30 September 2011

29 September 2011

28 September 2011

Your Deep Thought for the New Year

It's Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה)

Which means that I will be off line for the next 50 hours or so, and then Shabbos follows, so I won't be covering breaking news.

I will have some stuff queued up that I delayed posting on.

Finally!


Pass the Popcorn
Even if the mortgage non-transfer transfers conducted through MERS fulfill the technical obligations required by existing real estate and trust law (they don't), they still don't excuse the illegal evasion of recording fees for local county clerks.

We've had a couple of smaller counties file suit, but now it's Dallas, Texas, which turn over a huge rock, and reveal what is underneath:
Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., along with Bank of America Corp., was sued by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins over claims its mortgage-tracking system violates Texas law.

Merscorp Inc.’s MERS, which runs an electronic registry of mortgages, cheated Dallas County out of “tens of millions in uncollected filing fees,” Watkins said in a statement. MERS tracks servicing rights and ownership interests in mortgage loans on its registry, allowing banks to buy and sell loans without recording transfers with counties.

Watkins, in a complaint filed yesterday in state court in Dallas, claims MERS was established by banks including Bank of America to avoid paying filing fees, as well as to ease transfers of mortgages. The county asked the court to hold Bank of America liable as a shareholder of MERS and said the bank “knew or should have known” that the system would cause improper filing.
We are talking billions, if not tens of billions of dollars in fees that were illegally evaded by the banks, and Dallas County is big enough that the banks can't afford to settle to make the problem go away.

My heart bleeds for these ratf%$#s.

Go Pauley, Go!!!!!

Paul Ryan is suggesting that Republicans should double down on killing Medicare as a political strategy.

Convince your side that this is what you want to do!  Please!!!!

Throw us in that briar patch!

Our Banking Model is Unsustainable

Martin Wolf notes that banks current business model is predicated on a 15% return on equity, and this is fundamentally unsustainable:
According to a FT article last week, Lloyds’ bank has a target return on equity of 14.5 per cent. Banks like to argue that this is the level of return on equity they need to earn, in order to gain funding from the markets. Naturally, remuneration is linked to achieving such objectives. The question, however, is whether such objectives make any sense. The brief answer is: no.

Forget banks, for the moment. What would you say if someone offered you an investment with a promised real return of close to 15 per cent? You might say: “How much can I buy?” Alternatively, you might say: “What is the catch?” Sensible people must take the latter view. If you thought that you were being offered a reliable real return at such an exalted level, you would buy as much as you could. This must be particularly true now when real returns on the bonds of relatively safe governments are close to zero.

So what is the catch? The obvious answer has to be that the real return in question is extremely risky, because it is volatile and offers a significant chance of total wipe-out.

Indeed, it is perfectly obvious that these cannot be sustainable safe returns in economies growing at 2 per cent a year, for such a large and well-established industry. At a 15 per cent real return, the value of cumulative retained earnings would double in five years and increase 16-fold in 20 years. Pretty soon, bank equity would be the only real asset in the world!
He notes that at some point in the late 1970s, probably starting during the Carter era deregulation of the banks,* their return on equity diverged significantly from the overall rate of growth of the economy, and the way that they did this was by the same way that anyone increases return, by increasing risk.

They increased risk by both increasing risk inherent in each individual investment, and they did so by becoming even far more leveraged, raising the risk that even small setbacks would leave them illiquid or insolvent.

This doesn't matter to the banks, because they are back stopped by government deposit insurance, so they are, in essence, gambling with the taxpayer's money.

We need banking to be dull again.

In any case, go read the whole post, particularly the bit where he figures that the additional cost of capital from this is just 15 basis points. (0.15%)

*Yes, the last generation's Barack Obama was the one who initiated the dismantling of the depression era banking regulations, and who stood idly by as the savings and loans went insane. Reagan was worse, but Carter got the ball rolling.

27 September 2011

This is What You Get When You Cut a Deal With the Devil

Could it be ………… Satan?
As Obama did when he kowtowed to the insurance industry and killed the public option.

You get accelerating inflation for medical insurance:
The cost of health insurance for many Americans this year climbed more sharply than in previous years, outstripping any growth in workers’ wages and adding more uncertainty about the pace of rising medical costs.

A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group that tracks employer-sponsored health insurance on a yearly basis, shows that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer reached $15,073 in 2011, an increase of 9 percent over the previous year.

“The open question is whether that’s a one-time spike or the start of a period of higher increases,” said Drew Altman, the chief executive of the Kaiser foundation.

The steep increase in rates is particularly unwelcome at a time when the economy is still sputtering and unemployment continues to hover at about 9 percent. Many businesses cite the high cost of coverage as a factor in their decision not to hire, and health insurance has become increasingly unaffordable for more Americans. Over all, the cost of family coverage has about doubled since 2001, when premiums averaged $7,061, compared with a 34 percent gain in wages over the same period.
I wonder what could be driving this?  Maybe the desire to beat implementation dates for price controls?
How much the new federal health care law pushed by President Obama is affecting insurance rates remains a point of debate, with some analysts suggesting that insurers have raised prices in anticipation of new rules that would, in 2012, require them to justify any increase of more than 10 percent.
The difference between health insurance companies and Satan is that there are some things that Satan just won't do.

Chutzpah

The old definition was murdering your parents and asking for mercy because you are an orphan.

The new definition is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor whining about delays in disaster aid to his district:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, is pushing for information on the status of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for federal disaster assistance for Louisa County residents in the wake of an earthquake there last month.

On Friday, Cantor held a conference call with Federal Emergency Management Agency and Louisa County officials. A readout of the call provided by Cantor’s office indicates that he asked FEMA officials about the timeline and process for determining whether the agency would grant federal assistance.
Maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with your attempt to use FEMA as a political chip in the budget fight you pig felching hypocrite.

Things That Make Me Want to Smash My Clock Radio With a Sledge Hammer

It goes off, and they have Bill "Felafel Man" Oreilly on pimping his book:
Last October, after NPR fired Juan Williams, O'Reilly went on Fox News and said NPR "is not a news organization" and "is basically a left-wing outfit" that "throw[s] out propaganda in violation of the First Amendment." He called for "the immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar going into the National Public Radio outfit" and likened the network to terrorists: "Terrorists want to create terror. Well what does NPR want to create? They're intimidating, too." To cap it all off, he called NPR "boring," "dishonest," and a "snake pit."

………

So O'Reilly thinks NPR is a totalitarian snake-pit of pseudo-terrorism that shouldn't get taxpayer money to promote its dishonest left-wing ideological agenda. Using taxpayer money to help sell his books, though, is perfectly fine.
And the interview itself was nauseatingly sycophantic.

Seriously, If I didn't not donate to public radio because of their vociferous opposition to low power community radio, I would never give to them now.

26 September 2011

Melissa Harris-Perry is a (Not Very) Useful Idiot

And what's more, she is an idiot who is inadvertently enabling racists to use coded speech to race bait.

You see,she is claiming that "white liberals" are losing faith in Barack Obama because they are all a bunch of racists, who require a black man to be Superman in order to get their support:
President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.
You know, there is also the possibility that he's just not doing a good job.

One indicator of this is that his favorability numbers are cratering among the Black community aw well:
New cracks have begun to show in President Obama’s support amongst African Americans, who have been his strongest supporters. Five months ago, 83 percent of African Americans held “strongly favorable” views of Obama, but in a new Washington Post-ABC news poll that number has dropped to 58 percent. That drop is similar to slipping support for Obama among all groups.

“There is a certain amount of racial loyalty and party loyalty, but eventually that was going to have to weaken,” said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University, who studies African Americans. “It’s understandable given the economy.”
So we have a 25% drop among AAs, and a 28% drop among whites.

And we have no numbers at all broken out for white liberals.

So Harris-Perry is full of crap, but that's the least of it.

You see, every time we get this sort of sh%$ spewed at us, it allows the real racists out there, and there are a lot of them, to claim that there is no racism, and that it's all just a code word for the liberal agenda.

Dr. Harris-Perry is clearly a big fan of Barack Obama, and she is clearly wants to explain away what other people see as his failings, but tossing about specious accusations of bigotry where no objective data serves to make any statements about racism that much less credible.

I know that it's easier than answering things David Sirota's statement that. "Racism isn't responsible for the president's drop in popularity. His right-wing policies are," but it is intellectually bankrupt, and it serves the purposes of the real racists out there.

These Folks Really Hate America…

Basically, a good old boy policechief and judge in East Podunk Bay Minette, Alabama have decided that they have the right to tell people to go to church or go to jail:
A new alternative sentencing program offering first-time, nonviolent offenders a choice of a year of church attendance or jail time and fines is drawing fire from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as national attention, officials said Friday.

"This policy is blatantly unconstitutional," said Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama. "It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity."

But the local police chief who is heading up the program starting Tuesday called "Restore Our Community" says no one is being forced to participate.

"Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders," Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said. "It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people."

Rowland said the idea was simple: get people who are not yet hardened criminals to become involved in positive programs — hundreds of free resources offered by some 104 churches in the region with 56 agreeing to help monitor first-time, nonviolent offenders. Under the program, pastors would report weekly to the chief and offenders in the program would bring a signed sheet to prove they attended church.

They would also have to answer some questions about the services, Rowland said. And the offenders who voluntarily choose church over jail get to pick the churches they attend. If they complete a year’s attendance, Rowland said, their criminal case would be dismissed.
Here's the kicker:
"The biggest question or complaint we have had is about separation of church and state," Rowland said. "Those issues won’t come to the forefront because the offenders are not being forced to attend church, and what religion they choose is really up to them. We even have provisions for people who are from out of town to choose a place to worship in their own communities."
Of course they aren't forced to go to church, they have a choice, it's just that the alternative is prison.  Just like people weren't forced to confess to witchcraft, they had a choice, it's just that the alternative is being drowned or crushed under stones.

I'm thinking of going there and founding a "Pagan, atheist, secular humanist, free love Church of Saccharomyces cerevisiae," and seeing if I can get some of these folks to attend my church.

H/t TPM.

25 September 2011

787 Finally Delivered

Only 3 years late:
Boeing's long-awaited dream machine became a commercial reality on Sunday when the lightweight plastic-composites 787 Dreamliner was formally delivered to its first Japanese customer.

Boeing says the revolutionary carbon fiber design will hand 20 percent fuel savings to airlines struggling to avoid a new recession, and give passengers a more comfortable ride with better cabin air and large electronically dimmable windows.

The first $200 million aircraft was handed over to Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways three years behind schedule after persistent delays that cost Boeing billions of dollars.

"It took a lot of hard work to get to this day," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, at the outset of two days of celebrations at the plane's Seattle production plant.

The blue and white-painted long-range aircraft, which boasts a graceful new design with raked wingtips, will leave for Japan on Tuesday and enter service domestically on Oct. 26.

Boeing has taken orders for 821 Dreamliners, which will compete with the future Airbus A350, due in 2013.
FWIW, Airbus is likely to be late with the A350, that's the way of such endeavors, but it is unlikely to be as late, because EADS is not determined to shift all of its expertise to poorly supervised outside firms in order to hit quarterly numbers.

Additionally, EADS has had nearly a decade to watch the missteps Boeing made in implementing the advanced technology of the aircraft, and so should be able to avoid some of them. (You know, little things like not having enough of the proper fasteners available).

Boeing, after having taken over McDonnell Douglas, after the path taken by that company, single source "risk bearing partners", made them irrelevant in commercial aviation, decided to traipse down the same insane path.

EADS, by virtue of being what amounts a national champion in aerospace for the EU, cannot take this path, and so its ability to completely f%$# things up is somewhat more limited.

Someone Puts a Cost to the Activities of Patent Trolls

$500-billion over the past decade,* and that does not count reductions in innovation, as the trolls, as:
  • The patents are frequently of very low quality.
  • The proceeds from patent trolling don't go to inventors in the first place.
The problem is that a myth of  "Intellectual Property" (When I use the term IP, I mean "Intellectual Product) has been created out of a limited exclusive license created, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries".

In other words, this is not property law, but rather it is public interest law based on the idea that temporary and limited restrictions to the free flow of ideas and expression only to the degree that these restrictions benefit the public as a whole.

Once you start calling it "property" you encourage all sorts of arbitrary applications, and Randroid thinking, and as opposed to encouraging innovation, you hamstring it.

*My unscientific gut says that this number is probably low by at least a factor of 2, if not a factor of 10.

Google™ Adsense™ Yet Again…

Yes, once again, the best and the brightest programmers at Google™ have developed software that "reads" my blog, and serves an advertisement that best serves the proclivities of my readers…………Not!!!!

I write about various fraudulent financial schemes, and we see ads for it. I write about how John McCain being a pathetic old man, and his ads appear.

And now, we have have Ron Paul ads (no link, no kidding) showing up when I always refer to him as a loony tune (though by the standards of the current Republican field, he seems almost sane by comparison).

 Seriously, I need to find someone else to serve ads for my blog.

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.

24 September 2011

And The Knives Come Out for Elizabeth Warren

You go, girl!
It appears that the powers that be in finance are trying to gin up a story about how there were irregularities on Elizabeth Warren's TARP oversight panel because the details on compensation are not as granular as they would have liked.

It's the usual suspects:
  • Politico, who has never seen a Republican talking point that they won't echo.
  • The Boston Herald, which even if Rupert was forced to sell it, is still in his pocket.
In addition to being hostile to the idea that banks should be able to rip people off without consequences, she has also eloquently made the point that, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own," because the accumulation of wealth is an artifact of the support that the rest of society provides you: (see the vid as well)
In the video (at left), which was filmed at an event in Andover, Mass., Warren rebuts the GOP-touted notion that raising taxes on the wealthy amounts to "class warfare," contending that "there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody."

Warren rejects the concept that it is possible for Americans to become wealthy in isolation.

"You built a factory out there? Good for you," she says. "But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did."

She continues: "Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
It's kind of an anti-Randroid philosophy that Democrats should be shouting from the heavens, but the only other political figure of any national stature who does is Bernie Sanders, and he ain't a Dem.

I understand why the knives are out.  The Objectivist view of the divine right of wealth is an unspoken common wisdom among much of the political class, and real populism, as opposed to the teabagger rent-a-crowds,  is a threat to that.

In the Latest Episode of "The Forever War"………

Obama has signed of on building an archipelago of secret drone bases in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula:
The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.
This is completely nuts, the Pentagon is going to bankrupt us by placing a constellation of bases around the world that:
  • We cannot afford.
  • Creates terrorists by placing a foreign military presence in other sovereign nations.
This sh%$ simply has to stop.

This is the Real Goal of the JSF Program

Norway is saying that it will not commit to buying F-35s unless it gets a formal commitment to integrate Kongsberg joint strike missile (JSM):
Norway's Kongsberg has warned that the country needs a commitment from the US government within six months to integrate a national-specific missile on the Lockheed Martin F-35, or it could withdraw from the programme.

So far, Norway has received no assurance that the Kongsberg joint strike missile (JSM) will be integrated as part of the Block 4 software update on the F-35 in 2019.

The absence of such a commitment could prompt the Norwegian parliament to reject an expected request early next year from the nation's defence ministry to buy the first four F-35s, in order to launch training activities in 2016.

"That is what I think is the critical issue [for the parliament's decision]", said Bjorne Bjune, Kongsberg vice president of business development, speaking at the Air Force Association's annual convention in Washington DC on 20 September. "That decision needs to be forthcoming."

Integrating the JSM as the Norwegian F-35's primary surface-to-air missile system killer is considered an absolute requirement by Oslo, Bjune said. Norway has already invested $1 billion to adapt the naval strike missile into the air-launched JSM, and is planning to spend a further $200 million.
One of the unspoken goals of the JSF program, from the American perspective, is to kneecap the development of systems related to the JSF, either by not allowing integration of foreign systems into the aircraft's (very) closed architecture, or by making it prohibitively expensive.

The problems that are occurring now, when Lockheed and the Pentagon are trying to convince allies to purchase the aircraft, are nothing compared to what we will see once the planes start to enter other inventories.

Simply put, once your country commits to purchasing the JSF, you will find nothing but delays, stonewalling, and excessive costs if you want to integrate, or update, an indigenous system into your fleet.

186282 Miles Per Second, It's Not Just a Good Idea, It's the Law…

Or maybe not:
Scientists around the world reacted with shock yesterday to results from an Italian laboratory that seemed to show certain subatomic particles can travel faster than light. If true, the finding breaks one of the most fundamental laws of physics and raises bizarre possibilities including time travel and shortcuts via hidden extra dimensions.

Scientists at the Opera (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment in Gran Sasso, Italy, found that neutrinos sent through the Earth to its detectors from Cern, 450 miles (730km) away in Geneva, arrived earlier than they should have. The journey would take a beam of light around 2.4 milliseconds to complete, but after running the Opera experiment for three years and timing the arrival of 15,000 neutrinos, the scientists have calculated the particles arrived at Gran Sasso 60 billionths of a second earlier, with an error margin of plus or minus 10 billionths of a second. The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 metres per second, so the neutrinos were apparently travelling at 299,798,454 metres per second.
I'm inclined to think that this will be reversed after a thorough peer review, but I'm sure that we have a bunch of physicists who are reading the reports of the experiment very closely.

23 September 2011

Chairman of the board.



And now, we must hang our head in shame, because we know that none of us will ever be that hip.

H/t DC on the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

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

  1. Bank of the Commonwealth,Norfolk, VA
  2. Citizens Bank of Northern California, Nevada City, CA
Full FDIC list

So, after a week with no bank closings, we now had two.

The pace is clearly slower than last year, but I'm not sure if the pace of bad loans is slowing, or if we are simply running out of banks.

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

For All You Libertarians Out There, If You Think that Private Enterprise Will Protect You

How do you handle the fact that the auto communications company OnStar is going to track all the cars with operational units, and resell the data:
OnStar has begun notifying customers that it may continue to collect and use information about the vehicle even if the customer terminates his or her subscription.

In a privacy notice that will take effect this December, OnStar said that it would collect data as long as a data connection was active, including such details as the location and speed of the vehicle, as well as such fine-grained details as the odometer readings and tire pressure.

The privacy statement lists it as being effective as of Dec. 2011, although the statement also notes that the changes were made to the Jan. 2011 privacy statement.

In the privacy notification, OnStar said that it will share the information it collects with credit card processors and data management companies, as well as roadside assistance providers, emergency services providers, law enforcement, and wireless and satellite service providers.

The data collection can be halted, but OnStar must deactivate the data connection. "Unless the Data Connection to your Vehicle is deactivated, data about your Vehicle will continue to be collected even if you do not have a Plan," the privacy policy states. "It is important that you convey this to other drivers, occupants, or subsequent owners of your Vehicle. You may deactivate the Data Connection to your Vehicle at any time by contacting an OnStar Advisor."
Do you have OnStar?  Did you know about the change in the privacy policy?  Do you know whether or not a private individual could hack into your system and track you? 

How about a cop without a warrant?  (It's still in litigation)

Osama Who Ever Is In Charge of al-Qaeda , Take Me Now!!!

Ted Haggard Appearing On Celebrity Wife Swap With Gary Busey

If the people who wished to destroy us used our desire for our "15 minutes of fame" against us, archeologists and historians would be writing PhD theses on the collapse of our society.

Drive Recklessly


Not every pedestrian is a good person.

H/t Jet Boy at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

22 September 2011

One Bright Side to the New Patent Law

Tax avoidance strategies are no longer patentable:
Did you ever think the clever tax-saving strategy your financial advisor is offering up could be patented?

For the past six years that question has been vigorously debated in the courts, at Congressional hearings and at gatherings of estate planners and other tax wonks. Congress finally put it to rest with a new law that President Obama signed on Sept. 16.

Under a provision in the far-reaching patent reform bill, it’s no longer possible to get a patent on a strategy for reducing, avoiding or postponing taxes. (See Section 14 of the law, which downloads here as a pdf.) By the time the bill, known as the America Invents Act, was signed into law, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had issued more than 161 tax patents, and another 167 tax patent applications were pending.
My preferred bill would have made it more difficult for patent trolls to get injunctions, and banned all business method patents, as well as patents on genes and software, but this is an improvement.

Quote of the Day

Politico, who always shorts Democratic Party Prospects, is saying that the Democrats' chances of retaking the house are not good, and they uncork this one:
Now, resigned to the likelihood that the president will be a down-ballot drag in many races and absent signs of an electoral wave on the horizon, Democrats are scaling back their expectations.
(emphasis mine)

I tend to think of Politico as a bunch of shallow inside the beltway lizard brains (as in medulla oblongata), but they nailed it here.

Obama is a huge drag on the ticket, and the 2010 results, which were a reversal of historical proportions were the direct result of nationalizing the election and making Obama the issue.

I'm beginning to think that the eventual Republican nominee will have to do the equivalent of, "putting half a dozen children on a spit, and toasting them at the flame that comes out of their mouth," to paraphrase Christopher Fry, in order for Obama to win.

Luckily for him, all the 'Phants seem intent on doing this.

It's Jobless Thursday

And while initial claims fell a bit, with the 4-week moving average rising, and continuing and extended claims both falling.

Still it's 423,000 which is far short of a recovery.

On the other side, you have the Leading Economic Indicators beating estimates, but a lot of that was driven by an increase in the money supply as investors moved to (safer) cash from other less liquid investments.

Not only do I expect unemployment to remain above 9% for the foreseeable future, I expect it to top 10% again at some point in 2012.

Worst      Speaker      Ever

I mean, of course John Boehner.

It's not because he's an evil ratf%$#, I think that Newt has him beat on that particular qualification, but rather because he is completely unable to manage his caucus:
House Republicans tried a fresh strategy Wednesday night: Go it alone on a spending bill.

The result was an embarrassing setback.

Wednesday night’s rank-and-file rebuke of GOP leadership — with 48 Republicans bolting on a temporary spending bill — underscored the fact that the House Republican majority is still struggling to find unity on major spending bills. It also showed they still need Democratic votes to help them govern.

The pressure from an angry Speaker John Boehner didn’t work — he even threatened to strip committee assignments. Four dozen Republicans —mostly conservatives — wanted more cuts, and they just said no, creating an uncomfortable scene on the House floor as the funding bill failed on a 195-230 vote. Democrats showed a rare moment of unity in overwhelmingly opposing the continuing resolution, which would keep the government funded through Nov. 18.

Now, to prevent a government shutdown, Republicans will have to rewrite the bill and figure out how to get the votes.
Which means that he's going to have to drop the offsetting cuts for the disaster relief, and come up with a bill to appeal to the Democrats, at least about 25 or so of them anyway.

The inmates are running the asylum, when Boehner should be the adult in charge.

Have you ever though how f%$#ing terrifying it is to think of a situation where a chain smoking tanaholic sot with the brains of a turnip like him has to be the adult in the room?

And he is 3rd in line to be the President.

Our Masters of the Universe CEOs, Now Accountability Free

Because Meg Whitman just became HP's CEO.

Whitman's claim to fame is her sting at eBay, where she made lots of acquisitions, most of them ill-starred. (Skype and their contentious stake in Craiglslist anyone?)

After HP's disastrous acquisition of Compaq, and a string of management failures at the top, since their hiring of an outsider (Carly Fiorina), they have continued to bring in sales weasels for what is a technology driven company.

You know, maybe the company wouldn't be flailing if the people running it actually understood the company, as opposed to stroking their own egos.

Seriously, there is no level of failure that will make one of the members of the CEO class unhirable.

21 September 2011

Uh Oh………

It looks like company insiders have stopped buying their stocks:
Chief executives. Board members.

The head honchos. The people who know.

Just a few weeks ago, they were out in force, buying up shares in their own companies with both hands.

No longer. They’ve disappeared. Almost overnight.

“They’ve stopped buying,” says Charles Biderman, the chief executive of stock market research firm TrimTabs, which tracks the data. “Insiders aren’t buying this rally.”

Insider stock purchases, which surged above $100 million a day in the market slump last month, have now collapsed to just $13 million a day.

Meanwhile the ratio of insider sales to purchases has skyrocketed. Today insiders are dumping $7 in stock for each $1 that (other) insiders are buying. That’s a worrying ratio. Six weeks ago the amounts of purchases and sales were about equal.

It’s the kind of news that should give investors pause.

What insiders do with their own money is one of the stock market’s best barometers.
Gee, you think?

But ……… That would mean ……… That our noble captains of industry are using their internal knowledge of their businesses to derive an undeserved profit!

As the saying goes, "If you sit in on a poker game and don’t see a sucker, get up. You’re the sucker."

Time to get out of the big casino if you are in.

OK, I Think That the Interview Went OK………

I am home, and I am both completely wiped, and famished.

Interviews tend to leave me tired, but the hunger is a new one.

I'll know something in the next week.

20 September 2011

Wish Me Luck

I have a job interview tomorrow afternoon.

Perhaps I can avoid a stint of unemployment this time around.

Schadenfreude, Sweet Schadenfreude

It appears that News Corp has gotten a letter from the Department of Justice regarding possible violations of overseas anti-corruption laws:
News Corp. was sent a letter by U.S. prosecutors investigating foreign bribery, requesting information on alleged payments employees made to U.K. police for tips, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The letter is part of an effort by the U.S. Justice Department to determine whether News Corp. violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. News Corp. fell 1.7 percent on the news.

The inquiry advances an existing U.S. probe that is reviewing claims that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had their phones hacked by News Corp. employees. The letter doesn’t carry the same legal force as a grand jury subpoena, which would compel a response under law.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that reporters at New York-based News Corp.’s News of the World had hacked the voicemail accounts of celebrities and a young girl who had been kidnapped and murdered. Investigators subsequently began looking into allegations that the tabloid’s staffers made payments to police officers in return for confidential information.
Not a good day to be Rupert.

Well, Pull Down My Pants, and Paint My Butt Blue!

The latest poll has Elizabeth Warren up two points over Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, which, while within the margin or error, is still a 17 point swing in her favor:
Elizabeth Warren has had an incredibly successful launch to her Senate campaign and actually leads Scott Brown now by a 46-44 margin, erasing what was a 15 point deficit the last time we polled the state in early June.

Warren's gone from 38% name recognition to 62% over the last three months and she's made a good first impression on pretty much everyone who's developed an opinion about her during that period of time. What was a 21/17 favorability rating in June is now 40/22- in other words she's increased the voters with a positive opinion of her by 19% while her negatives have risen only 5%.
I would note that the general rule of thumb is that undecideds break 2:1 to the challenger, so this is a pretty ugly picture for the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts.

There are some important caveats here as well though.  Warren just announced, and so is likely experienced a bounce, and this is just one poll.

What's more, Brown's approval numbers are falling as well. (see chart pr0n)

My guess is that Massachusetts voters are beginning to understand that he is much more of a cog in the Republican party machine than he said while he was campaigning in the special election.

Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass On the Way Out


Golf clap on your way out!
Bill O'Reilly is mad about potential tax increases, and he's threatening to go Gault, and quit his job at Fox News.

Hell if higher taxes can make him shut the f%$# up, raise my taxes too.

It's money well spent.

Police Withdraw their Official Secrets Act Filing Against the Guardian

It sounds like someone in Scotland Yard got a clue, and decided that doing Rupert Murdoch's bidding in public was a bad idea:
The Metropolitan police has dropped its attempt to force the Guardian to reveal confidential sources for stories relating to the phone-hacking scandal.

Scotland Yard wanted a court order to force Guardian reporters to reveal confidential sources for articles disclosing that the murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone was hacked on behalf of the News of the World. They claimed that the paper's reporter Amelia Hill could have "incited" a source to break the Official Secrets Act.

A police spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards consulted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting.

"The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter.

"In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps."

The Met's attempt to identify potential police leaks was widely condemned.
Just how did they think that it was going to look?

Idiots.

But Vegemite Is a Weapon of Mass Destruction

It appears that Australia's Foreign Minister Paul Rudd was rather put off when homeland security wanted to prevent him from taking the brown food like substance on a commercial flight:
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had to talk himself out of trouble after airport officials flagged up a suspicious liquid in his cabin baggage - a jar of Vegemite.

Mr Rudd was heading to New York from Mexico City when he attracted the authorities' attention.

He explained that the dark brown paste was his breakfast and, with help from local diplomats, was allowed through.

Vegemite, a savoury paste made from yeast extract, is popular in Australia.

It is similar to Marmite, which is widely eaten in the UK, but is hard to buy in many countries.

"Only problem travelling to NY is that they tried to confiscate our Vegemite at the airport. Needed Foreign Ministerial intervention," Mr Rudd tweeted.

"Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you and I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through," he said.
One bit of meta here, if you object to my using the the tag "Food" on this post, I understand completely.

It was a tough call for me.

19 September 2011

The Banks are Going Spitzer on New York AG Schneiderman

They are hiring private investigators to dig up personal dirt on him and his staff:
The New York Post has a salacious story about Alisha Smith, a lawyer with the New York attorney general’s office, who is a dominatrix in her private life. Frankly, many of the skills honed by being a domme probably come in handy in litigation (such as knowing exactly how much pain and humiliation to administer when).

The problem isn’t with her having a kinky private life per se; it is the allegation by the Post that she may have gotten paid for performing at S&M parties. Smith makes all of $78,825 a year and the policy of the state AG’s office is for staff to obtain prior approval of any activity which will earn them more than $1,000. The Post presented its allegations about Smith, who was hired by Andrew Cuomo and played an important role in a securities fraud case that led to a $5 billion settlement by Bank of America. She has been suspended without pay as the AG conducts an investigation.
The banksters are going to stop at nothing to protect their asses, and what they feel is their God given right to earn insane pay for stealing money from the rest of us.

DoJ Files Against Texas Congressional Districts

They are saying that the new districts violate the Voting Rights Act:
The Justice Department said Monday that Texas' state House and congressional redistricting plans didn't comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), indicating they thought the maps approved by Gov. Rick Perry (R) gave too little voting power to the growing Latino population in the state.

Officials with DOJ's Civil Rights Division said the proposed redistricting plan for the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the state Senate complied with the Voting Rights Act, but indicated they had concerns with the state House plan and the plan for congressional redistricting.

The federal government "[denied] that the proposed Congressional plan, as compared with the benchmark, maintains or increases the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice in each district protected by Section 5," DOJ lawyers write in a filing. "Defendants deny that the proposed Congressional plan complies with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act."
For all I complain about Obama, the fact that the professional staff in the DoJ's civil rights division are allowed to do their jobs is an improvement over Bush and His Evil Minions.

Well Knock Me Over With a Sledge Hammer!

Barack Obama revealed his deficit plan, and for once, I'm pleasantly surprised:
President Obama will unveil a plan on Monday that uses entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings to reduce the federal deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next 10 years, administration officials said.

The plan, which Mr. Obama will lay out Monday morning at the White House, is the administration’s opening move in sweeping negotiations on deficit reduction to be taken up by a joint House-Senate committee over the next two months. If a deal is not enacted by Dec. 23, cuts could take effect automatically across government agencies.

Mr. Obama will call for $1.5 trillion in tax increases, primarily on the wealthy, through a combination of letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire, closing loopholes and limiting the amount that high earners can deduct. The proposal also includes $580 billion in adjustments to health and entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid. Administration officials said that the Medicare cuts would not come from an increase in the Medicare eligibility age.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on some of the details of Mr. Obama’s proposal said that the plan also counts a savings of $1.1 trillion from the ending of the American combat mission in Iraq and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

In laying out his proposal, aides said, Mr. Obama will expressly promise to veto any legislation that seeks to cut the deficit through spending cuts alone and does not include revenue increases in the form of tax increases on the wealthy.
I'm stunned.

His plan doesn't suck (much), and it doesn't cede major points to the Republicans as a starting point.

I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop (with all of his caving, I'm still going long on spelunking gear) .

Someone must have made it clear to him that while "the left" would vote for him in 2012, regardless of how much he flamed them, they made the point that if they do so reluctantly, then the low information independent voters won't feel the enthusiasm, and they'll not take the time to pull the lever for him.

Arrrrr!!!!

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

18 September 2011

Only One in 25?

A study has found that 1 in 25 business is a psychopath:
One out of every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic, a study claims.

The study, conducted by the New York psychologist Paul Babiak, suggests that they disguise the condition by hiding behind their high status, playing up their charm and by manipulating others.

Favourable environmental factors such as a happy childhood mean they can function in a workplace rather than channelling their energies in more violent or destructive ways. Revealing the results in a BBC Horizon documentary, Babiak said: "Psychopaths really aren't the kind of person you think they are.

"In fact, you could be living with or married to one for 20 years or more and not know that person is a psychopath.

"We have identified individuals that might be labelled 'the successful psychopath'.

"Part of the problem is that the very things we're looking for in our leaders, the psychopath can easily mimic.
On Wall Street, I would expect the number to be closer to 24 out of 25.

Yummy Schadenfreude

A researcher at a pharmaceutical company was laid off shortly after another company acquired his employer, and shut down their research center.

Well, a few days ago, he was contacted by the blokes wot fired him, and asked to testify on their behalf in some patent litigation.

They offered a consulting fee and legal representation, but he declined, and contacted the attorneys for the other side.

His last sentence, "I explained that I do not want money but maybe they could re-evaluate how they are going to treat the R&D inventors in the future. You know, in case they need them again," is a hoot.

Sex Abuse Victims Call For Investigation of Vatican by the Hague

You know, for the past 150 years, the Vatican has been a religious institution masquerading as a nation state, and not it looks like it might bight them on the ass, because the cause of its victims has been forwarded to the International Criminal court in the Hague:
A group representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests is asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and three senior cardinals for alleged crimes against humanity.

A New York-based legal charity says they failed to prevent child abuse.

A Vatican lawyer called the case a "ludicrous publicity stunt".

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of sex abuse cover-up scandals in recent years.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which is filing the complaint, says it has submitted more than 20,000 pages of evidence of crimes committed by Catholic clergy against children and vulnerable adults to the Hague-based court.

It is being supported by abuse victims in the United States, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

"Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican," said the CCR's lawyer, Pam Spees.

"In this case, all roads really do lead to Rome."

The International Criminal Court was set up nine years ago to deal with serious international crimes. It lists rape and sexual violence as crimes against humanity.
Time for the Church to fish or cut bait.

If they are a religion, then they do not have sovereign immunity, and, in the case of Rome, Italian prosecutors should be investigating them.

If they are a state, then it's the Hague, Bitches.

I've Been Saying This for Years, But Who Listens to Me


I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!
POGO has reviewed cases where private contractors have assumed government functions, and in the overwhelming majority of the cases (33 out of 35) federal employees were cheaper than contractors:

Executive Summary

Based on the current public debate regarding the salary comparisons of federal and private sector employees, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO)[1] decided to take on the task of doing what others have not—comparing total annual compensation for federal and private sector employees with federal contractor billing rates in order to determine whether the current costs of federal service contracting serves the public interest.

The current debate over pay differentials largely relies on the theory that the government pays private sector compensation rates when it outsources services. This report proves otherwise: in fact, it shows that the government actually pays service contractors at rates far exceeding the cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable functions.

POGO’s study analyzed the total compensation paid to federal and private sector employees, and annual billing rates for contractor employees across 35 occupational classifications covering over 550 service activities. Our findings were shocking—POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services. Specifically, POGO’s study shows that the federal government approves service contract billing rates—deemed fair and reasonable—that pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the total compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services.

Additional key findings include:
  • Federal government employees were less expensive than contractors in 33 of the 35 occupational classifications POGO reviewed.
  • In one instance, contractor billing rates were nearly 5 times more than the full compensation paid to federal employees performing comparable services.
  • Private sector compensation was lower than contractor billing rates in all 35 occupational classifications we reviewed.
  • The federal government has failed to determine how much money it saves or wastes by outsourcing, insourcing, or retaining services, and has no system for doing so.

POGO’s investigation highlights two basic facts about outsourcing government work to contractors. First, comparing federal to private sector compensation reveals nothing about what it actually costs the government to outsource services. The only analysis that will shed light on the true costs of government is that of contractor billing rates and the full cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable work. The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan recently completed a fundamental study of costs, and found that, in certain contingency operations, although savings resulted from hiring local or third-country nationals, military and civilian employees cost less than hiring American contractors.

Second, the federal government is not doing a good job of obtaining genuine market prices, and therefore the savings often promised in connection with outsourcing services are not being realized. The argument for outsourcing services is that, by outsourcing services on which the government holds a monopoly, free market competition will result in efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars. But our study showed that using contractors to perform services may actually increase rather than decrease costs to the taxpayers.
The big growth in the use in contractors began under the 1st Bush administration with his Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, being at the vanguard of such efforts.

And then he went to run Halliburton, where he got millions to help them get billions of the slush funds that he set up.

Private contracting was never about saving the taxpayer money, it was about two things: reducing the capabilities of the government (because guvment is ebil), and creating an opportunity for corruption and graft.

It turns out that there are some unlikely voices who might agree, specifically Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Diane Feinstein* and new CIA director David Petraeus, are calling for drastic reductions of the use of contractors by the intelligence community:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, pointed out the broken promise at a hearing Tuesday, noting that the intelligence community is not living up to a commitment to reduce private contractors by 5 percent a year.

"We had an agreement in 2009 to reduce [intelligence community] contractor numbers by 5 percent a year, but it's clear that progress has not been maintained and sufficient cuts are not being made," Feinstein told a joint-hearing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to assess progress in U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis over the last ten years.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that "core contractors," meaning those who directly augment the government's intelligence staffs, accounted for 23 percent of the total intelligence community workforce, down only 1 percent from the year before, Feinstein pointed out.

………

One week into his new role as CIA director, David Petraeus testified Thursday that contractors are at the top of his list of potential cuts in the new era of belt-tightening.

"Contractors - we're looking very hard at that as one of the areas we can achieve some savings," Petraeus said, recognizing the fact that many contractors have been devoted partners and have died in service to their country.
Nice to see some of the PTB getting a clue on this.

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

Best Headline Ever

Arkansas weatherman Brett Cummins found in hot tub with naked dead man wearing 'dog collar'

Sikorsky Says X2 Technology Does Not Scale Beyond Medium Lift

Any helo folks out there who can explain this:
Sikorsky's breakthrough X-2 high-speed helicopter likely can't be scaled up to the size of a heavy-lift helo, a Sikorsky executive told reporters Sept. 14.

"There is a question on the scalability on the X-2 technology at the medium class," said Scott Starrett, Sikorsky's vice president for government business development. "When you get to the utility-medium or attack-medium class, it scales nicely." However, with size and weight increases "you starting getting up to that kind of payload and physical size and it gets to be a different challenge for the technology."

Starrett said that the company's CH-53K, which Sikorsky is developing for the U.S. Marine Corps, could fit into the Defense Department's Joint Multi-Role (JMR) requirement for the heavy-lift helicopter.
Certainly, one explanation here is that Sikorsky is big on the CH-53K, which is under budget and ahead of schedule, but under threat from the V-22 mafia, who see it as a threat (it equals or bests the V-22 in everything but speed with less deck space and lower cost), and they don't want this as a distraction.

The other alternative is that coaxial rotors simply do not scale well.

When one looks at large twin main rotor helicopters, the Chinook and the (huge) Mil MV-12, it seems that spaced, rather than coaxial or intermeshing (Kaman) rotors are the architecture of choice.

Huh, Neat Tech

It appears that machining titanium at cryogenic temperatures extends tool life:
Cryogenic titanium machining improves cutting-tool life by a factor of 10 with appropriate material removal processing speed. The Joint Program Office in coordination with the F-35 Fracture Control Board (FCB) approved the new process for standard roughing operations, impacting the most time-consuming and cost-intensive machining processes associated with manufacturing titanium parts. Broadly applied, this new technology could improve affordability and efficiency in the production of the F-35, which is approximately 25 percent titanium by weight.
My guess would that this generates smaller chips, that it might prevent material from adhering (galling, welding, etc.) to the tools, and it might slow the formation of an oxide coating, but I'd love to hear the theory behind it.

I would make an observation here:  If you have an aircraft that is 25% by weight titanium, you have a very expensive aircraft.

17 September 2011

Stage Two of the Phone Hacking Scandal

It looks like the government and the police are using Britain's odious Official Secrets Act in an attempt to ferret our the leakers:
The Metropolitan police are seeking a court order under the Official Secrets Act to make Guardian reporters disclose their confidential sources about the phone-hacking scandal.

In an unprecedented legal attack on journalists' sources, Scotland Yard officers claim the act, which has special powers usually aimed at espionage, could have been breached in July when reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies revealed the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. They are demanding source information be handed over.

The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, said on Friday: "We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost".

Tom Watson, the former Labour minister who has been prominent in exposing hacking by the News of the World, said: "It is an outrageous abuse and completely unacceptable that, having failed to investigate serious wrongdoing at the News of the World for more than a decade, the police should now be trying to move against the Guardian. It was the Guardian who first exposed this scandal."
The first rule of law enforcement is that the Cops will go after you if you embarrass them, and so now they are going after the paper that broke the story.

They haven't invoked the Act againt the Murdoch papers, where police took bribes for information, but they are going after the Guardian, where police misconduct was revealed.

The fact that they are bringing out the big guns indicates that this is going to be getting a lot worse very soon.

Obama Loses Frank Rich

For not prosecuting the banksters. This is significant because, as Matt Taibbi notes, was "one of Obama’s great supporters in the punditry world," and Rich's latest piece is positively brutal:
What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away.”

After the 1929 crash, and thanks in part to the legendary Ferdinand Pecora’s fierce thirties Senate hearings, America gained a Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and the Glass-Steagall Act to forestall a rerun. After the savings-and-loan debacle of the eighties, some 800 miscreants went to jail. But those who ran the central financial institutions of our fiasco escaped culpability (as did most of the institutions). As the indefatigable Matt Taibbi has tabulated, law enforcement on Obama’s watch rounded up 393,000 illegal immigrants last year and zero bankers. The Justice Department’s bally­hooed Operation Broken Trust has broken still more trust by chasing mainly low-echelon, one-off Madoff wannabes. You almost have to feel sorry for the era’s designated Goldman scapegoat, 32-year-old flunky “Fabulous Fab” Fabrice Tourre, who may yet take the fall for everyone else. It’s as if the Watergate investigation were halted after the cops nabbed the nudniks who did the break-in.

………

The fallout has left Obama in the worst imaginable political bind. No good deed he’s done for Wall Street has gone unpunished. He is vilified as an anti-capitalist zealot not just by Republican foes but even by some former backers. What has he done to deserve it? All anyone can point to is his December 2009 60 Minutes swipe at “fat-cat bankers on Wall Street”—an inept and anomalous Ed Schultz seizure that he retracted just weeks later by praising Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein as “very savvy businessmen.”

Obama can win reelection without carrying 10021 or Greenwich in any case. The bigger political problem is that a far larger share of the American electorate views him as a tool of the very fat-cat elite that despises him. Given Obama’s humble background, his history as a mostly liberal Democrat, and his famous résumé as a community organizer, this would also seem a reach. But the president has no one to blame but himself for the caricature. While he has never lusted after money—he’d rather get his hands on the latest novel by Morrison or Franzen—he is an elitist of a certain sort. For all the lurid fantasies of the birthers, the dirty secret of Obama’s background is that the values of Harvard, not of Kenya or Indonesia or Bill Ayers, have most colored his governing style. He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys.

………

Obama soon retreated into the tea-party mantra of fiscal austerity. Short-term spending cuts when spending is needed to create jobs make no sense economically. But they also make no sense politically. The deficit has never been a top voter priority, no matter how loudly the right claims it is. At Obama’s inaugural, Gallup found that 11 percent of voters ranked unemployment as their top priority while only 2 percent did the deficit. Unemployment has remained a stable public priority over the deficit ever since, usually by at least a 2-to-1 ratio. In a CBS poll immediately after the Democrats’ “shellacking” of last November—a debacle supposedly precipitated by the tea party’s debt jihad—the question “What should Congress concentrate on in January?” yielded 56 percent for “economy/jobs” and 4 percent for “deficit reduction.”

Geithner has pushed deficit reduction as a priority since before the inauguration, the Washington Post recently reported in an article greeted as a smoking gun by liberal bloggers. But Obama is the chief executive. It’s his fault, no one else’s, that he seems diffident about the unemployed. Each time there’s a jolt in the jobless numbers, he and his surrogates compound that profile by farcically reshuffling the same clichés, from “stuck in a ditch” to “headwinds” (first used by Geithner in March 2009—retire it already!) to “bumps in the road.” It’s true the administration has caught few breaks and the headwinds have been strong, but voters have long since tuned out this monotonous apologia. The White House’s repeated argument that the stimulus saved as many as 3 million jobs, accurate though it may be, is another nonstarter when 14 million Americans are looking for work.

………
(emphasis mine)

If he's losing (possibly already lost) someone like Frank Rich, who was  treating like the 2nd coming, he's losing a lot of people.

About the only silver lining for this is that Rich, unlike myself, or Yves Smith, is unwilling to call him and his administration corrupt over this.

And the Republicans War on Organized Labor Continues

The House just passed a bill which would castrate the National Labor Relations Board:
The House voted on Thursday to approve a Republican-backed bill that would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from trying to block Boeing from operating a new $750 million aircraft assembly line in South Carolina. The largely party-line vote was 238 to 186.

Republicans denounced the labor board’s case against Boeing, asserting that the board was overreaching its authority and should not be dictating where companies can locate their operations. But many Democrats and union leaders condemned the legislation, arguing that it undercut an independent federal agency and favored Boeing, a potent lobbying force and prominent political donor.

Under the bill, an unusual effort to curb a federal agency’s actions in a pending case, the labor board would be barred from seeking to have an employer shut, transfer or relocate employment or operations “under any circumstances.”

The bill, called the “Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act,” is expected to face a battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate. In the House vote, the partisan divide was clear: only eight Democrats voted for the bill and only seven Republicans voted against.

Republicans have repeatedly criticized the board’s acting general counsel for filing a complaint against Boeing last April, accusing the company of building an assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., as a form of retaliation against unionized employees in Washington State who have engaged in five strikes since 1977, including a 58-day-walkout in 2008.

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits companies from taking any actions, whether firing employees or relocating a factory, against workers for exercising federally protected rights that include forming a union or going on strike.
"F%$# the law, we're for rich pigs," so say the Republicans.

The management at Boeing Publicly Stated that they were establishing a factory in South Carolina in retaliation for earlier (legal) strikes.  If there is no sanction allowed for blatant and admitted law breaking, it will get worse.

Then again, the Republicans don't think that rich people should be prosecuted for breaking the law.

Why Our Economy is Going to Continue to Suck

First, because consumer expectations for the future just hit a thirty one year low, and second, because this fear is justified, because this feeling is an accurate reflection of a reality where your net worth is falling:
Consumer sentiment inched up in early September, but Americans remained gloomy about the future with a gauge of expectations falling to the lowest level since 1980, a survey released Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment edged up to 57.8 from 55.7 the month before, which had been the lowest level since November 2008. It topped the median forecast of 56.5 among economists polled by Reuters.

"Overall, the data indicate that a renewed downturn in consumer spending is as likely as not in the year ahead," survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

"Even without a downturn, consumer spending will not be strong enough to enable the rapid job growth that is needed to offset reduced long-term expectations."

The gauge of consumer expectations dipped to 47.0 from 47.4. It was the lowest level since May 1980. The economic outlook for the next 12 months fell to 38 from 40, the lowest since February 2009 when the world economy was gripped by the credit crisis.

…………
It’s understandable if Americans feel poorer. It’s because they are.

The net worth of American households decreased nearly 0.3% in the second quarter as the value of their homes and stock portfolios slumped, according to data released Friday by the Federal Reserve.

Household wealth fell to $58.5 trillion, as home values skidded 0.5% and financial assets, including stock holdings, slipped 0.3%.

And consumers’ balance sheets may get worse before they get better, courtesy of declining stock prices over the past three months.
Half measures, and a fetish with punitive austerity do not make for either a recovery or consumer confidence.

A Really Bad Day at the Office

Click for full size

Picture taken at time of impact in Reno


The video


West Virginia


MI-24 crash
It's been a busy past few days for air crashes.

Yesterday, we had the crash at the Reno air show, and today, we had one at a West Virginia air show, and I have no clue as to when the Hind crashed.

16 September 2011

They Live



I have no frelling clue as to what the back story here is, but you can click on the image for the ginormous image.

H/t DC on the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

15 September 2011

1000 Words On Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age

I think that one of the reasons that Obama took raising the Medicare eligibility age off the table is this report, which gives us this little picture:



For the non chart pr0n inclined, the first thing that you notice is that it costs society twice as much to move these folks off the Medicare rolls.

The next thing to notice is that almost almost half of that cost is born by people who are under 65, who, because of community rating, will have to cover much of the increased expenses.

And then there is the huge hit on 65-66 year olds and their employers.

What isn't listed here is the loss in market power that would result, with an associated increase in costs.

It's bad policy, it's bad politics, and thankfully Obama realizes this ……… For a while, at least.

It's Jobless Thursday

And not only were the numbers worse than expected, but they are the worst numbers since June, with claims closing by 11,000 to 428,000, with the 4 week moving average rose by 4,000 to 419,500, though continuing and total claims both fell slightly.

We are not in a recovery, as the latest Philadelphia Fed's Survey of manufacturing showed, with the numbers indicating contraction.

Why people aren't running around like their hair on fire over this, I do not understand.

Lovely, Just Lovely

If you ever wondered why we need civil liberties, this story about how the FBI decided to explicitly teach its agents Islamophobic bullsh%$:
The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.

………

In this case, the FBI’s Allen says, the counterterrorism agents who received these briefings have “spent two to three years on the job.” The briefings are written accordingly. The stated purpose of one, about allegedly religious-sanctioned lying, is to “identify the elements of verbal deception in Islam and their impacts on Law Enforcement.” Not “terrorism.” Not even “Islamist extremism.” Islam.
(emphasis mine)

The nickel tour is that they turned over rocks and invited the most repugnant bigoted wingnuts to develop a curriculum to train their agents.

After all these years, they are still J. Edgar Hoovers merry band of thugs with a badge, and I don't want these folks taking a piss without a judge reviewing this, which is why things like the judicial review free National Security Letters are such a bad idea.

What we won't see happening here is someone getting fired over this, because law enforcement will only police itself when there is absolutely no alternative.

Everyone in the chain of command who knew about this should be fired, and those who should have known should be transferred to the FBI office in Nome, Alaska.

14 September 2011

Oh Crap

As Dave Weigel, notes, "Pennsylvania Ponders Bold Democrat-Screwing Electoral Plan," which would serve to award most of the states electoral votes to the Republican regardless of the vote count:
Laura Olson reports on the happenings in Harrisburg, where Republicans now control all of the branches of government:
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he's suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.

In other reports, Pileggi sounds awfully sanguine about the effect this would have on PA as a swing state. Why even bring that up? Pennsylvania is typically a closely-divided state, and while it's gone Democratic in every election since 1992, it's been heavily campaigned-in every year.

So, let's pretend this is a totally political neutral decision. If the next Republican candidate breaks the streak and wins the state, it would be horrible for him -- he'd shed electoral votes. But if the president wins, he's down at least nine, possibly ten electoral votes, because congressional districting is slanted towards the GOP.
When Democrats come to power, they try to do things and mend fences, and when Republicans come to power, they try to tear things down and use the political process in the relentless pursuit of power.

Considering that the American public generally considers Terri Schiavo to have better ideas to Republicans, but they remain competitive politically seems to indicate that they play the game a lot better than the Democrats do.


I think that it's likely to happen, the idea of shaming Republicans into doing the right thing is laughable, though there is opposition, both from the Pennsylvania Republican Congressional delegation, as well as people who feel that the state would be ignored, as it would lose its swing state status.

Elizabeth Warren Announces Run for Massachusetts Senate

Elizabeth Warren has officially declared her run for the Senate.

I understand why she feels the need to run, but I am pessimistic.

First, whatever you say about Republican Scott Brown, he is a very good campaigner, second, the Dems are rooting for her to lose almost as much as the Republicans are, because they can then argue that people don't want real consumer protections.

And if she wins, she ends up in the Senate, where she would enter a seniority driven and hidebound old boys club that would do their level best to keep her away from any meaningful voice on finance.

I wish her luck, but it's a lose-lose for her us.

Well, at least she's better than Brown, who's a smarmy right wing ratf%$#.

Her campaign web page is here.

Thanks Barack

So, the Dems just lost the special election to replace Anthony Weiner, losing the Congressional district to the 'Phants for the first time im almost 90 years. (!)

While the Democrat, David Weprin, by all accounts ran a horrible campaign, we also need to understand that that the Republicans aggressively tried to make this campaign national rather than local, and it does not bode well for keeping the White House, or the Senate, or retaking the House in 2012.

I understand that no will save it publicly, but this is not good news for Barack Obama or the Democratic party.

Unfortunately, particularly inside Obama administration's reality distortion field, they are telling themselves that it's not about them, and so will not learn from this.

I've Had it With These Motherf%$#ing Republicans on This Motherf%$#ing Plane!M


Alligator 0, Snake 0, Let's call it a tie.
The latest regulation that the Republicans are objecting to and trying to repeal, is one that literally forbids snakes on a plane.

I'm not kidding here. They are literally trying to roll back regulations on the transportation of snakes on airplanes:
Democrats and Republicans all agree that the nation needs to move on a jobs agenda. And Republicans have a new plan: unleash the reins of snake commerce.

GOP members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today called attention to a proposed regulation that would restrict the transportation and importation of nine types of snakes, including the Burmese Python.

In a new report entitled "Broken Government: How the Administrative State has Broken President Obama's Promise of Regulatory Reform," GOP members cited the proposed snake ban as one of seven examples of red tape choking off job growth in an already ailing economy.

One witness invited to testify, snake breeder David Barke, told lawmakers that the rules "threatens as many as a million law-abiding American citizens and their families with the penalty of a felony conviction for pursuing their livelihoods, for pursuing their hobby, or for simply moving with their pet to new state."

Politico reports that Florida officials, led by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), are pushing for the new rules because the Everglades are under attack by 100,000 gigantic Burmese pythons who have been accidentally introduced by negligent pet owners. The outside invaders have been on a rampage, devouring native birds and other creatures. One python grew so big that it managed to devour a six-foot alligator before exploding. No really. This actually happened. There's a photo.
No, this is not The Onion, and I wish that I didn't live in a world where I cannot tell the difference between reality and satire.

13 September 2011

Have I Mentioned that I Love Barney Frank?*

He's calling for a major restructuring of the Federal Reserve:
U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, is renewing a push to remove Federal Reserve regional presidents from voting on central bank interest-rate decisions.

Frank, of Massachusetts, will submit a new version of legislation to cut the voting rights of five rotating regional representatives from the 12-member Federal Open Markets Committee, he said today. The revision of Frank’s May proposal calls for replacing them with four presidential appointees, according to a position paper released by his office.

Eliminating regional presidents, who are selected by board members of their banks and approved by Fed governors, will make interest-rate votes more democratic, Frank said in the paper. The 7-3 vote at the last FOMC meeting in August underlined the need to replace the presidents, who have become a “significant constraint on national economic policy making,” he said.

Regional presidents “are neither elected nor appointed by officials who are themselves elected,” Frank wrote in the paper. “They are part of a self-perpetuating group of private citizens who select each other and who are treated as equals in setting federal monetary policy with officials appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.”
He's right, of course. The regional Feds are not governmental organizations, they are quite literally owned by the regional banks they nominally regulate, and these people are therefore the employees of the regional banks.

Anything that to any degree takes any governmental (or in this quasi-governmental) agency out from under the thumb of the banksters is a good thing.

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

What's the Pashtun Word for Tet?

Because the Taliban was all over Kabul today, and hit the US embassy:
Heavily armed insurgents wearing suicide vests struck Tuesday at two of the most prominent symbols of the American diplomatic and military presence in Kabul, the United States Embassy and the nearby NATO headquarters, demonstrating the Taliban’s ability to infiltrate even the most heavily fortified districts of the capital.

As the insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades, Westerners sought shelter — one rocket penetrated the embassy compound — and Afghan government workers fled their offices, emptying the city center. NATO and Afghan troops responded with barrages of bullets. At least 6 people were killed and 19 wounded.

Early Wednesday morning, occasional explosions could still be heard, and the Kabul police said they were continuing to count the number of dead insurgents. The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that it appeared that at least seven had entered the city. At least five took positions in a 14-story building under construction with clear sight lines to the targets.

As the gunfire pounded, loudspeakers at nearby embassies kept repeating: “This is not a drill, this is not a drill. If you are in a secure location, do not move.”
Winning hearts and minds much?