31 January 2012

In the Interest of Fairness

And because I respect Yves Smith a lot, I have to note that she takes issue with the Pro Publica report about Freddie Mac betting against homeowners:
A new ProPublica story, “Freddie Mac Betting Against Struggling Homeowners,” treats the fact that Freddie Mac retains the riskiest tranche of its mortgage bond offering, known as inverse floaters, as heinous and evidence of scheming against suffering borrowers.

The storyline in this piece is neat, plausible, and utterly wrong. And my e-mail traffic indicates that people who are reasonably finance savvy but don’t know the mortgage bond space have bought the uninformed and conspiratorial ProPublica thesis hook, line, and sinker.
Basically, she says that what we are looking at are normal hedges against interest rate fluctuations, and this was one part of this strategy, and, "Looking at one position in isolation is meaningless."

Additionally, she implies that this might be a hit job from the Obama administration, because FHFA head Edward DeMarco, who supervises the GSEs in receivership, is not moving aggressively to refinance troubled mortgages, and he's signed off on some of the big paydays for officials at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Additionally, FHFA has become increasingly aggressive about forcing banks to take back fraudulent mortgages (Put-backs), which opens a multi-billion dollar can of whup ass on the big Wall Street banks, which almost certainly puts DeMarco on Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner's naughty list, and leaking this to the press is very much the Treasury Secretary's style.

Truth be told, I don't know who is right, though if I were betting, I would take wrong and evil for both DeMarco and Geithner, but I'm a cynic.

It's Romney in Florida

And it's looking to be a blowout, with a 15%+ margin, and nearly half of all the votes.

It comes down to a few things:
  • Money & organization.
  • He rest on inevitability and let Gingrich beat him up.
  • Money & organization.
  • People realized that Newt was that obnoxious asshole from the 1990s.
  • Money & organization.
  • Seriously, Moonbase Gingrich?
  • Money & organization.
And, of course, he had a money and organization advantage.

The only question now is just how crazy this makes Newt.

I fully expect Newt's head explode in the next few debates.


Just when you thought that New Jersey could not get any more pathetic, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s would have been cool with a referendum to give civil rights without regard to race:
The verbal feud over gay marriage in New Jersey got more personal Monday with Gov. Chris Christie firing a slang term [numb nuts] at a lawmaker, and a hero of the Civil Rights movement chastising the governor for a separate remark.


The issue also brought U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia to Trenton on Monday to take Christie to task for comments linking gay marriage to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Christie last week vowed to veto any gay marriage bill that reaches his desk. He instead called for the question to be put to voters in November.

“I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights, rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South,” Christie said after an event in Central Jersey.

Black leaders pounced. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said baseball great Jackie Robinson would not have had the opportunity to break the sport’s color barrier had the matter been put to a vote, and the mayor himself would not have had the opportunity, years later, to be elected to lead New Jersey’s largest city. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said many felt the sting of Christie’s comment.

Gusciora, who is white, said Christie would have found allies in late Alabama Gov. George Wallace and late Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, both segregationists.
This is what qualifies as a deep thought by the 'Phants.

God, what a repulsive person.

That'll Teach Him

The British are finally cracking down on the Banksters.

What are they doing? They are rescinding knighthoods:
The former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred Goodwin, has been stripped of his knighthood by the Queen for his role in the creation of the biggest recession since the second world war.

With unceremonial haste, a committee of five senior civil servants took away the knighthood given to Goodwin by the last Labour government in 2004 for services to banking.

The chancellor, George Osborne, welcoming the move, said: "RBS came to symbolise everything that went wrong in the British economy over the past decade."

The move provoked a cacophony of calls for honours to be stripped from other miscreant bankers, politicians and regulators. The campaign to humble Goodwin was reignited by the Daily Mail a fortnight ago and then hastily backed in a highly political move by David Cameron as he sought to show he will side with the public against crony capitalists and bonus-seeking bankers.
You know, I thought that Geithner's charades about supporting ordinary homeowners were lame, but the Brits have taken lame to a while new level.


That's how much the Colbert Super PAC, formerly The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC, formerly the Colbert Super PAC, has raised from donations in the 4th quarter of 2011.

PDF link to the full (147 page) report.

30 January 2012

Marketplace Gets It Wrong

I was listening to marketplace, and they noted the good news that incomes rose in December rose at the fastest rate in months, and that people saved more too.

They said that this is good, but what it really means is that consumer spending fell in December:
U.S. consumer spending was flat in December as households put the largest rise in income in nine months into their savings, potentially signaling slower consumption early in 2012.

It was the weakest reading on spending since June, the Commerce Department said on Monday, and it followed two tepid gains in October and November.

Still, economists were cautiously optimistic that rising wages as labor markets improve will keep demand supported.

"I do believe there is some underlying trend that gives us some reason to feel a little bit better about what lies ahead regarding spending, and the main reason is the labor market," said Anthony Karydakis, chief economist at Commerzbank in New York.

U.S. economic growth quickened in the fourth quarter and hiring picked up, but activity is expected to soften early this year. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that the central bank was considering a further easing of monetary policy to support growth.
Reuters gets it. This is not good news.

This is deleveraging in  a depressed economy. 

More Change We Cannot Believe In

It turns out that while under federal receivership, and under the direction of the FHFA, Freddie Mac has simultaneously made it more difficult to refinance your mortgage and invested in risking and hard to sell financial instruments that profit from you not being able to refinance:
Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant, has placed multibillion-dollar bets that pay off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates.

Freddie began increasing these bets dramatically in late 2010, the same time that the company was making it harder for homeowners to get out of such high-interest mortgages.

No evidence has emerged that these decisions were coordinated. The company is a key gatekeeper for home loans but says its traders are “walled off” from the officials who have restricted homeowners from taking advantage of historically low interest rates by imposing higher fees and new rules.
Yeah, there was no coordination here.

Just aggressive tightening of refinancing standards (further down in the story) that have put people, "in financial jail,"  and as it was ramping up on its risky bets, it also, "quietly announced that it was raising charges, called post-settlement delivery fees, for refinancing."

But we aren't going to see a recess appointment to replace the acting head of FHFA, Edward DeMarco, with someone who might reign in executive bonuses or work for home owners.

Yes, ML Global is allowed to steal

The point about the "loss" of ML Global customer accounts is not that it was lost, but that it was looted as the company collapsed, but it's all "no harm, no foul," and there are no criminal investigations:
Federal officials looking for an estimated $1.2 billion missing from customers of MF Global Holdings Ltd. feel more and more that a lot of it may never be located, according to a report citing sources familiar with the probe.

What's been learned so far suggests that a good deal of the money may have “vaporized” because of scrambling in trading in the week before MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection Oct. 31, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing “a person close to the investigation.”
This money was stolen, most likely by Jamie Dimon's peeps at JPMorgan.

Even if you cannot prove criminal intent, you can get back this money, if you are willing to actually pursue it.

Still, Jon Corzine being frog marched out of his offices in hand cuffs would be a good thing.

H/t Atrios.

No, This is Not The Onion

Simply because The Smew is giving its American counterpart a run for its money:
Flush With Oil From Alberta, Canada Prepares For Inevitable U.S. Invasion

OTTAWA, ON—It’s a subject the Canadian military high command doesn’t like to discuss, but one that’s taken on an increasing sense of urgency since the discovery of massive oil reserves in the Alberta tar sands: how to defend Canada from imminent U.S. invasion.

A highly-placed military source in the Harper government, speaking off the record, confirmed that Canada is actively preparing for an American attack. “Look, we can all see the pattern here: if a country has significant oil reserves, the United States will find a pretext to invade. Iraq, Libya—frankly, it’s either us or Iran next,” he said.

Europe is F%$#ed

Because the Germans have been allowed to force their self delusions on the rest of Europe:
Chancellor Angela Merkel cemented her political ascendancy in Europe on Monday when 25 out of 27 EU states agreed to a German-inspired pact for stricter budget discipline, even as they struggled to rekindle growth from the ashes of austerity.

Only Britain and the Czech Republic refused to sign a fiscal compact in March that will impose quasi-automatic sanctions on countries that breach European Union budget deficit limits and will enshrine balanced budget rules in national law.

The accord was eagerly greeted by the European Central Bank which has long pressed euro zone governments to put their houses in order.
The solution to problems caused austerity and overly aggressive efforts at European integration will be more austerity and overly aggressive efforts at European integration.

Quote of the Day

I voted for Jules* and ended up with Urkel
—DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS on Barack Obama

*The hit man played by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
The geek played by Jaleel White on Family Matters.

29 January 2012

Yes, These Are Members of the Polish Parliament

And they are protesting Poland's signing onto the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA):
Poland on Thursday signed an international copyright agreement, sparking more demonstrations by Internet users who have protested for days over fear it will lead to online censorship.

After the signing, protesters rallied in the Polish cities of Poznan and Lublin to express their anger over the treaty. Lawmakers for the left-wing Palikot's Movement wore masks in parliament to show their dissatisfaction, while the largest opposition party — the right-wing Law and Justice party — called for a referendum on the matter.

Controversy in Poland has been deepening over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Though many other industrialized countries have signed it, popular outrage appears to be greater in Poland than anywhere else.
This is actually significant.

It's been growing slowly, but the almost universal consensus about the ability of IP holders to rent seek is now showing cracks, as more and more people start to see it as a drain upon society, rather than a benefit.

We are seeing this in the media, where we are seeing increasing coverage of patent trolls like Nathan Myhrvold.  (Here's hoping that his f%$#ing cookbook is followed by people protesting his ass)

With a little bit of luck, we may eventually see the worm turn on all of this, and see the protections on IP seen through the lens of public benefit, and not the interest of the rentiers.

And He Will Name it Gingrich Base

Seriously, promising a permanent moon base in the next 8 years?

Who but Newt could be so full of themselves that they would dare to make it a campaign pitch.

You know, I'm beginning to think that being a science fiction fan might be a disqualifier for holding executive office.

Newt claims influence from Asimov's Foundation series, while Romney says that his favorite bit of sci-fi is Battlefield Earth.

Well, at least Newt has better taste in literature.

God Bless Technology

My phone is bricked following an over-the-air upgrade, and so I'm running back and forth to the store to see if they can fix it.


28 January 2012


The Republicans have discovered the downside to the Citizens United ruling in the person of one Newton Leroy Gingrich.

It appears that Newt's bit of scorched earth insanity is almost completely funded by an equally unhinged, and very rich patron, one Sheldon Adelson, who had contributed millions to the "totally not coordinating" Gingrich super-PAC.

It still does not make Citizens United a good ruling. It's and awful, corrupt, and politically motivated decision by the conservative bloc of the Court, but I am amused by how it's biting the 'Phants in their flabby white asses.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (on Saturday)

Huh, 4 closings this Friday.  After a lull at the beginning of the year, we've had a bit of a spike.

Still, it's better than the past two years.

  1. First Guaranty Bank and Trust Company of Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL
  2. Tennessee Commerce Bank, Franklin, TN
  3. Patriot Bank Minnesota, Forest Lake, MN
  4. BankEast, Knoxville, TN
Full FDIC list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

And here is the detail, since it is early in the year:

27 January 2012

Eric Arthur Blair is Spinning in His Grave

The irony here is so strong that light cannot escape it, because this is an irony singularity is cloaked by a back hole.

Stephen Hawking could write a physics paper on this level of irony.

H/t DC on the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Someone Flipped on the Scott Walker Prosecutions

It has been announced that former Scott Walker aide Darlene Wink is cooperating with prosecutor:
Two staffers who worked directly for Gov. Scott Walker while he was county executive were charged Thursday with illegally doing extensive political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs.

One of the two, Darlene Wink, cut a deal with prosecutors under which she agreed to provide information in a related investigation about the destruction of digital evidence and to aid in further prosecutions. This is the first indication that the multifaceted John Doe investigation may be pursuing charges of evidence tampering.

Milwaukee County prosecutors also made the surprising disclosure that top Walker aides set up a private Internet network to allow them to communicate with one another by email about campaign as well as county government work without the public or co-workers' knowledge.
They set up a VPN to break the law? 

This is pretty f%$#ing brazen, and it has the advantage locating all the offending communications in one place, which might, as the article says, provide investigators with a trove of information as they pursue other angles in the case."

It gets better, because it looks like it wasn't just politicking on the job, but they are also looking things like bid rigging as well.

Of course, Scotty Walker is saying that it isn't his fault, "Walker's campaign said he had a policy against county employees using government resources to do campaign work."

Dude, your guys set up a private network.  It simply does not get any more official policy than that.

I am smelling burnt bread in Wisconsin, because Scott Walker is toast.

H/t Susie Madrak.

Seen on Facebook

This explains a lot:


Friday Cat Blogging

Too True


I Will Never Think About Winnie the Pooh Again


So, He's Either a Bigot or a Political Opportunist

It turns out that signed off regarding the publication of the racist screeds in his newsletter:
Ron Paul, well known as a physician, congressman and libertarian , has also been a businessman who pursued a marketing strategy that included publishing provocative, racially charged newsletters to make money and spread his ideas, according to three people with direct knowledge of Paul’s businesses.

The Republican presidential candidate has denied writing inflammatory passages in the pamphlets from the 1990s and said recently that he did not read them at the time or for years afterward. Numerous colleagues said he does not hold racist views.

But people close to Paul’s operations said he was deeply involved in the company that produced the newsletters, Ron Paul & Associates, and closely monitored its operations, signing off on articles and speaking to staff members virtually every day.

“It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product. . . . He would proof it,’’ said Renae Hathway, a former secretary in Paul’s company and a supporter of the Texas congressman.

The newsletters point to a rarely seen and somewhat opaque side of Paul, who has surprised the political community by becoming an important factor in the Republican race. The candidate, who has presented himself as a kindly doctor and political truth-teller, declined in a recent debate to release his tax returns, joking that he would be “embarrassed” about his income compared with that of his richer GOP rivals.
Well, if he was just cashing in on bigoted rubes, this actually is consistent with the basic principle(s) of  Libertarians, "F%$# you, I've got mine."

Your Economic Data Points of the Week

The GDP numbers came out, and the word is "meh", with the economy growing at a 2.8% annual rate in the 4th quarter,  under performing the forecast of 3%, and giving a 1.7% increase for the year.

We need to top 3% for a while to really improve our situation.

Yesterday,initial unemployment claims rose, to 377,000, as did continuing claims, though the 4-week moving average, and extended claims fell.

That being said, Consumer sentiment rose in January, which is good news.

What Atrios Said

The basic thinking seems to have been that it was wonderful for university to be free back when most people who attended were quite wealthy, but once the masses started getting ideas about going it was time to force them to pay. And there again is your generational divide.
Atrios, on the institution of penury inducing tuitions at British colleges
It's actually a bit more contemptible than that.

The skyrocketing college costs began with two things:
  • Collusion by the Ivies and similar elite institutions on tuition and financial aid.
  • It started in the 1960s, when the alternative to going to college was getting drafted, and playing hide and seek with a really angry guy with an AK-47 in rice paddies.

Twitter Goes Evil

So now Twitter has decided to do the dirty-work of every despotic regime on the face of the planet earth:
Twitter, a tool of choice for dissidents and activists around the world, found itself the target of global outrage Friday after unveiling plans to allow country-specific censorship of tweets that might break local laws.

It was a stunning role reversal for a youthful company that prides itself in promoting unfettered expression, 140 characters at a time. Twitter insisted its commitment to free speech remains firm, and sought to explain the nuances of its policy, while critics — in a barrage of tweets — proposed a Twitter boycott and demanded that the censorship initiative be scrapped.

“This is very bad news,” tweeted Egyptian activist Mahmoud Salem. Later, he wrote, “Is it safe to say that #Twitter is selling us out?”

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

They are claiming that this has nothing to do with China, but is has everything to do with China.

26 January 2012

Duke, Meet Newt

In the middle of the Republican establishment's heads exploding over the possibility of a Newt candidacy, Gingrich has been endorsed by former Congressman, and convicted felon, Randall "Duke" Cunningham:
Jailed ex-Congressman Duke Cunningham wants Newt Gingrich to know he's got the Republican presidential candidate's back.

Cunningham apparently has been watching the Republican presidential primary debates while spending 100 months in a Tucson, Ariz. federal prison. Cunningham, a Republican who represented northern San Diego, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion in 2005 in one of the biggest federal bribery scandals in recent memory.

Cunningham tells Gingrich in an electronic message he says he sent to the candidate last month that his fellow prisoners, and their families, support Gingrich

25 January 2012

Since When Were Swiss Bank Acounts Acceptable?

On NPR this morning, one of their bankster apologists was noting that Romney closed his Swiss bank account because recent US crack-downs on tax evaders using these accounts made them politically suspect.

What fairy tale land have these folks been living in?

I'm 49 years old, and for as long as I can remember, "Swiss Bank Account" has been synonymous with  tax evasion and concealing the proceeds of illegal activities.

My conclusion is that these guys must have the political and financial acumen of Little Orphan Annie.

Well, I Was Wrong on My Assessment of His SOTU Statement

The one thing that I liked, a task force to investigate bank/mortgage fraud appears to be an attempt to undermine any meaningful review of bank and mortgage practices:
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been celebrated as the progressive Great White Hope. But the danger of assuming leadership is that that individual becomes a target both of attacks and of seduction. And while I’d like to think better of Schneiderman, an announcement earlier this evening has strong hallmarks of Schneiderman falling prey to the combined pressures and blandishments of the Administration and its allies.


So get this: this is a committee that will “investigate.” The co-chair, Lanny Breuer, along with DoJ chief Eric Holder, hail from white shoe Washington law firm Covington & Burling, which has deep ties to the financial services industry. Even if they did not work directly for clients in the mortgage business, they come from a firm known for its deep political and regulatory connections (for instance: Gene Ludwig, the Covington partner I engaged for some complicated regulatory work when I was at Sumitomo Bank, later became head of the OCC). We’ve written at length on how the OCC is such a shameless tout for the banking industry that it cannot properly be called a regulator. Similarly, the SEC has been virtually absent from the mortgage beat, no doubt because its enforcement chief, Robert Khuzami, was general counsel to the fixed income department at Deutsche Bank. That area included the trading operation under Greg Lippmann who we have described as Patient Zero of so called mezz CDOs, or to the layperson, toxic mortgage paper that kept the subprime bubble going well beyond its sell date. And we don’t need to say much about the DoJ. It has been missing in action during this entire Administration.


It’s clear what the Administration is getting from getting Schneiderman aligned with them. It is much less clear why Schneiderman is signing up. He can investigate and prosecute NOW. He has subpoena powers, staff, and the Martin Act. He doesn’t need to join a Federal committee to get permission to do his job. And this is true for ALL the others agencies represented on this committee. They have investigative and enforcement powers they have chosen not to use. So we are supposed to believe that a group, ex Schneiderman, that has been remarkably complacent, will suddenly get religion on the mortgage front because they are all in a room and Schneiderman is a co-chair?
See also here.

So, this isn't an attempt to stop law breaking, it's yet another attempt to cover up law breaking by co-opting people who do want to pursue corruption and law breaking.

It's like his appointment of Elizabeth Warren to set up the CFPB all over again.

Only About 2½ Years Late

Tim Geithner has pretty much said that he won't serve in Obama's next term:
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the last remaining member of the Obama administration’s original economic team, said he doesn’t expect the president to ask him to stay in office if re-elected.

“He’s not going to ask me to stay on, I’m pretty confident,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. “I’m confident he’ll be president. But I’m also confident he’s going to have the privilege of having another secretary of the Treasury.”

Geithner, 50, has led President Barack Obama’s efforts to pull the U.S. economy out of the worst recession since World War II, including overseeing bailouts of automakers General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, which have since emerged from bankruptcy. Before joining the administration in 2009, Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, playing a key role in the government’s rescue packages for banks including Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC)
Well, after completely f%$#ing the economy, the financial system, and the Democratic Party, through your relentless ass kissing of Wall Street, I guess that your work is done.

It should be noted though, the Cossacks work for the Czar.

FOMC Says that Rates Should Stay Low for 2-3 Years

I would expect Republicans' head to explode, because they will see this as "support" for Obama.

The Fed's Open Market Committee is saying that it expects rates to remain at near zero until at least late 2014.

The big news is that they have announced an explicit inflation target, 2%, for the first time ever.

While this is a refreshing step towards Fed transparency, we are in a debt overhang and a liquidity trap, and we should targeting a higher inflation rate, as this devalues debt and gives greater effect to low interest rates.

To my mind, they should be targeting 6-8%, but I'd take 4%.

Full Fed statement after the break.

24 January 2012

Obama Goes for Accelerated Review of Healthcare Reform

The Obama administration has decided not to appeal to the full 11th circuit court and go directly to the Supreme Court, which means that we could see a ruling as early as June.

I'm not sure what the tactics are here.

There are three legal questions here
  • The first question is whether they can rule on the mandate at all, since the anti-injunction act of 1869 prohibits suits against taxes until the tariff is actually levied.
  • The second question is whether if part of the law is struck down, is the entire law struck down. (severability)
  • The third question (and the biggie) is whether or not the mandate is constitutional. 
The third question is a slam dunk based on precedent, but I expect at least 4 of the justices to go full Bush v. Gore and find some contrived form of logic to ignore that.

It pretty much comes down to Justice Kennedy, but he ruled for Bush in Bush v. Gore, so I think that Obamacare is toast.

Well, We Have Mixed News on the Scott Walker Front

The good news is that some of his former staffers are facing more charges:
A new round of criminal charges is coming soon against at least a couple of Gov. Scott Walker's former county staffers for doing extensive campaign activity while on the taxpayers' dime, sources say.

The charges - which should be filed by District Attorney John Chisholm's office in the next week or two - will be part of the long-running John Doe investigation of Walker's aides and associates during his tenure as Milwaukee County executive.

Already, the probe has led to multiple felony charges against Walker's onetime deputy chief of staff, Tim Russell, and former county veterans official Kevin Kavanaugh. They are accused of taking more than $60,000 in donations intended for Operation Freedom, an annual event at the county zoo for veterans and their families.

Russell's domestic partner, Brian Pierick, was also hit with two felony counts for child enticement.
That's the good news.

The bad news is that under Wisconsin law, until a date is set for the recall election, Walker has no limits to his fund raising, and the Koch suckers have been showering him with money:
The Walker campaign announced on Tuesday that he raised $4.5 million in just the period from December 11 through Jan 17, and has over $2.6 million on hand. In all, he has raised $12 million since January 1, 2011.

“Governor Walker’s message of moving Wisconsin forward continues to resonate with voters,” said communications director Ciara Matthews. “It is this message, and the success of the governor’s reforms, that have inspired people to contribute to his campaign in overwhelming numbers. These donations will allow us to fight back against this baseless recall and ensure Governor Walker can continue to lay the foundation for a more successful Wisconsin and keep government working on the side of taxpayers.”

The press release notes that the donations came from a total of 21,443 contributions, including 16,406 of contributions of $50 or less. But under the surface, it becomes clear that Walker has been taking advantage of a key aspect of the state fundraising law for recalls — that until the election is officially triggered, the targeted incumbent can bring in unlimited donations.
That's a f%$# load of money. It's like $2½ for each man, woman, and child in the badger state.

The optimist in me hopes that the money wont matter. The pessimist in me …………

My Take on Obama's State of the Union Speech

I didn't expect to be impressed, and I wasn't.  I'm really not one of his fans.

Quick bullet points:
  • His nods to populism seemed to be insincere.  I really don't believe that we'll see any effort to crack down on, for example, Chinese trade/currency manipulation.
  • He couldn't resist inserting yet another "there are people on both sides" who are nasty bit, as was his digression about milk spill regulations, and icky regulations.
  • Raising taxes on millionaires, and banning congressional insider trading and lobbying by campaign bundlers are winners, but won't pass this Congress.
  • His statements on spending war savings on infrastructure is nothing new.
  • His call for establishing a financial crimes unit is probably a good idea, assuming that it is not just rearranging deck chairs.
  • I liked his shout out to Richard Cordray heading the CFPB.  It was pretty much his only "in your face" to the 'Phants.

Jon Stewart Must Love Newt

He does look a bit stunned though
Because the obvious hypocrisy and venality that is Newt must make his job easier.

Stewart's observation to Newt's fake outrage:
You imagined your wife, while she was dealing with having MS, would be open to you having sex with another lady you’d already been having sex with for six f%$#king years!” Stewart said. “I think you’ve got a pretty good imagination dispicability-wise.
And then there is Gingrich's claim to be running as an outsider:
You are the Washington outsider? When Washington gets its prostate checked, it tickles you.
Watch the video. It's a good way to spend 8 minutes and change.

Oh, This is Prize.

Freddie Dalton Thompson, whose 2008 presidential campaign debacle I called the "Fred Thompson Clown Show," has endorsed narcissistic sociopath Newt Gingrich for president:
Former Sen. Fred Thompson, the real life lawyer perhaps best known for playing one on television, announced his endorsement of Newt Gingrich Monday evening.

"I have come to the growing realization that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can articulate what America is all about," Thompson said of the former House speaker on Fox News.
This is kind of a clown show two-fer.

Well, Here's One Announcement Obama Won't Make at the SOTU

He might be making some comments about working toward a sellout to settlement with the big banks and the mortgage services.

The reason that he won't be touting the settlement is because there is no settlement:
January 23, 2012

STATEMENT FROM [Iowa] ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM MILLER [Obama toady Lead AG in the negotiations]

(CHICAGO, Illinois) State Attorneys General from both parties, along with our federal partners, are today discussing the details of the progress we have made so far in settlement negotiations, including the terms we must still resolve. We have not yet reached an agreement with the nation’s five largest servicers, and we won’t reach a settlement any time this week.
As you can tell, I not a big fan of the settlement, and I think we can thank the people who have opposed the deal as currently structured, most notably Yves Smith, who has done yeoman work on teasing out the details and communicating what it all means for months, the recent condemnation of the deal by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is also significant. (And, as an FYI, everyone's favorite right wing nuts, Judicial Watch, has filed suits to get related documents)

This resembles the groundswell that led to Obama vetoing HR 3808, which allowed some states shoddy documentation practices to go national.

With the increasing complaints from consumer activists about the settlement.

What are the problems?

Well on the micro level (courtesy of Yves Smith), it gives the banksters an incentive to pawn the losses off against the the mortgages that they recapitalized, avoiding the hit themselves, and giving it to pension funds, it incentivizes targeting the largest loans, and so benefits the richest, and there are no meaningful mechanisms to enforce good behavior from the mortgage servicers.

On the macro level, let's roll Simon Johnson:
The financial sector has been the Obama administration’s Achilles’ heel. Despite coming to power in the middle of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression with a broad mandate for “change,” the administration has consistently deferred to big banks and done its best to keep them in business “as is.”
(Read the rest, really).

The real underlying message much of the disgust with how the government in general, and the Obama administration in particular function is that there has been a failure to stop the looting, and start prosecuting.

New Gingrich, Whiny Bitch

It appears that Newt just can't get his debate on without a dawg pound in the audience, so hew is threatening to skip debates if they don't allow the audience to cheer and boo, because it's important to allow the audience to boo the golden rule, and cheer allowing grannies to die:
Newt Gingrich insists his fans will not be silenced.

Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, on Tuesday morning threatened not participate in any future debates with audiences that have been instructed to be silent. That was the case on Monday, when Brian Williams of NBC News asked the audience of about 500 people who assembled for a debate in Tampa to hold their applause until the commercial breaks.

In an interview with the morning show “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Gingrich said NBC’s rules amounted to stifling free speech. In what has become a standard line of attack for his anti-establishment campaign, Mr. Gingrich blamed the media for trying to silence a dissenting point of view.

“I wish in retrospect I’d protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what they’ve done in every debate.”
Seriously, it appears that Gingrich can't be at his best without an audience of inbred sociopath teabagger bigots, I guess.

He's the perfect Republican.

23 January 2012

Sarko Gets One Right

The French have passed a law making it illegal to deny the existence of the Armenian Genocide.

I don't approve laws forbidding speech, but I DO approve of pushing back on the Turkish aggressive policy of denial and disinformation regarding historical fact.

The cynic in me thinks that Nicolas Sarkosy was motivated by the political calculus that bashing Turks would sell with the Neanderthal set in the upcoming election though.

One final note:  Serdar Argic, eat my shorts.

Obama's War on Open Government Continues

They are going after a CIA officer who revealed our chain of gulags and torture:

The Justice Department on Monday charged a former CIA officer with repeatedly leaking classified information, including the identities of agency operatives involved in the capture and interrogation of alleged terrorists.

The case against John Kiriakou, who also served as a senior Senate aide, extends the Obama administration’s crackdown on disclosures of national security secrets. Kiriakou, 47, is the sixth target of a leaks-related prosecution since President Obama took office, exceeding the total number of comparable prosecutions under all previous administrations combined, legal experts said.

Kiriakou, who was among the first to go public with details about the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures, was charged with disclosing classified information to reporters and lying to the agency about the origin of other sensitive material he published in a book. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Seriously, this sh%$ is just evil.

There have been more prosecutions of leakers in 3 years of the Obama administration than there had been over the prior two hundred and twenty years.

This is despicable.

Obama's Assassination Catch-22

If you are targeted by this administration for assassination, then only you can challenge this in court, but the Obama administration will sniff out your communications with your lawyers in order to find and kill you:
On Saturday in Somalia, the U.S. fired missiles from a drone and killed the 27-year-old Lebanon-born, ex-British citizen Bilal el-Berjawi. His wife had given birth 24 hours earlier and the speculation is that the U.S. located him when his wife called to give him the news. Roughly one year ago, El-Berjawi was stripped of his British citizenship, obtained when his family moved to that country when he was an infant, through the use of a 2006 British anti-Terrorism law — passed after the London subway bombing — that the current government is using with increasing frequency to strip alleged Terrorists with dual nationality of their British citizenship (while providing no explanation for that act). El-Berjawi’s family vehemently denies that he is involved with Terrorism, but he was never able to appeal the decree against him for this reason:
Berjawi is understood to have sought to appeal against the order, but lawyers representing his family were unable to take instructions from him amid concerns that any telephone contact could precipitate a drone attack.
Obviously, those concerns were valid. So first the U.S. tries to assassinate people, then it causes legal rulings against them to be issued because the individuals, fearing for their life, are unable to defend themselves. Meanwhile, no explanation or evidence is provided for either the adverse government act or the assassination: it is simply secretly decreed and thus shall it be.

Exactly the same thing happened with U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki. When the ACLU and CCR, representing Awlaki’s father, sued President Obama asking a federal court to enjoin the President from killing his American son without a trial, the Obama DOJ insisted (and the court ultimately accepted) that Awlaki himself must sue on his own behalf. Obviously, that was impossible given that the Obama administration was admittedly trying to kill him and surely would have done so the minute he stuck his head up to contact lawyers (indeed, the U.S. tried to kill him each time they thought they had located him, and then finally succeeded). So again in the Awlaki case: the U.S. targets someone for death, and then their inability to defend themselves is used as a weapon to deny their legal rights.
This is deeply repulsive, and, unfortunately, it is the new normal, and the next president, whether it be in 2012 or 2016, will accept this and extend these policies, just as Obama has, and things will get worse again.

Roberts Court Gets One Right

They have ruled by 9-0 that a warrant is required to plant a GPS tracker on someone's car.

The the majority opinion was that  the physical installation of a tracker was a trespass, and hence required a warrant, while 4 justices, Alito, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan argued more broadly that it "impinged on the expectation of privacy."

This is not a distinction without a difference.  The former position leaves issues like, for example, tracking a cell phone, unclear, and you can be sure that lazy members of the law enforcement community will exploit this ambiguity.


Jake Burris, the campaign manager for Ken Aden's (D) had his cat beaten to death by some teabagger scum:
Police were investigating Monday after a cat belonging to the family of a Democrat's campaign manager was beaten to death and the word "liberal" scrawled across its side.

The cat belonged to the family of Jake Burris, who manages Democrat Ken Aden's bid for Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District.

Burris was returning to his Russellville home with his four children when he found the cat on his doorstep Sunday night, the Aden campaign said in a press release.

The mixed-breed Siamese cat had one side of its head bashed in to "the point the cat's eyeball was barely hanging from its socket," the release said.

Aden told Reuters that the event was "horrible, to say the least."
If we find out who did this, I would hope that the US Attorney finds a way to treat this as terrorism, and go full Patriot Act on his ass.

22 January 2012

Not Enough Bullets…

Profit at the big banks was off in 2011, but the pay for the heads of the big banks did not reflect this.

The word for this is sort of "Heads I Win, Tails You Lose" compensation for senior compensation is "Control Fraud," and I ache for the day then they all find themselves frog marched out of their offices in hand cuffs.

Why the USAF Should Be Abolished, Part MLXVII

The US Army has real and current needs for transport, and the USAF response to addressing those needs is to do their beat to ensure that they are not met: (paid subscription required)

Apparently, this sentiment does not apply to the interservice skirmishes at the Pentagon. The U.S. Army and Air Force are in the final throes of hashing out an updated agreement on the time-sensitive, direct-support airlift mission, the latest chapter in a years-long saga over how to ship supplies to remote soldiers despite two wars and one stunted buy of Alenia’s C-27J.

The agreement is being made between the chiefs of staff of both services. At issue is how the time-sensitive airlift mission will be handled; this includes the shuttling of small loads of supplies to forward Army units in the field.


The last installment of this tug-of-war took place in 2005 when, during his first major speech to the Air Force Association, the then Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, announced he wanted a new light cargo aircraft. This was considered odd as the Army was in the midst of setting up its future cargo aircraft program, which was then crafted to replace old C-23 Sherpas and provide more immediate access to commanders for cargo support. At the time, the Army moved ahead with its own program because it felt that it had lackluster support by the Air Force to properly back its needs.


Moseley’s push, along with his similar and later move to take over the Army’s burgeoning UAV force, was seen as an abrupt roles-and-missions grab by the Air Force in the midst of these two wars. In the case of the cargo aircraft role, the USAF won.

At the direction of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in 2009 the Air Force took over authority for the C-27J buy and control of the direct-support mission; service officials said they would combine the use of C-27Js and C-130s to provide cargo lift for the Army (though Army officials had long complained that C-130 support was inefficient owing to underloading of these larger aircraft).

Army officials say that in actuality, the CH-47 Chinook fleet has been unduly burdened in providing timely support because the helicopters are used to shuttle goods from C-130s that land at hubs to the remote locales where soldiers are stationed.

“The major rub to us is responsiveness and not efficiency,” says one Army official who requests anonymity. “When a part is needed at the front line, it flies” and shouldn’t have to wait for enough requests to fill a C-130, the official adds. “We are more about effectiveness than efficiency, and [the Air Force is] more about efficiency than effectiveness.”


Two C-27Js were deployed to Afghanistan in late July 2011 and quickly started flying operational direct support missions, Gen. Raymond Johns said last fall. The C-27Js are apportioned to Army officials there via Tacon (tactical control), although USAF pilots fly the missions, but the C-130s are not. This means the C-27Js are specifically set aside only for intratheater/direct-support missions under Army authority. Though C-130s are used for this mission, they can be reassigned elsewhere in the area, if needed, Johns said.

Army officials are less than satisfied with the Air Force’s delays in delivering C-27Js to the field. At least six were to be in Afghanistan by now, and why they have not been deployed is the “golden question,” the anonymous Army official said.

One industry official says the Army is “trying to hold the Air Force’s feet to the fire to do what they signed up for” in the 2009 pact.

Alenia has delivered 13 of 21 C-27Js on contract. Originally, Alenia officials projected the U.S. market for the C-27J (including Army/Air Force buys) to support as many as 125 aircraft. Tierney said that in 2005, the Army’s projections set a low risk of handling the mission with a fleet of 78 C-27Js and a moderate risk at 54. When Gates shifted the C-27J program from Army control to the Air Force, the buy shrank to 38 aircraft.
So basically, the army has a real and current need, and the USAF's response is to hijack it, sabotage the purchases, and not deliver it.

The creation of an independent air force from the U.S. Army Air Forces has not shown itself to be a step forward in military efficiency.

FWIW, there are historical precedents.  During the Vietnam war, the Air Force took over the operation of smaller cargo aircraft, (the Otter/Caribou if I recall) and promptly decided that they could only fly into air strips that were capable of handling the much larger C-130, eliminating much of their utility.

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of the The Rude Pundit:
You got that? The whore who fronts for an industry owned by multinational megacorporations like NewsCorp, Sony, and Viacom is actually attacking BoingBoing.net owners Happy Mutants LLC for using the internet for some evil agenda to steal Chipmunk movies just because they went on a one-day strike. That's a bit like Ted Bundy accusing a student nurse of having a messy dorm room just before bludgeoning her to death.
He is, of course, describing former Senator Chris Dodd's pimping for big media in has capacity as chief lobbyist for the MPAA.

21 January 2012

Crap! I Was Hoping for a Cain/Colbert Victory

Pass the Popcorn!
Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary by a large margin:
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich scored an easy victory Saturday in the South Carolina primary, blowing a hole in Mitt Romney’s aura of inevitability.

The 14-point win represented a swift and extraordinary turnaround in Gingrich’s fortunes — thanks largely to strong performances in two debates. In those forums, he issued a stirring appeal to the state’s strident conservatism, convinced its voters he would be a formidable opponent against President Obama and threw Romney off his stride.
I don't think that Newt can win.

First, he really doesn't have a campaign organization.

Second, he won South Carolina for blatant and explicit appeals to racism, because many, if not most, of the Republicans in South Carolina are unrepentant racists who give Gingrich props for, "putting Mr. Juan Williams in his place."

He has a knack for the basest parts of the Republican id, but there are a lot of racists, outside of South Carolina anyway, who find such blatant appeals to racism to be excessive.

This is Called Circling the Drain

It looks like yet another capability is being removed being removed from the JSF (Paid subscription required):
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, long touted as the follow-on to the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, is no longer heir-apparent as the king of nonkinetic warfare.

The often-delayed Lockheed Martin JSF program is being more narrowly focused on its conventional attack role. Jamming is no longer a priority for the stealthy fighter. The airframes expected to carry the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) are conventional-signature unmanned aerial systems and will be followed by stealthy unmanned designs.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, long touted as the follow-on to the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, is no longer heir-apparent as the king of nonkinetic warfare.

The often-delayed Lockheed Martin JSF program is being more narrowly focused on its conventional attack role. Jamming is no longer a priority for the stealthy fighter. The airframes expected to carry the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) are conventional-signature unmanned aerial systems and will be followed by stealthy unmanned designs.
One of the sales pitches for the JSF was that it's engine, because it carried a lot of extra hardware to drive the lift fan, which would have allowed for it to be a stealthy platform with a few dozen megawatts of capability.

The can't make the program work, so they are removing bits to ease the cost, weight, and schedule issues.

It will eventually enter service, but it's going to be a lot less capable than it has been billed.

How Magnanimous Of Them

The Yolo County District Attorney has decided not to pursue charges against the students who were hosed down with pepper spray by the  cops.

You know, perhaps pursuing Lt. Pike and the rest of his merry band for police brutality might be a good idea.

Ghod What a Geekfest!

From Halloween 2010
Charlie, my son, is going to his first cubing competition, the River Hill Winter 2012, and I am his escort / videographer. (I won't be posting the videos, Charlie will, on his Youtube channel, PostalCode74.)

He's in hog heaven, and I'm using the local WiFi to go online. We brought my laptop so that we could unload the camera's memory card if needed.

The venue had to move at the last minute, the high school they were using got closed due to snow and freezing rain, but thankfully, there are plenty of little community centers in the Columbia area.

He showed up in his Rubik's Cube Halloween costume, which was well received, but he is taking it off to compete.

A couple of his fellow partners in crime offered to solve him.

Defense.gov News Article: Panetta Lifts F-35 Fighter Variant Probation

In a move that surprised no one, SecDef Leon Panetta has lifted the probation for the F-35B variant:
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ushered the F-35B out of the penalty box, after the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) version of the stealthy fighter was sidelined for poor performance for more than a year by prior Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Standing in a hangar in front of BF-4, one of two F-35Bs to conduct testing on the USS Wasp amphibious ship last fall, Panetta spoke to a small audience of government and industry workers on the Joint Strike Fighter test team.

“We now believe that because of your work the Stovl variant is demonstrating the kind of performance and maturity that is in line with the other two variants of JSF,” Panetta said here Jan. 20. “The Stovl variant has made — I believe and all of us believe — sufficient progress so that as of today I am lifting the Stovl probation.”


George Little, Panetta’s spokesman, said the secretary’s decision to lift the probation was underpinned by improvements in five key areas: structural shortcomings in the Stovl bulkhead, flutter in the auxiliary inlet door, problems in the lift-fan clutch, unexpected wear and tear on the drive shaft, and heating on the roll-post actuator.
The writer also notes that, "Thus far, the F-35B has been flown to Mach 1.4," which must have been before one of the "A" model test articles flew to Mach 1.6, and suffered significant damage, and the entire fleet was prohibited from supersonic flight.

The fact is that the real reason for the probation, and the one that Panetta and the Pentagon have neglected to mention, is that the F-35C is still significantly over weight, and for an STOVL aircraft, that doesn't just mean a few percent drop in performance, it means that it cannot perform its allotted missions, because it cannot make a vertical landing.

This was why the British, before switching to the catapult launched and arrested recovery F-35C, were looking at a Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing at about 100 km/h forward speed.  They were afraid that the lack of performance would require aircraft to jettison (multimillion dollar) munitions before landing.

Those problems are still there

Full Pentagon press release after the break:

20 January 2012

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

We now have the first bank closings of the year by the FDIC.

It's a pretty busy week, 3 closings, but the last time that banks were closed was December 23, 4 weeks ago, so overall, it's been pretty sparse, even with the holiday doldrums.

So far, it looks OK, but it's not enough data to make any sort of projections.
And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Central Florida State Bank, Belleview, FL
  2. The First State Bank, Stockbridge, FL
  3. American Eagle Savings Bank, Boothwyn, PA
Full FDIC list

So, here is the graph pr0n with last years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

And here is the detail, since it is early in the year:

Props to Obama

He told the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to go Cheney themselves, and he approved a rule that requires employers to cover birth control in their insurance under almost all circumstances:
Today, in a huge victory for women’s health, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that most employers will be required to cover contraception in their health plans, along with other preventive services, with no cost-sharing such as co-pays or deductibles. This means that after years of trying to get birth control covered to the same extent that health plans cover Viagra, our country will finally have nearly universal coverage of contraception.

Opponents of contraception had lobbied hard for a broad exemption that would have allowed any religiously-affiliated employer to opt out of providing such coverage. Fortunately, the Obama administration rejected that push and decided to maintain the narrow religious exemption that it initially proposed. Only houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith will be exempt. Religiously-affiliated employers who do not qualify for the exemption and are not currently offering contraceptive coverage may apply for transitional relief for a one-year period to give them time to determine how to comply with the rule.

Twenty-eight states already require employers, including most religiously affiliated institutions, to cover contraception in their health plans. The only change is that now they must cover the full cost.
I'm truly shocked.

I expected them to split the baby yet again, and cave to the anti-abortion zealots.

I'm not sure if this is an outbreak of good policy making, or if it's just because it's an elections year, but I'll take it.

Quote of the Day

Warren and Brown are jockeying back and forth on the best method of keeping outside groups out of their race. Here's a novel concept: Both candidates could just buy up all the television air time themselves. After all, based on their ludicrous fundraising pace, it looks like they'll be able to afford it.
Reid Wilson upon observing that Elizabeth Warren had a 24-hour money bomb that raised over $1 million

19 January 2012


I just watched the Nightline interview with Marianne Gingrich, Newt's 2nd wife, where she alleges that Newt, when caught in the affair, asked her to have an open marriage, and bedded future 3rd wife Callista in her (Marianne's) bed:
Newt Gingrich lacks the moral character to serve as President, his second ex-wife Marianne told ABC News, saying his campaign positions on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family values do not square with what she saw during their 18 years of marriage.

In her first television interview since the 1999 divorce, to be broadcast tonight on Nightline, Marianne Gingrich, a self-described conservative Republican, said she is coming forward now so voters can know what she knows about Gingrich.

In her most provocative comments, the ex-Mrs. Gingrich said Newt sought an "open marriage" arrangement so he could have a mistress and a wife.
I was hoping for a bit more. 

This is basically old news, and it wasn't particularly squicky.

About the only thing that surprised me was that Gingrich wasn't even man enough to deny it himself.  He peddled his daughters (by his first wife) to ABC to issue the denials.

In the short term, I expect it to help him in South Carolina, because the 'wingers there will assume that it is an artifact of some sort of liberal conspiracy, as opposed to Newt just being a contemptible hypocrite.

Did the CFTC Just Call Louis Freeh's Corrupt?

Because this sounds a lot like them saying that he is either corrupt or criminally incompetent:
MF Global Inc. (MFGLQ) commodity customers must be paid before all other claimants, including the bankrupt parent company, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Court papers by the trustee for MF Global Holdings Ltd., Louis Freeh, contain “errors and misstatements of law” in arguing that commodity laws, which require that customers be “made whole” first, don’t apply to brokerage liquidations, the regulator said in a court filing today. Freeh, representing the parent company creditors, has said money due to them shouldn’t be “diverted” to customers.

If Freeh was right, “the senseless result would be to render inapplicable the key regulations of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the largest commodity broker bankruptcy in U.S. history,” the CFTC said. The result would “strip” customers of a remedy, after they entrusted their assets to the brokerage relying on rules for segregating customer money, it said.
What is going on here is that someone *cough* JP Morgan Chase *cough* looted customer accounts as MF Global as the company circled the drain, and they hired Freeh to cover up the theft.

Here's an analogy about US law for former judge and FBI director Freeh:  If you buy a stolen car, you don't get to keep it.

Am I the only one who thinks that not only is Freeh is being paid to cover up for the thieves who plundered this company in its final days, but that he's being completely incompetent about covering their tracks.

H/t Atrios.


Rick Perry has dropped out of the Republican Presidential primary and endorsed Newt Gingrich.

I'm not sure if Perry's supporter(s) will actually pay any attention to the endorsement. My money is on them going primarily to Santorum, who has the most similar hair among the anti-Mormon set.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??!!??!!??

OK, I get the optics.

Having Obama give his nomination acceptance speech in a huge outdoor stadium, with a much louder and more enthusiastic crowd, as he did in 2008.

It gives his speech more excitement.

I get it.

But to give the speech in Bank of America Stadium?!?!?!?

First, he chooses an anti-union right to work state, and now he's testifying in an edifice named after a bank?

And it's not just a bank.  It's one of the "too big to fail" banks that got billions (trillions?) in taxpayer bailouts.

Great googly moogly!

18 January 2012

Jon Stewart is the Best Journalist in America

Stewart looks at Foxconn and what it does to its workers in order to make the iPhone.

He plays it for laughs, but he absolutely nails just how horrific the conditions are, and how little we actually save for the pain that we inflict.

He takes a complex issue, researches it, provides documentary evidence, and puts it all in context better than anyone in the news media today.

He is a national treasure.

So, the Keystone XL Pipeline Is On Hold

The 'Phants forced a decision in the payroll tax bill, and so he denied the application:
President Obama on Wednesday rejected, for now, the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the $7 billion project could not be adequately reviewed within the 60-day deadline set by Congress. While the president’s action does not preclude later approval of the project, it sets up a baldly partisan fight over energy, jobs and regulation that will most likely persist through the November election.

The president said his hand had been forced by Republicans in Congress, who inserted a provision in the temporary payroll tax cut bill passed in December giving the administration only until Feb. 21 to decide the fate of the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would stretch from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The State Department, which has authority over the project because it crosses an international border, said there was not enough time to draw a new route for the pipeline and assess the potential environmental harm to sensitive grasslands and aquifers along its path. The agency recommended that the permit be denied, and Mr. Obama concurred.

“As the State Department made clear last month,” the president said in a statement, “the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”
The Republicans think that they have an issue, but it will be long forgotten by election time.

As to the final outcome, it will be approved after the election, and Obama will tweak the route a bit, and claim some sort of post partisan victory, all while basically selling out to big oil.

And as SOPA/PIPA Goes Down, the Supreme Court Decides to F%$# the Concept of Public Domain

The Supreme Court just ruled that the public domain can be taken away whenever Congress wants to:
We've been talking about the Golan case, and its possible impact on culture, for years. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's the third in a line of cases, starting with the Eldred case, to challenge aspects of copyright law as violating the First Amendment. The key point in the case was questioning whether or not the US could take works out of the public domain and put them under copyright. The US had argued it needed to do this under a trade agreement to make other countries respect our copyrights. Of course, for those who were making use of those public domain works, it sure seemed like a way to unfairly lock up works that belonged to the public. It was difficult to see how retroactively taking works out of the public domain could fit into the traditional contours of copyright law... but today, on the day of the big SOPA/PIPA protests... that's exactly what happened (pdf).

The ruling is ridiculously depressing. The Justices basically just keep repeating the mantra they first set forth in Eldred, that as long as Congress says it's okay -- and that the "fair use" and the "idea/expression" dichotomy remain -- all is just dandy. They also claim that since the very first copyright law took works from the public domain and gave them copyright protection, clearly there's nothing wrong with removing works from the public domain. This decision reinforces why the Eldred decision was a complete disaster, and just keeps getting worse. The Eldred ruling basically ignored the fact that copyright had changed entirely in a way that went against the First Amendment... by retroactively granting copyright extension. Now that ruling is being used to take works out of the public domain as well.

First, as with Eldred (and the second case in the trilogy, the Kahle case), I believe that the Court is greatly mistaken in its analysis of copyright law. First it claims that there's little fight between copyright and the First Amendment because the two things were put in place at about the same time. That's a specious argument for a variety of reasons. First, the original copyright law was significantly limited in a way that it was unlikely to really come into conflict with the First Amendment. It was limited to just a few specific areas, and for a very short period of time. It's only now that (1) copyright law has been totally flipped to make just about everything you create covered by copyright, (2) the law has been massively expanded in time and (3) changes in technology make us all create tons of "copyrighted" material all the time -- things have changed an entirely. It's hard to see how the Court can reasonably argue that the traditional contours of copyright law have not changed... but that's exactly what it does. Stunningly, the majority decision here, written by Justice Ginsburg, seems to suggest that there's no First Amendment issue here, because if people want to make use of the works that were previously, but are no longer, in the public domain, they can just buy those rights:
This ruling sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

IP increasingly resembles the Enclosure Acts in England, with a similar outcome. The ordinary people get f%$#ed, and the nobility makes out like raped apes.

Needless to say, this does not serve, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," as the constitution states.

Oh My F%$#ing Ghod!

The Obama administration is floating Larry Summers as the next head of the World Bank:
President Barack Obama may put his mark on the World Bank by nominating Lawrence Summers, his former National Economic Council director, to lead the bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

While a Summers nomination may draw criticism from some Democrats who disagree with his past stances on deregulating the financial industry, he has support inside the administration from top officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.
Larry Summers' record was too toxic for Obama to nominate him as secretary of the treasury, and the parts of his record that aren't rife with incompetence or corruption show that he is completely incapable of operating in an environment like the World bank, which requires consensus.

There is no eleventy dimensional chess.  This is just stupid and arrogant.

H/t Felix Salmon.

It's Been the SOPA/PIPA Protest Day Today

Click for full size

Wikipedia Went Dark
Well, it looks like the rent seekers who normally win this stuff (the "Mickey Mouse" Sonny Bono Copyright Act anyone?) are getting at least a temporary brush-back over their attempt to turn the internet into a gated community:
When the powerful world of Old Media mobilized to win passage of an online antipiracy bill, it marshaled the reliable giants of K Street — the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Recording Industry Association of America, and of course, the motion picture lobby, with its new chairman, former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and an insider’s insider.

Yet on Wednesday this formidable Old Guard was forced to make way for the new as Web powerhouses backed by Internet activists rallied opposition to the legislation through Internet blackouts and cascading criticism, sending an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet.

As a result, the legislative battle over two once-obscure bills to combat the looting of American movies, music, books and writing on the World Wide Web may prove to be a turning point for the way business is done in Washington. It represented a moment when the new economy rose up against the old.

“I think it is an important moment in the Capitol,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and an important opponent of the antipiracy legislation. “Too often, legislation is about competing business interests. This is way beyond that. This is individual citizens rising up.”

Legislation that just weeks ago had overwhelming bipartisan support and had provoked little scrutiny generated a grass-roots coalition on the left and the right. Wikipedia made its English-language content unavailable, replaced with a warning: “Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” Visitors to Reddit found the site offline in protest. Google’s home page was scarred by a menacing black swatch that blotted out the search engine’s label.

Phone calls and e-mails poured in to Congressional offices against the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect I.P. Act in the Senate. One by one, prominent backers of the bills dropped off.
It should be noted that the Republicans are walking away from this faster than the Democrats.

Even Orrin Hatch, the MPAA and RIAA's bitch,* has withdrawn his support of the bill.

BTW, this debacle is largely the fault of the entertainment industry, because until now they have refused to meet with the tech companies to work out differences, though they are begging for that now.

Here's a suggestion to the tech companies:  keep your boot on the MPAA's.

You'll be doing them a favor.  You might remember then MPAA chair Jack Valenti claiming that the VCR would destroy the studios, when the video rental revenues actually saved their bacon.

Here's a thought to the unproductive leeches who are entertainment executives, whose business, after all is to rip off the artists who actually produce this stuff:  Do less cocaine, fire your worthless brothers-in-law, and invest in treating the actual creative people, and in producing better content.

*For which he has been richly paid through record contracts from the labels.

Like a Bad Penny

Un-Dirty-Word Believable
She keeps coming back.

Sarah Palin has endorsed Newt Gingrich, and Newt Gingrich has said that Sarah Palin would have a "major roll" in his administration:
Newt Gingrich said Wednesday he would consider former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for a "major role" in his administration if he is elected president.

"Certainly, she’s one of the people I’d call on for advice. I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president," Gingrich said on CNN. He added that he has not discussed the idea with Palin, who he called "a very good reform governor."

Palin told Fox News on Tuesday that she would vote for Gingrich in South Carolina "in order to keep this thing going."

Palin has not endorsed a candidate in the Republican race, and her comments Tuesday weren't exactly an endorsement either, although Gingrich characterized them that way on CNN.
You see, Sarah Palin is saying that the problem is that in 2008, there was a candidate who was not properly vetted (@ about 1:10 in the vid), and she's referring to Barack Hussein Obama, not Sarah Louise Heath Palin.

Who says that Irony is dead?

17 January 2012

It's A Start

Love the mug shot
You know, it's refreshing when a billionaire ignores a judge, and the judge throws his ass in jail:
The elderly billionaire owner of Detroit's Ambassador Bridge has been jailed today for failing to meet court-ordered deadlines on a multimillion dollar construction project.

Manuel 'Matty' Moroun, along with company president Dan Stamper, has been sent to jail until his company complies with a 2010 court order to get the work on the $230m Gateway project done.

It is not yet clear how long the men will stay behind bars, but the work could take up to a year.
Well, were freed on appeal, so they only spent one night in the clink.

That being said, I want Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards on the Supreme Court.

Ha Ha!

The latest PPP (pp)polling, Rick Perry is in third place in Texas.

Normally, even in losing a Presidential primary contest, one tends to pick up a bit of stature both locally and nationally, in the case of Rick Perry, I think that it may very well have destroyed his future prospects in the state.

Rick Perry has three big problems: Collapsing poll numbers, worse debate performance than J. Danforth Quayle, and … let's see … I can't … The third one, I can't … Oops.

And in the Further Adventures of Walker Wisconsin Asshole

They turned in the petitions for his recall.  They needed 540,208, and were hoping for about 750K.

They got more than one million!

That's more than ¼ of all registered voters.

The wind is blowing in from Wisconsin, and I smell toast ………… My bad that's Scott Walker, who smells a lot like toast right now.

BTW, it's not just Walker"
Democrats and union members also collected about 850,000 signatures to recall Republican Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and 20,600 names to recall [Republican] Senator [Leader] Scott Fitzgerald, about 4,200 more than necessary. Also targeted are Senators Pam Galloway, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.
So, where was the Governor when this was all going on? He was in New York, raising money with Maurice "Hank" Greenberg at a $2500 a plate fundraiser.

Why was he raising large chunks of out of state cash from one of the prime architects of the AIG fiasco, whose bailout continues to cost taxpayers billions of dollars?

Why because those pesky lefties are flooding Wisconsin with masses of out of state dirty money.

Who says irony is dead?

16 January 2012

Well, Damn! This is Interesting

William Cohan, Bloomberg Columnist and former investment banker unloads on Mitt Romney with both barrels:
By bidding high early, Bain would win a coveted spot in the later rounds of the auction, when greater information about the company for sale is shared and the number of competitors is reduced. (A banker and his client generally allow only the potential buyers with the highest bids into the later rounds; after all, you can’t have an endless procession of Savile Row-suited businessmen traipsing through a manufacturing plant if you want to keep a possible sale under wraps.)

For buyers, the goal in these auctions is to be one of the few selected to inspect the company’s facilities and books on-site, in order to make a final and supposedly binding bid. Generally, the prospective buyer with the highest bid after the on-site due-diligence visit is selected by the client — in consultation with his or her banker — to negotiate a final agreement to buy the company.

This is the moment when Bain Capital would become especially crafty. In my experience — which I heard echoed often by my colleagues around Wall Street — Bain would seek to be the highest bidder at the end of the formal process in order to be the firm selected to negotiate alone with the seller, putting itself in the exclusive, competition-free zone. Then, when all other competitors had been essentially vanquished and the purchase contract was under negotiation, Bain would suddenly begin finding all sorts of warts, bruises and faults with the company being sold. Soon enough, that near-final Bain bid — the one that got the firm into its exclusive negotiating position — would begin to fall, often significantly.

Of course, some haggling over price is typical in any sale, and not everything represented by sellers and their bankers is found to be accurate under close examination. But Bain Capital took the art of negotiation over price into the scientific realm. Once the competitive dynamics had shifted definitively in its favor, the firm’s genuine views about what it was willing to pay — often far lower than first indicated — would be revealed.
And then there is the closing line:
I have no idea how Romney might behave in office. I do believe, however, that when he was running Bain Capital, his word was not his bond.
This guy has clearly been waiting for years to unload on Romney, and this take-down is truly a thing of beauty.

H/t The Shrill One.

A "Black Door" to Co-Opting Occupy Wall Street?

Glen Ford's thesis is that the recent involvement of prominent African American clergy is an attempt by the Democratic Party powers that be to co-opt the movement, and I am inclined to agree:
The Occupy Wall Street movement has, to date, “been effective in warding off cooptation by Democratic Party fronts such as Rebuild The Dream and MoveOn.org.” But OWS’s recent alliance with Black clergy-based (and Russell Simmons-backed) Occupy The Dream raises serious questions in this election year. “It appears that Occupy Wall Street’s new Black affiliate is also in ‘lock-step’ with the corporate Democrat in the White House.”

The Democratic Party may have entered the Occupy Wall Street movement through the “Black door,” in the form of Occupy The Dream, the Black ministers’ group led by former NAACP chief and Million Man March national director Dr. Benjamin Chavis and Baltimore mega-church pastor Rev. Jamal Bryant. Both are fervent supporters of President Obama.

Occupy The Dream’s National Steering Committee is made up entirely of clergy, as are its Members at Large, but its secular inspiration comes from media mogul (and credit card purveyor) Russell Simmons, who was a frequent visitor to Manhattan’s occupied Zuccotti Park. Simmons is co-chairman, with Dr. Chavis, of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, whose website is now mainly dedicated to the Occupy The Dream project. It is through Simmons that the ministers hope to attract entertainers and athletes to Occupy The Dream events.


Far from tamping their Obama fervor, the OWS brand equips the “Dream” ministers (and Simmons’ entertainment assets) to accomplish a special mission: to insulate the president from the Occupy movement and the national conversation on economic equality – or, better yet, to make him appear to be part of the solution. If they so choose.


We do, indeed, face a test in 2012: Will the Democratic Party be enabled to swallow up the Left – as it does every four years – including the fragile and tentative structures of the Occupy Wall Street movement? And, will the Democrats enter through the Black door?
Let's be clear, if Obama's campaign political operatives are not trying to co-opt OWS, they are incompetent, and this seems to be a low risk-high payoff tactic to accomplish this, so I'm inclined to believe that Plouffe's or Axelrod's finger prints are on this.

H/t Yves Smith.