Shocked and Persuaded


Separating Fact From Fiction

No Hopey Changey!

Maybe this – along with the celebrity fortunes lathered on her from the liberal media – is why Sarah Palin jumped ship! Or maybe it is Ms. Rouge’s (I mean Rogue’s) new Don’t Call It A Reality Show….Reality Show!



Well we’ve done it. We have successfully surpassed the 1,000 troop death mark in Afghanistan. Seems like just yesterday we had suffered no more than 1/2 that…Maybe that is because it has not been very long since the escalation of operations in Marjah/Helmand Province and the coming battle in Kandahar. Not sure what blueprint says this is a good idea. From now on I am going to post all the names of every soldier in case someone happens to stumble on this blog, because it is a shame how little we know about these men and women….never mind the fact that we know nothing about the hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That’s right Pakistan! You know the place where we send in Predator drones to bomb the hell out of remote communities with a very high civilian:insurgent kill ratio.

We’re at 1,030 US Troops in Afganistan and 4,386 in Iraq according to iCasualties.

From The Times:

The Department of Defense has identified 1,016 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations:

CENTANNI, Rick J., 19, Lance Cpl., Marines; Yorba Linda, Calif.; Fourth Marine Division.

COTTLE, Robert J., 45, Sgt. Maj., Marines; Whittier, Calif.; Fourth Marine Division.

ROSS, Jacob A., 19, Lance Cpl., Marines; Gillette, Wyo.; Second Marine Division.

Quote of the Day

From Ross Douthat’s latest opinion piece in The Times (Note: Not a big fan of this guy but he is dead on many regards with this latest observation):

“During a frustrating argument with a Roman Catholic cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly burst out: “Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” The cardinal, the anecdote goes, responded ruefully: “Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.””

Between this latest issue in Wisconsin and the Pope’s issue in Germany along with the Evangelical association in Uganda (i.e., Homosexual cures!) where they want to kill all homosexuals you have to wonder: What would Jesus think?

Rating Agencies

“prompting the rating agency Moody’s to threaten a downgrade in America’s bond ratings”

I am not an economist or an expert in finance, rather I am a soil scientist, but I am wondering from the outside looking in why you all even put any stock in the rating agencies any more, Didn’t Michael Lewis in “Panic” and elsewhere thoroughly debunk the validity of these completely subjective TripleA ratings? I am not implying that the US economic standing is not teatering….it is indeed! But to rely on one of the “Big 3” to validate such a claim….well that would not have held water if I were to try to defend it to my dissertation committee. Just a thought.

Two things I have learned since this crisis about regulation…Its all about the Big 3:

1. Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is basically run by Ernst & Young, KPMG, and Deloite Touche.

2. Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poors control the rating process in the US.

Isn’t this worth an anti-trust glance or two or three?

Is the output from these companies valid in any way if we don’t have access to their methods?

H1N1 One Year (Almost) On

What have we learned from the H1N1 scare?

Well we have learned that fear grips even the most rational of human beings when they are bombarded with scare campaigns not seen since the days following 9-11. I suspect that much of this fear was ginned up by the Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex (PIC). How can I make such a dark accusation? Let us look at the movement of Roche’s share prices before and after H1N1 was discovered. Roche happens to be the predominant maker of H1N1 vaccine commonly called Tamiflu. They are based in Switzerland and trade on the Swiss Exchange. The graph below depicts shares of Roche in current US dollars (i.e. 1 Us Dollar = 0.9437 Swoss Framcs). The perforated lines in the main graph and inset pinpoint the week of April 27th, 2009, which is commonly used as the starting point of the “pandemic”. The inset is simply the aforementioned week to the present blown up to highlight the post-H1N1 trend for Roche’s shareholders.

roche_shares3I am not proclaiming some sort of grand conspiracy, but what I am pointing out is that there clearly was a financial incentive for Roche to perpetuate the global tamiflu campaign given their near monopoly on the vaccine (Note: This is the kind of thing that antitrust advocates have been screaming about for decades).

Roche’s share price had reached lows not seen since November of 2004 in the month prior to the H1N1 outbreak, but curiously enough many investors were prescient in going overweight Roche in the weeks leading up to the outbreak raising the share price from the previously mentioned five year low of $121.81 to 140.04 in the week that preceded the 1,400 suspected cases reported in Mexico (i.e., April 2oth, 2009).  To put it more succinctly shares of Roche have gained 142% between the IPO in May of 2001 and March 5th, 2010 (116 Months). Yet,  they only gained 117% between the IPO and the week prior to the H1N1 outbreak (104 Months). In the  forty-seven weeks since the April 26th, 2009 outbreak shares of Roche have gained 122% rising from $140.04 to 170.52. That is quite a turn of events for a company that seemed to be floundering and it is also quite the investment for those investors I mentioned earlier that went long Roche in the month prior to the “pandemic” as they have accrued an average return of 140%.

There is one more point to dovetail with the apparent windfall profits generated for one business in a time of near global panic and that is the data used to generate said panic.

h1n14The data above describe the total number of H1N1 cases globally as of calendar year 2009-2010. The data represents 28% of the world’s 195 countries, 81 and 94% of the reported Cases and Deaths, 72% of the world’s population, and 58% of the world’s births per annum (h1n1). From this table we see that the phrase “much ado about nothing” – either the Shakespeare comedy or Kenneth Branagh flick – doesn’t do justice to this supposed global scare. The Average-Median Case and Total Death Range was 5,798-52,804 and 132-601, respectively, with totals of 1,326,367 and 16,264. However, the percent of cases that resulted in death globally was 1.10% with an Average-Median range of 2.47-6.83%. I assume this number is one that Roche will take all the credit for and will likewise brush aside the accusation that the panic was at the very least overblown and more likely generated to save a stale and passed-it’s-prime pharmaceutical company.

So some will say and rightly so that I am being completely insensitive to those that lost loved ones during the H1N1 outbreak. I would simply say that I am not insensitive but simply pointing out the fact that a very small sector of the world benefited greatly from your loss (i.e., Roche Shareholders) and that unfortunately people do die, but to say we need to pull out all the stops for such an infinitesimal sector of society is crazy and frankly irresponsible.

Lets look at the data another way so as to put it – and the campaign to eradicate the world of all viruses and sicknesses no matter the cost – in perspective. Globally 0.00026% of the population died from H1N1 and when you consider the world’s exponentially mushrooming population as the balance between births and deaths we see that H1N1 deaths were 0.01258% of births worldwide. These are numbers that border on the non-detectable when compared to pressures such as drought, war, famine, AIDS, malaria, etc. Additionally, it is worth noting the US has lost 4,386 men and women in Iraq since the occupation began, with a similar trend evident in Afghanistan. The former is 0.00143% of the US population, which is a greater than those killed by H1N1 in this country. Just a little perspective as I don’t see any fuss being made over the countless bodies arriving in Delaware every week. As a matter of fact former President Bush/Cheney wouldn’t even let pictures be taken of this type of seen.

The fact is that H1N1 and the inertia involved in fighting it’s spread lined the pockets of Roche shareholders. The general public writ large was stirred into a frenzy by a convergence of private and public forces for myriad reasons, but undoubtedly the private concerns centered on going long Roche in the weeks leading up to the outbreak and sustaining that momentum to the present day. The data does not lie!

What is that famous line “The Plural of anecdote is data”? Well it says here that the data paint an entirely different and markedly less dire picture than tha forwarded by popular media and the Madison Avenue wunderkinds.

EMF? Where will it end?

There is now very serious talk about a European Central Fund, which would largely be supported by the profligate ways of Eastern and Southern Europe.

I wonder how this EMF would be funded? Would it be as its supporters claim a function of a 1% tax on all money a given EU country has about the Maastricht Treaty Debt and Deficit to GDP requirements? How long would a country have to be above the 60 and 3% thresholds, respectively. I feel as though countries with stout track records would be given substantial temporal leashes while the PIIGS would be put on a spit and roasted within months and prayed upon by speculators. Look if you go ahead with this EMF and the Lisbon Treaty you are opening yourself up to a common currency aggregate that has no ceiling (i.e., a global currency). Talk about too big to fail! Or is it too interconnected to fail?

“The EMF could be run along similar governance lines to the IMF, by having a professional staff remote from direct political influence and a board with representatives from euro-area countries. Just as the existing fund does, the EMF would conduct regular and broad economic surveillance of member countries. But its main role would be to design, monitor and fund assistance programmes for euro-area countries in difficulties, just as the IMF does on a global scale.”

No way does the highlighted part of the above quote from The Economist article happen! We have reached a point as Steven Roach of Morgan Stanley noted in “Stephen Roach on the Next Asia: Opportunities and Challenges for a New Globalization” where the line between fiscal policy, monetary policy, and politics is imperceptible. It is as if we are redressing the church v. state debate even though we know there is not such thing.

“Countries could, for instance, be charged an annual contribution of 1% of their “excess debt”, the difference between their actual level of public debt and the limit of 60% of GDP agreed on as one of the Maastricht criteria for euro entry. A similar charge could be levied on governments’ excess deficits, the amount exceeding the Maastricht limit of 3% of GDP. Under these parameters the EMF would have accumulated about €120 billion ($163 billion) over the past decade, enough to cover the likely costs of rescuing Greece. These levies are not so big that they make it impossible for offenders to get to grips with their finances. Under this scheme the Greek contribution to an EMF would have been 0.65% of GDP in 2009.”

Another canard. We are being guided by captains that would like to steer the ship towards a single global currency, which as I said would be the ultimate paradox given everyone’s fascination with Too Big To…..(Fill in the blank!).

Update On Iraq Geography

Just another great map from The Economist. Refer back to the map in a previous post regarding The Trigger Line as it is called in Iraq. Here it is essentially the line separating the Two Shades of Iraq.


Chart of the Day

How bout them apples!

I love it when 1+1 = 3

cleanwaterThis figure comes from the truly noble work of Charles Duhigg at The Times. He has been grinding away at the data and the latest piece in this series “Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Foiling E.P.A.” along with the articles in the series. I wonder what the math will add up to given the recent Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. This whole mess centers on the use or deletion of the word ‘navigable’ when referring to those bodies of water that are or are not under the EPA’s purview. Anyway what we are seeing here is a full-frontal assault on all laws pertaining to common decency with respect to “natural resources”. When the rivers turn red we will have no one to blame but ourselves, because the solutions are out there and the data is sound, but the will is quiescent.