Francis Vierboom's Blog

A blog about things. Mostly news, ideas, and Sydney

Archive for February 2010

Primaries down under!

leave a comment »

Interesting news, via Andrew Carr at Chasing the Norm, that the Victorian State ALP will hold a ‘trial’ primary for the state seat of Kilsyth. From the ALP website:

A primary will allow any resident of the Kilsyth electorate to register as a Labor supporter and vote for the person they want to be the ALP candidate in Kilsyth.This is the first time in Australian history that any major party has given its supporters a chance to play such a large roll in choosing their candidate.

To register all you need to do is complete the form on this page and return it to the ALP and then turn up to vote.

The primary battle between Obama and Hillary was one of the great political spectacles of all time, possibly only matched by the election itself. I certainly don’t think primaries are the greatest thing ever, but they definitely have their benefits. It could get Australian voters a lot more engaged with politics.

Then again, Australians (like most citizens of any democratic country) demonstrate a consistent “whatever” attitude to most politics, aka the footy game for nerds. It might just be the next World Series Cricket: a huge shake-up that only 10% of people even remotely care about.

Written by Francis

February 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

So Goldman Sachs actually did steal taxpayer money?

leave a comment »

I had always assumed people like Matt Taibbi were being dramatic when accusing the banks of being ‘great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity‘, but this really does sound like stealing to me. Via Kevin Drum:

Basically, Goldman acquired lots of mortgage-backed securities they thought were likely to tank, then bought CDS contracts from AIG to insure against that decline. Megan Carpentier summarizes the rest:

  • When Goldman’s investments declined, they submitted insurance claims for the losses, but insisted on determining the amount of their damages on their own, without any input from AIG, any auditor or the market.
  • After Goldman got as much money out of AIG as they thought they could, their stock analysts issued a report about how AIG was bleeding cash and their creditors wouldn’t negotiate, without mentioning that AIG was bleeding cash because of them and that Goldman was the creditor that wouldn’t negotiate. AIG’s stock tanked.
  • The government stepped in, took an 80 percent share in AIG and then paid Goldman and the other creditors all the money they’d asked AIG for at the start of the negotiations in 2007, without using their power to force AIG’s creditors to negotiate.

When the federal government, including then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (who once served as chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs), directed AIG to pay Goldman exactly what it wanted, it overrode significant and long-standing misgivings by AIG’s lawyers and accountants that Goldman’s estimates of its losses were correct. Morgenson and Story note that the prices on the very securities for which Goldman demanded insurance payments have since rebounded — but under the terms of the deal struck by the federal government, Goldman doesn’t have to pay a cent of its insurance settlement back to either AIG or the taxpayers. That’s quite the sweetheart deal for Goldman Sachs, if not taxpayers.

Now, of course, the question is what did Tim Geithner know about this and when did he know it? That story is still developing.

Written by Francis

February 10, 2010 at 9:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tuesday links: fun edition

leave a comment »

– Happy 90210 Day, at least in those parts of the world where the date is dd-mm-yy. Which is basically everywhere, except for the USA which uses the completely irrational mm-dd-yyyy, North Asia which uses the extremely sensible and machine-sortable yyyy-mm-dd, and Canada, which has no idea what to do.

– Award for ‘darkest use of a balloon in 2010‘ (via this isn’t happiness)

43 Ways To Simplify Your Life: if you hate those pithy lists full of boring irrelevant advice like ‘Throw away all your clutter’ and ‘Say hi to a stranger on a train’ and ‘Organise things in manila folders’, you will definitely enjoy this list.

The Zoomquilt. Related: Trailer for the new Alice in Wonderland.

The Glebe on 52 suburbs.

Written by Francis

February 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Wednesday linkage: Wingnut special

leave a comment »

These links posts are my favourite really. Combined with my favourite species of ‘persons in public life’, wingnuts.

– Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s opposition finance spokesman (and reportedly an accountant), when asked where he could find $3.2 billion of spending cuts to balance the budget for the Coalition climate change “policy”, points out that it should be easy to find “3.2” in “$1,400 million” of Labor spending. Would be hilarious if it wasn’t quite so disturbing that apparently none of the journos there called him out on it.

– I often watch the first few minutes of Glenn Beck on Fox News, who appears at 9am in the morning Sydney time, because he is occasionally funny, occasionally reveals a bit of self-awareness, but mostly because he is a terrifying re-incarnation of what I imagine is the paranoid, conspiracy-theory-laden demagoguery of the scariest dictatorships in 20th century history. Arianna Huffington forced him to come into contact with reality to defend his own statements about how the people “in control… are taking you to a place to be slaughtered,” and, referring to the Obama administration, “this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees”.

Related: 63% (plus 16% not sure) of Republicans think Obama is a socialist, 53% (33%) think Palin is more qualified to be president, 39% (29%) think Obama should be impeached, and 31% (33%) think he is “a racist who hates white people”.

Related: Glenn Beck debuted on the Harris Poll for Favorite TV Personality in second place, behind Oprah but ahead of Jay Leno, Ellen, and House.

Related: Survey of US residents finds Fox News is ‘trusted’ by the largest number of respondents (49%); other news networks polled in the 30s.

Somewhat related: “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran”. (via Wonkette)

– And just to bring it back to Barnaby, the best clip so far from ABC2 News Breakfast (the show that ends just before Glenn Beck), where Virginia Trioli is caught (or is it deliberate?) on camera making the crazy sign after Barnaby has finished a climate change rant

Written by Francis

February 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized