May 5th, 2009

Trajedy... for YOUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!

Iraq to US: Get your troops the hell out of our cities by June 30.

Iraq's government Monday ruled out allowing U.S. combat troops to remain in Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal, despite concern that Iraqi forces cannot cope with the security challenge following a resurgence of bombings in recent weeks.

The departure of heavily armed combat troops from bases inside the cities is important psychologically to many Iraqis, who are eager to regain control of their country after six years of war and U.S. military occupation.


The security agreement allows Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to request an extension of the deadlines if he feels Iraqi forces need help. But the prime minister's spokesman said the withdrawal deadlines, including the June 30 date, were "non-extendable."

"These dates cannot be extended and this is consistent with the transfer and handover of responsibility to Iraqi security forces," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

Kurdish officials would prefer to keep U.S. troops in Mosul after the deadline. "I have doubts about security and stability in Mosul," Kurdish politician Saadi Ahmed Pera said. "Therefore, U.S forces should stay in Mosul until all the pending problems among political groups in the city are solved."

However, many other key Iraqi politicians, including the newly elected leadership in Mosul, oppose keeping U.S. combat troops in urban areas after the June deadline. Al-Maliki, a Shiite, needs the support of the Sunni leadership in Mosul as he prepares for national elections by the end of the year.

The new governor of the Mosul area told the AP on Monday that the departure of U.S. troops from the city will actually reduce violence, since much of it is directed at the Americans. "A U.S. withdrawal will reduce the number of targets," Gov. Atheel al-Nujaifi said. "We believe it's important for U.S. troops to stay in camps outside the cities to provide help only if needed."

The requirement to leave the cities applies only to combat troops and not to trainers, advisers and others in noncombat roles. The agreement does not preclude combat soldiers from patrolling in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities from bases outside the city limits.

But prominent Shiite lawmaker Abbas al-Bayati said extending the June 30 deadline would "send the wrong signal to the Iraqi people" that the Americans might remain in the country indefinitely.

"Thus both sides must stand together to fulfill the withdrawal timetable," he said.

Odds of this actually happening? Nil. Even well-meaning Liberals are still convinced that we need to stay in Iraq. I mean, obviously we can't just give them their country back the way that Dubya just took it away from them, can we? Noooo. That would be wrong, for some abstract reason.

This fucking country. So not going to miss it.

The Coder Behind the Mortgage Meltdown

At Lehman, I began a thirteen-year effort to streamline the process of securitizing home mortgages, as well as other forms of debt. That was 1988, around the time of the savings-and-loan crisis. Remember that one? Lenders had gone nuts with, what else, real estate, and as they went bust, the government was stepping into the breach. Mortgage securitization was the answer. Retail lenders could make the loan, take a fee, then sell the mortgage to an investment bank. The bank, after bundling thousands of the mortgages together, could, through a little software magic, issue bonds based on that bundle of loans. Now, an investor does not want a single person’s mortgage, much the same as you may not want to underwrite your sibling’s purchase of an overpriced McMansion. But when 1,000 similar loans are combined, and the U.S. government, through Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, absorbs the default risk, you now have a nifty little AAA-rated piece of paper paying one or two points above Treasury bills. And if the value of the loans is in excess of the limit set by the government agencies, your savvy friends on Wall Street can create a class of subordinated bonds that will absorb all the defaults in the deal. With friends like these...

While I slaved away at the sausage grinder, CMOs took off—$6 billion were issued in 1983, and by 1988, the annual output had jumped to $94 billion. This was the era described in Liar’s Poker. Wall Street guys felt cool and funny; people who were getting ripped off were dumb and ugly and deserved it. I got a $50,000 bonus check, a 50 percent dollop on top of my salary. Peanuts to the traders, but a bloody fortune to me, for the easiest work I’d ever done. I could afford to rent a nicer place in Greenwich Village, go out to jazz clubs, bike in France. But even then, I was wondering why I was making more than anyone in my family, maybe as much as all my siblings combined. Hey, I had higher SAT scores. I could do all the arithmetic in my head. I was very good at programming a computer. And that computer, with my software, touched billions of dollars of the firm’s money. Every week. That justified it. When you’re close to the money, you get the first cut. Oyster farmers eat lots of oysters, don’t they?

I never would have thought, in my most extreme paranoid fantasies, that my software, and the others like it, would have enabled Wall Street to decimate the investments of everyone in my family. Not even the most jaded observer saw that coming. I can’t deny that it allowed a privileged few to exploit the unsuspecting many. But catastrophe, depression, busted banks, forced auctions of entire tracts of houses? The fact that my software, over which I would labor for a decade, facilitated these events is numbing. Is capitalism inherently corrupt? I don’t think the free flow of goods in and of itself is the culprit. No, it’s the complexity masked by thousands of unseen whirring widgets that beguiles people into a sense of power, a feeling of dominion over the future.