28 February 2010

Russian S-400 Triumf SAM Enters Service

Click for full size
It's about 3 years behind schedule, which when compared to the Patriot Missile, which was entered design in 1969, but did not enter service until 1984, but the S-400 Triumf (NATO designation SA-21 Growler) has officially entered Russian army service.

It is arguably the most capable SAM in service, with a 400 km range, and a significant ATBM capability, as well as an active radar seeker, which was not present in the S-300 (SA-20 Gargoyle).

It claims to have a significant anti-stealth capability, and based on some numbers I ran a few years back, it would appear that the system could detect an F-22 at a range of at least 15 miles, perhaps more, if some of the advances in signal processing and computers work as advertised.

H/t ELP Defens(c)e Blog.

JSF Update

Well, US deputy secretary of defense William Lynn has publicly stated that there will be a 13 month delay in the completion of initial operational test and evaluation (IOTE).

Note that this is a 12 month slip from schedule announced in 2008, not from the 2005 schedule, which the 2008 schedule was a slip. It's not 2 full years behind the 2005 schedule, so IOTE is supposed to be completed in 2015, as opposed to 2013.

Note also, that independent evaluations are showing even more slippage, not surprising given that they are cannibalizing airframes on the assembly lines to keep the test aircraft flying.

Additionally, it's over budget, and will likely suffer a Nunn-McCurdy breach, meaning that the price has escalated to more than 150% of the contract, and it will have to be recertified.

On the brighter side, the F-35B has performed its first first short landing:

27 February 2010

Why Do Need to Rely on the F%$#ing Daily Show for Real News?

Jon Stewart tells us by how the banks are going to f%$# us on credit cards. (10:33)

How Bank of America is f%$#ing us all, but it applies to all the banks.

H/t Calculated Risk.

Iceland May Have Found Its Economic Salvation

With banking having left the nation dunned by creditors demanding something more than $20,000 from every man woman and child in the tiny island nation, Iceland may have found a replacement, and this one may actually produce something of real value.

Specifically, they are looking at "passing the strongest combination of source protection, freedom of speech, and libel-tourism prevention laws in the world": (see also here and here)
On Tuesday, [Feb 16] the Icelandic parliament is expected to introduce a measure aimed at making the country an international center for investigative journalism publishing, by passing the strongest combination of source protection, freedom of speech, and libel-tourism prevention laws in the world.

Supporters of the proposal say the move would make Iceland an “offshore publishing center” for free speech, analogous to the offshore financial havens that allow corporations to hide capital from authorities. Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?

“This is a legislative package to create a haven for freedom of expression,” Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir confirmed to me, saying that a proposal for comprehensive media law reform will be filed in parliament on Tuesday, and that whistle-blowing specialists Wikileaks has been involved in drafting it. There have been persistent hints of an Icelandic media move in recent weeks, including tweets from Wikileaks and a cryptic message from the newly created @icelandmedia Twitter account.
It might not be a big market, but with a population of 320,000, it does not need to be, and we all win.

I think that the libel tourism laws might be the most significant, if it can be structured in a way that has meaning; Too many times, the UK's draconian libel laws are used as a cudgel against free speech.

It's one of the questions I've always wondered about regarding the internet: Why haven't countries used this to their advantage, rather than just knuckling to the US acting as laptog to the RIAA, MPAA, and other acronyms.

H/t Murray Waas.

I Can Still Tell the Difference Between Dick Cheney and Alan Grayson*

It's Purim, and I am not yet drunk enough to satisfy the Rabbis, so it's time for some more alcohol, or as I like to call it, "Bourbon Renewal."

*According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordecai,' though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. A person certainly should not become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill. In addition, recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation.

Vermont Senate Rejects License Extension for Nuke Plant

Maybe it was the fact that Vermont Yankee has been leaking radioactive tritium into the ground water for some time:
The Vermont Senate blocked efforts by Entergy Corp. to win a 20-year license renewal for its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, an action that could encourage opponents of nuclear energy in other states.

The Senate vote, which was 26 to four, marks the first time a license renewal has been thwarted, and it sets the stage for the plant's closure by 2012, when the license expires.

The vote was striking because the state relies on the plant for a third of its electricity. In the past, license renewals have been routine, allowing energy companies to squeeze more life out of aging plants. To date, the NRC has renewed 59 reactor licenses, and 19 are pending.

The vote, which reflected fears about safety after leaks of radioactive tritium were discovered at the plant last year, is a blow to Entergy, which had planned to spin off six reactors, including Vermont Yankee, into the nation's first stand-alone nuclear power company, to be called Enexus Energy Corp.
Notwithstanding the ability of the nuclear power industry to lobby for subsidies and tax breaks, the problem is that people who have nuclear power know that the plants never finish on schedule, never finish on budget, and are expensive sources of power even with the subsidies.

This plant is 38 years old, and its cooling tower collapsed in 2004, so maybe this is a good time to shut it down.

This is a Case to Watch

Sergey Aleynikov, a senior programmer for Goldman Sach's high frequency trading software, has been indicted for software theft.

It's alleged that he took the software, and sent copies of it to a server in Germany.

This case is odd.

First, the entire high frequency trading thing smells of corruption: The idea is that by having servers colocated in the market, you pick up a few milliseconds speed, and so can execute trades between when someone else requests a buy, and when their transaction is actually executed.

To my, admittedly untrained, gut this sounds identical to front-running, which is illegal.

Additionally, the twists and turns of the trial, where Aleynikov's lawyers made some fairly routing requests for things like his personnel file to show that he was not a disgruntled employee, had the squid's* lawyers seriously freaking out, and suggesting that charges should be dropped.

I think that there are some very real bits of corruption that might be uncovered in the trial, though the prosecution, defense, and judge might very well find a way to suppress that, because, after all, it's Goldman Sachs, and rule number 1 of Goldman Sachs is that Goldman Sachs has friends in high places, so it always gets what it wants.

My prior posts are here.

*Alas, I cannot claim credit for the bon mot describing Goldman Sachs as a, "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." This was coined by the great Matt Taibbi, in his article on the massive criminal conspiracy investment firm, The Great American Bubble Machine.

Assault Breacher Video Pr0n

You know the drill: driving guitar riffs, bulldozing things, and sh%$ blowing up by launching long ropes of detcord. (6:45)

My earlier post on the Marine Corps engineering vehicle is here.

H/t Defense Talk.

Oshkosh Truck Bid Survives Contract Protests

BAE Systems and Navistar International have had their protests on the FMTV contract award to Oshkosh overturned by the Army:
Oshkosh Corp. fended off a challenge from two competitors, keeping a U.S. Army contract to build armored trucks valued at as much as $3 billion. Oshkosh shares jumped in late trading.

Today’s decision by the Army lifts a stop-work order placed last year after losing bidders BAE Systems Plc and Navistar International Corp. protested to the Government Accountability Office, the Army said in a statement. The companies said the Army didn’t fully weigh the risk in Oshkosh’s proposal for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, or FMTVs.

The GAO in December determined that the Army didn’t consider that Oshkosh lacked key equipment, allowing the company to receive the same high production-capability rating as BAE, which had made the trucks since 1991. The agency asked the Army to reevaluate the bids.
I'm not surprised, it was a lower bid, and the truck itself is designed to be assembled out of component parts with little, if any machining, welding, etc. being done at the plant.

At least that was the scheme when I worked there.* They did not intend to have a machine shop or an electrical shop, because they expected everything to come in to specification from the vendors.

If this is a fixed price contract, the only risk here is that of Oshkosh.

*Full disclosure I worked at Stewart & Stevenson, Tactical Vehicle Systems, in Sealy, TX on the FMTV in 1992 and 1993.
Yes, I have worked everywhere. Maybe I can't hold down a job, but more likely this has been my role as "technical hit man", where you are parachuted in to take care of a specific need.

More Russian Aviation Video Pr0n

We have a video, (6:39) unfortunately in Russian, about the new PAK-FA fighter.

Thankfully, there are a sort of subtitles.

The bullet points:
  • Only 40% composites, but the Russians are very good with Titanium
  • Large AESA array, and size does matter
  • There are "5 radar antennae, 3 X-band (7.0 to 11.2 gigahertz (GHz) in the nose, and 2 L-Band (1 to 2 GHz) in the wings, which implies some ability to detect and intercept narrow band low observable targets?
  • They claim that it is, "Designed to have superior aerodynamics and sensors to counter the F-22," and my guess is that the former is true, but not the latter.
  • The will supercruise with currently installed engines, and more advanced engines are under development for the production model.
  • The aircraft will be jointly produced with India.

Tanker RFP Released

The Presolicitation Notice for the KC-X Tanker Modernization Program is online.

I think that one of the crucial changes in this process has been the death of John Murtha, which makes his likely successor on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee is Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Boeing WA) so the EADS/Northrup-Grumman team is in a much weaker position.

Murtha appeared fairly agnostic on the tanker choice, he just wanted it done now, but Dicks is clearly going to make things difficult for anything that does not go Boeing's way.

Northrop Grumman has been threatening to no bid the RFP, but the basic form of the RFP remains much the same as earlier drafts, in that there is little in the way of consideration for additional capacity, which would be the A330's strong suit, as it is a larger and more capable aircraft than the 767. (also here)

Gates is still "Very Hopeful" about getting two bids, but I'm not so sure.

I will note that it appears that the impetus for not bidding is coming from Northrop, not EADS, which still appears to be
Seems to come from NG, not EADS.

Most notably, the CEO of NG has explicitly said that their policy would be to pursue profits, and not markets or market share.

Still, this might not prevent a bid, if, as Stephen Trimble observes, EADS wants to go it along:
In the absence of a Northrop-led proposal, what would stop EADS North America from submitting its own bid for the KC-X deal?

I can think of reasons why they would. If price is such a factor in the competition, cutting out the US flag bearer and bringing systems integration in-house might save some money. EADS NA has demonstrated it can win an aircraft contract from the US military. The 100th UH-72 Lakota for the US Army rolls off the assembly line in Mississippi next week. The company believes its solid performance on LUH allows it to compete on fair terms with American-owned companies for other Pentagon contracts.

On the other hand, there's no question EADS' chances of victory are smaller without Northrop's help. Northrop has powerful friends on Capitol Hill and a long relationship with the customer. Moreover, as long as fuel offload requirements for the next tanker are modeled on the KC-135R, the KC-45 is going to be disadvantaged against a smaller aircraft like the Boeing 767. And let's be honest: The UH-72, despite its success, is not a widebody tanker; it's a civilian airspace-only light utility helicopter.
An EADS only bid is better for EADS, and for the taxpayer, but not for lobbyists or Congresscritter's campaign war chests, which is why they teamed with NG in the first place, because if you don't pay off legislators and lobbyists, you don't get the bid.

One of the more interesting pieces of information here is the schedule, which looks to a first flight in 2012, and service entry in 2017.

Honestly, I do not see Boeing meeting this schedule, given their generally poor record with 767 tankers for the Japan and Italy, which were significantly behind schedule.

PDF of RFP PowerPoint after the break.

Yak-130 Trainer to Enter Service

Click for full size
Note the auxiliary over-wing engine inlets
The Yak-130 "Mitten" has officially entered service with the Russian air force.

One would think that what it brings to the table, digital avionics, improved reliability, and lower operating cost, will improve readiness.

The obvious difference from the Alenia Aermacchi M-346, which sprung from the same failed joint venture, is the over-wing auxiliary air inlets, and the screens in the main inlets, much like the early MiG-29 and Su-27, in order to operate from rough strips where the possibility of FOD to the engines is non-trivial.

I Say "Meh"

Click for full size

Pretty pictures, though

In a final gasp on a dead program which has consumed billions of dollars and incurred billions of dollars in cost overruns, Boeing's Airborne Laser (ABL) finally shot down a missile in the ascent phase:
The target was a liquid-fueled short-range ballistic missile. It was tracked within seconds and shot down within 2 min. during a Feb. 11 test off the coast of California. Photos below show infrared of that event.
There were other targets, "solid-fuel Terrier Black Brant sounding rockets," which were lased, but not destroyed.

My guess would be that the other targets were not destroyed because they couldn't be destroyed, a solid fuel rocket motor casing is much harder to burn through than a pressurized liquid fuel tank, because the casing has resistance to heat, and resistance to burn through as basic functions.

This is completely irrelevant, because the chemical laser technology, the a chemical oxygen iodine laser (Coil) is not really deployable. It involves expensive, toxic, and environmentally unfriendly fuel.

Additionally, the range of the system appears to be inadequate: (paid subscription required)
Last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates squelched hopes of producing a design that incorporates lessons learned from the flying prototype. Criticizing the range of the system, Gates told lawmakers that “ABL would have to orbit inside the borders of Iran in order to be able to try to use its laser to shoot down a missile in the boost phase. . . . If you were to operationalize this, you would be looking at 10-20 747s, at a billion and a half dollars apiece, and $100 million a year to operate.”
This implies to me that the range is something under 300, based on nothing more than games I played with Google™ Maps™.

Additionally, there were failures in subsequent tests:
Analysts are still investigating the cause of a “beam misalignment” during a third engagement, which was executed within 1 hr. of the liquid-fueled target shootdown and without landing or replenishing the chemicals on board ABL. O’Reilly says the misalignment prompted a safe shutdown of the system earlier than planned. Although the destruction of this target—a second Terrier Black Brant—did not take place, test objectives were met, he says. They were “to negate a threat-representative short-range ballistic missile in the boost phase followed by the high-energy engagement of a second target to demonstrate the capability to engage multiple missiles on a single mission.”
Also note that this is not the first intercept of a missile by an airborne laser, that happened in 1984, so the idea that this is a technical breakthrough that can be build on is delusional.

Additionally, a relatively simple countermeasure, an ablative coating much like the one that was used on the X-15 A2 tends to mitigate a lot of the potential for damage, as does going with more robust solid rocket technology.

The real reason that this is irrelevant though is because technology has largely passed it by, with the Army testiong Northrop solid state laser in the 100 kW class, it becomes cheaper to go with electrically powered lasers, because if we are seeing 100 kW today, it's likely that we will be seeing the 1 mW of the ABL in 5 years.

The chief of staff of the Air Force, when he isn't being a bigoted anti-gay idiot, also notes that this is simply not a technology that can be reasonably deployed (scroll down, the bigoted hand wringing over DADT is in the first few paragraphs):
Rep. Michael Turner, ranking member of the HASC strategic forces subcommittee, raised the recent success of the Airborne Laser in shooting a target. He asked if that would lead the Air Force to increase its commitment to directed energy weapons. Schwartz poured a fair amount of cold water on the Boeing program, calling the ABL test “a magnificent technical achievement” but “this does not represent something that is operationally viable.” The future “coin of the realm” is solid state lasers, Schwartz said, not the chemical laser that Boeing built.
H/t my brother, Daniel "Crescent Lands" Saroff for sending me the link to the first article.

26 February 2010

Edward Harrison Asks a Valid Question

Why is it that when RBS pays billions in bonuses, while Commerzbank pays no bonuses, after both firms posted losses in 2009?

Go read, and then go break out pitch forks and torches.

2 Feet of Snow in New York

Click for full size
File under "Only in New York."

Christopher Dodd Continues to Sell Out

So Senator Dodd, to be former Senator Dodd in January, continues to audition for his next job as a bank lobbyist:
Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is expected to introduce new financial reform legislation next week that excludes applying a fiduciary standard to brokers offering investment advice.

The provision was circulated two weeks ago by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., a Banking Committee member. Rather than classifying certain brokers as registered investment advisers, Mr. Johnson's proposal would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct a study of regulatory standards for brokers and advisers, then propose rules on the issue.
"Fiduciary standard" means that they are required to act in the best interest of their clients, as opposed to the current standard, which is basically that you have to use lube when you anally rape your clients.

The moral of this story: Republicans are mean; Democrats are patsies.

Taylor Marsh's take on the latest filibuster kerfluffle, where Jim Bunning told Democrats, "Tough sh%$," when they confronted him about blocking the emergency unemployment extension:
In a colloquy with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, was pleading for Bunning to drop his objection, when the Kentucky Republican got fed up.

“Tough s—t,” Bunning said as he was seated in the back row, overheard by the floor staff and others in attendance.
Like I said before, prima donnas and drama queens, and the prima donnas and drama queens always win in the Senate.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

[edited to reflect a late failure]

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Carson River Community Bank, Carson City, NV
  2. Rainier Pacific Bank, Tacoma, WA
Full FDIC list

So, the trend line is down this week, to just under over 150.


Nancy Pelosi is saying that notwithstanding the healthcare summit, the house will not move until the Senate passes a reconciliation fix:
However, the House can't act, she noted, until "we see what the Senate will be able to do."

Now, Pelosi stopped short of saying--as she's said in the past--that these changes must be made before the House passes the Senate bill. And, in a surprising statement to reporters today, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said it would "help a lot" if the Senate simply wrote a letter--signed by a majority of members--pledging to make the fixes.
I think that her statement is a strong rebuke to the Senate, as well it should be, it is a body that rewards prima donnas and drama queens.

Still, she is moderating her language a bit, which does make me worry.

Economics Update

Click for full size
H/t Calculated Risk

That bump is the tax credit h/t Calculated Risk
The big news is the upward revision of US GDP in the 4th quarter, though it should be noted that this delta is all inventory shrinking less quickly than expected, everything else was revised down.

Go to Calculated Risk to see a handy table illustrating this.

Meanwhile real estate is grim, with Freddy Mac reporting that delinquencies in single housings rising 16 basis points to 4.03 in January, and existing home sales falling sharply.

As I have said before, we are seeing the effects of the home buyer tax credit, not any real market recovery.

Meanwhile, in the old standards of energy and currency, people are feeling more sanguine about Greece, which means that they are looking for more return, and less safety, which pushed the dollar lower, and the lower dollar drove crude oil higher.

Columgian High Court Denies 3rd Term Bid By Uribe

This is a good thing for democracy in Columbia.

12 years is too long.

Interestingly enough, they stopped a plebiscite on this not for broad constitutional reasons, but on narrow procedural ones, "on the grounds that a referendum approved by congress ignored checks and balances and because supporters exceeded financing limits during a petition drive".

The campaign finance violations are no surprise; he is a darling of the moneyed class in Columbia.

Sally Quinn Demoted to Dirty F%$#ing Blogger

She's had a regular column, "The Party," which was basically about throwing parties, in the print edition of the WaPo, but it's going online only, or, as Gawker so evocatively states it, "Sally Quinn Relegated to WaPo Ghetto."

Basically, she devoted an entire article to the horror that is a scheduling conflict between two weddings, and it crossed line between accommodating whatever affection that Posties might have her husband, Ex Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradley, and projectile vomit risking revulsion, so she's gone, hopefully for good. (No link to Sally, you can get the link at the first link, look for, "enormous turd," but I don't link to Sally Quinn)

In any case, one wag had fun with it in an online chat with a Wapo columnist:
Burke, Va.: I'm so confused!

Our ex-boss' wife (HIS third wife) still writes for the company newsletter. Last week, she wrote a column about how her son's wedding is on the same day as her husband's granddaughter's wedding, on opposite coasts, and nobody can figure out why we're supposed to care. I guess everybody likes the old man so much that everybody's afraid to tell his wife that her column is absurd and makes the company newsletter look stupid.

Any suggestions?

Lily Garcia: It sounds like the column, although inappropriate, is basically harmless. You could try suggesting topics that you would like to see covered in the newsletter, but you should stop short of proposing that the ex-boss' wife be excluded.
In any case, this means that the level of discourse in Washington, DC has improved by a small amount.

Fried in Greece

So, now it's time to look at the mess that is Greece.

Greece has been a mess for a very long time, and of the Nato members who joined the Euro, it's probably the one that should not have joined.

John Mauldin notes, correctly, that the core of the problem is that the terms of joining the Euro block were excessively generous for the less well off nations, basically Germany and France successfully created a mechanism which over valued their national currencies.

This served to both minimize their labor cost advantages with regard to Northern Europe and to provide a market for northern European products:
First, we need to go back to the creation of the euro. Most of the Mediterranean countries that are now in trouble were allowed into the union with an exchange rate that overvalued their currencies relative to the northern countries, but especially to Germany. That meant that Greek consumers could buy products and services that previously may have been out of their reach. Plus, with government debt at low rates, the Greek government could borrow more to finance deficit spending, without the threat of higher interest rates. And Greece began to increase its debt with abandon.
Of course, there was the problem that the debt, and deficits, were exceeding the Euro Zone mandates, but with the use of some clever financial instruments it traded with about 15 banks, most notably that great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity,* Goldman Sachs, it concealed this debt from regulators:
The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.

It had worked before. In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means.

Athens did not pursue the latest Goldman proposal, but with Greece groaning under the weight of its debts and with its richer neighbors vowing to come to its aid, the deals over the last decade are raising questions about Wall Street’s role in the world’s latest financial drama.
Note also that this was a mess that the Panhellenic Socialist Movement inherited from the right wing New Democracy party:
George Alogoskoufis, who became Greece’s finance minister in a political party shift after the Goldman deal, criticized the transaction in the Parliament in 2005. The deal, Mr. Alogoskoufis argued, would saddle the government with big payments to Goldman until 2019.

Mr. Alogoskoufis, who stepped down a year ago, said in an e-mail message last week that Goldman later agreed to reconfigure the deal “to restore its good will with the republic.” He said the new design was better for Greece than the old one.
It sounds a lot like the mess that Bush and His Evil Minions left for us.

One of the problems in dealing with this is that the Germans, remembering the hyper-inflation of Wiemar Germany as if it were yesterday, are suggesting that austerity measures are the way to go, and there are rumblings from them that they want Greece expelled from the Euro and losing voting rights in the EU Parliament.

In response, Greece is accusing Germany of not providing compensation for the stuff that they stole from Greece in WWII:
Athens has accused Germany of failing to meet its World War II compensation obligations following the Nazi occupation of Greece in 1941, a claim Berlin has firmly rejected.

In a radio interview on Wednesday (24 February), Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos criticised Germany's attitude towards the ongoing Greek debt crisis, adding that Athens had never received adequate war reparations.

"They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. This is an issue that has to be faced sometime in the future," Mr Pangalos told the BBC World Service.
<sarcasm>It's so nice when you have mature people solving problems.</sarcasm>

One of the problems here is that the prescription by the central bankers is more austerity for Greece, but the reality is that Greece has among the most austere social safety net, and spending in the Euro zone.

The real problem is that because of endemic tax evasion and systemic corruption throughout the bureaucracy, their tax collections are truly pathetic.

One bright side to all this is that a number of people are starting to realize that Goldman Sachs is not simply a banker, but that all roads on most of this corruption lead to the Squid*, most notably those in the European Commission, who are, if Simon Johnson is correct, going to execute a detailed audit of Goldman's dealings in Europe.

It doesn't help that Goldman Sachs engaged in similar maneuvers with other European governments:
Greece's 2001 deal to swap some of its debt using currency derivatives was in line with what other euro-zone countries were doing, Yiannos Papantoniou, the country's finance and economy minister when the deal was made, told CNBC.com Wednesday.


"We took a loan that was to be repaid in 2019," he said in a telephone interview. "It was public. I know that what we've done then was consistent with what was done by many euro zone countries."


Italy, France and Spain were among the euro zone members doing such swaps at the time, he added. Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, has asked Greece for explanations on these debt swaps by Feb. 19.
What's more it appears that these transactions may have been a part of a fraud perpetrated by the banks on these governments, which is why law enforcement officials in Milan have frozen accounts of a number of banks, "UBS AG, Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Depfa Bank Plc," as a part of an investigation.

BTW, while we are at it, it should be noted that Bank of Italy Governor, and dark horse candidate for ECB president, Mario Draghi used to work with the Vampire Squid.*

As it stands right now though, it appears that Greece should be able to do its required borrowing for the next 2-3 weeks.

*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.

New York Governor David Paterson Will Not Stand for Reelection

One of his top aides, David Johnson, has had repeated accusations of physical violence women acquaintances.

Most recently, a woman was seeking a protective order against him, and state police who were members of the governor's personal security detail pressured her to drop the proceedings, and the day before the hearing, Governor Paterson talked with her on the phone to convince her to drop the matter:
In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.

Then, just before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.


Through a spokesman, Mr. Paterson said the call actually took place the day before the scheduled court hearing and maintained that the woman had initiated it. He declined to answer further questions about his role in the matter.
That last paragraph sounds suspicious: How does someone get the phone number of the Governor?

Also note that the State Police have no jurisdiction, and ordinarily do not do this.

So the fat lady has sung, and he is not running for reelection.

Truth be told, the fat lady sung over a year ago, when he was polling behind Dick Cheney, but reality has finally smacked him in the face.

This is a good thing, since the next governor will be hip deep in redistricting, and perhaps New York can make things more fair, particularly in the State Senate, which has been Gerrymandered in favor of Republicans for generations.

25 February 2010

Do Not Ski Utah

For that matter, don't buy anything from an operation in the state.

The state lege has just passed a bill which provides criminal penalties for miscarriages:
A bill passed by the Utah House and Senate this week and waiting for the governor's signature, will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and make induced abortion a crime in some instances.


The bill passed by legislators amends Utah's criminal statute to allow the state to charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion. The basis for the law was a recent case in which a 17-year-old girl, who was seven months pregnant, paid a man $150 to beat her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Although the girl gave birth to a baby later given up for adoption, she was initially charged with attempted murder. However the charges were dropped because, at the time, under Utah state law a woman could not be prosecuted for attempting to arrange an abortion, lawful or unlawful.

The bill passed by the Utah legislature would change that. While the bill does not affect legally obtained abortions, it criminalizes any actions taken by women to induce a miscarriage or abortion outside of a doctor's care, with penalties including up to life in prison.

"What is really radical and different about this statute is that all of the other states' feticide laws are directed to third party attackers," Paltrow explained. "[Other states' feticide laws] were passed in response to a pregnant woman who has been beaten up by a husband or boyfriend. Utah's law is directed to the woman herself and that's what makes it different and dangerous."

In addition to criminalizing an intentional attempt to induce a miscarriage or abortion, the bill also creates a standard that could make women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by "reckless" behavior.

Using the legal standard of "reckless behavior" all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn't intend to lose the pregnancy. Drink too much alcohol and have a miscarriage? Under the new law such actions could be cause for prosecution.
If the politicians of Utah hate women this much, maybe they should stop breeding.

Better yet, maybe their partners should stop having sex with them, see Lysistrata.

This is Why You Clear the Bush Toadies Out of the Military

Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld put their toadies in power, and Barack Obama has decided that it's A-OK with him to keep them in place.

A natural result of this is that General Ray Odierno has officially and publicly requested an increase in the number of combat forces in Iraq after the withdrawal deadline:
In a move that could force President Obama to break his vow to get all combat troops out of Iraq by August of this year, his top commander in Iraq recently officially requested keeping a combat brigade in the northern part of the country beyond that deadline, three people close to the situation said Wednesday.

Gen. Raymond Odierno asked for a brigade to try to keep the peace in the disputed city of Kirkuk, but only got a polite nod from the president when the issue was raised during his recent meetings in Washington, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions. If the brigade in northern Iraq is indeed kept in Iraq past the deadline, there will be a fan dance under which it no longer will be called a combat unit, but like the six other combat brigades being kept past the deadline, will be called an advisory unit. I can imagine the press releases that will follow-"Three U.S. Army soldiers were killed last night in an advisory operation . . . ."
Enough is enough. It's time to take an action which is reported in the press as "effectively ending his career."

New Orleans Police Supervisor Cops* Plea on Danziger Bridge Shooting

I am stunned, because when cops shoot poor people, they generally get away with it, but with Retired New Orleans police Lt. Michael Lohman pleading guilty to obstruction of justice, it looks like these cops will not get away with murder:
Retired New Orleans police Lt. Michael Lohman has pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Danziger Bridge shootings, which left two people dead and four others injured after police fired on a group of civilians trapped in the submerged city days after Hurricane Katrina.

Two men -- Ronald Madison, 40, who was mentally challenged, and James Brissette, 19 -- were killed. The survivors included a husband and wife, their two teenage children and a nephew.

Lohman, who helped orchestrate an elaborate cover-up of the crime, supervised the investigation and was at the scene on Sept. 4, 2005, according to an 11-page bill of information unsealed today.

According to the document, Lohman was aware that a subordinate planted a gun at the scene. He also wrote a 17-page police report full of lies about the incident and encouraged officers at the scene to remove shell casings.
I am stunned, and pleased, that the "thin blue line" has been broken, and the truth appears to be coming out any day now.

*Pun not intended.

Securitization for Dummies

Just go read WallStreetJackass.

Do it now, it makes everything clear ……… And makes me feel the need for arrests.

Charles Rangel ‘Admonished’ by House Ethics Committee

I think that the facts are beginning to catch up with him, which is a pity, because he's right on the issues:
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, has been admonished by the chamber’s ethics panel for trips he made to the Caribbean.

The committee determined he violated House gift rules when he accepted the trips to conferences in 2007 and 2008 sponsored by the Carib News Foundation. The foundation received contributions from corporations specifically to fund the conferences, the panel said in a statement.

The committee said yesterday that while it didn’t find evidence Rangel was aware of the funding, members of his staff did and “Representative Rangel was responsible for the knowledge and actions of his staff in the performance of their official duties.”
We are going to be seeing more of this, and I do not expect Rangel to run for reelection in 2012, because by that point, the pile of sleaze will be too high.

I expect a new eruption every few months for the next 2 years or so.

Economics Update

Click for full size
H/t the Big Picture
It's jobless Thursday, and the new numbers suck wet farts from dead pigeons, specifically, they are up 12% over the past 2 weeks,to 496,000, up 22,000, and well over the consensus estimate 460,000.


Meanwhile, both the The 4-week moving average and the continuing claims rose by 6K, to 473,750 and 4.617 million.

Note however, that he Snowpocalypse may have had something to do with this.

Note also that that the durable goods orders number sucked too, it was up only because of aircraft orders, and as the picture on the right shows, there really is no increase at all once you take out spending on military items going back a very long time.

Meanwhile, in Japan, their consumer prices fell by 1.3% year over year, which is triggering a shouting match between the Finance Ministry, who want QE, and the Bank of Japan, who are still inflation hawks.

Meanwhile in currency, the dollar rose, largely on concerns about Greece and Euro Zone.

And yes, I know, I need to post something about the Greek problem, but it's sprawling, and I'm still trying to make a synthesis.

In energy, the crappy jobs numbers drove oil down.

About the Killer Whale Death

That's a seal in its mouth
It is clearly a tragedy that a SeaWorld trainer was killed by an Orca.

This is a reminder that when you see someone working with a large predator, whether it is Sigfried and Roy and their tigers, or if it's SeaWorld's killer whales, these are still wild animals, and there is danger whenever you interact with a large predator.

The whale, Tilikum, after all, weighs over 6 tons.

One report (at link) has the whale grabbing the trainer, Dawn Brancheau, by pony tail, and the initial coroner's report lists drowning as the primary cause of death.

That being said, all cetaceans are highly intelligent, social creatures, and it is possible that the death was as a result of a purely social interaction that it did not realize was harmful.

He could simply have been playing the game with a…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…


I am a very bad person.

Stupor Troopers

Well, I guess this makes Paul Blart: Mall Cop, look cool, but 2 Collier County sheriff's deputies doing their patrols on Segways collided, with one deputy breaking his ankle as a result.

I kind of wonder about any law enforcement entity that relies on the Segway to patrol though.

Much like Jim Romenesko, I really hope that a security camera caught the action.

Conan O'Brien is Very Funny

See his entry into the Twitterverse:
Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me.

What a Bitch

I am reverring to Kent Conrad (DINO-ND) who is saying that he'll kill any attempt to use reconciliation to pass a fix to Senate's awful healthcare reform bill unless the House passes that bill first:
The Senate Democrats' top budget guy told reporters today that the Senate can't pass a reconciliation package tweaking a comprehensive health care bill unless the House passes the Senate bill first. And if the House won't do that, he says health care reform is "dead."

"The only way this works is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then, depending on what the package is, the reconciliation provision that moves first through the House and then comes here," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) outside the upper chamber this morning. "That's the only way that works."
I guess that someone hurt his feelings.

Here is a message to almost everyone in the White House and Congress:
Get the F%$# Over Yourself!!!

Unbelievably F%$#ing Stupid

Click for full size

I don't intend to ban Italian IP numbers
… … … Yet
An Italian court has convicted 3 Google executives on criminal privacy violations because someone posted a nasty video to Google Video:
A judge in Milan, Italy, on Wednesday convicted three Google executives -- chief legal officer David Drummond, global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer and former CFO George Reyes -- of violating Italy's privacy laws, a decision that Google is characterizing as an attack on Internet freedom.

The charges stem from a video that was uploaded to YouTube in Italy, back in September 2006, that depicts four high school boys in a classroom in Turin, Italy, taunting another boy with a mental disability.

Google received two requests to remove the video in early November, one from a user and one from the Italian Interior Ministry, and did so within 24 hours.

Nonetheless, Francesco Cajani, a prosecutor in Milan, filed suit against four Google employees for violating Italian privacy laws. All four were found not guilty of criminal defamation. The fourth, Arvind Desikan, formerly the head of Google Video in London, was acquitted of the privacy violation charges, unlike Drummond, Fleischer, and Reyes.
If I was running a service with user generated content, I would start denying access to Italian IPs.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this might have been driven in some manner or another by Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, who has control of something like 80% of the broadcast media in Italy, and might be unhappy with the competition for ad revenue and news.

Another Day, Another Obama Administration Capitulation

Yep, this time it's the CFPA:
The Obama administration is no longer insisting on the creation of a stand-alone consumer protection agency as a central element of the plan to remake regulation of the financial system.

In hopes of quick congressional approval of a reform bill, White House officials are opening the door to compromise with lawmakers concerned about creating a new bureaucracy, according to congressional and some administration sources.

President Obama's economic team is now open to housing the consumer regulator inside another agency, such as the Treasury Department, though they still prefer a stand-alone agency. In either case, they are insisting on a regulator with political autonomy and real teeth so it can effectively enforce rules designed to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.
(emphasis mine)

Let's be clear on this: No one has any concern about a new bureaucracy. The banks want impunity to screw consumers, and members of Congress who want campaign donations from Wall Street, and White House officials completely captured by the finance industry, **cough** Geithner and Summers **cough**, are more than willing to do this.

If the CFPA is not independent, which means that they have the ability to craft their own budget, they will be subject to the tender mercies of someone like Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner or Hank "Why the f%$# isn't he in Jail" Paulson, and so will be largely ineffective.

A Canadian's Deep Thoughts on Losing to Team USA in Hockey

Click for full size
The protest sign is properly spelled, so Canadian education does not produce "morans".
OK, the Canucks win in the bigger scheme of things.

It would be nice not living in a country with the politics and attitudes of a 3rd world nation.

But we have … We have … We have … We have … We won that damn hockey game.

Haiti Will Shortly Free Last Two American Kidnappers Missionaries

This is not an exoneration. It's an acknowledgment that the courts in Haiti are a shambles, and that they are getting a lot of pressure from the US.

It's clear from the back story that something very wrong was going on:
A judge in Haiti has said the last two Christian US missionaries being held on suspicion of abducting children after the earthquake may be freed in days.

Bernard Sainvil told Reuters the case, which involves 33 children, should be closed this week because there were no criminal grounds to pursue it.

A lawyer for the two said he thought they would be freed by Thursday.

Eight fellow missionaries were released last week but their leader and her assistant were kept in custody.
The other 8 are claiming that they had been scammed by Silsby and Coulter, and I am inclined to believe that something more than inattention to the finer points of Haitian immigration law is involved.

Snowpocalypse Delayed

We got the lightest of dustings last night, which is good, because I had an interview this morning, for a level tech writer position, which ain't engineering but it beats sitting on my butt collecting unemployment.

In any case, the NWS is predicting snow tonight, 2-4 inches in total:
Winter Weather Advisory

1214 PM EST THU FEB 25 2010

1214 PM EST THU FEB 25 2010










24 February 2010

SEC Adds Restrictions to Short Sales

It's pretty weak tea compared to the uptick rule, but it's better than nothing:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission curbed some bearish stock bets, ending a yearlong debate between individual investors and Wall Street with a solution that fails to satisfy anyone.

SEC commissioners voted 3-2 today to restrict short sales of a company’s stock once it falls 10 percent from the previous day’s closing price. When the 10 percent threshold is triggered, traders could only execute short sales for the stock at a price above the market’s best bid. The curb would be in place through the following day.

General Electric Co., Charles Schwab Corp. and more than 5,600 people who signed a petition sent to the SEC wanted a short-selling restriction that was always in effect, similar to the so-called uptick rule the agency abolished in 2007. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and hedge funds Citadel Investment Group LLC and D.E. Shaw & Co. lobbied against a limit.
You only need to know who was for it, and who was against it, and go against the Vampire Squid.

Short selling has a role, but there needs to be a balance between what ever "price discovery" function it has, and the ability that it gives for people to create wild swings in prices for speculation.

How NOT To Use Powerpoint

This is brilliant.

H/t The Big Picture.

More Bad News For the Gold Bugs

China is sending signals that they will not be buying gold that the IMF is selling:
Contrary to much speculation China may not buy the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) remaining 191.3 tons of gold which is up for sale as it does not want to upset the market, a top industry official told China Daily yesterday.

"It is not feasible for China to buy the IMF bullion, as any purchase or even intent to do so would trigger market speculation and volatility," said the official from the China Gold Association, on condition of anonymity.
I still think that gold is not a place to be, because everyone is talking about how it is the place to be, which reminds me of dotcoms in 1999 and housing in 2006.

Update on GM's Soon to Be Former Brands

It looks like GM’s sale of Saab to the Dutch sports car manufacturer will close in the next week or so, and the Hummer sale to as Sichuan Tengzhong has fallen through.

This is good, Saab has always been an innovative, safe, and slightly oddball auto make, and Hummer, has been, well Hummer.

The Chinese government has a small car policy, and they shot down Hummer.

Economics Update

Well, Ben Bernanke went before Congress, and said that there needs to be an extended period of low rates to ensure that the recovery.

Of course, in terms of real estate, the question is whether or not the Fed continues its policies to keep mortgage rates low, and considering the fact that new home sales fell to the lowest level on record in January, and mortgage applications fell this week, with the purchase index hitting its lowest level since 1997, housing is still on life support.

For that matter, so is commercial real estate, with the architecture billings index falling in January.

In any case, Bernanke's talk about continued low rates drove the dollar down, which in turn drove oil up.

Anthopny Weiner Calls Republicans "A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Insurance Industry."

Some Republican objects. He no likeee to be called a whore....

More of this from Congress, please.

House Passes Bill To Repeal Antitrust Exemption For Health Insurance Companies

The vote was 406 to 19, because even the Republicans know just how toxic it would be to allow insurance companies to keep their antitrust exemption.

Now, it goes to the Senate, where it will, of course, die ignominiously.

This is Not Your Father's CSPAN


From the folks at Second City.

Mass Arrest of Senior Turkish Military Figures Over Coup Plot

The military coup as an instrument of politics has been a fixture in Turkey, with coups in 1960, 1971, and 1980, as well as a de facto coup in 1997.

In any case, about 40 people were arrested:
Police in Turkey today detained more than 40 high-ranking military commanders for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government.

The arrests highlighted the ongoing struggle between the secular establishment and the government and leaves question marks over the traditional role of the military as the pillar of the secular state.

The detention of several senior military officers – including members of the elite class known as Pashas, a title of respect harking back to Ottoman times – underlines that such officials are no longer untouchable.
What is interesting is that this appears to be driven by the judiciary, specifically the prosecutor's office, and not from Turkish PM Recep Erdogan, whose very public religiousity has been viewed with no small amount of distrust by the military, which sees itself as the defender of Attaturk's secular initiatives.

On the other hand, this:
In total prosecutors have charged more than 400 people, including soldiers, academics, journalists and politicians. No one has yet been convicted.
Is concerning.

I can see the military and politicians colluding on a coup, but the academics and journalists makes me wonder if this might not just be an attempt by Erdogan to secure his political power.

Make it Stop!!!! Please!!! Make it Stop!!!

More snow....Aieeeee!!!!

Statement as of 6:14 PM EST on February 24, 2010

... Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect from 10 PM this
evening to 11 am EST Thursday...
... Winter Storm Watch remains in effect from Thursday evening
through Friday morning...

A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect from 10 PM this
evening to 11 am EST Thursday. A Winter Storm Watch remains in
effect from Thursday evening through Friday morning.

* Precipitation type... snow.

* Accumulations... 1 to 3 inches through Thursday morning.
Potential for snow accumulations of 5 or more inches from
Thursday evening through Friday morning.

* Timing... a mix of rain and snow will develop during the mid-
evening hours. Precipitation will become all snow late this evening
and will continue through early Thursday morning. After a break
in snowfall Thursday afternoon... snow is expected to return
Thursday evening through Friday morning.

* Temperatures... will be above freezing until after midnight.
Lows near 30 overnight. Highs in the lower to mid 30s
Thursday. Lows in the mid to upper 20s Thursday night.

* Winds... northwest winds 10 to 15 mph tonight... increasing to
15 to 25 mph Thursday with gusts around 45 mph late Thursday
afternoon and Thursday night.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow that may impact travel. Continue to monitor the latest

A Winter Weather Advisory means that periods of snow will cause
travel difficulties. Be prepared for slippery roads and limited
visibilities... and use caution while driving.

Yes, This is About the "War on Terror" Eviscerating Our Civil Rights

One of the worst of the anti-terror laws, adopted under Clinton, not Bush II, is the "material support law," which makes it a crime to provide "material support" to any organization that is deemed a "terrorist organization" by the President (actually the Secretary of State).

The cases, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (08-1498) and Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder, are about what is a legitimate use of the law.

The case here is interesting because it appears that the law is criminalizing purely political speech:
CCR contends that the challenged provisions violate the First Amendment insofar as they criminalize the provision of forms of support such as the distribution of literature, engaging in political advocacy, participating in peace conferences, training in human rights advocacy, and donating cash and humanitarian assistance, even when such support is intended solely to promote the lawful and non-violent activities of a designated organization. Plaintiffs’ principal complaint is that the statute imposes guilt by association by punishing moral innocents not for their own culpable acts, but for the culpable acts of the groups they have supported. The statute does not require any showing of intent to further terrorist or other illegal activity. We also claimed that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and that the Secretary of State’s power to designate groups was too broad, giving the executive too much discretionary power to label groups as “terrorist” and turn their supporters into outlaws.
As I see it, if a group sees the designation of another group as a "terrorist entity" as in error, the way that the current law is written, or at least enforced, actually publicly advocating for a change in that designation would be offering "material support."

In this case, the Human Rights Project wants to train the PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party, designated a terrorist group, in, "human rights enforcement and peaceful conflict resolution," but the material support law forbids this.

So this law is preventing the provision of training in how not to be a terrorist.

As with most of the anti-terror laws out there, it invokes Joseph Heller's most famous work.

A good description of the oral arguments is here.

23 February 2010

Monopolies Are Strangling Our Economy

Click for full size

Graphic Courtesy of the WaPo
In Washington Monthly, Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman argue that the increase in jobless recovery and stagnation is an artifact of the increasingly monopolistic marketplace that we encounter:
If any single number captures the state of the American economy over the last decade, it is zero. That was the net gain in jobs between 1999 and 2009—nada, nil, zip. By painful contrast, from the 1940s through the 1990s, recessions came and went, but no decade ended without at least a 20 percent increase in the number of jobs.


But while the mystery of what killed the great American jobs machine has yielded no shortage of debatable answers, one of the more compelling potential explanations has been conspicuously absent from the national conversation: monopolization. The word itself feels anachronistic, a relic from the age of the Rockefellers and Carnegies. But the fact that the term has faded from our daily discourse doesn’t mean the thing itself has vanished—in fact, the opposite is true. In nearly every sector of our economy, far fewer firms control far greater shares of their markets than they did a generation ago.

Indeed, in the years after officials in the Reagan administration radically altered how our government enforces our antimonopoly laws, the American economy underwent a truly revolutionary restructuring. Four great waves of mergers and acquisitions—in the mid-1980s, early ’90s, late ’90s, and between 2003 and 2007—transformed America’s industrial landscape at least as much as globalization. Over the same two decades, meanwhile, the spread of mega-retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot and agricultural behemoths like Smithfield and Tyson’s resulted in a more piecemeal approach to consolidation, through the destruction or displacement of countless independent family-owned businesses.

It is now widely accepted among scholars that small businesses are responsible for most of the net job creation in the United States. It is also widely agreed that small businesses tend to be more inventive, producing more patents per employee, for example, than do larger firms. Less well established is what role concentration plays in suppressing new business formation and the expansion of existing businesses, along with the jobs and innovation that go with such growth. Evidence is growing, however, that the radical, wide-ranging consolidation of recent years has reduced job creation at both big and small firms simultaneously. At one extreme, ever more dominant Goliaths increasingly lack any real incentive to create new jobs; after all, many can increase their earnings merely by using their power to charge customers more or pay suppliers less. At the other extreme, the people who run our small enterprises enjoy fewer opportunities than in the past to grow their businesses. The Goliaths of today are so big and so adept at protecting their turf that they leave few niches open to exploit.
One of the points that I have made when I discuss the role of the large monopoly Telcos and how this effects the availability and price of broadband is that when a company gets large enough, it's more profitable to keep out competitors than it is to improve the quality and efficiency of its process.

If one understands the nature of any corporation, which is that they are short-sighted sociopaths by design, this makes perfect sense: You can spend billions on innovation, or millions on locking out and/or buying up competitors.

Even Sci-Fi author Jerry Pournelle, who describes himself as being somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, says that for the free market to function, aggressive anti-trust activities are essential. (No link, it was from his "Chaos Manor" column in Byte about 20 years ago)

H/t Kevin Drum.

Yes, This Pretty Much Nails It

In discussions of the White House's complete capitulation on the public option (to say nothing of their taking single payer off the table), a progressive activist, nails the problem:
But the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the group that's behind a letter being circulated among Senate Democrats to push the plan, isn't giving up. "The White House obviously has a loser mentality -- but America rallies around winners," co-founder Adam Green e-mailed reporters shortly after Gibbs's remark. "Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes. More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before, and the only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight. That's why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez, who know that the public option is a political and policy winner."
(emphasis mine)

I'm not sure why Barack Obama and His Stupid Minions are so eager to play to lose, it could be that they are so risk averse that they are paralyzed with fear, it could be that they are closet Republicans, or it could be that they believe that Republicans can be successfully courted on this.

I hope that it's not the 3rd option, because if they believe that, it means that the man with his finger on the button to destroy the world is completely delusional.

Geithner Knifes Volker Rule

Surprise, Geithner and his Treasury Department is giving the green light for Congress to gut the Volker rule, and allow federally insured institutions to gamble with our money.

Well, he never like Volker anyway:
The Obama administration lowered expectations Tuesday for the "Volcker rule" to curb risky trading by banks, emphasizing "limits" rather than an outright ban, as Congress shied from the original proposal.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that it supports "mandatory limits" on banks' proprietary trading, in which they trade for their own accounts. The administration last month had called for an outright ban on such trading.
Seriously, the combination or regulatory capture and cowardice by the Obama administration is beginning to get to me.

Greenspan Calls Meltdown "Greatest Financial Crisis"

Normally, I don't listen to Alan Greenspan, but when he says the the financial meltdown is worse than the Great Depression, it bears noting:
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday the U.S. economic recovery was 'extremely unbalanced,' driven largely by high earners benefiting from recovering stock markets and large corporations.

Small businesses and the jobless are still suffering from the aftermath of a credit crunch that was 'by far the greatest financial crisis, globally, ever' -- including the 1930s Great Depression, said Greenspan in an address to a Credit Union National Association conference.
(emphasis mine)

While I have very little confidence in judgment of Andrea Mitchell's husband, the time that any economist of any note says "worse than the Great Depression," it's time to think about why we aren't fixing this.

It's Like They are Trying to Demoralize the Democratic Base

Because it looks like they are going to delay the Iraq withdrawal:
The U.S. military has prepared contingency plans to delay the planned withdrawal of all combat forces in Iraq, citing the prospects for political instability and increased violence as Iraqis hold national elections next month.

Under a deadline set by President Obama, all combat forces are slated to withdraw from Iraq by the end of August, and there remains heavy political pressure in Washington and Baghdad to stick to that schedule. But Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Monday that he had briefed officials in Washington in the past week about possible contingency plans.
I understand that there need to be contingency plans, but the fact that this gets leaked to the Washington Posts means that they are looking to see if a delay is politically feasible for them to further extend Operation Useless Dirt 1.*

So in August, 3 months before the election, they are going to push back the withdrawal, and they expect the base to be enthused about working for the Democratic party.

The Obama administration is beginning to make the Carter administration look like Niccolò Machiavelli.

A few more months of this, and I might be ready to vote green.

The equation here is very clear: Military operations are very good for careerist military officers, so you will always have a significant portion of the military arguing for these operations, since it benefits them personally.

You need to ignore them.

*H/t Eric Palmer for this bon mot describing Operation (insert name here).
Not really, pulling the lever for the Greens would have vomiting in the voting booth.
But yes, actually vomiting in the voting booth might be a real possibility.

John Stewart is a F%$#ing Genius: Conservative Woodstock Edition

So, this thing seems to be the opposite of Woodstock, but at least it's not Altamont…………

Oh my God it's Altamont!!!!

Economics Update

The lede today is that consumer confidence fell much more than expected, down to 46.0, when the consensus forecast was 55.0, a 10 month low.

Additionally, home prices fell in the 4th quarter, though the housing optimists are noting that the year over year drop is "only" 2½%.

When one considers the fact that the 4th quarter was juiced by tax credits, it's worse than it looks.

Japan, on the other hand, Japan’s exports grew sharply in the 4th quarter, with a 40.9% year over year, the biggest jump since 1980, largely on increases in exports to China.

Still the dismal consumer confidence numbers put the market in a mind to doubt that there will soon be a robust recovery, which drove oil prices down, and led to a flight to safety which pushed the Yen and the dollar up.

5 Republicans Vote for Cloture on Jobs Bill

The one where Harry Reid stripped out all the tax breaks for special interests that Max Baucus put in to make nice with the terrorists Republicans.

Republicans voting for cloture were Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, George Voinovich, and Christopher "Kit" Bond.

Notably, Ben Nelson, who is nominally a Democrat voted against cloture.

There should be consequences for him. He has a leadership position, and he is voting for cloture.

Instead, Reid and Obama will find some other way to suck up to him.

Not Enough Bullets

The numbers are in, and Wall Street bonuses rose 17% in 2009.

The reason that they did not fold like overcooked broccoli in 2009 is because the Congress, the Treasury Department, and the Federal Reserve were shoveling money into them at a ferocious pace, but still they paid themselves bigger bonuses.

Quote of the Day

Roger Ehrenberg, looks at a number of financial transactions, including the rather mundane one known as leasing nails what should be the core of any reform of the financial markets:
Both cash-market and derivative instruments should be put to the “business purpose” test. Accounting rule-makers, with support of the SEC, should move towards a “principles-based” system where common sense, and not black-and-white rules around which myriad loopholes can be found, should become the new paradigm. But let’s be clear. The issue isn’t derivatives; it’s all financial transactions whose objective is to deceive or to weaken financial transparency.
(emphasis mine)

He notes that a very old transaction, leasing, has been used for the same purpose for years:
Consider leasing, a transaction that has been popular for over 50 years. As the industry has evolved, transactions such as sale/leasebacks and “asset defeasance” have been used to synthetically borrow money without the obligation being reflected as debt on the balance sheet. The form of the transaction: a lease. The substance of the transaction: a borrowing. The multi-trillion dollar securitization industry has the same motivation: moving assets (and liabilities) off the balance sheet, while economic recourse still exists should asset values and/or debt ratings drop. This is what the market discovered when Citigroup’s multi-billion structured investment vehicles (SIVs) began to fail and the assets and liabilities came back onto its financial statements. What is the proper characterization of a contractually obligated stream of payments? Debt. How should a portfolio of assets and associated liabilities be treated if the risks and rewards of ownership haven’t been completely transferred? As never having left the balance sheet. Yet the accounting profession, with the SEC’s support, has enabled this charade to continue.
The idea of a business purpose rule is a very good one.