31 March 2011

Your Michelle Rhee Fraud Roundup

I thought that Michelle Rhee was a fraud when I discovered that her "school reforms" in the DC school district appeared to be to focus on tests, and that she never had any sort of plan for early intervention and pre-school.

If you want to improve education in the future, you get the kids early, when you can give them the most, and longest lasting benefit.

If you intend to pump and dump, you ignore that, focus on tests, and find someone to demonize.

Michelle Rhee got her start in the Teach for America program, which, considering its alumni, is to education what Typhoid Mary is to beefsteak tartar.

In any case, on her resume Rhee claimed that her students at her first position, "That after two years 90 percent of her students had reached the 90th percentile in reading and math."

The problem is that this is not true. In fact her performance as a teacher, particularly in her years, was an unmitigated disaster which would have gotten her fired by Michelle Rhee, the DC schools administrator.

Jay Matthews, the Washington Post's education blogger, takes exception to (first link) takes exception to G.F. Brandenburg's characterization of Rhee's work as "lies" (second link), but this is an illustration about how the press in general, and the Kaplan Test Prep company in particular, find calling out obvious lies to be distasteful.

Rhee put numbers on her resume that were well nigh miraculous, but they were false, so either she had access to the numbers, which makes it a lie, or she did not have access to the numbers, and she put the false numbers (she claims that her principal told her) which is also a lie.

But it gets even better, because Michelle Rhee just loves what Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin, because, as I have said before, finding an enemy is easier that generating real results.

And now we know that her results were the result of massive systematic fraud:
In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its "shining stars."

Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes' students scored "proficient" or "advanced" in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.

Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes' staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.


A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes' classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.

rasures are detected by the same electronic scanners that CTB/McGraw-Hill, D.C.'s testing company, uses to score the tests. When test-takers change answers, they erase penciled-in bubble marks that leave behind a smudge; the machines tally the erasures as well as the new answers for each student.

In 2007-08, six classrooms out of the eight taking tests at Noyes were flagged by McGraw-Hill because of high wrong-to-right erasure rates. The pattern was repeated in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, when 80% of Noyes classrooms were flagged by McGraw-Hill.

On the 2009 reading test, for example, seventh-graders in one Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on answer sheets; the average for seventh-graders in all D.C. schools on that test was less than 1. The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.


In 2008, the office of the State Superintendent of Education recommended that the scores of many schools be investigated because of unusually high gains, but top D.C. public school officials balked and the recommendation was dropped.

McGraw-Hill's practice is to flag only the most extreme examples of erasures. To be flagged, a classroom had to have so many wrong-to-right erasures that the average for each student was 4 standard deviations higher than the average for all D.C. students in that grade on that test. In layman's terms, that means a classroom corrected its answers so much more often than the rest of the district that it could have occurred roughly one in 30,000 times by chance. D.C. classrooms corrected answers much more often.
Remember here, that 4 σ is just where the testing program begins to note irregularities, so we are probably somewhere well into the 6 figures against, and the fact that Rhee and Her Evil Minions strongly fought against a meaningful investigation indicates that they either knew, or they were willfully blind, which is the same thing.

But we will be seeing more of this, because Rhee has failed up, and is now running a non-profit that she hopes will raise a billion dollars, and Barack Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have repeatedly indicated that they would like to repeat her "success".

Between for profit profiteers, and Ponzi educators like Rhee, the educational reform establishment is toxic.

Quote of the Day

Immelt is thus an odd choice to head up such a council. It would be like Obama appointing Wall Street insiders like Larry Summers and Timmy Geithner to head up his economic advisory team, or guys from Goldman Sachs to head up the financial regulatory agencies. Oh, wait…
Urantian Sojourn in response to Barack Obama's appointment of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, as head of the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

I'm beginning to wonder whether Barack Obama sits in the situation room of the White House basement, stroking a white Persian cat, and wondering how to f%$# with all of us.

What a Whiny Bitch

Truly pathetic, but at least

We get a kick ass poster
Wisconsin Republican Congressman, and former Real World reality TV star, Sean Duffy, is caught on tape complaining how tough it is to make ends meet making only $174,000 a year, about 3 x that of the average citizen of the Badger State.

What's more, once people started seeing the tape, the Republican Party of Polk County, where he gave the talk, started demanding that the recording be removed, claiming copyright infringement.

Not only is he a whiny bitch, he's a stupid whiny bitch, because they just insured that every half-assed hack with a keyboard and a spell check, like yours truly, will go and reproduce the tape, and the story, until the heat death of the universe.

30 March 2011

I Don't Know Whether to Laugh or to Cry

I give up!
Jon Stewart riffs on the fact that while every right wing ratf%$# out there can say that unions are causing deficits, it appears that no one at all gives a damn that GE effectively paid a negative sixty percent income tax in 2010, while cutting US jobs and shipping them overseas.

Of course, there was but one thing that the Obama administration could do: Make GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt the chairman of a prestigious commission to explore how to create jobs in the United States.

I think that between a choice of laughing and crying, I will go with sleeping like a baby: I will wake up every few hours screaming.

Fux Snooze Admits the Obvious

Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon has admittedly to consciously, repeatedly, and deliberately lying during the 2008 campaign:
In newly uncovered audio, a Fox News executive boasts that he lied repeatedly during the closing days of the 2008 presidential campaign when he speculated on-air "about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism."

Speaking in 2009 onboard a pricey Mediterranean cruise sponsored by a right-wing college, Fox Washington managing editor Bill Sammon described his attempts the previous year to link Obama to "socialism" as "mischievous speculation." Sammon, who is also a Fox News vice president, acknowledged that "privately" he had believed that the socialism allegation was "rather far-fetched."

"Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to quote, 'spread the wealth around,' " said Sammon. "At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."
The only thing shocking about this is the fact that the rest of the media seems to feel honor bound to defend their shoddy and fraudulent journamalism whenever someone criticizes them.

Meanwhile, In the Humitarian Disaster Not Involving Oil…

I am referring, of course, to The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, where forces supporting the guy who won the election, Alassane Ouattara, have taken the capital, Yamoussoukro:
Rebel forces in Ivory Coast have taken control of the official capital, as power seems to be slipping away from the president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Residents and military sources said troops loyal to Gbagbo's rival, Alassane Ouattara, had entered Yamoussoukro, meeting little resistance as security forces fled. The port city of San Pedro also fell.
This has been going on for how many months now, (Hint: it's been 5) and hot a hint of anyone wanting to intervene, because, of course, they don't have oil.

So you have two African leaders, both without much in the way of support, who are oppressing their opponents and the general population, but the one that is a mid-level oil producer gets the full NATO bombing treatment, while the world's leading exporter of cocoa gets some minor finger wagging in the general assembly of the United Nations.

A little bit of oil we spend blood and treasure on, but a lot of chocolate, that ain't worth nothing.

Talk about screwed up priorities.

29 March 2011

The Obama Doctrine…

Courtesy of Dan Nexon:
Humanitarian-intervention-against-militarily-weak-fossil-fuel-producing-countries-in-strategically-important-regions-that-are-also-located-near-many-large-NATO-military-bases-and-are-run-by-dictators-who-kind-of-piss-us-off-and-have-no-powerful-allies Doctrine
And he is right: This is not the stuff of grand strategy.


In response to the nuclear disaster in Japan, the EPA is looking to increase the amount of radiation deemed safe for the American public to be exposed to:
March 24, 2011, 12:30 EDT, NEW YORK CITY– In the wake of the continuing nuclear tragedy in Japan, the United States government is still moving quickly to increase the amounts of radiation the population can “safely” absorb by raising the safe zone for exposure to levels designed to protect the government and nuclear industry more than human life. It’s all about cutting costs now as the infinite-growth paradigm sputters and moves towards extinction. As has been demonstrated by government conduct in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Deepwater Horizon and in Japan, life has taken a back seat to cost-cutting and public relations posturing.

The game plan now appears to be to protect government and the nuclear industry from “excessive costs”… at any cost.
This would involve raising the acceptable levels of things like radioactive Cesium, Iodine and Nickel by up to one hundred thousand times ……… Yes, that's times, not percent.

This is not without precedent.  Following the Deepwater Horizon blowout, they raised the acceptable levels of toxic chemicals for fish from the gulf, as "George Washington" notes at Naked Capitalism.

Not feeling hopey changey about Barack right now.

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

I'm beginning to think that the infamous Miss Teen South Carolina might actually have been the smart one in our country.


H/t Old Jack at the Shortskoolbus BBS.

28 March 2011

Now It's A-10s and AC-130s

So now we are now engaging in direct close air support in direct support of the rebel forces, which means that, win or lose, the rebels will have very little legitimacy, and so will be dependent upon support of the west, probably the British and French, in any future government.

This ain't a bug, it's a feature, because it makes for a low cost semi-colonial relationship with the oil rich nation in the future:
The U.S. military dramatically stepped up its assault on Libyan government ground forces over the weekend, launching its first missions with AC-130 flying gunships and A-10 attack aircraft designed to strike enemy ground troops and supply convoys.

The use of the aircraft, during days of heavy fighting in which the momentum seemed to swing in favor of the rebels, demonstrated how allied military forces have been drawn deeper into the chaotic fight in Libya. A mission that initially seemed to revolve around establishing a no-fly zone has become focused on halting advances by government ground forces in and around key coastal cities.

The AC-130s, which fly low and slow over the battlefield and are typically more vulnerable to enemy fire than fast-moving fighter jets, were deployed only after a week of sustained coalition attacks on Libyan government air defenses and radar sites. These aircraft, armed with heavy machine guns and cannons that rake the ground, allow strikes on dug-in Libyan ground forces and convoys in closer proximity to civilians.
Let's be clear here: Dug in forces are not a threat to non-combatant civilians. They are an impediment to the rebel army, and going after them puts the lie to the idea that this is about "protecting civilians," as called for in the Security Council resolution.

I agree with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who is saying that this is taking sides in a civil war, and while the removal of Qaddafi may be a noble goal, it is not the one that was authorized.

We are back down the same rabbit hole that forced us to invade Iraq.

The survival of the current regime in Libya has now become an unacceptable outcome, notwithstanding the protests of Obama and other world leaders, just like the survival of Saddam Hussein's regime became unacceptable to Bush, Jr. in 2003.

We elected George W. Bush with better diction.

Obama's Speech on Libya

I might have been inclined to watch it live, but my kids, along with the rest of our shul's youth choir, was singing at a retirement home, and so I didn't, and I really can't stand to listen to him, and it appears that the US has gotten sucked into a neocolonial adventure by the French and the British, a sort of reverse Suez, if you will, so I do not think that there is a good sane explanation here to involve us in a civil war.

Maybe I'll read some analyses over the next few days.

So The New York Times Has Added a Paywall

I'm not sure exactly how it works, so I am unsure how the paywall, which limits you to 20 page views a month, would work off a link to this blog, but, at least for now, it works off of Twitter, so I have created a Twitter account, The Sh%$ I Read on the New York Times, and I will link to that tweet, which will allow one to see the article without having to deal with their paywall.

It appears to me that this is in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of their paywall, since I am manually tweeting the articles.

There are a number of alternatives, most notably the NYTClean applet, and while I might use that myself, I'm not going to put that on my link page, I figure that someone might go all TOS on my flabby white ass and finding a human at Google/Blogger in that case is well nigh impossible.

As to how the paywall will work, the Times had a paywall for a number of years for their opinion pieces, and the net result was that they got a lot less buzz, which is probably why Frank Rich and Bob Herbert both decided to leave the paper in the past few weeks.

The problem with the NYT is too fold, first, and uniquely to them, is the fact that they built, and paid cash for a ruinously expensive new office building in Manhattan, and second, and this is not unique to them, Craigslist is completely eating their lunches in the tremendously profitable classified ads section.

Not sure as to the solution, though any solution should involve cutting Tom Friedman's travel budget.

27 March 2011

OK, This is Repulsive

We have a couple of new laws making their way through the Knesset, and they are both pretty contemptible:
The Knesset is scheduled to vote Tuesday, in second and third readings, on two highly controversial bills: the first would deprive organizations of state support and fine them if they undertake activities that deny Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, and the second would allow small towns to screen applicants for residency.

The Knesset is scheduled to break for spring recess next week.

Critics of the first bill, the Nakba Law, which was sponsored by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), maintain that it infringes disproportionately on the freedom of expression and the right of Israel's Arab citizens to tell their own historic narrative.

About 20 recipients of the prestigious Israel Prize, along with distinguished intellectuals, yesterday issued a public statement expressing their opposition to the Nakba Law. "The principle of separation of powers is an essential principle of democracy," they wrote. "Neither the Knesset nor the cabinet is a judicial branch empowered to punish. Under this law, politicians would be able to judge and punish those who make statements not to their liking."
All you really need to know about the "Nabka law" is that it's sponsored by the Yisrael Beiteinu party, who are basically Israel's equivalent of the Dixicrat segregationists in the 1940s and 1950s.

The law itself is much like the flag burning laws that we periodically see courts strike down in the US, a lot of political opportunism based on the sort of loud faux patriotism that is the refuge of scoundrels.

The second law is more complex, as it is sponsored by two Kadima MKs, and one Ysrael Beiteinu member, Shai Hermesh and Israel Hasson,and David Rotem respectively, and there does appear to be a real problem that needs to be addressed here.

The problem here is that language (added after the bill was originally proposed) that "an admissions committee will not refuse to accept a candidate purely on grounds of race, religion, nationality or physical handicap," (emphasis mine) is very weak tea, and so would almost certainly be used to exclude Arabs from these communities.

Certainly the language, at least as translated by Haaretz, seems to indicate this:
The law would empower admissions committees to reject candidates for residency if they are minors, if they lack the economic means to establish a home in the community, if they have no intention of basing their home life in the community, if a professional evaluation indicates that they are ill-suited to the community's way of life, or if they do not suit the community's social-cultural fabric.
Those last two clauses seem to leave a lot of room for some sort of Jim Crowism.

What's more, it's not just Arabs caught up in this net, you could see it applied to, "immigrants, single-parent families or same-sex couples".

On the other hand, the phrase, "If hey have no intention of basing their home life in the community," does reflect a real problem, one that with Arabs, or Sabras, and everything to do with rich Americans.

In many places in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, you have large numbers of rich absentee apartment owners who are in Israel for perhaps 4 weeks a year, with the apartments remaining vacant, or rented, for the rest of the year.

The communities down in the Negev and the Galilee, which is where the law would apply, would likely be far less expensive that Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Haifa, and so you could see a similar phenomenon involving more middle class Americans engaging in real estate speculators/part time Aliyah.

But you could craft a bill that would just cover that problem, by allowing an evaluation of a person's intention to make the community their permanent and primary residence, with the ability to levy fines and/or evict those who don't.

Of course, we aren't seeing such a limited law, because someone wants to slip in discriminatory provisions.

26 March 2011

Here's a Surprise

Someone has discovered the handwritten notes of Dr. Bruce Jessen, a psychologist who helped design the CIA's torture program, and it shows that the goal of the program was torture and the exploitation of prisoners. I would further add that the documents show that he knew that torture did not work, and simply produced false statements, which means that there was no purpose to the program beyond producing false propaganda:
Bush administration officials have long asserted that the torture techniques used on "war on terror" detainees were utilized as a last resort in an effort to gain actionable intelligence to thwart pending terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests abroad.

But the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the government's top-secret torture program, tell a dramatically different story about the reasons detainees were brutalized and it was not just about obtaining intelligence. Rather, as Jessen's notes explain, torture was used to "exploit" detainees, that is, to break them down physically and mentally, in order to get them to "collaborate" with government authorities. Jessen's notes emphasize how a "detainer" uses the stresses of detention to produce the appearance of compliance in a prisoner.
But no prosecutions, because Barack Obama is too busy torturing his own whistle blowers.

Why Dr. Jessen still has a medical license is beyond me.

Read the whole article, it's extensive and chilling.

Another Day, Another Phony Foreclosure Fraud Settlement

In this case, it's the Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson, who has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to resolve charges of fraud:
A Florida law firm agreed Friday to pay the state $2 million in penalties for allegedly mishandling foreclosures — the first deal of its kind since the uproar over the issue began last fall.

The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson was among the prominent law firms investigated by state authorities after major lenders, including Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase, admitted last fall that their employees had “robo-signed” foreclosure cases without reading them and improperly notarized some documents.

Investigations into these practices are being conducted on several parallel tracks. Besides investigations by various states, federal regulators are conducting a review of national banks. Attorneys general from 50 states have joined with the Obama administration to try to negotiate a broader settlement with the mortgage industry.


They added that their foreclosure notices were not served properly. In some cases, relatives with no stake in the process were served notices and the homeowners were billed to cover the cost of those actions.

The settlement does not include any admission of guilt by the law firm.
You know, after pulling this kind of sh%$ routinely, I would think that they should:
  • Pay more than the cost of a dozen of the houses that they have foreclosed on.
  • Have the state bar looking at pulling his law licence.
  • Have the Attorney General looking at throwing his ass in jail.
But I guess I am just a rube for believing that the rule of law and property rights meaning anything at all.

25 March 2011

Deep Thought

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

100 Years Ago

What Republicans Call the "Good Old Days"
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

Well, it appears that  the pace of bank failures is slowing, and maybe this year won't be as bad as last year

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. The Bank of Commerce, Wood Dale, IL
Only one this week, and none last week.

Full FDIC list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

I've dropped the second pic, the line is far enough along to be clear without a zoomed in view.

State AGs Rebel Against Obama Admin's Attempt to Protect the Banks

It's interesting, first you have Republican state Attorneys General objecting to principal write downs as a part of any settlement, and now you have Democratic AGs saying that they are not willing to sign off on an agreement that increasingly looks like another sop to the big banks and mortgage servicers:
The proposed global settlement for mortgage servicer fraud and abuse, put forward by a working group representing all 50 state Attorneys General, received some high-profile dissent on Wednesday. Republican AGs in four states – Kenneth Cuccinelli of Virginia, Greg Abbott of Texas, Pam Bondi of Florida and Alan Wilson of South Carolina – objected to the term sheet that contains the proposed deal, which would reinforce that servicers follow the law, change some aspects of mortgage servicing and potentially create a quota of loan modifications and principal reductions which top servicers would have to meet. The settlement, the quartet said, “appears to reach well beyond the scope of our enforcement role, and, in some instances, far exceeds the scope of the misconduct which was the subject of our original investigation.” And they specifically reject principal write-downs as part of any deal, saying that it creates a moral hazard for borrowers who fail to pay their mortgages. Republican AGs in three other states – Oklahoma, Alabama and Nebraska – have raised their objections to the lead AG on the settlement, Tom Miller of Iowa, as well.

But Republican AGs are not the only ones with concerns about the settlement. Democrats in AG offices across the country find themselves uncomfortable with the deal, in particular the speed with which it is being ushered through the system and the lack of clarity over what claims they would have to relinquish under the deal. The opposition from both sides puts into jeopardy a quick resolution to the investigation, which is being pushed hard by the White House, possibly as a means to kickstart the ailing housing market.
You see,the AG taking point on this Democratic Iowa AG Tom Miller, appears to be a stalking horse for the Obama administration, which has bought big, into extend and pretend as a way to save the banks and the housing crisis, and you have Republicans who oppose anything that will help distressed homeowners, and you have Democrats who think that the fact that there has been no formal investigation, no subpoenas, and no specifics on what specific malfeasance that they would give a "get out of jail free" card to the banks.

The thing is, you need more than 35 of the AGs to sign off on this, and you need all of them from the large or hard-hit states (FL, CA, NV, NY, TX, AZ off the top of my head) for you to have a meaningful settlement here.

Yves Smith is right on her assessment of the settlement as it currently stands:
As we indicated, if this deal falls apart, or Obama merely comes up with a Potemkin program that fails to forestall state AG action, the public will be better served. The evidence is that enough judges still care about the rule of law that more and more bank abuses will come to light if the authorities leave matters to the courts.
I'm not worried about a, "Potemkin program that fails to forestall state AG action," I'm worried about a, "Potemkin program that succeeds in forestalling state AG action," because the issue is not paperwork problems.

The issue is that there is extensive, pervasive, and systemic fraud, and it is not just against the homeowners, but it is promulgated against the holders of the mortgage backed securities as well, who lose as the servicers rake in big fees during a foreclosure.

Should the Obama administration once again choose Wall Street over Main Street, and use supremacy claims like those favored by the thoroughly corrupt OCC to prevent investigations, we will all be worse off, and not just because Barack Obama and Eric "Place" Hold have made a mockery of the rule of law.

Without a thorough accounting of what has gone on, it will happen again … and again … and again … .

Do Not F%$# With Jon Stewart!

Jon Stewart explains the current sissy war going on between CNN and Fox News over their Libya coverage.

It's why he's the best news anchor in the business, and why we are all unbelievably screwed, because we have to rely on a professional comedian to find actual news.

Arghhh!!! I Can't Believe I Said This!!!!!!

We were watching the Ed Show, and they had a preview about Michele Bachmann's plans to establish a Presidential campaign exploratory committee, and my wife said, "She's about as bad as Sarah Palin!"

I replied, "That's not fair to Sarah Palin."

I cannot f%$#ing believe that I fucking just f%$#ing said that.

F%$# Me!

If You Think that Vermont Will Get a Waiver, You Are Smoking Some Good Shit

The state of Vermont is seeking a waiver to allow it to set up a single payer healthcare system:
On February 8, newly inaugurated Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin unveiled his plan for a publicly funded single-payer healthcare system, which was introduced into the state’s legislature. If enacted, which appears likely, it will be the first system of its kind in the United States and Vermont would become the first state to abolish most forms of private health insurance.


The state cannot “get this done,” however, unless it receives a waiver from the federal government to bypass the federal reform legislation. Shumlin thinks that won’t be a problem; Vermont’s entire congressional delegation—Sens. Bernie Sanders (I) and Patrick Leahy (D) and Rep. Peter Welch (D)—support the single-payer effort and introduced a measure to allow states to receive waivers from federal reform requirements as soon as 2014, as long as they cover as many uninsured people as federal law would. (They currently have to wait until 2017.) On February 28, President Barack Obama told state governors he would support the earlier date.
If anyone out there thinks that Barack Obama look at the nsurance industry, and take off the knee pads and put away his ChapStick in order to allow Vermont to render health insurers irrelevant, you are delusional.

Speaking of Rat F%$#ing

This ad is positively brutal.

The thing is, assuming that the facts as stated are true, this is not rat f%$#ing.

If David Prosser, who is running for reelection as a Wisconsin state Supreme Court justice, colluded with the diocese when he was a prosecutor to cover up a priest child predator, and to have him shipped out of his district, this is a legitimate issue.

But the fact that it's an important issue does not preclude it from being rag f%$#ing.  What makes it not rat f%$#ing is the fact that it's true, the Bishop's archives confirm this removes this ad from the realm of rat f%$#ing, even if it is nasty.

Rat F%$#ing, It's What Republicans Do.

So, we had a prosecutor in Indiana suggesting that Scott Walker stage a false attempt on his life in order to gain political advantage.

He's admitted it, and has now resigned as deputy prosecutor..

Josh Marshall of TPM asks whether this is is normal Republican procedure.

The answer is Yes.

Whether it's Nixon's Dirty Trixters, where his operative Roger Stone coined the term "Rat F%$#ing", or Karl Rove planting bugs in his own office to create a mock scandal, or James O'Keefe's deliberately dishonest videos, or this instance, this sort of behavior is a part of Republican DNA.

I used to hang out with Tony Rudy, now best known as a Jack Abramhoff associate, as an SGA Senate member at UMass, I was technically a "right wing" member of the Senate as a Mondale Democrat.* and this was the sort of stuff that the College Republicans did all the time, and when they got together in regional and national meetings, they talked about it.

With me, a Democrat, people like Greg Rothman, Rudy's partner in crime in the student senate, bragged about such things.  They reveled in and bragged about their willingness to ratf%$# their opponents.

*The left wing was the "US out of North America" crowd.

The Concept is So Repugnant that Obama Will Have to Offer a Compromise

Just when I think that the Republican party cannot get any more contemptible, they do something that makes me sit there with a stunned expression on my face that resembles nothing more than a cow that just stepped on its own udder.

Case in point, the Republicans are trying to pass a law that would take away food stamps from the children of strikers:
However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer:
I understand that Republicans hate labor unions, but taking it out on their children??

You have to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld with the f%$#ing white Persian cat on your lap in order to be that evil.

Of course, I'm sure that Barack Obama will find a way to compromise on it.

24 March 2011

Put a Fork in it, MERs is Done

Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) has been under increasing pressures for its legal basis (it appears that they never registered loan transfers), it's corporate structure (a few dozen employees, and tens of thousands of "Vice Presidents" who were actually employed its clients, so it functioned as principal and agent), and its shoddy record keeping.

Well, MERS is now done.

First, it instructed it clients not to foreclose in its name, then Essex County, MA and Guilford County NC both filed multimillion dollar lawsuits against the entity for illegally evading county recording fees, and now Freddie Mac has said that servicers of its loan portfolio will no longer be allowed to foreclose in MERS's name.

So, the PTB have come to the conclusion that MERS is complete sh%$, both from a legal as well as a factual perspective.

Of course, they knew this 15 years ago, when MERS was founded, but now they realize that he courts are recognizing it as well.

One question though:  Why is no one going to jail?

23 March 2011

Quote of the Day

There has been a bit of discussion about whether or not economics is truly a science going around the economics blogs, and Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution makes what I think is the definitive comment on whether it is the dismal science, or just dismal:
I conclude that economics is not yet a science. Economics is more like a science when people do not care about the outcomes.

Great Googly Moogly

Understand that February is the shortest month of the year, and understand that new home sales are a lot more volatile than existing home sales, but the fact that sales fell almost 17% to an all time low, or at since records were first kept in 1963, 19,000 homes, giving an annual rate of just ¼ million home sales a year, is pretty stunning.

As the New York Times' Floyd Norris notes, this is not just the worst month ever, but it's also the worst 12 month stretch ever.

We are not in recovery yet, and with the austerity crowd doing the best to trigger a double dip in order to appease the confidence fairy, and very little push back from the sane folks in public policy, it won't get much better.

22 March 2011

Why Do Even Bother to Write?

Seriously, I do analysis, I write explanations, and then Jon Stewart, and the rest of the staff of The Daily Show explain everything, in simpler terms, and more entertainingly, in 4 minutes and 29 seconds on air.

You can't simultaneously fire teachers and Tomahawk missiles…

21 March 2011

The First Republican Makes it Official

Tim Pawlenty has formally announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the 2012 Presidential campaign.

Let the games begin.

A Win on Civil Rights

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a consortium of groups including the ACLU have legal standing to sue over the expansion in wiretapping powers passed in 2008.

The Circuit Court had ruled that unless a plaintiff could prove that they had been secretly wiretapped, they had no standing to sue, and the court has said that they do have standing.  It made no ruling on the merits:
A district judge in Manhattan had thrown out the lawsuit because he said that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate they were actually spied upon and did not have legal standing to sue. But the Second Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, allowing the lawsuit on Monday to move forward.

It found that the groups challenging the wiretapping law, including lawyers and journalists communicating with people overseas who might fall under terrorism investigations, had a reasonable fear that their international calls and e-mails would be monitored by the government.
The district court set up a lovely "Catch-22". You could not challenge the law unless you had proof that you were wiretapped, but the wiretaps are secret, so you couldn't sue, and so could not use the courts to prove that you were wiretapped.

I expect the Obama administration to use everything but the kitchen sink to stop this suit, but sovereign immunity will be their first bite at the apple.

The Tanker Competition is Over

EADS will not challenge the award of the KC-X contract award to Boeing.

I'm kind of surprised.  I expected the USAF to find a way to f%$# this up again, but I guess that they will have to do that during procurement, and I am confident that the good folks at the Pentagon and Boeing will manage to find many ways to do that.

Alan Greenspan, Shut the F%$# Up

Just go read Krugman, and read this by him too.

If there is a bright spot to the financial meltdown, it is that Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan has lived long enough to see his reputation collapse like those Ponzi schemes he thought were impossible in his magical free market.

So Give Bloombert Your Papers, Mr. Bernanke

The Supreme Court has declined to hear the Federal Reserve's appeal of the court order directing them to turn over data on its discount window lending program:
The Federal Reserve will disclose details of emergency loans it made to banks in 2008, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an industry appeal that aimed to shield the records from public view.

The justices today left intact a court order that gives the Fed five days to release the records, sought by Bloomberg News’s parent company, Bloomberg LP. The Clearing House Association LLC, a group of the nation’s largest commercial banks, had asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“The board will fully comply with the court’s decision and is preparing to make the information available,” said David Skidmore, a spokesman for the Fed.

The order marks the first time a court has forced the Fed to reveal the names of banks that borrowed from its oldest lending program, the 98-year-old discount window. The disclosures, together with details of six bailout programs released by the central bank in December under a congressional mandate, would give taxpayers insight into the Fed’s unprecedented $3.5 trillion effort to stem the 2008 financial panic.

“I can’t recall that the Fed was ever sued and forced to release information” in its 98-year history, said Allan H. Meltzer, the author of three books on the U.S central bank and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Well, it's about f%$#ing time for the Fed to be sued and forced to release information, Professor Meltzer.

I'm not sure that there will be much in the way of revelations in the documents, this has been proceeding for a well over a year, so by this point, the recipients are pretty well known, but this is an important precedent (or non-precedent, since the Supreme Court declined to rule).

My guess is that there is real law-breaking buried somewhere in these documents, both by the big banks and the Fed, but, we won't see any prosecutions, because in Barack Obama's Justice Department, prosecutions are just for whistle blowers.

20 March 2011

Signs of the Apocalypse

When Peggy "Dolphins Saved Elian Gonzalez" Noonan says that she thinks that an American war is stupid:
The biggest takeaway, the biggest foreign-policy fact, of the past decade is this: America has to be very careful where it goes in the world, because the minute it's there -- the minute there are boots on the ground, the minute we leave a footprint -- there will spring up, immediately, 15 reasons America cannot leave. The next day there will be 30 reasons, and the day after that 45. They are often serious and legitimate reasons.

So we wind up in long, drawn-out struggles when we didn't mean to, when it wasn't the plan, or the hope, or the expectation.

We have to keep this phenomenon in mind as we chart our path in the future. It's easy to start a war but hard to end one. It's as simple as that. It's easy to get in but hard to get out. Even today, in Baghdad, you hear that America can't leave Iraq because the government isn't sturdy enough, the army and police aren't strong enough to withstand the winds that will follow America's full departure, that all that has been achieved -- a fragile, incomplete, relative peace -- will be lost. America cannot leave because Iraq will be vulnerable to civil war, not between Sunnis and Shiites, they tell you now, but between Arabs and Kurds, in the north, near the oil fields.
She is, of course, writing about the war du jour, Libya, and she is correct.  It's a bad idea.

What's more, when this operation is well within the capabilities of other countries, either the UK or France could likely do this on their own, and certainly can do this together, so say nothing of the contributions of Italy and Canada (!?!?!?!), there is no need for any contribution to the kinetic portion of the war by the US, though satellite and signals intelligence could certainly make a difference.

A reader of Americablog nailed what is driving the American involvement in this:
The main reason the US seems to want to be involved seems to be to avoid being left out. If the UK and France could take out Libya on their own, people might start asking if the US really needs to have a military an order of magnitude larger than the UK and French forces combined.
Our bloated giant Pentagon cannot allow our allies to engage in a kinetic war (i.e. shooting) without a major involvement, because if they do, it casts doubt on the raison d'être for us to spend more on our defense than the rest of the world combined.

So, not only does the fact that we are a military behemoth make us stay in places that we have never gone, it makes us go places we should never go, because to stay home when others go would put its continued support at risk.

19 March 2011

This Is Not Criminalizing Failure

The FDIC is suing 3 former WAMU executives for $900 million, which I call a good start.

Felix Salmon, who I generally find to be pretty good on such things, calls it criminalizing failure:
If the risks they took paid off, they would have been hailed as heroes, and the FDIC would have no problem with their behavior. There certainly wouldn’t have been a lawsuit like this one, since the FDIC has to show that it suffered damages before it can bring it.

I don’t like the idea of criminalizing failure. Banks by their nature are leveraged institutions which are vulnerable to runs and to declines in their asset values. There’s always a natural tension between managers, who are looking to maximize profits, and regulators, who are looking to minimize risks. But in this case there’s no indication that WaMu’s regulators, including the FDIC, expressed any concern about Killinger’s strategy. If they were OK with it, at the time, it’s easy to see how the executives considered that a green light to go ahead and implement it with gusto.

But at the same time, it’s unconscionable that these guys should be able to get away with what they did just because they did it out in the open, in front of supine regulators. They knew that they were too big to fail; they knew that ultimately WaMu’s liabilities (or at least its deposits) were being backstopped by the US government; and they knew that if they wanted to get their total compensation up into the $100 million range they were just going to have to take enormous risks and gamble with the money they had essentially unlimited access to at the Fed’s discount window.
(emphasis mine)

Two points here, the first general, and second specific to this case.

The first is that a doctor who is sued for leaving a surgical instrument inside you, is not a victim of criminalizing failure. In fact, there is nothing criminal at all about the lawsuit. It's not a criminal case, it is a civil tort as the result of negligence, and it is completely reasonable and justified.

The second point here, is that what these guys did, relying on a complacent regulator, the thoroughly captured Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a federal backstop of depositors, a complacent board, and an "I don't give a sh%$ about anything but this year's bonus" attitude to knowingly engage in reckless practices in pursuit of short term gain, should be a criminal matter.

If someone is speeding and driving recklessly, and runs down a crossing guard, they do get charged with a crime, negligent homicide, and these guys were speeding and driving WaMu recklessly, so perhaps, they should be charged with negligent bankicide, because, after all, in Citizens United, the Supreme Court said that that corporations were people.

So, We are Bombing Libya

On our part, just cruise missiles launched at air defense installations, with the British and the French taking the lead, apparently hitting tanks, and perhaps artillery installations, with aid from the Italians and the Canadians. (The Canadians?!?!?! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?)

On interesting thing is that the French may have initiated attacks before the rest of the allies had reached an agreement on plans:
The campaign began with French warplanes, which started their attacks even before the end of an emergency meeting among allied leaders in Paris. The officials, reacting to news that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were attacking the rebel capital, Benghazi, despite international demands for a cease-fire, said they had no choice but to defend Libyan civilians and opposition forces.

But there were signs of disagreement among the allies in Paris. Some diplomats said that French insistence on the meeting had delayed military action against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces before they reached Benghazi, a charge that French officials denied.
This behavior makes me wonder if perhaps the French eagerness for military action may be an attempt by the tremendously unpopular Nicolas Sarkosy to boost his reelections chances, as Margaret Thatcher did in the early 1980s with the Falklands.

This all is further complicated by the fact that Libya is claiming that it is adhering to the UN mandated ceasefire.

No clue as to where the truth on all this is.

18 March 2011

Goatse is Everywhere, Part 2*

H/t The Mad Piper at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

*If you are wondering, "What is goatse, Do Not Google It. If you find out, you will never be the same, and I do not mean that in a good way.

17 March 2011

Maryland Lege Kills Gay Marriage Bill

The people who switched their votes on this once they thought that it was going to pass need to be targeted to ensure that they never hold elective office ever again.

I'm with Jonathan Capehart. This reveals the, "cowards and civil rights myopia in the statehouse.


Plus ça change

Former Michael Powell to become head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which will make him chief lobbyist for the cable companies.

This is what we got when he was head of the FCC. What we are seeing now is the payment for services rendered.

Don't Send Me Huffington Post Links

They have decided to start publishing essays by serial liar Andrew Breitbart, so, not only won't I link to them, I won't go to the site.

So, There's a No-Fly Zone in Libya

The UN Security Council just passed it.

So it's war, by any other name.

I think that this is a bad idea, and whatever emerges at the other end, and my money is still on Qaddafi, the opposition will now lack legitimacy, as will a successor government.

Kevin Drum has an interesting take on this, which is that administration ambivalence on this actually led to the widespread support necessary for the Security Council resolution.

I'm not sure, but I feel that this won't end well.

When one backs a revolution, one expects some say over the outcome, and looking at the history of that, (*cough* reinstating the Pshaw of Iran, which lead to the current theocracy *cough*) it never ends well.

16 March 2011

The Michigan Fascism Bill Passes, and Heads to the Governor's Desk

The legislature has now passed the bill, which would give the governor the power to declare any government or school district in the state and take it over, hand it to a crony, and dismiss elected officials he did not like.

Background here.

CIA Mercenary Released After US Pays Blood Money

And I mean this literally.

Under Pakistani law, if the families of the victim accept payment, the defendant can be acquitted, and this is what happens in Pakistan.

The fact that the US government had to pay several million dollars to the families in order to extract their "diplomat", his status is actually indeterminate, marks a shift in diplomatic immunity.

Scott Horton notes that this is a shift in how governments view diplomatic staff, but I'm not so sure that it's a change in policy as much as it is a recognition by foreign governments in areas of intense US interest that the establishment of sprawling embassies, consulates, and various satellite offices have nothing to do with diplomacy, and everything to do with placing spies in those places.

So Why is the Yen Skyrocketing?

Normally, a disaster has a country's currency falling, but the earthquake, and the nuclear power plant problems have the value of the Yen hitting a post World War II high.

So, why is this happening?

Two words: Carry trade.

You see interest rates in Japan are very low, so some people borrow money in Japan, and invest it elsewhere at higher interest, and thereby pocket the difference in interest rates.

The risk here is that the loans have to be paid back in Yen and if the currency strengthens, then you can end up owing more than you borrowed, a lot more than what you borrowed, and because this is typically very highly leveraged, it means that you lose a lot of money.

What is happening here is the concern that Japan will cash in, or more likely stop buying, US treasuries, because they need to spend the money on reconstruction, which strengthens the yen.

As the ¥ strengthens, the hedgies decide that they need to get their cash back into Yen before it appreciates any more, and so magnifies their losses.

So while normal concerns push the Yen up, you also have panicked (is their any other kind) traders who are desperately trying to buy into a rising market, which pushes up the Yen, which panics the traders more, who try to sell more $AUS or South African Rands to buy Yen, which further pushes it up.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Obama Pulls Another Deepwater Horizon

S%$# Heads!
Yes, in response to the Japanese nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, they are doubkling down on more loan guarantees for US nuclear power:
The Obama administration will press ahead with efforts to expand loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors while investigating the failure of Japan’s power plants after an earthquake, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

The U.S. Energy Department is seeking to add $36 billion in loan-guarantee authority to the program’s existing $18.5 billion, Chu said today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel hearing. President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to expand the program in his February budget request.

An earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11 crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant with explosions, fires and radiation leaks. As Japan tries to avert a meltdown at the plant, Obama and his energy advisers have said U.S. nuclear reactors are safe.

These guys never miss a chance to miss a chance.

Economics Update

Really just a few data points here, with housing starts falling sharply, 22%, in February, and we are seeing uptick on the producer price index.

The former is a mark of sanity, there are still too many homes, new, used, and foreclosures, out there, and if you are building houses without a buyer committed ahead of time, you are nuts in most parts of the country.

As to the PPI, it's all volatility in commodities, so I would not worry right now, which is what the FOMC said yesterday in its statement as well.

Correction on Power Plant

It appears that the any removal of all the workers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuke plant was only temporary:
Correction: March 16, 2011
A news alert associated with an earlier version of this article, relying on an English translation of remarks by Japan's chief cabinet secretary, incorrectly stated that workers had been evacuated from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A core group of workers remained at the plant.
They had a radiation spike, and removed them for the duration.
Additionally, it appears that electric power may be run to the plant shortly, which would allow for the normal coolant pumps to operate.

Why they didn't bring in a boat with a genset and anchor it offshore at the start of this is beyond me.

15 March 2011

Oh Crap

In a news conference, the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary said that they were pulling everyone out of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, though it appears that a small number of workers have elected to stay on:
11:13 P.M. |Core Group of Workers Remain at Plant

The Times’s Hiroko Tabuchi reports that a small group of workers remains at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, contrary to what an English translation of the chief cabinet secretary’s remarks had implied.

10:22 P.M. |Chief Cabinet Secretary’s News Conference

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, is holding a news conference that is being broadcast live on Japanese television. Mr. Edano said radiation readings started rising rapidly Wednesday morning outside the front gate of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “All the workers there have suspended their operations. We have urged them to evacuate, and they have,” he said, according to a translation by NHK television.
This is not good, that if the situation is as reported, those men remaining at the plant have to know that they are at very real risk of death.

We also have a report that a fire has restarted at the power plant, though it is unclear where this fire might be.

If this is the zirconium cladding of the spend fuel rods in the cooling pools, this could get very ugly very quickly.

If interested, you can see satellite and U-2 imagery here.

OK, Libya is Getting Weird

And that whole "no fly zone" thing just got a lot more difficult, because, it is reported that reble jets and helicopters just sank two of Qaddafi's warships, as well as bombing a government controlled airfield.

If this is true, it does not signify a change in the recent reversals that the rebels have experienced, but it may very well make a meaningful no-fly zone impossible to enforce.

Economics Update

The Federal Open Market Committee has released its statement, and its policies of low (basically zero) interest rates and quantitative easing (printing money) remain in effect.

Meanwhile, home builder confidence rose in March, but remains really really low, while the New York Feds Empire State Index Rose.

Full FOMC statement after the break:

And Now the New York Times

Has an editorial condemning the torture of Bradley Manning:
Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks, has not even been tried let alone convicted. Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so.
They are wrong, of course about how his torture is inexplicable. The Obama administration has aggressively covered up the wrongdoing of their predecessors, and gone after whistle-blowers with an aggressiveness that makes Bush and His Evil Minions look like advocates for open government.

The torture of Manning, as well as the malicious prosecution of whistle-blowers at all levels is clearly a result of a mania in this administration, and considering its aggressiveness, it almost certainly comes straight from the top.

It should be noted though that, true to their mealy mouthed tradition, there no use of the word "Torture" to describe extended solitary confinement, sleep deprivation.

This is rather more significant than the OP/ED in the Baltimore Sun I mentioned yesterday, because, on the villagers inside the Beltway actually read the New York Times, and care what is in those pages.

14 March 2011


I'm hoping that this is some sort of elaborate hoax, but I fear that it isn't:
Al-Qaeda has launched a magazine for women that not only offers beauty and fashion tips but also gives advice on suicide bombings.

The front cover of the glossy magazine, called 'Jihad Cosmo', features the barrel of a sub-machine gun next to a picture of a woman in a veil, reports the Daily Mail.

There are exclusive interviews with martyrs' wives, who praise their husbands' decisions to die in suicide attacks.

The slick, 31-page Al-Shamikha magazine - meaning The Majestic Woman - has advice for singletons on 'marrying a mujahideen'.
Stop the world, I need to get off.

Nice to See This Getting Some Mainstream Coverage

It's not the Washington Post or the New York Times, but my hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun has an Op/Ed, Why is the United States torturing Private Manning?

It is significant that a regular columnist, WBAL talk jock Ron Smith, both condemned the treatment, and used the word "Torture."

It is also significant that the members of the White House press corps(e) are actually starting question Obama on this

Smith is described as a "Paleoconservative" in Wikipedia, though he had enough integrity to describe Bush, Jr. as "Joe Isuzu", so it is likely that hostility to or distrust of Obama may have something to do with his opinions, but it is still significant that people are starting to use the word "torture" do describe what he calls, " the field-stripping of a young man's mind."

13 March 2011

Something Else Obama Lied About

I honestly thought that P.J. had committed bureaucratic Seppuku when he gave an honest opinion about the torture detention conditions of alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning, so on one level, I am not at all surprised that Barack Obama fired him.

But Will Bunch, who was lied to by Obama during the campaign, Barack said that he would prosecute torturers and other administration and official law breakers, nails the dishonesty and hypocrisy involved:
"I don't want to have people who just agree with me. I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone."
-- Barack Obama, June 18, 2008.

Barack Obama lied.


He lied because somebody -- a good man, a decent man, and a respected spokesman for the U.S. State Department -- pushed Obama out of his comfort zone this week. And so what happened? -- the Obama administration forced him out of his job. Apparently Obama does just want to have people who agree with him. Imagine that.
I'm not surprised, but I am disgusted.

Oh S%$@!

In Japan, they are pumping seawater through the cores of 2 units at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, and plans are being made to distribute iodine pills, which prevent the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine from a radiation leak.

I don't know how bad it is, but lordy, this ain't good.

Deep Thought

I was shoe shopping with the kids, and a clerk noticed me pacing, and asked, "Are you OK?"

"No," I responded, "I'm shopping for shoes with my 13 year old daughter."

12 March 2011

Why Some Annoying People Are Not on the List…

Submitted for your approval, Carlos Irwin Estevez
The They Who Must Not Be Named list, of course.

You see, some of the people who appear to be worthless are actually talented.

Charlie Sheen is a really funny guy, as this sketch shows, and I'm not sure if he's crazy or not, because,  unlike Bill Frist and Charles Krauthammer, I don't do diagnoses long distance, but it seems to me that even if he is a bit nuts, he is less nuts than he appears.

In any case, this video is hysterically funny, and the butt of Charlie Sheen's jokes is one Charlie Sheen.

So he has been removed from the list.

Busy Day, But I Am Relieved

That a friend of mine who lives in Japan is fine, as is his wife, and the earthquake did no damage to his home.

A word of note, if this hit anywhere in the US, we would not have the infrastructure of personnel to handle this, and we would already be seeing private profiteers cheating people.

Also note that the Republican budget cuts include cuts to the Tsunami warning system.

11 March 2011

Nope, No Corruption Here. None At All

Allegedly Democratic Co-Chair of Obama's deficit reduction (aka cat food) commission, Erskine Bowles, was recommending changes to Social Security that would likely lead to its privatization while on the board of directors of Morgan Stanley:
Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s debt-reduction commission, said his job as a Morgan Stanley (MS) director didn’t influence his work on the panel’s recommendations for balancing U.S. spending, which said taxes are sapping the competitiveness of companies.

He and the commission’s co-chief, Alan Simpson, told an audience of bankers, investors and executives at an Economic Club of New York lunch meeting March 7 that the country may face a crisis if it doesn’t rein in the debt. Bowles, 65, has been a member of the bank’s board since the end of 2005.

“It didn’t have any effect on me at all,” he said in an interview after the lunch, when asked if his work for New York- based Morgan Stanley influenced the commission’s December proposals. “We tried to gore every ox we could.”
He also said that "The check is in the mail, this won't hurt a bit, I'll respect you in the morning, and I won't cum in your mouth."

Note also that Barack Obama was the one what hired these guys.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. First National Bank of Davis, Davis, OK
  2. Legacy Bank, Milwaukee, WI
Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. Land of Enchantment Federal Credit Union, Santa Fe, NM
Full NCUA list

I don't have much to add, except that it looks a lot like 2010, and the "Land of Enchantement Federal Credit Union" is a really trippy name. 

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

And since it's early in the year, here is a detail of the first few weeks:

The Term for this is Bureaucratic Seppuku

It is also courageous and so if anyone knows of a new job for State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, drop him a line.

You see, Crowley called the torture treatment of Private Bradley Manning by our military "Stupid."

If there is anything that pisses off Barack Obama, it's whistle blowers.  His administration has prosecuted them more aggressively than any other administration in  history, and the torture of Manning is delibrate:  They want to extract false testimony from him to implicate assange, and, more importantly, they want to terrify any would-be whistle blowers out of telling the truth:
Mr Crowley made the remarks about Bradley Manning to an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Nonetheless Bradley Manning is in the right place," Mr Crowley said.

Private Manning is being held in solitary confinement at a maximum security US military jail.

He is shackled at all times and has been on suicide watch at the Quantico marine base in Virginia.

Mr Crowley was asked whether his comments were on the record and replied, "sure".

President Barack Obama was questioned about whether he agreed with Mr Crowley's comments at a news conference on Friday.

He responded by saying he had asked the Pentagon directly if the terms of Pte Manning's confinement were "appropriate" and received assurances that they were.

Mr Obama added that some aspects of Pte Manning's treatment "has to do with his safety as well".
Obama's response is pure, unadulterated bullsh%$.  You asked, and were told that they were appropriate, and that "some" aspects have to do with his safety.

So, you just stated that you know, and that you chose to look the other way.

I am so glad that I live in Maryland, and so I never have to vote for this contemptible ratf%$# ever again.

That being said, now that the dirty laundry is out, how much do you want to bet that the treatment gets better?

10 March 2011

Shoot Me. I'm Thinking that Ron Paul is Right

The Federal Reserve's Consumer Advisory Council just released a report saying that there have been no wrongful foreclosures by banks:
A months-long investigation into abusive mortgage practices by the Federal Reserve found no wrongful foreclosures, members of the Fed's Consumer Advisory Council said Thursday.

During a public meeting attended by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators, consumer advocates on the panel criticized federal bank regulators for narrowly defining what constitutes a "wrongful foreclosure." At least one member of the panel voiced concerns that the public would not take the Fed's findings of improper practices seriously, since the wide-ranging review did not find a single homeowner who was wrongfully foreclosed upon.

The Fed's findings seem to support claims from the banking industry, which has admitted to sloppy practices but has maintained that the homeowners whose homes have been repossessed were substantially behind on their payments. The Fed's report has not been released to the public.
This is crap.  Even if you argue that fraudulent statements to the court are not "wrongful foreclosure", you have to note that banks have foreclosed on people who had mortgages with other people, and foreclosed on people who paid cash for their homes.

Well, with regard to the Federal Reserve, I used to take the middle ground, Alan Grayson's position for audits and more transparency, while eschewing Ron Paul's suggestion that we close down the Federal Reserve.

I thought that Paul was loony, and that it was a loony suggestion.

Now I'm beginning to think that the Federal Reserve is so thoroughly captured by the banks, and so thoroughly corrupt, that closing it down might be the only sane option.

The Rude Pundit Asks the Right Question

You should read his whole post about what is going on in Wisconsin, but in the last paragraph, he asks the important question:
Where the f%$# is the President? Where the f%$# is the President? Where the f%$# is the President?
(%$# mine)

The answer, of course is that the President is busy, "Winning the Future," because pursuing a lame ass slogan in order to be reelected in 2008 is more important than defending the rights of the ordinary working man.

Scott Walker's Kill the Unions Bill Heads for His Desk

The lower house of the legislature passed it today.

There are some real questions as to whether this is is legal, so the Wisconsin Supreme Court, currently 4-3 Republican, may very well have the final word.

The reason that this is important is that Wisconsin elects its supreme court justices in partisan elections, and there is an election on  is April 5 with Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg facing incumbent Republican David Prosser.

Given that this is generally a low turnout sort of election, and that liberal groups are flooding the zone generally right now, the Dem has a real chance of winning, particularly because Prosser was one of the people who chose to ignore the US Supreme Court ruling and let a fellow state Supreme Court judge off for not recusing himself when a major donor to his campaign appeared before him.

Why Yes, Muslim Baiting Congressman Peter King Does Support Terrorism

Only Jon Stewart can make eating cheese this funny
This time, he notes the conflict between Representative Peter King's full throated support for the IRA, and his the New York Congressman's concerns about terrorism when the people blowing up school children and the occasional American are not white.

You know, I can think of no better way to encourage a 15 year old to consider making war against the United States than to have to hear Peter King talk about his religion in this way.

Economics Update (Jobless Thursday Edition)

We have the latest claims, and they are going in the wrong direction again, with unemployment rising by 26K to 397K, worse than forecast, though both continuing and emergency claims both fell.

Additionally, consumer confidence fell, largely on spiking gas prises.

The Bank of England is not too confidence either, so it kept its benchmark rate at effectively zero.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?!?

Recall time!
So, the Wisconsin State Senate just pulled the anti-union provisions out of the budget bill, and then, since they did not require a quorum, since they were non-budgetary, they passed it with an 18-1 vote.

I will note that the motion appears to be in violation of the state constitution:
The measure approved Wednesday forbids most government workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. It also requires public workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health insurance contribution, a combination equivalent to an 8 percent pay cut for the average worker.
Those savings would appear to be budgetary to me, and hence subject to the state constitution's quorum requirement.

Firedog Lake's invaluable David Dayen has some more of the finer points, and it appears that this is definitely headed to court, though the Wisconsin State Supreme Court is heavily Republican.

If you want to donate to the recall efforts, you can go to my Act Blue Page. There is a link there for donations.

Also note that in the middle of the most important fight for ordinary working Americans in decades, the Obama administration has decided that they don't want to be involved:
Similarly, the White House mostly has sought to stay out of the fray in Madison, Wis., and other state capitals where Republican governors are battling public employee unions and Democratic lawmakers over collective bargaining rights. When West Wing officials discovered that the Democratic National Committee had mobilized Mr. Obama’s national network to support the protests, they angrily reined in the staff at the party headquarters.

Administration officials said they saw the events beyond Washington as distractions from the optimistic “win the future” message that Mr. Obama introduced in his State of the Union address, in which he exhorted the country to increase spending for some programs even as it cuts others so that America can “out-innovate and out-educate” its global rivals.
I guess that someone in the administration finds unions, and ordinary working people to be icky. After all, they expect to spend a billion dollars in 2012 on the Presidential election, and the working man just does not have that kind of money.

Barack Obama is very lucky that the Republicans are as awful as they are, because otherwise, as awful as he is, he'd have a serious primary challenger right now.

What can I say, when Mitt Romney is the class act in the room, you have a very scary political party.

09 March 2011

No, 11 Year Old Girls Are Not Asking for It!

The New York Times times reported on a horrific rape of an 11 year old girl in Texas, and saw fit to blame the victim for the crime.

Some selected quotes:
The video led the police to an abandoned trailer, more evidence and, eventually, to a roundup over the last month of 18 young men and teenage boys on charges of participating in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in the abandoned trailer home, the authorities said.


The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
Drawn into the act?

The alleged Rapists have to live with this for the rest of their life?

But it gets even better:
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.

“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”
You see, she hung out with the wrong crowd, and she wore slutty clothes, so she deserves to be raped.

By comparison, the Houston Chronicle doesn't go out of their way to portray an 11 year old girl as something akin to Jezebel.

Why reporter James C. McKinley Jr. and whoever his editor is are still employed at the Times is completely beyond me.

Yes, This is Fascism

Rachel Maddow and Naomi Klein on the "Emergency Manager" Bill
In Michigan, the governor is pushing a bill through that would grant Governor Rick Snyder the powers of a dictator.

Basically, he can declare a financial emergency for any municipal government or school district, and then he can assign an "Emergency Manager", who could, without any review cancel any contracts (including labor contracts), dismiss elected officials, disincorporate towns, and dismantle school districts.

What's more, the Senate version of the bill allows the emergency manager to be assigned to a corporation, like Blackwater (now Xe) or Halliburton.

There is no criteria for such a declaration, but even if there were, they are also gutting local aid, which pretty much means that they are creating fiscal crises anyway.

Basically, any elected official, and any semblance of due process is to be wiped away, in a bill that really does resemble the Emergency Laws that Mubarak used to rule Egypt with an iron fist for all these years.

This is about a corporate takeover of civil society, and the vesting of near absolute power in the executive.

When Are These F%$#s Going to Stop Listening to James O'Keefe

This is Not Star Trek. In Startrek, the Evil Spock has a goatee. In our world the evil James O'Keefe is clean shaven.
Right wing videographer hack James O'Keefe* has secured yet another scalp, the president of NPR has resigned.

This guy has been proven to be a serial liar, but he releases his crap, Fox News picks it up, and suddenly, people are freaking out.

This just makes it worse for NPR, because they just capitulated to a terrorist.

*Who is not to be confused with my former classmate, founder of the Massachusetts Pirate Party, former Green Party candidate for Massachusetts Treasure, and all around good guy, James "Jamie" O'Keefe.

Death Penalty Repealed in Illinois

I think that this makes it 13 states that have abolished the death penalty, which is a good trend.

David Broder Has Died

He was 81.

He was called the "Dean" of the Washington press corps, and I have only been aware of him since the late 1990s, so I cannot not comment on his career before then, but since then he was very much the voice of the sensibilities of "The Village" as Atrios calls it.

Needless to say, my sense of his oeuvre is not positive.



08 March 2011

Pirate Party Founded in Massachusetts

And I know the guy who did it, James "Jamie" O'Keefe:
The Massachusetts Election Division has approved the Massachusetts Pirate Party as a political designation, allowing voters in the state to register as a "Pirate."

The party strives to increase government transparency, promote personal privacy, reinforce the spread of knowledge through copyright reform, and abolish patents.

"We live in a country founded on the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the Massachusetts Pirate Party said in a statement. "For many people, those ideals are not real. The Supreme Court and Congress have expanded the power of corporations and made them more powerful than people. Increasingly government officials ignore open meeting laws, make deals favorable to corporations behind closed doors and sell off our public information to private interests."
I went to UMass with him.

Note, as the article does, that Jamie is not the criminal asshole who cooks up fraudulent videos.

Note that my inclinations on IP are very similar, though perhaps a bit more moderate, than those of the Pirate Party.

Another One for the List

Notwithstanding this hysterically funny condemnation of him in a Chinese newspaper, they assert that, as opposed to sharing his bed with two pr0n stars, he should put them up in a separate house,* Charlie Sheen is now on my list of They Who Must Not Be Named.

Please God, never have him run for public (or in his case pubic) office.

*Apparently, the Chinese have never heard of a menage a trois.