31 March 2013

Expect a Major Fruit and Nut Shortage

Because we are killing the bees necessary for these crops in unprecedented numbers:
A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.

The pesticide industry disputes that. But its representatives also say they are open to further studies to clarify what, if anything, is happening.

“They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”

In a show of concern, the Environmental Protection Agency recently sent its acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and two top chemical experts here, to the San Joaquin Valley of California, for discussions.

In the valley, where 1.6 million hives of bees just finished pollinating an endless expanse of almond groves, commercial beekeepers who only recently were losing a third of their bees to the disorder say the past year has brought far greater losses.
They talked to a bee keeper who was planning to take 13,000 hives to California for the almond season, but only had 3000 because of hive losses.

The long-persistence neonicotinoids are being fingered as the likely cause, but given the mode of both the EPA and the Department of agriculture will demand definitive proof of harm, rather than requiring proof of safety, particularly when big Ag, like the seed suppliers who have taken to using said pesticides to pre-treat the seeds (Monsanto and their ilk), we are in for a bumpy ride.

Horny Man Says That He Won't Cum In Your Mouth

My bad, it's actually a German banker saying that Euro Zone deposits are safe:
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said savings accounts in the euro zone are safe, adding that Cyprus is a "special case" and not a template for future rescues.

In an interview with Bild newspaper published on Saturday, Schaeuble distanced himself from comments on Monday by Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who said the rescue programme agreed for Cyprus - the first to impose a levy on bank deposits - would serve as a model for future crises.

"Cyprus is and will remain a special one-off case," Schaeuble said.

"The savings accounts in Europe are safe."
If you believe a German Finance minister right now, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

Just a "special case."  Yeah…Sure.

I Want to be an Icelander

Because they indict their banksters:
Public frustration has been mounting over the lack of high-profile criminal prosecutions in the wake of the financial crisis here in the U.S. But the same cannot be said abroad.

Several news outlets reported that Iceland's special prosecutor, hired in 2009 to investigate suspicious activities at several major banks, indicted fifteen bankers — including two chief executives — earlier this month over illegal activity tied to the meltdown of the country's banking system in the fall of 2008. The bankers are accused of stock-price manipulation and securities fraud.

"These are quite big cases by any measurement, they're my biggest cases so far," Olafur Thor Hauksson, the prosecutor, told the Wall Street Journal last Friday, adding that the charged could face up to six years in prison if convicted.

Some blogs reacted to the news with the observation that Iceland's actions are in contrast to the lack of prosecutions in the U.S.
Gee, you think it's a contrast?

Our it is a mark of our corruption that not one of the big banksters has even been seriously investigated for crimes.

Henry Ford Knew This 99 Years Ago

When he doubled the pay of his workers to reduce turnover and increase productivity.

It turns out that Wal-Mart has not realized how this works, and as a result, it is losing customers who are facing empty shelves:
Margaret Hancock has long considered the local Wal-Mart Stores Inc. superstore her one- stop shopping destination. No longer.

During recent visits, the retired accountant from Newark, Delaware, says she failed to find more than a dozen basic items, including certain types of face cream, cold medicine, bandages, mouthwash, hangers, lamps and fabrics.

The cosmetics section “looked like someone raided it,” said Hancock, 63.

Wal-Mart’s loss was a gain for Kohl’s Corp., Safeway Inc., Target Corp., and Walgreen Co. -- the chains Hancock hit for the items she couldn’t find at Wal-Mart.

“If it’s not on the shelf, I can’t buy it,” she said. “You hate to see a company self-destruct, but there are other places to go.”

It’s not as though the merchandise isn’t there. It’s piling up in aisles and in the back of stores because Wal-Mart doesn’t have enough bodies to restock the shelves, according to interviews with store workers. In the past five years, the world’s largest retailer added 455 U.S. Wal-Mart stores, a 13 percent increase, according to filings and the company’s website. In the same period, its total U.S. workforce, which includes Sam’s Club employees, dropped by about 20,000, or 1.4 percent. Wal-Mart employs about 1.4 million U.S. workers.

Disorganized Stores

A thinly spread workforce has other consequences: Longer check-out lines, less help with electronics and jewelry and more disorganized stores, according to Hancock, other shoppers and store workers. Last month, Wal-Mart placed last among department and discount stores in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the sixth year in a row the company had either tied or taken the last spot. The dwindling level of customer service comes as Wal- Mart has touted its in-store experience to lure shoppers and counter rival Amazon.com Inc.
Yes, they want to tout their in-store experience.

As a part of that experience, they want their customers to deliver their packages for them for free:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is considering a radical plan to have store customers deliver packages to online buyers, a new twist on speedier delivery services that the company hopes will enable it to better compete with Amazon.com Inc.

Tapping customers to deliver goods would put the world's largest retailer squarely in middle of a new phenomenon sometimes known as "crowd-sourcing," or the "sharing economy."

A plethora of start-ups now help people make money by renting out a spare room, a car, or even a cocktail dress, and Wal-Mart would in effect be inviting people to rent out space in their vehicle and their willingness to deliver packages to others.

Such an effort would, however, face numerous legal, regulatory and privacy obstacles, and Wal-Mart executives said it was at an early planning stage.

Wal-Mart is making a big push to ship online orders directly from stores, hoping to cut transportation costs and gain an edge over Amazon and other online retailers, which have no physical store locations. Wal-Mart does this at 25 stores currently, but plans to double that to 50 this year and could expand the program to hundreds of stores in the future.

Wal-Mart currently uses carriers like FedEx Corp for delivery from stores - or, in the case of a same-day delivery service called Walmart To Go that is being tested in five metro areas, its own delivery trucks.

"I see a path to where this is crowd-sourced," Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com in the United States, said in a recent interview with Reuters.
This is brilliant.

Let's see, we have:
  • Honest, I left the big screen TV at their front door?
  • When I was driving to deliver the box, I was rear-ended, and now I have whiplash.
  • The package was fine when it left the store, the damage isn't our problem.
And that is what I came up in about 3 minutes.

Why is this group of fools the largest corporation in the world?

Pass the Popcorn

The high powered DC law firm Williams & Connolly has sued the OCC to get information about how they selected consulting firms to review the foreclosure settlement. Considering the half-assed job done by the consultants, and the indications that there were ties between the banks and the consultancies, this should get interesting"
A top Washington law firm is suing regulators to hand over information about how it selected consulting firms to participate in a multibillion-dollar review of banks' past foreclosures.

The reviews, mandated by regulators in 2011 after widespread foreclosure shortcuts came to light, proved slow and expensive, and earlier this year 13 banks agreed to pay $9.3 billion to end them and compensate foreclosed borrowers.

But in a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., the law firm Williams & Connolly revisited the original reviews.

It is seeking documents explaining how the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency defined "independent" in its requirements for mortgage servicers to hire "independent consultants" to conduct the reviews.

The law firm declined to identify the client on behalf of which it filed the complaint.

It is possible that a consulting firm that lost out on the review contracts is behind the suit.

An OCC spokesman declined comment.

………

In the new lawsuit, Williams & Connolly said it had sought through a Freedom of Information Act request to the OCC any documents or records about the independence requirements for the consultants, and any documents about OCC standards for independence within the context of the foreclosure reviews.

The OCC initially denied the law firm's request, then provided limited information on a redacted basis, the law firm said. The firm said in its filing that it went to court to obtain all of the information.

David Aufhauser, the Williams & Connolly lawyer who filed the action, and who is a former general counsel of the Treasury Department and of investment bank UBS, declined to comment on the case.
At least one of the consultancy firms was suspended, and if you follow Naked Capitalism you can get a full picture.

While one can generally be certain that any deal for the banks will be a corrupt bailout, when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is involved, you can be sure that it's well over the line of what normal people will call corrupt self dealing.

I am looking forward to hearing more about this.

30 March 2013

Another Triumph of Defense Procurement

The Litoral Combat Ship may lack sufficient firepower to do its job:
The U.S. Navy’s troubled Littoral Combat Ship, a vessel intended to be small and speedy for use in shallow waters close to shore, lacks the firepower it needs, a top U.S. navy commander said in a classified memo.

Vice Admiral Tom Copeman, the commander of naval surface forces, called on the Navy to consider a ship with more offensive capability after the first 24 vessels are built, according to a Navy official who asked not to be identified discussing the confidential document.

………

Producing a ship that can accommodate larger guns or Harpoon anti-ship missiles “would be a major redesign,” Polmar said in an interview. “It will be real work to put major weapons on the ship.”
Replacing the 57mm popgun with something larger might not even possible for the Independence class trimaran, because of the extremely narrow forward central hull.

The ship is a failure.

The modular nature of the ship does not work, because you have to return the ship to a US base, or you need to fly a  team out to a foreign port in order to swap out the modules, and the modular nature of the ship results in a hull that is much larger for a set of capabilities.

The savings in crewing has proved to be illusory, the current crew levels result in an overworked and ineffective crew, so they are adding berths.

The primary offensive system, the NLOS-LS, was canceled, and replaced with a system which has about 80% less range and a smaller warhead.

And that's ignoring the (probably fixable) facts that there are issues with hull cracks, corrosion, and leaking.

It's dead, Jim.

The entire concept was flawed.

Another Study Proves that Jenny McCarthy is a Dangerous Loon

We have another study showing that there is no connection between vaccines and autism:
There is no link between receiving a number of vaccines early in life and autism, researchers said on Friday.

In a study slated to appear in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers said there is no association between receiving "too many vaccines too soon" and autism, despite some fears among parents around the number of vaccines given both on a single day and over the first 2 years of life.

As many as one in 50 U.S. school-age children have been diagnosed with autism, up 72 percent since 2007.

………

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Abt Associates analyzed data from children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a statement from the journal.

Researchers examined each child's cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, the journal's statement said.

The antigen totals were the same for children with and without ASD, researchers found.
Not surprising.

In the normal course of growing up, a child is exposed to hundreds, possibly thousands, of new antigens a day, the idea that adding a dozen or so to that would be received through a series of vaccinations would "cause" autism is ludicrous.

Of course, the antediluvian thinking of the anti-vax crowd has real consequences: we have seen increases in outbreaks of previously nearly vanished childhood diseases resulting from a loss of herd immunity.

It Works, and It Saves the Taxpayer Money, So Let's Make it Illegal

I am referring to the state-owned bank of North Dakota, which will be made illegal by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):
Clearly, from Wall Street's perspective, the North Dakota bank must go, and all other state efforts to replicate it must be thwarted. Wall Street's stealth weapon may be lodged within the latest corporate trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which currently is being negotiated in secret. We already know that Wall Street is seeking to remove all tariff restrictions that prevent the U.S. financial services industry from doing business in countries like Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The biggest banks also want the treaty to eliminate "non-tariff" barriers including regulations that create "unfair" competition with state-owned financial enterprises.

Depending on the final language, it is possible that the activities of the Bank of North Dakota could be ruled illegal because "foreign bankers could claim the BND stops them from lending to commercial banks throughout the state," according to an analysis by Sam Knight in Truthout. How perfect for Wall Street: a foreign bank can be used as a shill to knock out the BND.
The nickel tour on BND is that it is a state-owned wholesale bank (it only makes loans to other banks), and the state keeps its money in an account there.

It generates significant savings, and significant savings for the taxpayer, and its senior executives are paid less than the President of the United States.  (The most highly paid executive is paid about ½ that of POTUS.)

Also, the bank provides a financing alternative to bond sales managed by Wall Street firms.

Considering the Obama administrations neoliberal philosophies, along with its predilections toward direct and indirect government subsidies for the TBTF banks, I'm inclined to believe it.  Particularly since that is what the Obama Administration's point person is explicitly saying the trade agreement:
Publicly owned enterprises, for example, are being targeted by negotiators. One such entity in the United States that has been the subject of considerable interest in recent years is the Bank of North Dakota (BND) - the only fully publicly owned financial institution in the country. The BND, which is only allowed to lend wholesale, was a stabilizing force that helped keep the already energy-rich state insulated from the shock of the financial crisis (Alaska, for example, didn't fare as well). It has also brought a small fortune to the state's treasury - $340 million in net tax gain between 1997 and 2009. Legislators in at least 13 different states have proposed studying or emulating the North Dakota model - state-owned development of central-bank style institutions guaranteed by tax revenue. But if the TPP is passed, that option might not be available. [Chief TPP Negotiator for the Office of the US Trade Representative Barbara] Weisel said that State Owned Enterprises (SOE) are routinely "competing directly with private enterprises, and often in a way that is considered unfair."

"Some of the advantages that can be conferred on State Owned Enterprises are things like preferential financing," Weisel said. "Those are things that wouldn't be provided to private companies - preferential provision of goods and services provided by a government."

She said that "State Owned Enterprises - which in some cases can comprise a significant percentage of an economy - can be used to undermine what we're otherwise trying to gain from this free trade agreement."
What they are "trying to gain" with this agreement is to replace democracy with unregulated markets (aka looting).

Call your Congresscritter and tell him that you are absolutely opposed to the TPP.

29 March 2013

You Phone Company is Refusing to Complete Rural Calls, and Deceiving Us About It

Telcom law maven Harold Feld shows how FCC Loopholes resulting from VOIP exceptions are destroying one of the central requirements of voice calls:
Increasing numbers of rural communities are reporting problems with incoming phone calls. Outgoing calls work fine, but when someone tries to call one of these rural communities from an urban area, the connection doesn’t go through.

Though the phone never rings in the rural community, the urban caller might hear a “false ringback” in his earpiece, inserted so he will think there’s simply no answer and won’t complain about the lack of service.

This “rural call completion” problem, which also includes connections with very bad sound quality, is getting scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission.
The problem “causes rural businesses to lose customers, cuts families off from their relatives in rural areas, and creates potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications in rural areas,” according to the FCC.

………

In the last several years, businesses called “least cost routing” companies have sprung up. These companies promise phone networks to find the least expensive way to route their phone calls. The phone companies themselves don’t know how the least cost routing companies are routing the phone calls. They just trust them to do it.

Since completing calls to rural areas is expensive, least cost routers generally try to find long, complicated routes that will minimize the termination fees and other charges by making the call look like it comes from someplace with lower fees. This introduces something called “latency.” The lengthy routes mess up the IP-based phone call, causing long breaks in the signal that the traditional phone network (operated by a rural phone company) interprets as dead air or a disconnect.

………

The FCC refuses to classify IP-based services as “telephone” services (although it has the authority to do so). As a result, it can only regulate IP-providers indirectly with something called “ancillary authority.” Whether “ancillary authority” allows the FCC to regulate IP-based providers, such as least cost routers, remains to be seen.
The problem here is one of philosophy: the Washington consensus that deregulation always leads to innovation is a dangerous delusion.

We need only to compare the performance of our lightly regulated telcos to those of more highly regulated places like, Japan, France, or Korea, to see that consumers pay more, and get less, both in terms of performance and reliability.

Deregulation makes it easier to collect monopoly rents, and it is easier, and more lucrative to seek those rents than it is to succeed for innovation or evolutionary product improvement.

Every one gets screwed but the incumbent phone and cable companies, and it strangles real innovation.

Yes

Did Steve Cohen Buy Off the U.S. Government?

Seriously. If the SEC is settling for a payment of $616 million dollars, with no admission of wrongdoing, when the case against for insider trading is very strong, and it is a a f%$#ing slam dunk on Sarbanes-Oxley violation.

He got to walk because he's rich and powerful:
Most scandals involving the cozy relationship between Wall Street and its regulators play out behind closed doors. Others happen in plain view, and this is one of the latter. In a Manhattan courtroom Thursday, a federal judge held a hearing on whether to approve a legal settlement in which Steven A. Cohen, one of the richest and most publicity-shy men in the country, appears to be buying off the U.S. government, which for years has been investigating wrongdoing in and around his hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisers.

Unless the judge, Victor Marrero, rejects the settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and SAC, which was announced a couple of weeks ago, Cohen will be free to go about his business, which has long been clouded by suspicions of insider trading, once he writes a check of six hundred and sixteen million dollars to the Securities and Exchange Commission. There will be no further sanctions and no admission of wrongdoing. And in fact, Cohen already appears to be celebrating. ………

To his credit, Judge Marrero has, at least for now, refused to go along with this travesty. Reserving judgement on the case, he asked why the settlement didn’t include an admission of wrongdoing on the part of SAC and Cohen. “There is something counterintuitive and incongruous about settling for six hundred million dollars if it truly did nothing wrong,” the judge said. ………

………

Exactly how Cohen pulled off this feat is something of a mystery. The details of the dealings between his lawyers and the government haven’t been revealed, and most likely won’t be. What we do know is this: until the settlement with the S.E.C. was announced, things were looking increasingly grim for Cohen and his firm, which is based in Greenwich, Connecticut.

During the past several years, investigators from the S.E.C. and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan have been carrying on a wide-ranging investigation of SAC, which manages about fifteen billion dollars in assets. As a result of this probe, no fewer than nine current or former employees of SAC have been tied to insider dealing while working at the firm, and four of them have pleaded guilty. The investigation started out with lowly former employees. Over time, though, it moved closer and closer to Cohen, the firm’s founder, until, finally, it enveloped him.

Last November, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, held a press conference to announce the indictment of Matthew Martoma, a former SAC trader, for what Bharara said was “the most lucrative insider-trading scheme ever charged.” According to the complaint, the 2008 trades at the center of the case involved Cohen directly. After receiving at tip-off from an inside informant about a drug trial that had turned out badly, Martoma spoke for twenty minutes with Cohen—identified as “Portfolio Manager A”—and then started unloading shares that SAC owned in the two drug companies involved, Elan and Wyeth, the complaint said. Once the results of the drug trial became public, the stock prices of the drug companies fell sharply. The government said that Martoma’s trades netted SAC as much as two hundred and seventy-six million dollars.

………


It’s a farce, and it’s not getting any funnier. The SAC settlement marks the first time, to my knowledge, that the S.E.C. has accorded such deference to a hedge fund, and it also raises the question of whether the Justice Department is now ducking bringing criminal charges against Cohen himself. Some folks who know how the system works from the inside think that that’s what it looks like. “I read the Martoma complaint,” Bradley Simon, a prominent white-collar criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, told me. “It seems like there’s evidence there for them to charge Cohen, but they don’t want to do it.

………

A second possibility is that, despite the Martoma complaint, there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to convict Cohen, and the prosecutors have reluctantly accepted this fact. Insider-trading cases are tricky. We don’t know what Cohen said to Martoma during their conversation, or whether Martoma would be willing to testify against him. In the insider-trading cases of Raj Rajaratnam, who ran the Galleon hedge fund, and Rajat Gupta, the former head of McKinsey, the government relied heavily on wiretap evidence. According to the Wall Street Journal, the government obtained a warrant to tap Cohen’s home phone in 2008, but it isn’t known what, if anything, these intercepts yielded.
(emphasis mine)

They have f%$#ing wiretaps, and they are doing nothing.

Even if they don't they have a slam dunk on the insider training, they do have a prima facie case that he violated SarBox when he certified that his company had sufficient internal controls, which would get him banned from management of a publicly traded company for life.

This is bullsh%$, and I am pining for Mmme. la Guillotine.

28 March 2013

A Solution to Our Energy Needs Forever

Just attach generators to the Obama administration's revolving door. Problem solved:
Coming off a grueling four-year stint at the Justice Department, Lanny A. Breuer is poised to make a soft landing in the private sector.

Covington & Burling, a prominent law firm, plans to announce on Thursday that Mr. Breuer will be its vice chairman. The firm created the role especially for Mr. Breuer, a Washington insider who most recently led the Justice Department’s investigation into the financial crisis.

For Mr. Breuer, who will now shift to defending large corporations, Covington is familiar turf. He previously spent nearly two decades there.

………

“We’re proud to welcome him home,” said Timothy C. Hester, Covington’s chairman.
FWIW, I think that "welcome" is spelled "Ka-Ching."

He did his job, and now Mr. Breuer is going to be paid for, "not bringing cases against the banks and executives at the center of the crisis."

Torture, and Get a Promotion

This is what "Looking forward, not backward," as Obama says, is such a bad idea.

It means that deeply evil people are given the more power over the rest of us:
Today's Washington Post has a front-page article on the impending promotion of an official involved in running the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) torture program to head the CIA clandestine service. According to WaPo, the officer

helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.

WaPo reports that newly-confirmed CIA director John Brennan (who was also involved in the CIA's torture program and has since moved on to writing an assassination-without-due-process "playbook") has tapped three former senior officials to oversee the appointment of the former chief of staff to brazen torture apologist Jose Rodriguez to head the CIA's clandestine service. The group consists of John McLaughlin (CIA deputy director during the CIA's torture heyday), Stephen Kappes (another rendition, torture, and interrogation (RDI) supervisor - read about his covering up a prisoner's death here) and Mary Margaret Graham (whose problematic professional history you can read about in Steve Coll's recent New Yorker piece on CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou). Does anyone not see the problem with RDI daddy Brennan assigning RDI supervisors to promote the RDI queenpin?
BTW, she is hip deep on the coverup of torture:
When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, was promoted to head of the clandestine service in 2004, he took the female officer along as his chief of staff. According to former officials, the two repeatedly sought permission to have the tapes destroyed but were denied.

In 2005, instructions to get rid of the recordings went out anyway. Former officials said the order carried just two names: Rodriguez and his chief of staff.
Not only should this woman not be promoted, this woman should never hold a security clearance ever again.

It's Jobless Thursday!!

Not good. initial claims rose by 16K, with the 4 week moving average rising by 2250, though continuing claims fell.

Of more concern, consumer confidence fell, probably influenced by the sequester.

For Your European Friends

Buy them a safe that fits into a mattress:




If you arte going to put your savings in the mattress, this is the way to go.

This is Free Market Mousketeer Bullsh%$

Bolivia President Evo Morales is looking about setting up a state owned concern to refine his country's huge lithium deposits:
Is Bolivia poised to become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” the vital ingredient in batteries for smartphones and electric cars?

The Uyuni salt flats, stretching across a remote Andean plateau in the southwest of the country, are easily the world’s largest reserve of the soft, light, whitish metal coveted by high-tech firms from Silicon Valley to Tokyo.

This year, President Evo Morales has moved swiftly ahead with plans to finally begin reaping a potential lithium windfall of billions of dollars for the impoverished South American nation.

In January, Bolivia opened its first trial plant. It will produce 40 tons of lithium carbonate a year. Over time, the government wants to ramp production up to 30,000 tons — roughly a fifth of current global demand.
Of course there are some potential difficulties, the salt flats are both moist, and contain a fair amount of magnesium, which makes extraction more difficult.

But here is the assumption that seems to be everywhere these days that just pisses me off:
Meanwhile, Morales’ socialist administration’s go-it-alone attitude — including recent nationalizations of everything from utilities to airports — may mean it will have problems accessing the foreign technology needed to process the lithium.
This is bullsh%$.

If they want the technology, they will get it the same way that multinational megacorporations do today: they buy the f%$#ing technology.

Exxon, BP, and all the rest don't know how to do difficult drilling, they hire companies like Halliburton or Slumberger for their expertise in deep water drilling, they hire companies like Transocean for its expertise in building deep water rigs.

I'm not talking about industrial espionage here, it's that companies have increasingly outsourced core competencies in the name of cost savings, and these are now available freely for sale.

You hire a company to do the design, you hire another to do the construction, and if you have any sense, you structure it so as to ensure that the local folks get at least a general understanding of the process when you do this.

Ain't capitalism grand?

I Dope Slapped Him, Then I High Fived Him


Just watch, you'll understand
Charlie told me that he had uploaded a video of him doing the "The Knife Song".

You know the one, where you take a knife, and stab it between your spread fingers at high speed.

He told me about this, and I told him that he was so grounded.

Well, he wasn't grounded, but I was unimpressed that he pranked me.

I did not know whether to dope slap him or high five hin, so I did both.

27 March 2013

There is No Medicine for Stupidity

Click for full size


Much better than the Euro Zone

Because their currency floated
Paul Krugman has noted that Poland has done remarkably well by retaining its own currency and allowing it to float, (see chart pr0n).

Of course, the response of the Polish leaders is to try to join the Euro:
Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, took a big political gamble on Tuesday when he opened the door to a referendum on joining the euro, in the face of strong public opposition to the common currency.

The move is part of a campaign to prepared Poland to begin the final stages of accession to the single currency by 2015. Mr Tusk had previously opposed a public vote, arguing that Poles had already bound themselves to the euro when they voted in 2003 to join the EU.

The crisis in the eurozone has hit support for the euro – the latest opinion survey shows 62 per cent of Poles are opposed to joining, with scepticism increasing markedly since the financial and debt crises hit Europe five years ago.

But now Mr Tusk has publicly raised the possibility of allowing a referendum – demanded by rightwing opposition parties opposed to euro membership – in return for an agreement with the opposition to push through the necessary constitutional changes.
Seriously, they want a piece of this?

You see, what happened was that instead of creating inflation, the wild capital flows caused the Zloty to appreciate, and when those flows reversed, the currency depreciated.

In the Euro zone, what happens is inflation, and then the need for depression to contract the economy. Wanting to be a part of this is stupid and insane.


Seriously, we need higher quality elites running the world.

Quote of the Day

Cyprus Reaches Banking Deal, Should Be Safe For At Least a Few Hours

—Kevin Drum

26 March 2013

The Dark Side of Disney

Do not drink anything while watching this. I will not be responsible for the purchase of screen wipes.



25 March 2013

A Thought on Inequality in Our Society



Yes, this is very wrong.

Light Posting for the Next Few Days

Retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt without the aid of Cecile B. DeMille, Yul Brynner, or Charton Heston.

Probably a good thing on the latter one.

I do not like guns at the Passover Seder.

It's Always the Tapes………

We now have NYPD managers on tape giving quotas on stop and frisk, and telling officers to target blacks and Hispanics:
The New York police department's controversial stop-and-frisk program is being driven by a high-pressure quota system imposed upon lower-ranking officers by their supervisors, two NYPD officers testified in court this week.

The claims were made as part of a landmark class action lawsuit that began Monday. The suit seeks to prove that the nation's largest police department has demonstrated a widespread and systemic pattern of unconstitutional stops that disproportionately target minorities.

Lawyers for the city have dismissed allegations of quotas and scrutinized the credibility of the suit's plaintiffs, including their allegations of racial bias on the part of the department.

………

The trial represents a historic challenge to the legacies of NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly and mayor Michael Bloomberg, who have both vocally supported stop-and-frisk.

………

Darius Charney, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in opening statements that the trial is about more than numbers. "It's about people," he said. The NYPD has "laid siege to black and Latino communities" through "arbitrary, unnecessary and unconstitutional harassment", Charney added.

………

By mid-week lawyers for the plaintiffs shifted focus from the experience of street stops to the internal NYPD incentive structure that allegedly motivates them.

Officer Adhyl Polanco began his testimony Tuesday by saying "there's a difference between" the department's policies on paper and "what goes on out there", on the city's streets.

Polanco testified that in 2009, officers in his Bronx precinct were expected to issue 20 summons and make one arrest per month. If they did not they would risk denied vacation, being separated from longtime partners, undesirable assignments and other consequences.

Polcano claimed it was not uncommon for patrol officers who were not making quotas to be forced to "drive the sergeant" or "drive the supervisor", which meant driving around with a senior officer who would find individuals for the patrol officer to arrest or issue a summons to, at times for infractions the junior officer did not observe.

"We were handcuffing kids for no reason," Polanco said. Claiming he was increasingly disturbed by what he was witnessing in his precinct, Polcanco began secretly recording his roll call meetings.

In one recording played for the court, a man Polanco claimed was a NYPD captain told officers: "the summons is a money–generating machine for the city."

Bronx police officer Pedro Serrano also secretly recorded comments made by supervisors at the same Bronx precinct. His recordings were also played for the court this week.

On a track played Thursday, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack was heard telling Serrano he needed to stop "the right people, the right time, the right location". When asked what he believed McCormack meant Serrano told the court: "he meant blacks and Hispanics."

Later in the tape McCormack says: "I have no problem telling you this … male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem [to] tell you this, male blacks 14 to 21."

Serrano claims his attempts to raise concerns about stop and frisk and the existence of quotas have been met with retaliation, including fellow officers vandalizing his locker with stickers of rats.
I think that both Bloomberg and Kelly know that this is racial profiling, but they don't care, because they know that any protests serve to reinforce their image as being "tough on crime".

Tough on crime in the United States means dealing with minority neighborhoods as if the police department is an occupying foreign force.

24 March 2013

Yes, Virginia, the Trans Pacific Partnership Sucks Wet Farts from Dead Pigeons

It is a wet dream of Wall Street and IP holders.

The post is too long to summarize, but the Angry Bear goes through and summarizes the low points.

These are things like investors can sue in an extranational and secret courts for losses from:
  • Strikes.
  • Public protest.
The latter is the most serious.  If your protest can result in a multibillion dollar judgement against your county or state,  they will shut you down, constitution or no.

Tell your Congresscritter to vote no.

23 March 2013

Wimp Out

Obama has withdrawn Caitlin Halligan's nomination To D.C. Circuit Court:
President Obama has withdrawn the nomination of Caitlin J. Halligan, a prominent New York lawyer, to serve on an important federal appeals court in Washington, blaming Republicans for blocking her confirmation twice.

The president formally notified the Senate of his decision on Friday, after Ms. Halligan requested that her name be withdrawn from consideration. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is widely viewed as the most important federal appellate court because it reviews many cases on the government’s authority.

“I am deeply disappointed that even after nearly two and a half years, a minority of senators continued to block a simple up-or-down vote on her nomination,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “This unjustified filibuster obstructed the majority of senators from expressing their support. I am confident that with Caitlin’s impressive qualifications and reputation, she would have served with distinction.”
First, to Harry Reid: It was such a good idea to soft pedal filibuster reform.  Here's hoping that the Senate Democrats will choose a new leader in 2014.

Obama needs to show some guts.

The DC Court of Appeals is effectively the 2nd highest court in the land, and it is the one that is shortest staffed, because the 'Phants are filibustering any appointment to the court.

Rolling over and playing dead is not a winning proposition.

22 March 2013

Oh Ho!

The lawyer at the core of the whole "bribing prostitutes to lie about f%$#ing Senator Bob Menendez" is now saying that the Daily Caller was the one paying him to do this:
A top Dominican law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative Web site the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The lawyer told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as “Carlos,” had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Menendez, according to Jose Antonio Polanco, district attorney for the La Romana region, where the investigation is being conducted.

The Daily Caller issued a statement Friday saying that the information allegedly provided by the Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, was false.

The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted in the fall on the Daily Caller. The site reported that “the two women said they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic. . . . They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”

In its statement Friday, the Daily Caller said: “At no point did any money change hands between The Daily Caller and any sources or individuals connected with this investigation, nor did anyone named Carlos travel to the Dominican Republic on behalf of The Daily Caller. As recently as two weeks ago, Figueroa was on record with another news outlet as saying the women he represented were telling the truth about their initial allegations against Senator Menendez.”

Tucker Carlson, who runs the Web site, said in a statement provided through his spokesman that the Daily Caller “never paid anyone, was never asked to pay anyone and of course never would pay anyone for this story.”
Yeah, sure. They somehow just got prostitutes to talk, on camera, ratting out an (as we now know falsely) alleged John out of the goodness of their hearts.

Please, don't insult our intelligence, Tucker.

Because they Do Not Want to Pay to Get Screwed

It appears the the Russians are not going to be extending additional credit to Cyprus, nor are they going to drop the interest or extend the loans that they have already made.

Felix Salmon is perplexed:
Paul Murphy, watching Cypriot finance Minister Michael Sarris returning empty-handed from Moscow, says that “Medvedev and co could not have played a worse hand during this crisis — and it’s not immediately clear why”. His point is that the most likely outcome right now — he calls it “popping the red pill” — is that big depositors at Laiki Bank (read: rich Russians) are likely to lose some 40% of their money. Since that will make Russia very unhappy, why is Russia doing nothing to prevent it?

I don’t pretend to understand Russian politics, but this move seems to me to be a classic high-risk, high-aggression play; think of Medvedev as a geopolitical hedge-fund manager or poker player, and it begins to make a bit more sense.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that Russia is actually moving backwards on the amount of help it’s likely to extend to Cyprus. When the bailout plan was first announced, it included Russia extending its existing €2.5 billion loan to the country by five years, as well as reducing that loan’s interest rate. Now, Russia is refusing to agree even to that.
More generally, Russia is taking an absolutist stance with respect to Cyprus. No, we won’t restructure the money you owe us. No, we won’t buy a bank off
you. No, we aren’t interested in your natural-gas reserves. And underlying it all, of course, an unspoken — and all the more powerful for being unspoken — physical threat to any Cypriot who causes powerful Russians to lose billions of euros.
I think, and noted in the comments, that there are a number of motivations for the Russians:
  • Medvedev and Putin believe that Frau Merkel (sound of horses whinnying) will demand a haircut of the Russians under any circumstances, both for political advantage, and because of the natural hostility of former residents of Warsaw Pact nations, who will gladly cut their nose off to spite the Russian face.
  • The second reason is that if the ultra-rich Russia tax evaders get dinged, in the future, they may decide to keep assets in, and pay taxes in Russia, because they see the cost of taxes being less than the cost of an IMF and an EU determine to f%$# them.
  • The third reason is that the Russians have been VERY concerned about their western near-abroad for centuries, it’s where they have been invaded from, and they feel that any expansion of the EU presages and expansion of NATO, which they see as a ring of steel intended to threaten them. If Cyprus, and honest hardworking depositors get boned, it is far less likely that places like the Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, etc. will join the union.

Note that the reasons above are orthogonal, so it might be all of the above.

I do think that any tighter government integration in the EU will have to include some sort of government structure which prevents German hegemony, something like the bicameral structure of the US Congress, because this whole "Germany runs Europe" thing is working about as well as it did the last time.

21 March 2013

It's Jobless thursday!!!

336,000 initial claims, up 2K, with the 4-week moving average falling to 339,750, though continuing claim rose.

Not bad.

Scotus Gets One Very Right

They reaffirmed the right of first sale of a copyrighted work:
The Court at last seems to have reached a consensus on a seemingly intractable problem of copyright law: whether a U.S. copyright holder can prevent the importation of “gray-market” products manufactured for overseas markets.  When the Court tried to address this question two Terms ago – in Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega, S.A. – the Court was equally divided (with Justice Kagan recused).  However, in today’s opinion in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Justice Breyer, writing for a strong majority of six, emphatically rejected the publisher’s control over the importation of such products.

The facts are almost too good to be true.  A Thai national (Kirtsaeng) came to this country to study at Cornell and U.S.C.  To subsidize his educational expenses, he resold textbooks purchased by his family at bookstores in Thailand.  All in all, he sold several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of textbooks imported in this way, reaping a net profit in the range of $100,000.  When his activities came to the attention of Wiley (a major American textbook publisher), a suit for copyright infringement predictably ensued.  The district court found for Wiley and imposed statutory damages of $600,000.   The Second Circuit affirmed.

The case turns on a provision of the Copyright Act that permits the owner of a copy that was “lawfully made under this title” to resell the work. The publisher argues that the Thai books, printed in Thailand, were not made “under this title,” and thus that Kirtsaeng cannot lawfully resell them. Kirtsaeng, on the other hands, argues that the books were “lawfully made,” because they were made under a license from Wiley.

………

The issue in Kirtsaeng was whether the first-sale doctrine applies to copyrighted works manufactured overseas. Kirtsaeng bought textbooks in Thailand, where they are cheap, brought them to the United States, and resold them at a large profit. The lower courts said he couldn’t do this, and ordered him to pay damages to the publisher (John Wiley). The Supreme Court disagreed. The Justices said that the first-sale doctrine applies to all books, wherever made. So even if you buy a book made in England, you can resell it without permission from the publisher.
Normally, this is a close thing, but this time it was 6-3, and the opinion was strident, describing the consequences of ruling for the publisher to be a, "parade of horribles", where people owning foreign made cars, or tablets, or cell phones would need permission from the publisher in order to resell the products.

I also think that the court was aware that if they allowed the restriction on the right first sale, that the copyright holders would set up manufacturing offshore so as to extort additional revenue by prohibiting resales, or demanding blackmail money licensing fees.

Rather unsurprisingly, the dissent was written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who never saw a draconian power that she did not want to give IP holders.

As an aside, we are seeing a change in the public view of IP. 

The Supreme Court, with this decision, did not ask, "How can we stop piracy of protected works," but instead asked, "What are the reasonable limits to the exclusive license we grant to IP holders."

This is a rather significant change in the tenor of the discussion, and we not just seeing it at the Supreme Court, but among an increasing number of Congressmen.  (The White House is still firmly in the pocket of the the MPAA, the RIAA, and the rest of that hive of scum and villainy)

20 March 2013

At Least the IMF Isn't Being Run By Crooks ……… Ummmm ……… Nevermind

Her apartment in France just got raided as a part of a corruption investigation:
Police have searched the Paris home of the head of the International Monetary Fund as part of a fraud investigation centred on a supporter of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Christine Lagarde's flat was raided along with that of her office manager and the home of businessman Bernard Tapie, a former politician, actor, singer and television celebrity.

The IMF chief has been the subject of preliminary investigations for "complicity in the embezzlement of public funds", since 2011, when Tapie was awarded €284m of public money in compensation in a financial dispute while she was economy minister.

The search came hours after the French government was rocked by a separate scandal after the budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac was put under criminal investigation amid claims he hid money from the French taxman in a secret Swiss bank account. Lagarde and Cahuzac have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

………

The accusations against Lagarde centre on her role in what is known as the Tapie Affair, a row that has rumbled for two decades, which ended when she made a controversial decision to refer the businessman's dispute with the public bank Crédit Lyonnais to arbitration. Critics say she abused her authority. Investigators are looking into whether Tapie was given a secret deal in return for supporting Sarkozy during his successful 2007 presidential election campaign.
Of course, a police raid does not imply guilt, but it does show just how corrupt the political elites are as a class, and why the idea of apolitical "technocrats" is a fraud.

Signs of the Apocalypse


Too true
Michael Steel just said something that was:
  • Provocative, and
  • Not blindingly stupid.
What he said was that, if Republicans want to get minorities to vote for them they have to stop trying to trying to suppress their votes:
Steele said the RNC's autopsy of the 2012 election does nothing to address the substantive reasons why the party fails to connect with minorities, highlighting voter identification laws championed by many Republicans, including Priebus, that disproportionately affect black voters.

"How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be," Steele said. "You've got to reconcile how people feel about your policies, not just the fact that you're going to show up. You can show up any time. It's what you say and what you do when you get there that matters most to people."
He's right, of course, and he did not put his foot in his mouth in the progress.

I'm pleasantly surprised.

Dick Durbin Wants to F%$3 Us Like a Steubinville Football Player Would

He is proposing a Social Security to "fix" the program:
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin announced Wednesday morning that he will introduce a bipartisan bill to create a Social Security commission tasked with making the program solvent for the next 75 years.

………

Durbin says the bill would require votes in the House and Senate on whatever the commission proposes.
With no possibility of filibuster, or amendment.

It's another way to accommodate Obama's, and the other Washington, DC "very serious people's", burning need to gut security.

The solution is straightforward. If you lift the cap. It's solvent for at least 75 years.

If you extend the tax to things like capital gains, or at least carried interest, it's solvent basically forever.

I am sick to death of people trying to create yet another cat food commission.*

*In the interest of health, I would suggest that people eat dog food, and not cat food. Cats because they are one of the few true carnivores, do not need the complex carbohydrates and fats that people, and dogs do. As such, dog food is better for you than cat food because it provides carbs and essential fatty acids. A dog can go blind if it is fed on cat food, but a cat lives just fine on dog food. The phenomenon is known as rabbit starvation.

I Like the Way that This (These) Guy(s) Think

This proposal for Cyprus is brilliant:
So TMM propose the Cypriot Government do the following  - they'll have to do it very quickly to avoid the ECB panicking and pulling back the ELA cash lent against dodgy collateral. Once done, the ECB will not be able to do anything about it.
  1. Transfer all bank deposits & unencumbered assets from the existing Cypriot banks to new bank holding companies: e.g. Cyprus Phoenix Bank. This should include the transfer of IT infrastructure, the branch network & any tangible assets like real estate (e.g. the banks' HQs).
  2. Let the old banks go bankrupt, leaving the ECB with EUR 9bn of losses and wiping out both the subordinated & senior bondholders (EUR 1.75bn).
  3. These new banks are now adequately capitalised & under EU law, the ECB will not be able to prevent their participation in Target 2 via the Central Bank of Cyprus. The ECB may well kick & scream, but there will be nothing they can do about it.
  4. Domestic Bills/Bonds haircut by 80% for non-Cypriot banks. Although their non-bank ownership is small, every little helps, & using JPM's ownership estimates, this would produce ~EUR 820m.
  5. The international bonds under UK (with a 75% CAC hurdle) are certainly tough to PSI, but let's all be realistic, there's no money left & government debt is at astronomically large amounts of GDP. TMM believe that Cyprus will be more successful than market punters reckon in restructuring this debt. And of course, they can also just unilaterally default on the debt. Again, an 80% haircut here sounds realistic, producing EUR 3.04bn.
  6. Adding the Gas reserve privatisation (which JPM estimate at EUR 4.2bn), TMM have found EUR 18.9bn. 
  7. Cyprus could also, of course negotiate with the Russians to restructure the EUR 2.5bn loan, and if they are able to get say 20% NPV reduction on this, they could make the terms on the international bond restructuring less-onerous.
I'm not a fan of the proposal to privatizing the gas reserves, I think that it's stupid to sell the future for pennies on the dollar, but otherwise I like it.

It appears legal, and it legally f%$#s the powers that be of finance, and it doesn't make the people of Cyprus pay for their banksters fraud.

Them that broke the world should pay, but that will never happen.

New Zealand Decides Looks at the Mess that is Cyprus, and Decides that it Has a Purty Mouth

When Troika (really, the Germans) decided that the solution to Cyprus' problem with its banks was to take money from insured accounts, they had no idea the firestorm that it would unleash.

It appears that the Troika (really, the Germans) have found the limits of the authority, and hence the misery, that they can inflict, and so the Cypriot Parliament voted down the proposal to take money from depositor accounts:
The Cypriot parliament has thrown out a controversial plan to skim €5.8bn (£5bn) from savers' bank accounts, in a move that risks plunging the eurozone into a fresh crisis and heightens expectations that the cash-strapped country will seek a funding lifeline from Russia.

Cyprus has just 24 hours to find a solution to its funding gap before its banks are due to reopen following the dramatic no vote on Tuesday night, which failed to support a hastily renegotiated change to the original deal.

Late on Tuesday night the eurozone governments said that despite the vote Cyprus would still need to raise the €5.8 bn – a third of the €17bn bailout.
There are limits to bailing out hedge funds and large European banks, I guess.

Unfortunately, the good folks in New Zealand, which, as Yves Smith observes is already a haven for fraudulent corporations, had decided to abandon the whole concept of insuring bank deposit:
Picture this: you check your bank balance and see that your $1000 lies safely in your savings account.

That night you switch on the evening news and find to your horror that your bank has failed.

It turns out that the Government has had to move quickly, and has placed your bank in statutory management.

The next day you check your bank balance and you find that you have taken what is referred to in the banking industry as a "haircut".

In other words, part of your savings remain, let's say 80 per cent, but 20 per cent of it has been frozen - perhaps forever - while the statutory manager sorts out the mess.

You have just entered the world of Open Bank Resolution (OBR).

It may come as a surprise that the Reserve Bank already has the power to freeze bank deposits. The problem for the central bank has been a lack of technical infrastructure to implement the policy, should the need arise. The bank said last week that it was in discussion with the banks on "pre-positioning" their systems for OBR.
Un f%$#ing believable

A press release from the a New Zealand Green Party MP follows after the break:

19 March 2013

Finally!

A judge has ruled that national security letters are unconstitutional:
Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” said Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a challenge to NSLs on behalf of an unknown telecom that received an NSL in 2011. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”

The telecommunications company received the ultra-secret demand letter in 2011 from the FBI seeking information about a customer or customers. The company took the extraordinary and rare step of challenging the underlying authority of the National Security Letter, as well as the legitimacy of the gag order that came with it.
I would expect the Obama administration to appeal this.

They have yet to seen an excess of the state security apparatus that they won't fully support.

Yes, Please F%$# the Cable Networks

Yes, I'm actually rooting for Verizon against the cable networks.

You see Verizon wants a new deal for its content.

It does not want to pay for each person who has access to a network, but rather it wants to pay only for the people who actually watch the shows:
Verizon wants to change how it pays television providers for their shows, according to a new report.

The company, which operates Fios TV, is currently in talks with several "midtier and smaller" television companies to pay them not for the number of subscribers their channels can reach, but by the number of people who actually watch their shows, according to the Wall Street Journal, which interviewed the company's executives.

"We are paying for a customer who never goes to the channel," Verizon Fios TV chief programming negotiator Terry Denson told the Wall Street Journal.

The payment structure would be passed on a "unique view" model in which one person who spends at least five minutes on the channel would count towards a fee, according to the Journal. Verizon would not need to pay for anyone who didn't actually spend that time on the channel.
If they can apply this generally it makes it less economically viable to use things like ESPN to overload the cable networks, and our cable bills, with stuff that no one else watches.

This is a decent step toward à la carte content delivery.

It's Out War in Syria Now

We may not be supplying arms directly, but United States has just plucked someone no one has heard of in order to have "their man" in charge of the insurgency:
Syria’s main exile opposition coalition elected a naturalized Syrian-born American citizen early Tuesday to be the first prime minister of an interim Syrian government, charged with funneling aid to rebels inside Syria and offering an alternative to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

By choosing Ghassan Hitto, 50, an information technology executive who lived in Texas until recently, the Syrian opposition coalition concluded months of contentious efforts to unite behind a leader, under pressure from the United States and its allies, which demanded that the opposition set up clear chains of command as a condition of increasing aid to the rebels.

Mr. Hitto, a relative unknown in opposition politics who rose to prominence recently through efforts to improve the delivery of humanitarian aid, was far from a unanimous choice. After a day of maneuvering and voting on Monday that lasted into early Tuesday, he won 35 votes, just three more than Assad Mustafa, a former agricultural minister under Mr. Assad’s father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad.

Mr. Hitto faces formidable challenges in his quest to to establish administrative authority over areas of northern Syria that have been secured by the rebels.
(emphasis mine)

If you don't think that this guy was hand picked by the US State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.

BTW, when you look at the history of exiles chosen by the US to rule, Achmed Chalabi and Hamid Karzai come to mind, the history is not pretty.

As the saying goes, "ない愚かさはない薬です".*

*Pronounced in Japanese, "baka ni tsukeru kusuri wanai", which means, "There is no medicine for stupidity." Apologies for any inaccuracies in the text, I do not know Japanese.

What Gaius Said

Donating to the DCCC means helping Dems who vote like Republicans:
The DCCC is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the group of congresspeople and staff supposedly responsible for electing House Democrats. It’s led by “ex”–Blue Dog and New Dem Steve Israel, Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked choice for the job.

We’ve written about Israel before. To the world his job is simply to elect Democrats, but to the moneymen and -women behind the corporate wing of the party, his job is to:
  • Elect corporate Democrats to the House
  • Keep progressives out of office
  • Make sure pro-corporate Republican leaders like Cantor and Paul Ryan never face credible challenges
Seriously.  So long as the national Democratic Congressional election infrastructure, and Congressional election fundraising is dominated by corporatocrats, don't give to them.

Pick and choose your candidates. Don't let these corporate ratf%$3s make that choice for you.

FWIW,  I would give similar advice to Republicans too. 

It's really pretty basic, do your homework, and chose whom you support, don't let the Beltway crowd make your choice.

Still Looking for Senator Menendez' Birth Certificate

Yes, the folks at the clown show known as The Daily Caller have decided, notwithstanding sworn statements from prostitutes that they were paid to lie, their fearless journamalists, they are still looking for the real killer:
Responding to reports that Dominican Republic police have concluded that three women were paid to make false claims that they had sex with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) for money, The Daily Caller, which published a report in November 2012 detailing similar allegations, says it is still investigating the story.
Seriously, the first rule here is that when you are in a hole, stop digging.

18 March 2013

I Have a New Rule for Finance and Fraud

The first was coined by Eric Falkenstein:
People who meticulously avoid email should not be trusted, because it is simply too calculating, as if they know they are regularly committing crimes. A phone conversation can always be disavowed, you just say you were talking about last weekend's bar mitzvah.
The 2nd rule, which I call Saroff's Rule:
If a financial transaction is complex enough to require that a news organization use a cartoon to explain it, its purpose is to deceive.
Well, now I have another rule, if your business plan requires an extraterritorial location not subject to any national law, it is because the principals involved intend to be lawless:
A company named Blueseed is a year away from offering entrepreneurs an inexpensive place, near Silicon Valley, in which to develop their products.

"Blueseed will station a ship 12 nautical miles from the coast of San Francisco, in international waters. The location will allow startup entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world to start or grow their company near Silicon Valley, without the need for a U.S. work visa. The ship will be converted into a coworking and co-living space, and will have high-speed Internet access and daily transportation to the mainland via ferry boat. So far, over 1000 entrepreneurs from 60+ countries expressed interest in living on the ship."
No Civil Rights Act, no Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, no Fair Labor Standards Act, no Securities Exchange Act, no RICO statute, no consumer protection laws, no laws against slavery or indentured servitude, and indeterminate tax jurisdiction.

If you get an offer from these people, run the other way.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Priceless

The Michigan state legislature, chock full of wingnuts, after losing an initiative on creating emergency managers for localities, promptly repassed the law with an attached appropriation to make it unchallengable.

And now they have appointed an emergency manager for Detroit, who has tax liens on his home in Maryland:
The man charged with fixing Detroit's faltering finances has been hit with four liens in four years from the state of Maryland for unpaid taxes, records show.

State records show Kevyn D. Orr, who was appointed emergency manager on Thursday, has two outstanding liens on his $1 million home in Chevy Chase, Md., for $16,000 in unemployment taxes in 2010 and 2011. Two other liens of more than $16,000 in unemployment and income taxes were satisfied in 2010 and 2011, records show.

Orr said he didn't know anything about the liens when shown records of them Friday morning by The Detroit News.

"I don't know what they are," Orr said, as his new boss, Gov. Rick Snyder, sat next to him in The News' offices. "That's surprising to me, to be honest."

Late afternoon, a spokeswoman for Snyder — who appointed Orr to the $275,000 per year post Thursday — said Orr spent the day researching the issue and would pay "in full ASAP." The Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney blamed the problems on an outside accountant hired to file his tax returns, said Sara Wurfel, a Snyder spokeswoman.
He had 4 liens filed on his home, and did not know about it. Yeah ……… right.

The emergency management process is a clown show for a reason, and it's no accident that over half of the black voters in Michigan will be under emergency managers.

First they cut state aid to troubled municipalities, and then effectively abolish .

The motivation for this is two fold:
  • Modern movement (teabagger) conservatives visceral opposition to majority minority communities having meaningful self rule.
  • By eliminating self rule, they eliminate electoral possibilities for less senior politicians.
    • Basically, they are hoping to eliminate the "farm system" for a generation of politicians for political advantage.
That is why we are seeing this clown show.

They don't care about governance, they just care about power. Everything is subverted to to that.

17 March 2013

Solipsistic Narcissists

Now that his son has come out, Senator Rob Portman becomes a supporter of gay marriage:
Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday announced he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage after reconsidering the issue because his 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.

Portman said his son, a junior at Yale University, told him and his wife, Jane, that he's gay and "it was not a choice, it was who he is and that he had been that way since he could remember."

"It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have -- to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years," Portman told reporters in an interview at his office.

The conversation the Portmans had with their son two years ago led to him to evolve on the issue after he consulted clergy members, friends -- including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay -- and the Bible.

"The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue," Portman said, adding that he feels that "in a way, this strengthens the institution of marriage."

Portman said his son didn't push him to make his announcement, though he "encouraged me."

Portman, who backed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, said he now thinks parts of that bill should be repealed, though he hasn't considered introducing such legislation himself because economic policy issues are his specialty.
So, how do we make legislators have children who grow up in poverty?

Seriously, if it doesn't happen to them and theirs, it does not exist.

Un-Dirtyword-Believable

The New York Police Department has established a policy to conduct criminal background checks on the victims of domestic abuse:
Women who report domestic violence are exposing themselves to arrest under a new NYPD directive that orders cops to run criminal checks on the accused and the accuser, The Post has learned.

The memo by Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records of both parties.

“You have no choice but to lock them up” if the victims turn out to have warrants, including for minor offenses like unpaid tickets, a police source said.

“This is going to deter victims of domestic violence . . . They’re going to be scared to come forward.”

The directive tells detectives that when they are investigating cases of domestic violence, they should run a search that cross-references all NYPD databases.

Beside warrants, a person’s criminal record and history of making criminal complaints should be checked, the directive says.
I'm beginning to think that the NYPD needs another Knapp Commission a the reforms associated with such an endeavor.  (The whole racial profiling of Muslims thing, and the abuse of protestors comes to mind.)

There is a lot of rot in the force, and it this fish is rotting at the head.

The Maryland Lege Gets One Right

The death penalty is no more in Maryland:
The General Assembly voted to repeal the death penalty Friday, calling for an end to Maryland's 375-year history of capital punishment and joining a growing number of states outlawing the practice.

After nearly two hours of impassioned debate, the House of Delegates approved Gov. Martin O'Malley's repeal legislation, 82-56, sending the measure to the governor for his signature. The state Senate voted 27-20 for repeal last week.

"We're a better state for ending it," said Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Democrat from Baltimore who has long pushed for repeal.
Absolutely.

Who Says that Irony is Dead

Yes, it's ironic that one of the leading opponents of Marijuana decriminalization in New York State was was busted for possession, but true irony would involve him being beaten up by said cop"
Republican New York State Assemblyman Steve Katz (AD-99) was arrested Thursday morning for possession of marijuana after he was pulled over for speeding to Albany for a legislative session. The New York State Trooper who pulled over Katz smelled marijuana in the conservative Assemblyman’s car. Katz then surrendered a bag of weed to the Trooper.

Katz, who has strong Tea Party backing in the lower Hudson Valley, has opposed legalizing medical marijuana treatments for New Yorkers with conditions such as cancer and glaucoma while in the Assembly. The outspoken conservative with was first elected to the Assembly in 2010. He sits on the alcoholism and drug abuse committee, as well as its committees on higher education, mental health and economic development.
I do love the headline to this story though, "Katznip".

It's Bank Failure Friday!!! (On Sunday)

No banks, but I just noticed some credit union closings:
  1. Amez United Credit Union, Detroit, MI  <===My bad, this one was on Feb 19, I missed it.
  2. I.C.E. Federal Credit Union, Inglewood, CA
  3. Pepsi Cola Federal Credit Union, Buena Park, CA

Full NCUA list


I think that this is the first time since I started following this that credit union closings were the same as bank closings.

It probably means nothing.