31 March 2012

Huh, I Interviewed There

RedX Defense, where we now have allegations of self dealing on DARPA contracts:
Top Pentagon research arm Darpa gave a well-connected firm millions of dollars to build bomb-detectors — despite deep internal reservations about the technology involved. After years of work and millions spent, the company’s sensor was less effective than “a coin flip” in spotting homemade explosives, in the words of one military insider.

By itself, the washout wouldn’t be terribly remarkable. Darpa’s charter is to try out risky technologies, many of which don’t pan out. It’s that dedication to high-risk, high-reward projects that leads to breakthroughs like GPS and the internet. But these contracts were given to RedX Defense, a company partially owned by outgoing Darpa director Regina Dugan and led by Dugan’s family. Agency bosses were repeatedly told that investing in RedX was a waste of time — and moved ahead with the contracts anyway. The bottom line, says a second source familiar with RedX’s work: “The technology just didn’t work.”

………

Then, in July of 2009, Dugan was named the director of Darpa. Her father, Vince, became RedX’s CEO. Her sister, Christina Haney, worked as vice president of marketing. Some Darpa employees assumed Dugan would sell her shares in RedX, since the firm continued to pursue contracts from an agency now headed by its co-founder and former chief executive. Dugan didn’t sell those shares, however. Nor did she forgive the $250,000 loan she gave to RedX.

Dugan did officially recuse herself from any business dealings between the agency and the company. An internal Pentagon review later found that the recusal was “consistent with the letter and spirit of relevant laws, regulations, and policies governing conflict of interest,” according to Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokesperson. But the move wasn’t consistent with Darpa’s recent history. Under previous director Tony Tether, contracts that posed a potential conflict of interest were passed to someone higher up in the Pentagon hierarchy, who would theoretically be immune to pressure from subordinates. Instead, Dugan left the decisions about RedX to her employees — people acutely aware of their new boss’s background and her family ties to RedX.

A few weeks after Dugan assumed command of the agency, her family firm submitted a proposal to fund MAE WEST for $3.5 million. The proposal ignited a firestorm within the agency, one source familiar with the inspector general’s investigation says. Not only was the company tied to the new director, there were glaring gaps in the proposal — everything from the schedule of experiments to the scientific approach involved. Nevertheless, this source contends, agency deputy director Ken Gabriel told employees to put the RedX proposal at the “top of the list.”

“No other program had this kind of pressure,” the source adds. “Or even this much interest.”
Dogs still work better than anything else, FYI.

The revolving door is spinning awfully fast.

30 March 2012

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

We got another FDIC closing this week:

  1. Fidelity Bank, Dearborn, MI
Full FDIC list

BTW, for the credit union closings, I am not counting the category, "Merged with NCUA assistance," there have been two so far this year.

Also, I screwed up earlier, and have corrected prior bank closings.

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

Yes

Is Wall Street Full of Psychopaths?

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Scott


Bummer of a birth mark, Scotty
The recall elections for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, his Lt. Governor, and 4 state Senators is now officially on:
The recall election ordered Friday for embattled first-term Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker quickly turned into a possible rematch when the Democrat he narrowly defeated in 2010 announced he was jumping into the race.

Walker expressed confidence he would hold on to his seat shortly after the Government Accountability Board ordered the election, after more than 900,000 signatures were collected supporting a recall in the wake of Walker’s push against union bargaining rights. It marks only the third recall of a governor in U.S. history.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced hours later he would challenge Walker, shaking up a Democratic primary race that had been led by union-backed candidate Kathleen Falk. Barrett has publically clashed with unions who were urging him not to get into the race.

In an email to supporters, Barrett said he would begin campaigning immediately to win the primary that looms just 39 days away on May 8. The general election is June 5.
What's More, a federal court, invalidated significant portions of his union busting bill today as well:
A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 - which removed most collective bargaining for most public employees - are unconstitutional.

Though critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, backers seemed unconcerned since it preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers.

Seven major public employee unions had challenged the fact that Act 10 dramatically narrowed what could be bargained by general employee unions, an required those unions to recertify every year, by an absolute majority union while denying the same unions voluntary union dues deductions for payrolls.

The court sided with state officials in upholding limitations on what can be bargained, but found the two other provisions violated the union members' equal protection and First Amendment rights, considering that the same rules did not apply to unions for public safety workers such as police and firefighters.
I'm not sure how the election is going to go, though my guess is that it will flip the state senate, since it's now a one senator margin.

In a very real way, the recall against Scott Walker may be the most important election of this cycle, because if he loses, it will create a bright line in the political process.

Of course, if he wins, the Republicans will take it as carte blanche, even if they lose the Senate.

What the F%$#?

Keith Olbermann just got fired by Current TV:
The cable channel indicated that he had failed to honor the terms of his five-year, $50 million contract, giving the channel the right to terminate it. Starting Friday night, the former New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer will take over Mr. Olbermann’s 8 p.m. time slot.
In reading the statement from Current TV (Below, after break) it appears that he was simply too difficult to work with.

I can't imaging that it's ratings.  He really put the network on the map.

This is a recurring issue in his career, and he really needs to address this.



29 March 2012

Good Point, Yves

Yves Smith discovers an interesting data point on just how badly our healthcare system fails as a market.

The issue has always been two thing, information asymmetry, and the need for immediate services, because when you have a pneumothorax, you are not going to compare prices.

Well her data point is the fact that a study has shown that the happier you are with with your doctor, the more likely you are to die:
There is an important study in the Archives for Internal Medicine last month, which escalates an ongoing row as to whether patient satisfaction is in any way correlated with positive medical outcomes. The answer is yes, and the correlation is negative.

This finding is of critical importance, not just in understanding why American medicine is a hopeless, costly mess, but also as a window into how easy it is for buyers of complex services to be hoodwinked by their servicer provider, whether via the provider being incorrectly confident about his ability to do a good job or having nefarious intent.

Let’s deal with health care case first. The study in question was large scale, of 52,000 patients from 2000 to 2007. This summary comes from the Emergency Physicians blog (hat tip Julie W):
Results of the study showed that patients who had the highest satisfaction ratings spent 9% more on health care and prescription medications than did patients who had the lowest satisfaction ratings. In addition, the most satisfied patients had a 26% greater risk of death compared to least satisfied patients. When patients in poor health were excluded, the risk of death for these highly-satisfied “healthy” patients increased to 44% more than their least-satisfied counterparts.

In commentary accompanying the article, Dr. Brenda Sirovich suggested that discretionary testing is likely the cause of both the increased costs and the increased mortality in highly satisfied patients. Patient perceptions, even if medically inappropriate, drive testing and treatment. Antibiotics are harmful in patients with viral infections, yet a substantial subset of patients are not satisfied without an antibiotic prescription for their colds. Large studies show no link between PSA screening and either overall survival or prostate cancer survival. However, any patient whose life has been “saved” by a PSA screen is often quite satisfied. In both scenarios, there is no perceived negative effect from treatment. Patients will recover from their colds with or without antibiotics. Patients likely would not have died from their prostate cancer even if it was left untreated.
Here's hoping that Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts just love their doctor.

OOPS!!!

The FBI had to rush and arrest Khalifah al-Akili after he sent out an email to his friends and the Guardian newspaper that he was being target for entrapment by them:
The arrest of a Pittsburgh man described as a Taliban sympathiser has sparked allegations that the FBI deployed a notorious confidential informant used in previous controversial stings on suspected Muslim radicals.

Khalifah al-Akili, 34, was arrested in a police raid on his home on March 15. He was later charged with illegally possessing a gun after having previous felony convictions for drug dealing. However, at his court appearance an FBI agent testified that al-Akili had made radical Islamic statements and that police had uncovered unspecified jihadist literature at his home.

But, in a strange twist, al-Akili's arrest came just days after he had sent out an email to friends and local Muslim civil rights groups complaining that he believed he was the target of an FBI "entrapment" sting. That refers to a controversial FBI tactic of using confidential informants – who often have criminal records or are paid large sums of money – to facilitate "fake" terrorist plots for suspects to invent or carry out.

In the email – which was also sent to the Guardian before al-Akili was arrested – he detailed meeting two men he believed were FBI informants because of the way they talked about radical Islam and appeared to want to get him to make jihadist statements. According to his account, one of them, who called himself Saeed Torres, asked him to buy a gun. Al-Aikili said he refused. The other, who was called Mohammed, offered to help him go to Pakistan for possible Islamic radical training. Al-Akili also refused.
It looks like the FBI was was trying to manufacture some more terrorists, and when this guy started realized that some weird sh%$ was going down, and emailed the press, they busted him.

Let's be clear, he is being charged with breaking the law. It is allied that as a felon, he did break the law when he fired a friend's rifle at the range 2 years ago, but he's being held without bail because prosecutors are alleging that he is a terrorist.

This isn't making us any safer, and I cannot imagine how this can do anything but feed distrust of law enforcement among among American Muslims.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Another really good week, with initial jobless claims falling 5,000 to 359,000, (well sort of, last week's numbers were revised up from 348K to 364 K, so apples to apples is a little bump up), with the 4 week moving average fell 3,500 to 365K, with continuing claims falling by 41K to 3.34 million, and extended claims fell 79K to 3.24 million.

Of course, there is a proverbial turd in the punch bowl in all of this, which is that all of these figures are seasonably adjusted, and we've had the mildest winter in the United States pretty much ever so we might be seeing a lot or economic activity that would normally be in April or May.

I guess we'll find out then.

28 March 2012

Since When Do 71 Year Olds With a History of Heart Disease Get Heart Transplant?

I wish Dick Cheney the best of luck on his recovery from his heart transplant, but from what I understand of the protocols, someone who has had his of at least 4 first heart attacks at age 37, should not even be on the list.

That being said, I want him to lead a good long life, and that he lives long enough to see the decay of his reputation, much like Alan Greenspan has gone from Maestro to goat.

Rupert Needs to Be Banned from Broadcast Ownership Right Now

The latest news is that News Corp paid hackers to help people steal the broadcasts of its primary competitor:
Part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation empire employed computer hacking to undermine the business of its chief TV rival in Britain, according to evidence due to be broadcast by BBC1's Panorama programme on Monday .

The allegations stem from apparently incriminating emails the programme-makers have obtained, and on-screen descriptions for the first time from two of the people said to be involved, a German hacker and the operator of a pirate website secretly controlled by a Murdoch company.

The witnesses allege a software company NDS, owned by News Corp, cracked the smart card codes of rival company ONdigital. ONdigital, owned by the ITV companies Granada and Carlton, eventually went under amid a welter of counterfeiting by pirates, leaving the immensely lucrative pay-TV field clear for Sky.

The allegations, if proved, cast further doubt on whether News Corp meets the "fit and proper" test required to run a broadcaster in Britain. It emerged earlier this month that broadcasting regulator Ofcom has set up a unit called Project Apple to establish whether BSkyB, 39.1% owned by News Corp, meets the test.
No, News Corp is not "fit and proper" to broadcast in the UK.

David Frum is Right



link

If the healthcare mandate is illegal, so are the mandatory private retirement funds that are so dear to the right wing think tanks is illegal too.

So, if SCOTUS strikes down Obamacare, there is a silver lining.  It takes Social Security privatization off the table.

In fact, it might have the effect of ruling out a lot of the misguided "Market Based Solutions."

World's Greatest Deliberative Body, My Ass

Now that Olympia Snowe is leaving the Senate, she is complaining that she did not get enough face time from Obama:
Retiring moderate Republican senator still prizes "bipartisanship" over actually passing legislation

Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe has finished grading the president’s report card. President Obama gets an “F” in bipartisanship, where “bipartisanship” is defined as “constantly stroking the fragile egos of self-important Senate moderates.”

Snowe is not seeking reelection because the Republican Party wholly merged with the conservative movement and then began enforcing much stricter party discipline than it had in the past, and she would likely lose a primary election to a more right-wing candidate. But in her high-minded version of what happened, she is leaving because of “partisanship,” an evil spell cast on the formerly fraternal and cooperative United States Senate by comity-hating wizards.

………

So instead of cap-and-trade, we got nothing. Instead of the DREAM Act, we got nothing. If healthcare reform had failed, we’d have nothing. If Snowe’s stated goal was to maintain the status quo, because she doesn’t care about immigration and doesn’t believe in climate change, then she’d be totally doing a very good job. But she claims to care about climate change and want to do something about immigration, which leads me to believe that she’s horrible at being a senator. It is the incompetent political maneuvering of “moderates” like Snowe, and not “partisanship,” that leads directly to Senate inaction. If what she needed, in order to be swayed to the side of passing legislation to address problems, was for the president to make a much bigger public show of courting her, then she’s a bizarre and repulsive specimen. Being against everything because people aren’t paying you enough attention is so much worse than being against everything on principle.
The Senate is not a great deliberative body.  It is a support group for narcissistic sociopaths.

Even more than the insane members of the Senate *cough*Jim Demint*cough* *cough*Tom Coburn*cough*, it is those who worship at the alter of bipartisanship, because their efforts are nothing more than preening for an imagined audience when there are real issues that need to be addressed.

The problem is that the Senate is a broken institution, and it has been for some time, because of people like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, etc. who value the appearance of being reasonable over actually being reasonable, and care not a fig for being effective representatives of the citizenry.

27 March 2012

Why I am Not Covering the Scotus Arguments Over Obamacare

Because I think that the law and precedent is clear, and the only questionis whether there are 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 justices who are corrupt enough, and partisan enough, to vote to strike down the act.

If Kennedy votes not to strike down, I think that he takes Roberts with him, giving a 6-3 decision, but if he swings the other way, so does Roberts.

The Chief Justice will not be on the dissenting side of this vote, because of the optics, not because of the law.

Roberts may be a corrupt partisan hack, but he only uses the secret sauce when it makes a difference in the final decision.

My guess is that it will be 4-5 to strike down much of the law, but if not, it will be 6-3 supporting it.

What must be noted though is that this is not a matter of law. The law has been settled for at least 60 years.

The only question is how corrupt the 5 right wing justices are.

Well Here's Some Interesting Information

In the matter of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, we have a new development.

It appears that the detective originaly assigned to the case wanted to arrest him for manslaughter:
The lead homicide investigator in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin recommended that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter the night of the shooting, multiple sources told ABC News.

But Sanford, Fla., Investigator Chris Serino was instructed to not press charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney's office headed by Norman Wolfinger determined there wasn't enough evidence to lead to a conviction, the sources told ABC News.

Police brought Zimmerman into the station for questioning for a few hours on the night of the shooting, said Zimmerman's attorney, despite his request for medical attention first. Ultimately they had to accept Zimmerman's claim of self defense. He was never charged with a crime.

Serino filed an affidavit on Feb. 26, the night that Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, that stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman's version of events.
The fact that Zimmerman's dad is a retired judge makes this decision even more suspect.

Then there is the fact that Martin's body remained listed as a John Doe in the coroner's office for 3 days, while repeated calls to his cell phone went unanswered. (Maybe that would have allowed them to identify the body)

Whatever else happened, given the Sandford, Florida PD's long and notorious record of corruption and racism, it's tough to conclude that their handling of the case was racially tinged.

BTW, Lawrence O'Donnell was going to interview Zimmerman's lawyer, but when he realized that it wasn't going to be softball questions he fled the studio.

O'Donnell then asked the questions of the empty chair, and they were very basic questions:
  • Who is paying you? Who hired You? When, exactly, did they hire you?
  • Does George Zimmerman have a job? Does he have any property? Does he own anything?
  • Did you represent him when he was arrested for assault on a police officer in 2005? Did you represent him in a domestic violence case in 2007 when his girlfriend accused him of assault?
  • You said Zimmerman got a broken nose, can you show us photos of him that night with the broken nose, or even the next day?
  • You said Zimmerman's clothes had grass stains and other evidentiary material ... do you have that garment, can you show us what happened to it?"
These are not unexpectedly hard hitting question.  Certainly they are a bit hostile, but if you are doing the media rounds as his lawyer (to my mind always a bad decision) you have to be able to answer these questions.



One of the interesting things here is just how hard the right is trying to smear this teenager.

It's an article of faith among them that there is no longer any racism in the United States, and the obvious racism here kind of gets in the way of that.

26 March 2012

I Am So Jealous

It's a long story, but I was discussing journalism with someone today, and uttered a Yiddishism, and he replied, "Sy Hersh is the only guy who speaks Yiddish to me."

I'm jealous. It would make my day if the dean of investigative journalism, Seymour Hersh, called me an "Ill conceived son of a wombat."

And We Are Supposed to Trust the Cable Companies Because?

Yes, they are moving to the gated garden, where favored vendors receive priority bandwidth:
It looks as if Comcast is preparing to move from a limited beta test to a wide release for its long-promised Xbox Live streaming video app, with some details appearing on the company's support pages. Probably the biggest revelation about the service is that streaming Comcast's On Demand videos through the Xbox 360 will not count towards customers' 250GB monthly data limit.

Comcast says the Xbox app gets special treatment because the video is "being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet." This gives the service a potentially large advantage over not just other video streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, but also over Comcast On Demand content streamed through the company's website and mobile apps, both of which count against the data limits.
Enjoy your 3rd party streaming while you can, because it is not going to work reliably much longer.

I expect them to start f%$#ing with 3rd party IP telephony in the next few years as well, so buh-bye Skype.

H/t Harold Feld.

Orwell Much?

It looks like Samsung has come up with a telescreen that has cameras and microphones that it can use to watch you:
Samsung’s 2012 top-of-the-line plasmas and LED HDTVs offer new features never before available within a television including a built-in, internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking and speech recognition. While these features give you unprecedented control over an HDTV, the devices themselves, more similar than ever to a personal computer, may allow hackers or even Samsung to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.

While Web cameras and Internet connectivity are not new to HDTVs, their complete integration is, and it’s the always connected camera and microphones, combined with the option of third-party apps (not to mention Samsung’s own software) gives us cause for concern regarding the privacy of TV buyers and their friends and families.

Samsung has not released a privacy policy clarifying what data it is collecting and sharing with regard to the new TV sets. And while there is no current evidence of any particular security hole or untoward behavior by Samsung’s app partners, Samsung has only stated that it “assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable” in the event that a product or service is not “appropriate.”

…………

A Samsung representative showed how, once set up and connected to the Internet, these models will automatically talk to the Samsung cloud and enable viewers to use new and exciting apps.

These Samsung TVs locate and make note of registered viewers via sophisticated face recognition software. This means if you tell the TV whose faces belong to which users in your family, it personalizes the experience to each recognized family member. If you have friends over, it could log these faces as well.

In addition, the TV listens and responds to specific voice commands. To use the feature, the microphone is active. What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off.
Seriously Eric Arthur Blair must be spinning in his grave at sufficient velocity to power all of Totnes on Devon.

Yes, we have a TV that watches you back, just like Big Brother in 1984.

Any bets on how long before the NSA hacks the cloud that this interfaces, so they can spy into people's homes?  Certainly, the TOS described here would allow it, so perhaps they would not even have to hack into the system.  They just need to twist some arms at Samsung.

Lovely.

H/t Slashdot.

25 March 2012

It Looks Like Ion Drive is Going Commercial

Following the success of the Dawn Spacecraft in exploring the asteroids, I suppose that it was inevitable that ion propulsion would hit the commercial satellite industry:
It’s no secret that Boeing’s space systems unit is aggressively pricing bids in an effort to grow its commercial business segment as government spending flags. But even the most bullish observers were taken aback by an estimated $400 million deal just signed with Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) and Satellites Mexicanos (SatMex) to build the first all-electric commercial telecom spacecraft intended for launch to geostationary orbit.

The technology—which uses light-weight xenon-fueled ion thrusters rather than conventional chemical propulsion to maneuver a spacecraft into position—is promising. Imagine cutting in half a satellite’s weight, and subsequently its launch costs, which can top $100 million depending on the size of the spacecraft. All-electric satellites could potentially save fleet operators hundreds of millions of dollars in annual launch expenditures, with potentially no impact to their satellites’ capability or performance.

The downside is that while most commercial communications spacecraft are expected to be on station and making money within a few weeks of launch, new all-electric satellites could spend up to six months using slow pulses from ionic propulsion systems to maneuver into their final orbital slot—months when the spacecraft is not generating any revenue. This might not pose a problem for large operators with established revenue streams who can accommodate the lag in revenue as they incorporate new satellites into fleet-replenishment programs. But it could put small companies at a disadvantage as they sacrifice up to half a year’s income waiting for the spacecraft to enter service.

In either case, employing an all-electric spacecraft requires getting an early start on the capital-spending cycle to accommodate the lengthy orbit-raising process.

“It is easier for a company with a large fleet that has to anticipate replacement satellites several years in advance to tolerate the several months it takes for an electric satellite to reach position once it has separated in orbit,” says Romain Bausch, chief executive of Luxembourg-based SES, the world’s second-largest fleet operator by revenue.
Basically, chemical maneuvering thrusters have something like a hundred times more thrust, but have about 100x lower ISP (fuel efficiency).

The downside to ion propulsion close to earth is time, but the lines cross for anything for the earth-moon system.

I Know Who I am Writing in for President


Seen on facebook.

24 March 2012

Welcome to Belly Rave*

Poverty is growing more rapidly in the suburbs than in either urban or rural areas, this is not something that we have experience in handling:
In many of America’s once pristine suburbs, harbingers of inner-city blight — overgrown lots, boarded up windows, abandoned residences — are the new eyesores. From the Midwestern rust-belt to the burst housing bubbles of Nevada, California and Florida, even in small pockets of still affluent regions like Du Page County, Ill., the nation’s soaring poverty rates are visibly reclaiming last century’s triumphal “crabgrass frontier.” In well-heeled Illinois towns like Glen Ellyn and Elgin, unkempt, weedy lawns blot the formerly manicured, uniform and tidy landscape.

The Brookings Institution reported two years ago that “by 2008 suburbs were home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country.” In the previous eight years, major metropolitan suburbs had seen poverty rates climb by 25 percent, almost five times faster than cities. Nationwide, 55 percent of the poor living in the nation’s metropolitan regions lived in suburbs.

To add insult to injury, a new measure to calculate poverty — introduced by the Census Bureau just last year — darkens an already bleak picture: nationally, 51 million households had incomes less than 50 percent above the official poverty line, and nearly half of these households were in suburbs.
When juxtaposed with the structure of the suburbs, poverty may be even more problematic in the burbs, particularly in terms of things like transportation.

I'm not saying that the suburbs are heading toward a dystopian world of suburbs as gang infested slums, the there does appear to be a change in the status of suburbs.

*Seriously, if you haven't read Gladiator At Law, by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, you should.

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

After nothing last week, we have a bit more action.

Here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Covenant Bank & Trust, Rock Spring, GA
  2. Premier Bank, Wilmette, IL
Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. Saguache County Credit Union, Moffat, CO
Full NCUA list

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

23 March 2012

I So Want to Do This

Friday Cat Blogging!

I Can Haz Prosecushions?

We now have a smoking gun in the matter of MF Global, an email detailing how John Corzine ordered customer funds transferred to JP Morgan Chase, and the fact that JP Morgan asked for, and never got a statement that they weren't customer funds:
Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd.’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to a memo written by congressional investigators.

Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail quoted in the memo that the transfer was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The e-mail, dated Oct. 28, was sent three days before the company collapsed, the memo says. The memo does not indicate whether that phrase was the full text of the e-mail or an excerpt.

…………

arry Zubrow, JPMorgan’s chief risk officer, called Corzine to seek assurances that the funds belonged to MF Global and not customers. JPMorgan drafted a letter to be signed by O’Brien to ensure that MF Global was complying with rules requiring customers’ collateral to be segregated. The letter was not returned to JPMorgan, the memo said.

The money transferred came from a segregated customer account, according to congressional investigators. Segregated accounts can include customer money and excess company funds.
So Corzine ordered the illegal transfer of customer funds, and JP Morgan was worried about this that they demanded a letter saying that they were not doing this, but never followed up on their demand.

I think that the bigger story here is JP Morgan. We already knew that Corzine was hip deep in stealing customer funds, what we didn't know that JP Morgan knew, but took the money anyway.

These folks need to be frog-marched out of their offices in handcuffs.

They need to be tried under RICO and if they go to jail it should not be a white-collar resort prison, they should go to a federal POUND ME IN THE ASS prison.

22 March 2012

FCC Takes a Bite Out of Clear Channel and Its Ilk

It looks like the FCC is finally moving on low power local radio, and in so doing, they are going to be kneecapping crappy mass market radio, which includes a lot of the right wing talkers:
A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision issued Monday (PDF) will clear the runway for hundreds of new community radio stations that broadcast on low-power FM signals, bringing progressive, community voices to urban areas that have for decades only known what’s being broadcast by major corporations and America’s political right.

In other words, the dismantling of Rush Limbaugh was just the beginning, and the whole FM dial is next.

The FCC’s decision on Monday wipes away a massive backlog of applications for FM repeater stations, which are transmitters that repeat signals broadcast by corporate and religious radio operators — many of which rake in big listening audiences for right-wing syndicated talk shows.

“So, what a lot of right-wing, conservative radio stations have been able to do is expand their reach out in communities by just having these translators out in the wild, which is why Rush Limbaugh gets the type of audience that he has — because the networks take one signal and repeat it over and over and over across the dial all over the country,” Steven Renderos, national organizer with the Center for Media Justice, told Raw Story on Tuesday. “They’re constantly looking for opportunities to expand that, so there were a slew of these applications pending at the FCC.”

…………

Instead of slowly grinding down thousands of repeater station applications that leave no room for community radio, the FCC essentially threw most of those applications away by limiting who can apply, how many filings a single entity can make, and which markets can consider new repeaters — all of which frees up the regulatory body to examine applications for new community stations. The regulatory agency still gave some deference to corporate broadcasters, however, by allowing them one shot at revising their applications to fit the new guidelines.

…………

The FCC’s move Monday was the first step on a path laid out by the Local Community Radio Act, signed by President Barack Obama at the start of 2011, which represented the first real victory in activists’ long fight against the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) the radio industry’s biggest lobbying group. The bill freed up portions of the radio spectrum that had otherwise been kept empty by the larger broadcasters, who had long insisted upon four clicks of blank space on the FM dial to prevent interference. It also stipulated that new space on the dial must be reserved for community stations in urban areas where there might otherwise be none.
The radio stations that they are clearing the deck are limited to non profits, and each one has to be independently owned.

So, we'll see more diversity on radio, and we'll have better radio.

The Banksters Acts Exceed My Cynicism

When a mortgage firm sues their servicer because for being too cooperative with the people that they cheated:
Just when you think you've seen it all in mortgage-backed securities litigation, along comes the likes of Sand Canyon to prove you wrong.

The onetime California mortgage lender, which stopped originating loans in late 2007 and sold its servicing business to American Home Mortgage Servicing in 2008, has filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan that accuses American Home of making it too easy for MBS trustees and insurers to get hold of underlying loan files. In essence, Sand Canyon's lawyers at Cahill Gordon & Reindel are arguing that the servicer should be helping it thwart claims that it breached representations and warranties about the mortgages it sold to MBS issuers, not smoothing the way for put-back demands.

Sand Canyon's 26-page complaint, filed last month, asserts that American Home pledged to act as an ally when it bought the servicing business in 2008. "Sand Canyon bargained for and obtained (American Home's) cooperation in connection with Sand Canyon's defense," the complaint said. Under their agreement, according to the complaint, American Home was supposed to "refrain from disclosing confidential loan information to third parties except as required by law."

Most pooling and servicing agreements permitted MBS trustees and insurers to see underlying loan files only during regular business hours and at the servicer's offices, according to the Sand Canyon complaint. But American Home, the suit alleged, has provided electronic records in response to demands from trustees and insurers.
Until we start putting these f%$#s in prison, and we seize every penny that they have through RICO and asset forfeiture, they aren't going to stop.

We need to put some of them in jail for the rest of their lives, and when they die, we need to take their fillings.

Yes, I Was Like This.

I was a Weregeek:

I remember spending many hours, hyped up on sugar, at Military Corner in Portland, Oregon.

It's a fun strip at the link.

It's Jobless Thursday

The best numbers in 4 years, initial claims fell 5K to 348K, the 4 week moving average fell to 355K, and both continuing and extended claims fell.

Unambiguously good news.

21 March 2012

Well, This Explains a Lot

I now understand why he created Jar Jar Binks, the bastard. (Marginally SFW)



H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Fabulous!!!!!!!

The New Hampshire state house just defeated a bill to repeal gay marriage.

Greece is Imploding

I'm serious. It looks like local scrip is breaking out all over the country as an alternative to the Euro:
In recent weeks, Theodoros Mavridis has bought fresh eggs, tsipourou (the local brandy: beware), fruit, olives, olive oil, jam, and soap. He has also had some legal advice, and enjoyed the services of an accountant to help fill in his tax return.

None of it has cost him a euro, because he had previously done a spot of electrical work – repairing a TV, sorting out a dodgy light – for some of the 800-odd members of a fast-growing exchange network in the port town of Volos, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki.

In return for his expert labour, Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people's accounts.

"It's an easier, more direct way of exchanging goods and services," said Bernhardt Koppold, a German-born homeopathist and acupuncturist in Volos who is an active member of the network. "It's also a way of showing practical solidarity – of building relationships."
Basically, we are seeing a wholesale flight from the regular economy, and the concept of the Greek nation state. (It's also a repudiation of the EU, since it sets up a system where it's impossible to purchase non-local products)

The Guardian presents this positively, but I see it as a step toward Greece, a barely function nation to begin with, moving in the direction of Somalia.

I'm increasingly coming to believe that the Euro currency experiment, and in particular German domination of this process will lead to another war in Europe (hopefully cold, and not hot) in the next decade, as my brother (Bear who swims) has predicted, .

Mixed Emotions

In the Illinois primary, we had a closely watched Democratic Primary in Illinois 10thIlya Sheyman.

Sheyman is younger (25) and more liberal than Brad Schneider, Steny Hoyer supporter Schneider, and the district currently is served by a Teabagger republican who was elected in the 2010 blow-out, but definitely trending blue, even with redistricting.

Sherman won , and I have mixed emotions about this.

I'm uncomfortable with his attempting to appropriate the occupy movement for his campaign, and I think that the real source of his support is that he is a FOB (Friend of Barack).  He worked on his initial Senate campaign and was later one of his staffers.

We had another FOB running in 2010, Alexi Giannoulias, who also ran a failed bank, in the Illinois
Senate race, so I'm dubious of his ability to run a good race.

A bigger issue is a matter of policy, specifically Social Security.

I have concerns that Sheyman would salute anything that Obama would send up the flag pole, including cuts to Social Security and Medicare, while I think that with Schneider is LESS likely to support Obama if he were to propose such a policy out of a sense of political self preservation.

We've already had a number of near misses with these programs, where Obama has tried to trade them to the Republicans in the name of comity, and so I have included that this is what he really wants, because it's "transformative".

It's ironic that a President Obama is more likely to make major cuts to the jewels of the New Deal and Great Society than a President Romney would.

How Much Would It Cost to Leave Him There?

Ashton Kutcher to be Launched into Space

20 March 2012

Romney Crushes Santorum

It appears that Santorum won the Talibaptist vote, but that's not enough in Illinois, where Romney crushed him.

I expect this to continue for a while because:
  • The press hates Romney now almost as much as they hated Gore in 2000.
  • The states with high numbers of insane religious zealots, otherwise known as the Republican base, will continue to vote for the "Not the Mormon."
But Romney got almost half the (admittedly anemic) votes cast, and Santorum did not manage to field a full slate of delegates, and it's Illinois, which like Ohio, needs to be in play for any Republican to win, so I think that it's game over, though I the clown show to continue.

I Don't Know Whether to be Heartened or Depressed

I am talking about the murder of Trayvon Martin, where both the Feds and the DA are opening investigations of what is clearly a murder. I guess that a few days of international condemnation got them moving:
Seven years after Florida adopted its sweeping self-defense law, the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, has put that law at the center of an increasingly angry debate over how he was killed and whether law enforcement has the authority to charge the man who killed him.

The law, called Stand Your Ground, is one of 21 such laws around the country, many of them passed within the last few years. In Florida, it was pushed heavily by the National Rifle Association but opposed vigorously by law enforcement.

It gives the benefit of the doubt to a person who claims self-defense, regardless of whether the killing takes place on a street, in a car or in a bar — not just in one’s home, the standard cited in more restrictive laws. In Florida, if people feel they are in imminent danger from being killed or badly injured, they do not have to retreat, even if it would seem reasonable to do so. They have the right to “stand their ground” and protect themselves.

That is precisely the question in the case: Was the gunman, George Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic crime watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., in imminent danger and acting in self-defense during his encounter with Trayvon Martin, as he asserts?

In the three weeks since Trayvon, 17, a well-liked high school student from Miami with no criminal record, was killed, public protests have grown larger and louder, and so have calls for Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest. The Police Department in Sanford, near Orlando, said that under the law, it had no call to bring charges.

But late Monday, the Department of Justice said it had opened an inquiry into the shooting. It will run parallel with one announced on Tuesday by the state attorney in Seminole County, who said a grand jury would be convened. State attorneys use grand juries in cases when they cannot make a clear independent call, or when a case is explosive.
(emphasis mine)

Let's be clear what happened: A white, self appointed "neighborhood watch" with a history of harassment in the neighborhood, chased a black child down down, and shot him, and the police said that they were sorry, but there was nothing that they could do.

It was only after this blew up that the DA decided to convene a grand jury, because, it became too embarrassing.

If this hadn't made the news, it would just be one more dead black person, in a town with a long and notorious history of law enforcement racism and corruption, and it would have been "nothing to see here, move along."

So, it looks like there might actually be an investigation (good) but only because there was an international outcry (not good).

Me, I'm a glass half empty kind of guy.

The Supreme Court Pushes Back on Patents Again

They just struck down two patents on a drug dosage calibration method:
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a unanimous blow to Prometheus Laboratories by saying that its methods of dosage calibration for thiopurine drugs for gastrointestinal and nongastrointestinal autoimmune diseases are ineligible for patenting. In a decision written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the high court overturned the decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last December. The Federal Circuit had upheld the two diagnostic method patents, which covered the methods designed to take into account the context of a treatment regime based on the individual patient’s metabolism.

“To transform an unpatentable law of nature into a patent­ eligible application of such a law, a patent must do more than simply state the law of nature while adding the words 'apply it,'” the court stated. “It must limit its reach to a particular, inventive application of the law.”

Prometheus’ patents failed that test, according to the court: “We conclude that the patent claims at issue here effectively claim the underlying laws of nature themselves. The claims are consequently invalid."

Through the ruling, Breyer answered the question he posed to attorneys for both sides during oral arguments in December: “What has to be added to a law of nature to make it a patentable process?”
Basically the "method" was to measure the metabolite levels of a drug in order to determine appropriate dosages.

Yeah, that's something that a medical intern has learned in his first year, or in med school, for the past 50+ years, but they took out a patent.

Prometheus claimed that the human body was the machine conducted the transformation.

It's another in a streak of brush-backs to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Federal Circuit, aka the Patent Court, which expanded the reach of patents since its creation over the past 30 years.

The patent system long ago went from a system to encourage innovation to one that strangles it.

Headline of the Day

Knit Your Congressman a Vagina

Just go read it.

18 March 2012

At Least, there is Symmetry

The good folks at Westover "G-d Hates F*gs" Baptist are now looking to support Rush Limbaugh by purchasing ads on his show:
There's something so deliciously ironic, so perfectly just in this. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Rush Limbaugh has a new sponsor anxious to buy up lots of ad space on his show: Westboro Baptist Church. Is there anything more delicious than the idea of the haters advertising on the hater's show?

Premiere Networks has released a statement saying they will not accept any ads from the group. Who knew they had standards of what Limbaugh maligns as "political correctness."
I don't understand why they won't take the ads, it's a match made in heathen heaven.

House of Saud Takes Steps to Ensure Sunni Hegemony in Syria

There are reports that the house of Saud is arming the rebels in Syria:
Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to stop bloodshed by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a top Arab diplomat said on March 17.

“Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria,” he added, saying that further “details will follow at a later time.”

The announcement came two days after the conservative Sunni-ruled kingdom said it had shut down its embassy in Syria and withdrawn all its staff.

It also followed a brief meeting on the Syrian crisis last week between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the Saudi monarch King Abdullah in Riyadh.

There was no official reaction to the statement from the Saudi capital, but Jordan flatly rejected the report.

“Jordan categorically denies the report,” government spokesman and information minister Rakan Majali told AFP.
What we need to understand is that the actions of the Arab league are being driven by the House of Saud, and their goal is to take down the more secular regimes, and to ensure Sunni control of societies wherever possible.

They see this as an essential action for preserving their (completely corrupt and dysfunctional) regime.

They need to play up sectarian conflict, and they need to take down regimes like Qaddafi's and Assad's, because they have largely pushed religion out of the public sphere in order to distract their population. 

That's why they are continuing to support (occupy, really) Bahrain, even though the crack-down there is so bad that the US is delaying weapons sales.

While our relationship with the House of Saud is good for the defense industry they are allies much in the same sense as the Pakistanis are.

17 March 2012

Once Again, Obama Punts on Gay Marriage

It looks like the DNC is scrambling to find a way not to deal with marriage equality:
In recent weeks, a debate has been raging between leading Dems and gay rights advocates over whether the Democratic Party will make full marriage equality a plank in the party platform at the upcoming convention. Antonio Villaraigosa, the chair of the convention, recently stoked the fires when he said having such a plank would be “basic to who we are.”

But now The Huffington Post reports that Democratic National Committee officials have been privately pleading with advocates for patience on the issue, because it’s still viewed by top party officials as “politically sensitive” and potentially alienating to culturally conservative swing state Dems. HuffPo reports the DNC worries that “sweeping platform language would put the president in an awkward bind,” since President Obama is still “evolving” on gay marriage.
If Obama wanted this, it would be in there without a fight.  The DNC does wipe its ass without checking with the White House.  (As should be the case with a sitting President)

The tragedy here is that public opinion on this is moving blisteringly fast, and there are very few people on the wrong side of this issue who would vote Democrat.

They are dissing the base in order to pander to an electoral lost cause.

Dammit, No Warp Drive

It looks like those Neutrinos were not traveling faster than light:
New experimental evidence is helping disprove last year's highly surprising finding of neutrinos breaking established physics laws by traveling faster than light.

The finding involved clocking the neutrinos--tiny, nearly massless subatomic particles--as they traveled from the CERN particle accelerator near Geneva to the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, about 730km away. An experiment called Opera found the neutrinos taking less time to arrive than light would, but now another Gran Sasso experiment, Icarus, showed neutrinos making the journey at a more sedate pace under light speed, CERN said.

That finding comes after news in February that a fiber-optic connection problem could have shown too short a neutrino time of flight, though another factor could mean the timing was wrong the other way.
I'm not surprised, but I am a bit disappointed.

I Unreservedly Support This Union

It looks like the slaves student athletes are looking to unionize again:
With college basketball’s March Madness approaching, commentators will soon regale us with tales of underdogs, upsets and last second heroics. But few will mention the moment, 17 years ago, when a group of players planned to stop the games.

Rigo Núñez, a reserve on the 1995 University of Massachusetts basketball team, says more than 20 players from several teams attempted to organize an action to halt March Madness. The plan was that the players would show up on the court, in full uniform, and refuse to play ball. The goal, says Núñez, was to “paralyze the whole NCAA.” William Friday, who co-chaired the Knight Commission on College Athletics at the time, recalled to the Atlantic the time he was warned about a planned March Madness strike.

Those plans fell apart. Friday says the plan he was warned about centered on a certain team, and that team lost prior to reaching the Final Four. Núñez says the culprit was fear of retaliation. “The fear of being blackballed overcame the ‘rah rah’ emotion … No one went on to actually pull the trigger.”

But in the 17 years since that strike plan fizzled, there’s been little change in the conditions that fueled players’ unrest. And, with the backing of a major union, there are still players organizing to do something about it.
It's about time.

At the top tier schools, in the big money sports, the fiction of student athletes is a disservice to the athletes, and the schools as institutes of higher learning.

Things That I've Always Wanted to Say

I must have had a wonderful St. Patrick's day.  My pubic hair is green.

Deep Thought


Seen on Facebook.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

16 March 2012

Payback is Sometimes a Bastard Too

There was a sex scandal in Minnesota, where the leader of the state Senate (a Republican, hoocoodanode) was found to have slept with an aide.

The aide was fired, and the (married) Senate Leader resigned.

The twist was that the leader who  resigned was one Amy Koch.  It was a woman.

In any case, the staffer who was fired has now filed suit, and he is threatening to out other state lawmakers who are f%$#ing around:
The saga continues over former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch’s (R) “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate staffer. Michael Brodkorb, who served as Koch’s executive assistant and communications director, claims that he was fired after the relationship was discovered because of his gender. He also says he has proof that other female staffers who had relationships with legislators were allowed to keep their jobs.

Brodkorb is now preparing to sue the Minnesota Senate, alleging wrongful termination and discrimination. Documents outlining the basis of the case confirm the relationship between Brodkorb and Koch. Rumors swirled in December that Koch’s “inappropriate relationship” was with him, but it wasn’t confirmed at the time. It continues:
“Brodkorb has evidence that similarly situated female legislative employees, from both political parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators. It is clear that Mr. Brodkorb was terminated based on his gender. He intends to depose all of the female legislative staff employees who participated in intimate relationships, as well as the legislators who were party to those intimate relationships, in support of his claims of gender discrimination.”
Heh.

Please, call his bluff. I want him to spill the beans.

I Am Stunned

Moveon.org has finally put out an ad that doesn't suck!

Imagine that!



Seriously. The typical Moveon ad seems to preach to the choir, and not do so particularly well.

This is actually a decent piece of agitprop.

15 March 2012

What is the Last Place You Would Expect to Hear Someone Calling for an Indictment of Jon Corzine?

Well, you know, the OP/ED page of the New York Times is close to the top of that list, but Joe Nocera just called for prosecutions in the MF Global matter:
It’s sure starting to look as if Jon Corzine is going to get away with it.

By now, it has been well established that Corzine’s former firm, MF Global, committed the sin of sins for a broker-dealer. In late October, during the final, desperate days before it entered bankruptcy proceedings, its executives took money from segregated customer accounts — money that belonged not to MF Global but to the farmers and commodities traders that were its clients — and used it to prop up its rapidly collapsing business. Nor was this petty cash: of the $6.9 billion in customer assets that MF Global held, a stunning $1.6 billion is missing. There is virtually no chance that the full amount will ever be recovered.

Let’s not mince words here. These executives committed a crime. Virtually every knowing violation of the Commodities Exchange Act is a crime, but taking money from segregated customer accounts is at the top of the list. And for good reason. Customer money is supposed to be sacrosanct. If a broker-dealer goes bankrupt, the segregated accounts are supposed to remain safe, a little like the way bank deposits remain protected if a bank goes under. Indeed, customers need to be able to trust the fact that their money is segregated and protected at all times. Otherwise, the markets can’t function.

Yet, a few weeks ago, Azam Ahmed and Ben Protess, who have done a remarkable job covering the MF Global bankruptcy for The Times, wrote an article suggesting that prosecutors were having trouble putting together a criminal case against anyone at MF Global. So far, wrote Ahmed and Protess, they’d been “unable to find a smoking gun.” In fact, they continued, “a number of federal prosecutors have expressed doubts” that MF Global “intentionally misused customer money.” Apparently, the current theory is that it was all just a big accident, the chaos of those final days causing the firm’s executives to tap into customer funds without realizing it.

Excuse me while I roll my eyes. Of course there isn’t a smoking gun. As a general rule, financial professionals tend not to write e-mails that say, “Hey, we’re desperate. Let’s break into the customer accounts!” And, of course, they are always going to say it was unintentional. They are saying it already, starting with Corzine, who told Congress last year that “there was no intention to violate segregation rules.”
He's right.

He's also right that the failure to prosecute is an assault on the idea of the rule of law.

It's not a particularly surprising conclusion to draw, but the fact that it's appearing in the New York times is a big deal.

Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers

Peter Bergman, the founder of Firesign Theater, has died at the age of 72.

I've enjoyed their albums, but I always found it odd that while I had about a dozen friends with the album, not one of them bought it new.

I always had this sneaking suspicion that they had a marketing strategy which involved taking the albums out of their shrink wrap, and distributing them through used record stores and garage sales.

Karazai Wants Foreign Troops to Stand Down

You know, this whole withdrawing from this clusterf%$# with honor does NOT seem to be working:
President Hamid Karzai insisted Thursday that the United States confine its troops to major bases in Afghanistan by next year as the Taliban announced that they were suspending peace talks with the Americans, both of which served to complicate the Obama administration’s plans for an orderly exit from the country.

Mr. Karzai’s abrupt planning shift was at odds with a pledge offered just hours earlier by President Obama to stick to a 2014 withdrawal schedule for troops in Afghanistan. It also ran up against the Pentagon’s stark assessment that Afghan security forces were not yet ready to take over control of the country.

Mr. Karzai’s surprise announcement, which would confine American troops to their bases a year earlier than Mr. Obama proposed, was initially made at a Thursday meeting with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who spent a fraught two days here apologizing in person to the Afghan president for the massacre of civilians by an American soldier last Sunday at a village in Kandahar Province. Upon Mr. Panetta’s arrival, an Afghan interpreter working for coalition forces crashed a stolen pickup truck near his plane.

Further fraying the United States’ efforts to preserve some degree of control over its exit strategy from Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents announced Thursday that they had broken off preliminary peace talks with the Americans. While the move may have been coincidental, it imperiled another crucial element of the American exit strategy in Afghanistan — brokering peace talks between insurgents and the government.
This is like Vietnam all over again. We know we have to leave, but we have to do it slowly, because we cannot afford to look like we were beaten … again.

We've been beaten.  Get the f%$# out of Dodge.

It's Jobless Thursday

And we have some pretty good news, 351,000 initial claims, with the less volatile 4-week moving average unchanged, but continuing and extended claims rose a bit.

It matches a 4 week low.

5 lined skink

I know that I don't normally blog about work, but I had a bit of an adventure today.

I was sitting at my desk, when out of my drawers (let me rephrase that, my cabinet) jumped a 5 lined skink.

People have gotten glimpses of it for the past few days, and it jumped out (down actually) onto my desk.

I yelped (OK, maybe it was a shriek) but manged to corner it, and we got it into a cup, and one of my co-workers has taken it home for his kid to keep as a pet.

Certainly got the blood  moving.

14 March 2012

It Aint Just Mortgages that the Banksters are F%$#ing UP

Once again, the banks sold bad paper, in this case, credit card debts that they knew were not accurate and, and once again, Matt Taibbi has a distills the essence of the matter:
In a story that should be getting lots of attention, American Banker has released an excellent and disturbing exposé of J.P. Morgan Chase's credit card services division, relying on multiple current and former Chase employees. One of them, Linda Almonte, is a whistleblower whom I've known since last September; I'm working on a recount of her story for my next book.

………

The Cliff's Notes version of the story goes something like this: Late in 2009, Chase's credit card services division sold a parcel of nearly $200 million worth of credit card judgments to a debt collector at a discount. This common practice in the credit-card industry is a little like a bookie selling the outstanding debts of his delinquent gamblers to a leg-breaker for 25 cents on the dollar. If the leg-breaker gets half the delinquents to pay, the deal works out for both sides -- the bookie gets 25 percent of money he wasn't going to collect, and the leg-breaker makes a 100 percent profit.
Only they did not do even the barest due diligence:
Linda [Almonte] subsequently found an enormous range of errors. Some judgments, she told me, were not judgments at all. In some cases, she said, Chase actually owed the customer money.

When she brought these concerns to her superiors, what do you think their response was? They told her and others to shut up and just sell the stuff anyway. Her boss, Jason Lazinbat, allegedly told her "she had better go along with the plan to sell the misrepresented asset."

Think of the consequences of this: because Chase was so anxious to make money off this debt sale, countless credit card borrowers would now have collection agents chasing them for money they did not owe. The debt-buyer, too, was victimized by being sold accounts it could not collect on. It is almost impossible to estimate how many man-hours of pointless court proceedings would be lost because of this decision.
You know, this sounds familiar. Just like the foreclosure fraud.

In fact, it sounds like a pattern, a, "pattern of racketeering," as in RICO, and the burden of proof in RICO, particularly for asset forfeiture, is not that high.

How about it, Barack?

It's something that you can do in your 2nd term, and you don't need Congressional approval to do this.

Full Disclosure, I Served in the UMass SGA Senate With Him

They are finally getting around to sentencing Tony Rudy, one of the final defendants in the Abramoff matter, 6 years after he pled guilty.


The weird thing is that the prosecution and defense have agreed to have the agreed upon facts sealed for national security reasons:
Nearly six years after he pleaded guilty in the Jack Abramoff scandal, a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will likely be sentenced in the near future. But because of a joint motion granted by the federal judge hearing the case against Tony Rudy, the public wouldn’t see the filing listing agreed upon facts in the case.

The reason? National security.

The feds and Rudy’s defense team wrote that the disclosure of “sensitive information related to national security matters” likely “would compromise and negatively impact ongoing intelligence efforts.” They said the sensitive information had “no relationship to the Department of Justice’s investigation of Jack Abramoff or related persons.”
The folks at TPM got a comment from Abramoff about this, and he was pretty stunned by this.

My guess is that he probably did some work for a Persian Gulf monarchy, and the State Department wants it buried, but we're likely to find out through a leak in the next few months.

Rats Leaving the Sinking Vampire Squid

So, Greg Smith, who ran equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Goldman Sachs, has resigned today.

Normally, this would not be particularly newsworthy, except for the fact that he published his separation letter on the OP/ED page of the New York Times:
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
Truth be told, I'm not impressed.

This guy as been a Vampire Squidling for over a decade, so I see this as kind of self serving.

If he were claiming law breaking, it would mean something, but he is mostly complaining how the brokers trash talk:
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.
He's not claiming any law breaking (Yeah, right), just that there is a insane macho culture at Goldman that sees the clients more as marks than as partners in success.

How the f%$# can you work at a f%$#ing brokerage for ten f%$#ing years, and not f%$#ing realize that it's a f%$#ing testosterone f%$#ing hormone filled f%$#ing cesspool after being there two f%$#ing weeks hours.

Seriously, just f%$#!

Whoever wrote, "Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader," got the crux of the matter.

I will issue a correction if this guy does something like working for a regulator, but my guess is that this is all about providing himself plausible deniability, or possibly pimping a book, or maybe he's hanging out his own shingle.

Here's a thousand years on what I'm seeing:


Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader



H/t FT/Alphavill for the Pic

[update]Matt Taibbi thinks that this guy is for real, so if you want want an opposing opinion, and I think that it is well argued, go read.

Cue Inspector Renault

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!
I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that we are now seeing reports that senior managers actively directed their subordinates to robosign and falsify records:
Employees at major banks who churned out fraudulent foreclosure documents, forged signatures, made up fake job titles and falsely notarized paperwork often did so at the behest of their superiors, according to a federal investigation released Tuesday.

It’s well documented that the nation’s biggest banks routinely “robo-signed” legal papers to keep up with the wave of foreclosures brought on by the housing bust. But the new report from the inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development reveals that those shoddy practices often came at the direction of managers at the banks, and that employees in some cases were judged by how fast they could get new foreclosure filings out the door.

“I believe the reports we just released will leave the reader asking one question: How could so many people have participated in this misconduct?” David Montoya, HUD inspector general, said in a statement. “The answer: simple greed.”

HUD investigators launched their inquiries soon after news of the banks’ practices caused a national uproar in late 2010, and government officials used their findings as they negotiated a recent landmark $25 billion settlement with the banks.

HUD reviewed foreclosure practices at all five banks involved in the recent settlement — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial. They issued subpoenas, pored over personnel files, conducted interviews with scores of employees and examined the quality control measures — or lack thereof — at the banks’ mortgage servicing units.

Repeatedly, according to the report, investigators were hampered by poor record-keeping at the banks, sluggish responses to requests for documents and an unwillingness to make employees available for interviews or to allow them to answer detailed questions at the virtual foreclosure factories where they worked.

Nevertheless, investigators pieced together a picture of a deeply flawed system riddled with errors, where employees often had little or no training, where managers encouraged wrongdoing and where haste trumped all else.
You know, maybe the banks had poor record-keeping, and responded sluggishly to requests for documents because, you know, they knew that they were aggressively breaking the law.

Stop the looting, and start prosecuting!

13 March 2012

So, There Were Primaries Tonight


Pass the Popcorn
It looks like Santorum won in both Alabama and Mississippi, so the freak show continues, for a while, at least.

That being said, I would say that upon examination of the Mississippi and Alabama Republican primary electorate, a large plurality believe that Obama is a secret Muslim, I would have to say that it should be a positive thing that Romney could not win with those folks.

Seriously, it's like these states are an open air asylum.

The Krauts Don't Practice What They Preach

It looks like the Germans are going to miss their austerity goals this year:
European countries are expected to implement tough austerity measures amid the debt crisis. But Germany isn't setting a very good example. SPIEGEL has learned that Berlin failed to reach its own austerity goals in 2011. And despite pressuring its neighbors to save, Germany is behind this year too.

As she travels from one European Union summit to the next, Angela Merkel's constant mantra in recent months has been austerity, austerity, austerity. But apparently the German chancellor hasn't been quite as strict when it comes to her own country's budget.

SPIEGEL reports this week that the German government didn't reach even half of its planned savings in the federal budget. Only 42 percent of the spending cuts named by Merkel's coalition government, comprised of the conservative Christian Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, were actually not implemented.

Calculations made by the influential Cologne Institute for Economic Research indicate that only €4.7 billion ($6.16 billion) of the €11.2 billion in austerity measures stipulated by the savings package actually took shape in 2011.
You know, maybe, just maybe, Merkel and allies are a bigger part of the problem than people imagine.

Quote of the Day

I’ll say what Joe didn’t: The prosecutors need to cut a deal with one of the small fish in order to catch a big (or bigger) fish. Perhaps with MFG’s Treasurer or Comptroller. If it were me, I’d let the Defense bar know that we have 3 potential immunity deals that go to the first takers (with several hi profile exceptions).

This is just like prosecuting drug dealers — you pick up the dime bag seller, roll them to the mid-level guy, repeat. Keep doing that until you reach as close to the top as you can get.

Works for pot, crack, robo-signing, and segregated account theft . . .
Barry Ritholtz on how to prosecute MF Global executives for stealing customer funds

They Can't Even Give Away Ads on Rush Limbaugh's Show

For the next two weeks, his syndicate, Premiere Networks, will be suspending their national ads from his show:
Radio-Info.com reports that Premiere Networks, which syndicates the Rush Limbaugh show, told its affiliate radio stations that they are suspending national advertising for two weeks. Rush Limbaugh is normally provided to affiliates in exchange for running several minutes of national advertisements provided by Premiere each hour. These ads called “barter spots.” These spots are how Premiere makes its money off of Rush Limbaugh and other shows it syndicates.

But without explanation, Premiere has supended these national advertisements for two weeks. Radio-Info.com calls the move “unusual.” The development suggests that Rush Limbaugh’s incessant sexist attacks on Sandra Fluke have caused severe damage to the show.
They are suspending the spots because they cannot give them away right now, and dead air is not a reasonable alternative.

This is a good thing, notwithstanding the concerns from the commentariat about a "slippery slope" of censorship. (Yeah, I'm talking to you Kevin Drum)

It's pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-liberal hand wringing bullsh%$.

Being on the East Coast, I still hear now and again WBZ's late night talk radio, which, even though its hosts lean right about 80% of the time is kind of a pre-repeal-of-the-fairness-doctrine relic, and their producers don't pre-screen for conservative political orthodoxy.

In particular, I remember the late David Brudnoy, who was a conservative, and a libertarian, and one with VERY strongly held beliefs. (He loathed the Clintons)

The fact is that the most extreme of their hosts (like Brudnoy) re to the right about like Ed Schultz is on the left.

What you have on the air on the right wing right now are, to paraphrase Roger Stone, "Rat F%$#ing" political operatives.

If sponsors flee the freak show conservatives, it is an unalloyed good.

To think otherwise is to declare that Rachel Maddow and Glen Beck to be to opposite sides of the same coin.

I have no problems with polemicists, and neither will advertisers.

What is happening now is that sponsors are getting the message now that there are risks to backing the partisan Rat F%$#ers, and this is an unalloyed good.

The Hair of Doom is Arrested


The Hair of Doom!
Specifically, Rupert Murdoch protege Rebekah Brooks, along with her husband and other Murdoch Staffers:
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, the British newspaper division of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of obstruction of justice, according to a person with knowledge of the arrest. Her husband, Charlie, a friend of Prime Minister David Cameron from their days at Eton three decades ago, was also arrested, the person said.

The police said in a statement that six people in and outside of London had been arrested on Tuesday as part of Operation Weeting, the criminal investigation into phone hacking and other illegal activities at The News of the World and other newspapers. None have yet been formally charged with crimes; in the British system, charges can be filed months after an arrest, and sometimes not at all.

Following standard procedure, the police statement did not identify those arrested. But a person with knowledge of the arrests said that besides Ms. Brooks and her husband, they included Mark Hanna, the head of security for News International.

The police statement said the six had been arrested between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and were being interrogated at different police stations on suspicion of “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice,” the British equivalent of obstruction of justice. This could relate to activities like destroying e-mails, computers and other evidence, people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Two former editorial staff members at News International said they had heard from inside the company that the questioning was related to e-mails that were deleted before the police widened their phone hacking investigation last year.
It's never the crime, it's the cover-up.

Obama Conspiring to Lock Up Foreign Journalist

Seriously.

Yemeni journalist proves that military operations in his country are actually US drone strikes, and gets sentenced on trumped up charges to 5 years in prison.

A few months after the kangaroo court, President Saleh had a pardon for him prepared, but Obama pressured him to keep him in prison:
On February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The two discussed counterterrorism cooperation and the battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the call, according to a White House read-out, Obama “expressed concern” over the release of a man named Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom Obama said “had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP.” It turned out that Shaye had not yet been released at the time of the call, but Saleh did have a pardon for him prepared and was ready to sign it. It would not have been unusual for the White House to express concern about Yemen’s allowing AQAP suspects to go free. Suspicious prison breaks of Islamist militants in Yemen had been a regular occurrence over the past decade, and Saleh has been known to exploit the threat of terrorism to leverage counterterrorism dollars from the United States. But this case was different. Abdulelah Haider Shaye is not an Islamist militant or an Al Qaeda operative. He is a journalist.

Unlike most journalists covering Al Qaeda, Shaye risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al Qaeda and to interview its leaders. He also conducted several interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Shaye did the last known interview with Awlaki just before it was revealed that Awlaki, a US citizen, was on a CIA/JSOC hit list. “We were only exposed to Western media and Arab media funded by the West, which depicts only one image of Al Qaeda,” recalls his best friend Kamal Sharaf, a well-known dissident Yemeni political cartoonist. “But Abdulelah brought a different viewpoint.”

………

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”
So, a journalist revealed a US lie, and the worst constitutional law professor ever decides that this guy needs to remain behind bars forever, because he embarrassed our military/intelligence services.

Truly repulsive.

Just When Thought that the 'Phants Could Not Get Any More Repulsive…

The Republicans in Arizona are trying to pass a bill allowing your employer to fire women for using birth-control pills for ……… birth control:
Law Will Allow Employers to Fire Women for Using Whore Pills

A proposed new law in Arizona would give employers the power to request that women being prescribed birth control pills provide proof that they're using it for non-sexual reasons. And because Arizona's an at-will employment state, that means that bosses critical of their female employees' sex lives could fire them as a result. If we could harness the power of the crappy ideas coming out of the state of Arizona, we could probably power a rocket ship to the moon, where there are no Mexicans or fertile wombs and everyone can be free to be as mean a cranky asshole as they want at all times! Arizona Heaven!
Because allowing employers to afflict their hatred of women on their employees is freedom!

Seriously, this people, and I mean people, the sponsor, is a woman, Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, have an attitude towards women that makes the Taliban look like the editorial staff of Cosmopolitian.

They really hate the idea of women having any sort of freedom.

I have a suggestion for dealing these rat-f%$#s, that we go classic Greek theater on their asses.

More specifically, I suggest that their significant others go Lysistrata on their asses.

Could The Use Of Flying Death Robots Be Hurting America's Reputation Worldwide?

Yes.

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions:


Could The Use Of Flying Death Robots Be Hurting America's Reputation Worldwide?

I hate the fact that The Onion seems to have a better grasp or reality than does CNN.

12 March 2012

Heh

It looks like Rush's going postal is causing significant blow-back for all of the hate jocks:
Rush Limbaugh made the right-wing talk-radio industry, and he just might break it.

Because now the fallout from the “slut” slurs against Sandra Fluke is extending to the entire political shock-jock genre.

Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”

This is big. According to the radio-industry website Radio-Info.com, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are “carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).” Together, these talk-radio advertising staples represent millions of dollars in revenue.
They have a right to speak.

They don't have a right to make millions of dollars a year to do so.