30 June 2012

I Wonder if This Will Effect Coverage of Outsourcing

Romenesko is reporting on a This American Life story about how a local news service is using overseas reporters and having them use aliases in order to conceal the fact:
The latest “This American Life” looks at hyperlocal content provider Journatic and interviews Journatic writer-editor Ryan Smith, who reveals that the company uses fake bylines for its Filipino writers — or did, until “TAL” blew the whistle on them.

Smith tells TAL’s Sarah Koenig that “when I ended up looking at the names on a lot of the stories [he edited], the names on the stories that were published weren’t the ones that I saw had written the stories.”

One piece, for example, had the byline of “Ginny Cox,” when the story was actually written by Gisele Bautista in the Philippines.

Producer Koenig says: “Looking at the computer system that the company uses to manage its stories, it seems that when Gisele worked on this real esate story, there was a button called SELECT ALIAS, and when she clicked on it, she had a choice: she could either be Ginny Cox, or Glenda Smith.

Journatic and the Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal have used other fake bylines for stories written by Filipino writers, including Jimmy Finkel, Carrie Reed, Jay Brownstone and Amy Anderson.
Romenensko (and apparently TAL), are focusing on the journalistic ethic issues of fake bylines.

I'm actually more interested in the effect that this will have on the coverage of outsourcing and moving overseas that we see from the mainstream media.

I have always felt that one of the conceits which gave us generally laudatory coverage of moving jobs  overseas was the conceit that reporting could not be outsourced.

Now that they know that it's their jobs on the line, I wonder if the tenor of the stories will change.

Another Day, Another Failed Military Procurement Program

The US Army has canceled the Boeing Hummingbird:
This month, the Army planned to deploy to Afghanistan an unusual new drone: an unmanned eye-in-the-sky helicopter programmed to use high-tech cameras to monitor vast amounts of territory. But now the drone might be lucky to be deployed at all, as the Army has moved to shut down production — possibly ending the program forever.

That drone would be the A160 Hummingbird, which the Army planned to equip with the powerful Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System, or Argus. But earlier this month, the Army issued a stop-work order — one step away from termination — to the drone’s developer Boeing. The reason? A high “probability of continued technical and schedule delays,” costs and risks that have “increased so significantly that program continuation is no longer in the best interest of the government,” said Donna Hightower, the Army’s acting product manager for unmanned aerial systems modernization.

The A160 was set to be one of the Army’s most radical new drones. The chopper-drone could loiter for 20 hours at up to 15,000 feet, with a range of 2,500 nautical miles. It could observe up to 36 square miles, thanks to its Argus sensors. Also, Argus has a 1.8 gigapixel camera. Viewed through 92 five-megapixel imagers and 65 video windows for zooming in at ultra-high resolution, the the A160 drone would have been well-suited for spying on enemy fighters in vast and remote terrain like in Afghanistan, where three of the drones were scheduled to deploy this month. The A160 has also been sent on special operations workouts.
It appears that there were problems with the sensor suite, but perhaps more significantly, the aircraft experienced vibration problems during a flight test, and it's innovative variable speed rotor system was supposed to address this, so it puts the basic architecture in question.

29 June 2012

Have You Considered a Career in Education



H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

The Worm Has Turned

Germany is clearly the largest power in the Euro Zone, but without a sycophant like Sarkozy in France, the 2nd largest power in Europe, it turns out that she actually can't decree what will happen:
European leaders have moved to halt the crisis engulfing Spain and Italy by agreeing a radical bailout package for the single currency's teetering banks.

Amid deep divisions over the debt and currency crisis, and under immense pressure to come up with credible moves, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, softened her hard line on fiscal discipline and debt repayment to hand Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, a summit triumph.

Leaders agreed to set up a supervisory system for eurozone banks that will form the first step towards full banking union, scrapped the requirement that governments get preferential status over private investors in the event of a default and eased the stiff terms for future bailouts.
When she has the governments of France, Spain, and Italy unite to oppose her, she had to blink.

I don't expect her to do anything that she is not absolutely forced to do, but she is not an immovable object, and now the others in Europe realize this.

Pic of the Day



Awww, the little baby is sad.

John Roberts make Johnny Boehner cry!

Quote of the Day

The only health care mandate they can embrace are transvaginal probes for women.
—Hizzonner Martin O'Malley, Governor of Maryland, on Republican
O'Malley for President in 2016.

He's going to be running. It's the worst kept secret in Maryland.

Not Enough Bullets…

So, JPMorgan Chase loses $9 billion under the watch of their Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew, so they fire her, and they are letting her walk with millions of dollars:
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s decision to let Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew retire four days after the bank disclosed a $2 billion loss in her division allowed her to walk away with about $21.5 million in stock and options.

Drew, who resigned May 14, can keep $17.1 million in unvested restricted shares and about $4.4 million in options that she otherwise would have been required to forfeit if the New York-based bank had terminated her employment “with cause,” according to regulatory filings and estimates from consulting firm Meridian Compensation Partners LLC.

A 30-year JPMorgan veteran, Drew also had accumulated 661,000 unrestricted shares of common stock worth about $23.7 million based on the May 14 closing price, $9.7 million in deferred compensation and $2.6 million in pension pay as of Dec. 31, according to company filings. Altogether, Drew’s stock, pension and deferred pay come to about $57.5 million.

“She was with that company for a long time,” said Frank Glassner, a partner at Meridian in San Francisco. “She was an incredibly talented, well-thought-of employee, not only within the company but on the Street. A lot of this money had been earned over a great deal of time, not just yesterday.”
Obviously, part of this is money already earned, but unvested shares?  For ordinary people, if you leave, the unvested shares are gone.

 Seriously, am I the only one who thinks that this is hush money?

H/t Felix Salmon

28 June 2012

It Would Be Nice if This Stuck, But It Won't, the Sequel

Is Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism noted some time ago, the failure to properly convey notes to trusts technically to the trusts that managed the mortgage backed securities means that there are tens, if not hundreds, of billions in tax liabilities owed:
The Internal Revenue Service has launched a review of the tax-exempt status of a widely-held form of mortgage-backed securities called REMICs.

The IRS confirmed to Reuters that the review comes in response to mounting evidence that banks violated tax requirements by mishandling the transfer of mortgages to REMICs, short for Real Estate Mortgage Conduits.

………

As of the end of 2010, investments in REMICs totaled more than $3 trillion, according to data supplied by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

In a brief statement in response to questions from Reuters, the agency said: "The IRS is aware of questions in the market regarding REMICs and proper ownership of the underlying mortgages as set out in federal tax law, and is actively reviewing certain aspects of this issue."

………

The review, however, is a sign that the widespread bank misdeeds in home foreclosure cases are spilling over to threaten the interests of investors in mortgage-backed securities. The banks originated the mortgages and packaged them into securities.

………

For investors, one of the big attractions of REMICs has been that they aren't "double-taxed." While individual investors pay taxes on income they receive from REMICs, the securities themselves are exempt from business income tax.

But if the IRS concludes that the REMIC investments failed to comply with strict requirements in the federal tax code, the REMIC would have to pay a 100 percent tax on the income from those investments.

That means that the IRS could confiscate the full amount. Tax law experts said the REMICs also could be subjected to additional penalties for failing to file tax returns on the income.

James Peaslee, a partner at law firm Cleary Gottlieb who is an expert on taxation of securitized investments, said that even if the IRS finds wrongdoing, it might be loath to act because of the wide financial damage the penalties would cause. He notes that the REMIC investors, who he called "innocent parties," would have to pay rather than the banks that were responsible for any wrongdoing in transferring mortgage ownership.

But Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law School professor and expert on taxation, said that if the IRS fails to act, "it would be a backdoor bailout of the financial system."
Well, we know nothing is going to happen, because Obama and Geithner have made it clear that the banksters never pay, the taxpayers do.

Of course they are going to go for the backdoor bailout, particularly because this would reflect back on the banks:
If the IRS did impose penalties, the REMICs could turn around and sue the banks for causing the problems and not living up to the terms of the agreements establishing each REMIC, thus transferring the costs to the banks. If the IRS finds wrongdoing but fails to act, the IRS would forego "potentially enormous tax revenue that would be passed on to the federal government," Levitin said. "Given the federal budget deficit that's not something to sniff at," he added.
Yeah, let's run the numbers.  $3 trillion, let's assume 5 years of 5% returns, and no compounding.

Well, with the 100% tax rate, regulatory forbearance will cost the taxpayers $750 billion for the taxpayer before even considering penalties and interest.

The scary thing is that by the standards of the bankster bailouts, this is just pocket change.

China Doesn't Need Spies

Because our defense contractors are eager to sell them our defense secrets. It's kind of ironic, they are outsourcing their espionage to us:
United Technologies and two of its subsidiaries sold China software enabling Chinese authorities to develop and produce their first modern military attack helicopter, U.S. authorities said June 28.

At a federal court hearing in Bridgeport, Conn., United Technologies and its two subsidiaries, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand, agreed to pay more than $75 million to the U.S. government to settle criminal and administrative charges related to the sales.

As part of the settlement, Pratt & Whitney Canada agreed to plead guilty to two federal criminal charges - violating a U.S. export control law and making false statements. The charges were in connection with the export to China of U.S.-origin military software used in Pratt & Whitney Canada engines, which was used to test and develop the new Z-10 helicopter.

Also as part of the deal, United Technologies and Hamilton Sundstrand admitted to making false statements to the U.S. government about the illegal exports.

Hamilton Sundstrand and Pratt & Whitney Canada also admitted that they had failed to make timely disclosures, required by regulations, to the U.S. State Department about the exports.

The government said that the $75 million settlement breaks down into roughly $20.7 million in criminal fines, forfeitures and other penalties to be paid to the Justice Department and roughly $55 million in payments to the State Department as part of a consent agreement resolving more than 500 administrative export control violations.

About $20 million of the fines will be suspended, to be used by the company for continuing to improve its export control procedures, and for hiring an independent monitor, United Technologies said.

As part of the agreement, the U.S. State Department also will impose a partial debarment of Pratt & Whitney Canada for new export licenses, although the company can request licenses on a case-by-case basis. The debarment does not affect United Technologies or Hamilton Sundstrand, and the Canadian unit can request full reinstatement in one year.

A law enforcement source familiar with the case said investigators believe United Technologies and its subsidiaries deliberately set out to provide the embargoed military technology to China to ingratiate themselves with Chinese authorities, hoping to win them entree into China’s lucrative civilian helicopter market, worth an estimated $2 billion.
To quote Karl Marx, "The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope."

H/t my Dad.

Did I Say $2 Billion? I Meant $9 Billion.

It looks like "the Whale" f%$#ed up even bigger than was previously reported:
Losses on JPMorgan Chase’s bungled trade could total as much as $9 billion, far exceeding earlier public estimates, according to people who have been briefed on the situation.

When Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive, announced in May that the bank had lost $2 billion in a bet on credit derivatives, he estimated that losses could double within the next few quarters. But the red ink has been mounting in recent weeks, as the bank has been unwinding its positions, according to interviews with current and former traders and executives at the bank who asked not to be named because of investigations into the bank.
I'll take the "over" on this latest estimate.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Basically flat, so basically, sucky numbers, 386K.

I Learned Something Today

Never ever try to predict what the Supreme Court is going to do.

If you want to read what it all means, I'll just point you to Scotusblog. They've owned this.

In my reading, two things stick in my head:
  • Scalia is really insane.
  • Roberts being the swing vote, as opposed to Kennedy, surprised the hell out of me.  

This is a Big F%$#ing Deal

To quote Joe Biden.
SCOTUS upheld Obamacare and the mandate.

Roberts was the swing vote, go figure.

Posted via movile.

27 June 2012

Saving My Venom for the Supreme Court

I'm tired, and in about 12 hours, I'm pretty sure that the Supreme Court will be issuing a partisan corrupt decision which reverses about 80 years of precedent.

Good night all.

Twilight vs. Buffy

Full disclosure: I did watch Twilight, it was my daughter's choice for movie night, and one of the rules is that we all watch, and I saw the Buffy movie, but I never watched the TV series, but I love this:

Link

26 June 2012

Angela Merkel in a Single Quote

Merkel has emerged as a strong leader. Unfortunately, she has been leading Europe in the wrong direction.
George Soros

Well, This is a Surprise

Seriously, I am surprised that Egyptian President-Elect Mohamed Morsi has announced that he will appointing a woman and a Christian to vice-presidency positions:
Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, will appoint a woman as one of his vice presidents and a Christian as another, his policy adviser told CNN.

"For the first time in Egyptian history -- not just modern but in all Egyptian history -- a woman will take that position," Ahmed Deif told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday. "And it's not just a vice president who will represent a certain agenda and sect, but a vice president who is powerful and empowered and will be taking care of critical advising within the presidential Cabinet."
I think that a deal has been cut between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, because we also saw the military's power to make warrantless detentions rolled back.

Some sorts of reassurances must have been made.

Hopefully, this is a good thing.

It Would Be Nice if This Stuck, But It Won't

Farmers in Brazil have won a 7½ billion dollar lawsuit against Monsanto for shaking them down for never-ending fees:
Monsanto may soon be forced to pay as much as 7.5 billion dollars back to the farmers who say that the mega corporation took their rightfully earned income and taxed their small businesses to financial shambles. It all started with a monumental lawsuit launched by over 5 million farmers against Monsanto looking to recover financial losses from ridiculous seed taxes that bankrupted many families.

Back in April, a Brazilian court ruled that Monsanto absolutely was responsible for paying back the exorbitant amounts of cash back to the farmers, ordering the company to issue back all of the taxes collected since 2004 — a minimum of 2 billion dollars. Afterwards, Monsanto appealed the decision and the case is now suspended until a further hearing is initiated by the Justice Tribune of the local court stationed in Rio Grande do Sul.

Recently, however, the Brazilian Supreme Court declared that any decision reached in a local court case should apply nationally. The result? Monsanto now faces even larger charges, due to the larger legal application on a national level. Now, the charges total or exceed 7.5 billion dollars.
I don't expect this to survive appeal, because, after all, it's peasants versus Monsanto, and you can be sure that the Department of Commerce is already burning up the phone lines trying to fix this, shortly to be followed by State, and probably the Pentagon as well.

Silly peasants, don't you know that the laws doesn't apply to  rich people and transnational corporation?

25 June 2012

Republicans Cheat Again

Faced with the prospect of the receipt of many more signatures than is required to reverse Michigan's emergency manager law, and to enshrine labor rights in the constitution, Republican members of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers have resigned to prevent a meeting by denying quorum:
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers has cancelled a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, June 26th. I confirmed this with a phone call to the Elections Bureau this afternoon. Additionally, Republican Board member Jeff Timmer is rumored to have resigned and it is believed that the other Republican, Norm Shinkle, will resign as well, leaving the Board without a quorum. I have been unable to confirm Timmer’s resignation but I have heard about it from multiple sources.

Without a quorum, the Board will be unable to certify ANY of the referendums headed for the ballot in November. They will need to wait until Governor Rick Snyder appoints replacements, a process that could take … oh, I don’t know … some time. Wouldn’t want to rush into it or anything, make a hasty decision and such.
Despicable.

Let's be clear here, anyone who thinks that you can negotiate in good faith with folks like this is delusional.

Still No Prosecutions

The great Matt Taibbi has a scoop about how Wall Street cheated municipalities on their bond sales, and they have it on tape:
Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia. Of course, you won't hear the recent financial corruption case, United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, called anything like that. If you heard about it at all, you're probably either in the municipal bond business or married to an antitrust lawyer. Even then, all you probably heard was that a threesome of bit players on Wall Street got convicted of obscure antitrust violations in one of the most inscrutable, jargon-packed legal snoozefests since the government's massive case against Microsoft in the Nineties – not exactly the thrilling courtroom drama offered by the famed trials of old-school mobsters like Al Capone or Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo.

But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.

The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.

In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business. What's more, in the manner of old mob trials, Wall Street's secret machinations were revealed during the Carollo trial through crackling wiretap recordings and the lurid testimony of cooperating witnesses, who came into court with bowed heads, pointing fingers at their accomplices. The new-age gangsters even invented an elaborate code to hide their crimes. Like Elizabethan highway robbers who spoke in thieves' cant, or Italian mobsters who talked about "getting a button man to clip the capo," on tape after tape these Wall Street crooks coughed up phrases like "pull a nickel out" or "get to the right level" or "you're hanging out there" – all code words used to manipulate the interest rates on municipal bonds. The only thing that made this trial different from a typical mob trial was the scale of the crime.

USA v. Carollo involved classic cartel activity: not just one corrupt bank, but many, all acting in careful concert against the public interest. In the years since the economic crash of 2008, we've seen numerous hints that such orchestrated corruption exists. The collapses of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, for instance, both pointed to coordi­nated attacks by powerful banks and hedge funds determined to speed the demise of those firms. In the bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Alabama, we learned that Goldman Sachs accepted a $3 million bribe from J.P. Morgan Chase to permit Chase to serve as the sole provider of toxic swap deals to the rubes running metropolitan Birmingham – "an open-and-shut case of anti-competitive behavior," as one former regulator described it.

………

How did the government manage to make a case against so many Wall Street scam artists? Hubris. As was the case in Jefferson County, Alabama, where Chase executives blabbed criminal conspiracies on the telephone even though they knew they were being recorded by their own company, the trio of defendants in Carollo wantonly fixed bond auctions despite the fact that their own firm was taping the conversations. Defense counsel even made an issue of this at trial, implying to the jury that nobody would be dumb enough to commit a crime by phone when "there was a big sticker on the phones that said all calls are being recorded," as Grimm's counsel, Mark Racanelli, put it. In fact, Racanelli argued, the conversations on the tapes hardly suggested a secret conspiracy, because "no one was whispering."

But the reason no one was whispering isn't that their actions weren't illegal – it's because the bid rigging was so incredibly common the defendants simply forgot to be ashamed of it. "The tapes illustrate the cavalier attitude which the financial community brought toward this behavior," says Michael Hausfeld, a renowned class-action attorney whose firm is leading a major civil suit against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and others for this same bid-rigging scam. "It became the predominant mode of transacting business."
Seriously, what does it take for these guys to get indicted?

He has an addenda on the article here.

Thursday is D-Day for Obama Care

Scotus put off the announcement of the opinion until Thursday.

My guess is that someone needed more time for a dissent.

Fat Tony is F%$#ing Nuts

I've said on a number of occasions that Antonin Scalia has given up even trying to appear not to be a partisan hack.

Well, I think that I was wrong. Antonin Scalia has gone nuts.

His dissent on today's Arizona immigration law decision, is a clear evidence of this. A prominent constitutional scholar Adam Winkler, called it jumping the shark, but I simply think he's gone around the bend.

I cannot excerpt it and do justice, you can read the full opinion and dissent here, he suggests that federal immigration legislation would have sundered the union (this is strict constructionist?), declares it somehow illegitimate for the executive to prioritize enforcement, and that it's just the same as bubble gum.

Seriously, I think that Scalia has been waiting for nearly 30 years to be the chief justice, and when he realized it was never going to happen, he had two choices:
  1. Leave the court, and make millions on the paid right wing talker/book circuit.
  2. F%$# you.
He has clearly chosen door number two, and I am expecting his spleen to leap from his body and throttle a litigant soon.

As to the actual decision, the Supreme Court struck down 3 of the 4 sections of the law, with the "papers please" section being given a pass for now, though the opinion makes it clear that this is not a final thing, and that there can be additional challenges to this section of the law, either on a constitutional level, or on the specific implementation.

24 June 2012

Quote of the Day

If a 14 Year-Old Can Deliver Your Message, It's Not Because He's Gifted, It's Because Intellectually You're a Child
— Bill Maher
He is referring to the fact that 14-year old Caiden Cowger's hate filled screed against gays:
When 14 year-old boys sound exactly like you [Rush Limbaugh] do and can produce radio shows and books and speeches that sound exactly like yours, maybe you should rethink the sh%$ that's coming out of your mouth.

Video:


H/t Cthulhu.*

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

I'm Surprised

It turns out that the Egyptian Generals decided not to steal the presidential elections. My guess is that they decided that reducing presidential authority, as well as disbanding parliament was enough:
As his supporters in Tahrir Square were chanting on Sunday for the end of military rule in Egypt, the country’s president-elect, Mohamed Morsi, had glowing words for none other than the army, saying he regarded it with a “love in my heart that only God knows.”

Mr. Morsi’s remarks, during his first address to the nation after his victory was announced, were an acknowledgment of his new, changed role. He had gone from being a representative of a banned Islamist group to the leader of a nation and its public’s chief negotiator with the military generals who assumed power after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

As the first freely elected president of Egypt, Mr. Morsi has a historic opportunity, but he faces a litany of challenges that could prevent him from becoming more than just a figurehead. He will have to spar with the generals, who, just after the election, stripped much of the power from the presidency, and he must overcome the doubts of those who chose his opponent — nearly half of the voters — and millions more who did not vote.

Mr. Morsi will also have to convince Egyptians that he represents more than just the narrow interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and to soothe fears among many that his true goal is to bind the notion of citizenship itself more closely to Islam.
I'm thinking that there was a lot pressure put on the generals to accept this from inside of and outside of Egypt, and they blinked.

And On a Related Note

4 Heredim have been charged by the Brooklyn DA with covering up child abuse within the community:
The Brooklyn district attorney, facing a wave of public criticism about his handling of sexual abuse allegations in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, on Thursday charged four men with attempting to silence an accuser by offering her and her boyfriend a $500,000 bribe, and threatening her boyfriend’s business.

The district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, alleged that the men were part of an effort to protect a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community, Nechemya Weberman, who has been accused of 88 counts of sexual misconduct, including oral sex with a child younger than 13 years old. The charges all involve one girl, now 17, who was referred by her school to get counseling by Mr. Weberman, and then alleged she was abused by him during therapy sessions.

The charges are the first time in at least two decades that Mr. Hynes has charged Hasidic Jews with intimidation of a witness in a sexual abuse case, even though victims, their advocates and prosecutors say intimidation has long been a major obstacle to prosecution of abuse among the ultra-Orthodox. In recent weeks, Mr. Hynes has been saying that the intimidation of witnesses in the ultra-Orthodox community is worse than in the world of organized crime.

“I’m hoping that this will be a message to those who are intimidated that they should come forward and help us,” Mr. Hynes said at a news conference. “No one can engage in this kind of conduct and feel free that, based on prior experience, nothing can happen to them.”

Prosecutors charged Abraham Rubin, 48, of Williamsburg with bribery, witness tampering and coercion. They said that he had been recorded offering the accuser’s boyfriend the money, and he suggested that the young couple could flee to Israel to avoid testifying. He also offered to provide them with a lawyer who could help them avoid cooperating with prosecutors.

Prosecutors also charged three brothers, Jacob, Joseph and Hertzka Berger, with coercion, saying they threatened and then removed the kosher certification of a restaurant run by the accuser’s boyfriend. The brothers are sons of a local rabbi who issues kosher certifications to stores.
Good.

I will note that, much like the previous post, it is very likely that this will lead to senior Rabbinic authorities in the region.

Finally!

Monsignor William Lynn, assistant to the late Cardinal Bevilacqua of Piliadelphis, has been convicted of child endangerment for covering up child abuse:
Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former cardinal’s aide, was found guilty Friday of endangering children, becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision.

The 12-member jury acquitted Monsignor Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, of conspiracy and a second count of endangerment after a trial that prosecutors and victims rights groups called a turning point in the abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church.

The single guilty verdict was widely seen as a victory for the district attorney’s office, which has been investigating the archdiocese aggressively since 2002, and it was hailed by victim advocates who have argued for years that senior church officials should be held accountable for concealing evidence and transferring predatory priests to unwary parishes.

Monsignor Lynn, 61, sat impassively as the jury foreman announced the verdicts, but relatives behind him were in tears. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of the Common Pleas Court revoked his bail, and the monsignor stood up, removed his clerical jacket and was led by sheriff’s deputies to a holding cell area. His conviction, on the 13th day of deliberations, could result in a prison term of three-and-a-half to seven years; sentencing is set for Aug. 13.

The trial sent a sobering message to church officials and others overseeing children around the country. “I think that bishops and chancery officials understand that they will no longer get a pass on these types of crimes,” said Nicholas P. Cafardi, a professor of law at Duquesne University, a canon lawyer and frequent church adviser. “Priests who sexually abuse youngsters and the chancery officials who enabled it can expect criminal prosecution.”
Here's hoping that his conviction will encourage other priests to roll on those involved in the coverup.

It's fairly likely that the path will lead directly to Rome.

23 June 2012

Power Came Back On at 1:30 in the Morning

And I just helped my daughter with her computer. Looks like I'm going to be spending the rest of the evening decrappifying it.

22 June 2012

No Bloggy Goodness Tonight

The power is out because of the thunder storms.

Posted via mobile.

21 June 2012

Scotus Slaps Down FCC


Roll George Carlin!
I agree with the outcome of the ruling, but it's too limited for my taste:
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission failed to give two television networks, FOX and ABC, advance notice of standards before punishing them for broadcasts in which outbursts of expletives and brief nudity were aired.

“The Commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the unanimous court.

The ruling does not affect the FCC’s policy banning indecency in TV broadcasting.

The court said that it did need not to address the First Amendment implications of the FCC’s indecency policy nor did it need to reconsider its prior indecency ruling in a 1978 decision regarding prolonged recitation of vulgar words.
The 1978 decision was bad, and vague, and they didn't clear it up.

They took a very narrow ruling, and invalidated the fines because the FCC was arbitrary and capricious, and did not rule on the basic underlying issue. Ruth Bader Ginsberg felt the same way, and noted so in her concurring opinion.

20 June 2012

Prop 13, That's Why

Big Media Matt wonders why construction in Texas has outstripped that of California:
Houston is the fastest-growing city in America, but what's really remarkable about Houston is that it's not just Houston. The Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin metro areas are all also growing super-fast and so are several of Texas' smaller metro areas. There are many factors inspiring this population growth, but as you can see above one striking thing is simply that Texas is handing out building permits at a rapid clip (data here).

It used to be that California led the nation in building permits. That makes sense. Even though California's not as geographically expansive as Texas it is extremely large. And a whole bunch of factors would lead you to assume that California would add people more rapidly than Texas. They share proximity to Mexico, but California is home to our Pacific Ocean ports and certainly trade with Asia has exploded. What's more, California has better weather than Texas and substantially higher wages. But in the nineties California downshifted its permitting and ran neck-in-neck with Texas for a while. Then starting in the mid-aughts Texas has just gobbled up a bigger and bigger share of America's permitting. The precise legal and economic underpinnings of this are complicated, but the key difference to me is simply a different mentality. Texas politicians of both parties by and large want to see growth. They brag about it. California politicians fear it, as if we're one new building away from dystopia.
He is ignoring the elephant in the room, Proposition 13.

Proposition 13 limits the amount that property taxes can go up by 2% a year, so if you bought a 4BR house in 1980 for $60,000, you would be paying property taxes for a value of $120K.

If you downsize to a bungalow, and it costs $300K, you would be paying 2½ times as much in taxes, because when you buy a new house, the level starts at the sale price.

It really does not make sense to downsize if your property tax bill triples, so you stay in your old home, which restricts the supply, and makes housing more expensive, and reduces demand.

Any analysis of California which does not take into account the suicide pact that is their culture of initiative petitions.

If you bought a house in 1980 for $80,000.00

Merkel Blinks

Thank God:
Under intense pressure at the G20 summit in Mexico to take more decisive action to contain the European sovereign debt crisis, eurozone leaders were reported last night to be preparing to allow the Continent's bailout funds to intervene directly in the capital markets to ease the pressure on Spain and Italy.

G20 sources suggested that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was preparing to allow eurozone institutions to begin buying bonds issued by member state's governments. The purpose of the intervention would be to bring down sovereign bond yields of weaker eurozone states, which have been pushed up to unsustainable levels by wary investors in recent months. Spanish 10-year yields this week hit their highest levels in the history of the single currency at 7.28 per cent.

An impending move was hinted at by the Chancellor George Osborne last night. "We will see what the eurozone announce in the next couple of weeks, but there is no doubt that they realise that individual measures in individual countries are by themselves not enough," he said.
Whoever knocked some sense into Merkel's head should be commended.

The FOMC Talks, and Says, "Meh"

It really doesn't amount to much. Basically just some minor interest rate action:
In a pattern that has become familiar, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that the economy was growing more slowly than it had forecast, in part because its efforts to hasten recovery had proved insufficient.

With the economy stumbling into the summer months after the false promise of a relatively strong winter, the Fed announced a modest expansion of its efforts to stimulate growth.

The Fed said its senior officials now expected growth of 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent this year, half a percentage point lower than they forecast in April. They predicted the unemployment rate would not drop below 8 percent this year, and that inflation would not climb above 1.7 percent.

Those are the vital signs of a patient who will be ill for some time. And the Fed noted that the outlook could worsen if events in Europe unnerved financial markets or if politicians in Washington failed to resolve a stalemate over fiscal policy.

The central bank pledged to buy $267 billion in long-term Treasury securities over the next six months as part of a continuing campaign to reduce borrowing costs.
Like I said, Meh

Congress Arrests Holder for Driving While Black

Oh, my bad, it was Darryl Issa and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, voting on strictly party lines, to hold the Attorney General in contempt.

The 'Phants are f%$# lunatics.

Wrong Again, Matthew Saroff Edition.

The Greek Democrats have formed a governing coalition including the 3rd place PASOK party:
A conservative-led government took power in Greece on Wednesday promising to negotiate softer terms on its harsh international bailout, help the people regain their dignity and steer the country through its biggest crisis for four decades.

The swearing-in of Antonis Samaras as prime minister after elections last Sunday ended weeks of uncertainty that rattled financial markets and threatened to push near-bankrupt Greece out of the euro zone.

Samaras, a Harvard-educated economist from a prominent Greek family, will head an alliance of his New Democracy party and Socialist PASOK rivals - the same discredited establishment parties which have dominated politics since 1974.
I said that it would not happen, and it did.  Oh, well.

BTW, the outgoing PASOK leader, George Papandreu, went to Harvard too (and Amherst, and the London School of Economics).

You know, I think that the value of a Harvard education might be overrated.

Another Wanker of the Day

Chuck Shumer:
One week after Apple announced it was booting Google Maps from iOS and photographing the world with its own aerial fleet, a top US Senator has written to both companies expressing concern over their "military-grade spy planes."

"Barbequing or sunbathing in your backyard shouldn't be a public event," said Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in a statement on Monday. "People should be free from the worry of some high-tech peeping Tom technology violating one's privacy when in your own home."

Schumer noted that although Google Maps and Google Earth have used satellite imagery in the past, "reports have suggested" that both Google and Apple have upgraded their capabilities to aircraft-based photography that can see through windows and capture detailed images with four-inch resolution.

Although Schumer specifically mentioned sunbathing – and we never even knew he was a Reg reader – his remarks suggest that his main concern isn't high-flying voyeurism, but rather intelligence that could aid terroists and other miscreants.

"Detailed photographs could also provide criminals and terrorists with detailed views of sensitive utilities," he wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Larry Page, noting that although there are online sources which currently show such potential targets as power lines, substations, and reservoirs, those images are in low resolution.

"However," Schumer surmised, "if highly detailed images become available, criminals could create more complete schematic maps of the power and water grids in the United States. With the vast amount of infrastructure across the country, it would be impossible to secure every location."
So, we have yet another participant in the war against maps.

Let's keep everyone ignorant, because someone might do something bad with information someday.

Dumbass.

19 June 2012

Julian Assange Seeks Asylum in Ecuadorian Embassy

I understand that he fears that he will be immediately put on a plane to the US when he sets foot in Sweden, what I don't get is why he has to go to Sweden for that. After all, the UK is the United State's eager bottom, so why wait until he hits Sweden?

The current administration has a paranoia about leakers that rivals that of Nixon.

New Protests at Tahrir Square

And I still don';t expect any pro-democracy actions to be taken by our government, because, after all, the Egyptians buy our weapons, not Russian weapons:
Tens of thousands have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against a decision by the ruling military council to assume new powers.

The protests were called by the Muslim Brotherhood, as it claims its candidate won last weekend's presidential poll.

His rival, former PM Ahmed Shafiq, also says he has won.

Wanker of the Day

Senator Scott Brown:
Senator Scott Brown today rejected a debate proposed by Victoria Reggie Kennedy, after the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy refused his precondition that she not endorse a candidate in his reelection campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

“We respect Vicki Kennedy’s decision but we regret that we cannot accept a debate invitation from someone who plans to endorse Scott Brown’s opponent,” Brown Campaign Manager Jim Barnett said in a statement. “The Kennedy Institute cannot hold itself out as a nonpartisan debate sponsor while the president of its board of trustees gets involved in the race on behalf of one of the candidates.”

The announcement came shortly after representatives of Vicki Kennedy said she would not agree to Brown’s demand that she remain neutral in the race, in exchange for the senator’s participation in a late September debate she had proposed be hosted by the University of Massachusetts Boston and Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Barnett had said Monday that Brown would participate only if Kennedy, president of the board at the Kennedy Institute, not endorse in the race and that MSNBC not be the broadcast sponsor of the debate.
What a whiny bitch.

He's (rightly) terrified that Elizabeth Warren will have his sorry ass for lunch, so he's making up excuses.

18 June 2012

I Feel Old

The former front man for the band Wings, and, if I recall correctly, another band of note before that, Sir Paul McCartney, turns 70 today.

Snark of the Day

Jonathan Chait, writing in the New York Magazine, has an article, titled, "Beltway Sleazeoids Concerned About Partisanship, about Howard Kurtz's puff piece on the joint venture between Michael Steele (Mr. Foot in Mouth), and Lanny Davis (Lobbyists for brutal dictators).

His criticism is that Kurtz is far to credulous, and far too laudatory, of their efforts.

I agree. Even on a cursory examination, this is clearly concern trolling for lobbying dollars.

What stands out though is his slam against Howie for his lack of journalistic integrity:
There's an old saying, "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels," but patriotism's scoundrel-cleansing abilities have worn off with time. The newest refuge is surely bipartisanship. Thus, deposed Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele and disgraced lobbyist Lanny Davis have formed their own firm. Howard Kurtz reports — or, at any rate, writes down — that Steele and Davis are pitching their firm dedicated to urging people to "tone down the negativity and personal attacks."
(emphasis mine)

The criticism for years about Kurtz has been two fold, that he has a conflict of interest because his wife is a paid political operator, and that he is little more than a stenographer for the conservative side of the Beltway consensus.

As to the stenography allegation, Chait must be commended for being clever, clear, and original in his statements.

Heh.

Roger Clemens Acquitted On All Counts

You know, if lying to Congress means anything, don't go after a pitcher who probably lied about using steroids, go after a sitting US Attorney General, Alberto "Abu" Gonzalez, who lied about torture and war crimes.

Should Clemens be in jail?

Yes, he should, for becoming a Yankee when he started with the Red Sox.

F%$# the F%$#ing Yankees.

The Egyptian Coup is in Progress

So, now that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate is winning the presidential election, the military has taken what amounts to complete power:
Egypt's generals awarded themselves sweeping political powers in an 11th-hour constitutional declaration that tied the hands of the country's incoming president and cemented military authority over the post-Mubarak era.

The announcement on Sunday night came as early presidential election results put the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi ahead of his rival Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's final prime minister and an unabashed champion of the old regime. But with thousands of polling stations yet to declare following the two-day runoff vote, the overall winner was too close to call.

Pro-change activists and human rights campaigners said the junta's constitutional declaration – which came just days after judges extended the army's ability to arrest civilians and following the dissolution of the Brotherhood-dominated parliament by the country's top court – rendered the scheduled handover of power to a democratically elected executive meaningless.

The Brotherhood was quick to label the declaration "null and unconstitutional", raising the prospect of a dramatic showdown within the highest institutions of the state.
They gave themselves the power to write legislation and draft budgets, which is pretty much the whole ball of wax, since they have shown that they already own the courts.

Quislings

A number of West Virginia "Democrats" who qualify as super delegates have announced that they won't be attending the convention because they do not want to be supporting Barack Obama:
Democratic West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he won’t attend the party’s national convention, citing serious problems with President Barack Obama.

A Tomblin spokesman, Chris Stadelman, said Monday that the governor has serious problems with Republican Mitt Romney, too.

Tomblin is an automatic superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention. He says his time is best spent working in West Virginia, not attending the four-day political rally in Charlotte, N.C.

In West Virginia’s presidential primary, Tomblin refused to say whether he voted for Obama.

Tomlbin isn’t alone in sitting this one out — West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and congressman Nick Rahall say they don’t plan to attend the convention, either.
What they are really saying is that they don't want to be seen as supporting Barack Obama, because their voters are from West Virginia, and he's a Ni*bong*. (Blazing Saddles reference)

Wankers.

There is a level of sacrifice to be made by people in leadership positions, and this ain't it.

I'm not saying that you have to go, but as a person in a leadership position in the party, you don't advertise the fact.

The Coolest Coffee Shop Ever



Apologies to Jeph Jacques, but this is even cooler than Coffee of Doom.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Ewwww…

We have crossed a line that should not be crossed in society when a music video features Shia Lebeouf's full frontal nudity.

Make it stop.

No, I did not watch the video. That way madness lies.

17 June 2012

The Bad Guys Win in Greece

I'm not sure what the right path is, but Antonis Samaras and the New Democracy Party, which appears to have eked out a 2% win, are not it.

They are the ones who created the crisis in the first place, working with Goldman Sachs to create the swaps that masked the debt.

I don't see a government coming from this.

SYRISA, the leftist party, and close 2nd place finisher, wants to completely renegotiate the bailout agreement, and PASOK (Socialist in name only and almost as corrupt as the New Democracy Party) which fell even further as a 2rd place finisher has said that it will not join a government without SYRISA.

ND needs 43 seats to gain a majority, they have 108 in the 300 seat parliament, but SYRISA and PASOK have 104 together, which means that they would either need to go hard right (which would have to include the facist/neo-Nazi Golden Dawn) or try to thread the needle with the left of center, but not as left of center as SYRISA, Democratic Left, and the Independent Greeks, who were formed by politicians thrown out of ND when they voted against the austerity packages.

Not a clue as to how this will shake out.

Taibbi Saw the Jamie Dimon Hearing as Well

And he was not a happy camper.

Jon Stewart was brutal, but Taibbi was outraged.

I'd like to see a way to combine the two.

Another Busy Bank Failure Friday

Three banks this week, four last week, following a three week lull.

Not a trend by any means, but definitely not reassuring.

Here they are, numbered for your amusement
  1. Putnam State Bank, Palataka, FL
  2. Security Exchange Bank, Marietta, GA
  3. The Farmers Bank of Lynchburg, Lynchburg, TN

Full FDIC list

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



I'm not sure if the little uptick means anything at all.

Who Says that Irony is Dead?

I present to you the The Karl Marx MasterCard:


No, this is not a photoshop.

Some context:
Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some eastern Germans are once again carrying round images of Karl Marx - if only in their pockets.

The disappearance of communist former East Germany has not deterred them from using credit cards emblazoned with the image of the man who foretold the end of capitalism and the triumph of communism.

More than a third of customers at Sparkasse bank in Chemnitz opted for the picture of a bronze bust of the bearded 19th century German-born philosopher, bank spokesman Roger Wirtz said.

Marx's stern face is depicted gazing towards the logo of Mastercard.
Excuse while my head explodes. <Jimi Hendrix guitar riff>

16 June 2012

Eclipse to Restart Production

I thought that they were dead, but it appears that repirts if its death are greatly exaggerated:(paid subscription required)
As Eclipse Aerospace loads the jig for its first new-production very-light jet, the company's ambitions are not those of its predecessor, which failed spectacularly in its bid to blacken the sky with low-cost air taxis. The new company instead aims to make a solid profit on modest production.

The original Eclipse Aviation was formed in 1998 with the vision of selling thousands of million-dollar jets into a booming air-taxi market. But its biggest customer, unable to raise financing in an economic downturn, closed its doors in 2008, taking with it 1,400 of the 2,600 orders on the books.

The new-build Eclipse 550 will have better cockpit displays and processors, synthetic and enhanced vision and autothrottle.

Eclipse's business model was based on high volume, and the failure of air-taxi operator DayJet helped push the company into bankruptcy and eventually liquidation. Its successor has a more moderate approach, with a slow production ramp targeting a recovery in the global business-jet market by around 2014-15.

“We are not in the same position as other manufacturers,” says Chairman and CEO Mason Holland. “We are growing the business at a measured pace behind the speed at which the market is moving, where others have had to consolidate and cut back to get down to the pace of the market.”

The first new-production Eclipse 550, an improved version of the original Eclipse 500, is slated for delivery in July-August 2013 and, where the original company built more than 100 aircraft in its first full production year, Eclipse Aerospace is targeting 45-50 deliveries in 2014.
It's still (relatively) cheap, just under $3 million, which is well above what they were selling the aircraft for when they went belly up, it's still at a good price point.

Gripen Plans Progress

It looks like the Swiss and the Swedes have got their program together:
Provided nationally endorsed plans in Sweden and Switzerland survive political or economic upsets, the JAS 39E/F, the product of the Gripen Demo and Next Generation programs, will be delivered to customers in 2018. This will mean that Saab and its supplier team will have created what is in most respects an entirely new aircraft, compared to the original JAS 39A/B, since development of the in-service C/D started in June 1997.

This has been done so far under fixed-price contracts for development, new production and retrofits, according to a presentation by FMV, the Swedish defense procurement organization. After the delivery of the last Gripen C/D, Saab returned an unspecified sum of money to the Swedish government because costs were lower than predicted.

More details of the JAS 39E/F emerged at an aerospace conference hosted by the Swedish air force and Saab earlier this month at Malmen air base, and attended by current and prospective Gripen operators.

The schedule is set by two interlocking commitments. The Swedish government has decided to replace the C/D with the E/F and has committed to developing the aircraft in time to support Switzerland's requirements. The Swiss government has selected the E/F as the sole affordable replacement for the F-5E/F, and subject to a referendum and negotiations will sign a contract in 2014, triggering a full-scale go-ahead by Sweden .

Some development work will continue to lay the foundation for the four-year program. As long as the political process stays on track, the first of two built-from-the-ground-up E/F development aircraft, identified as 39-8, will fly in late 2013. The Gripen Demo has been equipped with a prototype of the Selex Raven ES-05 active, electronically scanned array radar and will be used to test the E/F's revised avionics system and weapons.

The E/F airframe will be largely new, although it should be possible to use some major components from existing C/D airframes, including the wings. Mid and aft fuselage sections will be new, to accommodate the General Electric F414 engine (and its larger airflow) and the new landing gear. The blended wing-body sections will be larger, placing the wing attachment points an estimated 30 in. farther apart. The goal is to maintain the same wing loading for the E/F's 2.5-ton increase in gross weight. The body will be slightly longer, maintaining or improving fineness ratio. Sources suggest the design will incorporate F-35-style diverterless supersonic inlets.
So, it looks like the New Gripen is going to be basically a new aircraft.

One of the interesting points is that they intend a large amount of systems commonality between the E/F and the C/D, particularly in terms of upgrades, which can serve to address concerns about the costs of upgrades, which Norway used as an alibi to select the F-35. 

It should that this did problem did occur with Italy, when they were the sole customer for the Sparrow capable F-104S, and were stuck with shouldering upgrades on their own.

Seeing as how the Gripen is about half the direct operating cost of the Typhoon and Rafale, and probably less than 1/3 that of the F-35, I think that it continues to occupy a niche at the low end of the market.

15 June 2012

I Can Haz Wurmhole?

That's what the caption should be:



Seen on Facebook.

This Ain't Good

The Egyptian Army has blockaded parliament:
Egypt’s military rulers moved to consolidate power Friday on the eve of the presidential runoff election, shutting down the Islamist-led Parliament, locking out lawmakers and seizing the sole right to issue laws even after a new head of state takes office.

The generals effectively abandoned their previous pledge to cede power to a civilian government by the end of the month, prolonging the increasingly tortuous political transition after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. The power play has also darkened the prospects that Egypt, the most populous Arab state and one that historically has had tremendous influence on the direction of the region, might quickly emerge as a model of democracy for the Middle East.

Their moves, predicated on a court ruling on Thursday and announced with little fanfare by the state news media, make it likely that whoever wins the presidential race will — at least at first — compete with the generals for power and influence. The military counsel also indicated through the official news media that it planned to issue a new interim constitution and potentially select its own panel to write a permanent charter. The generals have already sought permanent protections for their autonomy and political power.
Additionally, there are indications that the military is preparing to engage in massive voter fraud on behalf of the Mubarak hack running for President:
The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsy is tempering forecasts of victory in Egypt's presidential election with a warning that vote rigging typical of the Hosni Mubarak era may hand victory to Ahmed Shafik, the deposed leader's last prime minister.

On the eve of the run-off, Morsy, 60, hopes a big turnout of voters worried about a revival of the old regime will prevent that outcome and make him Egypt's first Islamist president.

But after a court ruling by judges appointed under Mubarak dissolved a new parliament in which the Brotherhood was the main force, momentum appears to have ebbed away from Morsy, reflecting a broader sense that a political transition which had brought his movement dramatic gains is no longer going its way.
What a surprise, the generals like running things.

With a real civilian government, their control of much of the economy would be at risk, and the the gravy train would end.

So, When Do They Convict a White Guy?


Still no big name white guys caught
So, Rajat Gupta has been convicted of insider trading:
Rajat K. Gupta, the retired head of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company and a former Goldman Sachs board member, was found guilty on Friday of conspiracy and securities fraud. He is the most prominent business executive convicted in a wave of prosecutions that followed the government’s sweeping investigation into insider trading on Wall Street.

After a monthlong trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, a jury took only two days to deliberate before reaching a verdict. It found Mr. Gupta guilty of leaking confidential information about Goldman to his former friend and business associate, the fallen hedge fund titan Raj Rajaratnam, on three different occasions in 2008. He was also convicted of conspiring in an insider trading scheme with Mr. Rajaratnam.

Mr. Gupta was found not guilty of two instances of tipping Mr. Rajaratnam, including an allegation that he divulged secret news about Procter & Gamble, where he also served on the board.

“Having fallen from respected insider to convicted inside trader, Mr. Gupta has now exchanged the lofty board room for the prospect of a lowly jail cell,” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan said in a statement.

“Almost two years ago, we said that insider trading is rampant, and today’s conviction puts that claim into stark relief, ” he said.
I'll believe that this is real when a Caucasian is put in the dock.

Until we start seeing pale people frog marched out of their offices in handcuffs, this isn't real.

Brutal

Jon Stewart on the how the Senators (with 2 exceptions) sucked up to Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase when they were supposed to be grilling him.



I was going to write about it, but there weren't enough obscenities in my vocabulary to do it justice, and Jon Stewart nails it with a PG rating.

Go figure.

There's Going to Be a Recount in Wisconsin Senate Race

This is no surprise:
A Republican Wisconsin state senator asked Friday for a recount in the election that could hand Democrats their only victory in this month's six recalls, and at least a temporary majority in the state Senate.

An official canvass this week showed incumbent Racine Republican Van Wanggaard trailing Democratic challenger John Lehman by 834 votes, or 1.2 percent of the nearly 72,000 votes cast.

Democrats had called on Wanggaard to concede, saying a recount would only waste taxpayer money and delay the inevitable. But Wanggaard's campaign said it was concerned about reports of voting irregularities and wanted to ensure the outcome was accurate.

The state Senate currently has 16 Democrats and 16 Republicans, meaning the winner of the Wanggaard-Lehman race will give his party majority control. The victory, however, could be largely symbolic. The Legislature isn't expected to convene again until January, and the November elections could cause the balance of political power to shift once again.
Of course he's asking for a recount.

800 votes objectively does not seem like many, but it's 1.2%, which is well nigh insurmountable.

It's (mostly) about being a dick, and perhaps about delaying control of the professional staff in the Senate by the Democrats.

Announcement

I really could not give less of a shit about the Daily Caller reporter heckling Barack Obama this afternoon.

I'm sure that there will be a bloggasm over this, but I won't be participating.

14 June 2012

It's Jobless Thursday!

And the numbers are not good, with initial claims rising 6K to 386000, the 4-week moving average rising to 382,000, though both continuing and extended claims were down.

It's a crappy report, and it's been the trending this way for a while.

Not good.

Gee, We're Caught Lying About Syria

It turns out that the allegation that Russians were selling attack helos to Syria made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were false.

Syria has owned the copters in question for years:
When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Russia on Tuesday of shipping attack helicopters to Syria that would “escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” it was the Obama administration’s sharpest criticism yet of Russia’s support for the Syrian government.

What Mrs. Clinton did not say, however, was whether the aircraft were new shipments or, as administration officials say is more likely, helicopters that Syria had sent to Russia a few months ago for routine repairs and refurbishing, and which were now about to be returned.

“She put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position,” said one senior Defense Department official.
This is called lying like a rug.

We are going to bomb Syria.  This is exactly the same sort of crap what we saw with build up Iraq, Libya, etc.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Shorter Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn's writes an article complaining about how she can no longer throw, or go to, dinner parties with the movers and shakers in Washington, DC.

Fortunately, Jonathan Chait read the article so you don't have to, and reaponds with "Sally Quinn Forced to Dine With Non-Fake Friends."

While the title is good, the last 'graph is even better:
Once Washington was a happy place where a girl and her mother could be groped simultaneously in good fun by a white supremacist. Sadly, it has all been ruined by Kim Kardashian and Ezra Klein.
This is a classic example of the snark genre.

Go read.

The USA Is Going to Invade Norway

The Chairman of the JCS has said that if the automatic budget cuts kick in for the pentagon,  we will see more war:
The nation’s top military officer warned Wednesday that automatic defense cuts agreed to in last year’s bipartisan debt limit deal could lead to more war.

At a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon has gone along with recent targeted cuts to limited targeted cuts, but argued that the the sweeping across-the-board cuts in the so-called sequestration would weaken the country’s ability to deter adversaries and therefore lead to more war.

“Sequestration is absolutely certain to upend this balance. It would lead to further end-strength reductions, the potential cancellation of major weapons systems and the disruption of global operations,” Dempsey said. “We can’t yet say precisely how bad the damage would be, but it is clear that sequestration would risk hollowing out our force and reducing its military options available to the nation. We would go from being unquestionably powerful everywhere to being less visible globally and presenting less of an overmatch to our adversaries, and that would translate into a different deterrent calculus, and potentially, therefore, increase the likelihood of conflict.”
Who the hell are we going to war with?

We have troops and/or mercenaries in:
  • Afghanistan.
  • Iraq.
  • Iran (if it's Thursday, but it's a secret)
  • Bosnia
  • Kosovo
  • Germany
  • The UK
  • Poland
  • Korea
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Pakistan
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Panama
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain
  • San Diego
  • etc.
Seriously, there isn't anyone left for us to invade who has any oil but the Norwegians.

What Needs to be Said

A democracy and anti al Queda activist from Yemen has published an OP/ED in the New York Times saying that our drone war in Yemen is bolstering the terrorist organization:
“DEAR OBAMA, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda,” a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter last month. President Obama should keep this message in mind before ordering more drone strikes like Wednesday’s, which local officials say killed 27 people, or the May 15 strike that killed at least eight Yemeni civilians.

Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan — “the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan.”

Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.

The first known drone strike in Yemen to be authorized by Mr. Obama, in late 2009, left 14 women and 21 children dead in the southern town of al-Majala, according to a parliamentary report. Only one of the dozens killed was identified as having strong Qaeda connections.

…………

This is why A.Q.A.P. is much stronger in Yemen today than it was a few years ago. In 2009, A.Q.A.P. had only a few hundred members and controlled no territory; today it has, along with Ansar al-Sharia, at least 1,000 members and controls substantial amounts of territory.
His entreaties will likely fall on deaf ears, because Obama has been thoroughly captured by the high-tech remote violence crowd in the state security security apparatus.

What a Whiny Bitch, Part MMMMMMMDCCXXXIV

John McCain says that the real problem with Barack Obama is that he snubbed him after the election:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this week that President Obama never made a sincere effort to reach out to him after the 2008 election.

McCain was once seen as a potential ally of Obama. But far from becoming a partner — as the left hoped for and the right feared — McCain has turned into one of Obama’s thorniest adversaries.

“Let’s get real here,” McCain told The Hill. “There was never any outreach from President Obama or anyone in his administration to me.”

McCain disputes the notion that he has rejected entreaties to cooperate with the White House because he is bitter from his defeat four years ago.
Of course he does, but he did exactly the same thing when George W. bush kicked his ass in the 2000 Republican primaries.

This is a guy whose parents had to put him in a tub of ice cold water when he was a kid to stop his tantrums.

Juvenile tantrums and petulance are an integral part of who he is.

Well, He Does Look Kind of Dead


Brains … Brains … Brains!!!!!
Florida Governor Rick Scott had to cast a provisional ballot in 2006 because the voter records said that he was dead:
Six years before he made national headlines, Gov. Rick Scott found himself being purged from voter rolls after local election officials thought he was dead.

Collier County election officials on Thursday confirmed that the governor was required to vote with a provisional ballot for the 2006 primary and general election after county officials mistook him for Richard E. Scott, who died in January 2006 and had the exact same birthday -- 12/1/1952 -- as Florida's 45th governor.

Election officials said the governor was required to vote provisionally because local election officials had received a Social Security Death Index Death Record showing that Richard E. Scott died on Jan. 27, 2006.

The governor, whose full name is Richard Lynn Scott, recounted his voting difficulties in radio interviews on Thursday as the state tangles with the federal government over just that – how likely is it that elections officials might make a mistake and purge the wrong person from the voter rolls?
I'm not sure I believe him.

It's very convenient for this story to come out now.

I'm just sayin'.

Jeebus

Some of the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been leaked, and this is absolutely awful:
  • limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
  • extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
  • establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
  • allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.
Just in case you are wondering, there are proposal to make the agreement more people friendly, and less corporation friendly, but it appears that the Obama administration is opposing this at every level.

Note that this is not atypical of US foreign policy, though it it is in direct contravention of of what he promised during the 2008 campaign.

I guess that Austan Goolsbee was told the truth when he was said to representatives of the Canadian government that Obama's populist statements regarding free trade agreements were lies.

13 June 2012

About F%$#ing Time

The AFL-CIO is going to fight voter suppression laws being enacted by Republicans:
The nation’s largest labor federation plans to mount an aggressive campaign against voter identification laws in a half-dozen battleground states that will be key in the presidential election.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker told reporters on Tuesday that the labor federation will have boots on the ground registering and helping voters in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in coordination with the group’s political program.

Labor is pushing back against voter ID laws, which they say suppress voting by minorities, the elderly, the poor and students. Supporters of the measures say showing identification to vote is needed to crack down on fraud and protect the integrity of elections.
They should have started this a year ago.

Consumer Protection Theater

The DoJ is investigating to see if cable companies blocking videos from competitors is illegal anti-competitive behavior.

Of course it is. Their goal is to keep raping their customers:
The Justice Department is conducting a wide-ranging antitrust investigation into whether cable companies are acting improperly to quash nascent competition from online video, according to people familiar with the matter.

Justice Department officials have spoken to several online video providers, including Netflix Inc. and Hulu LLC, those people said. Investigators have also questioned Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and other cable companies about issues such as setting data caps, limits to the amount of data a subscriber can download each month, these people said.

Representatives of all those companies and the Justice Department declined to comment on the investigation.
VIDPROBE
VIDPROBE

Cable companies provide both television channels and high-speed Internet access for many consumers in the U.S. With broadband Internet, consumers can watch individual programs or channels through online video services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, bypassing the cable company's traditional bundles of channels.

Having invested billions of dollars building their networks, some pay-TV companies have shown little inclination to get out of the business of packaging television channels and become mere conduits for other companies' data. Some major entertainment companies also have an interest in preserving the current model of television viewing because they want cable companies to take bundles of their channels, rather than just cherry-picking the most popular ones.
It's an election year, and so nothing is going to come of this.

It's just political posturing from an administration that sees corrupt incumbents as partners in the process.

Edwards Charges Dismissed

I am not surprised.

Not a surprise. The case basically consisted of showing that Edwards was a philandering jerk, and since the US Attorney has already accomplished his goal, which is to get on the ballot for higher office, there is no purpose served in continuing the proceedings.

Dems Hold Giffords' Old Seat

I'm unsure of the significance, Ron Barber was a former Giffords aide, and he was shot when Giffords was, so there is the whole sympathy issue.

Additionally, his opponent, Jesse Kelly, is a major teabagger, and the movement is clearly not as strong as it was in 2010.

As to my feelings about this, it's, "Meh."

Giffords was a Blue Dog in Congress, and Barber seems to be cut from the same mold, waffling on voting for Pelosi in the caucus, and for Obama in the general election

12 June 2012

He Would Have Liked to Help, But He Had to Wash His Hair

That's the reason that Obama gave for doing absolutely nothing with regard with the Scot Walker recall:
President Obama suggested Monday that he was too busy to campaign in Wisconsin ahead of the recall election that targeted Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose victory last week has raised questions about whether there are broader implications for the president in the fall.

In his first public comments about the election, Obama responded to a question about his decision not to appear in the state to support the Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by explaining that he has “a lot of responsibilities” as president.

Obama had limited himself to sending a message on his Twitter account expressing support for Barrett on June 4, a day before voters went to the polls.

“I was supportive of Tom and have been supportive of Tom. Obviously, I would have loved to see a different result,” the president said in an interview with WBAY, an ABC TV affiliate in Green Bay, Wis.

Some political analysts concluded that Obama was hesitant to spend time in Wisconsin because he wanted to avoid being tainted by an embarrassing defeat if Barrett lost.
Seriously, does anyone in the Obama administration besides Hillary have any balls at all?

He'll ask for a recount

The count is now official, and Democrat John Lehman had defeated Van Wanggaard in the race for Wisconsin state senate, flipping the chamber to the Democrats:
Wisconsin Democrats moved a step closer to winning a recall challenge in the state Senate on Tuesday after a vote canvass in Racine County padded their candidate's lead over state Sen. Van Wanggaard by 55 votes.

If the state elections board certifies the results, Democrats will have salvaged a single win after suffering bruising losses in the other five recall elections last week.

The canvass found that Democrat John Lehman had 36,351 votes, or 50.6 percent, while Wanggaard received 35,517 votes, or 49.4 percent. The margin of victory was 834 votes, surpassing the 779-vote difference that stood before the canvass was conducted.

Lehman's victory isn't official until the state Government Accountability Board certifies the results. That's expected to happen next week.
800 votes might not sound like a not, but it's more than 1% which means that there is not an automatic recount, but I'm sure that Wanggaard will ask for one.

It's a long shot, but it also serves to forestall the Dems taking control of the Senate.

Think Norm Coleman/Al Franken writ small.

I'm sure that Wanggaard will be well rewarded for his efforts by the Koch brothers.

So, Now Your Credibility is Shot, and the Judge Hates You

Shellie Zimmerman, George Zimmerman's wife, has been arrested for perjury:
Shellie Zimmerman, wife of George Zimmerman, charged with murdering Trayvon Martin, was arrested Tuesday on one count of perjury, the Seminole County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department said.

………

George Zimmerman, 28, was charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin. He pleaded not guilty. Police say that he claimed on the night of the shooting that he acted in self-defense.

………

His $150,000 bond was revoked after allegations that during an April 20 bail hearing he and Shellie Zimmerman misled the court about their finances, neglecting to disclose they had raised at least $135,000 in a PayPal account.

The order issued Tuesday by Assistant State Attorney John Guy charged Shellie Zimmerman with knowingly making false statements during the April hearing.

George Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said Tuesday evening outside his office that he had just returned from two days in court and had not heard previously of Shellie Zimmerman's arrest. He would not comment further.
Today, I think that George Zimmerman's lawyer has the worst job in the world.

11 June 2012

IRS Yanks 501(c)4 from Phony Charity

About f%$#ing time:
An Internal Revenue Service decision revoking the tax-exempt status of a small political nonprofit organization may foreshadow an investigation into groups such as Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA that spend millions on the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

At risk would be the groups’ nonprofit status, which lets them collect millions of dollars from individuals and corporations while keeping donors anonymous.

…………

The IRS decision released last month involved a so-called campaign school in which a partisan group trained candidates.

“You are not operated primarily to promote social welfare because your activities are conducted primarily for the benefit of a political party and a private group of individuals, rather than the community as a whole,” said the IRS letter telling the group it was losing its exempt status.
Unfortunately, it looks like there won't be major action this year.

H/t Susie Madrak.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-08/irs-denial-of-tax-exemption-to-u-s-political-group-spurs-alarms.html

I Said this Two Years Ago*

So now a Bloomberg Columnist is calling for Germany to exit the Euro Zone.

It's nice not to be quite such a lonely voice.

*Here is the earliest link of my saying this that I could find.

God Bless The Onion

Goldman Sachs Hires Single Morally Decent Human Being To Work In Separate, Enclosed Cubicle

Big Robosigning Case

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism is once again, all over the details.  The nickel tour is that there are forged documents, (not really news) and the trusts set up to securitize the loans are illegal under New York law (they've pretty much all been done under New York Law), which means that there are significant tax and ownership implications:
In a unanimous decision, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed a lower court decision on a foreclosure case, U.S. Bank v. Congress and remanded the case to trial court.

We’d flagged this case as important because to our knowledge, it was the first to argue what we call the New York trust theory, namely, that the election to use New York law in the overwhelming majority of mortgage securitizations meant that the parties to the securitization could operate only as stipulated in the pooling and servicing agreement that created that particular deal. Over 100 years of precedents in New York have produced well settled case law that deems actions outside what the trustee is specifically authorized to do as “void acts” having no legal force. The rigidity of New York trust has serious implications for mortgage securitizations. The PSAs required that the notes (the borrower IOUs) be transferred to the trust in a very specific fashion (endorsed with wet ink signatures through a particular set of parties) before a cut-off date, which typically was no later than 90 days after the trust closing. The problem is, as we’ve described in numerous posts, that there appears to have been massive disregard in the securitization for complying with the contractual requirements that they established and appear to have complied with, at least in the early years of the securitization industry. It’s difficult to know when the breakdown occurred, but it appears that well before 2004-2005, many subprime originators quit bothering with the nerdy task of endorsing notes and completing assignments as the PSAs required; they seemed to take the position they could do that right before foreclosure. Indeed, that’s kosher if the note has not been securitized, but as indicated above, it is a no-go with a New York trust. There is no legal way to remedy the problem after the fact.

The solution in the Congress case appears to have been a practice that has since become troublingly become common: a fabricated allonge. An allonge is an attachment to a note that is so firmly affixed that it can’t travel separately. The fact that a note was submitted to the court in the Congress case and an allonge that fixed all the problems appeared magically, on the eve of trial, looked highly sus. The allonge also contained signatures that looked less than legitimate: they were digitized (remember, signatures as supposed to be wet ink) and some were shrunk to fit signature lines. These issues were raised at trial by Congress’s attorneys, but the fact that the magic allonge appeared the Thursday evening before Memorial Day weekend 2011 when the trial was set for Tuesday morning meant, among other things, that defense counsel was put on the back foot (for instance, how do you find and engage a signature expert on such short notice? Answer, you can’t).

………
The lower court (in Alabama, what a surprise) ruled against the homeowner, but on appeal, it was remanded with instructions to use a more appropriate standard of evidence, and to better address her claims.

Go read the whole thing. It's worth it.

If anyone ever decides to enforce the law, this whole corrupt mess implodes.

My take away is that something north of 50% of the home owners in the US probably do not have clear title on their homes.