31 March 2010

Court Rules Gene Patents Illegal

It is generally true that bad people push the law until it breaks, and the folks at Myriad Genetics are a truly nasty bit of work.

Basically, they discovered the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which predispose one to breast cancer, and had received a patent on the genes, and offered a not particularly good and very expensive test for the genes, and using their government granted monopoly, they were prohibiting any and all competing tests or research on better tests for these genes.

The judge has now ruled that the genes are a discovery, and not an invention, which makes them non-patentable, except, perhaps in Germany.*

The VC's are wringing their hands, because patent protection helps with their pump and dump schemes, but development has been continuing apace on genes that are not covered by these patents:
Some biotechnology investors and executives say that lack of patent protection for DNA could diminish investment and remove incentives to develop tests. That could slow the move toward so-called personalized medicine, in which genetic tests are used to determine which drugs are best for which patients.

James P. Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, said that would not necessarily be the case. There is thriving competition in areas like testing for mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, even though no company has exclusivity.

“It’s quite demonstrable that in the diagnostic area, one does not need gene patents in order to see robust development of these tests,” he said.
Note that this does not prohibit patenting the tests, it just prohibits patenting the genes.

This is a good ruling: the patenting of genes, or for that matter the patents of hedging techniques, as is the case in Bilski, which the Supreme Court will heard arguments for in November.

IP law is, at its core, public interest law (it's in the constitution), and patents on business methods, species, and genes, do not serve the public interest

Earlier posts on the subject.

*This is what got us that Mercedes ad where they say that they have a patent on crumple zones, but "Never enforced the Patent". They never enforced the patent, because it is not recognized anywhere else in the world.
I believe Germany changed their patent laws at some point in the 1970s.
I offer the caveat that these comments in the footnotes regarding the Mercedes patent are recollections of a conversation over a decade ago vague 20+ year old memories though, so YMMV, though a Google search does have people who recall the ad.

Obama Says, "Drill, Baby, Drill"

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The Audacity of D'oh!
Once again, Barack Obama decides to cock-punch the base, and he announces a massive expansion of offshore drilling that largely echos those of George W. Bush, with the protection of Bristol Bay being the only major change.

He did this with nuclear power a 1½ months ago, so I guess that this is not a surprise, particularly given his lip service to the fraud that is "clean coal."

It appears that part of his goal is to get some Republican support for his climate change bill, but, as was shown in healthcare reform, the Republicans are not good faith actors.

Better to use the recent EPA declaration about C02 emissions as a harmful emissions as a club, and keep this in your back pocket, because giving away the store upfront results in really bad policy.

Someone Explain This To Me

The Supreme Court just handed down a decision in Jones v. Harris, where investors sued brokers for excessive fees.

CNN has an article titled, "Mutual fund investors win Supreme Court victory," and Reuters has an article titled, "Supreme Court hands victory to mutual fund industry."

It appears that the court rejected the lower court ruling that, "That the competition that has developed among mutual funds in recent years is sufficient protection for mutual fund investors," which would be construed as a win for investors, but retained the standard of, "fees are excessive only when they are so high they could not be the result of arm's-length bargaining and bear no reasonable relationship to the services provided."

It sounds to me like they split the baby, which seems to be the SCOTUSblog's take on this too, which would imply to me that we will see this back before the court in the next decade or so.

Chinese Automaker Buys Volvo Auto from Ford

The price was $1.8 billion, which, once again, is not much more than a few magic beans.

Shocker of the Day: Global Warming Deniers Funded by Oil Company

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!
It turns out that Koch Industries has funneled millions of dollars to a veritable alphabet soup of anti-global warming front groups.

I've been aware of this for a while, it just pops up every now and again that the Koch family is seriously right wing (see their backing of the teabaggers), but Greenpeace has connected the dots:
A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.

The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.

Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.
I put this down as a "Captain Renault" moment. It's been clear for a very long time that the global warming skeptics are a "rent a crowd."

Court Finds NSA Guilty of Illegal Wiretapping

This was the lawsuit against the NSA for their warrantless wiretapping of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and their discussions with their lawyers, and Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has granted a summary judgment against the government, basically saying that the Foundation had good evidence of wiretapping, and if the US government was unwilling to provide exculpatory evidence, it was making a broad claims of the state secrets privilege.

Basically, he said that the government refused to defend themselves, and that the state secrets privilege is trumped by FISA. so they lose the case.

As Emptywheel notes:
Walker is basically saying, “Well, government, if you won’t give us any evidence to prove you legally wiretapped al-Haramain, and given all the evidence they’ve presented proving they were wiretapped, then they win!”

Here’s his argument. The government had a way to defend against al-Haramain’s case directly, in camera, but they refused to avail themselves of it.
Unfortunately, this may not mean much, because they actually had proof of wiretapping, because the prosecution accidentally delivered logs of the wiretaps to them during discovery.

This is unlikely to be repeated.

Needless to say, I am sick and tired of the Obama administrations full throated defense of executive branch overreach and secrecy, as well as their attempts to further the coverup of Bush administration law breaking under the guise of "looking ahead."

I am very happy that they lost today.

Economics Update

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Philly Fed 1st Q: 25 states down, 18 up, 7 unchanged
The official non-farm payroll (NFP) number comes out on Friday, but today we have the private report from ADP, which shows a loss of 23,000 jobs, but the payroll withholding taxes numbers imply an increase in total jobs of something in the 300,000 range.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Bank of the Federal Reserve has released its State Coincident Indexes, which show that half of the states contracted over the past 3 months, and 23 decreased in the past month.

It's better than it was a year ago, but it's still not good.

In the consumer sector, consumer spending rose in February, and the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose in March.

On the production side, factory orders rose for the 6th month, though the data was not good in the Midwest, with the, with the Chicago purchasing managers index falling.

In real estate, mortgage application, including purchases, rose last week, and Fannie Mae has reported that mortgage delinquencies rose to 5.52% in January.

Note that because of the different times covered, these numbers may be consistent.

Across the ponds, Euro zone inflation rose to 1.5% year over year, and unemployment broke 10%, while in China, manufacturing grew faster than forecast in March.

Meanwhile, for reasons that I do not understand, oil rose, though the Chinese manufacturing data might have led to concerns over additional demand, and both the dollar and the Yen fell on reduced demand for safe havens.


California Republican Senate Candidate, Carly Fiorina, who appears to intend to do to the Golden State what she did to Hewlett Packard,*, has now Jewish voters to "break bread" over Passover:
This week, as we break bread and spend time with our families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks for our freedom and for those who have given their lives in freedom’s name. Let us also look ahead with hope to the opportunities to come.
(emphasis mine)

For those of you who don't get it, Jews are not supposed to eat bread during Passover. What we eat is Matzoh, which is an unleavened biscuit which has more in common with the box that it comes in than it does with a loaf of bread.

This is really, really stupid, and statement from her PR flak, that, "We meant all bread, leavened and unleavened, and matzo is just unleavened bread so that's what we meant by that," is just plain lame.

Matzoh is not bread, as any of the millions of Jews who are Jonesing for a piece of bread right now can tell you, and the idea of describing a Passover Seder (ritual festival meal) as "breaking bread" is wrong on so many levels.

The stupid, it burns us!

*When she was fired employees sprang into spontaneous song, singing, "Ding, Dong, the witch is dead!"

Full letter follows

We Now Have a Video of a Teabagger Spitting on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)

People Who Don't Read the Constitution
So much for all the Teabaggers, as well as Sean Hannity, denying that it ever happened.

Someone does not understand congressional immunity:
...shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same, and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
(emphasis mine)

A congressman in that position could have pulled out a gun and shot the protesters dead,* and shot them dead, because they are immune from almost all prosecution.

Doubtless any member of the House or Senate who did this would be expelled in short order, but prosecution would be complex, to say the least.

*Take my legal advice with a grain of salt, I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit!
I LOVE IT when I get to go all Doctor McCoy!!!

PAK-FA Video Pron

With Subtitles (6:39)

30 March 2010

Apoligies Do Not Make One a Gentleman

And while retired Marine Corps General John Sheehan is clearly an officer, notwithstanding his apology for lying about being told that it was "te gay" in the Dutch that resulted in the Srebrenica massacre, he is no gentleman, because it is clear that consciously and deliberately lied before Congress in his testimony:
A retired American general has apologized for a remark to the U.S. Senate suggesting that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for the Srebrenica massacre by Serb soldiers in Bosnia, according to the Defense Ministry.


Sheehan had cited Van den Breemen, the Dutch military’s chief of staff at the time of the massacre, as his source when he told the Senate committee Dutch army chiefs had believed gays were “part of the problem” in the fall of Srebrenica.

“I am sorry that my recent public recollection of those discussions of 15 years ago inaccurately reflected your thinking on some specific social issues in the military,” Sheehan wrote to Van den Breemen.
What happened here is clear: He lied, and he figured that it would not go beyond the committee room.

Well, it did, and I would hope that any entity which wishes to hire him as a military consultant understands this.

My earlier post.

Republican National Committee Spending Money on Bondage Themed Lesbian Shows

No, really, this is not The Onion:
According to two knowledgeable sources, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele once raised the possibility of using party money to buy a private jet for his travel.


While Steele has not purchased a plane, he continues to charter them. According to federal disclosure records, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period). There are no readily identifiable private plane expenses for Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in the DNC’s last three months of filings.


Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

RNC trips to other cities produced bills from a long list of chic and costly hotels such as the Venetian and the M Resort in Las Vegas, and the W (for a total of $19,443) in Washington. A midwinter trip to Hawaii cost the RNC $43,828, not including airfare.
(emphasis mine)

There have been some complaints that Michael Steele has been spending his time stumping for Michael Steele, and his upcoming book, and not the party, but this is just nuts.

This is not a picture of a party resurgent.

Militia Arrests in Michigan

It appears that the Hutaree, a right wing Christofascist militia group, and it should be noted one so crazy that it gave other Christofascist militia groups the heebee jeebees, has been the subject of raids by the FBI and the DHS, and at least 7 members were arrested.

One interesting bit here is that the other militia groups in Michigan have been falling all over themselves to help the authorities.

The indictment has been unsealed, and among the accusations are that they were intending to "levy war" against the United States, by killing law enforcement officers:
According to federal authorities, the group had identified a Michigan law enforcement officer as a potential target. Their idea was to kill that officer and when law enforcement officials from around the country came to the area for the funeral, they would attack the procession with improvised explosive devices and "explosively formed projectiles." They hoped the attack would serve as a "catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the government."

A scouting mission was planned for April and, if someone had stumbled upon the mission, the Hutaree decided they could be killed, according to the indictment.
I expect to see more of this.

The Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theory Generator

The folks at Political Humor came up with this, and it's too good not to share.

The odd thing is that this is saner than the original (Beck), but I guess that artificial stupidity is just as hard as artificial intelligence.

If you go to the link (you can click on the picture), then you can see the generator, which cycles through all sorts of psycho-pathological goodness.

Still, it makes me wonder if Glenn Beck is not just some sort of bizarre performance artist putting all of us on.

29 March 2010

Stiglitz on the Economy

Depressing … True … But Depressing
The Nobel Prize winning economist has been in opposition to the general economic/political religion consensus that efficient markets will save us all.

This is rather lengthy, 1:06:10, but this is clear and relatively easily understood talk on why the great crash occurred, and what needs to be done.

It is a blistering indictment of both the financial regime, and the state of affairs in economics as an academic institution.

The man is brilliant, and he understands how the conventional wisdom is wrong, and so, he will never get a phone call from the Obama administration.

Deep Thought

robot chicken: inspector gadget
I've replaced the video embed with a link, because the vid auto-starts.

Inspector Gadget as You've Never Seen Him Before?

The site is slow, allow it to buffer for 2-3 minutes before hitting play.

Deep Thought

H/t Driftglass.

I've Got Some Stuff in the Queue, But…

Tonite starts the first two days of Passover, and my orthodox Mother-in-Law is here, so I'm off* for the next 48 hours.

According to my calculations, candles are lit in 18 minutes.

I do have a few posts of non-topical things that will appear randomly.

*I'm always a little bit off, I mean that I'm not blogging, or going on the computer at all.

Best Apology Ever!

Writer J.D. Shapiro, apologizing for being the 1st script writer for Battlefield Earth.

Seriously, I cannot do justice to this, not can I provide excerpts that do justice, but here is a sample:
During my Scientology research, I met an employee who I instantly had a crush on. She was kind of a priestess, and had dedicated her life to working for the church by becoming a Sea Org member. She said that she signed a billion-year contract. I said, "What! Really?" She said she got paid a small stipend of $50 a week, to which I said, "Can you get an advance on the billion years, like say, a mere $500,000?" And then she said as a Sea Org member, you can't have sex unless you're married. I asked her if she was married. She said yes. So I said, "Great! That means we can have sex!"
It is simply exquisite!

Go read.

28 March 2010

Asking the Important Questions

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While one might quibble about some of these choices, anything that replaces Jar Jar is a good thing
Such as Who Would Be Cast in The Coen Brothers’ Star Wars?

Note that in one case, there is no change.

Cleaning Ferociously for Passover

Not sure I'm going to have much of a chance to post.

Posted via mobile.

27 March 2010


Barack Obama has finally realized that playing nice with the 'Phants, and has made 15 recess appointments in response to Republicans filibustering his nominees.

Most notably are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce for the National Labor Relations Board, and and Jacqueline Berrien and Chai Feldblum in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, basically because these are people who won't reflexively rule for the rich pig fat cats.

Personally, I would have gone further.

If the Republicans don't want Becker or Pearce on the NRLB, the response should be to appoint Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and SEIU President Andy Stern.

If the Republicans don't like that, they can allow an up or down vote on the nominees.

Full White House statement after break

Just Bloody Marvelous

It appears Orrin Hatch, who voted against the healthcare bill, and is claiming that the healthcare bill is unconstitutional, still managed to insert ¼ billion in funding for abstinence only education.


These programs don't work, and in fact the only effect appears to be encourage higher risk behavior, like anal sex, but the Republicans have gotta pay off a constituency, and for some reason, the Dems have let them.

F%$# that.

Have I Mentioned that I Love Alan Grayson*

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Alan Grayson on being targeted by Sarah Palin.

I want him to be President ………… Or I want him to be Howard Dean's Vice-President.


*In a 110% purely heterosexual kind of way, of course, as the General would say.

Not a Good Week for the JSF

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The Problem: As development times of microprocessors and cars have remained steady or fallen, fighter development times have exploded.
The GAO has released its report on the JSF, and the nickel tour, as described by Bill Sweetman, is rather brutal:
The good news for the JSF program in the March 20 Government Accountability Office report – combined with the other numbers released in March – is that the program is no longer at risk of failure.

The bad news is that it has already failed.
(emphasis mine)

It's true.

The $50 million (2002 dollars) affordable aircraft is now a $106+ million ($127+ million for the B & C versions, 2010 dollars) aircraft, and there are still significant technical hurdles to its success:
  • There is no money to pay for the alternate engine (F136).
  • The current engine, the F135 has deep and real cost and performance issues.
    • The term for these first two items is "Catch 22": You cannot afford a alternate engine, and not having an alternate engine means that you lack a lever to force the contractor to address issues with cost and reliability.
  • Cost reduction efforts have under performed.
  • There are indications that there is significant price elasticity of demand for foreign customers, which means that they will purchase fewer, or cancel contracts, as costs increase, which will further increase unit cost. (See the Danes, below)
  • Direct operating costs are slightly more than the F-15, and significantly more than the F-16 which it is tasked to replace.
DARPA has looked at this, and concluded that the system engineering techniques used in aerospace are largely responsible for the program, because they take the top level requirements and "stovepipe" them down the chain, where they remain isolated until they eventually come together in something that resembles a multi-car pileup

In any case, one of the consequences of the cost and schedule slippage has been that the Danish government has decided to delay any decision on purchasing the F-35.

I see this as a prelude to cancellation: If they aren't ready to buy the $106 million dollar aircraft now, they won't be willing to buy the $126 million dollar aircraft in 4 years. (link to Google translation of the report)

Basically, once you commit to a purchase, it's very tough to pull out, even when the cost escalates, but if you defer the decision, and the cost escalates, it's a no brainer to stay out of the program.

The program appears to be in a death spiral, where increasing unit costs reduce purchases, which increases unit costs, etc., or to quote The Boss, "It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap."

Not Sure if this is a Good Day, or a Bad Day At the Office

But I'd need a new pair of underwear:

I think that the aircraft is an S-2.

26 March 2010

Well, Both of You are Going to Get More of My Bloggy Goodness

The client firm, which is doing a maintenance manual for a Post Office mail sorter, did not get a bridge contract for the next stage of the contract, so they let the contractors go today, so as soon as the Passover Yom Tovim* are over, I back to calling around for a job.


Sometimes life sucks.

*Some Jewish holidays, like Purim and Hanukah, come from somewhere other than Torah, and so there are few, if any restrictions on what you are supposed to do, while others, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are mentioned in Torah, and so activities are restricted by Jewish law, much in the same way that they are for Shabbat, where "work" (long story) is forbidden. (It's marginally more lenient). Days 1, 2, 7, and 8 of Passover are Yom Tovim outside of Israel (longer story), and so, out of respect for my wife, and her mother, who will be visiting, I won't be online those days.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far, and these are, of course, in addition to the rather unusual Thursday closing yesterday.
  1. McIntosh Commercial Bank, Carrollton, GA
  2. Key West Bank, Key West, FL
  3. Unity National Bank, Cartersville, GA
  4. Desert Hills Bank, Phoenix, AZ
Full FDIC list

So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline:

Deep Though

Like School House Rock, On Acid
You know, if I didn't share this with you, I'd be most negligent in my duties.

What can I say? It's a big f%$#ing joke,

Mixed Ruling on Campaign Finance

This is a consequence of the Citizens United case, and the ruling was that independent advocacy groups can raise donations of any size, striking the $5000 limits but the disclosure requirements stand, and, in a separate ruling, the contribution limit remains for party organizations

The Republican National Committee is promising an appeal of the latter ruling.

It is not an unalloyed bad day for campaign finance reform, but on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a 3-4.

Another Whack at the Foreclosure Epidemic

And once again, it's a swing and a miss, because once again, it's an attempt to use the carrot on banks, a rather generous payout for principal reductions, along with giving banks an incentive to shovel their most toxic mortgages to the FHA, as opposed to a stick, in the hope that house prices somehow recover.

They won't ever that is what "post bubble" means.

But once again, Larry Summers* and His Evil Minionsbailing out the banks, not the homeowners. The goal is to keep the toxic nature of the mortgages off of the banks' books.

Little things, like banning prepayment penalties, which lock people into bad mortgages, and allowing mortgages to be modified in bankruptcy (cram down), would give lenders the incentive to deal fairly.

But that's not gonna happen.

*But remember, the Cossacks work for the Czar.

Joe Lieberman with Better Hair*

OK, so Blanche Lincoln is polling horribly against her Republican opponents, who basically have the name recognition of Cranston Snord, she is in favor of the banks, and the health insurance companies, and now she is running robocalls accusing her Democratic primary Bill Halter opponent of taking union money:
The Senators phone survey first asks how the constitutient feels about Lt. Gov. Halter. The survey then goes on to ask the constitutient if they are aware that the Lt. Governor has accepted money from unions.
Note that the distinguished lady from Arkansas has taken well over $½ million in labor PAC money in her career, despite the fact that she has been the Senator from Walmart, and now that labor unions are supporting her opponent, they are, of course portrayed as the font of all evil.

Seriously, I understand the desire to support a loyal Democrat who might be a conservative, but given her record on labor issues, healthcare, etc., she's a disloyal Democrat.

Note that Mr. Halter is on my Act Blue Page, I support Bill Halter for Senate.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, supports Blanche Lincoln: he has formally endorsed her.

*Originally, I was going to say, "With t**s," but I decided that that is insufficiently sensitive new age guy.
Who, you ask, is Cranston Snord? And that is, of course, my point.

Economics Update

Well, they just revised down the 4th quarter GDP numbers down again, to a 5.6% annual rate, the earlier estimate had been 5.9%.

On the brighter side, incomes rose faster than GDP, which gives a boost to the idea that some sort of recovery is going on.

Meanwhile, in high fiance, Ambac's dance of death continues, with the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) ruling that the regulator action yesterday constitutes a trigger for bankruptcy CDS contracts.

Meanwhile, the apparrent resolution of the Greek crisis has pushed the US dollar down on reduced demand for safe havens, and oil prices fell marginally.

New START Deal Reached

It will reduce strategic weapons levels from 2200 to 15-1600, which is a good thing, though I have no clue whatsoever how it will make it through the Senate, where 67 votes are required.

That would need all the Dems and 8 Republicans to vote for it, and I don't see that happening.


Well, it looks like the issue with a possible default by Greece has been resolved, for a while at least, by a joint action of the EU and the IMF.

I think that this puts to rest the idea that Greece will leave the Euro, for a while at least, but the real problem is that the Germans have structured the Euro with the goal of furthering their mercantilist export driven goals, much as the Chinese have with the Yuan, and the solution here is not to kick the Greeks out of the Euros, but to kick the Germans out of the Euro.

Simply put, the German desire for new export markets has made them push aggressively for countries to join the monetary union before it is prudent, and to encourage them to do so by providing economic aid and by overvaluing the sovereign currency.

Unfortunately, this creates asymmetries that are creating the problems that we have now, and it will be a tough thing to avoid something like the downfall of European Exchange Rate Mechanism that occurred when George Soros, "Broke the Bank of England."

The problem is that, absent the labor mobility that exists in the United States, where one need neither a work permit nor to learn a new language, these asymmetries will persist.

This has been further reinforced by the efforts of Europhiles to jump-start the mechanisms of European integration through direct and indirect subsidies to entice new members to join prematurely.

Damn ………… I gotta make this a longer form, and submit it to Marketplace as a guest editorial.

South Korean Ship Sunk

It was in a patch of water that is disputed by the DPRK and the ROK, but right now the South Korean authorities are saying that it's not clear if the sinking was the result of hostile activity.

Should be an interesting next few days.

25 March 2010

Economics Update

It's jobless Thursday, and initial jobless claims fell by 14K to 442,000, though it should be noted that a change to seasonal adjustments accounted for 11K of that 14 K.

The less noisy 4 week moving average fell by 11K to 453,750, and continuing claims fell by 54K to 4.65 million, the lowest number in 1¼ years.

All in all, good news, but we are still not at a number where we would see real job growth.

In the intersection of real estate and finance, we have 13.6% of US mortgages being delinquent in the 4th quarter of 2009, up by 0.9% from the 3rd quarter.

In a blast from the past, we have a development in the slow motion immolation of the monoliner insurers with the largest of the bond insurers, Ambac, had the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance take control of roughly $35 billion of insurance contracts on residential mortgages.

They have direct the troubled insurance company to segregate these contracts into separate accounts.

You arrogant ass. You've killed us!
Just so you know, it appears that the financial weapon of mass destruction, the Credit Default Swap is rearing its ugly head once again, as the segregation of accounts may constitute a "default" under the terms of the credit default swap contracts on these assets.

Seriously, this sh%$ is going to destroy us if we don't get a handle on it. (Cue captain Tupolev)

Finally, in currency the Euro has rebounded slightly off its low on reports of an imminent solution for the Greek crisis, though these concerns were still enough to push oil prices down.

Reconciliation Sidecar Is Approved

The House of Representatives just approved the minor changes to reconciliation side car.

Note that, once again, the public option got left on the sidelines.

The Senate said that they had more than 50 votes for it, and the House is supposed to have more than 217 for it, and with the tweak, it could have been put in, but it wasn't.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Barack Obama agreed to kill the public option very early in this process:
For months I've been reporting in The Huffington Post that President Obama made a backroom deal last summer with the for-profit hospital lobby that he would make sure there would be no national public option in the final health reform legislation. (See here, here and here). I've been increasingly frustrated that except for an initial story last August in the New York Times, no major media outlet has picked up this important story and investigated further.
John Walker at FDL notes the shifting reasons for killing the public option, and draws what I think is the accurate explanation:
It is foolish to believe that a President, Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House with historically large majorities couldn’t get a public option–which roughly 65% of the country supported–if they really wanted one. Clearly, if they all really wanted to include a public option, they could have done it using reconciliation. To accept their many different excuses of powerlessness requires one to completely suspend reality.

Occam’s razor teaches us the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Here, the simplest explanation is that, months ago, Obama promised to kill the public option as part of a secret deal with the for-profit hospital lobby, and that for months he lied to the American people about supporting the public option while working behind the scenes to stop it.

So, when exactly does that changing the way Washington works thing start again?
(emphasis mine)


David Frum Fired By the AEI

He has been fired as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

It probably has something to do with his recent comments about the Republican party's missteps.

Fellow pariah right winger Bruce Bartlett actually invoked Stalin in his comments on the affair, though he wimped out and only used the "S" word in his URL. "groupthink-right-would-make-stalin-proud."

Bartlett notes that the AEI "experts" on healthcare had been muzzled:
Since, he [Frum] is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.
It is noteworthy that Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal calls it a resignation, which even the Washington Post did not try to foist off on their readers.

Here is Mr. Frum's letter of resignation:
Dear Arthur [Brooks, AEI President],

This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today. Effective immediately, my position as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated. I appreciate the consideration that delays my emptying of my office until after my return from travel next week. Premises will be vacated no later than April 9.

I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute, and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.

Very truly yours,

David Frum
And the WSJ says that he "quit".

24 March 2010

Least Shocking News of the Day

According to polls, the American public thinks that Wall Street and the big banks are evil and they want them flayed and staked to anthills:
Most people interviewed in the Bloomberg National Poll say they don’t like Wall Street, banks or insurance companies and favor letting the government punish bankers who helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
OK, so maybe I exaggerate a bit, but it has the ring of truthiness, and they did not ask about flaying or anthills in the poll.

Even less shocking is the response of the banks to the news of these attitudes, a brand new PR campaign:
One of Wall Street’s main lobbying groups is starting an image-improvement campaign aimed at showing the financial industry as trustworthy and a positive force after more than a year of being chastised in Washington.
You know, if you stopped making your goal f%$#ing the ordinary American, people might like you more.

Change We Can't Believe In: No Prosecution of War Criminals, DoJ Harrassment of Defense Lawyers

In an attempt to provide evidence of torture, attorneys defending detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere, have been providing pictures of likely torturers to their clients for identification, and Eric Holder has decided to criminally investigate the attorneys for doing their jobs:
In a case that has all the ingredients to explode into a national controversy, Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed star prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate whether laws were broken after "paparazzi style" photographs of CIA officers were found in the cell of a Guantanamo inmate accused of financing the 9/11 attacks, Newsweek is reporting.

In an interview with TPMmuckraker, the top official for the ACLU project that provided assistance for the defense of the detainee in question -- and hired private investigators to take the photos of CIA officers thought to be involved in torture -- said that no laws had been broken.
Note that if someone wants to claim that their confession was the product of torture, it's essential for a competent defense.

They need to know who these people are and to be able to cross examine them, so as to determine the nature of their treatment, and so the admissibility of their statements.

And still Yoo and Bybee walk free.

Federal Agencies Suing Over Bad Mortgages

The Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) is suing banks that made dodgy mortgage loans and then misrepresented them:
Last week, the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco sued a throng of Wall Street companies that sold the agency $5.4 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities during the height of the mortgage melee. The suit, filed March 15 in state court in California, seeks the return of the $5.4 billion as well as broader financial damages.
Not also that the quasi-governmental GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are suing too:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may force lenders including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. to buy back $21 billion of home loans this year as part of a crackdown on faulty mortgages.
Interesting times.

Full FHLB statement below fold:

Maybe Before They Try to Control What Women Do With Their Bodies ……

The Catholic Church should consider controlling what their priests do with their bodies:
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

The Wisconsin case involved an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a renowned school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974. But it is only one of thousands of cases forwarded over decades by bishops to the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, [note: until 1965, it was called Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition], led from 1981 to 2005 by Cardinal Ratzinger. It is still the office that decides whether accused priests should be given full canonical trials and defrocked.
We should note that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, did more than ignore allegations, he aggressively pressured priests and lay people to cover up abuse and to not report it to authorities under the penalty of excommunication.

While the statutes of limitation have expired, or at least I think that they have, it's still obstruction of justice.

Economics Update

Well, it looks like real estate will be the suck for some time to come, as new home sales falling to an all time low, while inventory rose to 9.2 months, up from January's 8.9 months.

The snowpocalypse might have had a little to do with this, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the Architecture Billings Index falling, since that is all about future residential construction.

On the brighter side, durable orders rose, largely on civil aircraft purchases.

In the "why the hell is this happening?" division, treasuries fell and yields rose in the most recent bond auction, despite the fact that the Greek meltdown would normally encourage a flight to safety, which would bid T-bills up.

In any case, the Greek problems have driven the dollar up and oil down.

On the other hand, things are good in New Zealand, if you don't mind all the rain, with Kiwi GDP growing 0.8% (about a 3.2% annual rate) last quarter.

Wanker of the Day

Charles Grassley, who took less than 24 hours to take credit for the good parts of the healthcare bill:
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has long been a vocal critic of the Democrat's health reform efforts, but today he started taking credit for some provisions of the bill, and talking up his own role in crafting the legislation.

In a release sent out by his staff to reporters today, Grassley says the bill will "hold tax-exempt hospitals accountable for the federal tax benefits they receive" thanks to his work.
If you recall, Grassley bought into the whole death panel bullsh%$, and spread every lie possible in an attempt to kill the bill, and now he is trying to take credit for the good parts.

Full statement after the break:

I Think that This is a Deliberate Incitement to Violence

You tell me, if you post someone's address on line, and suggest that people "drop by" and "express their thanks" in response to a Congressman's vote on healthcare, the resultant threatening mail and a cut gas line are foreseeable.

In fact, it is predictable that threats and vandalism will result.

What isn't predictable, I guess, is that the frothing at the mouth crowd would get the address wrong and so instead, this would go to the Congressman's brother:
U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother received a threatening letter in the mail on the same day that someone apparently severed a gas line at the home in Ivy.

Two conservative Tea Party activists posted the address of the home on the Internet on Monday, mistakenly believing it was the home of the congressman. One of the activists urged others to “drop by” and “express their thanks” for Perriello’s vote in favor of health care reform.

Tuesday evening, Perriello’s brother’s family smelled gas and discovered the propane line of a gas-powered grill on their screened-in porch had been slashed.

In the mail, they found a letter addressed to the congressman that Perriello’s office described as “threatening.”
The FBI and local authorities are investigating.

This is shouting fire in a crowded theater, and it is clear that the vandal wanted a fire and possibly an explosion.

It's a specific invocation to violence, and honestly it should be treated as such.

This was the equivalent of burning a cross on his lawn, and the intent is to terrorize.

Hopefully the authorities will use every legal avenue available to pursue both the people who are engaging in these actions, and those who are making specific invocations to pursue specific individuals.

As an aside, I think that whoever cut his brother's gas line just took a dicey seat for the Democrats to hold, Periello won a squeaker only because of the Obama landslide, and made Congressman Tom Periello the favorite.

Basically, him a hero. Just campaigning normally will now be perceived by his constituents an act of bravery.

23 March 2010

Quote of the Day

ABC News, 0:55
Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.
--David Frum
I'm not sure if this is true, but it certainly has a ring of "truthiness" to it.

It should be noted that feeling angry and powerless is good for talk media, and talk media, like forms of communication, so folks like Limbaugh and Beck are crying all the way to the bank.

Interesting Picture

Click for full size

H/t Barry Ritholtz
He wonders about what caused stock market capitalization to grow so much relative to GDP starting in the late 1980s.

I think that the answer is simple: The US government started to subsidize stock purchases, specifically the IRA and the 401(K), and it drew more money in to the markets, and that money bid up asset prices.

Of course, I like simple answers, and I am not a stock broker or an economist, so I would appreciate hearing alternate theories.

Unsurprising News

It turns out that when Pay Czar Ken Feinberg cut the pay of executives at bailed out firms, there was no rush for the exits:
For months, Wall Street banks and the troubled automakers feverishly protested that their top executives would flee if they were not lavishly rewarded for their talents. New data, however, suggests the departures were more of a trickle than a flood.

Of the 104 senior executives whose pay was set by the federal pay regulator in the last two years, 88 executives, or nearly 85 percent, are still with the companies even though their pay was drastically cut back, according to people briefed on the government data.
There are a number of reasons, including the fact that these"super geniuses" are really pretty toxic, and for the most part, really not much special.

Additionally, if you are getting "only" $2 million a year, you can still live pretty well on that, even in Manhattan, and it's a pain looking for a job ………… Trust me on this one, it's a real pain looking for a job.

And 15% turnover in 2 years, that might actually be less than normal.

Going Long on Fig Newton and Ice Cream Sammich Futures

It appears rather likely that a bill legalizing, and taxing, pot will make it on the ballot in November:
Fourteen years after California decided marijuana could be used as a medicine and ignited a national movement, the state is likely to vote on whether to take another step into the vanguard of drug liberalization: legalizing the controversial weed for fun and profit.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County elections officials must turn in their count of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide legalization initiative. The number is virtually certain to be enough to qualify the initiative for the November ballot, according to a tally kept by state election officials.


The 10-page California initiative would allow anyone 21 or older to possess, share and transport up to an ounce for personal use and to grow up to 25 square feet per residence or parcel. It would allow local governments, but not the state, to authorize the cultivation, transportation and sale of marijuana and to impose taxes to raise revenues.
This last bit is particularly savvy.

By virtue of the gridlock in Sacramento, though this gridlock is a function of California voters and the initiative petition process in the first place, the state government is distrusted and despised, but by allowing local governments to license and tax, it would have the advantage of being an immediate benefit to localities.

Margaret and Helen Are A Treasure

Here, it's Helen Philpot, who suggests a classical solution for the problem that is people voting for Bart Stupak, the nominally Democratic anti-abortion grand-stander in Michigan.

By classical, I mean a really old classic, the comedy Lysistrata, which was first performed in 411 BCE:
Bart, if you want to reduce abortions, vote to fully fund family planning and comprehensive sex education. Otherwise, shut the hell up. We don’t care what you think about our wombs.

Women in Michigan should hang a closed sign across their hoo-hoo’s until Stupak is either voted out of Congress or grows a vagina of his own. I mean it. Really.

If you have the money (I don't), go to Matthew Saroff's Act Blue Page, and throw a few bucks at Connie Saltonstall, who is challenging him in the primary.

Economics Update

Click for full size
H/t Calculated Risk
The news in in real estate so far this week, with U.S. commercial real e3state prices rising for the 3rd straight month, though, as the Graph pr0n clearly shows, if you own commercial property, and you need to roll over your 5 year mortgage, you are still in a world of hurt, as you are at least 30% under water.

In residential real estate though, it was just plain grim, with existing home sales falling, though the snopocalypse might have something to do with that, and the number of homes for sale jumped by nearly 10%.

In more general economic news, the Chicago Bank of the Federal Reserve's national activity index fells last month, which might also be snow related.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, prices fell in the UK for the first time on 6 months, indicating that the pressures toward deflation continue apace.

In currency, we have the problems with Greece pushing the Euro lower, while in energy, oil rose slightly, to $81.91/bbl, and the price of retail gasoline continues to climb, to $2.81/gallon, up about 80¢ from a year ago.

Google Redirects Google.cn to Google.hk

So, they have essentially shut down their Chinese search engine and are instead redirecting traffic to their Hong Kong domain:
Google has shut down its Google.cn site and is redirecting users to Google.com.hk, where it will offer uncensored Chinese-language search services. The company will maintain a research and development organization in China as well as a sales office, it announced Monday.

"Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard," Google said in a statement. "We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced--it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China."
It's the right thing to do, and, I think, the good long term business decision.

Obviously, the Chinese "Great Wall" firewall will still censor once you click on the links, but with Google.hk actually see the links.

Now, how about fixing your misbegotten auto-pagination "upgrade" on blogger?

Why the Religious Right Opposes Abortion

Because the Talibaptists make good coin selling babies, and so they want to have a good supply of pregnant women, particularly white pregnant women, without options, so that they can cover a few medical bills, and then extracting fees from desperate parents:
American websites currently offer[ ] mouth-watering
incentives to would-be buyers. "Delivery within four months", "Discounts of up to $19,000", they proclaim. If it were cars they were selling this would not seem
odd, but it's babies that are for sale – bright, smiling newborns to tempt the childless into parting with about £20,000.

There is no shame in treating babies like any other purchase in America, where the adoption industry is largely privatized… (“Why adoption is so easy in
America” Telegraph.co.uk 10/31/07)


The Brits have also rightly pointed to U.S. restrictions on birth control and abortion as a contributing to “marketable” infants in the U.S. The religious right’s imposed morality is perfectly partnered with those whose livelihoods depend upon the redistribution of children.

In May, 2007 Evangelical Christians organizations such as Focus on the Family and pastors from across the nation held a three-day summit in Colorado. members of to promote adoption via a media blitz.
While there are any number of people who do good work in adoption, there is a lot of money sloshing around, and it's driving the way that business is done, and the Mega-churches and their ilk are taking their tithes, which keeps the pastors in SUV's and business jets, I guess.

Barack Obama Signs Senate Healthcare Bill

Is it an end?

Or is it a beginning?

Joe Biden says, "It's a fucking big deal."
I think that it is clear that there is a lot more that needs to be done, and I am reasonably sure that Barack Obama won't do much.

I think that he has to create the appearance of support on the side-car, because otherwise, he will have the every Democrat in House of Representatives out for payback, but beyond that, I think that he has his paper to sign, and he won't do much beyond this.

His strategy, as it has been in finance reform, has been to buy off the market malefactors, and so I think that attempts to further improve the system, whether it is Grayson's Medicare buy in, or Kucinich's elimination of ERISA preemption will likely be opposed.

Of course, it will be sold as the, "time not being right," much as he has done with the repeal of DADT, the ENDA, the EFCA, etc.

I would note that my predictive record sucks, and perhaps he will surprise me.

If this is all that Obama will do with healthcare, than we have just seen him make his own flight suit speech, but if he supports further improvements, then, as the fucking* Vice President of the United States accidentally said into a live microphone, "This is a big fucking deal."

BTW, one of my predictions is coming true: when I said that the preening narcisists in the Senate would find a way to make the bill worse, for the same reason that a dog marks his territory, I was right, case in point, Jim Baucus claiming that there would have to be minor changes to the bill to accommodate Senate rules:
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus told reporters today that there may be "one or two" changes to the health care reconciliation bill, meaning it could be sent back to the House for another vote.

"Anything is possible. We've constructed this thing so well ... maybe one or two but they're so minor they're almost not even worth mentioning," Baucus said.

Any changes to the bill, even minor, will send it back to the House for another vote there before it can go to the president's desk.
But it seems that either he got the face time on camera that he wanted, or someone threatened to disembowel him with a rusty spoon:
Late update: But Conrad now says he's confident there won't be changes.

"We've found additional precedent that supports our view that nothing is Byrd-able," he said, referring to the Byrd rule on which legislation may be passed under reconciliation.
Kudos to whoever put a horse's head in his bed.

*I consider myself to be a fairly profane writer, though mu rule is to %$# out my swear words, but fuck it, if the Vice President can drop the F-bomb today, than so can I.
Yes, this T-shirt is for sale from Zazzle.com.

22 March 2010

Not Enough Bullets

Dennis Kozlowski, former Tyco CEO has filed a lawsuit against his former company for millions of dollars in retirement benefits:
Ex-Tyco International Ltd. Chief Executive Officer L. Dennis Kozlowski, jailed for stealing millions of dollars, wants a U.S. court to order the company to pay him tens of millions from his retirement account.

Lawyers for Kozlowski filed court papers in which they claim that Tyco breached its retirement agreement by refusing to pay him the lump sum he has demanded. As of October 2008, the value of Kozlowski’s retirement account was $75.9 million, according to the court papers, which are part of a 2002 lawsuit between Tyco and Kozlowski.

Kozlowski, 63, and former Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz were convicted in 2005 of securities fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records. The jury in New York State Supreme Court found they stole about $137 million from Tyco through unauthorized bonuses and the abuse of company loans.
Because, you see, in the world of the big players, going to jail from stealing from your company doesn't mean you don't get your golden parachute.

Seriously, can the just have the bailiff beat the snot out of him in open court?

Tyco's defense, that, "A ‘faithless servant’ is not entitled to any compensation," would sound fairly convincing to me, but I am an engineer, not a lawyer, dammit!*

*I LOVE IT when I get to go all Doctor McCoy!!!

Nuck Fow and Nuck FARAL

Executives at NARAL and Now have said that they are incensed over the Obama executive order restricting abortion:
The president of the National Organization for Women said her group is "incensed" about the impasse-breaking deal between President Obama and a group of anti-abortion Catholic Democrats that seems likely to allow historic health-care reform legislation to pass the House later Sunday night, saying the planned presidential executive order "breaks faith with women."


NARAL Pro-Choice America shared NOW's objections. "On a day when Americans are expected to see passage of legislation that will make health care more affordable for more than 30 million citizens, it is deeply disappointing that Bart Stupak and other anti-choice politicians would demand the restatement of the Hyde amendment, a discriminatory law that blocks low-income women from receiving full reproductive-health care," NARAL President Nancy Keenan said in a statement.
You know, it was clear during the primaries that Barack Obama's commitment to reproductive rights was tepid at best based on his record in the Illinois State Senate, and senior executives at Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW ignored this, and never pressed him on his record.

Of course, once he was the nominee, tepid and ineffectual support was better than that reproductive rights horror-show that is the Republican party.

That being said, being thrown under the bus was predictable, and whining now is just lame.

Party Line Vote

Dodd's weak tea financial reform passes the Senate Banking Committee.

Here's hoping that the Barny Frank - slightly less weak tea - bill prevails in conference committee, though if the Dems were smart, they would use finance reform as a way to get the Republicans to vote for the fat cat Wall Street bankers, and then use those votes as a cudgel in November.

But that would require that Democrats find their spines, which I think is unlikely.

They do not realize that having a backbone is something that voters place a huge value on, perhaps even more than philosophy and policy.

That's why the leading candidate in the Republican primary in Alan Grayson's district is Alan Grayson, because voters vote for politicians with guts.

Fire Timothy Geithner Now

We have a couple new developments, first was that Merrill Lynch told both the SEC and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that Lehman was cooking the books:
Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Reserve officials were warned by a leading Wall Street rival that Lehman Brothers was incorrectly calculating a key measure of its financial health months before its collapse in 2008, people familiar with the matter say.

Former Merrill Lynch officials said they contacted regulators about the way Lehman measured its liquidity position for competitive reasons.

he findings raise questions over what federal regulators knew about Lehman’s accounting and when they knew it. In the account given by the Merrill officials, the SEC, the lead regulator, and the New York Federal Reserve were given warnings about Lehman’s balance sheet calculations as far back as March 2008.

Former and current Fed officials say even in the competitive world of Wall Street, it is un­usual for rival bankers to relay such concerns to the Fed.
It takes an awful lot to get one investment bank to rat out another, the first rule of Wall Street is never tell the regulators, and and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, president Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner, as well as the SEC, which was largely deferring to the NY Fed, decided to ignore it.

Actually, it's more. Not only did Geithner's Bank ignore the reports, it bought junk grade debt from Lehman in violation of the law:
As Lehman Brothers careened toward bankruptcy in 2008, the New York Federal Reserve Bank came to its rescue, sopping up junk loans that the investment bank couldn't sell in the market, according to a report from court-appointed examiner Anton R. Valukas.

The New York Fed, under the direction of now-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, knowingly allowed itself to be used as a "warehouse" for junk loans, the report says, even though Fed guidelines say it can only accept investment grade bonds.

Meanwhile, the Fed and Geithner both strongly oppose a congressional measure to authorize an independent audit of the central bank and its lending facilities. The provision passed the House but is under attack in the Senate, where Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) says he hopes to stop it.

Without an audit, the Fed is able to conceal the specifics of what it holds on its balance sheet. If the Lehman deal is any indication, the Fed is hiding billions of dollars in toxic loans on its books.

"The Fed legally is forbidden from taking such assets. There's a legal requirement that the Fed's assets be investment grade," Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost. Grayson, who is the cosponsor of the Grayson-Paul Audit the Fed measure that passed the House, said the Lehman scandal shows precisely why such an audit is needed.
Seriously, he cheated on his taxes, he's aided and abetted the pervasive accounting fraud at Lehman, and he's still in the bank's pocket.

I understand that his successor will face a filibuster, but please, fire him, and go with a recess appointment.

It doesn't matter that he knows where the bodies are buried if he's a part of the gang what murdered the economy, and he's still working flashing gang symbols to Dimon and Blankfien.

An Unambiguous Good in the Healthcare Bill

Assuming, of course, that it makes it past the preening narcissists in the US Senate, is the fact that it will finally stop paying banks to sell overpriced loans to students.

These loans are guaranteed by the US government, and now, only the US Government will make them:
Legislation hailed by supporters as the most significant change to college student lending in a generation passed the House on Sunday night.

The student aid initiative, which House Democrats attached to their final amendments to the health-care bill, would overhaul the student loan industry, eliminating a $60 billion program that supports private student loans with federal subsidies and replacing it with government lending to students. The House amendments will now go to the Senate.

By ending the subsidies and effectively eliminating the middleman, the student loan bill would generate $61 billion in savings over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Most of those savings, $36 billion, would go to Pell grants, funding an era of steady and predictable increases in the massive but underfunded federal aid program for needy students. Smaller portions would go toward reducing the deficit and to various Democratic priorities, including community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and caps on loan payments.
Of course, there is a more general problem with the student loan program, which is that student loans, and federal student aid programs, when juxtaposed with the collusion of the top schools on tuition and financial aid, have led to the costs of higher education significantly outpacing inflation.

But that's another rant.

Thanks for Reading……

Well, for the third time in about 33 months, I have broken $100 barrier in my Google Adsense account, which means that at some time in April, I will get a bank transfer for something in excess of $100.

As I have noted, it does not amount to much compared to how much Mickey Kaus is overpaid, but I try to consider it to be found money, and as such, I will spend it on something frivolous.

I'll probably blow it on a nice dinner out with Sharon.*

Please note: once again, that I do not vet, nor do I endorse any ad that appears on my site, and I reserve the right to mock both the ads that appear on my site, as well as the advertisers.

Also, please note, this should be in no way construed as an inducement or a request for my reader(s) to click on any ad that they would not otherwise be inclined to investigate further. This would be a violation of the terms of service for Google Adsense.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

21 March 2010

Eugene Robinson Is Wrong

He takes the general case, and makes it too specific when he says, "Democrats discover the benefits of taking a stand on health reform.

The reality is that American voters favor audacity, even when the policies are things that they do not support, one need only look at Reagan and Bush, who achieved their popular support despite pushing policies that the American public generally opposed.

The route to electoral success is to tell the Republicans to go Cheney themselves, and then include things in the bill that jam them up with the voters when election time rolls around.

I Must Condemn Matthew Yglesias in the Strongest Possible Terms

This is just evil
Simply put, while I understand and appreciate his desire tosay, "In your face," to Republicans, who have now appeared to lose the vote, this over-steps the basic bounds of humanity.

Seriously man, you use the music of ABBA to chastise Republicans?

You do know that doing so is but one step away from napalming baby kittens!

Baby Kittens, do you hear me, Napalming Baby Kittens!!!!

You've done enough! Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you NO sense of DECENCY?

House Passes Senate Bill

They still need to do the reconciliation fix, since they dropped the self-executing rule.

The vote was 219-212.

They shouldn't have dropped the rule: The only people who cared about the rule were the 'Phants, and they have long since moved from being the opposition to being the enemy.

What I Did This Afternoon

Click for full size

The Enola Gay

SR-71 Blackbird

A rear view of the Blackbird, illustrating how flat it is

The Boeing 707 prototype, the Dash 80, in the fugliest color scheme I've ever seen

Gemini capsule

Samuel Langley's Aerodrome

Bell-Boeing XV-15 tilt rotor demonstrator


Space shuttle prototype Enterprise

Spotted on the tail of an F-14, Felix the Cat from VFA-6
I went to the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located right next to Dulles Airport in Chantilly, VA.

Charlie's Cub Scout Pack went there for an outing.

While is is a most impressive collection of aircraft, as a museum, it left me a bit cold.

Unlike the branch on the Mall in Washington, DC, this was basically just a shed full of aircraft, and the exhibits, such as they were, were basically just afterthoughts.

I enjoyed myself, but I would much rather go to the DC museum.