30 September 2009

Wednesday is International Blasphemy Day

I have post-posted this, so that it will stay at the top of the page through September 30, so scroll down my other posts.

Some bloke has declared September 30 to be International Blasphemy Day.

While I am generally leery of the many special days that have been announced, except, of course for "Talk Like a Pirate Day," the basic thesis here is a sound one:
Blaspheming the sacred is an obligation that every logical person must embrace. Like we all learned from Spiderman's uncle, "With great power comes great responsibility", and when your mind has evolved to a degree where you are granted an advanced understanding of logic and reason, you realize that the natural laws of the universe have given you a great power.

It is your responsibility as a logical person to shed light on the darkness of ignorance wherever it may be. Nothing must be left in the dark. No corner of this universe can be left alone from wanting to know.

There can be nothing sacred. Because the entire concept behind "sacred ideas" is that they are "off limits". It is something that you are not allowed to question, or speak out against, or even think. There's another term that fits this concept perfectly... "thought crime".

I agree, and I agree with his post condemning Ireland's blasphemy laws.

Going back to the home page of the administrator, this guy is generally anti-religious, as opposed to specifically anti-Islamic.

By the way, were most of the founding fathers, who loathed organized religion, even if they were spiritual.

What Took Them So Long

So, the EU has investigated the Russia-Georgia war, and concluded that Georgia started the war, and that Russia's reaction was excessive.

The former ruling is much more significant than the latter, since the international community always wants everything to end at the old borders.

Look at the hand wringing over the demise of the Tamil Tigers.

Still, this took them over a year?

I knew this in within 24 hours of the war having started: the Georgians shelled civilians, and the Russians knew what was planned, and when it was coming, and reacted with overwhelming force.

How to Tell When Finance is Doing a Very Bad Thing

When the Wall Street Journal Describes Finance With Cartoons, it Means that Someone will Get Boned, and it ain't the "Bankers, Lawyers, and Other Advisers."
When the Wall Street Journal talks about a new financial wonder weapon, like the resecuritization of real-estate mortgage investment conduits (re-remics), and they feel the need to use a cartoon to explain how it works.

Does that cartoon look complex to you? There are a couple of reasons for this:
  1. The bankers, lawyers, and other advisers are picking your pocket.
  2. In a perverse way, needless complexity is good for business, because it makes people feel like they are paying for meaningful services.
  3. It justifies the enormous fees collected by Wall Street, not just for brokerages, but also for the now discredited ratings agencies..
But the bottom line is this:
The net result is financial firms' books look better and they need to hold less capital against those assets, even though they are the same assets they held before the transaction.
(emphasis mine)

This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.
It's time to cue Freddie Dalton Thompson from The Hunt for Red October.

So, you have the same amount of risk, but by slicing and dicing securities into new "pools" (a year ago the word was "tranches", but well, we know how that went.

This is not about managing risk, or understanding risk. This is about concealing risk from the unsophisticated investor and unsophisticated regulators.

This is a perfect example of why investments should be treated like drugs: Forbidden until proven safe and effective.

Financial innovation, my ass.

You Need Never Watch Youtube Again

Because it's all here, jam packed into 4 minutes:

I am Now Prepared to Offer Investment Advice

Just watch Jim Cramer's Mad Money, and whatever he says, do the opposite:
Yesterday, market pundit Jim Cramer made a ridiculously awful call on embattled lender CIT (NYSE: CIT). Cramer made a call to buy CIT stock yesterday. Well today it is down 40% on reports a deal with bondholders will wipe out the current common shareholders.

Here is what Cramer said on CIT yesterday.

"Because no one forced CIT into bankruptcy, it can live to play again, and when I read in the New York Post that Paulson owns CIT debt, I realized that he's powerful enough to save this company, particularly because he is one of the investors in IndyMac and knows his way around the bottom of the debt barrel.

These two stocks represent lottery tickets that are no longer rip-ups because they have made it out of the "critical care" stage and are recovering.

I would buy them both."
Google Jim Cramer and Bear Stearns, or just look at these old videos from The Daily Show (also here).

So, I Own an Orphan

Specifically, a 1998 Saturn, because Penske backed out of the deal to acquire the badge and dealer network after he was unable to find a manufacture to take over once GM shut its Saturn plants down.

The Worst Job in the World Candidate

Somali Navy Chief Farah Ahmed Omar
It may not be the world's worst job, but it's certainly in the top 10, though Tom Delay's dance partner is a tough competitor.

Our Fat Nation

And the fat heads that have created our fat nation.

Bill Volk pointed me to the thoroughly repulsive school policy at the Saratoga Springs, NY schools that forbids children from biking or walking to school:
The biking debate started last spring, when school district officials told Kaddo Marino that Adam was violating school rules by biking to class. Walking to the school also is not permitted.

Kaddo Marino challenged the policy and asked the school board to change it. The district charged a committee to review the rule, which was instituted in 1994.

At the start of school in September, Kaddo Marino thought that she had a nonverbal agreement with school officials to allow her son to ride his bike until a new policy was resolved. But on the night before classes started, school authorities called parents to say that walking and biking to school would not be tolerated.

When the pair stuck with their plan, they were met by school administrators and a state trooper, who emphasized that biking was prohibited, Kaddo Marino said.
(emphasis mine)

In addition to the Saratoga Springs school board, whoever authorized that state trooper to be employed in such a manner should be fired, either by the voters, or by a superior with common sense.

I would also note that while school officials have the right to prohibit bicycles on school property, they have no authority on how a parent, and the kid is accompanied by a parent when he bikes to school transports their kid anywhere.

Hopefully, His Next Stop is Jail....

Where he will spill his guts on the coercion by Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke on the Merrill Lynch deal, but for now the news that Ken Lewis is stepping down as CEO of Bank of America is, as the punchline about lawyers* says, "A good start."

*Q: What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A: A good start!

Speaking of Sociopaths at the Washington Post.....

In addition to Richard Cohen saying that there should be no consequences for people of consequence in the case of Roman Polanski, we have Anne Applebaum suggesting that the 8th grader was really asking for it (link to :
Of course, there were some very legitimate disagreements, including two excellent ones from my colleagues Gene Robinson and Richard Cohen, and I take some of their points. But to them, and to all who imagine that the original incident at the heart of this story was a straightforward and simple criminal case, I recommend reading the transcript of the victim's testimony (here in two parts) -- including her descriptions of the telephone conversation she had with her mother from Polanski's house, asking permission to be photographed in Jack Nicholson's jacuzzi -- and not just the salacious bits.
So, how is this repulsive?

Because she is implying that the girl asked permission from her mom to have sex with Roman Polanski, and because the grand jury transcript does not show her asking about the Jacuzzi, it shows her asking to stay late for the photo shoot, and neither her nor Polanski ever talking about the Jacuzzi.

But Apple Applebaum, as Mr. Campos so ably notes, thinks that the slut was asking for it, which is a hell of a thing to say about a 13 year old rape victim, and it's even worse, because Applebaum is also lying to smear said 13 year old rape victim:
Here's the relevant part of the transcript:
Q. What happened out there after he indicated he wished to take pictures of you in the jacuzzi?

A. We went inside and called my mother.

Q. When you say “we called,” did you call or did Mr. Polanski call?

A. He told me to and I talked and then he talked and then I talked again.

Q. What did you tell your mother?

A. She goes, “Are you all right?

I went, “Uh-huh.”

And she says, “Do you want me to come pick you up?”

And I went, “No.”

And he said that we’d be home kind of late because it had already gotten dark out.

Q. When you said “he said,” did he tell you or did you hear him tell your mother on the phone?

A. He told my mother.

Q, Did he tell your mother any other things?

A. Not that I was listening to.

Q. After talking to your mother on the telephone, what happened?

A. We went out and I got in the jacuzzi.
Applebaum can't even read 20 lines of a trial transcript accurately (the victim never asked her mother for permission to be photographed in the jacuzzi). But that idiocy pales to insignificance in comparison to the moral blindness involved in suggesting, as Applebaum clearly does, that if the 13-year-old victim had in fact asked her mother's permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi by a 44-year-old man that would somehow transform the man's subsequent drugging and raping of the girl into something other than a "simple and straightforward criminal case."
We can add to this that her husband is Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and as such, he is aggressively working toward Polanski's release,* because they consider him a national treasure (even if he does not live there), and she thinks that she had no need to disclose this, because she, "Mentioned my husband's job in a column as recently as last week"

No, it does not work that way. You are married to a high government official for a foreign government. When you are writing about issues that are part of the direct and explicit policy of that government, you disclose that you share a bed with the foreign minister, each and every time.

I will say that not all Postie pundits are Sociopaths, though Applebaum and Cohen clearly are, as is, of course, Krauthammer, though he may simply be insane .

For example, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson nails it when he says, "That is grotesque. In general, I agree with the European view that Americans tend to be prudish and hypocritical about sex. But a grown man drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl? That's not remotely a close call. It's wrong in any moral universe -- and deserves harsher punishment than three decades of gilded exile."

(emphasis mine)

Your mouth to God's ear. I cannot speak to the finer points of the trial, and there are likely issues there, but the enthusiasm with which the people who seek to excuse this away on the feeling that somehow Polanski is "people like them", is truly revolting.

*I do not blame Sikorski for doing his job here. It is his job to execute the policy, however immoral and venal (it's about playing to the Polish electorate by embracing a rapist). Pity your wife is a sociopath though.
As to what this says about the Polish electorate, it either means that their leaders underestimate them, or that they are not underestimating them. One hopes for the former.

I am Reproducing This in Full Because the Cache Will Expire

H/T Below The Beltway for the screen shot (click for full size)
Some background:

Remember when I suggested that recent rhetoric about Barack Obama was really about encouraging someone with the, "Psychological stability of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the shooting ability of...well...Lee Harvey Oswald (he was a Marine) to whack Obama?"

I also mentioned the Facebook "Assassinate Obama" poll.

It seems like it was only yesterday when I mentioned these....Hold on, it WAS yesterday when I mentioned this.

The tinfoil hat crowd is a bunch of very busy people this week.

Well, another part of the right wing sewage brigade, Newsmax published an article explicitly calling for a coup to overthrow him. Don't click the link though, once the cowards at Newsmax realized that it was getting play, they pulled it, but here is the Google Cache.

In any case, I think that it is crucial that his word remain alive on the net in their entirety, so here is his article, in all its Fascist glory:

Obama Risks a Domestic Military ‘Intervention’

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:35 AM

By: John L. Perry

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. So, view the following through military eyes:

  • Officers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Unlike enlisted personnel, they do not swear to “obey the orders of the president of the United States.”
  • Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized.
  • They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.
  • They can see that the economy — ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation — is financially reliant on foreign lender governments.
  • They can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community, without whose rigorous and independent functions the armed services are rendered blind in an ever-more hostile world overseas and at home.
  • They can see the dismantling of defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America’s troop strength is allowed to sag.
  • They can see the horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time.
  • They can see the nation’s safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before. So, if you are one of those observant military professionals, what do you do?

    Wait until this president bungles into losing the war in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s arsenal of nuclear bombs falls into the hands of militant Islam?

    Wait until Israel is forced to launch air strikes on Iran’s nuclear-bomb plants, and the Middle East explodes, destabilizing or subjugating the Free World?

    What happens if the generals Obama sent to win the Afghan war are told by this president (who now says, “I’m not interested in victory”) that they will be denied troops they must have to win? Do they follow orders they cannot carry out, consistent with their oath of duty? Do they resign en masse?

    Or do they soldier on, hoping the 2010 congressional elections will reverse the situation? Do they dare gamble the national survival on such political whims?

    Anyone who imagines that those thoughts are not weighing heavily on the intellect and conscience of America’s military leadership is lost in a fool’s fog.

    Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

    Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

    Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

    Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

    In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.

    John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com.
  • (emphasis mine)

    I guess it might read better in the original German. In the Confederate States of America dialect of English, it's a lot shorter, of course, "Lynch the n*gg*r."

    My first thought was to register LiberalsWithGuns.org, but someone has already beaten me to it, so I sent them an email offering my very poor HTML coding skills.

    Needless to Say, this Guy is on My ActBlue Page

    See Matthew Saroff's Act Blue Page

    29 September 2009

    This is a Feature, Not a Bug

    Not a part of the pale elites. What a surprise.
    So, victims of Paramilitary violence in Columbia, and their relatives, are celebrating a supreme court ruling forbidding the extradition of former paramilitaries to the United States on drug charges:
    [Bela] Henriquez [shown] wants to find out as much as she can from the paramilitaries who murdered her father in 2001. Julio Henriquez was killed because of his work organizing poor farmers along a vital cocaine-trafficking corridor. In testimony two years ago, one of the commanders, Hernan Giraldo, confessed to ordering her father's murder.

    But she says the details were scant — and that the testimony didn't mean that justice was served.

    And then, Giraldo was extradited.

    Giraldo and the other paramilitary commanders took with them a treasure trove of historical information about the links between Colombia's elite and the paramilitaries, says Michael Reed, a lawyer with the International Center for Transitional Justice, a New York group that studies the efforts to unravel Colombia's war crimes.

    "Basically a political decision was made to trump human rights investigations and prosecutions with drug-trafficking prosecutions," Reed says.
    (emphasis mine)

    No, Michael Reed is wrong. A political decision was made to make deport the paramilitaries to the United States in order to silence them. This is not about being nice to the United States, it is about silencing the professional killers hired to murder labor organizers, literacy volunteers, and anyone else who was trying to show the peons something beyond their stations.

    Why to Hate Iceland*

    If you have cable, or satellite, or FIOS, you have doubtless seen Whale Wars, a show about the (almost completely lily white) members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet down around Antarctica.

    Japan, is, of course a bad guy in all of this, classifying commercial whaling as "research", and bribing countries to join the IWC to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling.

    But, as Needlenose notes, Iceland pulled completely out of the IWC, and is butchering whales as quickly as possible and shipping the meat to Japan.

    So, we have two bad players, one is gaming the system, and the other is operating completely outside the law.

    Also note that Iceland, which has told the world to go pound sand, is also begging for money from the IMF, World Bank, EU, and pretty much any other acronym with two cents together, which means that they are in a position where world opinion is crucial to them.

    So, which one are all the anti-whaling forces going after?

    Why, the ones who aren't alabaster white, of course.

    In all fairness, the Icelandic catch is limited to about 250, as versus the about 600 for Japan, but I do think that there is a bit of bigotry behind not going after the low hanging fruit.

    *Besides Bjork, of course.

    Economics Update

    Well, notwithstanding the "green shoots" that every fool (Ben Bernanke) is crowing about Consumer Confidence fell to 53.1 in September, down from 54.5 (revised) in August, and well below the predicted 57.0.

    While this may not effect spending for the Christmas holiday, it does look like it's putting a crimp in Halloween spending, with consumers planning to spend about 20% less this year.

    Of course, we are still seeing some good news, such as the Case-Shiller home price index rising for the 3rd straight month, but, as Barry Ritholtz notes, it's still down 13.3% for the year.

    I would also add, that these are seasonally adjusted numbers, which really make no sense when a market is as out of whack as this one is, it's YoY that gives meaningful data.

    We also have the Chicago Fed's National Activity index falling in September, to -.90, from August's -0.54, indicating further contraction.

    Overseas, we are seeing more good news though, with consumer confidence in Germany increasing to a 16 month high, and the Brazilian central bank being confident enough that it is starting to clamp back down on credit, which means that they are worried about inflation.

    One hopes that the Brazilian bankers are not jumping the gun here.

    In insurance, we have a bit of nostalgia, with the monoliner insurers popping up their head again, as S&P cut both MBIA, Inc. and MBIA Insurance credit ratings, to BB-minus and BB-Plus respectively.

    Both ratings are below investment grade. (i.e. junk)

    In energy, it looks like the consumer confidence numbers have driven oil prices down, to $66.71/bbl, and it looks like natural gas prices are about to fall off a cliff, because the salt domes, depleted oil fields, and aquifers used to story the fuel have reached capacity, meaning that anything pumped has to be sold, and delivered as soon as it leaves the ground.

    Gasoline prices are continuing their fall too.

    Meanwhile, the dollar is up, largely on increased worries about the economy, though the rate cut by Russia's central bank has also made the USD more attractive to investors.

    When I Agree with Mitch McConnell.......

    I know that something is wrong, and in this case it is how accurately the Senate minority leader nails the attitude of Barack Obama and His Stupid Minions: "
    Senator McConnell dismissed the President’s substantive involvement in the debate, dryly noting the president “would sign anything the Congress sent him, provided it had ‘Health Care Reform’ written at the top of the page.
    It's not just McConnel who is saying this. We also have Robert Reich, who has always been an extremely big booster of the Obama campaign and later the Obama Administration, so when he says this:
    Big Pharma and big insurance hate the public insurance option even more than they hate big Medicare discounts. And although the President has sounded as if he would welcome it, political operatives in the White House have quietly reassured the industries that it won't be included in the final bill. At most, the bill would allow the formation of non-profit 'cooperatives' that wouldn't have the scale or authority to squeeze the profits of private industry, or a 'trigger' that would allow states to form public insurance options eventually if certain goals for cost savings and coverage weren't met.
    Which is a clear statement against his own political interest.

    He cannot bring himself to voice it explicitly, is that Barack Obama and his people do not care about healthcare reform, but that they are looking for phony reform for 2012.

    The results of White House "Axis of Weasel" on this is plain to see, with , as Rockefeller's public option amendment being voted down, as well as Schumer's weaker tea public option.

    It gets worse, of course, with Baucus proposing that nationwide standards on insurance be written by the insurance industry in his bill.

    He is suggesting that the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners write binding regulations on insurance company behavior, it has issued advisory regulations for some years, with , "States would be permitted to deviate from the standards only by appealing to the Department of Health and Human Services."

    What's more because the NAIC is a private organization, there would be no requirement for public meetings or public access to records.

    It's mice to know that there are a few bright spots, but, as with the case of Sen. Byron Dorgan (!)
    offering an amendment allowing for drug reimportation, but you know that Rahmbo , with the President's full approval, will go all out to kill this, because the White House has already cut a deal with health insurers and pharma to boost their already obscene profits by requiring people to buy health insurance.

    FDIC Goes Wimpy

    I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today
    I don't mean that Blair and company have become shrinking violets, I am instead referring to the comic book character from Popeye.

    The FDIC is asking banks to prepay their insurance fees through 2012, in order to handle the depletion of their insurance funds.

    It is the Wimpy theory of funding, and its success is contingent on the idea that the recession is over, and so we will see a fairly robust recovery.

    If they are wrong, and given the impending implosion in CRE which threatens small and regional banks, I think that they are, it won't do much.

    In fact, I can see creditors going after the prepaid insurance premiums, which will create a big mess.

    What the Republican Crazy Talk is About

    So I'm on the Stellar Parthenon BBS, and Unmutual notes that Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) is saying that, "The President Is an enemy of humanity."

    He muses that this kind of Batsh&% insane simply stupid:
    Yep, continue this kind of idiotic rhetoric against the most popularly elected president in recent memory, surely that's going to get you more supporters than reaching across the isle and actually trying to get stuff done.
    I think that he is an optimist. This is not stupidity. This is done with a purpose.

    The goal here is to get someone with the psychological stability of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the shooting ability of...well...Lee Harvey Oswald (he was a Marine) to whack Obama.

    Seriously. There are two group of people speaking for the Republican party: Those who are batsh%$ insane, and want Obama dead, and those who think that his getting killed would be good for them in 2010.

    I'm not sure which group scares me more.

    Video below:

    Well, Now We Know How Lame the New York Times Is

    It appears that the New York Times has decided that they do not spend enough time paying attention to deranged dishonest right wing stories, and their response is to assign an (unnamed, lest he get stern emails) editor to the giving blow jobs to right wingers beat, to ensure that all of their bullsh&% gets mainstream press coverage:
    Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.”
    (emphasis mine)
    Two points:
    • This story was, and always will be, bulls$%#, and so the coverage should be on the politics, because a close examination of the real story, shows no story.
      • Having “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio,” is a mark of journalistic success, not journalist failure.
    • Anyone who claims to be a journalist, much less an editor, but is afraid to do their job because they will get nasty emails, should not be working in journalism. I said this about Monica Hesse, and I will say this about this unnamed editor.
    Seriously though, separating the wheat from the chaff is a part of a journalist's job, and what is going on here is the aggrandizement of the chaff.

    H/t tbogg.

    Before I Put Polanski on My List of

    They Who Must Not Be Named, like he cares about whether or not I write about him, let me repeat what Atrios Said:
    I really was going to try to avoid Polanski blogging, but then Richard Cohen referred to drugging and raping a 13 year old over clear objections as her being 'seduced.'

    What is wrong with these people?"
    This was never seduction.

    You can argue that he is a talented artist, and he is, Chinatown is brilliant.

    You can argue that his trial was ineluctably tainted, by virtue of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, and the trial was ineluctably tainted by those actions..

    You can argue that the time has passed for this, as the victim has.

    But the coercion, drugging, and penetration of a 13-year old girl is not a "seduction," it's a rape, and the only reason that moral pygmies like Richard Cohen call it seduction is because they profoundly believe that there should be no consequences for people that they deem consequential.

    I do now know whether Roman Polanski is a monster, or a sick victim, but I do know that Richard Cohen is a monster.

    Least Surprising News of the Day

    The Secret Service is investigating a poll on Facebook which asked whether or not he should be assassinated.

    Seriously, we are dealing with the toxic interplay of the right wing's now standard freakout over their not having the White House, see Clinton, W., and the fact that, as Gabby Johnson said in Blazing Saddles, "The sheriff is a n <bell rings> er."

    28 September 2009

    Is it Time to Leave the Country?

    Luckily, I don't have to worry too much about this, if push comes to shove, I can go to Israel immediately, under the law of return.

    But a reader of Americablog is asking this question:

    When Bush won his second term, I reached deep within for the small bud of hope that remained, and built on that. Throughout the primary and general elections, many of us within the Obama volunteer team felt we’d proven that one person truly can make a difference. Now, after merely 10 months in office, the lack of action on the part of team Obama (DOMA, DADT, etc.), the bizarrely run health care reform effort combined with the subsequent willingness to kill the public option, the Obama administration’s approach to education have led me to a breaking point.

    I sense that they don’t uphold any of the progressive ideals for which we fought, or on which he campaigned. That hope he told us to find, to rekindle – he and his administration have killed it more fully than Bush and his cronies ever did. Moving out of this country, where it appears a select few ‘haves’ control the outcome regardless of public opinion, suddenly presents a most palatable option. I’ve asked around, and it turns out that applications for nurse abroad and teach abroad programs are up over 300% in Colorado. That isn’t the least bit surprising to me, and I don’t think it’s economically motivated.

    I think that Barack Obama and His Stupid Minions have done everything in their power to avoid making progressive policy, and have done everything in their power to defund and disempower progressives, and as such, much as Bill Clinton did in 1994 with his nail and tongs fight for NAFTA (not healthcare reform), he is demoralizing his base.

    2010 will not be pretty, because with his voters dispirited, and the swing voters looking looking at a choice between phony Republicans (Obama) and real ones, will, to Paraphrase Harry S Truman, choose the real Republicans every time.

    Read the whole thing.

    Another Reminder on My Ad Policy

    I saw an ad on my site from Scientology.

    I do not review ads to see if they match my opinions.

    In the case of Scientology, it does not. I am a Jew, not a Scientologist.

    This would apply to any other religion.

    In addition the Church of Scientology (CoS) has a very long history of threats and intimidation against critics which I find abhorrent, and L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth books really suck.

    So, if you see the ad, this does not reflect an endorsement on my part.

    Adventures in Ass Covering

    It looks like any number of financial institutions are realizing that Congress is going to do them like a College Republican does a drunk sorority girl if they don't get their act together, so they are now taking actions that they should have taken years ago. (See Barn door, cows missing)

    First, the Federal Reserve has finally concluded that it should regulate some more of the non-bank lenders out there:
    Tuesday that it will extend its regulatory umbrella to cover a group of lenders that includes several major originators of subprime loans, policing whether they follow federal laws that protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.

    Federal banking regulators already oversee companies that own banks, known as holding companies, along with the banks themselves. Under the new policy, the Fed will extend the same oversight to other businesses owned by those holding companies, such as units that make home-equity loans.

    The policy places subprime lenders such as CitiFinancial, an arm of Citigroup, and Wells Fargo Financial, an arm of Wells Fargo, under Fed oversight for the first time. The same laws protect all borrowers, but until now, no federal agency watched to make sure non-bank subsidiaries followed the law.
    And we also have the FED suddenly requiring the financial institutions submit their pay policies to them for review.

    What is going on here is that there is significant push-back in Congress against the Obama proposal that the Federal Reserve be the primary systemic risk regulator, and the desire of the Fed to be the "financial consumer protection agency", as Bernanke is aggressive lobbying for this role shows.

    When this is juxtaposed with increasing support in Congress for the Paul/Grayson proposal to audit the central bank, and we are having a gallows conversion, where they attempt to show that they are really concerned about regulation and protecting ordinary people.

    Hopefully, this won't work, and we will see a Federal Reserve with a smaller, and not a larger, role than it has today.

    I think that the only two people who want the Fed's role to expand are current chairman Ben Bernanke, and White House Economic Advisor Lawrence Summers, who is hoping to be Fed chair one day.

    We are also seeing the same things with banks and overdraft fees, where proposals in Congress to regulate fees, as well as "automatic overdraft protection" and check clearing orders, are creating an orgy of heretofore non-existent concern for consumer among the big banks, with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and J.P. Morgan Chase announcing that they will be rolling back their fees.

    There is no big surprise here, the banks know that if they can always raise fees again.

    The argument is the same: "We'll be good, there is no need for legislative restrictions."

    What goes unspoken is the idea that once people are looking the other way, the rates will go back up again.

    It's the same thing with the Conference Board, an organization created for, and funded by, business executives, who are now saying that they will be issuing a report suggesting fixes in how executive compensation is determined:
    The report to be released today urges companies to avoid paying for personal travel, hefty severance packages or above-market returns on deferred compensation. The recommendations were endorsed by the California State Teachers' Retirement System, AT&T Inc. and others.

    "In order to restore trust in the ability of boards of directors to oversee executive compensation, immediate and credible action must be taken," the report from the New York research group said.
    This is not about fixing things, this is simply an effort to create the appearance that things might fix themselves, in order to forestall any potential laws or regulations that would prevent excessive compensation from returning in the future.

    I suppose that there is a silver lining to all this, which is that the people involved are clearly worried, which perhaps real changes can be initiated.

    USAF adds IRST to F-15s

    They will be using a variant of the ANS-42 Ifra-Red Search and Track system originally deployed on the F-14D (replacing the TCS used on earlier models) and subsequently installed on the front half of an F-18 drop tank (probably because the under-wing environment was too vibration prone).

    It seems like a sound move, though with the USAF shoving F-15s and F-16s out the door as quickly as possible so as not to compete with the F-35 JSF, I'm a bit dubious.

    My earlier posts on this are here and here.

    Least Surprising News of the Day

    Pentagon Auditors Fail to Effectively Oversee Contractors.

    Gee, you think?

    4 words: Hal-i-bur-ton

    Word of New Russian SAM System

    RuAF General Alexander Zelin is saying that Russia is looking at developing the S-500 air defense system, and that it should have significantly improved capabilities over the S-400 (NATO designation SA-21 Growler) currently in deployment with Russian forces.

    Not much in the way of specifics beyond it having a 600km (!) range, which implies that it has the kinematics to perform anti-IRBM duties too.

    Legislation Introduced to End Antitrust Exemption for Health Insurers

    I'm not sure if this is going anywhere, but at the very least, it's going to have to make the health and malpractice insurers split their resources.

    There is no reason at all for an anti-trust exemption. In fact, much of the current problem is that there are local monopolies in insurance coverage over much of the nation.

    Official Press release below:

    Conyers, Johnson, DeGette Introduce Legislation to End Antitrust Exemption for Health Insurers

    For Immediate Release September 17, 2009
    Jonathan Godfrey (Conyers)
    Andy Phelan (Johnson)
    Kristofer Eisenla (DeGette)

    House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Energy and Commerce Committee Vice-Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) today introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, legislation to end the broad antitrust exemption enjoyed by health insurance companies.

    Both the House and Senate today have introduced identical language to reduce insurance prices for consumers. This legislation would extend antitrust enforcement over health insurers and medical malpractice insurance issuers, which currently enjoy broad antitrust immunity under the McCarran-Ferguson Act. This immunity can serve as a shield for activities that might otherwise violate federal law.

    "This legislation would specifically prohibit price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation in the health insurance industry," said Conyers. "These pernicious practices are detrimental to competition and result in higher prices for consumers. Conduct that is unlawful throughout the country should not be allowed for insurance companies under antitrust exemption. The House Judiciary Committee held extensive hearings on the effects of the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. It became clear then that policyholders and the economy in general would benefit from eliminating this exemption.

    "The legislation we introduced today is intended to root out unlawful activity in an industry grown complacent by decades of protection from antitrust oversight. In doing so, we aim to make health insurance more affordable to more Americans. I want to thank my friend Senator Leahy for his leadership on the bill and for working with the House on this joint introduction."

    "The average American family already pays an extra $1,100 in premiums every year for a broken system that supports 46 million uninsured Americans," said Johnson. "The Enforcement Act is long overdue. I am concerned that the shield this industry enjoys have resulted in market consolidation and higher premiums for the people of my district. As millions of Americans continue to go uninsured, we cannot continue to support the insurance companies by providing them with legal cover for anticompetitive actions."

    "As health insurance premiums continue to go through the roof, now is the time to ensure that health insurance companies are not engaging in anti-competitive behavior that make it more difficult for Americans to get health coverage," said DeGette. "Families across our nation are feeling the pinch in their budgets from having to keep up with rising insurance rates. This bill takes an important step towards making sure our health insurance industry is competitive and is providing consumers with affordable health insurance. Simply put, the bottom lines of the big insurance companies should not be put above the American public’s ability to gain access to health care."


    27 September 2009

    8 Months from Buy to Fly?

    One of the things that is truly depressing about defense procurement is that we see evidence that it does not have to be that bad, case in point, the MC-12W Liberty, a derivative of the mid size turboprop civil transport Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350.

    The aircraft is purchases for $7 million, and the mods and equipment cost another $10 million for modifications, for video , sigint, and other surveillance and communications gear, which should prove particularly useful in places like Afghanistan.

    The need is real, the requirements were not inflated, and the system is entering service in less than a year.

    But this should be the rule, and not the exception, as it is today.

    Carolyn Maloney's (D-NY) Husband Killed in Climbing Accident

    He was climbing in the Himalayas, and died in his sleep in his tent.

    He was 71.

    As an aside, I'd like to be climbing the Himalayas when I am 71.

    Run, Andrew, Run

    David Paterson has announced that he will run for reelection in 2010 on Meet the Press.

    Andrew Cuomo needs to do the same, because Paterson will lose the general, and so New York will be stuck with Gerrymandered districts that disproportionately represent Republicans for the next 10 years.

    Seriously, Paterson is polling below 30%, and not only could Rudy Giuliani beat him, so could Eliot Spitzer, even if he got a blow-job on TV.

    Bill Safire is Dead at 79

    I loathed his politics, but he thought a lot better than any of the conservative who have been on the New York Times OP/ED page for the past few years, as well as having a lot more journalistic integrity, and I always enjoyed his writing on language.

    The Israelis are not the Only Ones With Systems Integration Issues with the JSF

    It looks like the UK JSFs will be unable to carry 4 AIM-132 ASRAAMS internally, as opposed to the original 4, so a loadout of 4 will require external pylons, but the stealthy pylons which had been previously promised have not been funded.

    The ASRAAM is significant, because it has lock after launch and much better kinematics (though inferior very short range agility) than the AIM-9X, allowing a modicum of BVR capability.

    Is it just me, or is the entire JSF program beginning to sound a lot like what some are facetiously calling the "iFascism" that emanates from Steve Jobs and Apple Computer:
    One thing that fascinates me is the way that Apple continues to maintain a cool/benevolent/almost counter-culture reputation, while actually being an incredibly aggressive, ruthless, arguably monopolistic company (the way they are cornering the music and phone businesses, and the way they so carefully guard applications on the iphone). Compare this to Microsoft, which has a more fascist ambiance around it.
    Obviously, the consequences of an intensely closed platform in a PC and media player are of less consequence than for a front line fighter, but Apple has already has filed for a patent to automatically deactivate your devices if you use them in a non-approved manner, and the US Air Force, and Lockheed-Martin seem to have a similar goal with the JSF: making it extremely difficult for non-US weapons to be used, and I do think that there is a remote off switch in there.

    If I were looking at buying a fighter, I would therefore be very concerned about the degree of control that the Pentagon, and perhaps LM would have over the operation of the aircraft.

    Rafale Win in Brazil Less Certain

    Brazil has officially extended the final bid deadline until October 2, and there are now reports that the Rafale was not the first choice of the Brazilian Air Force, with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) favoring the F/A-18 E/F, and the "engineers" favoring the Gripen.

    I would assume that the FAB refers to the guys who fly, and that the "engineers" are the maintainers.

    The latter is far from surprising. As the Gripen is less than ½ the size of its competitors, with ½ the number of engines, the simple laws of physics say that its per flight hour costs, and logistical tail, will be significantly less than either its French or American competitors.

    The austere field capabilities of the Swedish jet may have influenced this too.

    My guess is that the Rafale was "selected" on the basis of French technical offsets, which are at a level that the Swedes are unable to provide, and the United States is unwilling to provide, but these are considerations that is unlikely to bear much weight with a military service.

    US Navy to Drop One LCS Design

    This News is not really a surprise.

    The ships are very expensive, and making 2 different models is expensive.

    My guess would be that the trimaran LCS-2 is toast. It's more expensive, and Aluminum rather than steel, like the monohull LCS-1, which raises durability issues, even if it might be a bit more stingy with a gallon of gas, and has a much wider and more stable flight deck.

    They are both designed to perform multiple roles with modular mission packages (surface warfare, mine warfare, special ops insertion, etc.) that can swapped out as the situation demands, which is, I think, a losing proposition anyway.

    The modules create compromises which means that both ships are under-armed for their size.

    The Israelis have rejected the ship, at one point, Lockheed-Martin proposed a modified ship without the mission modules to get the bang for the buck that the Israelis wanted, and the Israelis rejected that, and are not looking at other designs, most notably the MEKO A-100, which are smaller, lighter, and cheaper, for their needs, which among other things, do not require the relatively long range, or extremely high speeds (40kts +) of the LCS.

    Rule Number One of Writing About Things Military

    For Some Reason, I Imagine Her Singing Wagner Opera
    Always include the picture of the blond Swedish hottie in uniform whenever you can.

    In this case, it appears that the Swedish Conscription Council (Värnplikstrådet) is complaining that the brassieres offered to women conscripts are not up to the rigors of combat (also here):

    The poor quality of the standard-issue sports bras prompted a group by female soldiers at the LV 6 military base in Halmstad to voice their displeasure to representatives from the Council recently.

    The women complained that the bras’ fasteners have a tendency to come undone when the women performed rigorous exercise, forcing the female soldiers to take off all of their equipment in order to refasten the brassieres.

    In addition, the bras aren’t flame resistant and, once lit, can melt onto conscripts’ skin, the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper reports.
    I would think that this is something where little research would be necessary, since it must have been addressed in armies with high numbers of women serving (the number is only about 5% in Sweden).

    Just email the Israelis, and you will have an answer in about an hour.

    TIE Fighters Pics for you Star Wars Fans

    My bad. These aren't TIE Fighters, these are Thai fighters, specifically the SAAB Gripens that are to be delivered to Thailand.

    The SAAB has a contract to deliver at least 6 of the diminutive fighters to Thailand, and the first of these aircraft has been assembled, and has taken flight.

    My bad...No Star Wars here.

    Here, have some video fighter jet pr0n by way of apology for misleading you.

    In the words of Emily Latella, "never mind".

    26 September 2009

    This was no Boat Accident

    Well, we have an update on the death of Bill Sparkman, the US Census worker who was found dead at a cemetery in Daniel Boone National Forest. He was naked except for his socks, gagged, and bound hand and foot with duct tape, and had the word "Fed" written on his chest in pen, but authorities are, "Still trying to determine if Sparkman died of foul play." Seriously, I understand how they might not know the motive, it could be a paranoid meth lab operator, or perhaps something to Glenn Beck's 912 whack job anti-government paranoia, but when a man is found naked except for his socks, gagged, and bound hand and foot with duct tape, it's foul play. This is not some friend and confidant of Jerry Fallwell being found in his closet in wearing two rubber SCUBA suits, rubber underwear, diving gloves and slippers, "numerous straps and cords" restraining him, a leather belt, and a dildo in the anus covered with a condom. This is a man who was clearly killed by someone else. Of course it's foul play, and given the area, there is a non-zero possibility that the drug trade, particularly meth, might have something to do with this. The question is who did this, and why, not whether there was foul play involved.

    Republican Morality

    When you have cancer, beg for charity, quoth Eric Cantor.

    The thing is, that Eric Cantor knows how Medicaid works, when he says "apply for Medicaid," what he's really saying, as Yobie Benjamin notes, is, "Sell or auction all your belongings. After you reach a certain poverty threshold, apply for Medicaid, the federal medical insurance for the very poor. If that's not enough apply for indigent services."

    That's what his language about "indigency" in the long version means.

    Short vid

    Full event, exchange starts at about 59:05, and runs for about 7 minutes.

    This man is a shanda before the Goyim.

    I'm thinking about finding a way to convince him to become a Christian, because I really don't want to share a synagogue, much a religion with him.

    KC-X Tanker Competition Back on

    And in a stunning display of stupidity, the Pentagon is letting the USAF run the competition, which considering their record the past two times, is a lot like giving Jack the Ripper the straight razor concession at the prostitutes convention.

    Boeing has wised up, and had decided to titch the "Frankentanker", (paid subscription required) which had the "767-200 airframe; over-wing exits from the 767-300; floors, doors and structurally enhanced wings from the 767-300F; and a cockpit, tail section (with a more capable auxiliary power unit) and flaps from the 767-400ER," which is a good thing.

    Interestingly enough, they are also making noises about using the 777, but that aircraft appears to be rather too large for the requirements as I understand them unless they take the sawzall to it, and shorten the fuselage by a lot.

    The most significant change here is that the specifications are much more explicit, because the challenge was driven by the wiggle room the last time around. (see graph pr0n, and click for full size)

    With the FCS Cancelled....

    The Army is looking at acquiring replacements for its M113 APC and Bradley IFV beginning in the next decade.

    It's clear that the M113 needs to be replaced, but the Bradley could continue serving but for one small problem: The Bradley has never carried enough troops, it carries 6 as opposed to the typically 9 which army doctrine calls for in a fire team.

    That being said, if you replaced the current crewed Bradley turret with remotely operated turret, like the CTI 40mm Tele-Operated/Manned Turret, (top) a 40mm turret with case telescoped rounds, (bottom) you would eliminate the space inside the hull for the gunner and the commander would sit up front next to the driver, you would have about 3x the firepower, and 50% more crew carrying capacity.

    F136 Saga Continues

    Well, the Senate Appropriations Committee cut funding for the F136 alternate engine for the JSF, though the committee chair, Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has made it clear that he wants it back when the conference report comes out.

    In any case, it's clear that the White House's opposition to continuing work on an alternate engine is soft, as the discussions between the Pentagon and GE/Rolls on a firm fixed price for the engine, are continuing, and GE is promising a, "formal unsolicited Fixed Price offer," in the next week or so.

    I'm not sure if the DoD is seriously looking at proposals, of if they are just trying to browbeat Pratt & Whitney though.

    When Technology Works For You

    I give you the Spike missile, the version from the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake, not the rather more expensive ATGM produced by the Israeli company Rafael.

    This Spike is a small (25"), light weight (2.5 kg) and very inexpensive (about 5000 lbs) that can be effective out to about 3200 m against relatively lightly armored targets. (The warhead weighs 1 pound)

    It's not fast, being decidedly subsonic, and it leaves launch tube at around 100 mpg, which means no backblast.

    What makes this missile different is that it was designed using technology to meet a cost goal, so the seeker is, basically a camcorder bolted to the front of a rocket motor, and it can launch at low speed because it relies on COTS processor for flight controls, which do not require high initial speed.

    It locks on the target image, and so is fire and forget, a capability that has been in the US arsenal since the 1970s with the Maverick missile.

    Another advantage of this system is that it can easily be carried by a UAV when targeting things like insurgents, with a much lower cost, and a much higher number of rounds on existing UAVs that carry Hellfires, or it could be mounted on much smaller UAVs.

    It just goes to show that technology can be used to create a reasonably effective weapon at a very reasonable price.

    Some PDF with more details are here and here.

    House of Saud Looking at Silent Eagle

    So, it looks like al Queida's best friends are looking at buying an additional 72 F-15 Eagles, and the word is that they are very interested in the modified reduced signature (stealth is way to strong a word here) F-15 SE.

    If they do, it will likely be instead of purchasing the F-35 Lightning II, and a quick perusal of the Wiki shows that nothing is moving there yet.

    What the F-15 SE brings to the table for the Saudis is greater speed and payload at the expense of having a larger radar cross section.

    25 September 2009

    Deep Thought: Technology Edition

    Things I Do Not Share With Sharon*

    *Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

    Carbon Tax Update

    Well, it's beginning to look like France will impose its own carbon tax €17 ($24.90) per ton of CO2.

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to move France toward greater reductions in carbon emissions, but it is also a reflection of just how big a failure that Europe's cap and trade regime has been, with the creation of false offsets overseas, construction of hydroelectric plants without transmission lines in China, and paying farmers not to grow food.

    In addition to that, there is the detail that the markets simply do not work, creating a "pollution fire sale,"* which makes this system a joke.

    In any case, I ran the numbers, and got about $0.2212/gallon, which in the scheme of things is not a huge chunk of change, particularly in France, where the price of a gallon of gas is about $6.00 including tax, but it is likely to make coal powered electricity much less competitive, particularly if the tax goes up over time.

    France is emulating Finland and Sweden, who implemented carbon taxes over a decade ago, and got reductions in emissions, as opposed to the EU cap and trade, which hasn't ever worked.

    On a related note, both Caterpillar and Federal Express are lobbying for a carbon tax instead of a cap and trade too.

    They mention a number of reasons, not the least of which is the giveaways to big coal, but the big reason is buried a few paragraphs down here:
    A predictable, graduated tax would have an impact on the role of the military overseas, improve the environment and be good for the economy, [FedEx CEO] Smith argued.
    (emphasis mine)

    Simply put, they don't want to live in a world where the cost of carbon credits will fluctuate day to day because of the machinations of that great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, Goldman Sachs.

    FedEx and Caterpillar, and pretty much everyone but the coal burning utilities can live with a carbon tax, it effects them all equally.

    If you make carbon permits a trade able market commodity, and suddenly you have where the difference between survival and bankruptcy are choices in an opaque and volatile market.

    You end up diverting enormous resources from upgrading equipment and doing research on more efficient ways to do things, and drive it into the blood funnel of the vampire squid.

    *Original author's pun, not mine.
    I assume that the tax is actually per tonne (metric ton), so that is 1000 kg of CO2, which is 273 kg of carbon. This means that the actual tax for a kg of carbon is about €0.0623 per kilo of carbon.

    A good approximation of the formula for gasoline is C8H18 (It's actually a witches brew of different hydrocarbons), and the weight of a liter of gasoline 0.76, so the weight of carbon in a liter is about 0.64 kg.

    This gives a tax of about €0.03989/liter, or about $0.2212/gallon

    Alas, I cannot claim credit for this bon mot, it was coined by the great Matt Taibbi, in his article on the massive criminal conspiracy investment firm, The Great American Bubble Machine.

    The Worst Tattoo Ever

    Yep, that title aptly descruibes this.

    Great googly moogly.

    It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

    And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
    1. Georgian Bank, Atlanta, GA

    Full FDIC list

    Economics Update

    Click for Full Size
    Blah, blah, blah!
    Well, let's lead with housing sales, since it gives me an opportunity to start with one of my pet peeves: Journalists pumping up news as better than it is.

    CNN leads with New home sales rise for 5th straight month in August,which sounds good, sales went from a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 429K, up from July's 426K, so what's the problem?

    Well the problem is that the forecast was for 440K, and a 3K gain is about ¾%, nothing to phone home about, and as Calculated Risk so ably notes when he looks at the numbers and declares that sales were flat, "This is a slight increase from the revised rate of 426 thousand in July (revised from 433 thousand)." (emphasis mine)

    So there was an increase relative to the revised figure, but a drop when compare initial figure to initial figure, and in any case, an honest description for this would be "flat", or "down slightly", not a hed screaming a 5th straight month of increase.

    In either case, we are still seeing week demand for manufactured goods, as evidenced by the 2.4% drop in durable goods orders, though the Truck Tonnage Index rose in in August, which compares to the drop in rail traffic I reported 2 days ago.

    In the world of finance, banks losses in big mofo loans, the so-called syndicated loans, tripled in 2009.

    In energy, revelations regarding Iran's nuclear program and potential sanctions pushed oil up, though it is still well below $70/bbl, and in currency, the dollar fell broadly, hitting a 7½ month low vs the Yen, and remaining near the 1-year low vs the Euro that it hit a few days ago.

    Deathstar 911

    Wanker of the Day

    Former Virginia Governor, Doug Wilder, who is allegedly a Democrat, but is refusing to endorse Craig Deeds, even though the next governor will have a lot to say about redistricting in the state.

    Kirk Has Been Sworn In

    To which I can only say we need to get someone to whisper, "Kirrrrrk," to him with menace, and he must reply, Khaaaannn!!!

    Proof that Barack Obama is Not American!

    He's a cyborg!!!!

    Look at the smile! It's fixed and immutable!

    Barack Obama's amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

    Mass Court Rejects Bid to Block Kirk's Swearing in as Senator

    Not a surprise. As the court noted, "the Party does not cite any case law in support of its argument," which means that the lawyers from the Massachusetts GOP just phoned this one in.

    Complete Pwn463*

    The Wonk Room at Think Progress is all over this.

    Senator John Kyle
    : I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.

    Senator Debbie Stabenow: think your mom probably did.

    Video pwn463* below:


    SEC to Take on Ratings Agencies, Flash Trading

    It looks like the SEC will start cracking down on the ratings agencies, like Standard & Poors and Moody's.

    Basically, they are going to be issuing a ruling saying that they will be treated as "experts" which creates greater liability for their opinions:
    Currently, the rating agencies are not considered experts. They have argued that they are exempt from these rules because they are only providing an opinion and are protected by free speech laws.

    Meanwhile, others such as auditors that companies use and cite in their public filings are considered experts and can be sued by investors. Other experts include engineers that oil and gas companies rely on to determine the amount of resources in the ground.
    They are also going after the super high speed trading done by some brokerages who have placed their servers in the same room as the exchanges, allowing them to basically front run the entire market, at the expense of honest market participants.

    Of course, the idea that the ratings agencies aren't experts, and until now, never were experts, just buggers the mind.

    As it stands now, the exchanges grant access to buy and sell orders a few fractions of a second before they execute to the flash traders, which allows them to pick up a penny or two by buying before a big buy, or selling before a big bell.

    It requires the cooperation of the exchanges, and the SEC is moving to forbid any such cooperation:
    SEC commissioners unanimously voted today to seek public comment on a rule barring exchanges and trading platforms from giving clients access to information about stock orders a fraction of a second before the market. The proposal requires a second vote at a later public meeting to become binding.

    “Investors that have access only to information displayed as public quotes may be harmed if market participants are able to flash orders and avoid the need to make the orders publicly available,” [SEC] Chairman Mary Schapiro said.
    This never would have happened under the last guy in the White House.

    2000 Words on the Public Option

    Washington Post Reporters Don't Actually Read the Washington Post

    Paul Kane, writing for the Washington Post, notes that Democratic political committees are seeing a major drop in fund raising, but he assigns blame to, "Complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business."

    It ain't complacency, it's anger and demoralization, because the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular, have folded any time the small by historical standards Republican minority has gotten their nose out of joint.

    I saw that in the paper today on the front page, and by paper, I mean paper, I have the ink and newsprint sitting by my keyboard.

    You know what else I saw in the paper, just today?
    Let me make this clear, this is just what is in today's Washington Post.

    When you add in:
    • Obama's support of the status quo on gays in the military, the Defense of Marriage Act.
    • Support of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers and His Evil Minions on the idea that there should be no meaningful accountability for banks or their executives.
    • His phony reforms on the state secrets privilege.
    Is it any wonder that people are disinclined to donate money to a Democratic Party fund raising apparatus that he is firmly in control of?

    You know, if Barack Obama showed a little bit of guts, members of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party might be inclined to have his back.

    But when you are in Baucus and Conrad's corner, you ain't in ours.