This quote was the centerpiece of the first of my monthly columns for Scientific American, in which I elevated it to a principle I call “Darwin’s Dictum,” as identified in the final clause: all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service. Darwin’s Dictum encodes the philosophy of science of this book: if observations are to be of any use they must be tested against some view—a thesis, model, hypothesis, theory, or paradigm. Since the facts never just speak for themselves, they must be interpreted through the colored lenses of ideas—percepts need concepts. Science is an exquisite blend of data and theory—percepts and concepts—that together form the bedrock for the foundation of science, the greatest tool ever devised for understanding how the world works. We can no more separate our theories and concepts from our data and percepts than we can find a truly objective Archimedean point—a god’s eye view—of ourselves and our world.

I found this to be an intriguing perspective, especially in light of the vociferous claims of science’s pure objectivity made so often by those who fetishize it. It tends to raise two questions, of course. In service to what, or to whom? And by what standard are competing interpretations of the same facts to be judged?

NFL Week Three

This is the weekly open NFL post. I’m thinking All Day will bring the thunder against San Francisco once Favre shows that they can’t stack the box against him. I’m hoping Matt Forte will finally get rolling against a bad run defense – although coaches changing defensive priorities often shows the obvious to be nothing of the sort. I’m wondering what is wrong with Clinton Portis, and I will be very amused if the Titans start out 0-3.

Democratic integrity

Peter Schiff does the right thing:

While Peter Schiff has the money to hire an experienced campaign team, he’s shied away from that approach. Andrew Schiff said that when his brother first formed an exploratory committee, he put together a team of Washington-based consultants to help hone his campaign message. When they expressed doubt about the political viability of his libertarian message, Schiff let them all go.

“We decided we didn’t want to be put in a standard box, and Peter wasn’t impressed with their ideas and how they wanted to sell him,” said Andrew Schiff. “The guys in D.C. wanted to spend lots of money, and we saw how the game was played and how they got their money. It left a bad taste in our mouth, and we moved on.”

There’s no point in playing bait-and-switch with the American people. If they genuinely want to be impoverished serfs living in a post-apocalyptic economic landscape, that’s their right. Schiff is giving them the option to choose freedom, and that’s all one can reasonably hope to do. If you focus on winning uber alles on the grounds that you can’t effect change without holding political office, you have already lost regardless of how the election turns out.

The NFL must face facts

I love the NFL. I am delighted with the league right now, not because both the Vikings and Meerkats are 2-0, but because their customer service has been excellent. Last week, NFL Game Pass slowed down so much that the early games became unwatchable partway through the second quarter. I assumed it was my Internet connection, which I’m planning to change at the next opportunity.

However, on Tuesday, I got an email from the NFL taking responsibility for the problem, apologizing for it, and giving a one-sixteenth refund. It was totally unexpected and very well done. So, someone in the NFL organization clearly understands customer service. And perhaps whoever that is should be put in charge of dealing with the developing problem of head trauma, because this is an ugly situation that the NFL has, unfortunately, not handled well for fear of lawsuits from former players and their families:

[Dr. Omalu] wrote a paper detailing his findings. He titled it “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in a National Football League Player” and put it in an envelope and sent it to the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Neurosurgery. He thought NFL doctors would be pleased when they read it. He really did. He thought they would welcome a finding as important as this: scientific evidence that the kind of repeated blows to the head sustained in football could cause severe, debilitating brain damage. He thought they could use his research to try and fix the problem.

“I was naive,” he says now. “There are times I wish I never looked at Mike Webster’s brain. It has dragged me into worldly affairs I do not want to be associated with. Human meanness, wickedness, and selfishness. People trying to cover up, to control how information is released. I started this not knowing I was walking into a minefield. That is my only regret.”

Nothing was welcoming, nothing was collegial, about the NFL’s reaction to Omalu’s article that appeared in the July 2005 edition of Neurosurgery. In a lengthy letter to the editor, three scientists, all of whom were on the NFL payroll, said they wanted Omalu’s article retracted.

“We disagree,” they said.

“Serious flaws.”

“Complete misunderstanding.”

The scientists, Ira Casson, Elliot Pellman, and David Viano, were all members of the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee. In tone their letter to the editor struggled to remain calm, but everyone could read the subtext: We own this field. We are not going to bow to some no-name Nigerian with some bullshit theory.

There’s a few lessons that can be drawn from this article. First, it proves that the next time anyone tries to snow you with talk of scientific purity, they’re nothing more than lying science propagandists. Scientists are bought as easily as anyone and far more often than most. Second, it’s apparent that for all it is pretending Dr. Omalu doesn’t exist and his theory is “flawed”, the NFL knows he’s probably correct and are attempting to do as much as they can to solve the problem without being sued into oblivion by every ex-player who ever knocked a helmet against another player’s helmet. Third, it completely destroys Sam Harris’s ludicrous and entirely unscientific theory about how those who engage in what he calls “magical thinking”, (in other words, all religious individuals), are somehow rendered incapable of properly performing science.

And fourth, it should help those of us who are fans of the league to understand why the league is encouraging the refs to throw flags on what look like normal helmet-to-helmet action. I’m as opposed to turning the league into two-hand-touch on the quarterback as anyone, and there’s nothing better than seeing a DB lay the smack down on some diva WR, but I really don’t want to see any more players ending up like John Mackey either.