17 October 2018

Deep Thought

I hypothesize that aliens not contacted us because they have intercepted the broadcast of our televangelists, and they are trying to figure out whether or not we are an elaborate hoax.

Seriously, if your only exposure to the planet earth is our television, particularly Sunday morning programming, whether it be Pat Robertson or Chuck Todd, you would have to conclude that this is all some intricate prank, and a rather cruel one at that.

Time to Break Up Facebook, Part MMMMCLXIV

Facebook and Google's hegemony in the online ad world has reached its inevitable result, it has been revealed that Facebook has been aggressively defrauding advertisers over the effectiveness of its video ads.

If I had a chance to say anything to Mark Zuckerberg about this, it would be, "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed.
According to a newly public filing in an ongoing lawsuit, a group of advertisers now says that Facebook has been willfully withholding information about how much time its users spend watching paid ads—if more people spend more time watching ads, then those ads can command higher rates.

The case of LLE One LLC et al. v. Facebook, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was filed two years ago and is currently pending in federal court in Oakland, California. In it, the plaintiffs say that, as part of the discovery from their lawsuit, they have learned that Facebook's "action rises to the level of fraud and may warrant punitive damages."

As the plaintiffs' attorneys continued:
In addition to Facebook knowing about the problem far longer than previously acknowledged, Facebook's records also show that the impact of its miscalculation was much more severe than reported. The average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60-80 percent; they were inflated by some 150-900 percent.
There are no good metrics because there are no independent metrics, and there won't be, because Facebook so dominates the space that they can, and do, refuse to provide their underlying numbers to independent verification.

The market no longer serves as a corrective, and the alternatives are either aggressive and pervasive regulation, or broken up to its component parts, or (my choice) both.

Tweet of the day


You may disagree, but if there is one thing that I know, it is that it never pays to argue with a cat.

The Term Here is "Corrupt"

In July, I commented on a how a real Democrat won the primary for Montgomery County executive, and the party establishment there saw this as a threat to their bribes support from real estate developers, so they stood up a Democrat who changed her party registration for an independent bid to sabotage his run.

Well, now Nancy Floreen is trying to claim that she was really a Democrat the whole time.

She was never a Democrat. She was a tool of the developers who found pretending to be a Democrat was useful.

It's time for the Democratic Party of Montgomery County to tell her to pound sand, and say, "No backsies."
Montgomery County executive candidate Nancy Floreen says she will return to the Democratic fold after the Nov. 6 election — regardless of whether her independent bid for the liberal county’s top post is successful.

Floreen, a 16-year county council member and two-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention, left the party in July to make a surprise run for county executive, gathering enough petition signatures to appear on the November ballot.

The move was prompted by her opposition to the Democratic nominee, 12-year council member Marc Elrich. It left some Democrats feeling betrayed.

At a candidate debate Wednesday morning hosted by the Greater Bethesda U.S. Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Bethesda Magazine editor and publisher Steve Hull, Floreen said she would re-register as a Democrat if she’s elected.

Floreen later said she plans to return to the party regardless of the outcome of the election, “because I am a Democrat at heart.”

“I only changed parties in order to run the petition drive,” she said. “I’ve been very upfront about that.”
You are a contemptible piece of excrement, you've been very upfront about that.

BTW, whenever you hear a corporate Democrat call for unity, know that it's only a one way street.

16 October 2018

Least Surprising News of the Day

It turns out that government pension plans are flushing their money down the toilet by playing high fees to Wall Street.

Of course, this observation misses the primary purpose of state pensions wasting money on hedge funds and private equity, it creates opportunities for bribes and corruption:
Recent research from North Carolina State University finds that state pension plans would be better off avoiding external asset managers when investing their plans’ assets – and would carry substantially smaller unfunded liabilities if they had simply invested in a conventional index fund.

“We set out to answer three questions about state pension plans, their external management fees and the return on their investments,” says Jeff Diebold, an assistant professor of public administration at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “First, what influences the amount of money that state pension plans pay in external management fees? Second, do higher fees lead to better performance? And third, how would those pension plans have fared if they had taken the money spent on external management fees and invested it in a conventional portfolio, with 60 percent invested in the S&P 500 and 40 percent invested in an intermediate bond fund?”

To address these questions, the researchers turned to the Public Plans Database, where they were able to find data from 49 state-administered pension plans – spanning 30 states – regarding how much those plans spend each year on external management fees. Specifically, the researchers evaluated data on the performance of those 49 plans, spanning the years 2001-2014.

………

“Unfortunately, higher fees did not lead to better performance,” Diebold says. “There was no positive relationship between what plans paid in fees and how they performed. You don’t always get what you pay for.”

For the third research question, the researchers only evaluated 42 of the 49 plans, because the evaluation required at least 10 years of data. But for those 42 plans, the researchers found that the more a plan spent on external fees, the more it lost – relative to what it would have made investing in the conventional portfolio of the S&P 500 and intermediate bond funds.

For example, the plan that spent the fourth least amount of money on external fees would have cut 5 percent of its unfunded liability if it had invested in the conventional portfolio. The median plan would have eliminated 14 percent of its unfunded liability. And the plan with the fourth highest fees would actually have recouped 44 percent of its unfunded liability – approximately $4.2 billion – if it had invested its external fees in the S&P 500 and intermediate bond funds. In this context, an unfunded liability is the amount of the pension plan’s obligation for which the plan has not set aside money.
There is a good reason reason for me to refer to big finance as parasites, because they sure as hell aren't symbiots.

Please, Think of the Lobbyists!

It appears that murdering their columnists is a bridge too far for the Washington Post editorial board:
The Washington Post told a prominent Republican lobbyist he’d lose his gig as a contributing opinion writer unless he stopped lobbying for Saudi Arabia, a spokesperson for the newspaper confirmed Tuesday.

The ultimatum came after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. permanent resident who was a columnist for the Post and wrote critically of the Saudi government. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, and allegations that he was killed by Saudi authorities have strained the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The lobbyist, Ed Rogers, the chairman of the BGR Group, writes for the newspaper’s PostPartisan blog.

Kristine Coratti Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Post, confirmed that the newspaper told Rogers he’d no longer be able to contribute if he continued to lobby for Saudi Arabia. She declined to comment further.
Lobbying for the slaughter and starvation of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, that's fine, but murder one Post columnist, that is simply beyond the pals.

As Ian Walsh so pithily notes:
It’s not that Kashoggi’s death isn’t a crime, but that any number of nameless people can be killed, raped, and tortured, and elites don’t care. It’s only when it’s one of them that they care.

Normal people are nothing–less than nothing–to our elites.

But they take care of their own.
But still, we're going to help the House of Saud starve, bomb, and burn civilians throughout Yemen.

This is a relationship that is not in the long term interest of the United States.

Fairness and Decency — 1: Betsy DeVos — 0

It appears that the Federal Courts do not take kindly to the conceit that it's OK to defraud students because it's rich people doing it:
Obama-era rules that lay out how students defrauded by colleges can erase their debt took effect Tuesday, after the Trump administration and an association of for-profit colleges lost their bids to delay them.

That means that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is now responsible for implementing a rule that she said makes it too easy for students to cancel their student loans and that she has fought to kill.

Consumer advocates back the regulations, saying the government must take a more aggressive stance against colleges that they say routinely take advantage of veterans and vulnerable students.

But conservatives worry about the hit to taxpayers if a large number of student borrowers are allowed to avoid paying off their loans. In addition, colleges, particularly for-profit ventures, opposed the Obama administration rules as harmful to their programs and students seeking loans to attend them.

The federal government has a virtual monopoly over the $100 billion-a-year student loan market, so the rules about how it will handle fraud and other issues are important.

In June 2017, DeVos put the regulations on hold and said she would replace them with her own. Two former students of a for-profit college, as well as 19 states and the District, sued to stop the delay.

Last month, a U.S. district court said that the DeVos move was “arbitrary and capricious” and that the rules should take effect. It gave the agency until last Friday to try to issue a new delay, but the Education Department said it would not try again.

“The secretary respects the role of the court and will defer to its judgment in whether parts of the 2016 rule will go into effect,” Elizabeth Hill, a DeVos spokeswoman, said Friday.
In a morass of incompetence, corruption, and soulless evil at the Trump Administration, Betsy DeVoss is truly in a class of her own.

It's good to see her lose.

Merkel’s Bavarian ally suffers historic loss in state vote

Merkel's allies in the German state of Alabama Bavaria just got their heads handed to them in recent state elections:

Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, suffered a historic loss in Germany’s wealthiest state, losing the majority it has held for much of the postwar period. Despite the ninth consecutive year of economic growth and record employment levels, the party lost votes to two rising parties on the left and right, the Greens and the Alternative for Germany.

The CSU, led by controversial Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, won 37.2 percent of the votes, according to preliminary results. It was the party’s lowest rating since 1950. The CSU was expected to win 34 percent in the latest opinion polls surveys earlier this month. In 2013, it won 47.7 percent of the votes, but still won the majority in the state’s legislature due to a complicated system of awarding seats.
You will notice that the CSU dropped by about 10%, or about ¼ of its previous vote totals, and the SPD lost about 12%, over ½ of its votes.

Establishment parties (the CSU/CDU) is taking it on the chin

Establishment parties that stand for nothing (the SPD), like what now passes for the "Center-Left" in Europe, are being destroyed.

I'm just hoping that the Greens and the Left Party, and not the neo-Fascist AFD end up on top.

Don't Say, "F%$# Trump and his Supporters"

Say, "Don't F%$# Trump Supporters."

Not my idea, nor is it Ms. Filipovic's idea. It's Aristophanes' idea.

H/t Naked Capitalism

15 October 2018

From Bloomberg?

An unsigned editorial from Bloomberg News, meaning that it represents the view of the editorial board, is calling down for a crack-down on white collar crime:
This has been a banner season for punishing white-collar crime. Guilty pleas by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer, and criminal convictions and additional guilty pleas in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have drawn enormous attention.

Cohen admitted to bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violations. Manafort, after having been convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to file a report documenting foreign bank and financial accounts, pleaded guilty to additional federal charges. It’s fair to assume, however, that neither man’s crimes would have come to light without the scrutiny drawn by their association with Trump. How many ordinary white-collar criminals expect to be found out?



The U.S. has never done an especially convincing job of policing and prosecuting white-collar crime. Complaints about the paucity of criminal prosecutions go back decades. The recent story of tax schemes engineered over many years by Trump’s family is an extreme instance of troubling and long-established pattern, showing little fear of legal consequences.

Since the financial crisis, the lack of criminal prosecutions has been widely deplored. Yet white-collar prosecutions are still on course to fall to their lowest level in at least 20 years, down more than 40 percent from 1998.

………

All of which is true, no doubt — but justice still demands that serious crimes earn serious punishments.

That would require more resources. According to Don Fort, the chief of IRS criminal enforcement, the agency has the same number of special agents — about 2,200 — as it did 50 years ago, despite huge increases in the number of tax filers and the complexity of financial crimes. The Department of Justice would have to attract and retain ambitious, competent prosecutors. Government agencies would need better ways, including financial incentives, to entice whistle-blowers.

………

This needs to change. White-collar crime is a menace, and the impunity of its ordinary perpetrators is intolerable. 
I, and a lot of other people, have been saying this for years, but it's now beaten its way into the heads of the Bloomberg editors, which is rather a surprise.

A Commentary on Stepan Bandera


I am not going to discuss the legality of pulling down flags from the grave of Stepan Bandera, or the wisdom of such an action, but his sign was the truth.

Stepan Bandera was a Nazi sympathizer, and he was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands Poles and Jews.

That he is considered a national icon in the new Ukraine is a blot on history and decency.

Oh, Snap!

Elizabeth Warren just released DNA results showing some American Indian ancestry, and promptly told Trump to pay up on his offer of a $1 million donation to a charity of her choice.

The analysis fits with her family story that it was her great grandmother, and she just made Donald Trump her bitch.

2 snaps up.

Linkage


I really do hope that the kids are alright:

Typical

Rule 1 of the FCC these days is that Ajit Pai lies.

Rule 2 is see rule 1:
As the FCC gears up for legal battle against the numerous net neutrality lawsuits headed its way, its latest filing with the courts acts as a sort of a greatest hits of the agency's biggest fallacies to date. 23 State AGs have sued the FCC, stating last fall's repeal of net neutrality ignored the law, ignored standard FCC procedure, and ignored the public interest. The FCC’s new filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals (pdf) for the District of Columbia Circuit declares these concerns "meritless," despite indisputible evidence that the FCC effectively based its repeal largely on lobbyist nonsense.

At the heart of the matter sits the Administrative Procedures Act, which mandates that a regulator can't just make a severe, abrupt reversal in policy without documenting solid reasons why. The FCC has some legal leeway to change its mind on policy, but as we've long noted, the FCC's justification for its repeal (that net neutrality was somehow stifling broadband investment) has been proven false. Not just by SEC filings and earnings reports, but by the CEOs themselves, publicly, to investors (who by law, unlike you, they can't lie to).

Unsurprisingly then, the FCC's brief leans heavily on the Supreme Court's 2005 Brand X ruling, which states the FCC has some leeway to shift policy course at its discretion if it has the data to back it up. Also unsurprisingly, the brief goes well out of its way to pretend that ignoring the experts, ignoring the public, and demolishing consumer protections purely at Comcast, Verizon and AT&T's behest is reasonable, adult policy making. And again, the false claim that net neutrality harmed "innovation, investment and broadband deployment" takes center stage:

………

Of course the press has noted time and time and time again how these claims of a net neutrality-induced investment apocalypse are absolutely false. Ajit Pai has similarly gone before Congress repeatedly and falsely made the claim anyway, with absolutely zero repercussions thus far. The FCC's claims that its rules embrace transparency are equally hollow, given the agency's replacement transparency provisions are entirely voluntary. And the idea that "market forces" can fix the broken and uncompetitive broadband industry should be laughable to anybody that's experienced Comcast customer service.

………

Meanwhile, there should also be some interesting sideshows during this looming legal battle, including discussions of why the FCC made up a DDOS attack, and ignored comment fraud and identity theft during the public comment process, both part of a pretty obvious effort on the FCC's part to downplay the massive, bipartisan public opposition to what the FCC was doing. This is a story about corruption, misinformation, and ignoring the public welfare to the benefit of widely despised telecom monopolies. The FCC, in contrast, desperately wants the courts to believe this was all just adult policy making as usual.
People like Ajit Pai are deeply and profoundly corrupt, and they keep coming back because there is no meaningful investigation of their corrupt acts.

The next Democratic administration should spend some time looking back and throwing malefactors in jail.

14 October 2018

This Does Not Sound Like Progress


Tennessee Ernie Ford says it all
Elon Musk's latest "disruptive innovation" is to return to the days of the company town and the company store, where if you lose your job, they kick you out of your house:
Tesla's Nevada-based Gigafactory could be undergoing a massive expansion which has the potential to include on-site accommodations for employees, reports the Las Vegas Review Journal. In a recent conversation with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the state's first annual technology summit, CEO Elon Musk discussed the automaker's plans to hire more than 20,000 new workers for its manufacturing facility.

Currently, the manufacturing facility, coined Gigafactory 1, employs around 7,000 workers and produces the bulk of battery cells and packs found in Tesla vehicles. Despite producing an annual energy storage capacity output of 20 GWh, Tesla has acknowledged the need for batteries is virtually insatiable in order to meet the increasing demand for electric vehicles.

………

“The biggest constraint on growth here is housing and infrastructure." said Musk according to the Review, "We’re looking at creating a housing compound on site at the Gigafactory, using kind of high-quality mobile homes."
So, you live in a company town, and if you try to unionize, you get tossed out, and end up homeless, and your kid is kicked out of the company school, etc., just like in the 1890s.

Why does the Silicon Valley model of "Innovation" sound so much like the worst excess of the Gilded Age?

Useless

Chuck Schumer and his merry band of cowards just con firmec 15 Federalist Society Judge pukes because they did not want to wait to hit the campaign trail:
Senate Democrats accepted an offer Thursday from Senate Republicans to confirm 15 lifetime federal judges in exchange for the ability to go into recess through the midterms, allowing endangered Democrats to campaign.

The calculation by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and his caucus was simple: That Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be able to confirm roughly 15 judges if he kept the Senate in session for the next few weeks anyway. So Democrats OK’d an offer to confirm three Circuit Court judges and 12 Circuit Court judges as the price to pay to go home for election season.

Under Senate rules, even if Democrats fought the nominees tooth and nail and forced the Senate to burn 30 hours of debate between each one, McConnell would have gotten them all confirmed by Nov. 1. Democrats could have conceivably left a skeleton crew of senators in Washington to force the GOP to take roll call votes on the judges over the next few weeks, although that tactic is not typically employed by the minority.

Some liberal activists are urging Democrats to show more fight after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court; Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos even said that Democrats “need a new Senate leader” after the agreement was struck. But senators had to weigh that dynamic along with the approaching midterms and the brutal Senate map. And with a half-dozen Democrats facing serious challenges in Senate races, it made more sense to make what Democrats said was a reasonable deal with McConnell so that they could make a serious run at saving endangered senators.
No, it was not a reasonable deal.

Once again, the Democrats have sacrificed their integrity at the altar of careerism and incumbent protection.

More importantly, they have made it even clearer that voting for them will have no meaningful impact.

The lesser of two evils is still evil.

13 October 2018

This is Seriously Cyberpunk, in a Seriously Dystopian Way

Next year, Amy Winehouse will conduct a worldwide tour, despite having died more than 7 years ago.

Dead celebrities touring as computer generated simulacrums really does sound like something straight out of William Gibson's darkest visions:
A hologram of Amy Winehouse is set for a worldwide tour in 2019. A projection of the late singer will “perform” digitally remastered arrangements of her songs, backed by a live band, singers and what the production company Base Hologram calls “theatrical stagecraft”.

Winehouse’s father, Mitch, described the endeavour as a dream. “To see her perform again is something special that really can’t be put into words,” he said. “Our daughter’s music touched the lives of millions of people and it means everything that her legacy will continue in this innovative and groundbreaking way.”

Mitch Winehouse said the tour will raise money and awareness for the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The charity educates young people about drug and alcohol misuse, provides support for those at risk and supports the development of disadvantaged young people through music.

The show is expected to last 75 to 110 minutes.
This is profoundly creepy.

Tweets that Make You Go Hmmmmm


You know, the fact that we are effectively allied with ISIS might be a small indicator that our policies in Syria are not in the national interest.

H/t naked capitalism.

They Live



I was reading an article on the Financial Times, and I saw this picture. The thing was, my laptop was at the wrong angle, so it looked more like this. (It's happened to all of us)



Does it evoke anything?



To quote "They Live", "We could be pets, we could be food, but all we really are is livestock."

So, 8 Credit Unions, and No Commercial Banks

The 8th credit union of the year, the Radio, Television and Communication Federal Credit Union ​of Staten Island, ​NY was closed down this week.

I think that I may have to rename "Bank Failure Friday" to "Credit Union Friday." Tthe "Friday" bit might be a bit much too)

I do not know why there have been so many more credit unions failures this year.

There are about the same number of banks and credit unions, but only credit unions are closing.

I'm wondering if there some regulatory forbearance that is causing this, and if so, how will this manifest itself when the next crash hits.

Here is the Full NCUA list.

12 October 2018

These Folks Need to be in Jail

Not just Rahm Emanuel, but the aldermen that he bribed as well:
Four seconds. That’s all the time it took for item number Or2015-204 to pass the Chicago City Council on April 15, 2015. It was a proposed settlement to pay Tina Hunter, the mother of Laquan McDonald, a $5 million legal settlement after Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times on October 20, 2014.

Eight days before on April 7, 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel crushed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the city’s first ever mayoral run-off. He needed another big victory, and he got it.

But the real prize was the silence of a group of Black aldermen who along with 39 aldermen, approved the $5 million settlement more than a month after they received nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from Emanuel as he battled Garcia during the runoff. The Crusader has learned that these aldermen kept the money and stayed silent about it even after the video of McDonald’s brutal killing emerged, sowing distrust in the mayor, the police department and the Cook County States’ Attorney office. Now, the spotlight turns on a group of aldermen who have their own code of silence.

For the next several years after the $5 million settlement, they would give the mayor his money’s worth. They would stand by Emanuel as he weathered a storm that he tried to ride out until he announced on September 4, 2018 that he would not seek re-election.

Until the very end of Emanuel’s final term in office, these aldermen would say nothing negative about him or about questionable hefty donations that have made the Black aldermen the “Silent 8” at City Hall.

According to a Crusader investigation, there are actually nine aldermen who took money from the mayor before the $5 million settlement, but eight of them are Black. They are Anthony Beale (9th Ward), Carrie Austin (34th Ward), Michelle Harris (8th Ward), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th Ward), Emma Mitts (37th Ward), Willie Cochran (20th Ward), Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), and Howard Brookins, Jr. (21st Ward). The only non-Black alderman who took campaign donations from the mayor is Patrick O’Connor (40th Ward), campaign records show.

For the last three years, Chicago’s Black aldermen have struggled along with Emanuel to regain the trust of their constituents. But unlike Emanuel, many are seeking re-election. In order to win another term, they must answer to an angry Black electorate that is having a hard time believing that they knew nothing about a case that happened right under their noses as it went through City Hall.
Rahm Emanuel might be the most contemptible "Democrat" in politics today, and unlike William Magear "Boss" Tweed, who created Central Park, funded social welfare programs, and he didn't actually do anything for the ordinary people of in his city.

What About Her Husband?

Sara Netanyahu, Benyamin's wife, is going on trial for fraudulently getting meal reimbursements:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, appeared in court on Sunday for the first hearing in the fraud trial against her, in which she is alleged to have misused state funds in ordering catered meals.

According to the indictment, Sara Netanyahu, along with a government employee, fraudulently obtained from the state more than $100,000 for hundreds of meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations that prohibit the practice if a cook is employed at home.

………

She was charged in June with fraud and breach of trust and of aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods. If convicted, Sara Netanyahu could face up to five years in prison.
She had a state supplied cook but was still charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to restaurants, and Bibi had a budget for ice cream that boggles the mind, at least until it became public.

My guess is that the food was either resold, or never delivered, and kickbacks were received instead.

I am kind of hoping that Sara flips on her husband, but I'm not holding my breath.

11 October 2018

Bankers’ Liability and Risk Taking | naked capitalism

Some economists did a study regarding changes in liability and risk taking by bankers, and looking at a historical changes in regulations to determined that when bankers are not allowed to hide behind corporate bankruptcy, they are less likely to take stupid risks:
In order to protect the financial system from excessive risk-taking, many argue that bank managers need to have more personal liability. However, whether the liability of bank managers has a significant effect on risk-taking is an open question. This column studies a unique historical episode in which similar bankers, operating in similar institutional and economic environments, faced different degrees of personal liability, depending on the timing of their marriages, and finds that limited liability induced bankers to take more risks.

………

This raises the question of whether bank managers’ incentives are set appropriately to protect the financial system from excessive risk-taking. Managers can cash in on a bank’s profits when things are going well, but they shoulder minimal losses if the bank fails (Bhagat and Bolton 2014). This limited liability may encourage them to take undue risks with depositors’ money. There is a growing chorus of commentators arguing that the financial system will only be safe if bank managers have more personal liability (e.g. Kay 2015, Cohan 2017).

Whether the liability of bank managers has a significant effect on risk-taking is an open question. Bank managers care about their reputations and future careers; so, they might try to avoid the failure of their bank at any cost. Other stakeholders, such as uninsured creditors, may be able to force banks to reduce risk-taking (Calomiris and Kahn 1991, Diamond and Rajan 2000). To make their case, proponents of increased personal liability often point to what happened to investment banks over the last few decades. Before the 1980s, investment banks operated as partnerships with unlimited liability. During the 1980s, they went public. Anecdotally, this seems to have gone hand in hand with increased risk taking. However, this coincided with a period of general financial deregulation. So, how do we know what caused investment banks to take more risk?

In recent work (Koudijs et al. 2018), we study a unique historical episode in which similar bankers, operating in similar institutional and economic environments, faced different degrees of personal liability, depending on the timing of their marriages. Our findings suggest that limited liability really matters for bank risk-taking.
What they looked at was the effects of the passage of Married Women’s Property Acts (MWPAs) in the early 1800s on banker risk taking.

MPWAs changed property law to allow women to hold their own assets, and when women held their own assets, a bank president wife's assets were not subject to liability from a bank failure, while his assets were subject to recovery from account holders.

Because these were state laws, and the laws were passed at different times, we can compare and contrast the behaviors:
We collect data on the activities of New England national banks during the 1860s and 1870s, as well as information about bank presidents’ marriage histories. This allows us to classify bankers as ‘protected’ (i.e. married after a MWPA was passed in his state) or ‘unprotected’. We then compare the risk-taking behaviour of protected and unprotected bankers.

A key measure of bank risk-taking is leverage. We define this as loans and securities - inherently risky investments made by the bank – relative to capital invested in the bank by shareholders. A bank that extends more loans relative to capital is more likely to suffer losses that render it unable to pay back depositors.

As it turns out, bankers with less personal liability managed more highly levered banks. More precisely, a bank’s ratio of loans and securities to capital was 7 to 10 percentage points higher if its president was married after a MWPA. This does not reflect underlying differences between protected and unprotected bankers (such as age), or the characteristics of counties or towns that they live in. It also does not reflect characteristics of the banks themselves – when an individual bank switches from having an unprotected president to a protected president (through turnover, or a change in the president’s marital status), leverage increases in that bank.

Not surprisingly, the impact of a president’s protection status is contingent on the relative wealth of his wife. Figure 1 plots the difference in leverage between banks with protected and unprotected presidents with different intra-household allocations of property (inferred from the ratio of the wife’s family wealth to the husband’s family wealth). Being married after a MWPA only increases leverage for bankers whose wives own a sufficiently large share of the household’s property.

Figure 1 The effect of limited liability on bank leverage
It is also noted that during financial panics, the more conservative bankers institutions performed better, so the threat of personal consequences produced better behavior.

Eddie Murphy said in Trading Places, "You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.

H/t naked capitalism.

This is a Wicked Bad Day at the Office

I am not sure what a good day at the office is like in Kazakhstan, but I am pretty sure that it does not involve the rocket that you are riding on blowing up:
A Soyuz capsule carrying a U.S. astronaut and Russian cosmonaut completed an emergency landing in Russia on Oct. 11 about 40 min. after the first ballistic abort in the history of the International Space Station (ISS) program.

First reports indicate astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in “good condition” and in contact with search-and-rescue teams sent to recover them, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said.

The booster anomaly was identified about 3 min., 15 sec. after liftoff at 4:40 a.m. Eastern time, triggering a ballistic re-entry of the capsule and subjecting the crew to higher-than-normal G forces.

“It is a known mode of descent that crewmembers have gone through before,” Dean said.

The booster anomaly has not been identified or described.

………

Soyuz used its launch abort system for the first time in September 1983 after a Soyuz T rocket caught fire on the launch pad seconds before liftoff. The capsule’s launch escape system pulled the crew away from the rocket seconds before the vehicle exploded.
The narration in the video below is not completely accurate. It's someone (probably) in Houston reading from a script.

What is notable is that the "Koralev Cross" which occurs on booster separation, seemed rather odd, so the problem might be something to do with booster separation.

It appears that the escape tower had been jettisoned before the failure, and so the propulsion system for the capsule was used to separate from the booster.

This Wins the F%$#ing Internet


This is simply beautiful.

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS for the catch.

10 October 2018

How Convenient

In Georgia, Brian Kemp is the Secretary of State. He's also running for governor.

As Secretary of state, he has purged a tenth of voters, with blacks purged at a rate twice that of white voters.

As Marcus Tullius Cicero was wont to say, "Cui bono" (Who benefits):
My lawyer had to threaten Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp with a federal lawsuit to force him to turn over the names of over half a million voters whose citizenship rights he quietly extinguished.

This past week, I released the name of every one of these Georgia voters Kemp flushed from voter rolls in 2017. If you’re a Georgia resident, check the list. If your name is on it, re-register right now. You only have through tomorrow (October 9).

It’s no coincidence that Georgia’s Purge’n General is also running for Governor: The Republican candidate is fighting a dead-even race against Stacey Abrams, Democratic House Minority Leader. Abrams, if she wins, would become the first Black woman governor in US history.

Suspiciously, Kemp sent no notice to these citizens after he took away their voting rights. If they show up to vote on November 6, they’re out of luck — and so is Georgia’s democracy.
Palast (above) neglects to mention that it is minority voters who are being disproportionately effected by his actions:
An analysis of the records obtained by The Associated Press reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia’s population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp’s office is nearly 70 percent black.
An important thing to note here:  Despite public chest beating, the national Democratic party does not spend a whole bunch of time or money on getting voters registered.

It should be 24/7 thing, but it isn't.

Francisco Franco is as Francisco Franco Does

One of the narratives regarding the conflict between Madrid and Barcelona over Catalan independence and autonomy is that the independence movement chased away finance and created a capital flight.

It turns out that the Rajoy government aggressively pushed the companies to leave Catalonia.

It's not a surprise,  Mariano Rajoy's "People's Party" is pretty much a direct descendant of Franco's Fascist (Falange) party, and the Falange was dedicated to grinding everything Catalan into dust:
Just over a year has passed since over two million people in Catalonia voted in a banned referendum to leave Spain. On that day, the separatists were given a brutal lesson in the raw power of state violence. Days later, they were given another harsh lesson, this time in the fickleness of money. Within days of holding the vote, which was brutally suppressed but not prevented by Spanish police, Spain’s north eastern region was forced to watch as one after another of its brand names moved their headquarters, at least on paper, to other parts of Spain.

………

But what is only now becoming clear is just how central a role the Spanish government in Madrid was playing in fomenting this massive exodus of funds. The Catalan newspaper Ara has revealed that large state-owned companies such as public broadcaster RTVE, rail infrastructure manager Adif, freight and passenger train operator RENFE and Spanish ports, on the behest of Spain’s central government, raided their own accounts in Catalonia during the frenzied days immediately after the referendum.

In one day alone, the state-owned companies withdrew €2 billion from Banco Sabadell. The presidents of these state-owned companies apparently told the bank’s CEO, Jaume Guardiola, that they had received orders to trigger a run on deposits. As much as a third of all the money that left Catalonia during those first days of October belonged to institutions or companies controlled by the State.

The covert ploy worked like a charm. In the short space of just a few days Banco Sabadell suffered a deposit outflow of €12 billion, while Caixabank lost almost double that, according to Ara.

Another senior executive at Banco Sabadell allegedly asked Spain’s then-Economy Minister Luis de Guindos about the apparent cause of the bank run, to which he received the response: “Have you changed your company address yet?” When the executive answered in the affirmative, the minister said there was no longer any reason to worry. Within hours, the deposits of the state-owned firms were back in their accounts.
In the long run, Rajoy ended up worsening the divisions between Barcelona and Madrid, with the spectacle of police officers in body armor beating up elderly ladies.

The smart move would have been to allow the independence forces to fall into a morass of back-biting and corruption, but the dynamics of the People's Party were such that they had to respond with brutality.
He really had no 

If Only There Was Someone at Tesla Who Knew How to Count

Maybe they should have hired someone who had worked at a place that processes payment, like PayPal.

But alas, it appears that they did not, so the auto manufacturer neglected to pay almost ¾ of a million in unemployment taxes:
A state agency is taking Tesla to court over claims that the electric car manufacturer owes the state more than half a million dollars in unpaid taxes, which a company official says is due to a “clerical” error and was paid on Tuesday.

According to a certificate of judgment filed Monday in Clark County District Court, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) is seeking more than $654,000 in unpaid unemployment taxes from Tesla stemming from the last two fiscal quarters.

According to a statement of liability filed with the court, the company owes $210,710 from the fiscal quarter ending on April 30, and another $439,753 from the quarter ending on July 31. The company paid a portion but not all of its assessed unemployment taxes during each quarter.

Nevada law requires almost any business that pays wages in the state to pay a base 2.95 percent unemployment insurance tax on wages.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Tesla said the issue came about due to a “clerical error” with the company’s acquisition of rooftop solar installer SolarCity — founded by one of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s cousins, Lyndon Rive — and over how the state assess unemployment taxes.

“This judgment is the result of a clerical error, and we have processed this payment today to reflect the latest unemployment insurance contribution rates,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Over the past 18 months, Tesla has already paid over $3.3 million in unemployment taxes to Nevada.”
So somehow they want us to trust their autopilot technology, but they cannot even do what is pretty basic taxes.

That is so reassuring.

Quote of the Day

While claiming to seek victory, the Democratic leadership has instead created a consulting and fundraising complex that incentivizes narrow defeat. The people responsible for losing the 2016 election were promoted, not purged. If we somehow manage to win in spite of them in 2018, we need to bring the whole corrupt edifice down.
Maciej Ceglowski
Tru dat.

09 October 2018

Our Friends in Riyadh

It appears that agents of the House of Saud murded dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul, dismembered him, and took him out of the country in diplomatic pouches:
Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday.

The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.

“It is like ‘Pulp Fiction,’” the official said.

Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have denied the allegations, insisting that Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has demanded that the Saudis provide evidence proving their claim.

………


The security establishment concluded that Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was directed from the top because only the most senior Saudi leaders could order an operation of such scale and complexity, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential briefings.

Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights last Tuesday, the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared, the official said.

All 15 left just a few hours later, and Turkey has now identified the roles that most or all of them held in the Saudi government or security services, the official said. One was an autopsy expert, presumably there to help dismember the body, the official said.


………

Security camera footage showed Mr. Khashoggi entering the consulate shortly after 1 p.m. that day. Ms. Cengiz, his fiancée, waited outside, and she has said he never emerged.

Two and a half hours after he entered the facility, six vehicles with diplomatic license plates pulled out, carrying 15 Saudi officials and intelligence officers, Sabah reported.

Two other vehicles, including a black Mercedes Vito van with darkened windows, went from the consulate to the consul’s residence about 200 yards away. Turkish employees of the residence had unexpectedly been told not to report for work that day, the newspaper said.
This is completely nuts, but it's par for the course for Mohammad bin Salman.

The 33-year-old boy king-in-all-but-name has clearly never ever had anyone ever say, "No" to him, and he is off the deep end in a way that would have Czar Nicholas II saying, "Dude, you are letting this whole absolute monarch thing go to your head."

We are in for a bumpy ride on the Arabian peninsula.

This is Beginning to Sound Like Whitey Bulger Writ Small

Remember that horrific limousine accident in upstate New York?

Remember how the limo was falling apart, and the driver lacked proper licenses?

Well, we may now have an idea as to why this particular company was given a pass by regulators, its owner was a big time FBI informant.

In fact, this guy was commonly referred to as a "Superinformant", and seemed to spend a lot of his time, as is the FBI's wont, finding swarthy people who had very little intention of doing anything, and turning them into terrorism defendants.

The FBI does have a history of becoming excessively involved with the shady business dealings of its informants, the Boston office was almost a partner of James Joseph "Whitey" Bulger Jr.'s during his blood-soaked run through Beantown's criminal underworld:
The aging limousine that crashed Saturday in Schoharie County, killing 20, was operated by a company with a record of failed inspections — and an owner who was a controversial FBI informant.

The 2001 Ford Excursion was operated by Prestige Limousine, a small company that shares an address with a run-down motel in the Saratoga County town of Wilton, just north of tony Saratoga Springs.

The company is owned by Shahed Hussain, whose backstory includes numerous stints as an undercover informant for the FBI.

Authorites said Hussain, 62, is in his native Pakistan at present. Other company officials have pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

Asked whether Hussain is under criminal investigation, State Police Major Robert Patnaude said anyone found to be criminally culpable will be "held accountable."

......

Albany-area lawyer Dana Salazar, who represented Shahed Hussain in a civil action against Saratoga County that revolved around the Saratoga Road motel property, verified on Monday that her client had indeed been the celebrated informant.

Hussain emigrated from Pakistan in the early 1990's, fleeing a murder charge that he later said was trumped up, according to news reports. He worked as a translator for the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles but was caught helping people cheat on DMV exams in return for money.

He later was accused of making fraudulent statements in a personal bankruptcy case as well.

Hussain pleaded guilty to a felony in relation to the DMV scam but avoided prison and deportation by becoming an informant, working in New York's Muslim communities to find people that had radical tendencies.

......

"And, perhaps perversely, it’s hard not to come away without some degree of admiration for Mr. Hussain, seen and heard only in the grainy videos shot in his car and living room," reviewer Mike Hale. "He puts on a superior performance over a long period of time and lies with breathtaking ease and quickness. If there were Oscars for informants, he’d be on the red carpet every year."
In the article, you have his hotel being shut down by authorities, multiple problems with his limo service, but he was always allowed to continue operating.

It's not exactly the same as Winter Hill Gang boss Bulger and Stephen Joseph "The Rifleman" Flemmi using their status as informants to get FBI protection and take out rivals, but it certainly seems to rhyme.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizens

It ppears that the FBI is back to some of its old tricks, specifically it is masquerading as journalists again:
Newly public Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents outline for the first time the specifics of the agency's guidelines for impersonating members of the news media in undercover activities and operations. The records detail, among other things, that such activities require high-level approval from within the FBI and Justice Department. The FBI released the guidelines after the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit when the agency failed to respond to a request for records about its impersonation of documentary filmmakers, specifically. Additionally, records recently released in connection with a separate FOIA lawsuit filed by the Reporters Committee show that the FBI has engaged in the impersonation of documentary filmmakers on a number of occasions, though questions remain as to just how frequently the FBI relies on this tactic.
......

In defense of the practice, then-FBI Director James Comey submitted a letter to the editor to The New York Times acknowledging the tactic and stating that the FBI's impersonation of an AP journalist in the Seattle investigation "was proper and appropriate[.]" The controversy also led the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General to investigate the FBI's use of media impersonation in the Seattle investigation. In September 2016, the office issued a formal report noting that the FBI had prepared new guidelines setting forth "approval levels for sensitive circumstances specifically in situations in which [FBI] employees represent, pose, or claim to be members of the news media or a documentary film crew."

The guidelines obtained by the Reporters Committee detail that approval process: The relevant FBI field office must submit an application to the Undercover Review Committee at FBI headquarters and it must be approved by the FBI Deputy Director after consultation with the Deputy Attorney General. The guidelines do not provide any criteria the FBI Deputy Director and/or the Deputy Attorney General must consider when approving these undercover activities.

.....

In response to part of that FOIA request, the FBI has asserted what is known as a "Glomar" response, refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records related to other instances in which it has impersonated documentary filmmakers during the course of its investigations. In support of its argument, in a recent filing the FBI went so far as to argue that disclosing these records "would allow criminals to judge whether they should completely avoid any contacts with documentary film crews, rendering the investigative technique ineffective."

In response, the Reporters Committee argued that this is precisely the reason why disclosure of information regarding FBI media impersonation is so important: this tactic has a chilling effect on journalists and documentary filmmakers, and sources are less likely to speak candidly to members of the news media if they think that the journalist is an agent of the government. Further, the Reporters Committee argues that the FBI cannot issue a Glomar response in this case because its practice of media impersonation is already well-known to the public and the FBI has already officially acknowledged the existence of these records — two standards the court will consider in evaluating whether the FBI's Glomar response to part of the FOIA request was appropriate.
2 Thoughts:
  • J. Edgar Hoover is an inescapable part of the FBI's DNA, and we are not going to change this in my lifetime, though breaking it up into separate functions might be a good start.
  •  James Comey is not, and has never been a friend of civil rights, restraints on law enforcement, or transparency.

Linkage


3 whales do a triple breach. I think that the whales knew that they were showing of for tourists:

08 October 2018

Banksey is a F%$#ing Genius


Brilliant
A Banksy painting sold at Sotheby's for over £1 million.

Once the auction was completed, Banksey, or someone affiliated with him, triggered the shredder built into the picture frame:
Banksy has released a video showing how he secretly built a shredder into one of his paintings that self-destructed after it was sold for more than £1m.

The framed Girl With Balloon, one of the artist's best known works, was auctioned by Sotheby's in London.

Moments after the piece was sold, the canvas of a girl reaching for a heart-shaped balloon shredded itself.

Quoting Picasso on his Instagram, Banksy wrote: "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge - Picasso."

The clip starts with a caption, saying: "A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting."

The video then shows someone in a hoodie installing the device, before another caption, saying: "In case it was ever put up for auction."

The video then shows the moment the painting shredded itself at the auction house on Friday, captured on a mobile phone.

It is unclear how the shredder was activated.

Moments before, the 2006 stencilled spray-painting had sold for £1.042m.

"It appears we just got Banksy-ed," said Alex Branczik, Sotheby's senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe.
I've got to believe that Banksy is the secret love child of Eugène Ionesco, spiritually, if not genetically.

I'm Sure that the Blairites Will Flock to Support Her

The Guardian is reporting that Tory PM Theresa May is wooing Labour party MPs in an attempt to secure support for her Brexit proposals.

The (reflexively anti-Corbyn) Guardian misses the point here.

May's appeal to Labour is not, "The Good of the Kingdom," it's, "You have the opportunity to stop Jeremy Corbyn.

You will notice that the report does not detail who is in discussions with the Conservatives, and I think that this is because it is the representatives of failed New Labour who are in talks, in yet another of their schemes to destroy the party to preserve their position within the party:
Theresa May has drawn up plans for a secret charm offensive aimed at persuading dozens of Labour MPs to back her Brexit deal even if it costs Jeremy Corbyn the chance to be prime minister, the Guardian has learned.

Senior Conservatives say they have already been in private contact with a number of Labour MPs over a period of several months, making the case that the national interest in avoiding a no-deal outcome is more important than forcing a general election by defeating the government on May’s Brexit deal.

Now, with talks in Brussels entering their frantic final phase, the prime minister and her party whips are stepping up efforts to win backing for a compromise deal that one minister described as a “British blancmange”.
………

Labour MPs will thus be the focus of intense lobbying, in the period between May returning from Brussels with a Brexit deal and the meaningful vote, which is expected to come about a fortnight later.

………

May appealed directly to Labour backbenchers in her conference speech when she spoke of the “heirs of Hugh Gaitskell and Barbara Castle, Denis Healey and John Smith”, saying they were on the backbenches, not in the shadow cabinet of what she called the “Jeremy Corbyn party”.
This is not an attempt at a better Brexit, it's an attempt to sabotage Labout, an Blair and his Evil Minions are more than willing to aid and abet this strategy.

Google+ Still Has 500,000 Users?

Google discovered that its programming tools for Google+ allowed advertisers and programmers to access private data.

They sat on this information for months, and then, when threatened with exposure announced that they will be shuttering Google Plus:
Google exposed the private details of almost 500,000 Google+ users and then opted not to report the lapse, in part out of concern disclosure would trigger regulatory scrutiny and reputational damage, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing people briefed on the matter and documents that discussed it. Shortly after the article was published, Google said it would close the Google+ social networking service to consumers.

The exposure was the result of a flaw in programming interfaces Google made available to developers of applications that interacted with users’ Google+ profiles, Google officials said in a post published after the WSJ report. From 2015 to March 2018, the APIs made it possible for developers to view profile information not marked as public, including full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation, and relationship status. Data exposed didn’t include Google+ posts, messages, Google account data, phone numbers, or G Suite content. Some of the users affected included paying G Suite users.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai knew of the glitch and the decision not to publicly disclose it, the WSJ reported. Based on a two-week test designed to measure the impact of the API bugs before they were fixed, Google analysts believe that data for 496,951 users was improperly exposed. According to the report:
Google:  That whole, "Don't be evil," thing is, "inoperative."

BTW, I am aware of the irony present in my using a Google blogging platform, and (barely) monetizing said blog on Google™ Adsense™.

07 October 2018

I Hate Adulting

Filling out financial forms and scanning them in.

It sucks.

The New Doctor

I saw the premier of the latest season of Dr. Who, with a new Doctor.

I was not immediately impressed, but typically, the first show with a new doctor tends to be a bit weak, because both the writers, and the actor, are trying to find the character.

This is further complicated because they are also adding a whole new batch of companions.

That being said, I rather like that she has a northern (Yorkshire) accent rather than the received pronunciation (BBC), and I like that this actually Jodi Whittaker's native accent.

I do kind of wish that there wasn't so much hype over this, but I do understand why this is the case.

06 October 2018

Motherf%$#ers

Compulsive gambler, alcoholic, rapist, and perjurer Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate, expect Roe v. Wade, and probably Eisenstadt v. Baird, as well as Griswold v. Connecticut.

Welcome to the Handmaiden's Tale, or, to quote Ted Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh's, "America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy."

This just sucks.

05 October 2018

Corrupt

The California NAACP came out against an initiative that would make implementing rent control easier.

Days later, it's president got a 6 figure consulting contract from the realtors opposing the initiative:
The president of the California NAACP has long resisted criticism that she melds the group’s interests with those of her political consulting firm, which takes in large fees for working on campaigns that the civil rights organization backs.

Critics say Alice Huffman is doing it again on what is shaping up to be one of the most bitterly contested measures on the November ballot Proposition 10, which would repeal a state law that limits cities’ ability to impose rent control.

The state NAACP’s 28-member executive committee voted in May to oppose Prop. 10. Huffman said the group agreed with arguments that allowing stricter forms of rent control would discourage housing construction and therefore hurt low-income tenants.

A month after the NAACP voted, Huffman said, her AC Public Affairs political consulting firm in Sacramento signed a deal to be a lead consultant on the opposition’s $800,000 campaign targeting African American voters through mailers and workers who will go door-to-door.
Apparently Ms. Huffman saw Delray Mckesson's Patagonia vest endorsement deal, and thought, "Here, hold my beer."

She claims that she does not accept contracts from companies that oppose the state NAACP positions, but she is the president of the organization, so she is in a position to move the group in a way that benefits her financially, as she did when the NAACP, and AC Public, played both sides of the street regarding cigarette taxes in 2006 and 2016.

America, where no good deed goes uncorrupted.

Your Feel Good Story of the Day


Roll Tape
Yes that is Donald Trump climbing the stairs to Air Force 1 with toilet paper stuck to his shoe:
In a week consumed by a fraught Supreme Court confirmation battle, you could probably use a little levity. To that end, on Thursday, a video of Trump boarding Air Force One with toilet paper apparently stuck to his shoe surfaced. And it's everything you imagined.

The clip first shows the president getting out of a limousine. It's parked directly in front of a staircase that leads up to the open door of Air Force One. Secret Service agents are milling around the car as Trump climbs the stairs ... with a little white scrap trailing off his left shoe. He stops to wave at the top of the stairs, then enters the plane, leaving the scrap outside the entrance.

There's no way to know it was in fact toilet paper — or even how it got there — but Twitter users seemed convinced.

As if this entire presidency couldn’t be more bizarre...
To quote Zathras, "At least, there is symmetry."

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

Jason Van Dyke has been convicted of second-degree murder for the shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago.

I am pleasantly surprised.

It's been a very long time since a white cop has been convicted for shooting a black kid:
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted Friday of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, marking a stunning end to a racially tinged case that roiled the city when now-infamous police dashboard camera video of the shooting was released three years ago by court order.

Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer in half a century to be found guilty of murder for an on-duty shooting. He faces a minimum of six years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Vincent Gaughan.

The jury deliberated for about 7½ hours before finding Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder instead of the first-degree charge on which he was indicted.
7½ hours to convict a cop is a very short deliberation.
The veteran officer also was convicted of all 16 counts of aggravated battery for each shot he fired at McDonald. The jury acquitted him, however, of a single count of official misconduct.
This Van Dyke needs to be sentenced as if he were a black teen who shot a white cop.

Collins and Manchin Will Vote for Kavanaugh, All but Ensuring His Confirmation - The New York Times


We are Not Amused
I expected that Susan Collins would vote for Canvanaugh, making sane noises and then voting the party line when it matters is her thing, but Manchin will not get a single vote from Kavanaugh supporters, because they would never vote for someone with a (D) after their name, so his gesture is stupid self-destructive futility:
Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is heading to confirmation to the Supreme Court this weekend after two key undecided senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — announced Friday that they would support his elevation to the high court, ending the most divisive confirmation fight in decades.

Ms. Collins’ lengthy speech on the Senate floor dwelled as much on Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record as on the sexual misconduct charges that have consumed his nomination. She did conclude, “We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence.”

“The Me Too movement is real. It matters. It is needed, and it is long overdue,” she said, arguing that her support for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation does not negate the claims of sexual assault that have flooded forward in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against the nominee. But she said she was not convinced of Judge Kavanaugh’s guilt.

“I found her testimony to be sincere, painful and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life. Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events,” Ms. Collins said.

Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, immediately followed with a statement proclaiming his support.

“I have reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing,” he wrote. “And my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced any type of sexual assault in their life. However, based on all of the information I have available to me, including the recently completed F.B.I. report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist.”
Seriously:  The only reason for a Democrat to pull the lever for you is the Supreme Court, and you just pissed all over that.

Seriously:  Go Cheney yourself.

This is Not the Resource Curse

One of the perplexing questions of modern society is how the discovery of riches, particularly things like oil and diamonds, can make a country less well off. (the "resource curse")

So now we have people wondering why the outsized role of finance in the UK does not create prosperity.

This one is pretty easy:  Finance is not wealth you dig up from the ground, and it is not meaningful productivity, though it can help getting actors with capital in touch with actors who need capital.

It produces nothing, and when it dominates an economy, as it does in the UK, it is actually highly parasitic.

No one asks why bank robbers don't benefit society, and as William Black has noted, "The best way to rob a bank is to own one."
To argue that the City hurts Britain’s economy might seem crazy. But research increasingly shows that all the money swirling around our oversized financial sector may actually be making us collectively poorer. As Britain’s economy has steadily become re-engineered towards serving finance, other parts of the economy have struggled to survive in its shadow, like seedlings starved of light and water under the canopy of a giant, deep-rooted and invasive tree. Generations of leaders from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair to Theresa May have believed that the City is the goose that lays Britain’s golden eggs, to be prioritised, pampered and protected. But the finance curse analysis shows an oversized City to be a different bird: a cuckoo in the nest, crowding out other sectors.
I would also note the the international finance sector has much to do with creating the "resource curse" in places like Angola, where they finance grandiose projects, launder money, and foment destructive speculation.

Why would they do anything different in the City of London than they do in Luanda?

Unfortunately, modern politicians want to negotiate with them, which makes as much sense as negotiating with a tapeworm.

04 October 2018

Tories Could F%$# Up a 2 Car Funeral - Stellar Parthenon

The Tories are going to have an official conference, so they had an app for that.

Rather like Brexit negotiations, it was a complete fiasco:
A major flaw in the Conservatives’ official conference mobile phone application has made the private data of senior party members – including cabinet ministers – accessible to anyone that logged in as that particular conference attendee.

The data of hundreds of attendees to the Tory conference could be viewed by second guessing attendees’ email addresses, with Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Gavin Williamson and others among those whose personal information – including their phone numbers – was made accessible.

Once logged into the app, users were able to both amend and make the personal details of prominent MPs public. Twitter users claimed Johnson’s picture had been briefly changed to one featuring a pornographic image.

Gove’s picture was changed to Rupert Murdoch, his previous employer at the Times. Anyone could log in as any attendee by providing an email with no password. Many MPs had registered with their public parliamentary email addresses, making it simple for any member of the public to access their mobile number via the app.

Commentators said the flaw raised questions over the ability of the government to harness technology to solve issues around the Irish border and customs checks. The app may also have breached data laws. Its privacy policy states that it “complies with … the European Union’s general data protection regulation (GDPR)”.

………

It follows the gaffe that unfolded last year during Theresa May’s keynote speech when a comedian managed to get to the front of the stage and pass her a P45,
[Layoff Form] which she accepted.
馬鹿につける薬はない (There is no medicine for stupidity.)

Yes, Supporting the Corrupt Son of a Bitch is Working Out Well

OIt looks likely that Democrat Bob Menendez is in a tight race with Republican Bob Hugin for his New Jersey US Senate Seat.

Note that New Jersey has not voted for a Republican Presidential Candidate since 1988, and hasn't elected a Republican Senator since 1978. (There have been some 'Phant appointments)

But Hugins is in the margin of error, because he was tried for corruption and the jury hung, and because the Supreme Court made it next to impossible to prosecute corrupt politicians with the Bob "Governor Ultrasound" McDonnell decision.

The Democrats are not running against Wall Street, because they want the campaign cash, they are in hock up to their eyeballs to big pharma, (Jim Manchin's kid is behind price gouging on the Epi-Pen), and now they are putting forward corrupt candidates.

This is the stupidest Democratic Party campaign strategy since ……… Well, 2016, but you get my point.