30 June 2011

It's Jobless Thursday

And the unemployment claims numbers suck wet farts from dead pigeons.

Please, God, Let This Be True!

There are now rumors that Timothy Geighner will be resigning as Treasury Secretary after the debt ceiling dispute is resolved:
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has signaled to White House officials that he’s considering leaving the administration after President Barack Obama reaches an agreement with Congress to raise the federal debt limit, according to three people familiar with the matter.
First, let me note that this is an interesting contruct, "according to three people familiar with the matter."

Since when do reporters say how many anonymous sources that they are quoting?

The fact that Geithner has been the longest serving and worst of Obama's economic advisers, (When you consider that Larry Summers is in the mix, it's pretty mind boggling) it doesn't bode well for whoever will replace him.

My suggestion would be to stop giving Wall Street a blow job, and appoint someone up to regulation, but the 'Phants will filibuster them, so recess appoint someone who who has a history of pursuing fraud and abuse, though Republicans are suggesting that Obama, "Bring a CEO on board."

So will Obama do the right thing, both politically and policy wise, or will he elect not to disturb the status quo, and engage in another pointless attempt to appease the Republicans?

I'm not an optimist.

29 June 2011

The Mess that Michelle Rhee Left Behind

The Washington Post has a fascinating profile of respected school principal Bill Kerlina, who quit to bake cupcakes (really):
Bill Kerlina won a plum assignment when he was hired away from Montgomery County in July 2009 to become a principal in Northwest Washington. Phoebe Hearst Elementary was a small, high-performing school, right across the street from Sidwell Friends.

He grew to love its students, teachers and — for the most part — its parents.

“If I could lift that school up and put it in a functional school system, it would be perfect,” he said.

Instead, he said, the dysfunction he encountered in D.C. public schools led him to quit this month, fed up and burned out.

Principals in the District and other cities leave all the time, for a range of reasons. At least 20 of the District’s 123 public schools will have new leaders when classes begin in late August.The churn is especially heavy at low-performing schools. A 2010 study showed that nearly two-thirds of Chicago’s struggling schools had three or more principals in the past decade.

But Kerlina, a baby-faced 39, is leaving Hearst, not a struggling school in a poor neighborhood. He’s also leaving education altogether after 17 years — to go into the gourmet cupcake business.

Usually, resignations and firings unfold in silence, with officials citing privacy laws and educators reluctant to burn bridges. But a series of interviews with Kerlina offers a rare view of D.C. reform from an insider talking out of school.

He said he is quitting a system that evaluates teachers but doesn’t support their growth, that knuckles under to unreasonable demands from parents, and that focuses excessively on recruiting neighborhood families to a school where most students come from outside the attendance zone.
Generally, people on the way out doen't talk, but in his case, he's leaving the biz, so describes the dysfunction in detail:
  • Teacher "accountability" with evaluations, but no meaningful training for teachers to be able to actually meet these standards.
  • Lack of support of principals when dealing with excessively demanding parents.  (Not so sympathetic on this one, as my wife and I are pretty demanding about getting our kids special ed needs addressed.)
  • That he was pressured to whiten his school.
Here is the money quote:
Kerlina signed on just as Rhee was rolling out the IMPACT evaluation system, which called for five classroom observations to assess criteria such as clarity of presentation, content knowledge and ability to teach children with varying skill levels. Some teachers would be held accountable for student growth on standardized tests. Those with poor evaluations were subject to dismissal.

It was a major change.Kerlina said he was surprised when he heard it would not be tried on a pilot basis, which was standard practice in Montgomery. He said he came to believe that the initiative offered virtually no provisions to help teachers improve.

“The reform, in my opinion, is getting rid of people,” he said.
It's been very clear for a long time that Michelle Rhee was doing pump and dump on the DC Public Schools, she had no plan whatsoever on early childhood education, and her goal was to fire black administrators and teachers in the hope of bringing white students into the school, to create a bump in the test scores.

This is not education reform, this is private equity style asset stripping writ on the public schools.

Boy, The Economy is Going Swimmingly

Click for full size


This is grim


And so is this
The consumer confidence numbers came out, and they suck.

Basically, it's plumbing an 8 month low (see chart pr0n), because there is no light at then of the tunnel, unless you are a bankster.

Greeks Approve Suicide Pact

You know, I was in the car, talking with my son about Greece, and I said that the Greek parliament had approved their own suicide pact by approving the austerity program demanded by the ECB and IMF.

My son, ever the precocious almost 11-year-old, asked me why it was a suicide pact, and I explained that austerity causes the economy to contract, which makes you less able to repay your debts.

I said that it was like demanding a salary cut so that you can better pay your debt.

My son did not understand this at all.

I explained that it was because they are stupid, and by "they" I mean the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Angela Merkel.

Charlie did not find this a satisfying answer, and, truth be told, I don't find it a particularly satisfying answer.

OCC Gives Another Monica to the Banks

How bad is this one?

It's so bad that even Timothy Geithner's Treasury Department finds it excessive:
The Treasury Department has unexpectedly allied with state regulators and consumer groups in their bid to force the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to dial back its preemption standards.

The Obama administration sent a letter to the OCC this week objecting to a proposal that said Dodd-Frank left preemption standards mostly unchanged. But Treasury said the OCC was ignoring Congressional intent.

"Although Congress adopted a specific preemption standard in Dodd-Frank, the OCC's rule articulates a preemption standard that is broader than the language of the Dodd-Frank standard," Treasury General Counsel George Madison wrote to the OCC.

It is relatively unusual for federal agencies to weigh in on another regulators' proposal, but even more rare in this case. The OCC is nominally a bureau of Treasury, but the administration has only limited oversight of the agency.

At issue is language used by the OCC to preempt state consumer protection laws. The agency has said it can preempt laws that "obstruct, impair or condition" the business of banking.

But those words were not part of the 1996 Barnett Supreme Court decision, which Dodd-Frank said should be the preemption standard.

In a proposal issued May 26, the OCC dropped the controversial language, but still said its previous rulings stood intact.

In his letter, Treasury's Madison said that did not make sense.

"The proposed rule validates all prior preemption determinations, including those based on its deleted 'obstruct, impair or condition' standard," Madison wrote. "In our view, this position is contrary to Dodd-Frank."

Madison said the OCC was trying to ignore the law.
(Emphasis mine)

The fact here is that the head of the OCC's term ended some time ago, and Obama has allowed the position of the Comptroller of the Currency to remain unfilled, he has not even proposed a successor, and allowed Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh to continue in office when a recess appointment could put someone in place who might actually be interested in, well, you know, regulating.

Seriously, recess appoint someone who is not a corrupt sellout.  Having the Treasury department call them names is not a proactive solution.

28 June 2011

This is What Qualifies for Good Economic News

The fact that homer prices in May fell year over year, but they rose month to month:
Finally, perhaps some good news on housing values.

On Tuesday, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, a closely watched measure of home prices, posted a rise for April, the first in eight months.

The index increased 0.7 percent, reflecting increases in prices in 13 of the 20 cities tracked. That compared with a 0.8 percent decline in March, when the index hit a new low.

But analysts said it was unclear that a sustained rebound in the housing market was under way, noting that sales were typically stronger in the spring.

David M. Blitzer, the chairman of the index committee at S.& P. Indices, called the April increase a welcome shift from previous months. “However, the seasonally adjusted numbers show that much of the improvement reflects the beginning of the spring-summer home buying season,” he added in a statement. “It is much too early to tell if this is a turning point or simply due to some warmer weather.”
It's the warmer weather, but we have papers trumpeting this because they are desperately trying to pander to your realtors who buy ads in your paper.

The fact that home prices rose a bit in April relative to March isn't news.

Thing about it: The last time home prices rose in the Case-Shiller index was 8 months ago, and 8 months back from April is …… August …… Naah, nothing seasonal here.

Silly Developing Nations, Don't You Know that the IMF is for White People?

So, Christine Lagarde has been appointed the new head of the IMF.

What striking about all this is how the powers that be have insisted that they need to have a European in charge, because of the current crises in the Euro zone.

Gee, no one ever said that when it was Indonesia, Mexico, Korea, Malaysia, etc., but once it's the Euro's head in the noose, suddenly we need to institute a affirmative action for white people legacy admissions program for the window office at a major international financial agency.

27 June 2011

Not Enough Bullets

Just who do you think that the World Bank would hire as their treasurer? Why it would be the chief risk officer for Lehman when it collapsed:
The World Bank has appointed Madelyn Antoncic as its new vice president and treasurer.

Ms Antoncic served as Lehman Brothers’ chief risk officer from 2002 to 2007 and following the collapse of the bank, stayed on for a year as managing director and senior advisor at the Lehman Estate, helping to maximise value for creditors.

Having begun her career as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, she has worked for Goldman Sachs in various posts (including head of market risk management), and for Barclays Capital, before joining Lehman Brothers in 1999.

In her new role, Ms Antoncic will be responsible for maintaining the World Bank’s standing in financial markets and for managing an extensive client advisory, transaction, and asset management business.
Seriously, in the self dealing nepotistic and moronic world in which they live, there is literally nothing that a bankster can do,* that can prevent them from being given high profile high prestige jobs.

There are indications that she was opposed to Lehman's high risk strategy, but she chose to stay, and get a do-nothing government relations position.

If she, as chief risk officer, was unwilling to leave when she saw what was going on, and she was frozen out, any organization that hires her as treasurer has absolutely no credibility at all.

It's like putting Charlie Sheen in charge of your chastity and sobriety department.

This is why not prosecuting was such a bad idea. Like bad pennies, people like this keep coming back to do even more harm.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

*As long as you are white anyway. See the fall of Raj Raj Rajaratnam as an illustration.

<Facepalm>


Un-Dirtyword Believable!
So, Michelle Bachmann, everyone's favorite dose of batsh%$ insane, went to her home town of Waterloo Iowa, and invoked fellow Waterloo resident, John Wayne.
Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too.

The problem is that the John Wayne that we all know from his film oeuvre, Marion Robert Morrison, was born in Winterset, Iowa, hours away from Waterloo.

The only famous John Wayne from Waterloo, was John Wayne Gacy, who began his history of abuse and violence in Waterloo before moving to Chicago and expanding to mass murder.

There is a part of me that is beginning to think that Bachmann does things like this because she so loves to play the victimhood card.

Say something mind-bogglingly stupid or deranged, and when people notice, complain that the media is out to get you, and your supporters get even more riled up.

Of course, Occam's razor would indicate that it's just stupidity and lunacy,

26 June 2011

This is Weird, But Not Unexpected

Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge David Prosser, after having admitted calling the Chief Justice of the court a "bitch", and threatening to "destroy" her, with his excuse being that she was, after all a bitch", and now he is alleged to have choked a fellow justice:
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.

"The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold," Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley's version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.

………

The conversation grew heated, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a source said.

Bradley felt Prosser "was attacking the chief justice," the source said.

Before leaving, Prosser "put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold," the source said.

"He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck," the source said.

The source said the act "was in no way playful."

But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser.

"She charged him with fists raised," the source said.

Prosser "put his hands in a defensive posture," the source said. "He blocked her."

In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley's neck.
It's telling that Bradley has public with her statements, and Prosser is using proxies to put forward his story, which is pretty much of a repeat of his "the bitch had it coming" defense.

I know, yadda yadda yadda, innocent until proven guilty, but his defense seems particularly lame, particularly given his admittedly unprofessional and abusive behavior, I'm disinclined do believe the report that he choked her in self defense, though I'm sure we'll be seeing that all through the right wing media.

25 June 2011

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (on Saturday)

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

It's beginning to look like we won't even break triple digits this year, which is better than 2009 and 2010.
  1. Mountain Heritage Bank, Clayton, GA


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

Thanks to my Reader(s)



Yes, Google™ Adsense™ has a few bugs
I'd like to thank everyone who reads my blog.

I've gotten enough page views, and click throughs, to get some money from Google™ Adsense™.

I'm not sure that I got a whole bunch of click throughs, because, after all, I get ads, supporting Wal-Mart, for Glen Beck, and for speculators, which would not appear to be a good match for my typical reader.

So, if anyone out there knows of a better ad network, I get something like $8/month on about 4000 page views a month, tell me.

In any case, my latest check will go to taking my family out to dinner.

My standard Google™ Adsense™ disclaimers below:

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

This is a Big F%$#ing Deal

H/t Good Girls Finish Last for the rainbow Empire State Building
The New York Senate just voted to approve gay marriage in the state.

For all those who were for it, this is something to be proud of.

For those who opposed it, and in particular those in the religious community who carved out a specific right to use God as an excuse for bigotry, blasphemy* by any sane standard, you are evil small people who history will view as evil and small people.

*I would note that I consider the right to blaspheme to be one of the most basic human rights, I am merely pointing out their hypicrisy.

24 June 2011

Doing Nothing Balances the Budget

No really, if you put everything on auto-pilot, and keep Congress from doing the "Doc-Fixes", and allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, you get this:

The top picture, doing nothing, gets you a surplus around 2013, the bottom one, cutting taxes, gets you deficits as far as the eye can see.

Republicans care about deficits like I care about William Shatner's penis size.

Senators Call for OCC Head's Removal

After pimping for the big banks for the past few years, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh has finally become so blatant that 3 Senate Dems called for his removal:
On Tuesday, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh said regulators are in danger of going too far to curb risk-taking by big banks.

Now, some Democratic senators are calling for his head.

Three Senate Democrats – Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Carl Levin of Michigan and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – have publicly called for the White House to replace Mr. Walsh, a Republican, following his speech in London Tuesday.

The lawmakers were particularly rankled by Mr. Walsh’s statements that bank capital requirements – the cushion banks hold against future losses — are already “exceedingly high” and that regulators should be cautious about much more they require the largest banks to hold, something foreign and U.S. regulators are now negotiating.

“Mr. Walsh’s latest comments provide further evidence that he is not interested in leading an agency charged with ensuring the safety and soundness of our financial institutions,” Mr. Reed said in a statement. Mr. Reed, a senior member of the Senate Banking panel which oversees the OCC, went on to call for the Obama administration “to fundamentally re-think the OCC’s leadership and ensure that American taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s misdeeds.”

Mr. Levin, who leads an investigative committee that investigated the 2008 financial crisis, said it is “past time for the president to nominate new leadership at the OCC to protect American families and businesses from the excesses of Wall Street.”
When Yves Smith wrote, "OCC Gives Banks Another Blow Job,"  she was spot on.

It was past time to ditch him, and for that matter, to ditch the whole OCC,  in January 2009, but he he'll keep Walsh, for the same reason that Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner is Obama's secretary of the treasury.

Matt Taibbi is a Genius

Just go read his takedown of Michelle Bachmann:
It could happen. Michele Bachmann has found the flaw in the American Death Star. She is a television camera's dream, a threat to do or say something insane at any time, the ultimate reality-show protagonist. She has brilliantly piloted a media system that is incapable of averting its eyes from a story, riding that attention to an easy conquest of an overeducated cultural elite from both parties that is far too full of itself to understand the price of its contemptuous laughter. All of those people out there aren't voting for Michele Bachmann. They're voting against us. And to them, it turns out, we suck enough to make anyone a contender.
Just go read it.

It's nothing new, but it is a cogent, and eminently readable, synthesis of what we do know.

Excuse Me Sir……

Peter Falk has died at age 83.

It is interesting how a man who spent most of his career playing gangsters is best known as a cop, Lieutenant Colombo.

More Evidence That We Live in a Feudal Society

This time, it's the credit report bureaus who are practicing Droit du seigneur* on us without lube:
The credit rating bureaus, whose reports influence everything from credit cards to mortgages to job offers, have a two-tiered system for resolving errors — one for the rich, the well-connected, the well-known and the powerful, and the other for everyone else.

The three major agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, keep a V.I.P. list of sorts, according to consumer lawyers and legal documents, consisting of celebrities, politicians, judges and other influential people. Those on the list — and they may not even realize they are on it — get special help from workers in the United States in fixing mistakes on their credit reports. Any errors are usually corrected immediately, one lawyer said.

For everyone else, disputes are herded into a largely automated system. Their complaints are often electronically ferried to a subcontractor overseas, where a worker spends, on average, about two minutes figuring out the gist of the matter, boiling it down to a one-to-three-digit computer code that signifies the problem — “account not his/hers,” for example — and sending a dispute form to the creditor to investigate. Many times, consumer advocates say, the investigation translates to a perfunctory check of its records.

“The legal responsibility of the credit reporting agencies and of the creditors is well established,” said Leonard Bennett, a consumer lawyer in Newport News, Va. “There is a requirement that they do meaningful research and analysis, and it is almost never done.”
For the rest of us, it's all just serfdom.

*Droit du seigneur is the apparently mythical practice of granting the lord of the manor the right to deflower new brides on their wedding night.

I Know That I Should Not Feel Good About This, But I Do

Corporate crook and right wing newspaper magnate Conrad Black has been sent back to prison:
After nearly a year of fighting to remain free, Conrad M. Black is going back to prison.

Mr. Black, the onetime newspaper baron, received a new jail sentence on Friday from a federal judge in Chicago for his remaining convictions on charges that he defrauded his investors. Judge Amy St. Eve imposed a three-and-a-half-year sentence on Mr. Black, although prosecutors say he will get credit for the more than two years that he has already served in federal prison.

The resentencing of Mr. Black stems from a federal appeals court decision in October that upheld two of Mr. Black’s 2007 convictions, for mail fraud and obstruction of justice, even though it reversed two other convictions for fraud. Mr. Black had been out on bail since last summer pending the appeal.
You have to understand, this guy was not just a right winger with a chain of newspapers, he also strip mined the papers, axing reporters and journalistic quality, when he ran them, so I imagine that the only people out there happier about this than I am are current and former employees of the publications he used to manage.

23 June 2011

This is the Legacy of Arne Duncan

You know, the guy who ran the Chicago schools, and was chosen to run the Department of Education, where he has gone full in on bashing teachers supporting the for-profit educational industrial complex.

Well. I'm not sure if he set the tone in the Chicago School district, or was just a product of it, but the fact that the Chicago Public Schools froze teacher salaries while jacking up pay for senior executives:
Though they voted last week to rescind four percent pay raises for teachers and union school workers, the Chicago Board of Education today is expected to approve salaries for the newly installed Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and four other top executives that, by and large, mark substantial increases over their predecessors' pay.

As the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday, Brizard's base salary - $250,000 - tops former CPS head Ron Huberman's salary by $20,000 - and is the highest pay rate for any city executive excluding the city's new police chief, Garry McCarthy. It is also an annual salary nearly $40,000 higher than the head of New York City's school system, though less than the public schools chiefs in Los Angeles and other cities.

Salaries for the other four executives are less dramatic, but still more than their Daley administration predecessors. New Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso, who is slated to rake in $195,000, is making $2,150 more than the former education officer. New Chief of Staff Andrea Saenz, who will be paid $165,000 annually, is making $49,000 more than those who came before. CPS chief administrative officer Tim Cawley and communications officer Becky Carroll are slated to take in $35,833 and $34,617 base salary increases over their Daley counterparts, earning $215,000 and $165,000 salaries respectively.
So their goal is to make American schools more like the banks.

They sh%$ on the workers, and extract as much money as possible out of the enterprise to overpay the incompetent rat-f%$#s in charge.

Yeah, The Solution to Our Depression is Austerity

Another lousy jobs report, initial unemployment claims rose by 9,000 to 429,000, with the 4-week moving average and continuing claims staying flat, but emergency claims rose.

We're at 9+% unemployment, and  the PTB should be running around  with their hair on fire, but they are too busy preaching austerity to make the world safe for the banksters.

22 June 2011

Some Democrats Just Got a Small Clue

Senators Durbin and Shumer have come out and explicitly accused the 'Phants of deliberately tanking the economy for political gain:
hey've made it explicit. Democrats are accusing Republicans of trying to sabotage the recovery -- or at least stall it -- by blocking all short-term measures to boost the economy, even ones they previously supported.

In a Capitol press conference Wednesday, the Senate's top Democrats argued that Republicans don't want to pass measures like a temporary payroll tax holiday for employers because they'll improve President Obama's re-election chances.

"Our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work: President Obama," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The harshest denunciation came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the man who crafted the Dems' new "jobs first" message.

"We are also open to hiring incentives, perhaps in the form of a payroll tax cut for employers that was floated by the administration.... [T]hat might not be our first choice, that shows how willing we are to work with the Republicans to create jobs. It's pro-business, it's a tax cut, and many Republicans have been for it in the past. But now all of a sudden they're coming out against it," Schumer said.
They should have been saying this 6 months ago.

First, it's true, second, it's good politics, and third, it's true.

The Federal Reserve Speaks

And they are saying that the economy sucks, and will continue to suck, but they won't do anything about it:
The economic recovery is slowing and the outlook for next year has gotten worse, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday, backing away from the view that the slowdown of the past few months was merely temporary.

The central bank released new economic projections that showed weaker growth in both 2011 and 2012 than had been forecast just two months ago. Despite the slowdown, the Fed said it will end a program of buying vast sums of Treasury bonds at the end of June as scheduled and gave no sign it is contemplating new action.
We are unbelievably screwed.

Dearie, Have You Considered Ritalin?

Yes, the half term governor of Alaska, and Miss it-took-six-colleges-to-get-a-degree-in-journalism, Sarah Palin, has quit her nationwide bus tour about halfway through her schedule:
Amid diminishing media interest, Sarah Palin has quit her high-profile bus tour halfway through and returned to Alaska with her family, according to RealClearPolitics.

The move puts a damper on widespread speculations that Palin's "One Nation" bus tour, which launched on Memorial Day, was a precursor to a potential White House bid for 2012. Palin never made it to her scheduled stops in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

RealClearPolitics, which originally broke the story about the bus tour, reported Wednesday on Palin's "extended hiatus." The remaining legs of her trip, according to Scott Conroy, are "in limbo" as "Palin and her family have reverted to the friendly confines of summertime Alaska."
Seriously, can this woman finish anything?

Either Sarah Palin is the most pathetic person on the face of the earth, or she is the most inspired performance artist ever.

Headline of the Day

OCC Gives Banks Another Blow Job

Yves Smith captures the essence of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

21 June 2011

Senators Want To Put People In Jail For Embedding YouTube Videos

No, seriously, Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn and Christopher Coons are proposing to make posting the wrong sort of Youtube videos a felony:
Okay, this is just getting ridiculous. A few weeks back, we noted that Senators Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn and Christopher Coons had proposed a new bill that was designed to make "streaming" infringing material a felony. At the time, the actual text of the bill wasn't available, but we assumed, naturally, that it would just extend "public performance" rights to section 506a of the Copyright Act.

Supporters of this bill claim that all it's really doing is harmonizing US copyright law's civil and criminal sections. After all, the rights afforded under copyright law in civil cases cover a list of rights: reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works or perform the work. The rules for criminal infringement only cover reproducing and distributing -- but not performing. So, supporters claim, all this does is "harmonize" copyright law and bring the criminal side into line with the civil side by adding "performance rights" to the list of things.

If only it were that simple. But, of course, it's not. First of all, despite claims to the contrary, there's a damn good reason why Congress did not include performance rights as a criminal/felony issue: because who would have thought that it would be a criminal act to perform a work without permission? It could be infringing, but that can be covered by a fine. When we suddenly criminalize a performance, that raises all sorts of questionable issues.
The problem here is that people do not understand what IP is.

People seem to think that it's property.  It's no more property than a liquor license is.

It's a limited time limited exclusive license created to, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

It's not about creating progressively punitive and extortive provisions, largely because the holders of these licenses have lots of money to wave around, and want ways to extort more money.

Where His Campaign Was, There Is Nothing But a Greasy Stain…

It's Newt again. His fundraisers just bailed from his campaign:
Newt Gingrich's top two fundraising advisers resigned on Tuesday, and officials said the Republican candidate's hobbling presidential campaign carried more than $1 million in debt.
FILE - In this June 16, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Gingrich's top two fundraising advisers resigned on Tuesday, and officials said the Republican candidate's hobbling presidential campaign carried more than $1 million in debt.
FILE - In this June 16, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential hopeful, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Gingrich's top two fundraising advisers resigned Tuesday, June 21, 2011, and officials said the Republican candidate's hobbling presidential campaign carried more than $1 million in debt. The departures were the latest blow for the former House speaker who watched 16 top advisers abandon his campaign en masse earlier in June.

The departures of fundraising director Jody Thomas and fundraising consultant Mary Heitman were the latest blow for the former House speaker who watched 16 top advisers abandon his campaign en masse earlier this month, partly because of what people familiar with the campaign spending described as a dire financial situation.

These people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the campaign's inner workings, said the former Georgia lawmaker racked up massive travel bills but money had only trickled in since he got into the race earlier this spring.
This is incredible.  The

I think that this is getting so pathetic that he might stop getting invitations to the Sunday political talk shows.

This would be a good thing. I hate listening to that self-important fatuous snollygoster moral pygmy on the TV present himself as some sort of intellectual giant.

Paul Krugman has the Pictures on Life Expectancy

Click for full size


So, it's the former Confederacy…
And Indian Reservations
And it's an interesting picture.

He notices that most of the counties in question are in the old south, where taxes are low, unions are under seige, and the social safety net is non existent.

He wryly observes that, "geography of the decline speaks for itself."

I actually noticed something else, in some places, like the red spot in South Dakota, it corresponds to the Pine Ridge and other Indian reservations in that part of the state.

I understand why, if the our healthcare system is beginning to fracture, it makes sense that Indian reservations would where we see the first signs, given the history of the destruction of their culture, the mismanagement of their affairs by the BIA, etc.

Basically, the reservations were structured for a very long time as something like a penal colony and a red-headed step-child, so it's not surprising that they would be ground zero for many forms of decay.

As to the old Confederacy, I think that it's more a matter of choice.

Post-reconstruction, there was an embrace of myths and philosophies that serve to keep most of the population down.

This is why the South is beginning to resemble the 3rd world.

Our Society is So Completely F%$#ed Up……

That a man just robbed a bank so that he would be thrown in jail and get healthcare:
A 59-year-old man recently walked into a bank in Gastonia, NC, intent on robbing one dollar — no more or less — from the financial institution. Was it because he was aiming low for his first foray into bank robbery? No, he says it was because he needs medical care and the only way he could think to afford it was by going to prison.

"It wasn't done for the monetary value. It was done for medical reasons," he tells WCNC-TV in the video interview below. "I went in knowing i was going to jail."

In fact, the man told the teller he robbed that he was unarmed and that he'd be waiting for the police in a chair near the entrance.

Before going on his wild crime spree, the man, who says he's got a bad back, sore foot and a growth on his chest, wrote a letter to the Gaston Gazette newspaper explaining his reasons and saying, "I am of sound mind but not so much sound body."

The man has only been charged with larceny from a person, which carries a lesser penalty than bank robbery. His bail was reduced to $2,000 but he's obviously refusing to pay it so long as he's being tended to by doctors.
This is a completely rational reaction to what Republicans call "the best healthcare system in the world".

Our healthcare system is completely insane.

20 June 2011

What Liberal Pushback Should Look Like

Thomas Geoghegan, has just written an OP/ED suggesting that Social Security and taxation should be increased, not decreases:
As a labor lawyer I cringe when Democrats talk of “saving” Social Security. We should not “save” it but raise it. Right now Social Security pays out 39 percent of the average worker’s preretirement earnings. While jaws may drop inside the Beltway, we could raise that to 50 percent. We’d still be near the bottom of the league of the world’s richest countries — but at least it would be a basement with some food and air. We have elderly people living on less than $10,000 a year. Is that what Democrats want to “save”?

“But we can’t afford it!” Oh, come on: We have a federal tax rate equal to nearly 15 percent of our G.D.P. — far below the take in most wealthy countries. Let’s wake up: the biggest crisis we face is that most of us have nothing meaningful saved for retirement. I know. I started my career wanting to be a pension lawyer. In the 1970s, lawyers like me expected there to be big pots of private pensions for hourly workers. By the 1980s, as factories closed, I was filing hopeless lawsuits to claw back bits and pieces of benefits. Now there are even fewer bits and pieces to get.

A recent Harris poll found that 34 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement — not even a hundred bucks. In this lost decade, that percentage is sure to go up. At retirement the lucky few with a 401(k) typically have $98,000. As an annuity that’s about $600 a month — not exactly an upper-middle-class lifestyle. It’s too late for Congress to come up with some new savings plan — a new I.R.A. that grows hair, or something. There’s no time. We have to improve the one public pension program in place. Should we means-test it? No. I don’t care if they go out and buy bottles of Jim Beam: let our elderly have an occasional night out at a restaurant.

The most paralyzing half-truth in this country is that people hate taxes. People are willing to pay taxes that they spend on themselves. Two-thirds of those surveyed in a CBS/New York Times poll in January were willing to pay more taxes to save Social Security at its modest level. To “save” it, most of us don’t need to pay. We could lift the cap on high earners, the 6 percent of workers who make over $106,800 a year. If earnings above the cap were subject to the payroll tax with no increase in benefits to high earners, there would be no deficit in the Social Security trust fund in 2037, as projected.

If people are willing to pay more just to “save” Social Security, they should be glad to pay more to raise it.
I cannot imagine a such a full throated defense of basic human decency as government policy from any Democrat on the national stage, and that is a large part of the tragedy that is the Democratic party.

Wanker of the Day

David Streitfeld, a reporter for the New York Times just released an article
claiming a 62 year backlog of foreclosures.

The problem is that the story is based on fairly bogus stats, and the source of the stats, and for that matter, the source of pretty much the entire story, is Lender Processing Services (LPS), which is currently the target of multiple lawsuits, for defrauding investors, and (literally!!!!) having a price sheet on the web for forged documents through its DocX subsidiary (some background here)

So, this guy took a press release from what is allegedly one of the most corrupt and criminal organizations involved in the mortgage mess and phoned in an article.

Time for a blogger ethics panel.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Fortas Was Forced to Resign for Less Than Thomas Did

Of course, the Nixon justice department was willing to threaten to file a bogus prosecution against his wife to grease the skids, but Clarence Thomas relationship with right wing real-estate developer, who bankrolled his charities and his wife's lobbying job:
Clarence Thomas was here promoting his memoir a few years ago when he bumped into Algernon Varn, whose grandfather once ran a seafood cannery that employed Justice Thomas’s mother as a crab picker.

Mr. Varn lived at the old cannery site, a collection of crumbling buildings on a salt marsh just down the road from a sign heralding this remote coastal community outside Savannah as Justice Thomas’s birthplace. The justice asked about plans for the property, and Mr. Varn said he hoped it could be preserved.

“And Clarence said, ‘Well, I’ve got a friend I’m going to put you in touch with,’ ” Mr. Varn recalled, adding that he was later told by others not to identify the friend.

The publicity-shy friend turned out to be Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes. Mr. Crow stepped in to finance the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of the cannery, featuring a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point that has become a pet project of Justice Thomas’s.

The two men met in the mid-1990s, a few years after Justice Thomas joined the court. Since then, Mr. Crow has done many favors for the justice and his wife, Virginia, helping finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Justice Thomas, presenting him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly providing $500,000 for Ms. Thomas to start a Tea Party-related group. They have also spent time together at gatherings of prominent Republicans and businesspeople at Mr. Crow’s Adirondacks estate and his camp in East Texas.
So he paid Thomas' wife's salary, set up a museum that is an homage to Clarence Thomas, and gave free access to his private jet, as well as gifting him a $19,000 bible, and putting him up at "retreats" (Want some more caviar with your Dom Perignon?) ……… Nothing to see here, move along.

And then there was a $15,000 gift from the American Enterprise Institute, a frequent amicus filer in Supreme Court cases ……… America, what a country.

BTW, some background on comparisons between Clarence Thomas and Abe Fortas here.

BTW, the point person in the House of Representatives on Thomas'ethical lapses was Anthony Weiner ……… Imagine that.

Olbermann's First Night on His New Network

The new Countdown is very similar to the old Countdown, with the only difference that he no longer has to observe the ban that MSNBC instituted against Markos Moulitsas for hurting Joe Scarboro's feelings about a year and a half ago.

It was not one of his better shows, but it was mostly a reintroduction, and I think that there were still some rough spots.

In the long run, hope that it will be more like Countdown in 2006 than Countdown in 2010.

Too Big to Fail, and Now Too Big to Sue

That is what the Supreme Court ruled today. They basically said that despite the fact that Wal-Mart systematically discriminated against women in every one of their stores, the millions of women impacted were too large a group to be certified as a class for a class-action suit:
But Wal-Mart doesn't have to worry any more.

Justice Scalia expressed the Court's opinion -- which was unanimous -- that the class action suit was too large and varied to carry forward.
So the solution to avoid pesky lawsuits for real wrong doing, you just have to be so big that the courts will give you a free pass.

First the banks are above the law, and now the monster that Sam Walton created.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

19 June 2011

Finally, Some Legislative Pushback on Patent Trolls

You know that it gets weird when the banksters are on the side of the good guys:
For years and much to their frustration, big banks have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to a tiny Texas company to use a patented system for processing digital copies of checks, making Claudio Ballard, the inventor of the system, a wealthy man and the bank industry’s biggest patent foe.

After years of fighting Mr. Ballard at the federal Patent Office, in court and across a negotiating table, the banks went to see one of their best friends in Congress, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who inserted into a patent overhaul bill a provision that appears largely aimed at helping banks rid themselves of the Ballard problem. The Senate passed the bill easily in March.

The proposal would allow banks to get a federal re-examination of certain patents that they have been accused of infringing, specifically limited to “a financial product or service.” The language is now included in a bill that may come to a vote in the House of Representatives as early as Wednesday. While at least two House members have moved to strip the provision from the bill, bank lobbyists have worked hard to defeat previous attempts to remove it.

Mr. Schumer and the Financial Services Roundtable, a business group that pushed the measure, say the provision is not focused on any one company but more broadly at “meritless litigation over patents of dubious quality,” as Steve Bartlett, the president of the Roundtable, said at a House hearing.
The depressing fact is that this is just a lobbying power play, rather than a realization that IP in all forms is about benefiting society, and  not about determining who gets an undeserved payoff that they can use to make campaign donations.

Business patents, gene patents, and software patents, do not serve to encourage innovation, they simply create government sanctioned monopolies, and the profits generated has now seized the political process.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

There were no failures last week, and I missed the one that happened on the 3rd, but we are definitely seeing a slowdown, which is a good thing

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Atlantic Bank and Trust, Charleston, SC (on June3rd )
  2. McIntosh State Bank, Jackson, GA
  3. First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay, Tampa, FL
Full FDIC list

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

18 June 2011

I Mentioned Roller Coaster Pics…


That's me in the red shirt, and the roller coaster, also in red below.

Interestingly enough, I didn't scream like a little girl.

I was much too busy saying, "Oh sh%$!  Oh sh%$!  Oh sh%$!  Oh sh%$!"

You can click on the images for full sized pictures.

More Like George W. Bush Every Day

Barack Obama ignored the formal opinions of senior professional legal staff in the Department of Justice on the Libya campaign:
President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team — including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh — who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.
If there is a defining legacy of the Obama administration, it may be in the formalization of the Nixonian principle that if the President does it, regardless of the settled law, it's legal.

Perhaps it's time to dispense with our unique form of government, and move to a parliamentary one, because if there are no constraints on the executive beyond elections, then the political system must be able to force elections at times like this.

17 June 2011

Not Friday Cat Blogging, It's Friday Catty Blogging

Germany held a beauty pageant for cows, and much to my surprise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not win:
Forget Germany's Next Top Model and Heidi Klum. This week, the German gaze was trained on the country's most beautiful cow. "Krista" became the envy of bovine beauty queens across the land when she won the grand prize at the 2011 German Holstein Show, her second time to take the pageant's top honor.

Krista successfully defended her 2009 title against a field of much heavier competition than that faced by most other beauty contestants. Of some two million hopeful dairy dames, just over 200 were chosen to lock horns over the grand prize, which comes complete with a trophy and cow-sized sash. Eight finalists strutted their stuff for a panel of jurors in the northern German city of Oldenburg on Thursday night. But it was Krista, described by juror Matthias Zens as "a perfect Holstein," who won over the jury with her professional demeanor and pleasing physique.

"The udder should be wide and the back high," said Zens on what makes a winner. With her straight back and strong legs, Krista has risen above the rest of the herd to rake in prizes on the bovine pageant circuit. The black and white bovine beauty has it all: a good figure, great legs and taut skin. As with human beauty contests, sagging is frowned upon. Other coveted traits include bright eyes, alertness and a plumb udder.
It's different, at most beauty pageants, the contestants do not urinate on the runway.

Meow.

I Prefer This to the Samuel Jackson Version

But in either case, the book Go the F%$# to Sleep is a classic.

Anyone who has ever had to put there child to sleep understand this completely

Pray for Me

I'm in line for the Fahrenheit roller coaster at Hershey Park.

Straight up, straight down, upside down, and me screaming like a little girl.

Pix may follow.

Posted via mobile.

16 June 2011

Pass the Popcorn

Two of former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich's aides have been indicted on charges of conspiracy to violate Maryland election laws and obstruction of justice relating to robocalls, sent out before polls closed, that suggested that people stay home, because "Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful".

It would be interesting to see what happens if one of them is flipped by prosecutors.

While I don't think that Bad Hair Bob was involved, he's really too stupid to be involved in such a plan, I can see his wife, Kendel, giving some sort of assent to the plan.

90% of All Nursing Home Patients End Up On Medicaid

Which means that it's an issue that the Republicans will use to scare old people, but Obama and the Congressional Democrats are negotiating draconian cuts in the program, because they have some sort of twisted political suicide pact thing going on:
This would be brutal for the poor, particularly in Republican states, but even in blue ones. Governors are champing at the bit to cut enrollment and increase cost sharing. State budgets are still strained, and Medicaid is among the highest expenditures. Much of Medicaid spending goes to keep poor seniors in nursing homes, so a lot of the cuts would get targeted there. Which means that you can call this the “Force Your Mother-in-Law to Move In With You Act.”

Keep in mind that fully half of all the coverage expansions in the Affordable Care Act come from a Medicaid expansion. A removal of MOE [maintenance of effort requirements, which prohibit states from gutting the program] would basically undercut that; even though the federal government would pick up all the costs of the Medicaid expansion, states want to reduce their current level, and so the coverage expansion will just unravel. Or, the feds will put the burden on the states, and the states will just opt out of it. You’re talking about millions and millions of beneficiaries losing their coverage.
Un-dirtyword-believably stupid, particularly when Medicaid is a vehicle for much of the theoretical improvements in coverage under Obama's precious Affordable Health Care Act.

I'm beginning to think that, notwithstanding his intellect, Obama really is not interested in doing anything beyond checking off boxes on something that resembles a standardized test, whether it makes a difference or not.

Ironically, that is his education policy.

It Will Die in the State Senate…

The law legalizing gay marriage in New York has passed the state assembly, but now it now goes to the Senate, where they will pull the football away, in a mirror image of what happened in Maryland.

And if this is true to form, it will be minority Democrats, pressured by homophobic clerics, who will flip and kill the bill.

Mixed News on Jobless Thursday

Initial jobless claims fell, but remained over 400,000, 414 K specifically, with the 4-week moving average remaining flat, with both continuing and emergency claims falling slightly.

It is a little better but the claims numbers are still, in the words of Jimmy McMillan, "Too Damn High."

Additionally, the Philadelphia Fed's survey of business outlook fell to a nearly two year row.

But all the very serious people keep saying that "Prosperity is just around the corner."

They Went After Juan Cole?

The New York Times has discovered that Bush and His Evil Minions set the CIA on distinguished professor, and well known blogger, Juan Cole:
A former senior C.I.A. official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.

In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.

It is not clear whether the White House received any damaging material about Professor Cole or whether the C.I.A. or other intelligence agencies ever provided any information or spied on him. Mr. Carle said that a memorandum written by his supervisor included derogatory details about Professor Cole, but that it may have been deleted before reaching the White House. Mr. Carle also said he did not know the origins of that information or who at the White House had requested it.
And just in case you are wondering if he is a disgruntled spy who went to the Times, he isn't. The Times came to him:
Mr. Carle, who retired in 2007, has not previously disclosed his allegations. He did so only after he was approached by The New York Times, which learned of the episode elsewhere. While Mr. Carle, 54, has written a book to be published next month about his role in the interrogation of a terrorism suspect, it does not include his allegations about the White House’s requests concerning the Michigan professor.
My money is on it being someone in Dick Cheney's office, because it smells like Cheney.

Welcome to the 3rd World

In a significant portion of the United States, life expectancy is falling:

Women in large swaths of the U.S. are dying younger than they were a generation ago, reversing nearly a century of progress in public health and underscoring the rising toll of smoking and record obesity.

Nationwide, life expectancy for American men and women has risen over the last two decades, and some U.S. communities still boast life expectancies as long as any in the world, according to newly released data. But over the last decade, the nation has experienced a widening gap between the most and least healthy places to live. In some parts of the United States, men and women are dying younger on average than their counterparts in nations such as Syria, Panama and Vietnam.

Overall, the United States is falling further behind other industrialized nations, many of which have also made greater strides in cutting child mortality and reducing preventable deaths.

In 737 U.S. counties out of more than 3,000, life expectancies for women declined between 1997 and 2007. For life expectancy to decline in a developed nation is rare. Setbacks on this scale have not been seen in the U.S. since the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, according to demographers.
You can find the original article here.

There are some idiots out there who will suggest that it's because we are too fat*, but the deltas in life expectancy have primarily been through eliminating infant and child mortality, as well as pregnancy related medical issues.

What is going on here is that our medical system is breaking down.

We are undergoing the same collapse of our medical system, albeit more slowly, that occurred towards the end of the USSR, and there was not an outbreak of obesity there.

We have aging and under maintained infrastructure, we are wasting our resources on endless wars and a bloated defense establishment, and we are descending into a morass of corruption and self dealing with no prospect of it being fixed (see Geithner, Tim).

It sounds an awful lot like the declining days of the USSR.

*He says that the same thing happened when we went from hunter-gatherer to farmer, but it misses little facts like:
  • The average hunter gatherer works about 20 hours a week, the farmer works 60+ hours.
  • The diet of a hunter gatherer is measurably better than that of a bronze or early Iron age farmer, because staple crops are typically less nutritionally complete.
  • Agriculture requires that people move next to bodies of water, and live there full time, exposing them to things like Malaria, etc.

What really happened is that people could no longer be hunter gatherers because there was not enough land. You need something like 5 square km/year to support a single hunter gatherer, and once population crosses that threshold you move to herding, and eventually to farming, because the alternative is starvation.
life expectancies falling

So, Anthony Weiner Has Resigned

I guess the rule here, even if you are a Democrat, because they were the ones screaming for him to go, is that unlike Craig, Vitter, Coburn, Ensign, etc., is that it's not OK if you aren't a Republican.

The Democrats are such willing hostages to Republican political terrorism that Stockholm Syndrome should be renamed Beltway Democrat syndrome.

The only thing more pathetic is the behavior of the press, which sees fit to treat real scandals from Republicans with decorum, but turns into an (even bigger) freak show when a Democrat does something.

One final note, I would not call Anthony Weiner a dick, because a dick has a head.

15 June 2011

Yves Smith's Takedown of Obama on Warren is a Thing of Beauty

This is truly good writing.

She details the machinations that the Obama administration has gone through to avoid making her the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and it ain't pretty.

Not only does it make justified critiques of the basic policies (the banksters must be protected at all cost), but it details the shortcomings in basic approach that have characterized his first two years in office.

Go read.

Deep Thought

If you are in a meeting at work, and you start getting into pirate metaphors, it's not going to be a good meeting.

Normally, I Find This to Be a Typically Meaningless Gesture…

But Dennis Kucinich and the other house members who are suing Barack Obama for violating the War Powers Act in Libya are doing the right thing:
Ten House members led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are filing a complaint in federal court against President Obama for taking military action in Libya without first seeking congressional approval.

Kucinich and Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) Ron Paul (R-Texas), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.) filed the complaint Wednesday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“With regard to the war in Libya, we believe that the law was violated,” Kucinich said in a statement. “We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies.”

The House members argue that the Obama administration overstepped its constitutional authority by authorizing the use of U.S. military force abroad without first receiving approval from Congress. U.S. forces have been involved in the campaign against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi for 88 days.

Critics argue that Obama violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution by failing to seek congressional approval for the mission.
It would be interesting to see how the Supreme Court might handle this.

I've always felt that the requirement for Senate to declare war implies that there should be a legislative requirement for the approval of war, but these days, no one seems to take this particularly seriously.

I would note that Libya appears to be a particularly cut and dried case though, there is no security threat to the US, and the primary reason that we are involved seems to be that the US Military didn't want to be left out of the party started by French and British neo-Colonial political calculus.

14 June 2011

Daniel Ellsburg Says the Most Depressing Thing This Century

When he notes that all the crimes committed against him, crimes which were a significant part of the impeachment case that drove Richard M. Nixon from office under threat of impeachment, are now legal:
Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, might take bittersweet satisfaction to know that he was not the last smart president to prolong unjustifiably a senseless, unwinnable war, at great cost in human life. (And his aide Henry Kissinger was not the last American official to win an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize.)

He would probably also feel vindicated (and envious) that ALL the crimes he committed against me–which forced his resignation facing impeachment–are now legal.

That includes burglarizing my former psychoanalyst's office (for material to blackmail me into silence), warrantless wiretapping, using the CIA against an American citizen in the US, and authorizing a White House hit squad to "incapacitate me totally" (on the steps of the Capitol on May 3, 1971). All the above were to prevent me from exposing guilty secrets of his own administration that went beyond the Pentagon Papers. But under George W. Bush and Barack Obama,with the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendment Act, and (for the hit squad) President Obama's executive orders. they have all become legal.

There is no further need for present or future presidents to commit obstructions of justice (like Nixon's bribes to potential witnesses) to conceal such acts. Under the new laws, Nixon would have stayed in office, and the Vietnam War would have continued at least several more years.

Likewise, where Nixon was the first president in history to use the 54-year-old Espionage Act to indict an American (me) for unauthorized disclosures to the American people (it had previously been used, as intended, exclusively against spies), he would be impressed to see that President Obama has now brought five such indictments against leaks, almost twice as many as all previous presidents put together (three).

He could only admire Obama's boldness in using the same Espionage Act provisions used against me–almost surely unconstitutional used against disclosures to the American press and public in my day, less surely under the current Supreme Court–to indict Thomas Drake, a classic whistleblower who exposed illegality and waste in the NSA. [ED Note:  The Drake Case Collapsed, and the government settled on a plea for a no-jail-time misdemeanor]

Drake's trial begins on June 13, the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers. If Nixon were alive, he might well choose to attend.
While the erosions of civil liberties began under Reagan, and picked up steam under Bush II, it's clear that that Obama has devoted the power and prestige of his office to further expanding the role of the Presidency and normalizing what are extreme views of executive power.

Obama is like Nixon, without the charm.

Not Good

Two pieces of economic news today, retail sales fell for the first time in 11 months, and thge National Federation of Independent Business's survey of small business shows that they intend to reduce hiring.

At the rate that this is going, we will have President Palin in 2013, and I will be making Aliyah to Israel.

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
Best way to make Weiner story go away is for new prominent Democrat to tell him to resign each day. Ideally early in each news cycle.

The Vaporware Beast Has Been Slain!

In 1998, the much delayed sequel to the fantastically popular first person shooter Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem Forever, was declared one of the top pieces of vaporware (promised but not delivered software) of all time.

Well, an era has ended because today, Duke Nukem Forever was released:
Even though his game is finally in stores, Duke Nukem will forever be remembered as the very personification of vaporware.

Wired.com created the Vaporware Awards many years ago to honor products that were hyped, promoted and promised but never released. Tech and gaming companies love to throw smoke and mirrors in our faces and make us think that barely begun (or simply imaginary) products are humming along quite smoothly; the Vaporware Awards attempt to cut through the spin.

Duke Nukem Forever was mentioned in our Vaporware Awards 12 times as the developers of the first-person shooter let years upon years go by without shipping the game.

Released Tuesday for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t live up to the years of hype. But simply shipping the unshippable game should be counted as an accomplishment for 2K Games and Gearbox Software, which stepped in last year to get Duke back on track after the collapse of developer 3D Realms.
The reviews are mixed.  The gaming press hates it, but at least one person, Bladesmith on the SP BBS, commented that, "Seriously, the reviewers don't get the joke. This is a throwback AND an homage to the old school 80s Duke."

As for me, I won't be getting it.  I never played the original, so I think that I would not get the humor.

Crap

On a party line vote, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has reinstated Scott Walker's union busting law:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, just hours before a deadline imposed by state legislative Republicans, just reinstated the anti-union law which a district court judge had blocked because it violated state open meetings requirements. They made the novel interpretation that those requirements don’t apply to the legislature.
The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had struck down the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.

The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks – concurred in part and dissented in part.

Not that I have to tell you this, but the four who signed the majority opinion were all nominated by Republicans, while the three who dissented were all nominated by Democrats.
I now expect the court to find a way to stop the recall elections.

God Bless The Onion

U.S. Flag Recalled After Causing 143 Million Deaths

and

Ritalin Cures Next Picasso

The same thing that makes The Onion so amusing also makes it infuriating.  It's too close to the truth.

13 June 2011

Germany F%$#s Up Again

While I believe that the dissolution of Yugoslavia was inevitable once Milosevic took control of the executive council, the German decision post unification to feel their diplomatic oats to recognize the independence of Slovenia set in motion a cascade of events that led to the orgy of violence and Genocide in the former Yugoslavia.

Well, the just did it again, by recognizing the rebels in Benghazi as the government of Libya :
Germany, which declined to participate in the NATO air campaign against Libya, on Monday recognized the opposition National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of Libya, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during a visit to the rebel capital of Benghazi.

The announcement by Mr. Westerwelle comes after weeks of hesitation by Germany over which rebel leaders or movements, if any, it would recognize as an alternative to the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

“The Transitional Council is the legitimate representation of the Libyan people,” Mr. Westerwelle said after arriving in Benghazi. “With this council, we want to support the building of a democratic and law-abiding Libya.”

Germany will open a small mission in Benghazi, joining the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, Britain, France, Spain, Malta and Qatar, which have established a presence there in the past several weeks. Washington, however, has not extended diplomatic recognition to the council.
This has fiasco written all over it.

Italian Voters Finally Refuse to Cover Berlusconi's Ass

I think that the Italian people may finally had their fill of Silvio, because they repealed a law granting him immunity, along with repealing laws restarting the Italian nuclear program,. as well as one privatizing the water supply:
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suffered a stinging political defeat on Monday when voters overturned laws passed by his government that would have restarted Italy’s nuclear energy program, privatized the water supply and granted him immunity from prosecution.

Analysts said the government was not likely to fall immediately over the results, which came from a popular referendum — the first since 1995 to draw the quorum of 50 percent plus one vote required to overturn the laws.

But just weeks after Mr. Berlusconi’s candidates lost mayoral races in Milan and Naples in elections he had billed as a referendum on his own popularity, Monday’s results pointed to a new reality: the man who once had his finger on Italy’s pulse appeared to be losing touch.
The truth, for course, is that he's never really had his fingers on Italy's pulse.

What he has had is a monopoly on private TV in Italy, and control over all the television in Italy while he is in power.

Come to think of it, what Silvio Berlusconi has is a microcosm of America's media oligopoly.

Imagine what the world would be like if Sarah Palin were Rupert Murdoch, and you will understand the hell that was Italian politics.

Pleasant dreams.

The Republican Presidential Clown Show Just Got Clownier


Pass the Popcorn
Bachmann has made it official:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) said Monday that she had formally become a Republican candidate for president.

Ms. Bachmann's announcement had been expected, though the forum was not. It came while she was participating in a CNN-televised debate for Republicans seeking to challenge President Barack Obama.
Somewhere, Jon Stewart is rejoicing, and Stephen Colbert is beside himself with glee.

12 June 2011

I Love My Daughter

She lost her cell phone again, and found it a week later, in exactly the same place she found it last time.

Great googly moogly!

11 June 2011

It's Official, The PRC Will Be Operating a Carrier

This has probably been the worst kept secret in Asia, but the head of the Chinese General Staff has admitted that they are refitting the former Soviet carrier Varyag as an operational aircraft carrier:
The head of China's General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has confirmed that China's first aircraft carrier is under construction.

Gen Chen Bingde refused to say when the carrier - a remodelled Soviet-era vessel, the Varyag - would be ready.
I don't think that this ship will have any real military significance, but neither did the USS Langley.

This is not the development of a significant military capability, but rather like the Langley, it represents the ability to develop procedures and doctrine for later, and one would assume more capable, ships.

10 June 2011

It's Official, Libya is a Bug Hunt

So a NATO Spokesman has just admitted that NATO is attempting to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi:
A U.N. resolution justifies the targeting of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a senior NATO military official with operational knowledge of the Libya mission told CNN Thursday.

Asked by CNN whether Gadhafi was being targeted, the NATO official declined to give a direct answer. The resolution applies to Gadhafi because, as head of the military, he is part of the control and command structure and therefore a legitimate target, the official said.

NATO has been ramping up pressure on the regime, employing helicopters last weekend for the first time against Gadhafi's forces. Explosions are heard often in Tripoli, evidence of allied air strikes.

NATO began bombing Libya on March 31, under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians who have been targeted by Gadhafi's military.
Unsurprising. Since Gadhafi's forces are not folding up under the air assault, the French and the British are desperate to avoid defeat, or worse, the need to send in ground troops, either of which will sink both UK PM Cameron and French President Sarkosy.

This was intended to be a neat neo-colonial adventure with the attendant electoral boost,  killing a few "wogs" for a few votes, but now its looking like a complete clusterf%$#.

Pot, Kettle, Black

Michael "Heck of a Job, Brownie" Brown, the FEMA chair who botched the Hurricane Katrina disaster, just called George W. Bush an inattentive fratboy.

Heh.

2 Years Too Late, Timmeh

So, the US Treasury is finally taking action against banks who have not engaged in HAMP in good faith:
As the nation’s housing market continues to teeter, the Treasury Department on Thursday penalized three of the nation’s largest banks for subpar performance in administrating a government-sponsored program to modify mortgage loans for distressed homeowners.

As part of a new assessment of mortgage servicers, Treasury officials said they would withhold incentive payments for the three banks — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — until the problems are resolved. At that point, those payments would be made, a Treasury spokeswoman said.

In May, the three banks received $24 million in incentives as part of the modification program.

The Treasury Department has previously withheld payments from mortgage servicers, but Thursday’s action focused on some of the biggest players in the program. Called the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, it is voluntary for mortgage servicers. Nearly all of the nation’s largest banks have signed contracts to participate.
Only, as Yves Smith observes, this is not accountability, it's accountability theater, from the folks who so f%$#ed up HANP so badly that, "HAMP was so clearly a disaster that Treasury Department officials didn’t try very hard to defend it in a meeting with bloggers that I [Yves Smith] participated in last August. The best they could do was claim that it helped the housing market by spreading out foreclosures over a long time period," so in this bit of atmospherics, the banks still get their money, they just won't get it today.

Someone must have informed Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner that even if Barack Obama would never fire him,* if the voters fire Obama, he's still out of job.

*This fact that Geithner is unfirable makes a pretty argument against a 2nd Obama term.
We now have revelations that Larry Summers was more on the ball than he.

09 June 2011

What the Shrill One Said

Paul Krugman offers a data point that shows that default and devaluation works better than austerity and debt peonage.

The spread on an Icelandic CDS is now about a third that of the Irish CDS, which means that their borrowing costs are lower, as is the confidence of the market in their credit.

Rolling the Nobel Laureate:
Why, it’s almost as if defaulting on debts run up by runaway bankers and letting your currency depreciate works better — even from the point of view of investors — than socializing private-sector losses and grimly sticking with a fixed exchange rate.
Or to put this in earthier terms, if you want to survive this sort of financial meltdown, f%$# the banks, not the average citizen.

This is Going to be an Amusing Campaign Season

As a result of the train wreck that is Newt Gingrich, his entire campaign staff resigned.

The proximate cause was his decision to go on a cruise ship vacation while everyone else in the race is hitting places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

I'm beginning to think that this is all just a variation of his "Gingrich, Inc." scam which Rachel Maddow had detailed, and he's doing this because his little money making operation pretty much demands that he eventually run.

It raises a kind of a meta-media question: The standard narrative for the Washington Press whores corps about Gingrich is that he an intellectual colossus of the conservative movement, a meme which the beltway bozos continue to push, but we are seeing increasing evidence that he's just a self serving clown.

In any case, I find the clown show, and the contortions of his fans in the media, an amusing show.

It's Jobless Thursday

And once again, the initial claims numbers suck wet farts from dead pigeons, rising by 1000 to 427,000, as opposed to falling to 419,000 as forecast, though the 4-week moving average, the continuing, and extended claims all fell slightly.

This is not a glass half full, or too big a glass, this just sucks.

While Washington, DC is obsessing on making things good for the banks, which is what all this deficit cutting/austerity is really all about, this economy remains in the dump.

07 June 2011

I Love Our Healthcare System

My wife has spent much of today finding who we need to call in order to get a certificate of what is called "creditable coverage," which we need to get or pre existing conditions covered.

I am seriously considering moving to Vermont when their single-payer plan becomes operational.

Posted via mobile.

06 June 2011

Why the Recess Appointment Exists

Because when some narcissistic sociopath gets a bee in his bonnet and blocks a Nobel prize winner in economics from a seat on the Federal Reserve:
The decision by a noted economist Monday to end a 14-month wait for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors is renewing concerns among some Democrats about the fighting spirit of the Obama administration.

The candidate, Peter A. Diamond, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Nobel Prize laureate for his work on labor markets, cited Republican opposition in asking the White House to withdraw his nomination.

But Democratic leadership did not press for a vote on the nomination, and Congressional aides said that the White House invested relatively little energy in fighting for Mr. Diamond. Moreover, they said that the administration had not submitted nominations for vacancies atop several of the federal agencies charged with overhauling and improving financial regulation in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

“There’s a deep feeling of frustration,” said one Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “No one wants to insult the administration or put them in a position that’s uncomfortable for them or worse for them. So you’re just sitting around waiting for them to take the lead.”

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said on Monday that the White House did everything it could to push the nomination, and he lamented the “partisan obstructionism” that had prevented approval of Mr. Diamond.
(emphasis mine)

Yes, "partisan obstructionism", and the fact that your boss is a hopeless clueless chump.

Or maybe he really does not want meaningful regulation, and so he's leaving seats empty, so that Geithner can continue to run things for the benefit of the banksters.

Your call, but I am leaning toward door number 2.

Giving into hostage takers just encourages more hostage taking.

BTW, you can read Diamond's take on all of this here.