21 August 2014

Canada Puts off Decision on F-35 Purchase

I think that they will still buy it, PM Harper is determined to buy it, but it is significant that they are looking at doing a full up competition with other aircraft:
O, Canada, land of “peace, order and good government.” Land of compromise and polite politics. Land of turmoil over whether to buy the F-35.

As in the United States, the fighter plane has become a rancorous political issue. What once looked like a sure buy of 65 planes has been bogged down by infighting and un-Canadian vitriol, and the purchase is on hold while Canadian officials consider whether to buy another plane.
The decision effectively pushes the purchase decision past elections, and I don't think that anyone beside Boeing will submit a bid, the idea that Canada would purchase a non-US airframe being ludicrous, particularly for Harper, who really buys into the whole "special relationship" thing with the US.

The F%$#ing Council on Foreign Relations Blames the West for the Ukraine Crisis

If there is a boneheaded consensus on foreign policy inside the Beltway, it is the CFR, and they have just published an article in their house organ, Foreign Policy magazine, that blamed the US and NATO for creating the problem:
According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine -- beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 -- were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president -- which he rightly labeled a “coup” -- was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.

Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics. They tend to believe that the logic of realism holds little relevance in the twenty-first century and that Europe can be kept whole and free on the basis of such liberal principles as the rule of law, economic interdependence, and democracy.
I differ a bit here.

In addition to the whole Kumbaya stuff that John Mearsheimer is talking about, there is also the whole international finance/IMF colonialism, where they slash the social safety net, privatize everything at pennies on the dollar, and strip the assets from the country.

It's what Larry Summers protege Andrei Shleifer did after the fall of the USSR.
The West’s final tool for peeling Kiev away from Moscow has been its efforts to spread Western values and promote democracy in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, a plan that often entails funding pro-Western individuals and organizations. Victoria Nuland, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, estimated in December 2013 that the United States had invested more than $5 billion since 1991 to help Ukraine achieve “the future it deserves.” As part of that effort, the U.S. government has bankrolled the National Endowment for Democracy. The nonprofit foundation has funded more than 60 projects aimed at promoting civil society in Ukraine, and the NED’s president, Carl Gershman, has called that country “the biggest prize.” After Yanukovych won Ukraine’s presidential election in February 2010, the NED decided he was undermining its goals, and so it stepped up its efforts to support the opposition and strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.
California has a population of about 39 million, and in the ferociously expensive California Senate campaign in 2010, the two campaigns spent about $38 million dollars, or about a dollar per resident.

The Ukraine has a population of about 45 million so that $5 billion, which does not include the spending of other governments, nor the spending of private actors, is about $105 per resident.

It should be noted that the media markets in California are significantly more expensive than those of the Ukraine.
The West’s triple package of policies -- NATO enlargement, EU expansion, and democracy promotion -- added fuel to a fire waiting to ignite. The spark came in November 2013, when Yanukovych rejected a major economic deal he had been negotiating with the EU and decided to accept a $15 billion Russian counteroffer instead. ………
Note that the Russian offer was FAR more generous than that of the EU/IMF, grants rather than rolling over loans, and not requiring that pensioners be thrown out in the street, nor requiring that the cost of home heating to skyrocket.
……… That decision gave rise to antigovernment demonstrations that escalated over the following three months and that by mid-February had led to the deaths of some one hundred protesters. Western emissaries hurriedly flew to Kiev to resolve the crisis. On February 21, the government and the opposition struck a deal that allowed Yanukovych to stay in power until new elections were held. But it immediately fell apart, and Yanukovych fled to Russia the next day. The new government in Kiev was pro-Western and anti-Russian to the core, and it contained four high-ranking members who could legitimately be labeled neofascists.
Unfortunately, no one in the US understands the history, a real weakness of our body politic:
Putin’s actions should be easy to comprehend. A huge expanse of flat land that Napoleonic France, imperial Germany, and Nazi Germany all crossed to strike at Russia itself, Ukraine serves as a buffer state of enormous strategic importance to Russia. No Russian leader would tolerate a military alliance that was Moscow’s mortal enemy until recently moving into Ukraine. Nor would any Russian leader stand idly by while the West helped install a government there that was determined to integrate Ukraine into the West.
I would add that the fact that this was done through a coup, and that the US continues to back neofascist and hyper nationalist elements in the Ukraine makes it even worse.

Mearsheimer ascribes the impetus on coming from things like Eastern European emigres, etc., but I think that the impetus for the US was far more mercenary: They knew that if the former Warsaw Pact members joined NATO, they would be replacing their military equipment with equipment primarily made by US defense firms.

The Clinton administration was desperate to preserve the defense industry's industrial base, hence their subsidies for the aggressive merger activity in the sector in the 1990s, and in the time of the "Peace Dividend" selling our stuff to Eastern Europe.

The Europeans wanted integration with the East as well, but the cultural imperative there was that integration into the EU/Euro zone would make things better for everyone, prevent rain on picnic days, and keep their daughter from dating the guy with the tattoos and piercings. (Seriously, I can see no reason to admit Greece except for this. The country has been a complete basket case for its entire modern history)

George Kennan, Ambassador, Historian, and arguably the father of the Cold War strategy of containment, was prescient in his condemnation of NATO expansion:
In that same 1998 interview, Kennan predicted that NATO expansion would provoke a crisis, after which the proponents of expansion would “say that we always told you that is how the Russians are.” As if on cue, most Western officials have portrayed Putin as the real culprit in the Ukraine predicament. In March, according to The New York Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel implied that Putin was irrational, telling Obama that he was “in another world.” Although Putin no doubt has autocratic tendencies, no evidence supports the charge that he is mentally unbalanced. On the contrary: he is a first-class strategist who should be feared and respected by anyone challenging him on foreign policy.
I think that the author is overestimating Putin a bit.

I think that Putin's real strength is that he separates the personal from foreign relations: He does not think that friendly relations between world leaders count for much, so he does not take disagreements personally, while many in the west, particularly in the US, seem to think that friendly personal relations trump national interest.

It does not, and it should not.

H/t Washington's Blog.

How is that Euro Working for You?

It appears that the Euro, and the associated austerity, has precipitated a depression that exceeds what was seen in Europe the 1930s:
As I was arguing last week, it's time to call the eurozone what it really is: one of the biggest catastrophes in economic history.

There have been plenty of those lately. And it's not just the Great Recession. It's the way we've struggled to make up the ground we lost since. The United States, for one, has had its slowest postwar recovery. Britain has had its slowest one, period. But, six and a half years later, Europe has distinguished itself by not having much of a recovery at all. And, as you can see above, that's about to make it worse than the worst of the 1930s.

've taken the chart above from Nicholas Crafts, and extended it a bit to put Europe's depression in, well, even more depressing perspective. Eurozone GDP still hasn't gotten back to its 2007 level, and doesn't look like it will anytime soon. Indeed, it already wasn't clear if its last recession was even over before we found out the eurozone had stopped growing again in the second quarter. And not even Germany has been immune: its GDP just fell 0.2 percent from the previous quarter.

It's a policy-induced disaster. Too much fiscal austerity and too little monetary stimulus have crippled growth like almost never before. Europe is doing worse than Japan during its "lost decade," worse than the sterling bloc during the Great Depression, and barely better than the gold bloc then—though even that silver lining isn't much of one. That's because, at this rate, it'll only be another year until the eurozone is well behind the gold bloc, too.

So how is Europe making the Great Depression look like the good old days of growth? Easy: by ignoring everything we learned from it.
The Euro is a paper gold standard, and much like the German overreaction to the hyperinflation of the early 1920s led them to on stay on the gold standard too long, which created misery and social unrest, we are now seeing the Germany's current paranoia about inflation creating misery and social unrest.

The historical echoes to both world wars is deafening.

Curse You, Guardians of the Galaxy!!!

According to many sources, it's a decent movie.
That's all well and good, but in means that [it's everywhere], because it is the Summer blockbuster of the moment, as is its '70s soundtrack.
So, I have had Hooked on a Feeling stuck in my head all day, and I hate that fershlugginer song!!!
Gah!

Posted via mobile.

20 August 2014

It Figures that Texas Would Go Further than the NRA Could Tolerate

What could possibly go wrong with serving alcohol at gun shows?
The National Rifle Association sent out an alert to its members late Monday warning that an initiative in Texas to allow alcohol at gun shows could backfire and have a "devastating impact" on NRA events.

The warning came after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission proposed a new set of rules last week that would allow alcohol to be served at gun shows across the state. The catch was that organizers of the events had to disable all firearms on display, ban live ammunition, and prohibit buyers from taking possession of their weapons on site.

The changes would override the current protocol, in which alcohol-serving venues are made to suspend the sale of alcohol throughout the preparation and duration of a gun show.

But what might appear to be a relaxation of regulations on the gun show industry has not been well-received by the NRA. In an alert posted Monday by the organization's lobbying arm, the NRA asked its members to take action because the changes “could actually end these events as we know them”.
If there was a place that was too deep in the crazy for the NRA, it would be Texas.

A Good Start

The LA school district has decided to stop sending kids to juvie for minor infractions. This is a much better than the zero tolerance crap that has been pushed for the past few decades:
Students caught misbehaving in the nation's second largest school district will be sent to the principal's office rather than the courthouse as part of sweeping disciplinary reforms announced Tuesday by Los Angeles schools.

Under the new policy, police officers at Los Angeles Unified School District won't arrest or cite students for low-level offenses like possessing alcohol or marijuana but will instead refer students to administrators or counselors — a shift that educators and justice officials say will prevent students from becoming mired in the criminal justice system.

The decriminalization of student discipline marks the latest rollback to "zero tolerance" policies that were instituted in the 1970s and 1980s and intensified in the wake of the Columbine school shooting. School districts from California to Florida have instituted so-called restorative justice measures, which aim to address the underlying reasons for misconduct rather than mete out harsh punishments. The Obama administration in January issued recommendations favoring conflict resolution over arrests and citations.
The school to prison pipeline is a deeply wrong, and it good that school districts are beginning to recognize this fact.

Remind Me Never to Drive a Car in Russia

This guy has to be the luckiest motherf%$#er in all of Russia.



H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Well, I Would Prefer a Bounty on the Vulture's Heads, but this Works Too

Argentina is offering a voluntary bond swap to exit US jurisdiction:

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández announced plans on Tuesday to launch a voluntary debt swap aimed at dodging a US court ruling that last month triggered the country’s second default in less than 13 years.

The government is seeking approval from congress for plans that would enable it to service debt in Argentina as well as allow bondholders to exchange their debt issued under foreign law for bonds of the same value governed by local law.

Ms Fernández said Argentina would stop using Bank of New York Mellon as a trustee and instead make payments on its bonds via an account at Banco de la Nación in Buenos Aires, after the default was caused by a US judge preventing BNY Mellon from transferring $539m to bondholders.

The US Supreme Court upheld the judge’s ruling that Argentina must pay its so-called holdout creditors in full at the same time as paying the rest of its bondholders, who accepted a 65 per cent haircut on their bonds after a 2001 default.
One wonders how many of the bond holders will take the deal.

My guess is most of the non-vultures will if Argentina sweetens the deal by a few more basis points on the bonds.

Of course, the alternative is that the court will prevent disbursements to the bond-holders who refuse the swap for a few years so I don't think that the deal needs to be sweetened by all that much.

Still, I prefer sending bounty hunters after the vultures.

It's a Gang Sign, He's Black. QED

It appears that both CNN and the right wing twitterverse think that any hand gesture by a black man is a gang symbol:
Today in Ferguson, Mo., news, The Washington Post takes on the assertion that Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has been photographed flashing gang signs with members of the community.

He has not.

To reiterate: Capt. Johnson is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity that was formed in 1911 at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the hand sign you see in the pictures below is a Kappa greeting. The Kappas are part of the Divine Nine or the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the nine historically black fraternities and sororities that include Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta, none of which are gangs.
(emphasis mine)

Yes, a back man is President, so there is no more racism in society.

Make the stupid stop. Please.

I Think that I Invoked George Orwell Prematurely


Cartoon courtesy, XKCD
It appears that web based practice tests have license agreements that forbid you from remembering them: (all emphasis original)
Today's copyright-induced stupidity is brought to you by… a whole host of regulatory institutions. An anonymous Techdirt reader sent in a pointer to this ridiculous warning that greets those accessing the National Association of Legal Assistants practice tests. (Press "Sign In" to view the legal threats pop-up.)
These online practice tests and all items contained herein are protected by federal copyright law. No part of this examination may be copied, reproduced or shared in any manner, in part or whole, by any means whatsoever, including memorization or electronic transmission.
While I realize there have been several attempts to broaden the coverage of copyright and extend its length towards the far end of perpetuity, I was unaware that federal copyright law now provides remedies for the creation of infringing memories.

This would be merely inane (but still noteworthy), if this stupidity began and ended with the NALA's stern warning. But a search for that wording finds examples elsewhere.
Yeah, it ain't just them. It's the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, the Texas Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, and the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.

But the one that takes the cake is the Michigan State University, which actually forbids studying:
The examination and the items contained therein are protected by copyright law. No part of this examination may be copied or reproduced in part or whole by any means whatsoever, including memorization, note-taking, or electronic transmission.
Yep, a university has terms that ban studying.

Make the madness stop.


Your Daily Dose of Eric Arthur Blair


Also known as George Orwell
The US military has banned its personnel from accessing The Intercept website. You know, the place where Glenn Greenwald continues to publish Edward Snowden revelations:
The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.

According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.

A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.

The directive states:
We have received information from our higher headquarters regarding a potential new leaker of classified information. Although no formal validation has occurred, we thought it prudent to warn all employees and subordinate commands. Please do not go to any website entitled “The Intercept” for it may very well contain classified material.

As a reminder to all personnel who have ever signed a non-disclosure agreement, we have an ongoing responsibility to protect classified material in all of its various forms. Viewing potentially classified material (even material already wrongfully released in the public domain) from unclassified equipment will cause you long term security issues. This is considered a security violation.
A military insider subject to the ban said that several employees expressed concerns after being told by commanders that it was “illegal and a violation of national security” to read publicly available news reports on The Intercept.
This is bullsh%$, of course.

It's not unexpected, but it is still bullsh%$ none the less.

Your tax dollars at work.

19 August 2014

This is a Big Deal

Standard Charter bank has just agreed to pay a $300 million fine for money laundering, which really is pocket change, but they have also had their dollar clearing rights suspended which is a very big deal:
British banking giant Standard Chartered is a repeat offender, at least in the eyes of New York’s top financial regulator, which fined the bank $300 million and suspended its ability to convert currency for violating a money laundering settlement.

On Tuesday, the New York Department of Financial Service said Standard Chartered had not flagged a series of wire transfers from clients and locales at high risk for money laundering, running afoul of a 2012 agreement the bank inked with the regulator. Back then, the bank shelled out a total of $667 million to state and federal authorities for allegedly processing $250 billion in transactions for Iranian banks in violation of U.S. sanctions.
The suspension of dollar clearing privileges means that they can no longer transfer dollars into and out of the United States on their own, but have to use an intermediary who still has dollar clearing privileges, which adds cost and complexity, which serves to blow a huge hole in their business, since most transaction settle in dollars.

Benjamin Lawsky, head of the NY Department of Financial Service is arguably the most aggressive, and most effective, financial regulator in the US right now.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism believe that these actions have the potential to uncover the systemic rot in our banking system, but I am not as optimistic as she it.
In any case, more of this.

Tweet of the Day

Brilliant

New York Times Calls out Cuomo on Campaign Challenges

The Editorial Board are unamused by the Cuomo campaign's efforts to keep Zephyr Teachout off the ballot:
New York State voters rarely have enough real choice on their ballots, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems determined to keep it that way. Ever since another Democratic candidate for governor, Zephyr Teachout, arose on his left, Mr. Cuomo has tried to throw her off the primary ballot on the shaky grounds that she hasn’t met the state’s five-year residency requirement.

On Monday, a Brooklyn judge tossed that argument out of court, ruling that Ms. Teachout is perfectly qualified to be on the Democratic primary ballot on Sept. 9. But Mr. Cuomo, true to form, won’t back down. His aides immediately promised an appeal of the ruling. That is political bullying, and the governor should back off and engage with Ms. Teachout as a serious candidate. Doing otherwise suggests he is more nervous about winning a second term than he would like to appear.

………

Although Mr. Cuomo is leagues ahead in the polls and has a $32.5 million bankroll, he should not dismiss Ms. Teachout and her growing number of followers as irritants. Her criticisms are mostly legitimate, and he should defend his first term in a series of robust debates with her in the weeks before the primary, rather than through the timidity of litigation.

Before the ruling from Judge Edgar Walker of the State Supreme Court, the governor’s campaign lawyers tried briefly to challenge Ms. Teachout’s nominating petitions, which required 15,000 voters to support placing her name on the ballot. After she turned in 45,000 names, they turned to the state’s absurdly rigid residency requirements to challenge her. (State law requires that candidates for governor be a legal resident of New York for five years before the election. By comparison, candidates for the United States Senate only have to be residents on Election Day.)
I still don't think that she has the proverbial snowball's chance in hell, but the fact that that the Times editorial board is calling out Cuomo's politico cowardice is amusing.

Not The Onion*

The Egyptian government is urging restraint by the police in Ferguson, Missouri:
Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri - echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year. It is unusual for Egypt to criticize such a major donor. Ties between Washington and Cairo were strained after Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters following the army's ousting of freely elected President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
To quote Anna Russel, "I'm not making this up, you know."


*But it should be.

Shorter Republicans: N*****s Shouldn't Vote

The Executive director of the Missouri Republican Party has called the voter registration drive being conducted in Ferguson "Disgusting":
Encouraging more participation in the democratic process in a community that feels alienated from political power — hence the demonstrations — seems like an obviously good idea; and one that’s particularly compelling because it’s so simple. Voting is an alternative to protesting in the streets.

And yet, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, Matt Wills, denounced the plan.

Mr. Wills told the right-wing website Breitbart: “If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is. I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”

On another right-wing site, Red State, Dan McLaughlin also argued that there was something indecent about the registration drive. Ferguson presents an opportunity for “Right and Left” to find “common ground,” he wrote. But “the minute you turn your energies into just another effort to register Democratic voters and fire up the Democratic base in advance of an election,” he argued, “the harder you make it to keep the common ground from vanishing in the fog.”

In case you’re wondering, Mr. Sharpton did not say that the residents of Ferguson should vote for Democrats; he said they should vote, full stop. He didn’t even mention the ideological composition of the area’s governing bodies; though he did mention their racial composition (lopsidedly white in a majority black community). And of course the residents of Ferguson, once registered, will have the ability to vote for anyone they please — not just Democrats.
Your inner Jim Crow is showing, dudes.

Voter registration is not a partisan activity, it is an invocation to civic virtue, so of course Republicans are against it.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

This is the epitome of a pro police state mentality:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
Yes, just let the cop search your car, and your person when they have no right to.

Let them shut down your completely legal demonstration.

Let them prevent you from talking at a city council meeting because the Mayor disagrees with you.

Never, ever tape cops when they don't want you to.

How difficult is that?

Don't worry, cops never abuse their power.

Just a little pinprick. ……… But you may feel a little sick.

Another Person to Add to My List of They Who Must Not Be Named

Zoe Quinn.

I cannot separate fact from fiction, nor do I care to on the matter of the "Quinnspiracy".

But that has to be the most entertaining Wikipedia page entry that I have ever perused.

18 August 2014

This is Beyond Repulsive

It appears that some courts have made the conscious decision to imprison poor people for just being poor:
In a recent letter to the United States Sentencing Commission, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sharply criticized the growing trend of evidence-based sentencing, in which courts use data-driven predictions of defendants’ future crime risk to shape sentences. Mr. Holder is swimming against a powerful current. At least 20 states have implemented this practice, including some that require risk scores to be considered in every sentencing decision. Many more are considering it, as is Congress, in pending sentencing-reform bills.

Risk-assessment advocates say it’s a no-brainer: Who could oppose “smarter” sentencing? But Mr. Holder is right to pick this fight. As currently used, the practice is deeply unfair, and almost certainly unconstitutional. It contravenes the principle that punishment should depend on what a defendant did, not on who he is or how much money he has.

The basic problem is that the risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.

Such factors are usually considered inappropriate for sentencing; if anything, some might be mitigating circumstances. But in the new, profiling-based sentencing regimen, markers of socioeconomic disadvantage increase a defendant’s risk score, and most likely his sentence.
So, you live in the bad part of town (high crime area), you go to jail longer.

You grew up poor, you go to jail longer.

Broken family, you go to jail longer.

Unemployed, you go to jail longer.

From a single parent household, you go to jail longer.

As Hamilton Nolan observes:
Design an economic and political system that requires a great many people to be poor. Pass laws that are far more likely to be broken by poor people. Use a computer to dispassionately predict that poor people will probably break the law more in the future. Then sentence poor people to longer prison terms.
This is a f%$#ing abomination.

We Learned Nothing from the California Energy Crisis

It's Enron all over again, as energy traders loot the ratepayers through the magic of the market:
By 10 a.m. the heat was closing in on the North Shore of Long Island. But 300 miles down the seaboard, at an obscure investment company near Washington, the forecast pointed to something else: profit.

As the temperatures climbed toward the 90s here and air-conditioners turned on, the electric grid struggled to meet the demand. By midafternoon, the wholesale price of electricity had jumped nearly 550 percent.

What no one here knew that day, May 30, 2013, was that the investment company, DC Energy, was reaping rewards from the swelter. Within 48 hours the firm, based in Vienna, Va., had made more than $1.5 million by cashing in on so-called congestion contracts, complex financial instruments that gain value when the grid becomes overburdened, according to an analysis of trading data by The New York Times.

Those profits are a small fraction of the fortune that traders at DC Energy and elsewhere have pocketed because of maneuvers involving the nation’s congested grid. Over the last decade, DC Energy has made about $180 million in New York State alone, The Times found.

………

The contracts were intended to protect the electricity producers, utilities and industries that need to buy power. The thinking was that the contracts would help them hedge against sharp price swings caused by competition as well as the weather, plant failures or equipment problems. Those lower costs could reduce consumers’ bills.

But Wall Street banks and other investors have stepped in, siphoning off much of the money. In New York, DC Energy accounted for more than a quarter of the total $639 million in profits in the congestion markets between 2003 and 2013, The Times found. Some of DC Energy’s biggest paydays involved Port Jefferson, a village 60 miles east of Manhattan. Because of the geography of the grid, moving power from one point to another means demand often briefly outstrips supply here.

“Why aren’t we getting that money?” said Margot Garant, mayor of Port Jefferson. City officials, including the mayor, had not heard of DC Energy before they were told about it by The Times.

DC Energy — and its profits — are an unexpected result of the deregulation of the nation’s electric grid. The idea behind deregulation was to eliminate old monopolies and create robust, competitive markets that would encourage investment and ultimately lower costs for consumers. But in most places, electricity bills have been rising, not falling. While fuel prices, taxes and fees have added directly to the costs, Wall Street-style traders have contributed in subtle ways by turning new markets, like the trading of congestion contracts, to their advantage, The Times analysis found.

The contracts have attracted big money: More than $2 billion has been invested nationwide in the monthly auctions for contracts since 2011, according to Platts, a trade publication.
This is ALWAYS what happens when the decision is made to use the magic of the market instead of regulators.

The banksters figure out a way do rape us like a bunch of passed out sorority girls.

This sort of inherently parasitic behavior is what gave Timothy Geithner an erection when he waxes nostalgic about the increasing financialization of our economy.

Yes, James Risen Has a Legitimate Beef with Barack Obama

What has been done to him is so egregious that Maureen Dowd actually wrote a decent column, albeit it one that still contains gratuitous fashion references and a junior high school sensibility:
Over lunch near the White House on Friday, Risen, dressed in his Men’s Wearhouse shirt and khakis and his brown Ecco walking shoes, talked about having the sword of Damocles over his head, as the reluctant star of a searing media-government showdown that could end with him behind bars.
(See what I mean about the fashion bullsh%$?)
Risen said he’s not afraid that F.B.I. agents will show up one day at the suburban Maryland home he shares with his wife, Penny. (His three sons are grown, and one is a reporter.) But he has exhausted all his legal challenges, including at the Supreme Court, against the Obama administration.

“I was nervous for a long time, but they’ve been after me for six years so now I try to ignore it,” he said, musing that he’s already decided what he’ll take to prison: Civil War books and World War II histories.

The Justice Department is trying to scuttle the reporters’ privilege — ignoring the chilling effect that is having on truth emerging in a jittery post-9/11 world prone to egregious government excesses.

Attorney General Eric Holder wants to force Risen to testify and reveal the identity of his confidential source on a story he had in his 2006 book concerning a bungled C.I.A. operation during the Clinton administration in which agents might have inadvertently helped Iran develop its nuclear weapon program. The tale made the C.I.A. look silly, which may have been more of a sore point than a threat to national security.

But Bush officials, no doubt still smarting from Risen’s revelation of their illegal wiretapping, zeroed in on a disillusioned former C.I.A. agent named Jeffrey Sterling as the source of the Iran story.

The subpoena forcing Risen’s testimony expired in 2009, and to the surprise of just about everybody, the constitutional law professor’s administration renewed it — kicking off its strange and awful aggression against reporters and whistle-blowers.

Holder said in May that “no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail,” trying to show some leg and signal that his intention is benign, merely to put pressure on Sterling so that he will plead guilty before his trial.
I can think of no more contemptible reason to go after a reporter then to save a bit of effort by prosecutors.

This is the sort of crap that killed Aaron Swartz.
How can he use the Espionage Act to throw reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to the senators he spied on about it?

“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
I tend to agree.

The Obama administration has been implacably hostile to reporting on the US state security apparatus, to a degree that would make Richard Nixon go, "What the f%$#?"

Our security apparatus runs Barack Obama, not the other way around.

Israel's Nuclear Armed SSG


It looks like it's designed to sit on the sea floor
It's the Dolphin II class submarine, and in addition to being really ugly, it has 10 torpedo tubes, 6 of the standard 21 inch (533 mm) size, and 4 with a 26 inch (650 mm) tubes.

The obvious question is why the Dolphin II might need larger tubes, and the obvious answer is that it is used to launch the Popeye Turbo submarine launched cruise missle, which is alleged to have a 1500 km range, though it could also be used to deploy relatively large mines

As such, this constitutes a fairly formidable 2nd strike capability with nuclear weapons, along with the ability to launch conventional strikes at a fairly long range.

When combined with its AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system, which uses liquid oxygen and methanol reacted into hydrogen, which can allow for the boat to remain submerged for up to a month.

Of course, this assumes that Israel has nuclear weapons, but this assumes that Israel has nuclear weapons, which it neither conforms nor denies.  (Yeah.right)

A Correction That I am Happy to Make

In yesterday's post about the indictment against Rick Perry, I suggested that the indictment for abuse of official power against Rick Perry, I supported the outcome, but was dubious on the actual law.

Well, I was wrong. Both the facts and the law support this indictment.

First, in addition to his public pronouncements, Governor Goodhair called the Travis County DA to threaten the veto:
When Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry threatened to veto funding of her Public Integrity Unit—which investigates corruption of local, state, and federal public officials. Sources close to the investigation told me that Perry’s threat happened as the unit’s prosecutors were investigating whether Perry’s political backers and campaign contributors had received preferential and improper treatment in receiving grants from an anti-cancer state agency, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

……… (Run of the mill Texas corruption snipped)

When Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry threatened to veto funding of her Public Integrity Unit—which investigates corruption of local, state, and federal public officials. Sources close to the investigation told me that Perry’s threat happened as the unit’s prosecutors were investigating whether Perry’s political backers and campaign contributors had received preferential and improper treatment in receiving grants from an anti-cancer state agency, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Making public statements and publicly threatening a veto is one thing, but the behind the scenes machinations and contacts by his evil minions appear to be a direct threat against the office that is investigating him.

And then there is the legal precedent:
The closest precedent dates back to 1917, when Gov. James Ferguson, who wanted the University of Texas to fire some faculty and staff of which he disapproved, was indicted based on his veto of funding to the university. Ferguson resigned before he was convicted. "There's not really any legal or political precedent for this. You've got to go back nearly a century," Jillson said.
I think that the case is far stronger than is made out in Politico.

The case against Perry is a lot stronger than against Ferguson, because those college professors were not investigating him and his, and DA Lehmberg is investigating him and his.

I still think that it is a tough case to prove unless the DA turns one of Perry's evil minions, but I do think that it is a winnable case.

This is Unbelievably Awesome



Sam Waters is a freaking genius!