31 July 2012

Interesting Point About Religion

One of the things that honks me off is the phrase, "Judeo Christian".

I consider it to be code words for "White European".

Jews are not Christian.

More than the whole "Jesus thing", there are profound differences in how textual analysis is applied to scriptures, attitudes toward sex in marriage, the application of historical data to the analysis, and the acknowledgement of the oft contradictory character of the writings.

In any case, I came across a rather interesting analysis of one of the more troubling parts of Torah, the divine instructions to engage in what essentially was genocide in the conquest of Canaan following the exodus from Egypt.

Dr. Science of Obsidian Wings, a Jew by choice, compares two blog posts, one from an Evangelical Christian minister, and one from a Reconstructionist Jewish Rabbi, and puts to words a core difference in the intellectual approaches that I have always found difficult to put to words:
The two ministers come across as reasonably similar in personality and emotional tone -- I suspect they would get along quite well. Both read the Bible in historical-critical context, but they insist that it is necessary to read the Bible, not to just follow your bliss. Neither is willing to accept the "genocide commandments" as-is, but neither is willing to just throw them out or ignore them, either.

And they approach this text from different perspectives: asking different questions, using different tools. I was brought up as a Christian (in a Catholic/Lutheran family) but am now a practicing Jew, so I find a compare/contrast very illuminating. In this case, the Christian asks about the character or personality of God; the Jew asks what we Jews should *do*.
(Emphasis mine)

At its core, this is why fundamentalism is not really a part of normative Judaism.  (Maimonides made the point nearly 900 years ago that a strictly literal interpretation is not compatible with a meaningful study of Torah.)

If you view scriptures as instructions on how to conduct your life on a daily basis, it is impossible to take scripture literally, because the myriad contradictions and inconsistencies become manifest, thus you need to put your brain in gear, and ask yourself, "What does this mean, and what do I have to do?"

It's why the term Orthodoxy, meaning literally one way of thinking, is really not an accurate description of observant Jews.  Their practice of religion is very nearly the same, they are all a bunch of guys in black hats, but when you ask them why, or attempt to get an opinion on a part of Tanach (Torah, Prophets, and Writings) you will find them coming to this from distinctly different viewpoints.  (See Orthopraxy)

I am Sick to Death of Right Wing Democrats

Case in point, the Obama's OMB chair turned overpaid Wall Street puke ( Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup) Peter Ortag, who is suggesting that the solution to the problems of the US Post Office is to let the financial industry to steal it from the American people:
Those who believe in the usefulness of government must be vigilant about making sure all its activities are vital ones, since the unnecessary ones undermine public confidence. With this in mind, Congress should now privatize the U.S. Postal Service.

Further evidence for why this should happen came last week, when the Postal Service announced that it would be unable to meet billions of dollars in payments that are coming due in August and September for future retiree health benefits. Privatization is not always the best way to improve efficiency, but the problems facing the Postal Service will be difficult to address if it remains within the government, and there is no longer any sound reason for it not to go private.
This ignores the fact that the US Post Office, one of the functions specifically mentioned in the Constitution, is actually running a primary surplus.
It is having money problems because, in 2006, the Republicans required them to fully fund their pension plan out to 75 years over a 10 year period.

Right now, the Post Office is on track to default on a $5.5 billion pension payment to the US treasury tomorrow:
The U.S. Postal Service affirmed it won’t make a required $5.5 billion payment due tomorrow to the U.S. Treasury for future retirees’ health care, an obligation the agency said must end for it to become financially viable.

The service has said for months it couldn’t afford the payment, which was initially due last September, nor a $5.6 billion payment required by Sept. 30 for this year. Postal legislation passed by the U.S. Senate on April 25 would slow the schedule for those obligations. The House hasn’t acted on a different postal measure aimed at changes to help the service cope with declining mail volume.

“This has no effect on mail processing or delivery, no impact on post offices, and employees will continue to get paid,” Dave Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman, said today in a phone interview.
Just in case your wondering, the USPS is on a pace to lose about $12 billion this year, after taking into account paying for the retirement of people who haven't been born yet.

Their pension is grossly over funded, (A true rarity in the US) and if they did not have to make these payments, then they would be turning something on the order of an $8 billion profit.

But according to Orzag, the real problem is that Post Office is not able to unleash its free market super-powers.

It's really all about allowing his cow-orkers at Citi to generate the enormous fees that would be the product of any privatization this massive.

Oh No You Didn't!!!

In an interview with Huffpo (no link, I don't link to them), Harry Reid threw down in a most spectacular way:
Saying he had "no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy," Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

"Harry, he didn't pay any taxes for 10 years," Reid recounted the person as saying.

"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," said Reid. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?
Mitt Rmoney, you just been served.

High five to Harry Reid.

30 July 2012

So, When is Mark Zuckerberg Going to Jail?

I've always thought that there was something odd about how Facebook does business.

Even by the litigious standards of the various dot-com bubbles, the number of law suits that have have been filed alleging that he took money from people to develop stuff,. and walked off with said work product.

It's entirely reasonable to see the enormous amount of money involved as an inducement to file suits, after all, even a small settlement will still be a lot of money, but I'd make sure to dot my "i"s and cross my "t"s if I dealt with Facebook in a commercial capacity.

This is what online market provider Limited Run has discovered, when they realized that 80% of the ad click-throughs that they were paying through were bots:
Hey everyone, we’re going to be deleting our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks, but we wanted to explain why before we do. A couple months ago, when we were preparing to launch the new Limited Run, we started to experiment with Facebook ads. Unfortunately, while testing their ad system, we noticed some very strange things. Facebook was charging us for clicks, yet we could only verify about 20% of them actually showing up on our site. At first, we thought it was our analytics service. We tried signing up for a handful of other big name companies, and still, we couldn’t verify more than 15-20% of clicks. So we did what any good developers would do. We built our own analytic software. Here’s what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn’t on. And if the person clicking the ad doesn’t have JavaScript, it’s very difficult for an analytics service to verify the click. What’s important here is that in all of our years of experience, only about 1-2% of people coming to us have JavaScript disabled, not 80% like these clicks coming from Facebook. So we did what any good developers would do. We built a page logger. Any time a page was loaded, we’d keep track of it. You know what we found? The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That’s correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs. So we tried contacting Facebook about this. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t reply. Do we know who the bots belong too? No. Are we accusing Facebook of using bots to drive up advertising revenue. No. Is it strange? Yes. But let’s move on, because who the bots belong to isn’t provable.

While we were testing Facebook ads, we were also trying to get Facebook to let us change our name, because we’re not Limited Pressing anymore. We contacted them on many occasions about this. Finally, we got a call from someone at Facebook. They said they would allow us to change our name. NICE! But only if we agreed to spend $2000 or more in advertising a month. That’s correct. Facebook was holding our name hostage. So we did what any good hardcore kids would do. We cursed that piece of sh%$ out! Damn we were so pissed. We still are. This is why we need to delete this page and move away from Facebook. They’re scumbags and we just don’t have the patience for scumbags.
(%$ mine)

I'm thinking that the people who will win if this story goes mainstream will be the newspapers.

Much of the allure of online advertising is its ability to closely track response to a specific ad. If that turns out not to be true, then print ads become much more attractive.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Fabulous!!!

The Democratic Party has decided to place a marriage equality plank in the party platform:
The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process.

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.

“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”

Frank emphasized that support for marriage equality is a position that has been established for the Democratic Party, from the president, who endorsed marriage equality in May, to House Democratic lawmakers who voted to reject an amendment reaffirming the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this month.
There is a lesson to be learned here, if you relentlessly hound Barack Obama, protest his fund raisers, confront his contributors, and organize a donation boycott, then he will EVENTUALLY he'll do the right thing.

Rmoron

I'm generally not a superstitious person, but I have 2 rules:
  • I will not have anything to do with the Hope diamond. (Like that would happen)
  • I'll avoid doing substantial on Tisha b'Av.  (Literally the 9th of the Hebrew month Av) The history is just too bad:
    • The reports of the spies, which led the Jews to spend 40 years in the desert.
    • The destruction of the 1st temple.
    • The destruction of the 2nd temple.
    • The crushing of the Bar Kokhba rebellion.
    • The first crusade, which set of an orgy of pogroms and murder.
    • The expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
    • The expulsion of the Jews from England.
    • The start of WWI.
    • Etc.
So, making a political trip to Israel on Tisha b'Av is not something I would do.

I'd move it a week one way or the other.

It is the saddest on the Jewish calendar, and it is observed by a day of fasting, and by listening by the chanting of Eicha (Lamentations).

One of the peculiarities of Tisha b'Av is that if it falls on a Shabbos, as it did this year, the observance is moved to the next day.

Whether you subscribe to my particular bit of superstitious silliness or not, it is self evident that if you decide to hold a $50,000 a plate fundraising banquet that starts while the fast is still ongoing, you don't have a bad luck problem, you have a "Your an idiot problem":
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will host a fund-raising event in Jerusalem this month at $60,000 or more per plate, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday.

Delegates are set to fly in from the US for the event on July 29, which a Republican source said would be “a small meeting, but a big fund-raiser” as the Tisha Be’av fast ends. Immediately after the fund-raising meeting, Romney will host a conference in Jerusalem, where he will lay out his Middle East policy.
To be fair, the actual serving of food was not to start until after the fast was technically over, and once it blew up in Mitt's face, they moved it to a breakfast get together the next morning.

But still, what sort of Rmorons does Mitt Rmoney have working for him?

Yep, No Racism Here

The former head of the Florida Republican party is now saying that the Republican voter ID law was specifically intended to suppress the black vote, and that this was explicitly discussed behind closed doors:
In the debate over new laws meant to curb voter fraud in places like Florida, Democrats always charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote of liberal voting blocs like blacks and young people, while Republicans just laugh at such ludicrous and offensive accusations. That is, every Republican except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who, scorned by his party and in deep legal trouble, blew the lid off what he claims was a systemic effort to suppress the black vote. In a 630-page deposition recorded over two days in late May, Greer, who is on trial for corruption charges, unloaded a litany of charges against the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” in his party, including the effort to suppress the black vote.

In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.
One hopes that his testimony is introduced in the suits that the DoJ is filing against Rick Scott and his merry band of racists.

This is the proverbial smoking gun.

Win

You know, I've never been a fan of the zombie genre.

I've never sat through a whole zombie movie (though I do want to see the genre bender Shaun of the Dead), and I really don't get the whole zombie walk thing.

However, the ziomnbie protest of Fred Phelps' twisted bigoted family is a genius:
Counter-demonstrators dressed as zombies outnumbered protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church at a military base near DuPont, Washington over the weekend.

Melissa Neace, 27, launched a Facebook group to organize the zombies event after she learned that the radical ant-LGBT church would be picketing Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle.

“We wanted to turn something negative around, into something people could laugh at and poke fun at,” Neace explained to The News Tribune. “It was the easiest way to divert attention from something so hateful.”

Over 200 people committed to attending the event on Saturday, which she called “Zombie’ing Westboro Baptist Church AWAY from Fort Lewis!”
Of course, this is completely unrealistic.

Zombies eat brains, and they'd starve if they had to depend on Westboro Baptist.

29 July 2012

Obama's Torture

It looks like there is going to be testimony offered on the torture of Pfc. Bradley Manning by the military with the active support of the administration:
A comprehensive motion containing allegations and evidence from the defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, was filed on July 27. The 110-page motion, which Manning’s defense lawyer said should “shock the conscience of the court” during a motion hearing this month, included a request to the Fort Meade court to dismiss all charges with prejudice because he was subjected to “illegal pretrial punishment” while imprisoned at the Quantico Marine Brig for nine months.

The defense’s motion was not approved for publishing; however, two other motions involving the defense’s request for witnesses to appear during argument on “unlawful pretrial punishment” were posted to the defense’s website. One of the motions reveals Manning will likely take the stand to give testimony on how he was subjected to “unlawful pretrial punishment”—what many have called cruel and inhuman treatment or even torture. His testimony may include what he knows about a video of his interrogation at Quantico, which the government claims does not exist.
Obama knew, or was deliberately and willfully blind to Manning's torture.

He admitted this in an open press conference, when he said:
With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.
Manning was arrested in 2010.

Everything that has been done to him, in what is a transparent attempt to coerce Manning into providing false testimony against Julian Assange to allow for a prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act.

One of the positions of the Obama administration is that officials should not be prosecuted for matters of policy.

I could not disagree more. (Roll prosecushun kitty)

We won't begin to fix the damage done to core rights, and the concept of the rule of law until the most senior members of the executive branch face criminal prosecutions.

My Heart Bleeds Borscht

TV stations are required under federal law to provide their lowest rates to candidates, but this does not apply to Super PACs:
To make his closing argument to Iowa voters on the day of the Jan. 3 caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent $1,000 to air a minute- long television ad during one of the Des Moines market’s top- rated morning news programs.

That same airtime on CBS affiliate KCCI-TV was in demand by a super-political action committee helping Romney, and Restore Our Future paid a 50 percent premium to place its commercial.

Come September and October, when Romney and President Barack Obama, House and Senate candidates and dozens of outside political groups will be demanding ad space, super-PACs can expect stations to begin charging what Democratic media consultant Peter Fenn calls “super-gouge rates” of as much as four times what candidates pay.

“Stations are rabid for this money,” said Kip Cassino, research director of Borrell Associates, which tracks the television industry and is based in Williamsburg, Virginia. “The super-PACs are like a kid with money burning a hole in their pocket.”
While I am not a fan of the TV industry, I am still amused gouging the Super PACS and their rich pig backers.

28 July 2012

What a Surprise

When another vote comes up on a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, the Democratic Leadership in the House whips against it:
Yesterday, on the House floor, there was a furious debate over the prospect for HR 541, Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve. The Republicans are by and large supportive of this bill, seeking to hamstring the ability of the Federal Reserve to act in secret. Democratic members, were they left to their own devices, would be split. But on votes on bills like this, party leaders can choose to endorse a position, or not endorse a position. Some votes are what’s called “whipped”, and some aren’t. There’s an intricate system of whips and assistant whips and staff networks who encourage members to vote a certain way, so when the party takes a position on an issue, it has a big impact on the final vote count. This is a whipped vote, which means that this is one of those times where the Democratic leadership – Steny Hoyer, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi – are putting their stamp on an issue. They have come out firmly for Fed secrecy.

Here’s the whip notice from Democratic leadership on the House side encouraging members to vote against transparency at the Fed.

………

UPDATE: The bill passed, 327-97. A bunch of Democrats flipped against an audit. Just glancing at the roll call, Louise Slaughter, Lynn Woolsey, Marcy Kaptur, Heath Shuler, and Donna Edwards (among others) cosponsored the bill either last Congress and/or this Congress, and then voted against it on the floor. Go Team Blue!

UPDATE, AGAIN: The Democratic leaders, despite whipping, barely got a majority of the caucus to vote no. This is a massive failure on their part, and shows how weak they are.
It won't ever make it to the floor of the Senate, and if it passed there, Obama would veto it.

I am not a Ron Paul gold nut, but I do think that the Fed, with regard to its non-monetary activity in particular, should be more accountable, and I think that opposition to that idea is because they (they being the usual suspects) want to make sure that the Fed is free to bail them (them being the usual suspects) the next time that they (they being the usual suspects) drive themselves (they being the usual …… you get the point) off a cliff and need rescuing.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

Back to the new normal this week, only 1 failure.

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

  1. Jasper Banking Company, Jasper, GA

Full FDIC list

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

27 July 2012

Yes, This Does Address a Common Problem in FRPGs



I've never been into that whole mail bikini thing.

This Quarter's GDP Numbers

Click for full size


H/t Paul Krugman for the Graph Pr0n
The GDP numbers for the 2nd quarter sucked:
The U.S. economy probably expanded in the second quarter at the slowest pace in a year as a softening labor market caused Americans to cut back on spending, economists said before a report today.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.4 percent annual rate after a 1.9 percent gain in the prior quarter, according to the median forecast of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Consumer purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy, may have grown at the weakest pace in a year.
As the good Doctor notes, the real; problem is that the stimulus was too small in the first place, and too short as well, so we are effectively doing austerity in the worst recession in 80 years.

Headline iof the day

Think Obama's a Muslim? Then you're too stupid to vote

Twitter Joke Conviction Overturned

Finally, some sanity in the courts, though it's across the pond.

Perhaps we've finally found judges who have a clue about Twitter:
A bloke found guilty of tweeting a "menacing" joke about blowing up a UK airport has had his conviction quashed by the High Court today. A collective sigh of relief was heard moments later from comedians addicted to the micro-blogging website.

Paul Chambers, 28, was waiting to fly from Doncaster's Robin Hood airport to Belfast to see his girlfriend, whom he met on the social networking site, when snow closed the airfield and delayed his flight.

He vented his frustration in a series of tweets to his squeeze Sarah Tonner, now his fiancee, including a suggestion that he had considered "resorting to terrorism" to ensure he could visit her.

………

Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said in the High Court today that the facts needed to be considered in context, pointing out that the tweets had clearly appeared to be a reference to the airport closing due to adverse weather conditions.

"There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant’s 'tweet', or indeed anyone else who may have seen the 'tweet' posted on the appellant’s time line, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming," the High Court heard.
His comedian supporters were stoked:





'Phants Ceding PA

It looks like both the Rmoney campaign and the super PACS that support him, are pulling out of Pennsylvania:
One of the early peculiarities of the advertising campaign is the half-hearted effort in Pennsylvania—a state which figured prominently in the electoral calculus of the last three presidential elections. Despite that place in recent electoral history, Romney hasn’t aired any ads in Pennsylvania since the general election began. And although the Obama campaign and the super PACs have waged a low-intensity ad war in Pennsylvania, the most recent data suggests that even these limited efforts might be winding down.


For the first time in the campaign, Republicans are completely off the air in Pennsylvania. According to The Washington Post’s ad tracker, neither Crossroads nor Restore Our Future have aired ads in Pennsylvania since the beginning of July, and although Americans for Prosperity purchased buys for the early half of July, they appear to have gone off the air as well. This could be temporary, of course: there were weeks when the GOP went off the air in Michigan, only to return a few weeks later. Americans for Prosperity isn’t airing any ads this week, and they were carrying the load in Pennsylvania before dropping off the air, so they might start contesting Pennsylvania again once they return to the presidential race. But the decision to cease advertisements shouldn't be overlooked: ads quickly lose their punch once the airwaves go quiet, so it's important to remain persistent once advertisements begin.


Why is Pennsylvania falling off of the radar? Although the state is typically characterized as a white working class state reminiscent of the Midwest, the Democratic coalition in Pennsylvania is far more diverse and upscale than Ohio or Michigan. Democrats also have a large registration advantage in Pennsylvania, and a Romney victory would require a degree of crossover appeal that he has not yet demonstrated. Instead, Romney and his allies appear more interested in testing the waters of the Great Lakes, where demographics or electoral history are arguably more promising than Pennsylvania. Obama is more dependent on white working class voters in Michigan than Pennsylvania, and recent polls provide cause for Republicans to be hopeful about their chances. This week, Crossroads turned up the volume in Michigan and spent nearly $600,000 on advertisements. That’s not as much as other battleground states, but it’s a hefty investment. For comparison, Obama spent $1 million in Ohio—a slightly larger state, generally considered more likely to decide the election. The RNC has also announced it will invest in Wisconsin, a state where Obama looks strong but that Kerry won by just 14,000 votes in 2004.
This is unsurprising.

The last time that Pennsylvania went Republican was in 1988, and that was close.

For all the talk of it being a swing state, it isn't.

It's Jobless Thursday!

And the numbers are pretty good.

Initial claims fell to 353K, as did the less volatile  4-week moving average, and continuing claims, though extended and emergency claims are up slightly.

I don't know what the f%$3 is going.

July is full of corrections, and it creates a lot of volatility.

26 July 2012

What an Evil, Evil Ratf%$#

And no surprise, he's a Wall Street Journal editorial writer, James Taranto:


The world would have been a better place if his parents had died virgins.

H/t Atrios.

25 July 2012

I'll Have a Side Order of Racist Ratf%$# with That

Yes, the Rmoney campaign has denied it, but one of his surrogates just threw out a blatantly racist agitprop:
As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America's enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

Mr Romney on Wednesday embarks on an overseas tour of Britain, Israel and Poland designed to quash claims by Mr Obama’s team that he is a “novice” in foreign affairs. It comes four years after Mr Obama’s own landmark foreign tour, which attracted thousands of supporters.
(emphasis mine)

Romney promptly disavowed whoever said this, and the most likely suspect for this is a Heritage Foundation puke by the name of Nile Gardiner, (he has denied it) who is rather fond of the the phrase.

Yes, the Pilots Choking is Really Solved This Time

They say that it's just an overinflating pressure vest that is part of their G-suit:
The mysterious engineering problem causing F-22 Raptor pilots to choke in their cockpits has been solved, the Pentagon says. And it’s not the nearly $400 million aircraft’s fault after all.

The problem lies with a valve in the pressurized vest pilots wear as they fly the jet at high altitudes, Pentagon spokesman George Little said. The valve inflated the vest, limiting the pilots’ oxygen supply. It does not appear that the vest was affecting quality of the oxygen in the Raptor. The valve will be replaced; the garment’s use will be “suspended,” Little said.

Additionally, the Air Force has decided to remove a filter it placed in the jet to test the oxygen quality. Ironically, the filter ended up limiting the oxygen supply to the pilots. But the charcoal filter resulted in “no oxygen contamination,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

Accordingly, the Air Force will gradually take its premiere stealth jet off of the probation that the so-called “hypoxia” incidents — a term indicating problems with the oxygen in the cockpit — necessitated. Over an unspecified period of time, the F-22 will no longer be restricted to flying short missions at low altitudes near air bases. The first indication that the jet is off probation will be an imminent flight of an F-22 squadron over the Pacific to Kadena Air Force Base in Japan — which will occur at a “lower altitude,” Little said.
I'll believe this if we don't have any more incidents for at least 6 months.

24 July 2012

Speaking of Wankers

The Australian prosecutors, who tried to seize proceeds from David Hicks' memoir about his captivity and torture at the US facility in Guantanamo Bay:
So the Australian government has shot itself in the foot while aiming at David Hicks. It would be funny if it weren't so appalling.

The withdrawal of the dubious literary proceeds of crime action against Hicks raises questions the Commonwealth DPP has not fully answered. Why was the case dropped? What new material was presented by Hicks that prosecutors were unaware of when launching proceedings?

The DPP's statement acknowledges the plea Hicks entered in the US - an ++"Alford plea" whereby a defendant is able to acknowledge the evidence without admitting commission of the offences charged - "is not recognised in Australia". Furthermore, the DPP was unable to "satisfy the court that the admissions should be relied upon", and the defendant "served evidential material not previously available to the CDPP & AFP".
The "evidential material" in question were his allegations of coercion and torture, which were in the book that generated the moneys in question.

Yes, This Both Cowardice and Hypocrisy

Roger Simon (not the Pajamas Media Guy) notes that both Presidential candidates are full of it in their expressions of sympathy for the victims of the Batman shootings.

The issue here is that both candidates, while expressing sympathy, are refusing to do anything, even the most basic stuff, like keeping records of gun purchases, as they do with explosives (and many types of fertilizer), so when someone purchases 6000 rounds and multiple weapons, someone might flag this as being a matter of concern.
Here is the money quote from the OP/EE:
What was baloney is that he intends to do nothing about preventing it in the future.

His White House press secretary had announced as much to reporters on Air Force One on the flight to Colorado. Jay Carney said Obama “believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons.”

That “existing law” was painfully inadequate to protect the 70 people who had been shot in a movie theater was obvious to all. All except for politicians running for reelection, that is.

Mitt Romney is no better. Having opposed “deadly assault weapons” as governor of Massachusetts in 2004, he now does “not support any new legislation of an assault weapon-ban nature.”

But he, too, said he was “deeply saddened” by the Aurora shootings. Just not deeply saddened enough to promise to do anything about future shootings.
I think that every player in American politics is Wayne LaPierre's bitch.

Wanker of the Decade

Wisconsin State Senator Tim Cullen, who left the Democratic Caucus over a hissy fit about committee assignments.

While he's not joined the Republican caucus, which would flip the Senate.

All reports are that he was Republican Governor Scott Walker's favorite Democrat in the Senate, so I peg this as a case of Joe Lieberman syndrome, where they act like a complete prat if they feel that they have not received the requisite obsequious adulation.

The ILECS Suck

Yes, those relics of the Bell Telephone System, the incumbent local exchange carrier are a bunch of pig felching scum, and US telecommunications and data costs and performance will continue to lag behind the rest of the world until they are treated as rent seeking parasites, rather than valued participants in the process.

In the case of Verizon, it now appears that they are deliberately sabotaging its own DSL service and forcing its customers with which it colludes, with the hope that these people will be forced to move to (almost completely unregulated) wireless.

It has the additional "benefit" of moving their business from their unionized land line market to their non-unionized wireless division.

We also have AT&T reporting improved profits by deliberately and aggressively making their product worse:
AT&T reported their second quarter results today. According to this analysis, AT&T achieved better profitability by (a) dramatically limiting their broadband service; (b) discouraging consumers from upgrading their devices; and (c) figuring out new charges for consumers to enhance overall profit per customer.

I get that firms are supposed to maximize profit. But when every single incentive to profit maximization relies on providing less service for more money and discouraging people from using your service, something is seriously messed up. This is doubly true when usual trend in information technology is to drive prices down. And, more tellingly, it creates a real concern if we are relying on market incentives to ensure that providers do things like build out networks and provide us with better service and lower prices.

………

I’d be happy to concede the issue on metred pricing, except that there doesn’t seem to be any actual relationship between the price metering and the cost of provisioning. The idea of metering is that I want to provide you with more capacity because that way I make more profit. If this were bananas, I would have a fairly direct incentive to grow more bananas so I can sell more bananas. But AT&T doesn’t want to charge me for more bandwidth, which would arguably give it incentive to build better systems and sell me ever more capacity. It wants to sell me limited capacity and then stop, presumably so it can capture some imaginary and unspecified revenue on the the other side of the platform. That creates a fairly unfriendly incentive to create scarcity and avoid investment in the network.
It's what economists call rent seeking behavior, where a company manipulates the social or political environment to extract money, as opposed to doing that icky, "out-competing the competition" thing.

23 July 2012

It Appears that McClatchy Employes the Only People Who Practice Journalism in Washington, DC

Because it appears that the rest of the Washington press corps(e) allow administration officials to dictate and re-edit their quotes:
To our staff and to our readers:

As you are aware, reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview.

To be clear, it is the bureau’s policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews.

With the government trying to do more of the public’s business in secret, the demands that interviews be conducted off the record is growing. While it puts us at a disadvantage, we should argue strenuously for on-the-record interviews with government officials.

When they absolutely refuse, we have only two options. First, halt the interview and attempt to find the information elsewhere. In those cases, our stories should say the official declined comment. Second, we can go ahead with the interview with the straightforward response that whatever ultimately is used will be published without change in tone, emphasis or exact language.
The fact that McClatchy is alone in taking such a position is troubling, to say the least..

H/t Taylor Marsh

Penn State Gets Slap on the Wrist

Let's look at the term of the so called punishment:
  • A $60 million fine. (For a program routinely generates revenue, not counting alumni donations in the $50 million dollar range).
  • Vacating all victories since 1998, which means nothing except that Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in college football.
  • A 4 year ban on bowl games.
  • Loss of 20 scholarships for the next 4 years.
  • Allowing players to transfer into other programs.
The biggest deal is the post season ban.  It reduces revenue, and makes recruiting of top level players all but impossible, so everything else is pretty much nothing.

Compare this to SMU, which had the temerity to conspire with boosters to pay its so-called "student athletes", and had its football program shut down for a year, and their football program has never recovered.
http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-dufresne-ncaa-penn-state20120723,0,6729566.story

Amity Shlaes is a F%$#ing Moron, Part LVMXXVII

Here latest brain fart is the suggestion that the federal government place levies on the states, and to allow them to collect the taxes, because the Articles of Confederation were such a good idea.

I'm not being metaphorical here.  She literally extolls the virtues of the articles of confederation:
.There will be objections, of course. The first is that states’ collecting the money isn’t our tradition. It is, actually. Under the Articles of Confederation, the states, not individuals, owed payments to the federal government. The modern income tax, where citizens pay the federal government, came into being only a century ago. 
Which is not the same thing as saying that the federal government hasn't had taxing authority for the past 223 years, though she is implying that the failed and rejected Articles of Incorporation is part of the American tradition of governance.

The Magna Carta, and the Marine Insurance Act of 1746 have more to do with the heritage and traditions of the United States than does the Articles of Confederation.

Just remember that she spent decade as a "senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations," as well as being an adjunct (temp) prof at NYU's Stern School of Business, despite making sh%$ up in her so called histories, and despite the fact that she her degree in is in English.

So if a representative from either of the above institutions claims that the sky is blue, find independent verification.

Any organization that hires her has no credibility.

Round Up the Usual Suspects

The operative quote here is, "individual traders":
American prosecutors and European regulators are close to arresting individual traders over the Libor scandal and charging them with colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Federal prosecutors in Washington DC have recently contacted lawyers representing some of the individuals under suspicion to notify them that criminal charges and arrests could be imminent, said two sources speaking anonymously.

Defence lawyers representing individuals under suspicion said prosecutors have indicated they will begin making arrests and filing charges in the next few weeks. In long-running financial investigations it is not uncommon for prosecutors to contact defence lawyers for individuals before filing charges to offer them a chance to co-operate or take a plea, the lawyers said.
(emphasis mine)

This is looking a lot like a US military investigation of war crimes.  The goal is to prosecute at absolutely the lowest level possible, and come down on the little fish like a ton of bricks.

We know how this works.  It's called "looking forward, not back."

If any one at the VP level is charged, I predict that they will be non-white, south or east Asian.

Today's Civil Rights Heroes


No, this is not intentional, just very apropos!
The Muppets. Seriously:
The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors. Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD. (http://www.glaad.org/)
You know, it's a never a good idea to f%$# with the Muppets.  When you f%$# with the (what the hell is Gonzo anyway?) you get the horns.

H/t Think Progress.

22 July 2012

Yes, a 60 Year Old Engine is NASA's Future

I appreciate the contributions that Wernher von Braun, but the fact that NASA is looking at using the F-1 engine as the core of its future heavy lifter (paid subscription required) makes me wonder what the hell NASA has been doing since the Apollo program:
The powerful rocket engine developed in the 1960s to launch the first men to the Moon could be reprised in the 2020s as the powerplant for strap-on boosters that NASA hopes to use in heavy-lift human missions to Mars. Under a new NASA risk-reduction project, Dynetics Inc., a relative newcomer to space launch, will explore the idea for the U.S. agency in partnership with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

Rocketdyne built the 1.5-million-lb.-thrust F-1 engine for NASA , which mounted five of the kerosene-fueled behemoths in the Saturn V first stage to propel the massive Saturn/Apollo stack off the launch pad.The F-1—19 ft. tall, with a nozzle 12.5 ft. across—epitomized the scale of the flight hardware and ground infrastructure NASA used to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon. If NASA decides to fly it again, it probably will be tested in the same stands built for the F-1 at the agency's Marshall and Stennis field centers, stacked in the same 40-story Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center used for Apollo and the space shuttle, and launched from one of the pads built for the Moon program.

Dynetics scored big in a $200 million NASA effort to reduce the risk on advanced boosters for the planned Space Launch System (SLS) that Congress ordered as a government-owned deep-space alternative to the commercial vehicles the agency wants to use for transport to the International Space Station. Last week NASA selected the company to negotiate for three of six 30-month study contracts designed to reduce risk on the twin boosters that will be needed to raise the SLS capability from an initial 70 metric tons to the 130 metric tons the agency believes will be needed for human missions beyond low Earth orbit.

………

If the Dynetics proposal to use the F-1 in the boosters is accepted, all of the engines on the SLS will have heritage in earlier human spaceflight missions, and all will already have been used for decades when deep-space human missions begin. The F-1 ran a full 2.5-min. test at Edwards AFB, Calif., in 1960 (see photo), before the A-1 and A-2 test stands at Stennis were built for it. NASA and Rocketdyne are testing the uprated J-2X variant of the Saturn V J-2 engine to power the SLS upper stage . And the main SLS engine will be a throw-away version of the reusable RS-25D space shuttle main engine, also built by Rocketdyne , once the 15 surplus shuttle engines are used up. Developed in the 1970s, it will be the newest basic engine design for what may one day be NASA 's newest human launchers.
This is f%$#ing depressing.

I'm Dubious that an Indian Probe Will Reach Mars This Decade

Yes, I am aware that the Indians have put satellites in orbit, but their plans for a mars probe seem to be to be over-ambitious:(pdid subscription required)
Indian space officials expect the country's first mission to Mars to receive final government approval soon, with a launch planned for November 2013.

“The project has reached the last phase of approval. Many studies relating to the mission have been completed, and an announcement can be expected soon,” Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan says.

The U.S. government is expected to give its final approval after NASA 's Mars Science Laboratory lands there on Aug. 6 (EDT), though India's orbiter mission will not be on the same scale as that undertaken by NASA 's car-sized rover.

India's Mars orbiter is expected to be launched from Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The project received a boost in the federal budget for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, with the government allocating 1.25 billion rupees ($22.6 million).
Not enough money, and not enough time.  I would believe it if they added at least 5 years, and at least 500 million dollars, I'd believe it.

I am Getting Old

I was watching the video of Michelle Jenneke running the women's 100m hurdles, it's gone viral over the past few days, and what I notice is her hurdles form.

Her bouncing around and dancing as she gets ready for the race, but what struck me was the fact that she could have balanced a soup bowl on the top of her head and delivered it at the finish line without spilling a drop.

No wasted motion.

20 July 2012

It's Bank Failure ……… What the F%$#?

What the hell is going on with this ADHD bank failure sh%$?

There are five failures this week, tied for the most this year.

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

  1. The Royal Palm Bank of Florida, Naples, FL
  2. Georgia Trust Bank, Buford, GA
  3. First Cherokee State Bank, Woodstock, GA
  4. Heartland Bank, Leawood KS
  5. Second Federal Savings and Loan Association of Chicago, Chicago, IL
The FDIC has been wicked busy.

Full FDIC list

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

I Gotta Read This Book

Neil Barkofsky's book on his experiences monitoring the TARP, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, and the Bush administration comes off better than the Obama administration:
The Huffington Post described a scene in a forthcoming book by Neil Barofsky, the former Special Inspector General of TARP, where Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner delivered a string of F-bombs during a discussion about transparency. I’ve read the book, and while that’s an amusing diversion, it’s nowhere near the headline story.

The important moment in the book for me comes conveniently after Barofsky recounts this FDL News item, one of my HAMP horror stories. Barofsky shows how HAMP’s faulty design led to all sorts of problems like this, with trapped borrowers, extended trial payments, no-doc modifications, and eventually unnecessary foreclosures. Barofsky mused that Treasury didn’t care about the suffering of borrowers under HAMP, and the issue came up in a meeting with the Treasury Secretary, which was also attended by Elizabeth Warren, then the head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, another TARP watchdog.

Warren asked Geithner repeatedly about HAMP. After several evasions, Geithner said about the banks, “We estimate that they can handle ten million foreclosures, over time… this program will help foam the runway for them.”

This is a revelatory moment for Barofsky in the book, and should be for everyone reading. Geithner’s concern, first of all, was with how the banks would respond to the program, not how homeowners would respond to it. In fact, homeowners are quite besides the point. Regardless of their situation, they will be one of the 10 million foreclosures, in Geithner’s construction. His goal was merely to space out the foreclosures and give the banks time to earn their way back to health, mostly through the other parts of the bailout, that enabled them to earn profits.
I will note that the Cossacks work for the Czar, and notwithstanding all the turnover on the economic side of his cabinet, Geithner has been a constant.

This is going on because this is what Obama wants.

Racist Diatribes from SB 1070 Sponsor

In the challenges to Arizona's immigration law, one of the claims made is that it was motivated by bigotry.

Well, the plaintiffs now have sponsor's, former state senate majority leader Russell Pearce's, emails, and we have the smoking gun:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has released thousands of e-mails that it says proves Arizona's controversial immigration law was racially motivated.

The e-mails, acquired through a public records request to the state Legislature, are to and from former senator Russell Pearce, who authored Senate Bill 1070.

The ACLU included dozens of those e-mails as part of a legal filing this week, asking U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to prevent a key part of SB 1070 from going into effect.

The e-mails from Pearce in the court documents include statements like, "Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance ... It's like importing leper colonies and hope we don't catch leprosy. It's like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream."

They include statistics such as "9,000 people killed every year by illegal aliens," and "the illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two-and-a-half times that of non-illegal aliens."
Some quotes:
"Battles commence as Mexican nationalists struggle to infuse their men into American government and strengthen control over their strongholds. One look at Los Angeles with its Mexican-American mayor shows you Vincente Fox's general Varigossa commanding an American city."

"They create enclaves of separate groups that shall balkanize our nation into fractured nightmares of social unrest and poverty."
I am not surprised at all that this guy is a bigoted ratf%$#, though I am surprised that he was stupid enough to reveal it on email.

Obviously, the Dark Knight Shooting Spree Should Raise Questions About Gun Control

But it won't:



The reality is that we will not see gun control in my life time, but as Tom Tomorrow notes, that does not keep the gun nuts from being whiny bitches about it.

19 July 2012

Crap

Benjamin Netanyahu sandbagged his coalition partners on plans to make all Israelis serve in the military, and they have left the coalition, which effectively ends the best chance in Israel's history to stop coddling the Heredi schnorrers (ultra orthodox moochers):
The broadest unity coalition Israel has seen in many years broke apart Tuesday evening, rent by irreconcilable differences over how to integrate ultra-Orthodox men and Arab citizens into the military and civilian service, a fundamental question for the future of the Jewish democracy.

After stunning the political establishment with a secret, late-night deal in May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz, the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, failed to achieve their top priority and agreed to part ways. While Mr. Netanyahu retains power with his original, narrower majority in Parliament, analysts said the split weakened both leaders and was likely to hasten elections.

The coalition had given Mr. Netanyahu a supermajority of 94 of the Parliament’s 120 members and a new nickname, “King of Israel,” and with that unprecedented authority to take on complex issues like the stalemated peace process with the Palestinians and the national responsibilities of Israel’s growing minorities. Instead, when it came to the draft and expanding settlements in the West Bank, he chose to solidify his alliance with right-wing and religious factions.“I don’t think there are any winners, except maybe the Orthodox parties — they’re off the hook for the foreseeable future,” said Yossi Verter, political correspondent for the newspaper Haaretz. “The losers are, of course, Netanyahu and Mofaz. When the leaders of the two big parties in Israel sit and decide to form a unity government and after 70 days it collapses, they don’t look like serious men. It’s like a joke.”

The surprise partnership between the prime minister and the former leader of the opposition had come a day after Mr. Netanyahu called for early elections because of cracks in his original coalition. The two men vowed to leverage the huge new majority to enact legislation ensuring that all citizens share the burden of military and civilian service, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling invalidating a law that granted draft exemptions to thousands of yeshiva students.

The issue had broad resonance in a society increasingly torn between secular and religious Jews: some 20,000 people took to the Tel Aviv street this month to demand a broader draft and the ouster of politicians who opposed it.

But talks broke down over the details. Kadima set a goal of enlisting 80 percent of the ultra-Orthodox within four years, with stiff financial penalties for dodgers. Under pressure from religious parties long aligned with his Likud faction, Mr. Netanyahu proffered a more incremental solution, which Mr. Mofaz rejected as a cop-out.
It was a cop-out, and as long as these mendicants are allowed to shirk their duty, it will remain a cancer on Israeli governance.

Republican Family Values

It appears that a Utah Republican activist, Greg Peterson dabbles in serial date rape as a hobby:
News that a Utah Republican activist is accused of raping four women — two of whom say they were taken to the Heber cabin where the man hosted major political events — caused ripples of unease Thursday throughout the GOP.

Gregory Nathan Peterson has hobnobbed with the likes of Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, Gov. Gary Herbert, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and candidates such as 4th District congressional contender Mia Love. [Ed Note: 

But for the past 14 months, the 37-year-old Orem man allegedly has led a double life as a serial date-rapist.

Peterson was charged Wednesday in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City with 23 felony counts, including rape and kidnapping, and two misdemeanors. A jail log indicates U.S. marshals arrested Peterson in his home in Heber and booked him into the Salt Lake County jail. He remained there Thursday in lieu of $750,000 bail.

Charging documents allege sexual assaults against four women Peterson met in Salt Lake County beginning March 26, 2011. In the first case, the documents allege, he met a woman at a church function and she agreed to go to a movie with him.

But instead of going to a theater, the documents allege, Peterson told the woman he had a gun and took her to his five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 3,000-square-foot cabin in Heber. The documents allege he sexually assaulted the woman and hit her when she did not do as he wished. Peterson drove the woman back to her vehicle the next morning.

Peterson’s Heber cabin is where he has held annual Republican barbecues and gatherings.

The charges allege Peterson met another woman online and she agreed to go to a movie with him July 2, 2011. But this time Peterson threatened to expose the woman’s expired immigration visa and drove her to the Heber cabin, documents allege. Peterson raped and assaulted the woman there, court papers say, then drove her to his mother’s Lewiston residence in Cache County. Peterson and the woman stayed there until July 5. The documents say Peterson took the woman to her home July 8.

On Dec. 11, 2011, Peterson met a West Jordan woman for a lunch date, the documents allege, and at her home he pushed her on a couch and sexually assaulted her.
It's amazing how fast his former BFFs are falling all over themselves pretending not to know him.

It's Jobless Thursday

And yes, last weeks good numbers were an artifact of a flawed seasonal adjustment:
More Americans than forecast filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments last week as the volatility induced by the annual auto-plant retooling period wore off.

Applications for jobless benefits increased by 34,000 to 386,000 in the week ended July 14, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 365,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The volatility in the numbers was due to a change in the timing of annual automobile plant layoffs, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data were released.

Determining whether the labor market is improving or deteriorating has been more difficult in recent weeks because a reduction in the number of auto-plant layoffs typical at this point of the year has thrown the Labor Department’s seasonal adjustment process out of line. It may take weeks to judge whether the labor market is making substantial progress.
Not good numbers this week.

When Ed F%$#ing Rollins Finds a Republican's Political Statement Beyond the Pale…

Click for full size


C. Megladon*
You have not just jumped the shark, you have jumped C. Megladon, on a unicycle, while wear nothing but piercings and a rose between your teeth.

It appears that Michelle Bachmann has managed to cross this event horizon:
Rep. Michele Bachmann’s former campaign manager has joined the bipartisan chorus criticizing the Minnesota Republican for questioning the loyalty of State Department aide Huma Abedin and alleging she has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“I have been a practitioner of tough politics for many decades,” Ed Rollins wrote in an op-ed for FOX News. “There is little that amazes me and even less that shocks me. I have to say that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s outrageous and false charges against a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin reaches that threshold.
………
“Having worked for Congressman Bachman’s campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level,” he wrote.
Generally, Republicans are busy saying that Joe McCarthy has been given an unfair rap by pinko historians, so this boggles the mind.

The real question is whether the Beltway gasbags  will start treating her like that crazy guy in a bath robe on the soapbox in the park.

*The largest shark, and likely largest predator fish ever. It died out some 1.5 million years ago. The Genus is still in dispute, between either Carcharodon (Great White) or Carcharocles (broad toothed Mako). But in either case, you are jumping C. Megladon, you have jumped the biggest shark ever.

I am surrounded by legions of the living dead

The DMV. I have to renew my driver's license.

Posted via mobile.

18 July 2012

CFPB Draws First Blood

They just fined Capital One $210 million for misleading consumers on credit protection and protection monitoring programs:
Capital One Financial agreed to pay $210 million to resolve charges by banking regulators that its call-center representatives misled consumers into paying for extra credit card products.

The enforcement action, announced on Wednesday, is the first by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which said it unearthed the activities through an examination of the bank.

The CFPB was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and is nearing its one-year anniversary.

The government said $150 million of the sanctions will go to reimburse affected customers, while the remaining penalty will be split between the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which fined the bank $35 million, and the CFPB, which will collect $25 million.

"We are putting companies on notice that these deceptive practices are against the law and will not be tolerated," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.

The regulators alleged that employees at call centers used by Capital One pressured and misled consumers into paying for "add-on products" such as payment protection and credit monitoring when they activated their credit cards.

In a briefing with reporters, Cordray said he anticipated actions against other banks over similar tactics but declined to name any targets.

"We know these deceptive tactics are not unique to a single institution ... we expect announcements about other institutions as our ongoing work continues to unfold," Cordray said.

In a statement, the president of Capital One's credit card business, Ryan Schneider, apologized to customers who were affected and said the bank is committed to "making it right."
What's in your wallet?

The Stoopid, It Burns US!!!!

This is a week for the stupid.

Case in point, this exchange between award winning journalist and columnist Connie Schultz and an unnamed conservative blogger:
Email from conservative blogger, dated July 9, 2012:

Dear Ms. Shultz,

We are doing an expose on journalists in the elite media who socialize with elected officials they are assigned to cover. We have found numerous photos of you with Sen. Sherrod Brown. In one of them, you appear to be hugging him.

Care to comment?

-----------------------

Response, dated July 10, 2012:

Dear Mr. [Name Deleted]:

I am surprised you did not find a photo of me kissing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown so hard he passes out from lack of oxygen. He's really cute.

He's also my husband.

You know that, right?

Connie Schultz.

------------------------
July 17: Waiting, I'm waiting....
(emphasis mine)

Great googly moogly.

I guess Republicans live by the old Dave Sim adage,  "I firmly believe that if you can't fool all of the people all of the time, you should start breeding them for stupidity."

17 July 2012

Speaking Of the Stupid Burning

Rush Limbaugh is claiming that the latest Batman movie is a Democratic plot, because the villain is named Bane.  (As in Rmoney's Bain).

Ummm Bane has been a fixture in the Batman universe for how many decades?  (The Answer is almost 2)

Wanker of the Day

The ever reliable Joke Line.

Why the f%$# does this man have a job?

Thatcherism: The Belief That Things Will Get Better if You Make Your Modern State More Like An Arab Dictatorshiop

It is therefore no surprise that an Israeli has set fire to himself to protest the continued right wing tilt of Israeli society:
TEL AVIV — As doctors struggled on Monday to save the life of Moshe Silman, an Israeli man who set himself on fire at a protest for social justice in this Mediterranean city two days earlier, a grim mood had already replaced the mostly blithe atmosphere that characterized Israel’s popular movement for social change last summer.

While activists said Mr. Silman’s desperate act reaffirmed the relevancy of a grass-roots struggle that had seemed to be floundering, they appeared traumatized as they searched for an appropriate response.

“We must never encourage such a thing,” Stav Shaffir, a prominent leader of the movement, said in a telephone interview. “On the other hand, it cannot be ignored. Moshe Silman cried the cry of a lot of people.”

At the peak of last summer’s rallies, at least 400,000 Israelis peacefully took to the streets in this city and others, in one of the largest protests in the nation’s history. In the past few weeks, though, efforts to revive those heady days have been met with a degree of public apathy.

Then on Saturday, thousands of demonstrators turned out to mark the anniversary of the start of last year’s protests, dividing up into clusters and gathering around small stages. One by one the protesters voiced a wide range of complaints, from limited resources for school psychologists to the lack of public housing for disadvantaged Russian-speaking immigrants. A few people danced nearby to a song by an Israeli rap group that boomed from large speakers.

Suddenly, a tower of flames shot up near one of the podiums.

Mr. Silman, in his 50s, a fixture at the street protests over the past year, came to Tel Aviv on Saturday night equipped with gasoline and a suicide note. He had once run his own truck delivery business, but he had gotten into debt and then suffered a stroke.

In a typed letter he had copied and distributed in advance, he complained that his pleas for help had been rejected by the courts, the Housing Ministry and the National Insurance Institute, and that he was about to become homeless.

“The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me,” he wrote. “They left me with nothing.”

He added, “And I will not be homeless and this is why I protest.”
One of the worst things that Netanyahu had done (and that's saying a lot) was to shift political discussion in Israel completely away from any consideration of a just society.

This is some kind of Middle Eastern version of, "When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you."

Israel is now Tunisia.

16 July 2012

More Bad Economic News

June retail sales fell:
U.S. retail sales fell in June for the third straight month, the longest run of consecutive drops since 2008 when the country was mired in recession.

Sales slipped 0.5 percent, with declines across a wide swath of industries from electronics and cars to building supplies, the Commerce Department said on Monday. Analysts had expected a small increase.

"Evidence is increasingly clear that the U.S. economy is slowing," said Jim Baird, an investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The report adds to a spate of soft economic data that is raising pressure on President Barack Obama ahead of his November re-election bid. Republican challenger Mitt Romney is focusing his campaign on the weak economy, which has plagued Obama's presidency.
Obama should have asked for about ½ trillion more for his stimulus.

Kafka, Obama Style

The prosecution in the Bradley Manning Wikileaks trial the claims to have proof that he was aiding the enemy, a crime that carries the death penalty, but is refusing to produce any evidence"
The US government claims to have proof that Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaks suspect, knowingly passed state secrets to a location where it was bound to be obtained by enemy groups, a military court in Maryland has heard.

Captain Joe Morrow, a member of the five-strong prosecution team assigned to the case, said that the government would show at court martial that Manning had knowingly "aided the enemy" – the most serious of the 22 charges facing the soldier that carries the death penalty. Morrow said the evidence would show that Manning sent the information to a "very definite place" that he knew was used by the enemy.

He did not mention al-Qaida, though the terrorist network has been explicity named by the prosecution in previous hearings.

The insistence by the US government that it can prove Manning had actual knowledge that the WikiLeaks dump would be used by enemy groups was instantly disputed by the lead defence lawyer, David Coombs. He demanded that the government produce the evidence to which it was alluding.

"We haven't seen any evidence that the government has provided by discovery that supports any knowledge that the information would be obtained by the enemy," he said.
Note that if the court accepts this, to quote the ACLU, "the threat of criminal prosecution hangs over any service member who gives an interview to a reporter, writes a letter to the editor, or posts a blog on the internet. In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its 'success' would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals."

I believe that this is one of the goals of this prosecution.  When you define laws this broadly, every is a criminal, and so "troublemakers" can be dealt with.

This Week in Bad Ideas


A picture of the guy who came up with this idea
Rather unsurprisingly, this one involves automobiles, and the Italian auto industry.

You see, FIAT will be offering an in car esopresso maker on the Fiat 500:
Oh how those Italians love their espresso. And starting in October, they'll be able to have a doppio on the go in the new Fiat 500L.

At the presentation of the car to the global press in Turin this month, Fiat announced that the 500L will be "the first standard-production car in the world to offer a true espresso coffee machine."

The espresso maker will be an option in the new, bigger, four-door 500L that goes on sale in Italy in October and in the rest of Europe shortly after. (Think of the 500L as the Fiat 500 equivalent of the Mini Cooper Countryman -- there's even a vague similarity in silhouette.)
A coffee IV drip I could understand, but an espresso machine is insane.

Cancel the Littoral Combat Ship Now

The US Navy conducted studies of LCS capabilities, and it ain't pretty:
  • It's modular mission systems, which were supposed to allow the ship to be refitted in a couple of days in theater are "untenable", because the logistics are more involved than previously forseen.
  • The ship is intended to take on 21 day missions, but only carries 14 days of food.
  • The crew is too small.
  • It was intended to replace frigates, mine hunters, and patrol boats, but it is, "The new assessments conclude the ships are not equal to today’s frigates or mine countermeasures ships, and they are too large to operate as patrol boats."
  • It has no effective defense against cruise missiles.
  • It has no meaningful offensive capability now that the  Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) missile system has been canceled.
So, except for its high dash speed, it pretty much has failed every capability that was intended when it was conceived.

Cancel it, and get some honest to got frigates and mine hunters.

15 July 2012

The Next Gen Gripen Looks to Be a World Beater

Click for full size


This is a lot cheaper
Saab put out a very impressive briefing on the next generation of Gripen at Farnborough, where the headline was much lower direct operating costs:
Third (and most important) is that all air forces are finally realizing that operating costs are more important than acquisition costs. The debate over JSF costs - from the Navair leaks of 2010, through program director VAdm Dave Venlet's "it makes their knees go weak" quote in April 2011 to Lockheed Martin's recent assaults on the competence of Pentagon accountants - revolves around operating costs, and that is a fight that Gripen wins.

Saab says that the E/F will cost under $5,000 per flight hour - one-third to one-quarter of its estimates for Eurofighter, Rafale or JSF (Saab uses Australian numbers for the latter, which are lower than some).
These numbers are not just pie in the sky. The Gripen has been in service for over a decade, as has its engine, and it's half the size of its competitors, and you pay for aircraft like you pay for ground beef, by the pound.  (And yes, the numbers for the JSF are unsupportable)

However, what I found most interesting was the fact that they touted the advantages of non-integrated avionics, (page 33) explaining how you can move more quickly if your tactical avionics are separate from flight critical systems, which also allows greater access by the operating nations who might want to make their own upgrades and weapons.

This is a direct challenge to the tightly integrated, and inaccessible avionics package in the JSF.

PDF after the break. (H/T Eric Palmer for the embed.)

Americans Used to Work in Meatpacking

When one looks at the phrase, "Jobs Americans Won't Do," which is frequently used to justify both a lax policy on legal immigration, and salutary neglect toward illegal aliens.

One of the jobs that is supposed to be in this category is working in meat packing.

Dean Baker makes the point that his is inaccurate and ahistorical.

There were many Americans who worked in meat packing, and made a decent living from doing so, until engage in a decades long program of pushing down wages in the industry, which involved aggressive pursuit of undocumented workers and a vicious campaign against the unions.

The idea that there are jobs that Americans won't do is a myth.

When someone says that, they mean that there are jobs that Americans won't do if you have sh%$ty wages and benefits.

The Good Guys Beat the Borg (For Once)

Specifically, Wikileaks has won a case against Visa for cutting off their credit card donations:
The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that Valitor, formerly known as VISA Iceland, violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks, according to a press release posted on the whistleblowers' Twitter account.

The court also ordered that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be forced to pay a fine of $6,200 daily. Valitor CEO Vidar Thorkellsson told Bloomberg, however, that the company would appeal the ruling. He declined to comment further.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said "This is a significant victory against Washington's attempt to silence WikiLeaks. We will not be silenced. Economic censorship is censorship. It is wrong. When it's done outside of the rule of law its doubly wrong. One by one those involved in the attempted censorship of WikiLeaks will find themselves on the wrong side of history."

Deep Thought



Seen on Facebook.

Most Transparent Administration Ever

Have you heard the latest? The FDA spied on outside critics in an attempt to find out who were the whistleblowers.

The f%$#ing F f%$#ing D f%$#ing A was engaged in a f%$#ing witch hunt and coverup?

Un-f%$#ing-believable:
A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.

What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.

Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.

F.D.A. officials defended the surveillance operation, saying that the computer monitoring was limited to the five scientists suspected of leaking confidential information about the safety and design of medical devices.

While they acknowledged that the surveillance tracked the communications that the scientists had with Congressional officials, journalists and others, they said it was never intended to impede those communications, but only to determine whether information was being improperly shared.

The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.

The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.

A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found that the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to public safety.”
There is a saying, "A fish rots from the head," and this is completely in line with the Obama administration's jihad against whistle blowers.

Dutch Parliament Deals Blow to JSF

The Dutch Parliament has voted to ask the PM and cabinet to cancel the jet order:
The Netherlands should scrap plans to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because it cannot afford the project's ballooning costs as the country attempts to cut spending, a majority of parliament said on Thursday.

One leading party, Labour, will submit a proposal to the 150-seat legislature on the last session before Sept. 12 elections calling for an end to Dutch participation in the Lockheed Martin Corp warplanes project.

Whether the Netherlands, which has already ordered two F-35 test planes, will quit the project depends on the outcome of the elections, and the new government that takes office afterwards.

The Dutch government collapsed over painful austerity measures in April, but the state has to cut costs by billions of euros to meet EU guidelines. About 4.5 billion euros has been set aside for the F-35 jets.

During a debate with Dutch Defence Minister Hans Hillen, lawmakers complained about the project's escalating costs and said there were no guarantees over Dutch jobs or future costs.
I'm beginning to think that this will end up a lot like the F-111.

The only people who bought that plane were us and the Australians. (The British canceled after escalating costs)

14 July 2012

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

We had another bank failure this week, which gives us:
  1. Glasgow Savings Bank, Glasgow, MO
Full FDIC list

Not really much to say.

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

I Call Coverup and Scapegoating

JP Morgan is now claiming that its traders intentionally deceived them when they lost $2 4.4 5.8 7 billion:
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s announcement that an internal inquiry may show “intent” to misprice trades in a unit that lost $5.8 billion may help a U.S. investigation while putting distance between management and any wrongdoers.

“E-mails, voice tapes and other documents, supplemented by interviews” were “suggestive of trader intent not to mark positions where they believed they could execute,” the bank said in a presentation yesterday as it reported net income fell 9 percent to $4.96 billion. “Traders may have been seeking to avoid showing full amount of losses,” the bank said, noting management had concerns about the integrity of the prices used. The bank didn’t provide evidence to support the allegations.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York in May began a probe of the bank’s trading losses, a person familiar with the matter said. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates derivatives trading, are also examining New York-based JPMorgan’s trading activities, according to people familiar with those probes.
Yes, of course, none of it was senior management's fault, it was all the fault of those damn Eskimos.

Quoting Richard Widmark playing Col. Tad Lawson in Judgement at Nuremberg:
There are no Nazis in Germany, didn't you know that, Judge? The Eskimos invaded Germany and took over. That's how all those terrible things happened. It wasn't the fault of the Germans, it was the fault of those damn Eskimos!
This is such a transperent case of cover-your-ass as I have ever seen.

Yes, Geithner Sent Out a Strongly Worded Memo, and Kept LIBOR Fraud Secret

Yes, in response to proof that one of the most critical benchmarks in international finance was being fraudulently manipulated, Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner sent a memo, and then followed up by doing ……… absolutely nothing.

What a surprise.

Geithner has always been supportive of allowing the banksters to amass ill gotten gains in order to fill the holes in the balance sheets.

Israel Developing Python 6 Based on Stunner SAM/ATBM

The Israeli defense company Rafael is working to develop a successor to the Python 5 and the Derby based on their Stunner surface to air missile (paid subscription required):
Rafael, Israel's leading missile development center, continues to work quietly on an air-to-air derivative of the Stunner interceptor—to be designated Python 6, or the Future Advanced Air-to-Air Missile (FAAM).


The Stunner is a surface-to-air weapon being developed in partnership with Raytheon for Israel's David's Sling air and missile defense system. The Python 6 has been chronicled for almost a decade.


Although the Israeli air force (IAF) still has not officially endorsed an air-to-air version, sources at Rafael say consultations over the features of such a missile have been underway since the final stages of development of the Python 5, currently in production.


The IAF could avoid committing its own funding to FAAM development, hoping that Rafael can first strike a deal with a U.S. partner to obtain the next-generation air-to-air missile. But according to Chairman Ilan Biran, Rafael is in the meantime using its R&D budget, estimated at $125 million, to fund the project.


………


The Stunner was designed as a “platform-agnostic” missile that can be adapted for air and ground launch, from rail or ejector racks, in conventional or internal carriage configurations. The Mach 5.5, long-range missile is equipped with a dual electro-optic/radio-frequency seeker and an advanced multistage rocket motor. Designed as a hit-to-kill anti-missile weapon , Stunner has no warhead and instead can carry a more powerful rocket motor capable of ranges beyond any air-to-air missile available today.


Druker says the FAAM will likely cost significantly less than today's AIM-120 , Derby or Meteor, but more than the current short-range missiles. Although the FAAM and Stunner do not share a common configuration, Rafael expects that the overall life-cycle cost offered by the Stunner will be much lower than any other missile combination.
Personally, I'm a little bit dubious that the missile will go completely without a warhead, the PAC-3 Patriot, for example is hit to kill, but contains a "lethality enhancer" (basically a tiny warhead to scatter shrapnel in the path of the target.

That being said, using a dual mode seeker (you can see how the IR seeker is offset so as to allow a radar to be placed behind it) the missile's accuracy should be pretty high.

They also expect this to be the last AAM they develop.

Yosi Druker, director of Rafael's Air-to-Air and Air Defense Directorate, suggests that they will be superseded by new technologies, because "the next generation of interceptors will employ other kill mechanisms, not necessarily a missile, to defeat airborne targets," which I take to be a reference to directed energy weapons.

I'm dubious of this, but I've been wrong more often than not when I have been dubious about a technological development.

Background here.