31 August 2011

Catch Phrases XI

*Full disclosure, my great grandfather, Harry Goldman, and her grandfather, Sam Goldman were brothers, though we have never met, either in person or electronically.

Well, Eric Falkenstein has the following take on Bernie Madoff:
Clearly, he understood phone calls are best. People who meticulously avoid email should not be trusted, because it is simply too calculating, as if they know they are regularly committing crimes. A phone conversation can always be disavowed, you just say you were talking about last weekend's bar mitzvah.
And Felix Salmon, who has one of the sharpest minds in finance, notes a parallel with Hank Paulson.






German word for austerity Sparmaßnahmen



This is Not Star Trek. In Startrek, the Evil Spock has a goatee. In our world the evil James O'Keefe is clean shaven, and the good one, who is also chief cat-herder for the Massachusetts Pirate Party, has a goatee.

Why Yes, It Is a Blimp

Click for full size

Seen at the Westminster Airport
It was about 2 weeks ago, and I have no clue as to why, but the DirectTV blimp was parked at the Westminster Airport.

I didn't even know that DirectTV had a blimp.

How Quaint, Anti-Trust Law Enforcement

The Department of Justice has filed papers to prevent the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile:
The US government is attempting to block the $39bn (£24bn) takeover of T-Mobile by AT&T on antitrust grounds.

The department of justice (DoJ) filed court papers in Washington on Wednesday in an attempt to halt the merger, claiming that it would "lessen competition substantially" in the telecoms market and harm consumers. AT&T said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the intervention.

"AT&T's elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market," the DOJ said in its filing, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

The multibillion-dollar merger, announced in March, would create the largest mobile provider in the US with 130 million customers, and reduce the number of players in the market to three.
This is not surprising, except perhaps to AT&T, who greased a lot of palms lobbied extensively for support of this deal.

After all, not only is T-Mobile aggressively competing on price, but between it and AT&T, the two cmpanies control something like 90% of the GSM cell network in the US, which, unlike Sprint and Verizon's competing CDMA, works everywhere in the world,* which means that if you wanted to use your phone internationally, then you would have only one choice.


We don't care, we don't have to...we're the phone company.
The Death Star is saying that they will "Vigorously Contest" the filing, but considering the fact that on their own paperwork it was shown to be 10 times as expensive to buy T-Mobile as it would be to upgrade their network to 4G:
So just to recap what you’re reading here, if AT&T doesn’t buy T-Mobile and spends $3.8 billion instead of $39 billion then they will be able to cover 97% of Americans in 4 years less time. What’s the deal? AT&T continues to downplay this memo, hopefully it’s enough for some of the Attorney Generals on the fence to start asking the important questions.
Fundamentally the business plan for the incumbents is the same as it ever was, finding ways to leverage their natural monopolies to extract maximum rent from the general public.

Finally, as much as it pains me to say this, props to Obama and Holder for engaging in some real antitrust actions.

*God bless the international standards averse USA, where we use the English system of measurements, and CDMA, for no good reason at all.

The Schadenfreude Shortage is Officially Over

After Bill O'Reilly and his wife separated, she started dating a cop, and he used the promise of donations to a police charity to get the police commissioner to order an investigating his wife's boyfriend:
Last summer, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly came to believe that his wife was romantically involved with another man. Not just any man, but a police detective in the Long Island community they call home. So O'Reilly did what any concerned husband would do: He pulled strings to get the police department's internal affairs unit to investigate one of their own for messing with the wrong man's lady.

We reported in June that Bill O'Reilly and his wife of 15 years Maureen McPhilmy O'Reilly seem to be on the outs. Last summer she purchased a separate home under her own name, and transferred her voter registration to the new address, while O'Reilly kept his registration current at their old address. As per usual, Fox News did not comment on the situation at the time. Since then we've learned what happened, and it's like Bridges of Madison County meets Copland. When confronted with a potentially disloyal spouse, O'Reilly reacted by—not unlike his boss Roger Ailes—treating his local police department like a private security force and trying to damage one cop's career for the sin of crossing Bill O'Reilly.

………

Richard Harasym is a 23-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department who, as of last summer, had been a detective in the elite internal affairs unit for 12 years. His job was to catch crooked cops, root out corruption, and police the police. But at some point during the summer of 2010, his commanding officer, Inspector Neil Delargy, called him into his office with a highly unorthodox assignment: Harasym was to launch an investigation into a fellow officer based not on what he had done, but on who he was dating.

Delargy ordered Harasym to meet with two private detectives working on behalf of Bill O'Reilly. They had information about an NCPD officer they believed to be carrying on with O'Reilly's wife. Delargy told Harasym to launch an investigation into the man and to tell him to end the relationship.


………

According to our source, Delargy offered Harasym no justification for investigating the detective—who is unmarried—aside from the alleged infidelity. "The order was to investigate this detective not for any misdeeds," the source said, "but to see if they could get anything on him. Delargy also told him to tell the detective to back off."

Delargy told Harasym that the investigation was highly sensitive for two reasons, the source said: 1) It was ordered directly by then-police commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, and 2) O'Reilly was at the time considering making a major donation to the Nassau County Police Department Foundation, a private not-for-profit foundation Mulvey helped found in 2009 to raise money for construction of a planned $48 million police training facility at Nassau Community College.

"These internal affairs cops were on the case at the behest of Mulvey in order to get O'Reilly's funds," the source said.
I don't know from the story if Billo broke any laws here.  In order for him to have broken the law, he would have had make statements implying that there would be no donation forthcoming unless they targeted his wife's boyfriend, but with allegations that Mulvey routinely offered favors to people who made donations to his charity, it does seem that there is some serious ethical lapses.

The fact that this mirrors Newscorp's payoffs to in matters related to the phone hacking scandal in the UK makes it even more amusing.

I think that I will have a surfeit of schadenfreude to last me through September.

30 August 2011

Best Healthcare System in the World, My Ass!

The USA is now 40th in the world in infant mortality:
Babies in the United States have a higher risk of dying during their first month of life than do babies born in 40 other countries, according to a new report.

Some of the countries that outrank the United States in terms of newborn death risk are South Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Lithuania, Poland and Israel, according to the study.

Researchers at the World Health Organization estimated the number of newborn deaths and newborn mortality rates of more than 200 countries over the last 20 years.
Malaysia????

Malaysia has a better infant mortality record?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

FWIW, this problem is largely driven by preterm births, which are in tern driven by lack of access to adequate prenatal care.

Yes, that Acquisition of Countrywide was So Good for BoA

I probably haven't been writing about this as much as I should, but it's beginning to look like Bank of America's ill-advised takeover of Countrywide Financial, and it's portfolio of fraudulent mortgages, is beginning to cause some real problems.

Basically, the sweetheart deal that they negotiated with the trustee, Bank of New York Mellon, would have them paying out pennies on the dollar for misrepresented and mis-documented mortgages.

First, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opposed the settlement saying that it was unfair to investors.

Of course, the unfairness was a feature, not a bug, since BNY Mellon is desperate to reduce its exposure from their deliberate lack of due diligence.

Then, the FDIC opposed the deal, saying that they did not have enough information to evaluate the deal on its merits.

And if we know anything about the world of securitized mortgages and trusts, we know that more information means more bad news, as we have seen every time another rock gets overturned.

Well, now we have individual homeowners filing to block the settlement, because, as a sop to investors, the deal would have established a "rocket docket" for foreclosures:
Lawyers for the National Consumer Law Center said in a report prepared as part of the case that the proposed settlement “will speed up foreclosures, perpetuate existing servicing abuses in the system, and undermine federal programs designed to stabilize the housing market.”

Bank of America had hoped the $8.5 billion settlement would finally put much of this potential liability behind it, but the challenges have raised investor fears that the ultimate cost of the settlement could rise sharply. Anxiety about the extent of Bank of America’s legal woes has also weighed on the bank’s stock, with some estimates suggesting the ultimate cost could be in the tens of billions.
First, I think that the penalties, including tax penalties for improperly conveying the mortgages to the trust, are almost certainly in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and second, when an $8.5 billion payout is a sweetheart deal, it means that the banks are too big.

Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot: The FHFA filed a similar objection to the FDIC's and U.S. Bancorp is suing to get BOA to buyback the mortgages in yet another trust.

BoA would be, in a fair and just world, toast, and its executives would be facing criminal investigations.

In this world, however, it means that Obama and Geithner and Bernanke will be setting up someway to bail them out in order to insure executive bonuses "protect the banking system" with our money.

H/t Naked capitalism.

On edit:

It looks like the Nevada is claimed that BoA reneged on its loan modification agreement with the state, and so they are filing to abrogate the agreement so that they can sue:
The attorney general of Nevada is accusing Bank of America of repeatedly violating a broad loan modification agreement it struck with state officials in October 2008 and is seeking to rip up the deal so that the state can proceed with a suit against the bank over allegations of deceptive lending, marketing and loan servicing practices.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Reno, Catherine Cortez Masto, the Nevada attorney general, asked a judge for permission to end Nevada’s participation in the settlement agreement. This would allow her to sue the bank over what the complaint says were dubious practices uncovered by her office in an investigation that began in 2009.

In her filing, Ms. Masto contends that Bank of America raised interest rates on troubled borrowers when modifying their loans even though the bank had promised in the settlement to lower them. The bank also failed to provide loan modifications to qualified homeowners as required under the deal, improperly proceeded with foreclosures even as borrowers’ modification requests were pending and failed to meet the settlement’s 60-day requirement on granting new loan terms, instead allowing months and in some cases more than a year to go by with no resolution, the filing says.

The complaint says such practices violated an agreement Bank of America reached in the fall of 2008 with several states and later, in 2009, with Nevada, to settle lawsuits that accused its Countrywide unit of predatory lending. As the credit crisis grew, the settlement was heralded as a victory by state offices eager to help keep troubled borrowers in their homes and reduce their costs. Bank of America set aside $8.4 billion in the deal and agreed to help 400,000 troubled borrowers with loan modifications and other financial relief, such as lowering interest rates on mortgages.
I wish that I knew of a way to go short on the bad news piling up, and long on the eventual bailout.

Deep Thought

But not mine, it's from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:



H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

29 August 2011

Well Our Power is Back On…

So after navigating innumerable road closings New Jersey, including parts of the Garden State Parkway, without benefit of a single sign showing where the f%$# we are supposed to go, we make it home, and our power is out.

While I could post with my laptop battery and cell phone, it's after midnight, we're exhausted, and there was no power, and BGE was saying that it would be turned back on on on Friday.

Well, electricity just came back on, and I'm exhausted, so I'm getting some damn sleep.

28 August 2011

Jury Pushes Back Against the Police State

A stripper attempted to file a sexual harassment complaint against a Chicago police officer, and when she approached Internal Affairs, instead of making an effort to investigate the allegations, they attempted to get her to withdraw their complaint.

In response, she taped their malfeasance, and the response of the District Attorney was to charge her with a felony.

Thankfully, the jury realized that this was yet another attempt to exempt police from any sort of public scrutiny, and acquitted her:
A former stripper, who secretly recorded two Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators while filing a sexual harassment complaint against another officer was acquitted on eavesdropping charges Wednesday.But why the f%$# did the reporter feel it germane to the story.
She alleged that she was fondled by a cop on a domestic abuse call.Why the hell is this in the story/

It doesn't matter if she was a freaking nun, or a lobbyist, it was a damn domestic abuse call, and there were allegations of sexual harrassment.
“I’m feeling a lot better now,” a smiling Tiawanda Moore said after a Cook County jury returned the verdict in a little over an hour.

The 20-year-old Indiana woman admitted she taped the officers on her Blackberry in August of last year. But she said she only did it because the investigators were coaxing her to not go forward with her complaint.

“I wanted him to be fired,” Moore testified of the cop she alleges fondled her and gave her his phone number during a domestic battery call at the South Side residence she sometimes shares with her boyfriend.

Moore said she didn’t know about the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which prohibits the recording of private or public conversations without the consent of all parties. Even so, Moore’s attorney, Robert Johnson, said his client was protected under an exemption to the statute that allows such recordings if someone believes a crime is being committed or is about to be committed.

The Internal Affairs officers were “stalling, intimidating and bullying her,” Johnson said. The recording, which was played in court during the one-day trial, proved it, Johnson said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Jo Murtaugh told jurors, “The content of the tape is not the issue. The issue is that the words were taped.”
No, the IA officers were conspiring to conceal an alleged crime, and as such they were engaging in conspiracy, abuse of office, and probably a few dozen other crimes that someone better versed in the law would be aware of.
But Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the verdict “reflects a repudiation of the eavesdropping law in Illinois. Clearly, the public believes that individuals should be able to record police engaged in their public duties, in a public space in an audible voice.”
Your mouth go God's ear, Mr. Yohnka.

There is a word for societies where law abiding citizens are prosecuted for uncovering and revealing police corruption, and that work is police state

27 August 2011

No Posting Tonight

Between packing and hurricane Irene, no time.

Posted via mobile.

26 August 2011

It's On Girl!

AFL-CIO president Richart Trumpka just said that Obama has aligned himself with the teabaggers:
The most powerful union official in the country offered reporters his harshest critique of President Obama to date Thursday, questioning Obama's policy and strategic decisions, and claiming he aligned himself with the Tea Party in the debt limit fight.

"This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Trumka dismissed Obama's recent job creation proposals -- an extended payroll tax cut, patent reform, free trade deals -- as "nibbly things that aren't going to make a difference," and said the AFL-CIO might sit out the Democratic convention if he and the party don't get serious.

"If they don't have a jobs program I think we'd better use our money doing other things," Trumka said.
I do not think that Barack Obama has the slightest clue just how disappointed his "base" is with him, and if he did, I think that he would be dismissive of the fact.

Get ready for President Bachmann. (honest to God, how did the 'Phants find someone scarier than Sarah Palin?)

Light Posting for a While

Battening down the hatches, and we are actually at my Mother-In-Law's, so we are both battening down her hatches for Hurricane Irene, and helping her pack, since she is moving from Monsey, NY to the Baltimore area.

Busy, busy, busy.

My prediction is that it will be a whole bunch of nothing, but I'm frequently wrong.

25 August 2011

On the Road Again

I'm posting this on I-95.  I'm heading to my Mother-in-Law's.

Tethering my rooted phone once again.

ActBlue — Elizabeth Warren Draft Fund

Well, it looks likes Elizabeth Warren has a fundraising issue in her naisant bid for Senator from Massachusetts, specifically that Scott "Wall Street's Bitch" Brown is raising money hand over fist from the Banksters, because the idea of someone who would prevent them from cheating the average consumer scares the sh%$ out of them:
Elizabeth Warren’s combative history with Wall Street could create a fundraising dilemma for her burgeoning Senate campaign.

Her ardent grassroots following on the left — forged during stints as TARP watchdog and as mastermind of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — would likely make her a formidable Senate candidate in Massachusetts.

But her reputation as sheriff to Wall Street could also be a liability against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a popular Republican who has been stockpiling campaign cash in anticipation of a tight 2012 race.

If Warren runs, she will have to decide whether to court high-rolling donors in the financial services community — an awkward choice both personally and politically, given her carefully crafted image as antagonist to big finance.

"I think it's pretty clear she's going to run the classic, grassroots campaign here in Massachusetts," said Mary Anne Marsh, a longtime Democratic operative in the state. "That means she's going to rely on folks here to give low-dollar donations here a number of times."

But without the support of heavy-hitting donors in Massachusetts, many of whom work at hedge funds and other financial firms, Warren might find it difficult to keep up with Brown’s fundraising juggernaut.
I tend to think that her bigger problem is that she has to fairly explicitly criticize Obama, but the (IIRC) she needs a modicum of support from the party establishment to net enough votes in the party caucus to even get on the primary ballot.

I tend to think that Warren will do more good outside of the Senate than inside the Senate, if just because being a woman with no seniority in what is a pretty misogynist institution is not a high impact position.

In any case, you can donate here, or via Matthew Saroff's Act Blue Page

H/t Sarah Burris at Crooks and Liars

24 August 2011

Michelle Rhee Gets Called Out By NY Times

It seems that the Gray Lady has noticed Michelle Rhee is frantically avoiding any discussion of the cheating that occurred under her watch as Chancellor for the DC Schools:
Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal
By MICHAEL WINERIP

WASHINGTON — Why won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today?

Ms. Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington public schools from 2007 to 2010, is the national symbol of the data-driven, take-no-prisoners education reform movement.

It’s hard to find a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.

Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.

At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.

She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”

And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.
So the press is beginning to notice that the publicity hound is avoiding them.

Perhaps they should look more closely at her stories, because even a cursory examination of her record reveals that she consciously juiced those numbers through her official actions:
This conclusion is premature. A review of the record shows that Michelle Rhee’s test score “legacy” is an open question.


There are three main points to consider:

  • First, (by Rhee’s own admission) two simple policy changes enacted in 2007 were made, in part, to generate artificial test score gains during her first year (when roughly 75 percent of the DC-CAS increases occurred).
  • Second, the district’s DC-CAS test was introduced in 2006, and a year or two after any new test is introduced – as students, teachers, and administrators become more familiar with it – it’s common to see an artificial inflation in scores. The beginning of Rhee’s tenure coincided with this period. 
  • Third, the students enrolled in DC public schools in 2010 were a significantly different group compared with the students of 2007, and this demographic shift may have driven some of the improvement in DC-CAS performance. A deeper look at the best evidence we have – from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – suggests that the increases in D.C.’s average NAEP scores between 2007 and 2009 (widely touted by Rhee and her supporters as confirmation of her effectiveness) could, in part, be a result of this demographic change. Math increases may be somewhat overstated, while reading scores may have been flat.
This is not particularly surprising.  The educational reform establishment (an bit of an Orwellian concept) is all about finding a way to turning the education system into a for-profit Education-Industrial Complex, and no one would stand for it if they heard the truth.

Let's hope that the worm turns for Michelle Rhee and their corrupt ilk like it has for Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan.

McCain Lobbied to Arm Qaddafi

So says the gift that keeps on giving, the Wikileaks cables.

Julian Assange should be up for a Nobel:
For all the braying by the Senate’s top three hawks about how the U.S. wasn’t doing enough to oust Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi from power, one might be surprised to learn that exactly two years ago, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were in Tripoli meeting with the erratic leader and giving him assurances that relations between the nations were on the mend.

According to a leaked August 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks recounting the Senators’ junket, the neoconservative Connecticut Senator captured the dynamic of aligning with a brutal dictator:
Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends.
Qaddafi’s history as a top enemy of the U.S. stretched back decades, but his change of heart came quickly after the U.S. invaded Iraq under the pretense of Saddam Hussein’s development of weapons of mass destruction. Hawks seized on Libya’s détente with the West as a sign that Bush’s tough actions in Iraq were having a ripple effect, though patently not, as Iraq War boosters had predicted, with regard to democratic reforms. “We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qaddafi,” said Lieberman, according to the leaked cable.
The three Senate hawks discussed in detail the Qaddafi regime’s security needs with Libyas National Security Adviser, Qaddafi’s son Muatassim. According to the cable:
5.(C) Senator McCain assured Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its [a Libyan security program]. He stated that he understood Libya’s requests regarding the rehabilitation of its eight C130s [a transport plane] and pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress. He encouraged Muatassim to keep in mind the long-term perspective of bilateral security engagement and to remember that small obstacles will emerge from time to time that can be overcome.
And these are the wankers that are considered to be serious about foreign policy and national security by the very serious people in Washington, DC.

And no one will ever challenge them on this.

We are so doomed.

Remember when Obama ran these f%$#ers over the coals? Remember when BP execs were clapped in irons and given life sentences for crimes against humanity?

Me neither.*

In case you are wondering, why yes, the Deepwater Horizon is spilling oil again:
Oil is once again fouling the Gulf of Mexico around the Deepwater Horizon well, which was capped a little over a year ago.

Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of small, circular patches of oily sheen dotted the surface within a mile of the wellhead. With just a bare sheen present over about a quarter-mile, the scene was a far cry from the massive slick that covered the Gulf last summer.

Floating in a boat near the well site, Press-Register reporters watched blobs of oil rise to the surface and bloom into iridescent yellow patches. Those patches quickly expanded into rainbow sheens 4 to 5 feet across.

Each expanding bloom released a pronounced and pungent petroleum smell. Most of the oil was located in a patch about 50 yards wide and a quarter of a mile long.
Because playing nice with the least safety conscious energy company in the western world is such a winning strategy.

Not feeling that "Audacity of Hope".

There is a difference between dealing with people who merely disagree with you, and dealing with evil ratf%$#s who will destroy everything for a few pennies.

BP's upper management is clearly the latter, and dealing with them as the former just makes things worse.

*H/T JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for the title and the first line.

Interesting Point

Harold Feld (Full disclosure, he's a friend, we were at his son's Bar Mitzvah reception) explains why BART shutting down its cellular service in its stations to prevent a flash protest is more than a 1st amendment issue, but that it is a flagrant violation of the law:
I suppose I am really a telecom lawyer at heart. My reaction to the news that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police shut down cellphone networks in a number of stations on August 11 had nothing to do with democracy, the First Amendment, Tahrir Square, etc. With all deference to the importance of these concerns, my reaction was WHAT DO YOU MEAN THESE IDIOTS MESSED WITH THE PHONE SYSTEM? From my perspective, and the perspective of traditional telecom law, BART could just as well have turned off the local central office and all this chatter about whether or not BART is a public forum is just a distraction.

Obviously, however, no one at BART thinks of cell phones as the phone system. In BART’s open letter explaining what they did and why it was cool, BART focuses on the First Amendment /public forum issue and completely skips the fact that they shut off a phone system. Mind you, I suppose I can’t blame them – much. A number of folks are asking if there is a right to cell phone service as if this were a novel question rather than something settled by decades of telecom law.

………

In California, where this took place, the governing case is People v. Brophy, 120 P.2d 946 (Cal. App. 1942). In Brophy, the California Court of Appeals held that yes, residents of California have a right to phone service. The federally protected right to access the phone network derives from the duty of common carriage imposed by Sections 201 and 202 of the Act. The California Court of Appeals further found that Earl Warren, then the California Attorney General, could not order the phone company to discontinue service to a person the Attorney General suspected of running a gambling operation by use of the telephone. The court explicitly found that only the California Railroad Commission (predecessor to the California Public Utilities Commission) can give an order in California to suspend phone service.

………

Like the Attorney General in Brophy, the BART is an instrumentality of the State of California. As in Brophy, the mere allegation that someone (or some group of someones) may use their phone for illegal purposes most emphatically does not confer authority to unilaterally shut off access to the phone network – even if that phone network is physically located within the BART. Why? Because the BART is an instrumentality of the state of California and is geographically in California. There is no BARTistahn, and the Directors do not get to decide this on their own.

………

We will savor the irony that the most eloquent annunciation of the right of individuals to access phone service without interference from law enforcement (absent due process) takes us from Earl Warren to Eugene "Bull" Connor.
(emphasis original)

And yes, part of the case law here does involve "Bull" Connor, and BART is taking his side in this.

It's a good read, and clear and informative to the layman.

23 August 2011

Wanker of the Jay

New York Times Columnist Joe Nocera, who writes that by enforcing the law against illegal retaliation against unions, the Democrats are anti-job.

This is about the Boeing case, where Boeing executives publicly bragged about moving an assembly line to South Carolina specifically because of legal labor actions taken by the union.

Somehow or other, all the "Very Serious People" out there stem to feel that blatant law breaking by large corporations must be tolerated, because they count more than the rest of us.

Just Read This

It's an article, from Forbes of all places, which explains how our zeal to become a "knowledge economy" is razing our economy to the ground.

They use Dell Computer as an example:
ASUSTeK started out making the simple circuit boards within a Dell computer. Then ASUSTeK came to Dell with an interesting value proposition: “We’ve been doing a good job making these little boards. Why don’t you let us make the motherboard for you? Circuit manufacturing isn’t your core competence anyway and we could do it for 20% less.”

Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. On successive occasions, ASUSTeK came back and took over the motherboard, the assembly of the computer, the management of the supply chain and the design of the computer. In each case Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. However, the next time ASUSTeK came back, it wasn’t to talk to Dell. It was to talk to Best Buy and other retailers to tell them that they could offer them their own brand or any brand PC for 20% lower cost.
It's an evocative example, and one which is easily understand, but the problem is that it invites the criticism that it's just another mindless "Yellow Peril" argument.

The meat of the argument, at least to me as an engineer, is further down:
So the decline of manufacturing in a region sets off a chain reaction. Once manufacturing is outsourced, process-engineering expertise can’t be maintained, since it depends on daily interactions with manufacturing. Without process-engineering capabilities, companies find it increasingly difficult to conduct advanced research on next-generation process technologies. Without the ability to develop such new processes, they find they can no longer develop new products. In the long term, then, an economy that lacks an infrastructure for advanced process engineering and manufacturing will lose its ability to innovate.
One of the arguments made by what used to be called "Atari Democrats" in the 1980s was that we could dump all the manufacturing, and then we could all sit behind desks and create the ideas for the lesser (i.e. non-white) people to manufacture.

It's simply wrong.  When you no longer make stuff, you no longer know how to make stuff, and when you no longer know how to make stuff, you can no longer come up with viable ideas.

The question is whether we want to have the German economy, or the Mexican one, and increasingly, it appears that we are trying to achieve the latter, since by making everyone else poorer, it makes the people at the top of the pyramid comparatively richer, and they are the ones who make the big campaign donations.

Read all 4 parts.

H/t DC on Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Philly Phed Phail

Click for full size


The Map Pr0n

and the Graph Pr0n
Calculated Risk looks at the quarterly change in the Philadelphia Fed's 50 state coincident index, and the map, and the graph and the map is getting redder (worse).

The idea that this is going to a meaningful recovery with a significant fiscal push from the government, which ain't happening, because the 'Phants are tanking the economy deliberately for political gain, is pure panglossian delusion.

God has a Sense of Humor


H/t Emptywheel.

Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, How Was the Play

We just had an earthquake, in Maryland.

A little shaking, and nothing fell down.

According to the USGS, the preliminary number was 5.9 (!) on the Richter Scale, centered at 37.875°N, 77.908°W, near Mineral, VA.

The epicenter was about 250km (150 miles) from me, so it felt like a semi driving by here.

I'm glad that I've given up caffein, or I might not have noticed.

Posted via mobile.

22 August 2011

I Thought That I Had Already Posted This

Former Luzerne County Court Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., who took bribes from private prison companies to send kids to jail, was sentenced to 28 years in jail:
As his moment of sentencing drew near Thursday, former Luzerne County Court Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was still trying to minimize his crimes. No way, he said, had he sold "kids for cash."

The prosecutor would have none of it.

"In essence, Mr. Ciavarella's argument is, 'I was not selling kids retail,' " Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon A.D. Zubrod said. "We agree with that. He was selling them wholesale."

Minutes later, U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik slammed Ciavarella, 61, with 28 years in prison. It appeared to be the longest federal prison sentence ever given in a U.S. political corruption case.

In the Scranton area, Ciavarella was a key target among many in a sweeping and still-ongoing federal corruption probe. Prosecutors have brought charges against nearly 30 officials, including two other judges, numerous court officials, a former state senator, school board members, and county officials.
(emphasis mine)

It may be a record long sentence, but it is not long enough.

His partner in crime, county president judge Michael T. Conahan, has already pled guilty, and is awaiting sentencing.

Hopefully, he gets a sentence of similar length.

While We Are On the Subject of Bank of America


When you offer a bribe, make sure that the mic is not live
Look at the video for this gem. A representative of Bank of America walks up to Rick Perry, and says, "Bank of America... We will help you out".

It turns out that be Bank Of America's director of public policy, James Mahoney.

Nope, no quid pro quo here, BoA has released a statement saying that, "Bank of America does not endorse Presidential candidates. The reference was about following up on the substance of the speech about job creation and economic growth."

Yeah, we believe you, and we believe it when you say that MERS properly recorded mortgages, and that you f%$#s didn't pay off the ratings agencies to rate your garbage as AAA,

H/t Cthulhu.*

*No, not the unspeakably malevolent super-being, the contributor to the Stellar Parthenon BBS.
OK, I've never seen the two of them together, so Cthulhu might actually be the Cthulhu, but the mere fact that he is on a BBS, interacting with humans would seem to mitigate against this.
Yes, I know, this is the internet, where no one knows if you are a dog.

Obama Admin Pressuring NY AG Schneiderman to Drop Bank Investigations

We are getting leaks that the Obama administration is going full bore to prevent New York State Attorney General from doing a thorough and diligent investigation of the banksters mortgage fraud:
Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal.

In recent weeks, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and high-level Justice Department officials have been waging an intensifying campaign to try to persuade the attorney general to support the settlement, said the people briefed on the talks.

Mr. Schneiderman and top prosecutors in some other states have objected to the proposed settlement with major banks, saying it would restrict their ability to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in a variety of areas, including the bundling of loans in mortgage securities.

But Mr. Donovan and others in the administration have been contacting not only Mr. Schneiderman but his allies, including consumer groups and advocates for borrowers, seeking help to secure the attorney general’s participation in the deal, these people said. One recipient described the calls from Mr. Donovan, but asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
So, not only are they pressuring Schneiderman, but they are trying to gin up an AstroTurf response to further intimidate him.

I'm with what Yves Smith said, "It is high time to describe the Obama Administration by its proper name: corrupt." (emphasis mine)

What's more, he's also catching flack from the in the person of Kathryn Wylde, Deputy Chair of the New York Bank of the Federal Reserve, who accosted him at a memorial service
Representatives for the four big banks declined to comment. Mr. Schneiderman has also come under criticism for objecting to a settlement proposed by Bank of New York Mellon and Bank of America that would cover 530 mortgage-backed securities containing Countrywide Financial loans that investors say were mischaracterized when they were sold.

The deal would require Bank of America to pay $8.5 billion to investors holding the securities; the unpaid principal amount of the mortgages remaining in the pools totals $174 billion. Lawyers representing 22 institutional investors, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, BlackRock and Pimco, contended that the deal was favorable.

This month, Mr. Schneiderman sued to block that deal, which had been negotiated by Bank of New York Mellon as trustee for the holders of the securities. The lawsuit contends that the deal could “compromise investors’ claims in exchange for a payment representing a fraction of the losses” experienced by investors and that it had been negotiated without the knowledge of all of the holders of the securities.

The lawsuit angered Bank of New York Mellon, and as Mr. Schneiderman was leaving the memorial service last week for Hugh Carey, the former New York governor who died Aug. 7, an attendee said Mr. Schneiderman became embroiled in a contentious conversation with Kathryn S. Wylde, a member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who represents the public. Ms. Wylde, who has criticized Mr. Schneiderman for bringing the lawsuit, is also chief executive of the Partnership for New York City. The New York Fed has supported the proposed $8.5 billion settlement.

Other investors in the Countrywide mortgage pools who were not part of the settlement talks between Bank of New York Mellon and Bank of America have called the terms inadequate.

Characterizing her conversation with Mr. Schneiderman that day as “not unpleasant,” Ms. Wylde said in an interview on Thursday that she had told the attorney general “it is of concern to the industry that instead of trying to facilitate resolving these issues, you seem to be throwing a wrench into it. Wall Street is our Main Street — love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible.”
(emphasis mine)

Defrauding investors and home buyers is defensible?

I'm with Barry Ritholtz, who has called for Wylds's resignation:
If the Times report is accurate, and the quote below [it;s the last paragraph above quote] represents Ms. Wylde’s comments, than that position is a laughable mockery, and Ms. Wylde should resign effective immediately.

…………

But what is surprising is the utterly inappropriate behavior of Kathryn S. Wylde. She is not only a member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but occupies the seat supposedly reserved for the representing the public.

If the Times report is accurate, and the quote below represents Ms. Wylde’s comments, than that position is a laughable mockery, and Ms. Wylde should resign effective immediately.
(emphasis mine)

In any case, if you want to contact the AG and tell him not to back off, you can call (800) 771-7755 or at (212) 416-8000) or use his e-mail form.

This is particularly recommended.

BTW, if you live in Delaware, you might want to drop a dime on Beau Biden, the VP's son, and Delaware's AG, who has joined with Schneiderman in opposing the BoA deal.

If the Fed and the Obama administration are dead set on any sort of meaningful reform or accountability for the banks, then we need back up the State Attorneys General to pursue the banksters.

[on edit]

The AGs or Massachusetts and Nevada are also balking on the settlement offer, and considering that Nevada has probably the worst foreclosure problems in the nation, it makes any settlement even more problematic.

21 August 2011

Thorstein Veblen is Back

Not the historical figure, but rather the nom de blog of the principal of Economic Policy Advice for Barack Obama, formerly called Economists for Firing Larry Summers, has returned to posting after taking a few months off because life (Grad School, my guess) got in the way.

I still use the old name in my blogroll, because I think that it is a better name.

His posts are uniformly good, but rather too infrequent for the medium of a blog.

It Looks Like Gaddafi is Out

Or will be in a matter of hours.

I was listening to NPR, and they were hoping that the rebels would not go medieval on former Gaddafi loyalists, but that is a pipe dream.

They have no credibility, because they were installed largely as the result of direct military action by NATO, which requires the widespread application of violence against any potential opposition.

Additionally, because they are effectively clients of big oil and finance NATO, they will have to aggressively implement "free market reforms", which means the end of their publicly financed healthcare and education systems, as well as signing sweetheart deals with big oil, which will not be supported by the general populace.

It's good that Gaddafi is gone, but because he was removed through what was essentially a colonial intervention, the new regime will for the foreseeable future be a colonial administration, which may in the long run prove worse for the average Libyan.

When the Headline Says it All

Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2T in Loans

The "T" stands for Trillion, and we need to bring back Madame Guillotine.

20 August 2011

Unsurprising News About the Ratings Agencies

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!
A former senior VP at Moody's has written a detailed layer to the SEC alleging that the ratings agency systematically pressured analysts to uprate crappy derivatives:
A former senior analyst at Moody's has gone public with his story of how one of the country's most important rating agencies is corrupted to the core.

The analyst, William J. Harrington, worked for Moody's for 11 years, from 1999 until his resignation last year.

From 2006 to 2010, Harrington was a Senior Vice President in the derivative products group, which was responsible for producing many of the disastrous ratings Moody's issued during the housing bubble.

Harrington has made his story public in the form of a 78-page "comment" to the SEC's proposed rules about rating agency reform, which he submitted to the agency on August 8th. The comment is a scathing indictment of Moody's processes, conflicts of interests, and management, and it will likely make Harrington a star witness at any future litigation or hearings on this topic.
His specific allegations:
  • Moody's ratings often do not reflect its analysts' private conclusions. Instead, rating committees privately conclude that certain securities deserve certain ratings--but then vote with management to give the securities the higher ratings that issuer clients want.
  • Moody's management and "compliance" officers do everything possible to make issuer clients happy--and they view analysts who do not do the same as "troublesome." Management employs a variety of tactics to transform these troublesome analysts into "pliant corporate citizens" who have Moody's best interests at heart.
  • Moody's product managers participate in--and vote on--ratings decisions. These product managers are the same people who are directly responsible for keeping clients happy and growing Moody's business.
  • At least one senior executive lied under oath at the hearings into rating agency conduct. Another executive, who Harrington says exemplified management's emphasis on giving issuers what they wanted, skipped the hearings altogether.
(emphasis original)

The fact that no senior manager on Wall Street has been indicted over this sort of behavior, and they continue to work, and continue to be criminally overpaid, fills me with despair.

We Are All The Simpsons

Cthulhu* posted this, and I felt that it had to be shared:



With the plethora of archetypes in the animated series, I'm beginning to think that this might be some sort of modern Gilgamesh for our day.

*No, not the unspeakably malevolent super-being, the contributor to the Stellar Parthenon BBS.
OK, I've never seen the two of them together, so Cthulhu might actually be the Cthulhu, but the mere fact that he is on a BBS, interacting with humans would seem to mitigate against this.
Yes, I know, this is the internet, where no one knows if you are a dog.

19 August 2011

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (I Smell a Felony Indictment Edition)

Something odd on the FDIC failed bank page, do you notice it?


Do you see it? Public Savings Bank, of Huntingdon Valley, PA was closed yesterday, a Thursday.

The only other time I remember the FDIC closing a bank on a not-Friday, it was when senior bank executives were facing a criminal indictment as well.

That's my guess anyway.  These non-Friday closings tend to be associated with breaking news of some sort of criminality.

In any case, here are the bank failures, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Public Savings Bank, Huntingdon Valley, PA
  2. Lydian Private Bank, Palm Beach, FL
  3. First Southern National Bank, Statesboro, GA
  4. First Choice Bank, Geneva, IL
Full FDIC list

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

DOJ, SEC Investigate S&P, EE-I-EE-I-O

It's not just S&P, it's Moody's too:
The U.S. Justice Department is probing Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s over ratings of mortgage-backed securities, according to three former employees who said they were interviewed by investigators.

Washington-based lawyers from the Justice Department spoke to former employees as recently as last month about whether the companies raised their grades for the complex investments in order to win business, said the former employees, who asked for anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The inquiry is a civil matter, two of them said.

The probe is the latest of dozens of government investigations and investor lawsuits targeting Moody’s and S&P, a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos., all based in New York, over the top grades they assigned to bonds backed by subprime mortgages. Even as the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission called them “key enablers of the financial meltdown,” the raters avoided legal liability, according to Benchmark Co.’s Edward Atorino.
Note there that the DoJ being involved means that this is some sort of criminal investigation.

Here's hoping that Eric "Place" Holder doesn't decide to look forward instead of backward.

18 August 2011

It's Probably Just a Bait and Switch…

But as a part of the joint announcement by Sarkosy and Merkel on greater EU integration to fix the current series of debt crises they have proposed to impliment a Tobin tax on financial transactions:
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and German chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced the dramatic proposals after a two-hour mini-summit. They also called for the imposition of tighter restrictions on member country's deficits and announced a synchronising of the tax policies of their own two countries. Sarkozy has also secured the support of Merkel for a Tobin tax – a financial tax on all international transactions – to raise funds to ease the crisis engulfing the European economy.
The amount of money generated by a Tobin tax would actually be smaller than generally anticipated, because much of the financial activity is pure short speculation, where extremely short term bets with payoffs of a fraction of a percent, create profits for doing nothing.

The banks suggest that such a tax is a bad idea because it would discourage such activity, but I consider it to be an even more valuable feature than any potential revenue raised.

Much of the unproductive rent seeking that occurs in our economy is an artifact of just such a behavior.

So, to paraphrase this xkcd cartoon, Mission F%$#ing Accomplished:


Of course, in reality, it's just smoke and mirrors:  The Tobin Tax proposal is just a way to sell their idea for a European balanced budget amendment, and at the end of the day, the Tobin Tax will go away, and the Banksters will get what they want, because that's how the game is played.

Mark Thoma has a good analysis of the tax, and you can also check out the Wiki page.

Philly Phed Phalls

Click for full size

H/t Calculated Risk for the Chart Pr0n
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's index of economic activity just fell off a cliff:
Optimists on the U.S. economy have conceded that things are weak, but they've argued we're not falling off a cliff.

But on Thursday, Wall Street got a hint that a cliff dive could be imminent.

Philly The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s index of economic activity in the mid-Atlantic region plummeted to a negative 30.7 this month, down from a positive 3.2 in July and the lowest since a negative 30.8 reading in March 2009 -- in the depths of the last recession.
Get ready for President Bachmann and similar disasters.

It's Jobless Thursday

And initial claims are back above 400,000 this week, though the week moving average and continuing claims fell.

It's really crappy, and in a sane world people in power would be freaking out about this.

17 August 2011

Some Sanity on Non-Profits in Illinois

In Illinois, the state Department of Revenue regularly certifies non-profits, with the idea making sure that they behave in a not-for-profit manner, as opposed to accumulating mountains of cash and overpaying their executives.

Well they have now denied tax exemptions to three hospitals, and are reviewing 15 more because they are abrogating their responsibility to serve their communities:
The Illinois Department of Revenue has denied property tax exemptions to three hospitals and is reviewing applications from 15 others, officials said Tuesday, signaling that the state plans to get tough on nonprofit hospitals it believes operate more like businesses than charities.

At stake are millions of dollars in tax revenues that the hospitals could contribute to cities, parks and schools by paying taxes.

Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood, Edward Hospital in Naperville and Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur were informed of the decisions Tuesday morning, Revenue Department officials told The Associated Press.

They follow last year's Illinois Supreme Court ruling that found a central Illinois hospital wasn't doing enough free or discounted treatment of the poor to qualify for an exemption, obligating it to pay $1.2 million in local property tax payments per year.

The hospitals have 60 days to ask an administrative law judge to review the decisions. In Illinois, property taxes are collected by county governments, and the Department of Revenue decides which institutions are eligible for tax exemptions.
This is actually something bears on my personal past, not from the hospital angle, but from the undeserving non-profit angle.

A little over 20 years (!) ago, I incorporated a not-for profit tax exempt corporation as a 501(c)3 that puts on Science Fiction conventions, which in that case meant that I represented it as an educational organization.  While technically legal, I've always felt that the organization was more properly a 501(c)7, a social organization.

I filled out the forms, and chased them through the state and federal bureaucracies.  And it was all technically legal, and I did not materially misrepresent anything in the applications

That being said, even at the time, I felt that this was an undeserving use of this status.


I was aware of the differences between a (c)3 and a (c)7 at the time, but we felt that we needed the ability for people to deduct donations, and (more importantly) the postage discount available for the (c)3.

The more scrutiny that is placed on organizations that use these sorts of status as a shield (501(c)4 tend to be used as political front group, for example), the better.

There are a lot of slimy things under the rocks that are section 501 of the IRS code.

H/t Washington Monthly.

Have I Mentioned that I Love Matt Taibbi?*

He just uncovered another bit of regulatory capture, specifically he is reporting on allegations that the SEC routinely destroyed all records of its investigations:
Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – "Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?" No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.

That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.
Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency's records – "including case files relating to preliminary investigations" – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term "Orwellian," devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or "Matters Under Inquiry" – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission's internal website. "After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation," the site advised staffers, "you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI."

Many of the destroyed files involved companies and individuals who would later play prominent roles in the economic meltdown of 2008. Two MUIs involving con artist Bernie Madoff vanished. So did a 2002 inquiry into financial fraud at Lehman Brothers, as well as a 2005 case of insider trading at the same soon-to-be-bankrupt bank. A 2009 preliminary investigation of insider trading by Goldman Sachs was deleted, along with records for at least three cases involving the infamous hedge fund SAC Capital.

The widespread destruction of records was brought to the attention of Congress in July, when an SEC attorney named Darcy Flynn decided to blow the whistle. According to Flynn, who was responsible for helping to manage the commission's records, the SEC has been destroying records of preliminary investigations since at least 1993. After he alerted NARA to the problem, Flynn reports, senior staff at the SEC scrambled to hide the commission's improprieties.
And that's just his first 5 paragraphs.

What's also in the article is the pattern of what can only be described as a patterned of end loaded bribery, where SEC senior bureaucrats spiked investigations, destroyed all evidence collected, and then found well remunerated positions with firms that they had "exonerated."

There should be hundreds of people on Wall Street, and regulating Wall Street, who should have been frog marched out of the places of work in hand cuffs.

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

Kasich Blinks

With Democrats almost retaking the Senate in Wisconsin, and his union busting bill down significantly in the polls, Ohio wingnut Governor John Kasich is asking for Democratic Party and labor groups if he could negotiate to forestall the referendum:
Gov. John Kasich and fellow Republicans William Batchelder, Ohio House speaker from Medina, and Senate President Tom Niehaus of New Richmond, offered today to revise the controversial collective bargaining law, known as Senate Bill 5, if public unions will drop their campaign to repeal the bill on the November ballot.

We Are Ohio, the coalition of unions behind the repeal effort, has rejected earlier back-channel efforts by some Republicans to strike a deal, citing the GOP-controlled legislature's unwillingness to compromise when the bill was written.

Following a press conference by Kasich, We Are Ohio issued the following statement rejecting a call for a compromise.

"We're glad that Governor Kasich and the other politicians who passed SB 5 are finally admitting this is a flawed bill," said Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are Ohio. "Just like the bill was flawed, this approach to a compromise is flawed as well. Our message is clear. These same politicians who passed this law could repeal it and not thwart the will of the people. They should either repeal the entire bill or support our efforts and encourage a no vote on Issue 2."
Good for them.

The only reason to call off the referendum that you are certain to win is if he backs down completely, which will not only weaken Kasich among the average voters, but will poison his relationships with Republicans in the state house, because he seriously twisted arms to get SB 5 passed in the first place.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

16 August 2011

Both Dems Hold Their Seats in Final Round of Wisconsin Recall

Here.

And we are beginning to hear a drum beat about how the Dems should drop their recall effort against Scott Walker.

F%$# that.

This is a Whole New Level of Lame

After proposing the elimination of Medicare, and getting savaged at town hall meetings, Paul Ryan has found a solution, charging admission to his town hall meetings:
It will cost $15 to ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a question in person during the August congressional recess.

The House Budget Committee chairman isn’t holding any face-to-face open-to-the-public town hall meetings during the recess, but like several of his colleagues he will speak only for residents willing to open their wallets.

Ryan, who took substantial criticism from his southeast Wisconsin constituents in April after he introduced the Republicans’ budget proposal, isn’t the only member of congress whose August recess town hall-style meetings are strictly pay-per-view.
Words can not express the lamitude of this.

Oh, It's Worldcon Tomorrow, and I Am Not There

This fact makes me smile.

It only took me 20 years, but I realized that I don't like Science Fiction conventions.

This fact probably explains the massive benders that I used to have at said conventions.

I enjoyed running them, but was never into the convention scene.

As to running them, never again.  It was way too destructive to my life.

There were some good bits, hearing Harry "Hal Clement" Stubbs talk about being a thousand meters away from a nuclear blast was a hoot.

I miss Harry, he knew his sh%$, and he didn't back down on it, but he was remarkably gentle when he told you that you did not know what you were talking about.

15 August 2011

I Love My Wife

But helping her work with her phone and computer makes me f%$#ing crazy.

I am so not a teacher, but I married one, go figure.

I'm showing her how to sync her android phone directly to her Outlook.

(Hint: it uses a PIM called MyPhone Explorer which is actually pretty slick)

I have to have her press all the buttons, because otherwise, she would not get it, and she would be asking me how to do this over, and over, and over, and over again.

Still, getting her over the hump on this drives me buggy.

14 August 2011

Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth the Dad

So, we want to a Bar Mitzvah today, and we told Charlie that since he was only 12, he needed to wear a suit jacket and a tie.

He was OK on the tie, but refused to wear a suit jacket.

We are talking yelling, and screaming, and passive aggressive resistance.

Eventually, we got him into the car, and put the jacket in the back, and when when we got there, it was held at the old Washington Post building, we got him to take the jacket in, but not to wear it.

Toward the end of the evening, I asked Charlie if he could put on the jacket for 15 seconds, so that I could snap a picture of it.

He put on the jacket, and I reminded him that he was turning 12 next month, and that  his Bar Mitzvah would be a year from that.

I then informed him that a suit jacket with tie was non-negotiable for his Bar Mitzvah, and as it sunk in, I snapped this picture.

Not a happy young man, huh?

13 August 2011

Obama has lost Ed Shultz??

Not what I expect from Ed
Ed Schultz uses the standard cop out that Obama is "Getting bad advice", but he's asking "Where's Barry?"

He notes, accurately IMNSHO, that if Obama had been involved at any level, then at least three Senators would have been unseated, not just two.

John Nichols comes on toward the end, and notes that not only was Obama AWOL on Wisconsin, but he was a regular visitor until the entire conflict developed, and then he avoided the state.

Ed Schultz is an Obama fanboi, and it's a huge part of his brand as a broadcaster, and even he feels compelled to say, "If only the Czar knew."

Eddie, here's a hint:  the Czar knows, and this is what he wants.

Obama's self image, and reelection strategy, is all about his PPUS (Post Partisan Unity Schtick), because he (probably wrongly) believes that the voters will perceive his cowardice as strength, and because he is fundamentally unwilling to take any risks, or take any hits, even to the smallest degree, to support his allies.

This, by the way, is why the Democrats will lose the Senate, and not take back the House, inn 2012.  Barack Obama's intention is to strip mine the base and the party apparatus, and to hell with the party.

Another Bank Gets Shut Down

The First National Bank of Olathe in Olathe, KS, 64 for the year.

It's a day late, and I'm feeling lazy, so no pics.

12 August 2011

Not a Big Fan of Apple Products…










But I have to give props to some of the people who makes cases for the iPhone.
Here we have:
Among others.

It's amusing, but the iPhone is still an over-priced, over-restricted product of a control freak who wants to tell its user community just how they are supposed to use their own phones.

Because of the uniformity of the product, Android phones come in all shapes and sizes, it's something that you will find the variety of accessories of this type in a phone ecosystem that is freer.

11 August 2011

Updating My Resume

So much fun, let me tell you.

Still acting on rumors, but it's best to hit the ground running, particularly in this economy.

10 August 2011

I Made a 911 Funny Today

Things are in flux at work. The US Army has cancelled itsMulti-Function Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle (MULE), and the MULE is supposed to be the lead platform for the Autonomous Navigation System (ANS) that I am working on.

So, the future path for our program is not clear, and rumors are running rampant.

With the end of the fiscal year coming up, we got an update on the current state of the rumor mill from our boss at our department's weekly meeting, which is a rather humane, and intelligent way of handling things.

He noted that there was still plenty to do in either case, so we shouldn't slack off:
Boss: We need statuses on progress, so we don't go into airplane mode.

Me: Airplane mode?

Boss: (Makes throwing motion) Throwing paper airplanes as you get to the end. (instead of working)

Me: Oh, I thought that you meant 911.
You know, I think that this is the first actually funny joke about 911* that I've heard, and I was the one who made it.

And BTW, as the meeting was breaking up, the boss's de facto number 2 threw a paper airplane.

It's a nice group of people there.

Needless to say, posting is likely to be light for a while, I have work to wrap up, and a resume to update.

*Yes, I know all the jokes about "Hijackers surprised to find themselves in hell" stuff, but that is not a 911 joke, it's a hijacker joke.

09 August 2011

Wisconsin Recall Update

As it stands right now, 2 Republicans were recalled, and 3 survived the vote, and one race, the race between Alberta Darling (R) and Sandy Pasch (D), is too close to call.

I'm not going to be up late enough to call this, but considering the fact that part of the district is in Waukesha County, where Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus mysteriously found a few thousand votes for Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in April, I'm going to say that a surprisingly robust turnout from Waukesha County county will likely have 'Phant winning.

Nicklaus is either incompetent or corrupt, but each time something comes up, the irregularities cut in favor or Republicans, so I'll go with corrupt.

This means that the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, which is a bummer.

Yes, recalls are hard, and the performance was historically good, these were Republican leaning districts, and the elections were close, but this is going to be spun as a Republican victory by the media and the conventional wisdom.

I will bet heavy odds that in the next few weeks, a senior administration official will be anonymously quoted excoriating the grass roots over wasting all that money and effort, just like they did over the Blanche Lincoln primary challenge.

In any case, I am turning off the teevee and going to bed.

(Morning update via mobile)
Confirmed. Only two pickups. Damn.

Foreclosure Fraud Hits 60 Minutes

It's a 15 minute video, and embedding is disabled, and it's nothing that I haven't covered before, but this just hit the main stream in a big way.

I don't watch it, but there are lots of people who watch 60 Minutes.

I only wish that they had been a bit clearer on just how this was all fraudulent on behalf of the banks, and not just going after document mill DocX as the source of all of this.

Baucus?!?!?!?! Max F%$#ing Baucus?!?!?!?

So Harry Reid has appointed his 3 Democrats to the "Super Committee", and they are John Kerry, Patty Murray, and Max Baucus.

Here is my rundown:
  • Max Baucus is the least Democratic Democrat in the US Senate.  He is more responsible for killing the public option than anyone in the senate.
  • John Kerry is angling for the Secretary of State appointment after Hillary Clinton resigns, probably after the election, and so is in Obama's, and Secretary of Defense Panetta's pocket.
  • Patty Murray is the Senator from Boeing.
So Reid has appointed 3 people who will blink at the possibility of the automatic cuts to defense, and Republicans desperate to get Democrats to join in their "Kill Medicare" suicide pact.

The rule is that a majority vote passes along a non-debatable, non-filibusterable, and non amendable motion to both houses, so if just one Dem flips *cough* Baucus *cough*, we see something that cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, both gutting the safety the safety net, and saving the Republicans from the Paul Ryan budget.

I honestly believe that this is intentional.

It will condemn the Democrats to minority party status for a generation, because it means that we stand for nothing.

Economics Update

It's been a busy economic news day, with the Federal Reserve declaring that  it will keep its benchmark interest rates low for the next two year:
The stock market staged a dramatic rebound Tuesday, recording the biggest gains after the Federal Reserve announced it would keep its ultra-low interest rate policies in place for two more years.

The surge ended a wild day of trading in which the Dow Jones industrial average dipped in and out of negative territory four times, giving back hundreds of points in early gains before finishing the session up 429 points. That represented a nearly 4 percent rise, the largest increase in two years.

Investors seemed uncertain about what to make of the announcement by the Fed’s main policymaking board, which for the first time set a firm date for maintaining its near-zero target for short-term interest rates. This move could provide businesses and consumers with greater certainty about the availability of low-cost borrowing as they consider making investments or major purchases, such as homes or autos.

At the same time, the Fed declined to make any significant new efforts to bolster the nation’s flagging recovery. A rare dissent by three of the policy committee members to the interest rate decision signaled that it could prove hard for the central bank to take more dramatic steps in the coming months to lift the economy and prop up the financial system.

When one considers the fact that the interest is effectively 0%, this is not a ringing endorsement of where the economy is going, and the markets were hoping for more.  (Full Fed Statement below the fold)

Why are the markets expecting more, perhaps because productivity fell for the 2nd straight quarter, and small business optimism for the 5th straight month.

Between Democrats who believe in the austerity fairy, and Republicans who are deliberately tanking the economy for political advantage, the Fed is all we have to fix things.

A 'Phant Disavows Norquist

If he is the only 'Phant to repudiate his "no taxes of any kind" pledge to Grover Norquist, he's toast, but if he is the first of a few, i.e. double digits, he becomes a a leader of some sort of wing of the Congressional Republicans

Still, it's a gutsy move:
In answer to one question, the 1st District Republican congressman revealed he informed Grover Norquist and his anti-tax organization he no longer is committed to that organization's pledge to oppose any form of tax increases.

"I did sign that pledge when I was first running" for the House in 2004, Fortenberry said. "I no longer sign any pledges."

A pledge "restrains your ability to think creatively," he said, noting Norquist attempts to interpret and define what is considered a tax increase.

"I informed the organization I don't consider (the earlier pledge) binding," Fortenberry said. "I don't care to be associated with it. It's too constraining."

Fortenberry said he remains committed to reducing federal spending, but suggested an openness to tax reform.

"We have a broken tax code that is skewed to the wealthy and corporations (who) know how to move capital around," he said.

Tax reform could close loopholes and perhaps lower tax rates, Fortenberry said, and the result might be more revenue.
Not only is he saying that taxes are on the table, but he's talking about how fat cats game the system.

Note that this from a Republican, from Nebraska.

I don't expect sanity to break out in the Republican party, but if this is the first step toward Grover Norquist becoming irrelevant, it's a good step, assuming that he is not replaced by someone even more evil and crazy.*

H/t Think Progress.

*Considering the history of the Republican Party, which makes me yearn for the intellect, liberalism, and moral rectitude of Richard Nixon, I would say that the chance of him being replaced by someone more evil are pretty good

08 August 2011

It's Official, RICO Time for Rupert

There are credible reports that the FBI and the DoJ are considering a RICO investigation of Newscorp.

This is significant because the standards of RICO are very lax. You are not showing criminal activity, you are showing a pattern of corrupt behavior within the organization*:
Well-sourced information coming out of the Department of Justice and the FBI suggests a debate is going on that could result in the recently launched investigations of News Corp. falling under the RICO statutes.

RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, establishes a way to prosecute the leaders of organizations—and strike at the organizations themselves—for crimes company leaders may not have directly committed, but which were otherwise countenanced by the organization. Any two of a series of crimes that can be proven to have occurred within a 10-year period by members of the organization can establish a pattern of racketeering and result in draconian remedies. In 1990, following the indictment of Michael Milken for insider trading, Drexel Burnham Lambert, the firm that employed him, collapsed in the face of a RICO investigation.

Among the areas that the FBI is said to be looking at in its investigation of News Corp. are charges that one of its subsidiaries, News America Marketing, illegally hacked the computer system of a competitor, Floorgraphics, and then, using the information it had gleaned, tried to extort it into selling out to News Corp.; allegations that relationships the New York Post has maintained with New York City police officers may have involved exchanges of favors and possibly money for information; and accusations that Fox chief Roger Ailes sought to have an executive in the company, the book publisher Judith Regan, lie to investigators about details of her relationship with New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik in order to protect the political interests of Rudy Giuliani, then a presidential prospect.
Pass the popcorn.


*One of the reasons that I've never been a fan of the statute, particularly as embraced and extended by Giuliani when he was US Attorney.