27 March 2023

Fuck Your Thoughts and Prayers

Another school shooting, this one at a private religious school, (Presbyterian) the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennesee.  There are 7 dead, 3 staff including the principal, 3 children, and the shooter who was shot by the police.

Doubtless, we will have numerous hypocrites saying, "Thoughts and prayers."  Fuck them.

If someone out there is considering a spree killing, please consider, 11250 Waples Mill Road Fairfax, VA 22030.  That is the headquarters for the National Rifle Association:

Here's what we know about Monday morning's mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville.

Three adults and three children are confirmed dead at the private Christian school in Nashville. The suspect was also killed, in an altercation with police.


Three children and three adult staff members are confirmed dead in the shooting. The victims identified by police are children Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney , all age 9, and adults Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61. Koonce was the Head of School.


Police identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who police killed at the scene. Hale was a former student at The Covenant School, according to police.

Hale was an illustrator and graphic designer who used he and him pronouns, according to a police spokesperson. Police initially identified Hale by his birth name and gender.

I believe that the news report is dead-naming Hale.  I think that he was using Aiden.

Seriously, fuck the NRA, fuck the American culture of violence, and fuck toxic masculinity, even if it was acquired later in life.

We are a nation of angry and murderous men.


Have some Llamas with hats. It starts strong, but gets a bit tedious at the end1

Are You a Bicyclist Who Envies Those Guys with Truck Nuts?

The similarty is remarkable

Like truck nuts, only for bikes

Now with blue balls

Said no one EVER!

These are bike nuts.

They actually call it, "Creative Silicone Bicycle Tail Lights," but it's bike nuts. 

If you examine the method of attachment closely, you might notice that these could also be used as an impromptu cock ring.

I just want to note that I have received no consideration of any sort for discussing this product.

If I had received a consideration, I would still consider these as stupid as hell, because they ARE as stupid as hell.

26 March 2023

Looting Much?

As Silicon Valley Bank moved toward an increasingly risky portfolio, senior executives scored increasingly remunerative pay packages.

It's almost like they gamed the system to reward themselves for destroying the bank.

It's EXACTLY like they gamed the system to reward themselves for destroying the bank.

Executive pay at Silicon Valley Bank soared after the bank embarked on a strategy to boost profitability by buying riskier assets exposed to rising interest rates, according to a Financial Times analysis of securities filings and people familiar with the matter.

The jump in pay for chief executive Greg Becker and chief financial officer Daniel Beck was a result of large multiyear bonus awards pegged to the bank’s return on equity (RoE), a key measure of profitability that rose sharply between 2017 and 2021, the filings show.

Becker’s cash bonus peaked at $3mn in 2021, more than double the amount he received four years earlier. Beck earned a $1.4mn bonus in 2021, more than four times the amount he received in 2017 after joining the company.

The higher bonuses helped push Becker’s total pay to $10mn in 2021, an increase of almost 60 per cent compared with four years earlier. Beck earned nearly $3.8mn, a jump of roughly double over the same time period.

Current and former SVB executives told the Financial Times that SVB boosted returns by buying long-term paper, especially mortgage bonds, that bolstered earnings because they generated higher yields. The strategy backfired when interest rates rose sharply and depressed the value of the bonds.

If you pay people for bad, short-sighted management, you get bad, short-sighted management.

In related news, the founder of First Republic Bank, and his relatives, receivied similarly inflated pay as they destroyed that bank:

First Republic Bank paid family members of its founder, James Herbert, millions of dollars for work at the lender in recent years, including for consulting services related to interest rates and risk, according to public disclosures the bank made as part of annual filings. 

The bank paid Mr. Herbert, who was chief executive before stepping into the executive chairman role last year, $17.8 million in 2021, the bank’s disclosures for that year said. The compensation was more than CEOs at most similar-sized banks.

A consulting company owned by Mr. Herbert’s brother-in-law earned $2.3 million for advisory work related to its “investment portfolio, risk management, interest rate and economic outlook and other financial matters” in 2021, it said in an annual proxy filing filed last spring. First Republic also paid Mr. Herbert’s son $3.5 million to oversee a lending unit at the bank, the disclosures said. The two family members were paid similar amounts in 2020.

First Republic, which was the country’s 14th largest bank measured by assets at the end of 2022, has been at the center of contagion fears in the U.S. banking system, with its stock down over 90% in the past three weeks. Known for catering to wealthy individuals, the bank has raced to stem a rush of depositors pulling funds amid concerns that First Republic has some similarities to now-failed Silicon Valley Bank.


Asked about the payments to Mr. Herbert’s son and brother-in-law, a spokesman said the bank has a policy for transactions with family members “and fully discloses such transactions each year.” He said executive compensation in 2021 reflects that the company “outperformed industry peers and the S&P 500 from 2016 to 2021, and delivered strong shareholder returns.”

These failures are not an artifact of incompetence.  They are not mistakes.

This is deliberate and sustained looting.

Lock them up.

Remember that I Mentioned Duetsche Bank

I'm not sure if the German mega-bank is in trouble, but there appear to be sufficient concern that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz felt compelled to dismiss any concerns about the bank.

This is not something that fills me with confidence:

Olaf Scholz has rejected comparisons between Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse as a slump in the German lender’s shares sparked a further day of turmoil for the banking sector.

Speaking after Deutsche shares fell as much as 14 per cent on Friday, Germany’s chancellor sought to shore up confidence in the country’s biggest bank, with investors still nervous after the forced takeover of Credit Suisse last weekend.

“Deutsche Bank has fundamentally modernised and reorganised its business and is a very profitable bank,” Scholz said at a summit in Brussels after being asked if the lender was the new Credit Suisse. “There is no reason to be concerned about it.”

No mention here of the repeated allegations, and settlements, involving allegations of sanctions violations, money laundering, etc. 

Experts are dismissing any risk to the bank, saying that the bank is, "The victim of an irrational market." 

Yeah, I believe this man, he's an expert:  (Not)

Deutsche Bank AG shares plunged the most in three years on Friday, suggesting that a week of soothing words from central bankers and politicians have failed to calm broad worries about the financial sector.

As observers tried to explain the move, analysts at Citigroup Inc. said it may be down to an “irrational market.” While that’s a concern in itself, even more worrying is the risk that negative views spiral out of control and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That threat was highlighted this week by Mark Branson, who heads Germany’s bank regulator BaFin. He told Bloomberg that while European banking is safe, one problem area is “contagion via psychology.”

Yeah, and the fact that the EU has inmiserated Greece and Italy to force austerity budgets that would bail out the Deutsche Bank has nothing to do with the recent crisis of confidence.

Pay no attention to €42,000,000,000,000.00 of dubious derivatives on their books.

They are digging in a pile of horse-sh$#, and expecting to find a pony.

It's All a Scam

I figure that it is time to loop back around to Sam Bankman-Fried, and his increasingly long list of fraud and theft. It has now been revealed that the disgraced former head of the FTX crypto exchange took $2.2 billion from the business before its collapse.

More than $2bn was transferred to Sam Bankman-Fried from FTX entities, according to bankruptcy court filings made by the new management of the cryptocurrency exchange on Wednesday night.

According to a press release describing financial statements filed with the bankruptcy court in Delaware, Bankman-Fried and five members of his inner circle transferred $3.2bn in total to their personal accounts in the form of “payments and loans”, the funds primarily coming from Alameda Research, a crypto trading hedge fund affiliated with FTX.

John Ray, the new chief executive of FTX appointed at the time of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings in November, has been seeking to identify the location of cryptocurrency and other assets that can be eventually returned to the millions of FTX customers whose accounts have been frozen since its collapse.

Bankman-Fried is facing a dozen federal charges related to the collapse of FTX accusing him of securities fraud and looting the platform for personal gain. FTX’s management said on Wednesday the $3.2bn figure did not include $240mn for “luxury property in the Bahamas”, “political and charitable donations”, and “substantial transfers” to subsidiaries. Filings showed Bankman-Fried had received $2.2bn.

This is not a surprise.  SBF, as he is known, was clearly running robbing his customers blind.

This is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that the people who dominate the philosophical fraud known as "Effective" Altruism, ignored warnings about SBF's fraud for years, largely because SBF was giving them a lot of money.

Quoting Upton Sinclair, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Leaders of the Effective Altruism movement were repeatedly warned beginning in 2018 that Sam Bankman-Fried was unethical, duplicitous, and negligent in his role as CEO of Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm that went on to play a critical role in what federal prosecutors now say was among the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history. They apparently dismissed those warnings, sources say, before taking tens of millions of dollars from Bankman-Fried’s charitable fund for effective altruist causes.

When Alameda and Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX imploded in late 2022, these same effective altruist (EA) leaders professed outrage and ignorance. “I don’t know which emotion is stronger: my utter rage at Sam (and others?) for causing such harm to so many people, or my sadness and self-hatred for falling for this deception,” tweeted Will MacAskill, the Oxford moral philosopher and intellectual figurehead of EA, who co-founded the Centre for Effective Altruism.

Yet MacAskill had long been aware of concerns around Bankman-Fried. He was personally cautioned about Bankman-Fried by at least three different people in a series of conversations in 2018 and 2019, according to interviews with four people familiar with those discussions and emails reviewed by TIME.

He wasn’t alone. Multiple EA leaders knew about the red flags surrounding Bankman-Fried by 2019, according to a TIME investigation based on contemporaneous documents and interviews with seven people familiar with the matter. Among the EA brain trust personally notified about Bankman-Fried’s questionable behavior and business ethics were Nick Beckstead, a moral philosopher who went on to lead Bankman-Fried’s philanthropic arm, the FTX Future Fund, and Holden Karnofsky, co-CEO of OpenPhilanthropy, a nonprofit organization that makes grants supporting EA causes. Some of the warnings were serious: sources say that MacAskill and Beckstead were repeatedly told that Bankman-Fried was untrustworthy, had inappropriate sexual relationships with subordinates, refused to implement standard business practices, and had been caught lying during his first months running Alameda, a crypto firm that was seeded by EA investors, staffed by EAs, and dedicating to making money that could be donated to EA causes.
More from TIME


It’s not entirely clear how EA leaders reacted to the warnings. Sources familiar with the discussions told TIME that the concerns were downplayed, rationalized as typical startup squabbles, or dismissed as “he said-she said,” as two people put it. EA leaders declined or did not respond to multiple requests from TIME to explain their reaction to these warnings and what they did in response. But by the end of 2018, Bankman-Fried’s behavior was such an open secret that EA leaders were debating Bankman-Fried’s presence on the board of the Centre for Effective Altruism. In emails among senior EA leaders, which TIME reviewed, one person wrote that they had raised worries about Bankman-Fried’s trustworthiness directly with MacAskill, and that MacAskill had dismissed the concerns as “rumor.” In 2019, Bankman-Fried left CEA’s board.


Why did the braintrust of a social movement dedicated to virtuous impact apparently fail to heed repeated warnings about one of their own, while continuing to promote him publicly as a force for good? For a group of philosophers who had spent their lives contemplating moral tradeoffs and weighing existential risks, the warnings about Bankman-Fried may have presented a choice between embracing a big donor with questionable ethics or foregoing millions of dollars they believed could boost their nascent movement to help save the future of humanity. In a span of less than nine months in 2022, Bankman-Fried’s FTX Future Fund—helmed by Beckstead—gave more than $160 million to effective altruist causes, including more than $33 million to organizations connected to MacAskill. “If [Bankman-Fried] wasn’t super wealthy, nobody would have given him another chance,” says one person who worked closely with MacAskill at an EA organization. “It’s greed for access to a bunch of money, but with a philosopher twist.”

You know, "Greed for access to a bunch of money, but with a philosopher twist," is a pretty summary for "Effective" Altruism, though I still prefer the description, "Prosperity gospel for agnostics."

It's all about the Benjamins.

25 March 2023

Good Point

I believe that I have noted on a few occasions, the US foreign policy establishment sees unconditional surrender as a precondition for negotiations. 

This has never been particularly effective, and will be even less effective as we move to a multi-polar world. 

It appears that I am not alone in this insight.  One hopes that it is not just limited to Daniel Larison and me:

State Department spokesman Ned Price answered a question on North Korea diplomacy today, and his answer unwittingly demonstrated the folly of the U.S. approach:
On your first question, it unfortunately is a purely hypothetical question. It’s an academic question, because we have been clear and consistent in conveying publicly and through all channels available to us that we are prepared and willing to engage in constructive diplomacy with the DPRK towards what is the goal we share with our allies and partners of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula [bold mine-DL]. And I say it’s hypothetical and academic because at every turn the DPRK has failed to engage meaningfully on these offers. But were that to be the case, were the DPRK to take us up on this, we would look to see if we could devise practical steps that could help to advance what is that longer-term objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The goal of the complete denuclearization of the peninsula is at odds with engaging in constructive diplomacy with North Korea. As long as this remains the goal of U.S. policy, there is not going to be constructive diplomacy. When “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” means nothing more than North Korea’s unilateral disarmament, North Korea isn’t going to “engage meaningfully” with a demand for its own capitulation. Of course North Korea has “failed to engage,” because they have no incentive to entertain the terms that the U.S. has set.

It should also be noted that the "Complete denuclearization of the peninsula," does nothing about the nuclear armed aircraft carriers and submarines around the Korean peninsula, so it is unilateral disarmament, i.e. capitulation, that is demanded as a precondition to negotiations.


The U.S. is the more powerful and secure state, and it has the luxury of taking the first step to revive negotiations if it wishes to negotiate. Because it is much more secure, the U.S. has greater flexibility and freedom of action than North Korea, and that means that the U.S. is in a position to break the current impasse. It cannot do that if it remains wedded to maximalism and coercive tactics. 

The US foreign policy "Blob" is a toxic mix of hubris, incompetence, and stupidity.

Took Them Long Enough

Given the record of self-dealing, opaque investments, Byzantine contracts, and insanely high fees, an increasing number of public pension funds are backing off from their arrangements with private equity firms.

Some U.S. public pension and investment funds are pulling back on private equity after a decade of state and local retirement systems aggressively pursuing the expensive, risky and hard-to-trade asset class.

Maryland’s $65 billion retirement system is investing less new money in private equity. At Alaska’s $77 billion state fund, the investment chief wants to cancel a planned ramp-up. And the $615 million pension fund of Mendocino County, Calif., last month opted against introducing private equity to its investment mix. 


Over the past decade, state and local officials committed more money to private-equity managers. Those managers offered supercharged returns on portfolios of private companies that they bought, overhauled and then sold. But public funds had to lock up their money, often for more than a decade, with limited visibility and limited options in the case of losses.


U.S. pension and investment funds are part of a larger wave of institutional investors pulling back on private equity.

Even if PE firms generated the returns that they promise, the fees (and other gotchas) that they charge make their returns positively pedestrian.

I am not sure how PE managed to create the illusion that they had some sort of special sauce to the pension funds when there is none, I'm thinking various forms of bribery, both legal and illegal, figure prominently.

Tweet of the Day

This is an accurate description of going on in France, albeit in terms generally reserved for non-white nations.

IMNSHO, this is a well deserved characterization.

Twitter user Gathara has a whole series of these, and they are amusing and insightful.

After Studiously Ignoring the Story for 57 Years

The New York Times finally gets around to seriously reporting on the worst kept secret of the era, that Ronald Reagan colluded with the Iranian government against the best interests of the United States for electoral advantage.

This is not a surprise. Nixon used Anna Chennault to sabotage the Vietnam peace talks for the same reason in 1968.

I guess treason is OK if you are a Republican:

It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.

It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent.

His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics and former Texas governor who had served three presidents and just lost his own bid for the White House. A former Democrat, Mr. Connally had sought the Republican nomination in 1980 only to be swamped by former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Now Mr. Connally resolved to help Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter and in the process, Mr. Barnes said, make his own case for becoming secretary of state or defense in a new administration.
Lesson 1:  The people holding power in your organization will always f$#@ you to preserve that power, even if it might damage that organization.
What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.

Then shortly after returning home, Mr. Barnes said, Mr. Connally reported to William J. Casey, the chairman of Mr. Reagan’s campaign and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, briefing him about the trip in an airport lounge.

Mr. Barnes is no shady foreign arms dealer with questionable credibility, like some of the characters who fueled previous iterations of the October surprise theory. He was once one of the most prominent figures in Texas, the youngest speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and later lieutenant governor. He was such an influential figure that he helped a young George W. Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard rather than be exposed to the draft and sent to Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson predicted that Mr. Barnes would become president someday.

Now I want more information on how George H.W. Bush (Papa, not fils) was involved, because there has been discussion of this for decades.


Mr. Barnes identified four living people he said he had confided in over the years: Mark K. Updegrove, president of the L.B.J. Foundation; Tom Johnson, a former aide to Lyndon Johnson (no relation) who later became publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of CNN; Larry Temple, a former aide to Mr. Connally and Lyndon Johnson; and H.W. Brands, a University of Texas historian.

All four of them confirmed in recent days that Mr. Barnes shared the story with them years ago. “As far as I know, Ben never has lied to me,” Tom Johnson said, a sentiment the others echoed. Mr. Brands included three paragraphs about Mr. Barnes’s recollections in a 2015 biography of Mr. Reagan, but the account generated little public notice at the time.

Records at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum confirm part of Mr. Barnes’s story. An itinerary found this past week in Mr. Connally’s files indicated that he did, in fact, leave Houston on July 18, 1980, for a trip that would take him to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel before returning to Houston on Aug. 11. Mr. Barnes was listed as accompanying him


Mr. Barnes recalled joining Mr. Connally in early September to sit down with Mr. Casey to report on their trip during a three-hour meeting in the American Airlines lounge at what was then called the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport. An entry in Mr. Connally’s calendar found this past week showed that he traveled to Dallas on Sept. 10. A search of Mr. Casey’s archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University turned up no documents indicating whether he was in Dallas then or not.

Mr. Barnes said he was certain the point of Mr. Connally’s trip was to get a message to the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. “I’ll go to my grave believing that it was the purpose of the trip,” he said. “It wasn’t freelancing because Casey was so interested in hearing as soon as we got back to the United States.” Mr. Casey, he added, wanted to know whether “they were going to hold the hostages.”


Suspicions about the Reagan camp’s interactions with Iran circulated quietly for years until Gary Sick, a former national security aide to Mr. Carter, published a guest essay in The New York Times in April 1991 advancing the theory, followed by a book, “October Surprise,” published that November.


To forestall such a scenario, Mr. Casey was alleged to have met with representatives of Iran in July and August 1980 in Madrid leading to a deal supposedly finalized in Paris in October in which a future Reagan administration would ship arms to Tehran through Israel in exchange for the hostages being held until after the election.


Still, a White House memo produced in November 1991 by a lawyer for President George H.W. Bush reported the existence of “a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown.” That memo was not turned over to Mr. Hamilton’s task force and was discovered two decades later by Robert Parry, a journalist who helped produce a “Frontline” documentary on the October surprise.

Reached by telephone this past week, Mr. Sick said he never heard of any involvement by Mr. Connally but saw Mr. Barnes’s account as verifying the broad concerns he had raised. “This is really very interesting and it really does add significantly to the base level of information on this,” Mr. Sick said. “Just the fact that he was doing it and debriefed Casey when he got back means a lot.” The story goes “further than anything that I’ve seen thus far,” he added. “So this is really new.”


But as the years have passed, he said, he has often thought an injustice had been done to Mr. Carter. Discussing the trip now, he indicated, was his way of making amends. “I just want history to reflect that Carter got a little bit of a bad deal about the hostages,” he said. “He didn’t have a fighting chance with those hostages still in the embassy in Iran.”

So, now we know that they did it, and we know that Bill Casey knew about it.  Now we need to what ever actions were taken, because it's clear that these accusations have some merit, and its equally clear that there would have been other avenues pursued as well.

While we are at it, how about taking Reagan's name off of the airport and the carrier.