29 February 2012

Not Enough Bullets…

Seriously, if I read one more story about these parasites complaining because they can't do whatever they want whenever they want, I'll go postal:
Andrew Schiff was sitting in a traffic jam in California this month after giving a speech at an investment conference about gold. He turned off the satellite radio, got out of the car and screamed a profanity.

“I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard,” Schiff, director of marketing for broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital Inc., said in an interview.

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.

“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”

The smaller bonus checks that hit accounts across the financial-services industry this month are making it difficult to maintain the lifestyles that Wall Street workers expect, according to interviews with bankers and their accountants, therapists, advisers and headhunters.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

…………
If they feel so bad about driving a "Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (the Volkswagen of supercars.)", or to go to a market in Brooklyn to score cheaper salmon, I have a suggestion for them, be the guy from Fight Club.

You know the one:
And this button-down, Oxford-cloth psycho might just snap, and then stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers. This might be someone you've known for years. Someone very, very close to you.
Save one round for yourself, and you will do the world a favor.

GDP Up by 3% Annual Rate in 4thQ of 2011

That's a 0.2% upward revision from the prior number.

It's a decent number, but it is not a recovery to trend, since GDP growth has averaged about 3¼% over the past half century or so.

Treading water is what qualifies for good news these days.

F%$# Me!

And not in a good way, because that fatuous preening faux Democrat Bob Kerrey has decided to change his mind and run for the Nebraska Senate:
Kerrey had announced earlier this month that would not try to return to the Senate, citing his family in New York City.

“Doing things the conventional way has never been my strong suit,” he said in a statement. “I came to realize that my previous decision was the easy one, not the right one. My commitment to serve Nebraska and America, and to be part of the debate about the challenges we face, was too strong to dismiss.”

His wife went from opposing to supporting the idea, according to a Democratic official, and that played a big role in his reversal.

“My family supports this decision 100 percent,” Kerrey said in his statement.
Just what we need, another Fox News Democrat who leads with cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth guys have it right, moving the dialogue in your direction is more important than winning any election, and when the party supports people who try to undermine core party values, the dicussion moves in the wrong way.

Davy Jones Dead at 66

Bummer. It was a heart attack.

Say what you will about the Monkees, but their show, and guitarist Mike Nesmith's subsequent work as a director had a seminal roll in the creation of the moder music video.

Here is a video of his audition for the Monkees:

28 February 2012

I have a Cat Infestation

No, really.

The cat that beat me up when I attempted to adopt it has apparrently found a way to transit into the house, and score food from the cat dishes in the basement.

I've got to figure a way to co-opt it, because in a conflict, mano a gato, it will kick my butt, because it already has.

Catnip, I need lots of catnip.

BTW, this is the first time that I've ever used Windows Live Movie Maker.

This is chapter 3 of the tale of RP the Cat.

What's the Difference Between a "Moderate" Democrat and a "Moderate" Republican?

A moderate Republican will buck the party, but on the close votes about an important issue, will vote with the Republicans.

A moderate Democrat will buck the party, but on the close votes about an important issue, will vote with the Republicans.

So, I see the fact that Olympia Snowe is joining Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson in retiring from the Senate as am unalloyed good:
Citing excessive partisanship and a dispiriting political environment, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a three-term Republican from Maine, said Tuesday that she would not run for re-election in November. Her surprise decision delivered a potential blow to Republicans who need just a handful of seats to regain control of the Senate; Ms. Snowe was considered one of their safer incumbents.

“After 33 years in the Congress this was not an easy decision,” said Ms. Snowe, 65, a moderate who served 16 years in the House before moving to the Senate. “My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election.”
Her entire statement sounds like a hissy fit, so maybe it's a fit of pique.

The lateness of her announcement, it's almost March , does jam up the Republicans, particularly since Maine is really not fertile ground for the Teabagger types, particularly after their close exposure to flying monkey right wing nut job, and current governor, Paul LePage, and moderate Republicans have to deal with Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth.

Romney Wins in Michigan and Arizona

The freak show will continue, but it's over.

About the only people who will keep propping up the freak of the week against Romney will be the press corps(e) because they hate Mitt Romney, and because it sells newspapers.

Seriously though, why does the mainstream political media sound like a bunch of junior high school girls slamming other girls over their shoe choices.

27 February 2012

Score One for the Good Guys

It looks like the Obama administration has shut down an NSA proposal to continuously monitor huge portions of the internet:
The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.

The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.
While the NSA does good work, their world view, and hence their policy prescriptions, are driven by the fact that they are eavesdroppers.

Basically, they want to make their jobs easier, without any sort of cumbersome review of civil rights protections. It's the inevitable consequence of who they are and what they do.

Their organizational imperative leads them to support policies that can be described as either totalitarian or sociopathic, which is why care should be taken to ensure that they are the servant, and not the master, of security policy in the United States.

H/t Kevin Drum.

This is a Feature Not a Bug

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times is noticing that the Social Security tax holiday is putting the program at risk:
The accepted response to the economic deal reached in Congress last week, extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance and maintaining reimbursement levels for Medicare doctors, is huzzah!

Finally Congress got something important done with a minimum of brinkmanship and posturing, and more than a few minutes before the deadline. A threat to the embryonic economic recovery was averted, and the extensions even pushed any subsequent fracas over the same issues to the end of this year, safely past the presidential election.

So why should we consider this action cause for despair?

It's because with every extension of the payroll tax holiday, which was first enacted in 2010, the prospect that Congress will ever restore the tax to its statutory 6.2% of covered income recedes a little bit further over the horizon. And that's bad medicine for Social Security.

To be fair, thus far the payroll tax holiday hasn't impaired Social Security's fiscal resources one bit. By law, 100% of the cut must be compensated for by transfers from the general fund; those transfers have come to about $130 billion since 2010, covering the original "temporary" one-year holiday and a two-month extension passed late last year.

The new extension will require a further transfer of about $94 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Yet because of the unique features of the program's financing, tampering with its revenue stream is playing with fire. The payroll tax is currently set at 12.4% of wages, split equally between employer and employee, up to a maximum of $110,100. The tax holiday cuts the employee's 6.2% share to 4.2%.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) put it well when he excoriated President Obama and his fellow congressional Democrats for approving a measure that places Social Security's financial stability on the table. "I never thought I would live to see the day when a Democratic president ... would agree to put Social Security in this kind of jeopardy," he said. "Never did I ever imagine a Democratic president beginning the unraveling of Social Security."

Even conservatives who aren't fans of the program's current structure acknowledge how hard it will be at any point in the foreseeable future to restore the old rate.

………

But the worst aspect of the payroll tax holiday is that it erodes Social Security's standing as a unique government program with its own revenue stream, a tax dedicated to its upkeep alone. Melding its own revenue with that of the federal government at large chips away at its standing, facilitating no one's goals except those who want to see the edifice pulled down.

The more the program has to rely on general income tax revenue, the shakier becomes its claim to being a special case among government expenditures. When program-slashers sharpen their axes in Washington, the line has always been drawn at Social Security because it's funded by a source distinct from the income tax.
Barack Obama has been looking to dismantle Social Security since the start of his Presidential campaign, he stacked the "super-committee" with Social Security foes, and tried to sell the program out in the debt ceiling deal, so this course of action is consistent with past behavior. (Additionally, he tried to do the same to Medicare. where he suggested means testing)

I'm not sure why, it could be his exposure to Chicago School economists, it could be that he feels that this is a way to stroke his "bipartisanship" fetish, or he could simply have a temperament that cannot see beyond the consensus of the "very serious people".

Remember, notwithstanding the alleged benefits for the poor, this replaced "Making Work Pay," which was more generous for people making less than the median household wage.

Why Does the Media Not Doing Even the Most Basic Due Diligence?

So, the news media is reporting how the Occupy movement is starting a super PAC.

Yeah, bull sh%$. It turns out that in the space of a few minutes, with the aid of Google you can find that the person behind it is a fanatic Ron Paul supporter with a history of severe mental illness:
Last week, several news organizations carried a story about an alleged Occupy PAC that, if true, would have driven another stake of political cynicism in the heart of the fractured movement, built on idealism and opposition to the corruption of American politics.

Paperwork for the PAC was filed with the FEC by 32-year-old John Paul Thornton of Decatur, Alabama, who says he was inspired by Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC. Mother Jones reported that “[u]nlike Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, though, Thornton says in his first interview on the subject that OWS PAC is no joke.” Meanwhile, The Atlantic Wire wrote that the organization was specifically registered as a “SuperPAC” that could raise unlimited amounts of funds that Thornton intended to funnel to “federal candidates pledging to get money out of politics, including Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.”

There’s only one problem: The alleged “Occupy PAC” story isn’t at all what it seems, and had any of the reporters who first “broke” it last week bothered applying a little professional skepticism, the story never would have got off the ground, and never would have created yet another layer of disillusionment and cynicism that Occupy’s enemies have been actively sowing.

There many obvious warning signs about Thornton on the public record. For example, John Thornton admitted to a reporter from Capital New York that he was a Ron Paul supporter. You don’t have to be a veteran journalist to know that a guy who supports a far-right Republican libertarian who wants to abolish financial regulations and laws protecting labor and the environment, and favors Citizens United and unregulated lobbying, isn’t exactly representative of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Being a Ron Paul supporter in Occupy is one thing; it’s another thing altogether when a libertarian sets up a SuperPAC in Occupy’s name.

………

According to newspaper accounts, Thornton lost his defense-contracting job in the summer of 2008, after a violent psychotic episode landed him a criminal conviction and a nearly two-month jail sentence. His parents said that Thornton, who was 28 at the time, started losing his mind after getting out of the National Guard. And after string of run-ins with law, which included the violation of a protection order filed by his ex-wife, a judge sentenced him to 60 days in the tank.
The kicker here is that Breitbart actually scooped the reporters on the fact that this guy is a Paulite nut job, because it makes good copy for him, and it syncs with his goal of sliming the Occupy movement.

The more conspiratorially minded of you might think that this is something from the corporate task-master, but the reporter who broke this was Andy Kroll of Mother Jones, and while Mother Jones may be a number of things (after all, they fired Michael Moore, and had to settle out of court for wrongful termination),. they are not a corporate mouthpiece.

This just a lazy sloppy reporters who saw a story with some pop to it, and decided that it was easier to write the story without doing any leg work.

Unfortunately, this is the rule, rather than the exception.

26 February 2012

Bully For Him!

In Tunisia, Yunisian President Marzouki has requsted that the parliament pass a law banning accusations of blasphemy:
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Saturday called on parliament to outlaw accusations of blasphemy as a threat to public order.

“Such practices can threaten the peace between citizens living in the same country and lead to conflict,” Marzouki warned in a statement.

He asked the president and members of the Constituent Assembly which in December approved the North African country’s new government to adopt legislation “that outlaws accusations of blasphemy.”

Violators of the new law should be prosecuted “to protect the coexistence, fraternity and solidarity among Tunisians,” he said.
I think that the right to blaspheme is among the most basic of human rights, so I am heartened by this development.

Too Extreme For Pat Buchanan????? Seriously!?!?!?!

You know, when Pat Buchanan is telling you that you are being too radical, you have a problem:
But it seems that some Republicans think their party has gone too far. Yesterday, Virginia legislators backed away from a “personhood” measure and the state’s conservative governor removed his support for an extreme ultrasound bill. Even Pat Buchanan, a leader on social issues within the party and a former GOP presidential candidate, this morning warned that Republicans like Rick Santorum are overreaching in their opposition to contraception.

On C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Buchanan described the debate over contraception as “beyond the political realm”:
I think if you get down into where [Santorum's] been discussing it on the merits and demerits of contraception…that’s a moral issue. [...] We talked about that in college endlessly, but I think you move into an area where people don’t understand yet and where it’s beyond the political realm. And I think that’s where Santorum has gone and gotten himself. He’s gotten himself tied up in some of these arguments, and I don’t think he’s handled them with clarity.
(emphasis original)

Yes, that is Pat "It probably sounded better in the original German" Buchanan saying that this culture war sh%$ is a bit over the top.

We live in strange times.

25 February 2012

I Was Wondering When Someone Would Do This

It's a fact that from its beginnings, the 7-inch diameter AIM-120 AMRAAM has outperformed its 8-inch diameter predecessor, the AIM-7 Sparrow, (30 miles for the final version of the Sparrow as versus 40+ for the first version of AMRAAM) even though it weighs less than half as much, and contains less far less fuel than its predecessor.

Part of this is due to improvements in propulsion, new propellants and whatnot, and part of it is because the aerodynamic configuration (tail steering rather than the Sparrow's mid body control surfaces), but most of this is from an optimized flight path, because with its active seeker and sophisticated autopilot, the AMRAAM does not need to keep its nose constantly on target.

I've always wondered why someone hasn't applied active radar homing on a Sparrow sized missile.

Well, it looks like Japan is looking at doing this (paid subscription required):
Japan already has bought Raytheon AIM-120 Amraams, so why is it spending ¥36 billion ($468 million) to upgrade about 60 F-2 fighters with the Mitsubishi Electric Corp. AAM-4B missile?

Although the benefits to Japanese industry are obvious, details of the upgrade and the missile itself suggest that the program is giving an enormous boost to the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries fighter’s ability to counter enemy aircraft. The weapon has at least one advanced feature that other such missiles lack: a seeker with an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

The program will move into high gear in the financial year that begins April 1. The work is progressing in two parallel programs: integration of the AAM-4B missile, and upgrade of the J/APG-1 radar to a more powerful standard called J/APG-2. The improved radar, needed to exploit the new missile, will incidentally raise the capabilities of the aircraft by offering greater detection ranges.

Both systems have been developed by the Japanese defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute with considerable help from contractors, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the missile integration and Mitsubishi Electric for the radar. The same companies are contracted to do the installation work. Ministry officials tell Aviation Week that development went smoothly and is now complete.

Early in the development program, in 2001, the ministry gave rough indications of the AAM-4B’s capabilities. It could be launched at a 20% greater range than could the then-current AAM-4 and at least as far as an “AIM-120B+,” a standard that was expected to appear around 2004. The crucial claim was that the AAM-4B could switch to autonomous guidance at a 40% greater range than either of the other two missiles and would similarly outperform what was expected to be the 2009 standard of the Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder). In a 2010 paper, the ministry attributed the seeker’s greater performance to the higher transmitting power available from the AESA.

The implication is that an F-2 firing AAM-4Bs can stop tracking the target for missile guidance much sooner than an unmodified F-2 can—and officials tell Aviation Week that the key aim of the project is indeed to increase the range at which an F-2 can turn away.
The AAM-4B won't make any international sales, of course, because the Japanese constitution, and it won't fit in the F-22 or F-35 weapons bays, but I can see a larger being an equalizer on other aircraft.

24 February 2012

HFT, SEC, EE-I-EE-I-O

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro is now saying that there may be some real problems with high frequency trading:
Chairman Mary Schapiro of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is worried about the rise of high-frequency trading, but two years after the agency flagged the phenomenon as a potential problem, she says regulators still don't know enough to do much more about it.

High-frequency trading, which is practiced by hedge funds and other technologically turbocharged investors, involves the purchase and sale of large volumes of shares in tiny fractions of a second, often to exploit fleeting inconsistencies in the markets.

At a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with reporters Wednesday, Schapiro said that major regulators from various countries gathered in the fall to confidentially compare notes about high-frequency trading.

"And we all concluded that we have concerns but we don't have enough data yet to really be able to justify significant additional steps at this point," Schapiro said. "We need to have a much deeper understanding of the impact of high-frequency trading on our markets."
This is why financial "innovations" should be treated the same way that the FDA treats drugs: You don't get to use them until they are proven safe and effective.

But beyond this, it's clear that HFT is a form of front-running, where computers see incoming orders, and get to the queue ahead of those orders in order to profit from the market move.

A financial transaction tax of 10 (I'd actually favor 50) basis points would solve this, and a lot of the other problems of our financial system.

Insert Kermit the Frog Joke Here

Dungeons and Draghi*

Someone has finally set up the Greek/Euro financial crisis as a choose your own adventure game:
Reading the media and blogs, it seems to me that left and right are united in the view that the Greek default is being handled appallingly, that the current attempts at a solution are childishly obviously wrong and that everything is the fault of someone, probably the Germans. My own view – that it is not at all clear what the direction of policy is, and that although I don’t agree with the troika plan, it’s recognizable as a good-faith plan made by conscientious international civil servants working under unimaginably difficult political constraints in an economic context that was irreparably broken before they got there – is, as always, unpopular.

I don’t have a solution myself – the more I end up discussing this with people, the more I am reminded of the London Business School proverb taught on some of the gnarlier case studies, which is “Not All Business Problems Have Solutions”. So, CT hivemind, what do you think the best outcome is? Below the fold, I note some talking points, aimed at preventing our commentariat from falling into some of the pitfalls and mistakes which appear to be dominating debate at present. Because the whole issue is a twisty turny maze which at times seems to consist of nothing but false moves, I am presenting it in the form of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. I would note at this stage that I could probably have presented it in a funky HTML way rather than making you scroll up and down, but I have convinced myself that this is a feature rather than a bug – the medium matches the message here, because international debt negotiations are cumbersome, inconvenient and irritating too. Also, it is probably easier than it needs to be for readers to end up at the wrong paragraph and get a confusing jumbled narrative which bears little resemblance to the decisions they thought they’d made. Again, this is a crucial part of giving you the authentic international financial diplomacy experience.

…………
It's an inspired idea.

*Not my bon mot. One of the commenters on  the above post came up with it.

Light Posting for a While

My mother-in-law is back in hospital.

If you want to say a michabayrach, her Hebrew name is Miriam bat Chana Shifra.

23 February 2012

Being Unwilling to Train Employees is Not a Skilled Worker Shortage

What Ryan Chittum says:
What’s going on here? The Post writes that the laid-off workers don’t know how to operate newfangled machinery and that Baby Boomers are retiring but younger generations “have avoided the manufacturing sector because of the volatility and stigma of factory work, as well as perceptions that U.S. manufacturing is a ‘dying industry.’”

I have another way to put that: These young folks don’t want to spend a lot of money and time training to do a specific job they might not get only to get laid off when some private-equity slicks (where the real money’s at) buy out the company and ship the jobs to China.

That’s what happens when owners and management have shredded the social contract. They find workers can’t or won’t do what they need them to. A flexible workforce has its downsides too.
This entire spate of stories about employers being unable to find qualified workers is crap.

What they really mean is that they cannot find people who need no training and are willing to work at slave wages, but that does not sell papers.

They Posthumously Baptized Anne Frank Again?!?!!?

Oh those whacky Mormons:
Anne Frank, one of the most renowned Jewish victims of the Holocaust, has allegedly been baptized -again- in a Mormon temple. The proxy ritual, known as a 'baptism for the dead' reportedly happened in the Dominican Republic.

On Saturday, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was said to have performed the ceremony posthumously, according to whistle blower Helen Radkey.

Radkey, a Salt Lake city researcher and former member of the church, discovered that Anne Frank, who died in a concentration camp at 15, was baptized by proxy over the weekend.

The situation also stirred conflict between the two religions, as the Mormon church vowed to stop the posthumous baptisms. But the ritual has been carried out at least nine times in Frank's case, over 10 years, from 1989 to 1999. Radkey said she made the discovery of the incident when Frank's name appeared in a database for proxy baptism, which is usually only open to Mormons.
It is so on, bitches.

The Stupidest Thing Ever Written

Surprisingly enough, it's not Thomas Friedman who wrote this, it was David Graeber, in his book, Debt: The First 5000 Years.

I have to admit that I have not actually read this book, (and now, I never will) I am relying on a review from LizardBreath at Unfogged, and this is what she finds:
But then he starts talking about how democratic methods of structuring organizations are often more efficient than rigid hierarchies, and so will often arise spontaneously when people really need to be get things done. And he uses Apple Computers as an example:
Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other's garages.

I don't know all that much about the history of Apple or of the computer business generally, but I'm pretty sure that's as wrong as it could possibly be. Apple was founded by two guys, neither of whom (AFAIK) worked for IBM (maybe for a very short time? But certainly not extendedly). It was notoriously a rigid, top-down hierarchy, it was founded in the '70s, not the '80s, and who had a laptop until the very end of the '80s? That's a whole lot of wrong for one sentence.
It's so stupid, that I am amazed that this wasn't written by Tom Friedman.

Quote of the Day

A lawyer for Mr. Strauss-Kahn appeared to confirm that he had attended the events, saying that his client would not have been aware if the women who entertained him were prostitutes.

“He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman,” the lawyer, Henri Leclerc, told a French radio station, Europe 1, in December.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn lawyer
The rich REALLY are not like you and me.

H/t Brad Delong.

OK, Rubio Won't be the VP Pick

I had thought that he was the likely pick, as his selection would serve to mend some bridges with the Hispanic community, but, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, he won't select Rubio, because he is sort of a Mormon:
In the compelling personal narrative that has helped propel Florida Senator Marco Rubio to national political stardom, one chapter has gone completely untold: Rubio spent his childhood as a faithful Mormon.

Rubio was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his family at around the age of eight, and remained active in the faith for a number of years during his early youth, family members told BuzzFeed.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the story to BuzzFeed, and said Rubio returned to the Catholic church a few years later with his family, receiving his first communion on Christmas day in 1984 at the age of 13.

The revelation adds a new dimension to Rubio's already-nuanced religious history—and could complicate his political future at a time when many Republicans see him as the odds-on favorite for the 2012 vice presidential nod. Vice presidential candidates are traditionally chosen to provide ethnic and religious balance to a ticket. Mitt Romney's Mormonism and Rubio's Catholic faith would already mean the first two members of minority traditions on a Republican ticket in American history. Rubio's Mormon roots could further complicate that calculation.
Yes, having a Mormon on the ticket should not be an issue in this day and age, but having 1½ Mormons on the ticket will have every bigoted whack job's head exploding.

Seeing as how the, "my parents are first cousins, X-Files wannabe, black helicopter, tinfoil hat wearing, stupid, dim-witted, thinks pro wrestling is real, lunatics," are also known as "The Republican Base," this is highly problematic.

We Are a Nation of F%$#ing Ingrates

In the latest episode of this, we have farmers complaining because the Iraqi people have decided not to buy their overpriced rice:
The talk of the day among Ray Stoesser and other rice farmers is Iraq's decision not to buy U.S. rice, a stinging move that adds to a stressful year punctuated by everything from drought to unusual heat.

Stoesser and other farmers know Iraqis struggled during the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation. They know most countries , and people , buy based on price.

But at the moment, with production costs rising, export markets shrinking and rice prices dropping, it's difficult to be rational and suppress emotions so intimately intertwined with their land and livelihood.

"That's just not right," the 63-year-old Stoesser fumed. "If we've got some rice to sell, they ought to pay a premium for it just because this is the country that freed them."

Iraq imports most of its rice, about 1 million metric tons per year, making it a significant player in the global market. In the past decade, about 10 percent to 15 percent of that total came from the United States. But Iraq hasn't bought any U.S. rice since late 2010.

"You would think with all that we've done over there, there would be a way to get them to do business with us," said Ronald Gertson, who grows rice in Lissie, Texas.
So, we invade their country, setting off massive ethnic cleansing, a collapse of their infrastructure, a retreat to reactionary religious oppression, daily violence, and a political leadership who take their orders from Tehran.

And that's ignoring the fact that we caused over 100,000 deaths, and over a million refugees.

And they are supposed to be grateful that we broke their country and are in the process of stealing their oil?

What the f%$# is wrong with these farmers?

H/t Atrios.

22 February 2012

Another Person I Do Not Want to Piss Off

Lewis Black. Seriously. This guy is brutal.

I really have no opinion on the death of Whitney Houston, but the coverage has been awful, thought thankfully I have missed the self-debasement of Nancy Grace over this event (In fact, avoiding her clear psychological pathologies is kind of a goal of mine).

 As an aside, I'm pretty sure that he has the lowest blood pressure in America, because he doesn't keeop anything bottled up.

The Aliens are in Retreat


It was Jon Stewart that Killed the Beast
So the space the aliens* more commonly known as the Virginia Republican Party, following extensive coverage, or no small amount of ridicule, have started to walk back from the bill requiring that women be probed in genitals if they want an abortion:
Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has performed a U-turn on a controversial bill which would have forced women seeking first trimester abortions to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound.

McDonnell had previously said he would sign the bill if it was passed by the general assembly. But faced with growing opposition, McDonnell released a statement on Wednesday minutes before the bill was debated in the House, in which he said that, after discussions with lawyers, physicians and legal experts, amendments were needed to "address various medical and legal issues which have arisen."

Critics had pointed out that the bill, if passed in its original form, would have obliged doctors to carry out a procedure that risked breaking a state sex crime statute known as object sexual penetration.

State lawmakers passed the amended bill on Wednesday afternoon. It now explicitly states that no woman will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. Instead, it requires women seeking an abortion to have an external, transabdominal ultrasound.

The changes also include having a doctor ask the woman if she wants to see an image from the ultrasound rather than requiring a copy to be attached to her medical file.
The upside is that they are retreating because their ideas on this are completely toxic.

What I fear is that they will keep coming back to this, and in a few years, it will be considered a legitimate area of dispute, as opposed to the rantings of bat-sh%$ insane Taliban wannabees.

*Basically we know that aliens conduct involuntary probes of their captives, and so do the Republicans in Virginia, QED Virginia Republicans are space aliens.

21 February 2012

Why Yes, Republicans are F%$#ing Nuts

The latest target of their mishugas? Why it's the Girl Scouts of America:
Next time you buy a box of Tagalongs, you might be helping to fund an abortion.

Or, at least, that’s what one Republican lawmaker in Indiana might have you believe. State Rep. Bob Morris (R) wants to kill a resolution honoring the Girl Scouts because they are a “radicalized organization” that promotes “homosexual lifestyles” and funds Planned Parenthood.

In a letter to his fellow Republicans on Saturday, Morris said he would refuse to support a resolution celebrating 100 years of the organization because “after talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing.”

The letter, obtained by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, says that the Girl Scouts of America and the World Association of Girl Guides “have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood,” though “you will not find evidence of this on the GSA/WAGGGS website—in fact, the websites of these two organizations explicitly deny funding Planned Parenthood.”
Seriously, when did those guys with newspapers wrapped around their feet and standing on street corners screaming obscenities at passers by become the Republican Party mainstream?

Federal Court is Dubious of Republican Redistricting in Wisconsin

They have strongly suggested that the Republicans come up with something a bit less blatantly discriminatory before the trial:
Republican lawmakers said Tuesday they believe they have no power to make changes to election maps they approved last summer, inserting new questions into fast-changing litigation over those maps.

A trial over those maps began with a surprise Tuesday, when the presiding judge told the attorneys to confer with top legislative leaders and others to consider redrawing the maps taking into account legal challenges from Democrats and Latinos.

After a day of consultation, an attorney for the state told the three federal judges that top Republicans were willing to consider making changes to the maps but believed a 1954 opinion by the state Supreme Court prevented them from doing so. The attorney, Dan Kelly, said the state's high court had found lawmakers can make changes to the maps just once a decade.

Two groups suing the state disagree and say the Legislature still has the ability to make changes.

Tuesday's developments left numerous questions in place - including when the trial may continue in earnest. The presiding judge told the attorneys to be available Wednesday to return to court with 45 minutes notice, but made clear the court may rule only on the relatively narrow issue of the extent to which an attorney for the Legislature would have to later testify.

The panel - which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president - has repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers in written orders for their secretive process for drawing the maps.

On Tuesday, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller did the same shortly after hearing that attorneys for the legislators had released a new batch of emails Friday that they had not previously disclosed they had. The release of emails came a day after the court had ordered the lawmakers' attorneys to make public a separate group of emails.

"The facts are the facts and what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy," Stadtmueller said. "Appearances are everything and Wisconsin has prided itself one generation after another on openness and fairness in doing the right thing. And to be frank we have seen everything but that in the way this case has proceeded."

Almost all lawmakers signed secrecy agreements about the maps and they tried repeatedly to prevent their aides from having to testify or produce documents. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and last month the panel ordered the Republicans' attorneys to pay the other side $17,500 for filing frivolous motions.
Here's a hint to the Republicans in the WI legislature and their attorneys:  When the judges demand the testimony of one your counsels, and fine your attorneys 17½ grand, your prospects are not good.

When you have pissed off the judges this much, Clarence Darrow couldn't help you.

Del. Sam Arora Needs be Drummed Out of Politics

For those who are not up on Maryland politics, Sam Arora was considered to be a politico with a great future, but he campaigned on a promise to support, and co-sponsor, a bill supporting gay marriage, and then he opposed it.

The bill passed the House of Delegates by virtue of a Republican vote delivered by the lobbying of Dick Cheney.

For once, it appears that there will be consequences of his action.

I'm sure he's feeling courageous, but he's a coward. If he had any guts, he would not have pretended to support marriage equality when he thought that there was no chance of it passing.

He campaigned on gay marriage, and when it looked like it would pass, he voted against it.

This is why members of the Democratic establishment in both Maryland and nationwide are currently determining the best way to ensure that he won't work in Democratic Party politics ever again.

I would note that it's likely that he's going to have some staffing problems in the immediate future, as his his legislative director quit once he knew that he was going to vote against HB 348.

My guess is that this is the first of many departures, because if anyone on his a staff wants to have a future in politics, having Sam Arora on your resume after January 2012 will be toxic.

20 February 2012

Iceland Wins

I don't understand why other countries don't compare what has happened to Iceland, and compared it to what is going on with Greece, Ireland, Portugal, etc., and realizing that telling the banks to go Cheney themselves is the best policy. Fitch's has just upgraded Iceland's credit rating from BB+ to BBB-, which means that they are now investment grade.

What is of note here is that the Icelanders made the decision to favor their own people over the banks:
Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.

“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” said Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates. It costs about the same to insure against an Icelandic default as it does to guard against a credit event in Belgium. Most polls now show Icelanders don’t want to join the European Union, where the debt crisis is in its third year.
What? You mean the people of Iceland don't want to become part of an institution that increasingly is an instrument of Germany's incompetent hegemony? Hoocoodanode?

What they also did:
The island’s households were helped by an agreement between the government and the banks, which are still partly controlled by the state, to forgive debt exceeding 110 percent of home values. On top of that, a Supreme Court ruling in June 2010 found loans indexed to foreign currencies were illegal, meaning households no longer need to cover krona losses.
Note that both of these actions are considered to be cardinal sins under the international financial consensus, which states that creditors must always be repaid under the most favorable terms.

The fact that, "Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn," is an anathema to the large financial institutions, as is the implementation of capital controls in a crisis.  (And, BTW, they are prosecuting senior bank executives as well)

They argue that these sorts of policies put a damper on international credit and finance.

They may be right, but it increasingly appears that the capital flows that they are describing do more harm than good for everything but the bankster's bonus checks.

Keynes was right about this, and Wall Street and The City should thank their lucky stars that Iceland is small enough (population 318,452) to be ignored.

If other countries followed their lead, not only would the "Masters of the Universe" be out of job, they would be under criminal indictment.

H/t Credit Write Downs.

Wanker of the Day

John Corrigan, who thinks that people deserve to have their home stolen by the banks:
That can lead to confusion over who had the legal right to process the foreclosure. But it doesn’t mean the foreclosure itself was unwarranted.
So, foreclosing on someone who doesn't have a mortgage, or for a mortgage that doesn't belong to you, or illegally evading billions in title fees, or defrauding investors in mortgage backed securities is all OK, because you are robbing bad people.

H/t Atrios.

Why It's Not Eleventy Dimensional Chess, It's an Epic Fail

At Digby's place, David Adkins notes that the Obama's "compromise" on birth control coverage with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has had the effect making opposition to birth control mainstream:
And guess what? As Digby points out, it's working. What just a few weeks ago was considered so mainstream as to an afterthought (providing contraception) is now seen as some sort of controversial touchstone, even as "religious freedom" has become a buzzword in the press.

Democrats can high-five one another about Republican overreach and laugh hysterically at the increased number of votes Barack Obama will receive in 2012 over Mitt Santorum. But ultimately the joke's on us. It's been on us ever since the Obama Administration decided to concede an inch to the misogynist conspiracy of extremist fanatics that are the Bishops, rather than mock them immediately for being out of touch with their own flock, to say nothing of the mainstream American public.

The political ground on contraception has suddenly shifted to the right faster than I have seen on any social issue in my lifetime. It's incredible.
The appropriate response to the outrage from the medieval set is, "Sorry, I live in the 21st century, if they don't want to, then maybe they aren't qualified to provide medical care or education."

19 February 2012

Next Generation Missile Cancelled

The missile, intended to replace both the AMRAAM air-to-air missile and the HARM air-to-ground missile has been dropped from the Pentagon budget:
The US Air Force has cancelled the next generation missile (NGM) meant to replace both the anti-air AIM-120 AMRAAM and the anti-radiation AGM-88 HARM, both mainstays of the USA and its international allies.

The NGM programme, also formerly known as the joint dual-role air dominance missile and projected to cost up to $15 billion, was cancelled "for affordability reasons", according to Gen Edward Bolton, USAF chief budget officer.
This is unsurprising.

In order to achieve what are almost diametrically opposed roles, the AMRAAM is a 7" diameter missile which is designed to take a lofted trajectory to maximize range, and the HARM is A 10" diameter missile which takes a direct route to the target to minimize time to target, you have to develop a whole series quantum leaps in propulsion and lethality, and gets the entire weapons system onto the cost escalation-schedule slippage hamster wheel.

It's a good thing that this is canceled.

Obamacare Just Gets Better and Better

As part of health care reform, consumers are supposed to be getting clear and simple summary of benefits and of an insurance policy.

This means things like deductibles, maximum out of pocket, and co-payments are supposed to be presented to the consumer in a simple and readable format.

The rather unsurprising development in all this is that Obama administration caved to insurers on the most important number of all, and there is no requirement for insurers and employers to tell people what they have to pay in premiums:
The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that health insurers and employers must provide more information to consumers shopping for health insurance. The ensuing coverage, shall we say, was a classic case of journalistic bungling. Reporters took what HHS officials fed them and crafted their pieces for public consumption. But the stories were confusing—in some cases flat-out wrong—and did not exactly offer the clearest of explanations about what’s supposed to be a clearer process for buying health coverage. I’d wager the public didn’t understand much of what the media dished out, and probably won’t until they actually start shopping for coverage again in the fall and find the government hasn’t made it easier after all.

…………

The report that HHS released to the media discloses some important numbers: the amount of the deductible; what services don’t count toward satisfying it; what’s not included in the out-of-pocket limits, like premiums and charges from doctors who balance the bill; the copays; and, probably most important, the amount of coinsurance—the percentage of a bill patients must pay, which is increasing with each passing year.

But insurers and employers do not have to tell consumers how much a policy costs—in other words, no premium information has to be given. Yep, that’s right—the key piece of information needed to make a good decision is missing. When insurers design a policy, they consider the interplay of coinsurance, copays, deductibles, coverage, and, of course, the premium, which lets them know what price point will make a consumer say “yes.” Price is the bottom line for consumers, but it’s poison for sellers, who fear a shopper might choose a policy with a lower price, other things being equal. So much for that price competition that was to solve all the ills of U.S. health care.
This was followed up by the media almost entirely simply reprinting the HHS press releases, which means that this crucial omission was largely ignored:
What was needed from the media was analysis and sharp questioning about what these new disclosures would really mean for consumers in terms of ease of use and availability during the shopping process. We know consumers hate shopping for insurance, and take shortcuts to finish the task as fast as they can. But instead of helping them through this dreaded chore, the media gave the Department of Health and Human Services a free pass.
This is not a product of a biased media, this is a product of lazy media, which is the real problem with the media, particularly given the financial pressures present in today's media environment, because a lazy media is a cheaper media.

Republicans the Party of Values

What a surprise. We have an Arizona sheriff being accused of corruption after he threatened to deport his gay lover in order to force his silence:
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — who became the face of Arizona border security nationally after he started stridently opposing illegal immigration — threatened his Mexican ex-lover with deportation when the man refused to promise never to disclose their years-long relationship, the former boyfriend and his lawyer tell New Times.

The latest of the alleged threats were made through Babeu's personal attorney, who's also running the sheriff's campaign for Congress in District 4, the ex-lover says.

He says lawyer Chris DeRose demanded he sign an agreement that he would never breathe a word about the affair. But Jose (New Times is withholding his last name because Babeu and his attorney have challenged his legal status) refused.
This guy first came to prominence when one of his deputies fabricated a story about being shot at by illegal aliens, and Babeu went on a self promotional media tour.

BTW, until this all blew up, he was one of Mitt Romney's campaign co-chairmen in Arizona.

My Name is Legion Cliché

I'm in a Starbucks located inside a Barnes and Noble, and I am blogging.

Charlie is meeting his tutor here.

Well, I guess that it's better than Cheetos® and a basement.

18 February 2012

Ha Ha!

Lehman and its its creditors have subpoenaed Timothy Geithner over his discussions with JPMorgan Chase over the time when the investment bank collapsed:
Lehman Brothers‘ bankruptcy estate and its official committee of unsecured creditors asked a court late on Thursday to compel Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to testify about the investment bank’s collapse.

The request for a subpoena comes as part of the estate’s lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, which asserts that the bank illegally took $8.6 billion in collateral from Lehman, precipitating that firm’s demise.

The lawsuit’s main argument is that JPMorgan, apprised of Lehman’s fragile condition, improperly profited from making its collateral demands — and also pushed Lehman into bankruptcy.

Lawyers for Lehman’s creditors wrote in a court filing that they and the estate served Mr. Geithner with a subpoena last August, ordering him to testify about conversations he had held with both JPMorgan and Lehman over the former’s calls for collateral in early September 2008.

Mr. Geithner, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, spoke with JPMorgan’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, 10 times in the week before Lehman fell, according to the filing. Many of those conversations, the lawyers contend, must have been about JPMorgan’s collateral demands.
Basically, Lehman is asserting that Jamie Dimon's bully boys stole from them in order to push them over into bankruptcy.

The implication is that they did so because they knew that, in the event of a collapse, they would get to keep the money.

Note that they are not asking about deliberations at the NY Fed, but the content of his discussions with Jamie Dimon.

Still, I relish the though of Geithner in the dock forced to answer questions about his dealings with the big banks.

You Can Always Depend on Flight International for a Cutaway


Full Size Pic at Link
This time, they are doing the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle.

Seeing as how the F-15SE is supposed to have a very small forward aspect radar cross section, I have to wonder about their guess about the radar.

I am not am expert in low observability, but it seems to me that the radar would be angled off the centerline in order to reduce RCS.

While the full fit-out for the aircraft is not certain, how IRST is integrated into the airframe is unclear, for example, but the flight control system is is going to a digital fly by wire system.

It should be a good deal on fly away cost, but cost per hour might be higher than its likely competitors.

17 February 2012

Pat Buchanan Fired

The fact that it took well over a decade for MSNBC to can his bigoted hypocritical ass is a mark of shame for the network, but it's still better than him still spewing his hate on the air.

'Phants Phess Up to Ph%$#ing Up Caucus Count in Maine

So, Mitt Romney won by a couple of hundred votes, and the Maine Republican Party said that this was the end of the matter.

The problem was that there were a number of (Ron Paul trending) town caucuses in Maine that were not counted, as well as all of Washington County, which delayed the vote because of a snow storm.

So, after a rising crescendo of coverage of the irregularities, they are now apparently conducting a recount, as well as allowing Washington County to conduct its vote tomorrow:
The Maine Republican Party has reversed course and will recommend that delayed caucus results from Washington County be included in its final presidential poll tally. The party also is reconfirming results from local caucuses in the wake of the recent controversy over how its presidential caucuses were handled.

“The results of the Washington County caucus will be reviewed at the March 10 Republican State Committee meeting,” Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster said in a prepared statement approved by the state party’s executive committee.
Note that March 10 is after Super Tuesday, so the effect of a Romney "win" turning into a loss won't hit the media narrative until after he's probably made his nomination a near mathematical lock.

This has happened twice now, so I think that the tinfoil hat explanation is gaining credence.

A Picture of Unemployment Claims

We had some more good news on the unemployment front. Initial claims were down by another 10K, and continuing claims.

There is still a part of me that does not believe the good news though.

This is Not a Joke

Matt Bors has a great cartoon, and this first frame is a sample.

The rest is a fictional forecast of the future, but is certainly an accurate portrayal of how Republicans see A Handmaiden's Tale as a blue print for the future.

Sergey Aleynikov Freed

You may recall that he was convicted under the Economic Espionage Act for downloading some high frequency trading software from Goldman Sachs, where he worked.

Apparently, the judge in the trial completely bought into the prosecutions expansion of the law, intended to prosecute people for selling military secrets to the Chinese, to this case, and the appellate court came down hard on the judge. They did not just remand this back to the lower court, they ordered the lower court to enter a judgement of acquittal.

Felix Salmon explains why whole case was such an outrage:
The secrets at defense contractors, of course, are secret for reasons of national security. The secrets at investment banks and hedge funds, by contrast, are secret purely for reasons of profit: they reckon that if they have some clever algorithm which nobody else has, then that makes it easier for them to profit from it. Which is why it was always a stretch for the government to use the EEA to prosecute Aleynikov — indeed, it is why it was always a stretch for Aleynikov to be criminally prosecuted at all. Goldman could have brought a civil case against him, but instead they got their wholly-owned subsidiary, the U.S. government, to come down on him so hard that he ended up with an eight-year sentence. Violent felons frequently get less.

The forthcoming decision from the Second Circuit is likely to be a doozy; I’m told that the judges shredded the prosecutors during the oral hearing. And certainly their decision to enter a judgment of acquittal, rather than any kind of retrial, is a strong indication that they handed down this order with extreme prejudice against prosecutorial overreach.
(emphasis mine)

This has been a lose-lose for the Vampire Squid. They looked like bullies, they brought a lot of attention to the bit of front-running that is high frequency trading, and they have now lost the case.

That being said, I don't expect Goldman, or the prosecutors, to give up just yet.

Background here.

Too True

It's why we love the little furry sociopaths.

I Have So Been on the Converse of This

I've so lived this
Well, this seems a lot like my high school days.

Fabulous!!!!!!!

The Maryland House has just approved gay marriage in Maryland:
A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage squeaked through the House of Delegates Friday night with one more vote than the minimum needed for passage, putting Maryland on the cusp of being the eighth state to allow such unions.

Cheers erupted when the gavel dropped on the final 72-67 tally. Within minutes, Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, walked from his second-floor office to the door of the House chamber, embraced House Speaker Michael E. Busch and said, "Good job, man."

"We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids," O'Malley said. Then he extended credit to delegates and activists, many of whom had been skeptical about his commitment to the issue. "These guys did it," he said.

The measure now goes to the Senate, which passed a similar bill last year and is expected do so again. The chamber will likely take up the measure next week.

Should the bill pass in both chambers, activists on both sides believe it would be petitioned to referendum in November. If voters approve the measure, the earliest a gay couple would be able to wed is January 2013, when the law would go into effect.

The victory is significant for O'Malley, who threw the weight of his office behind the measure after a similar bill fell a few votes short in the House last year. The governor had been working the halls of the House office building at all hours to persuade wavering delegates.

In national terms, the Maryland vote caps a week in which proponents of same-sex marriage have scored significant victories with the signing of a similar law in Washington state and the Legislature's approval of a marriage bill in New Jersey, though Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it Friday.
This is very good news, because it passed the state Senate last year, so it looks like it will make it to the Governor's desk.

One weird bit: One of the people that we have to thank for this is Dick Cheney:
By far the biggest boost came in the morning when Republican Del. Wade Kach, who was considered a sure-fire no vote, threw his support behind O'Malley's bill. Kach had voted against the bill two days earlier in committee.

The Baltimore County delegate said he reached his decision after mulling the testimony he'd heard during a nearly 11-hour hearing on the bill last week and watching how same-sex couples supported one another. "I thought to myself, if my constituents were here, they'd have a different perspective on the issue," Kach said. "I'm sure of it."

He also became the target of a last-minute lobby effort, and said his voice mail was full of messages from important people, including Mehlman, Bloomberg and an offer to talk with former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Kach regards as a "great man." All three are recognized for their support of gay rights issues.
But you know, I'll take it.

That being said, there are still enough bigots in Maryland to put this on the ballot, and it's probably gonna be close.

16 February 2012

In Honor of Black History Month

I present to you what must be the best former slave snark ever:
Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.
For a man of his background, this is impressively fierce eloquence.

H/t Americablog.

Least Shocking News of the Day

San Francisco County has conducted an audit of 400 foreclosures, and found a morass of fraud and corruption:
An audit by San Francisco county officials of about 400 recent foreclosures there determined that almost all involved either legal violations or suspicious documentation, according to a report released Wednesday.

Anecdotal evidence indicating foreclosure abuse has been plentiful since the mortgage boom turned to bust in 2008. But the detailed and comprehensive nature of the San Francisco findings suggest how pervasive foreclosure irregularities may be across the nation.

The improprieties range from the basic — a failure to warn borrowers that they were in default on their loans as required by law — to the arcane. For example, transfers of many loans in the foreclosure files were made by entities that had no right to assign them and institutions took back properties in auctions even though they had not proved ownership.

Commissioned by Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, the report examined files of properties subject to foreclosure sales in the county from January 2009 to November 2011. About 84 percent of the files contained what appear to be clear violations of law, it said, and fully two-thirds had at least four violations or irregularities.

Kathleen Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston said: “If there were any lingering doubts about whether the problems with loan documents in foreclosures were isolated, this study puts the question to rest.”

The report comes just days after the $26 billion settlement over foreclosure improprieties between five major banks and 49 state attorneys general, including California’s. Among other things, that settlement requires participating banks to reduce mortgage amounts outstanding on a wide array of loans and provide $1.5 billion in reparations for borrowers who were improperly removed from their homes.
(Emphasis mine)

And the settlement is going to let these guys off for about 2 grand a pop.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht


Bummer of a birth mark, Scott
It looks like prosecutors in Wisconsin are closing the noose on corruption by now Governor Scott Walker during his tenure as Milwaukee County executive:
A recall from his position as Wisconsin's governor could ultimately be the least of Gov. Scott Walker's worry, if a criminal complaint quietly moving forward in the Badger State court system continues on its current trajectory. At the moment, Walker seems to be at the bottom of a mountain where an avalanche is just beginning to roll.

A 51-page criminal complaint [PDF] (the "Rindfleisch complaint"), which formally charges Kelly M. Rindfleisch with four felony counts of misconduct in public office, contains factual allegations which implicate a number of individuals, listed as "interested parties," including WI's controversial Republican Governor, in a wide-reaching criminal conspiracy to misuse public employees and resources for partisan political gain.

…………

The factual body of the Rindfleisch complaint suggests that prosecutors are painstakingly examining evidence that may well place Walker at the center of a criminal conspiracy to illegally utilize employees within the Milwaukee County Executive Office to engage in fundraising and campaign activities on behalf of the Friends of Scott Walker and others during office hours at the expense of Milwaukee taxpayers.

Each violation of the relevant WI criminal statutes at issue in the matter carries with it a potential imprisonment of up to 3.5 years. As that case moves forward apace, Walker could lose a great deal more than simply his hold on the governor's office. His very freedom may prove to be at stake as well...
I don't expect an indictment of Walker before the recall vote, but this is another well-deserved nail in the coffin for his political career.

H/t Kenneth Quinnell.

Virginia Republicans Are Aliens

I don't mean foreigners, I mean malevolent creatures from another world.

Think about it. The only time you hear about involuntary probes, it is because of alien abductions.

Virginia republicans want to mandate involuntary vaginal probes for women:
Inserting something into the vagina of an unwilling woman is a violation in every sense of the word. But not to a majority of Virginia's Senate.

This week, the Senate passed a bill, largely along party lines, that would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and wait as long as a day for the procedure.

The ultrasound requirement may evoke images of the abdominal sonograms standard in most pregnancies, fuzzy black and white pictures conjured by a wand passed across a woman's stomach.

But those ultrasounds are ordinarily done fairly late in pregnancy. In the beginning, particularly the first weeks, an abdominal ultrasound may not be sensitive enough to detect anything.

That's why doctors in many cases use a transvaginal ultrasound. In plainspeak, they insert a condom-covered probe into a woman's vagina to obtain an image.

In order to satisfy the goals of the legislation - which includes a requirement that a doctor determine the gestational age of the pregnancy- a transvaginal ultrasound may be the only reliable course.

The bill, among the most invasive ever passed in Virginia, is the result of frustration by lawmakers opposed to abortion. Unsuccessful in making abortion illegal and unwilling to be frank about their goals, they have tried by technicality and obfuscation to make it harder for a woman to terminate a pregnancy.
Every so often, I hold the delusion that Republicans cannot get any more contemptible.

They always manage to disabuse me of this.

15 February 2012

Do Not Piss Jon Off

Liz Trotta at Fox said that female soldiers getting raped have it coming to them.

Jon Stewart begs to differ.

It's subtle, but this is the first time that I've ever seen him truly enraged.

It's a Start

But only a start.

The FCC has placed further restrictions on robo-calling:
Those aggravating automated telemarketing calls will be interrupting your dinner a lot less often.

After receiving thousands of complaints from consumers, the Federal Communications Commission clamped down Wednesday on unwanted robo-calling by approving sweeping changes to its telemarketing rules for wireline and mobile phones.

Even with the national Do Not Call Registry in effect — the initial effort to block those pesky calls — telemarketers have found ways around the rules. But the FCC's latest effort is "closing a loophole," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"This is an important step forward to make it easier for consumers to take advantage of the Do Not Call list," Rotenberg said about the FCC's changes. "These are additional safeguards to provide consumers greater protection."

Telemarketing calls have a bigger effect on mobile phones, he noted, because those calls can eat up the minutes in consumers' wireless plans.

Under the new FCC rules, telemarketers are required to obtain written consent, which can be in the form of an online approval, before placing autodialed or prerecorded calls to a consumer.

Telemarketers also must provide an automated opt-out mechanism during each robo-call so that consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling.

The FCC also eliminated the "established business relationship" exception, which had allowed robo-calls to be placed to the land-line home phones of consumers with "prior or existing" associations with companies represented by telemarketers.

And the agency strictly limited the number of abandoned or so-called dead-air calls — in which consumers answer their phones and hear nothing — that telemarketers can make within each calling campaign.
The exemptions are still more than I would like to see, the exemption for non-oprofits, allows them to contract out to for-profit telemarketing firms, for example, but it's a positive development.

14 February 2012

Here is an American Hero

Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, a 17 year Army veteran who almost certainly won't make it retirement, because he wrote a report saying that senior military officials are lying about Afghanistan:
Earlier this week, the New York Times’ Scott Shane published a bombshell piece about Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, a 17-year Army veteran recently returned from a second tour in Afghanistan. According to the Times, the 48-year-old Davis had written an 84-page unclassified report, as well as a classified report, offering his assessment of the decade-long war. That assessment is essentially that the war has been a disaster and the military's top brass has not leveled with the American public about just how badly it’s been going. "How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?" Davis boldly asks in an article summarizing his views in The Armed Forces Journal.

Davis last month submitted the unclassified report –titled "Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leader’s Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort" – for an internal Army review. Such a report could then be released to the public. However, according to U.S. military officials familiar with the situation, the Pentagon is refusing to do so. Rolling Stone has now obtained a full copy of the 84-page unclassified version, which has been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House. We've decided to publish it in full; it's well worth reading for yourself. It is, in my estimation, one of the most significant documents published by an active-duty officer in the past ten years.

Here is the report's damning opening lines: "Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan." Davis goes on to explain that everything in the report is "open source" – i.e., unclassified – information. According to Davis, the classified report, which he legally submitted to Congress, is even more devastating. "If the public had access to these classified reports they would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is actually true behind the scenes," Davis writes. "It would be illegal for me to discuss, use, or cite classified material in an open venue and thus I will not do so; I am no WikiLeaks guy Part II."

According to the Times story, Davis briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members and sent his reports to the Defense Department’s inspector general, and of course spoke to a New York Times reporter; only after all that did he inform his chain of command what he'd been up to. Evidently Davis's truth-telling campaign has rattled the Pentagon brass, prompting unnamed officials to retaliate by threatening a bogus investigation for "possible security violations," according to NBC News.
They are going to go after him, and they won't just try to kick him out, they will try to send him to Leavenworth.

The hyper-aggressive criminalization of whistle-blowing is one of the extra special innovations of the current administration.

The Pedophile Protectors Move the Goal Post

You knew that the be satisfied with nothing but a right to enforce their religious beliefs on the rest of us:
Hours after calling the Obama administration's contraceptives compromise a "first step," the Catholic bishops said Friday night they have "two serious objections" to the new policy and will fight its enactment.

First, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the administration’s plan still includes a “nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients.”

“This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern,” the bishops said in their statement. “We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.
I am so not shocked by this.

This is why compromise is not an option.

There isn't one. You either capitulate, or fight.

He Keeps Coming Back, Like a Bad Penny

Yes, it's Ken Starr, and it looks like he got yet another trumped up investigation, this time of a Jewish Studies professor who isn't right wing enough for the Clinton era persecutor prosecutor:
It’s unclear what exactly Ellis is on trial for, as neither Baylor nor Ellis would comment on the record about the nature of the charges. (One clue: no criminal charges have been filed against Ellis.) Roger Sanders, Ellis’ lawyer, says Baylor’s lawyers told him the internal process mandates nondisclosure, though Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman disputes this, telling RD that the charges can only be released with Ellis’ written permission.

Sanders says the investigation hinges on “bogus allegations.” One can only hope the result will not be another 336-page Starr Report—the $40 million product of the independent counsel’s four-year investigation, for which the beleaguered Monica Lewinsky was interrogated over 20 times. “‘You’re a pervert, Ken Starr,’” Lewinsky’s father once said he’d like to tell the former independent counsel.

In late November Cornel West, feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other luminaries launched a change.org petition addressed to Starr, which has thus far gathered over 5,000 signatures. The petition asserts that the controversy “looks more and more like a persecution to silence a Jewish voice of dissent.”

“The charges,” reads a petition update, “are about ‘abuse of authority.’…Many of us were contacted several times by institutional lawyers who tried to persuade us to tell them examples of ‘abuse of authority’ he has exercised.”

According to Sanders, the investigation consisted of “sort of announc[ing] to people, ‘Here’s what Marc’s guilty of. Now tell us what you know about him.’” Fogleman claims no knowledge of the investigation’s procedures and declined to recommend officials who could answer questions about it.
The fact that, but for his misconduct in l'affaire Lewinski, he'd probably be on the Supreme Court now, should scare the hell out of us.

Guess What, the Bank Deal is Even Worse Than You Thought

We still have no written agreement, but we the North Carolina AG has released an executive summary, and it strongly implies that the immunity grant is a lot broader than has been implied:
This is the critical part:

The proposed Release contains a broad release of the banks’ conduct related to mortgage loan servicing, foreclosure preparation, and mortgage loan origination services. Claims based on these areas of past conduct by the banks cannot be brought by state attorneys general or banking regulators.

The Release applies only to the named bank parties. It does not extend to third parties who may have provided default or foreclosure services for the banks. Notably, claims against MERSCORP, Inc. or Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) are not released
.

This is sufficiently general so that it is hard to be certain, but It certainly reads as if it waives chain of title issues and liability related to the use of MERS. That seems to be confirmed by the fact that made by local recorders for fees are explicitly preserved (one would not think they would need to be preserved unless they might otherwise be assumed to be waived). This is exactly the sort of release we feared would be given in a worst case scenario. The banks have gotten a huge “get out of jail free” card of bupkis.
It's gonna get worse.

Every time we get more information it's gonna get worse.

We are going to discover that this precludes all sorts of remedies for bad acts, and there will be no enforcement mechanisms to prevent future bad faith actions.

It's gonna be more extend and pretend, so the banksters can get their bonuses, and we get the shaft.

Cyberwar Is the New Profit Center

Seriously, we are seeing yet another hyped up bit of pants-wetting terror in order to create another way for defense contractors to rip the taxpayers off:
In last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to pass “legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber threats.” The Hill was way ahead of him, with over 50 cybersecurity bills introduced this Congress. This week, both the House and Senate are moving on their versions of consolidated, comprehensive legislation.

The reason cybersecurity legislation is so pressing, proponents say, is that we face an immediate risk of national disaster.

wired guest column“Today’s cyber criminals have the ability to interrupt life-sustaining services, cause catastrophic economic damage, or severely degrade the networks our defense and intelligence agencies rely on,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said at a hearing last week. “Congress needs to act on comprehensive cybersecurity legislation immediately.”

Yet evidence to sustain such dire warnings is conspicuously absent. In many respects, rhetoric about cyber catastrophe resembles threat inflation we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War. And while Congress’ passing of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation wouldn’t lead to war, it could saddle us with an expensive and overreaching cyber-industrial complex.
Every so called case of a major attack on meat-space infrastructure has turned out to be false, but we're gonna spend billions on it.