30 April 2012


The SEC still hasn't finished its investigation of Lehman?

It's been 4 years, and we've not seen anything:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is still probing Lehman Brothers more than three years after the investment bank collapsed during the global financial crisis, agency chairman Mary Schapiro said on Wednesday.

Schapiro told lawmakers it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter that "remains under investigation," but assured lawmakers that the SEC has conducted interviews with management at the highest levels and has reviewed millions of pages of documents.

"It is still under review," she said at an SEC oversight hearing before a House Financial Services subcommittee.

Schapiro's comments come after "60 Minutes" on Sunday aired a segment revisiting the March 2010 findings by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc's court-appointed examiner, Anton Valukas.

Valukas' report said that Lehman used accounting gimmicks and had been insolvent for weeks before it filed for bankruptcy in September 2008.
But we haven't even seen administrative actions.

Nobody has been banned from the securities industry, no prosecutions, no fines, no nothing.

The fix is in.

Nice Golden Egg, Bird. See the Farmer With the Axe?

In a development that should surprise no-one following Comcast's purchase by NBC, Hulu will start requiring a cable account for access:
Viewers who stream network TV shows may soon discover the free ride is not so free.

Hulu, which attracted 31 million unique users in March under a free-for-all model, is taking its first steps to change to a model where viewers will have to prove they are a pay-TV customer to watch their favorite shows, sources tell The Post.

In fact, the move by Hulu toward the new model — called authentication because viewers would have to log in with their cable or satellite TV account number — was behind the move last week by Providence Equity Partners to cash out of Hulu after five years, these sources said.

And it’s not just Hulu making it tougher for cable-cutters to stream shows and other content.

Fox, owned by News Corp., which also owns The Post, is expected to begin talks soon with Comcast on a TV Everywhere deal that will require authentication. Plus, Philadelphia-based Comcast is expected to switch to an authentication model for this summer’s Olympic Games (see story at right).

The move toward authentication is fueled by cable companies and networks looking to protect and profit from their content.
Their content?

With all due respect to the fine gentlemen at Comcast, about the only work of convincing fiction that they produce are their own advertisements.

It also appears to be a violation of their agreement that the FCC required for the NBC/Comcast merger:
"The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was asked to include as a condition of Comcast's takeover of NBCU that subscription to a pay-TV service not be required for access to Hulu," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "It is a shame the Commission declined to do so."

Free Press saw it differently. "This sudden move to big cable's preferred business model raises serious questions about whether Comcast is violating the conditions of its merger with NBCUniversal," said the group, "a deal that gave the company a large ownership stake in Hulu." As a condition for approval of the merger, the cable giant agreed to relinquish any right "to influence, control or participate in the governance or management of Hulu."

"Where there's smoke, there's fire," said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood, "or at least a compelling reason to investigate. Under the terms of its acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast is forbidden from influencing Hulu's operations. Today's announcement looks an awful lot like an example of such influence."
what is going on here is that they are killing the business in order to maintain control.

In the short run, it may make sense, since this allows them to maintain their monopoly rents on their subscribers, for a while at least.

One of thei early investors, however, bailed out on Hulu:
Hulu.com owners Walt Disney Co. (DIS), Comcast Corp. and News Corp. (NWSA) are close to buying out Providence Equity Partners Inc.’s stake at a price valuing the company at about $2 billion, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

Providence is selling its 10 percent share in Los Angeles- based Hulu for about $200 million after investing $100 million when the venture began in 2007, according to the people, who weren’t authorized to talk publicly.

“This would be the optimal outcome,” David Bank, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York, said in an interview. “The real value of Hulu will be discovered on a longer time frame than what’s likely optimal for Providence.”
It ain't the time frame, it's that their interest is in the success of Hulu, and not of the cable companies, and they realized that the management is the cable companies' moles.

Truth be told, except for the wonderful Alec Baldwin brain sucker ads, this does not really effect me, but it's seriously galling.

What Has Happened to America?

It appears that one of the consequences of privatizing prisons is that these private companies are renting out prison labor for a profit:
Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. It can be found across broad stretches of the American economy and around the world. Penitentiaries have become a niche market for such work. The privatization of prisons in recent years has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain.

Prisoners, whose ranks increasingly consist of those for whom the legitimate economy has found no use, now make up a virtual brigade within the reserve army of the unemployed whose ranks have ballooned along with the U.S. incarceration rate. The Corrections Corporation of America and GEO, two prison privatizers, along with a third smaller operator, G4S (formerly Wackenhut), sell inmate labor at subminimum wages to Fortune 500 corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, and IBM.

These companies can, in most states, lease factories in prisons or prisoners to work on the outside. All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.
Seriously, our country is becoming something profoundly disturbing.

29 April 2012

Not Safety and Simplicity, Too Many Parts

So someone has decided that it might be a good thing to add even more moving parts to a rotorcraft:
A strange, 16-propeller vertical take-off and landing craft has been awarded the Lindberg Prize for Innovation at the Aero-Friedrichshafen 2012 airshow in Germany. It is an example of the unusual configurations made possible by distributed electric propulsion.
This is true. It is unusual.

It's also completely impractical.

There is not a single multi-engine aircraft that takes off with an engine out, and in this case, there are 16 engines that might fail.

If you lose an engine, you either don't take off, or, if you are in flight, you set down as soon as you can.

While this aircraft may (according to its inventors) be able to land safely with "several props failed", it won't make its destination with even one of the props failing.

If They Buy a White Persian Cat, Call Daniel Craig

So, a collection of eccentric billionaires have decided to start as company to mine the asteroids:
Some time in the next 18 to 24 months, Planetary Resources, Inc. will launch a series of mass-produced 9" space telescopes, dubbed Arkyd Series 100 spacecraft. They're specifically designed to identify which of the roughly 8,900 near-Earth asteroids are both smaller than 50 meters and suitable targets for retrieval back to Earth orbit. These small near-Earth asteroids represent a transient population, with life spans in the millions of years, typically cut short by running into a planet or being thrown out of the solar system by Jupiter.

That mission, according to Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson, will be completed well enough within the ensuing year or two that the follow-up spacecraft, the Arkyd Series 200, can track some of these asteroids as they fly by in high Earth orbit. Still later, Arkyd Series 300 swarm spacecraft can begin launching to survey those asteroids from a closer perspective, gathering information on spin, shape, and composition.

In theory, several spacecraft could be launched every year for as long as necessary. At some point, the company would have enough information to launch spacecraft built to travel to an asteroid and retrieve them over several years, ultimately delivering them to a high Earth orbit. By some time in the next decade, both robotic and manned spacecraft would be waiting in orbit for the asteroids as they arrived.


These angel investors form an amazing list. They include Google's CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi, Ross Perot Jr., and James Cameron. Charles Simonyi has been to space twice via one of Eric Anderson's previous ventures, Space Adventures. Ross Perot and James Cameron are also known as adventurers in their own right, and Cameron just returned from a solo submarine voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. All are willing to contribute large sums of money at high risk of loss for what could be a long period of time.
When you look at these guys, Cameron, Perot, the Google Twins, etc., you see a lot of ego.

Maybe I've watched one too many bond films, butthe idea that these guys want to go and place a number of asteroids, each about ½ a million tons (50m of solid iron weighs that) at a Lagrange point, where they can be given a nudge toward, for example, Fresno, unless we meet their demands.

I'm wondering what their nefarious demands will be.

28 April 2012

Not Enough Bullets

The banksters have discovered another way to pay their obscene levels of executive pay, they push poor customers to high fee products:
An increasing number of the nation’s large banks — U.S. Bank, Regions Financial and Wells Fargo among them — are aggressively courting low-income customers like Mr. Wegner with alternative products that can carry high fees. They are rapidly expanding these offerings partly because the products were largely untouched by recent financial regulations, and also to recoup the billions in lost income from recent limits on debit and credit card fees.

Banks say that they are offering a valuable service for customers who might not otherwise have access to traditional banking and that they can offer these products at competitive prices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new federal agency, said it was examining whether banks ran afoul of consumer protection laws in the marketing of these products.

In the push for these customers, banks often have an advantage over payday loan companies and other storefront lenders because, even though banks are regulated, they typically are not subject to interest rate limits on payday loans and other alternative products.

Some federal regulators and consumer advocates are concerned that banks may also be steering people at the lowest end of the economic ladder into relatively expensive products when lower-cost options exist at the banks or elsewhere.

“It is a disquieting development for poor customers,” said Mark T. Williams, a former Federal Reserve Bank examiner. “They are getting pushed into high-fee options.”

“We look at alternative financial products offered by both banks and nonbanks through the same lens — what is the risk posed to consumers?” said Richard Cordray, director of the bureau. “Practices that make it hard for consumers to anticipate and avoid costly fees would be cause for concern.”
Seriously, we should have tarred and feathered these f%$#s, not bailed them out.

Here's hoping that the CFPB takes a look at this.

The "Educational Reformers" in a Nutshell

Doug Lynch, University of Pennsylvania's vice dean of its Graduate School of Education was found to have been lying about having a PhD, and nothing happened, until the Inky found out, at which point he was first put on leave and then he resigned.

It appears that the university wasn't going to do anything meaningful until it became public:
Earlier Wednesday, Penn officials said they became aware of the misrepresentation a couple of months ago, taking unspecified "appropriate sanctions" but deciding to leave Lynch in his leadership role.

That changed after The Inquirer placed a call to Penn president Amy Gutmann for comment. The university then issued a one-sentence statement from Stephen J. MacCarthy, vice president for university communications.

"Doug Lynch has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation," MacCarthy's statement said.
As to why he was kept on, it was because he was so in tune with the educational reform "crap on teachers" orthodoxy:
Since joining Penn, Lynch has become a lightning rod for controversy. He has pushed entrepreneurial methods and supported programs such as Teach for America, which puts bright college graduates who lack education degrees in some of the nation's toughest public schools for a two-year commitment.

A February 2011 feature on him in Penn's alumni magazine said: "What happens when you unleash an entrepreneurship evangelist on an education school? Meet Doug Lynch, the vice dean bent on making Penn GSE a hub for social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and next-generation educational reform."
Because bringing in the private sector will allow Wall Street to do to our schools what they did to our retirement savings.

It appears that everyone in the educational reform is a fraud on some level.

H/t Atrios.

Skylon Development Continues Apace

Aspiring space plane manufacturer Skylon is beginning test with their key heat exchanger technology:
UK engineers have begun critical tests on a new engine technology designed to lift a spaceplane into orbit.


Its major innovation is the Sabre engine, which can breathe air like a jet at lower speeds but switch to a rocket mode in the high atmosphere.

Reaction Engines Limited (REL) believes the test campaign will prove the readiness of Sabre's key elements.

This being so, the firm would then approach investors to raise the £250m needed to take the project into the final design phase.


Sabre is part jet engine, part rocket engine. It burns hydrogen and oxygen to provide thrust - but in the lower atmosphere this oxygen is taken from the atmosphere.

The approach should save weight and allow Skylon to go straight to orbit without the need for the multiple propellant stages seen in today's throw-away rockets.


But it is a challenging prospect. At high speeds, the Sabre engines must cope with 1,000-degree gases entering their intakes. These need to be cooled prior to being compressed and burnt with the hydrogen.

Reaction Engines' breakthrough is a module containing arrays of extremely fine piping that can extract the heat and plunge the intake gases to minus 140C in just 1/100th of a second.

Ordinarily, the moisture in the air would be expected to freeze out rapidly, covering the pre-cooler's pipes in a blanket of frost and compromising their operation.

But the REL team has also devised a means to stop this happening, permitting Sabre to run in jet mode for as long as is needed before making the transition to a booster rocket.
The technology, first mooted in the early 1980s, is using the cryogenic hydrogen to extract oxygen from the air up to about 30,000m, and then convert to onboard oxygen for the rest of the journey.

The heat exchanger is a full size flight representative component so this is significant, but I really don't see this becoming an actual aircraft without a major government backing.

Some background on Skylon here.

27 April 2012

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Bank of the Eastern Shore, Cambridge, MD
  2. HarVest Bank of Maryland, Gaithersburg, MD
  3. Inter Savings Bank, fsb D/B/A InterBank, fsb, Maple Grove, MD
  4. Plantation Federal Bank, Pawley's Island, SC
  5. Palm Desert National Bank, Palm Desert, CA
Full FDIC list

Last week, I was noting how much the closure rate had slowed down, and I predicted less than 50 closures this year, and this week we see 5 closures.

Go figure.

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

GPD Growth Slows

If people are planning on a robust recovery, they will be disappointed:
The economic recovery slowed more than expected early this year, raising fears of a spring slowdown for the third year in a row and giving Republicans a fresh opportunity to criticize President Obama’s policies.

The United States gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter, down from 3 percent at the end of last year, according to a preliminary report released Friday. It was the first deceleration in a year, but it was not nearly as severe as other setbacks in the last couple of years.
Yeah, it sucks, but not so badly, until Angela Merkel manages to accomplish her goal of blowing up Europe though a misguided push for austerity.

Well, Duh

Congress just completed a study of torture by the CIA, and they discovered that it didn't work:
A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh "enhanced interrogation techniques" the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.

People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups.

The backers of such techniques, which include "water-boarding," sleep deprivation and other practices critics call torture, maintain they have led to the disruption of major terror plots and the capture of al Qaeda leaders.

One official said investigators found "no evidence" such enhanced interrogations played "any significant role" in the years-long intelligence operations which led to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden last May by U.S. Navy SEALs.
Torture has never been about good intelligence.

Torture's supporters don't care about what the record shows.

They support torture because it makes them feel like real men.

It's some sort of sick and twisted perversion.

I'm Cynical as to the Motives Here

So, after expressing concerns about the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the White House has now threatened a veto:
The White House has said that the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), currently before the US House of Representatives, lacks enough privacy protections in its current form and will probably be vetoed if passed.

A statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget said that, while the importance of protecting the national infrastructure from online attacks is paramount, it "strongly opposes" the bill because it lacks proper oversight, could seriously damage individuals' privacy and hands over responsibility for domestic cybersecurity to the NSA, rather than to a civilian body.

"Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security," the statement reads.

"The Administration looks forward to continuing to engage with the Congress in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to enact cybersecurity legislation to address these critical issues. However, for the reasons stated herein, if H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."
Yea! The White House is standing up for privacy.

Or maybe not:
"The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, in its current form," the White House said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "H.R. 3523 fails to provide authorities to ensure that the nation's core critical infrastructure is protected while repealing important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards."

CISPA’s sponsors, House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., dismissed the White House statement.

“The basis for the administration's view is mostly based on the lack of critical infrastructure regulation, something outside of our jurisdiction,” the pair said in a statement released during the House Rules hearing. In addition, the sponsors pointed out that the White House objects to the bill’s current form, which doesn’t contain the latest changes hammered out with civil liberties groups.
(emphasis mine)

Maybe I'm a bit of a cynic, but I'm thinking that their objection is that it does not grant enough power.

If we look at the Obama administration's prior behavior, their concerns for civil liberties or transparency have always taken a back seat to expanding executive power. (Basically Dick Cheney with abortion support)

Also, as PC Magazine notes, the Obasa administration made exactly the same sort of statements about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows for indefinite detention of American citizens, but decided to sign it anyway.

In any case, the House just called what is likely his bluff, and they passed CISPA and sent it to the Senate.

I'm not optimistic.

White House Statement after break:

So Not a Surprise

Michelle Rhee is speaking at a conference of for profit colleges, which, considering their record of taking students' (actually our, through the student loan program) money without providing any, you know, education:
Republic Report previously reported that former President George W. Bush will be speaking at the annual meeting of APSCU, the leading association of for-profit colleges, on June 22 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. For-profit colleges get $32 billion in student aid from your tax dollars every year, but many are marked by deceptive recruiting, low-quality programs, sky-high prices, and high dropout rates.


Finally, some really depressing news: APSCU has announced the conference’s “additional speaker,” and it’s former District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, now the CEO of education advocacy group Students First. If you’ve been on the fence about Rhee, not sure if she’s a sincere reformer with real results or a union-busting elitist aimed at replacing public education with charters, private schools, and online learning companies, you may find cause to jump off the fence now. By speaking at the annual meeting of the most cynical group of “educators” ever assembled — Wall-Street owned businesses that enrich their CEOs and ruin students’ lives at taxpayer expense and then hire armies of lobbyists to protect their privileges — Rhee has made her preferences very clear. (It’s always possible that she agreed to speak with the intent of telling the for-profits to clean up their act, but I doubt it.) Rhee staked her career on the concept of shutting down underperforming, bad schools. And now she will address a room full of them.
(emphasis mine)

For this, she will get a 50 grand speakers fee, but Michelle Rhee has always been a fervent devotee of pump and dump education, as evidenced by increasing evidence of her tolerance for fraud to create the illusion of success.

Considering the record of for-profit colleges, they are a perfect match.

Nice Takedown

Alex Pareene on Tucker Carlson.

Well worth the read.

Deep Thought

Works for me.

26 April 2012

It's Jobless Thursday

And the news remains bad, initial claims fell by only 1000 to a too-damn-high 388,000, with the 4 week moving average and continuing claims rising, though extended claims fell a bit.

Furthermore, we saw durable goods orders cratering.  They fell 4% in March.

As I mused earlier, I think that a lot of the good numbers in the 1st quarter were economic activity moving up because of a historically mild winter.

Another Shareholder Revolt

Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful, but the attempt by GE shareholders to exert greater control over management was pretty damn close:
Shareholders in General Electric have come close to winning a vote that would have given them more direct control over the the largest US industrial group by market capitalisation against the wishes of its board.

In the latest sign of rising shareholder activism in the US, a proposal at GE’s annual meeting in Detroit on Wednesday to allow shareholders to make decisions about the company “by written consent” won the support of some 47.5 per cent of the votes cast.

This would have meant that shareholders would not have had to call a special meeting to push through corporate change. The motion was backed by Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, the corporate governance advisory firms.

There was also a significant vote for appointing an independent chairman of the board, which was backed by 22 per cent of the votes cast, although that was lower than the 35 per cent support the proposal won last year.
I think that shareholders are beginning to understand that management will keep them in the dark, and then f%$# them like a drunk school girl if they don't make changes.

You gotta love the American MBA culture.

I Try to be Tolerant of Other Religions, But………

I understand that people want to worship their God in their own manner, but the Islamist in Egypt may be taking it a bit too far.

How much too far? How about legalizing necrophilia:
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper.

The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.
You know, I can understand wanting to kiss your spouse goodbye, (no tongue, please) but this is completely nuts.

Of more significance, is the fact that they are also trying to remove a woman's right to an education, and the right for a woman to initiate a divorce.

If it gets any more insane, Egyptian politics will start looking like a Focus on the Family convention.

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

25 April 2012

Yeah, Austerity Works

The UK is officially back in recession:
When David Cameron became PM, and announced his austerity plans — buying completely into both the confidence fairy and the invisible bond vigilantes — many were the hosannas, from both sides of the Atlantic. Pundits here urged Obama to “do a Cameron”; Cameron and Osborne were the toast of Very Serious People everywhere.

Now Britain is officially in double-dip recession, and has achieved the remarkable feat of doing worse this time around than it did in the 1930s.

Britain is also unique in having chosen the Big Wrong freely, facing neither pressure from bond markets nor conditions imposed by Berlin and Frankfurt.
Yep, the UK is now doing officially doing worse than it did in the great depression.

Why is anyone still listening to the austerity monkeys?

Oh Yeah, There Were Primaries Yesterday

Actually there were 5, and Romney won them all.

What is interesting however were 2 Congressional races in Pennsylvania:
U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, Pennsylvania’s longest-serving congressman, lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary, while Rep. Mark Critz beat fellow Democratic incumbent Rep. Jason Altmire in another contest that shook up the state’s House delegation.

Newly-configured congressional district lines put in place by the Republican-controlled state Legislature affected the dynamics in each closely-watched race.

Holden, who was elected to Congress in 1992 and was one of its conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats, lost Tuesday to personal injury attorney Matt Cartwright, who spent nearly $400,000 in the race.

Asked to assess his victory, Cartwright said “It’s a combination of things, number one, the redistricting, and number two, my own core political beliefs are a much better fit for the new district.”
The only bad news in these two elections is that Critz and Altmire could not both lose.

Still Critz is a bit less bad than Altmire.

BTW, as an aside, if you are considering supporting Democratic Congressional candidates this cycle, take Howie Klein's advice, and don't take a DCCC endorsement for granted, particularly since its head this cycle is former Blue Dog Steve Israel.  (You can see examples of their hacktacular calls at the link)

We need fewer of these right wing pukes in congress, not more, and most of the DCCC's red to blue targets are faux Dems.

Nino is F%$#ing Nuts

I mean, of course, Antonin Scalia, who just compared Arizona's "Papers Please" law to the FBI investigating bank robberies:
The debate surrounding Arizona’s immigration law is a heated one — and on Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia added to the strong sentiments swirling in the case. Questioning U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Scalia asked what’s wrong with states enforcing federal law, adding, “There is a federal law against robbing federal banks. Can it be made a state crime to rob those banks?”
Charlie pierce has concluded that fat Tony is phoning it in, (See also here.) and that he has realized that he'll never be chief justice, and he's bored with the court, and he's just f%$#ing with use.

I'm inclined to agree.

24 April 2012

Because they are Whiny Babies

Brad Delong wonders why Wall Street dislikes Barack Obama so much:
A worker bee at a mainline investment bank told me last fall:
Back in 2008 Wall Street was split 40-60 Obama-McCain. Now it is split 10-90 Obama-Romney.
Why? It is not as though Wall Street has done badly under Obama. Stock prices are up and interest rates are down, so leveraged financial institutions long assets--as Wall Street inevitably is--have done very, very well indeed. The standard bargain that the Democrats offer Wall Street has held. It is:
We will try to tax you (and, given the power of your lobbying operation in Congress, probably fail to do so), but we will give you competent economic management in striking contrast to that offered by the ideologically-blinded wingnuts who are the Republicans.
That has been the bargain that the Democrats have offered Wall Street from the days of Hoover to Bush II, and when Wall Street has had a sense of its own long-run interests, it has taken the Democrats up on it. And it has been happy.
But not this time.

Why not? What is going on? What is there about 50% real increases in equity values over less than 3 1/2 years that is not to like?
For the past 30+ years, these guys have been surrounded by people who treat them like they were Pashas, both in their social circles on Wall Street as well both sides of the partisan divide in Washington, DC, so when Barack Obama  calls them "Wall Street Fat Cats", their heads explode.

This is despite the fact he, and his sidekick Timmy Geithner, bail them out, and quash prosecutions.

One wonders just how insecure these guys are about their value to society. 

Hmm...come to think of it, this answer was a bit more involved than I intended.

Here's a hint:  You are all worthless parasites.

23 April 2012

Meanwhile in the American Elections

It looks like Obama's big donors from 2008 are sitting on their wallets:
President Obama’s re-election campaign is straining to raise the huge sums it is counting on to run against Mitt Romney, with sharp dropoffs in donations from nearly every major industry forcing it to rely more than ever on small contributions and a relative handful of major donors.

From Wall Street to Hollywood, from doctors and lawyers, the traditional big sources of campaign cash are not delivering for the Obama campaign as they did four years ago. The falloff has left his fund-raising totals running behind where they were at the same point in 2008 — though well ahead of Mr. Romney’s — and has induced growing concern among aides and supporters as they confront the prospect that Republicans and their “super PAC” allies will hold a substantial advantage this fall.

With big checks no longer flowing as quickly into his campaign, Mr. Obama is leaning harder on his grass-roots supporters, whose small contributions make up well over half of the money he raised through the end of March, according to reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission. And Mr. Obama is asking far more of those large donors still giving, exploiting his joint fund-raising arrangement with the Democratic National Committee to collect five-figure checks from individuals who have already given the maximum $5,000 contribution to his re-election campaign.

“They clearly are feeling the pressure,” said one major Obama fund-raiser, who asked for anonymity to characterize his conversations with campaign officials. “They’re behind where they expected to be. You have to factor in $500 million-plus in Republican super PAC money.”
This is what happens when your message shifts from "Hope and Change" (whatever the F$#@ that means) to "The Guys on the Other Side are Terrifying," which, while true, (an improvement on the 2008 message in that one respect) is not something that drives people to open up their check books or canvass door to door.

Sarko Comes in 2nd

This is the first time since the 1950s that a sitting president of France has not gotten the most votes in the 1st round of elections since the founding of the 5th Republic:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is wooing far-right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election's first round.

Francois Hollande came top with 28.6% and Mr Sarkozy got 27.1% - the first time a sitting president has lost in the first round.

Third-place Marine Le Pen took the largest share of the vote her far-right National Front has ever won, with 18%.

Referring to her voters, Mr Sarkozy said: "I have heard you."

"There was this crisis vote that doubled from one election to another - an answer must be given to this crisis vote," he said.
So, "President Bling-Bling" is going to go right-wing populist racist in the hopes of getting nearly all of Marine Le Pen's National Front knuckle draggers, because the neither the Left Front and the Democratic Movement voters are receptive to a xenophobic message.

I don't think that it's going to work, because Sarkozy is clearly Angela Merkel's toady in European politics, and the defacto German hegemony in the Euro Zone is something that French populists of both the left and right cannot abide.

About all Sarkozy has going for him is that he's more stylish than the rather colorless Hollande, but it will be a long shot for him on the May 6 runoff.

Sarkosy knows this, which is why he is trying to up the number of debates between the two finalsts to 3 from the usual 1.

Austerity Isn't Working for Qnyone

The 2nd most obnoxious people in Europe in their support of the magical austerity fairy are the Dutch, and now their coalition government has collapsed over their own austerity plans:
More uncertainty loomed for the euro zone on Saturday after the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, said he expected new elections to take place following the collapse of talks on new austerity measures.

The announcement is unwelcome news for Europe’s single currency zone, particularly because the Netherlands is one of just four countries using the euro currency that have maintained a coveted AAA credit rating.


The Dutch government has taken a tough line on bailouts for Greece and given strong support to Germany’s efforts to force through a new pact on fiscal responsibility in the euro zone.

But the country’s domestic politics have been plunged into crisis because targets for the budget deficit, laid down by the European Union, were missed.

On Saturday it became clear that a package of measures that had been under negotiation for several weeks, intended to save about 14 billion euros, or $18 billion, would not be supported by the Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, a populist right-wing and anti-Islam campaigner. The proposal included spending curbs and tax increases.
If 90% of politics is economics, then the right wing populist parties springing forth throughout Europe have a bright future, because, as much as it pains me, they are right on the economics of the situation.

Of course, the far left parties are largely correct on this too, but the mainstream parties are completely clueless.

Hell of a choice.

The Manchin-Lieberman Axis In The Senate

So called Democrat Joe Manchin is refusing to endorse Barack Obama for president, and rather unsurprisingly, so is Joe Lieberman.

Actually, it is a bit of a surprise.  I would have expected Lieberman to endorse the Republican again.

But the West Virginia Senate election is a big priority of the DSCC, which is why I won't give to the DSCC.

Whatever money I have to contribute goes to real Democrats.

22 April 2012

It Won't Happen, It Makes Too Much Sense

In consideration of the current budget trends the US Air Force is looking at smaller and simpler single purpose satellites:
Smaller, simpler satellite designs could begin making their way into service for mainstream U.S. Air Force missions in the middle of the next decade, a shift that would break with a longtime tradition of building large, expensive spacecraft for the Pentagon.

This shift from complex and expensive satellites could come about because Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command chief, and other military leaders are embracing the concept of “disaggregation,” or separating capabilities once resident on a single platform onto multiple systems. It could simplify satellite design and create what Shelton calls a “targeting problem” for an adversary looking to cripple U.S. space-based services, by expanding the number of satellites in a constellation.

If disaggregation materializes, it could underpin a shift for major constellations—military satellite communications, missile warning, precision timing and navigation, weather and space situational awareness. While it could prompt an end—or at least slow procurement—of today's satellites, the strategy could also be an opportunity for an industry facing reduced government spending to keep design teams intact.

Two possible near-term opportunities could be Shelton's interest in using a smaller, simpler approach for both the next-generation space situational awareness (SSA) and weather spacecraft.
The advantages are:
  • You can develop and field satellites more quickly.
  • If a contractor really screws the pooch in terms of performance, schedule, or cost, it's small enough to cancel.
  • You can have real competition, or perhaps competitive dual sourcing between vendors.
  • The resulting network would be a much more tolerant to a failure of a single satellite.
The downside is that the contractors who make this stuff will have less of an opportunity to over-promise and under-deliver, generating the necessary profits to employ retired generals as high priced consultants.

All things considered, I consider this initiative doomed because of this, but I'm a cynic.

21 April 2012

Payback's A Bitch

Everyone is freaking out because Argentina is renationalizing its formerly state owned oil company, YPF:
Argentina says it will seize a controlling interest in oil company YPF that is owned by Spanish firm Repsol.

President Cristina Fernandez said a bill would be presented to the Senate allowing the government to expropriate 51% of YPF shares.

The move, announced on national television, was welcomed by her cabinet and Argentina's regional governors.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said the action had "broken the climate of friendship".

Speaking after a government crisis meeting, Mr Margello told journalists his government would take "clear and forceful measures", although he did not specify what these would be.

In a statement Repsol said it "considers the announced measure to be manifestly unlawful and gravely discriminatory".
The sale of the former state owned energy company was in the middle of the Argentine financial crisis, when creditor nations held a figurative gun to the Argentine government's head, so it was sold at fire sale prices.

As to concerns about Argentina no longer being "friendly" to foreign investment, it's not a big deal.

Argentina has been growing more rapidly than all of its neighbors, including the vaunted Brazil.

Additionally, foreign investment won't go away, though it might demand an additional 50 basis points return.

Also, reduced foreign investment also less risk of the speculative inrushes that cause crashes which result in the loss of economic sovereignty and a shredding of middle class.

The recent lesson of Argentina, and of Iceland, as well as that of Malaysia during the Asian financial crisis, is that the so called Washington consensus, that currency speculation and completely unimpeded capital flows, that this will produce unparalleled economic growth, is completely wrong.

This is not an expropriation, this is justice. The assets were stolen by the looters in the first place.

He Opens His Eyes and Smells Brimstone

Charles "Chuck" Colson is dead at 80.

I'm not sure bothered me more about him, the fact that he was so gung ho that if Nixon were to vent and say, "Someone needs to shoot that son-of-a-bitch," Colson would buy a gun, or his "oh so pious" 2nd chapter playing Elmer Gantry.

Maybe you can swap the Presidential Citizens Medal you got from George W. for  a better bunk mate in hell.

Good Patent News Everyone

For once, the generic drug manufacturers win one:
The US Supreme Court ruled that generic drug makers can challenge big-name pharmaceutical firms in court to stop them from broadening the scope of their patent descriptions.

The measure overturns a 2010 appeals court ruling and confirms an earlier decision by a federal judge that ordered the US subsidiary of Danish laboratory Novo Nordisk to narrow the description of its patent on repaglinide, an anti-diabetes drug sold under the name Prandin.

Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, the US subsidiary of the Indian firm Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, is seeking to produce a generic version of Prandin.

However Novo Nordisk amended the wording of his patent to extend it, and block the Caraco’s request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to produce a generic version of the drug.

The FDA cannot approve the sale of a drug that breaks patent protection laws.

In a unanimous decision by the nine Supreme Court justices on Tuesday, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that “a generic company can employ the counterclaim to challenge a brand’s overbrand use code.”
Courts have gotten much more skeptical of what I call overbroad patent bullsh%$ over the years, so this is more of  a good trend.

Israeli's Get to Qualify Their Own Missiles on the F-35

I think that the folks at Lockheed and the F-35 program office were pretty desperate to get the Israelis in as a customer for the JSF, as evidenced by the facility with which the IDF/AF has been able to incorporate indigenous systems into the aircraft:
The Israeli air force's Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters will be armed with a mix of US- and Israeli-made weapon systems, sources have confirmed.

"At least one main weapon system" for the nation's conventional take-off and landing F-35As will be of Israeli origin, sources related to the issue said on 17 April. The Israeli air force has previously expressed its wish to equip the type with a nationally-developed new-generation air-to-air missile.


While the first batch of aircraft will carry the integral electronic warfare system being supplied under the Lockheed-led Joint Strike Fighter programme, it is expected that this will later be "enhanced" by additional units developed in Israel.
You'll notice that none of the other customers, or for that matter the partners in the development program, have had this sort of ability to integrate their own systems into this.

Basically, the market dynamics are such that the if the Israelis are not willing to buy a US aircraft, it would seriously hinder other foreign sales, so they got some special considerations with regards to integrating their own systems.

20 April 2012

The Silly Season is Upon Us

The Cookie Monster? Seriously?
The general election campaign is on, and really, really stupid

The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania has decided to make an issue of Mitt's characterizing cookies from a beloved Pittsburgh bakery as 7-11 cookies.



Mitt is a guy who has signed onto of the right wing's war on women, and you break out the f%$#ing  cookie monster?

Gawd, their heads are so far up their asses that they resemble a Klein Bottle.

It Appears that There is Such a Thing as a Thinking Conservative

Let me say that, since he was kicked out of his think thank job at AEI, David Frum has been a source of remarkably honest and thoughtful analysis.

A case in point is his comparison of Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama in reviewing Robert Caro's bio of Johnson:
It’s hard not to detect in these pages an unspoken critique of Barack Obama. Yes, certainly, Obama shares Lyndon Johnson’s gift for driving opponents crazy, if it is a gift. But the use of power Caro so vividly describes is not something that comes naturally to our current president. The constant searching for opportunities; the shameless love-bombing of opponents; the endless wooing of supporters; the deft deployment of inducements and threats—these are the low arts that led to Johnson’s high success. You can see why a high-minded leader like Barack Obama would recoil from the Johnson style and embrace Kennedyesque rhetorical grandeur instead. Such presidents contribute great phrases to quotation books, but they tend not to add lasting laws to the statute books—or enduring change to the history books.
It appears that there are are no thinking conservatives in America, so we have to export them to Canada.
last 'graph

Bad Day at the Office

Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.

Hotdogging at high altitude in a helo is not a good idea.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Fort Lee Federal Savings Bank, FSB,Fort Lee, NJ
Full FDIC list

One bank closing this week, and the first in three weeks.

17 bank failures in 16 weeks, and half of those were in the first 6 weeks, and the trend is down.

I'm thinking that we won't break 50 this year.

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

Best OP/ED of the Year So Far

I really cannot ad much to this:

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012

In memoriam: After years of health problems, Facts has finally died.

A quick review of the long and illustrious career of Facts reveals some of the world's most cherished absolutes: Gravity makes things fall down; 2 + 2 = 4; the sky is blue.

But for many, Facts' most memorable moments came in simple day-to-day realities, from a child's certainty of its mother's love to the comforting knowledge that a favorite television show would start promptly at 8 p.m.

Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people's lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: "Facts are to the mind what food is to the body."

To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of theU.S. House of Representatives are communists.

Go read all the rest.

19 April 2012

It's Jobless Thursday!

Another disappointing week, last week was revised up, and initial claims this week were worse than forecast, 386K, down 2K from last week, only last week was revised up by 8K, with the 4-week moving average and continuing claim rising, though extended/emergency claims fell.

What I think we are seeing, and I think the fact that home sales fell in March reinforces this, is that the generally good economic news in the 1st quarter was (at least partially) an artifact of the unseasonably warm winter, which moved a lot of economic activity a few months earlier.

Basically, we saw time shifting, and thought that it was a recovery.


My wife got a flat tire, had to drive down to the Target parking lot and put on the doughnut.

So not much posting today.

18 April 2012

What a Surprise

Obama announces a DoJ investigative task force to investigate foreclosure fraud, in order to bring the state Attorney Generals, most notably NY's Eric Schneidermann, and they are not staffing it:
Three months ago, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama announced a new task force to investigate mortgage fraud and bring some measure of relief to the 12 million American families who are either losing their homes or in danger of losing them.

The new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group would be co-chaired by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, U.S. Attorney John Walsh of Colorado and three Washington insiders from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Obama said, “This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”

Whether or not the President, attorney general and others intend to get around to this task someday, “speed” was a terrible word to choose. Because 85 days after that speech, there is no sign of any activity.


Yes, for a few days, there seemed to be a renewed sense of purpose and focus from the administration. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder held his own news conference and announced that at least 55 Justice Department lawyers, agents, analysts and investigators would be assigned to the effort. A news release promised 30 staffers would be joining efforts “in the coming weeks.”


On March 9 — 45 days after the speech and 30 days after the announcement — we met with Schneiderman in New York City and asked him for an update. He had just returned from Washington, where he had been personally looking for office space. As of that date, he had no office, no phones, no staff and no executive director. None of the 55 staff members promised by Holder had materialized. On April 2, we bumped into Schneiderman on a train leaving Washington for New York and learned that the situation was the same.

Tuesday, calls to the Justice Department’s switchboard requesting to be connected with the working group produced the answer, “I really don’t know where to send you.” After being transferred to the attorney general’s office and asking for a phone number for the working group, the answer was, “I’m not aware of one.”

The promises of the President have led to little or no concrete action.

In fact, the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group was the sixth such entity formed since the start of the financial crisis in 2009. The grand total of staff working for all of the previous five groups was one, according to a surprised Schneiderman. In Washington, where staffs grow like cherry blossoms, this is a remarkable occurrence.
Schneidermann got punked.

There were over 1000 FBI agents assigned to the Savings and Loan crisis, so 55 is a joke, but they aren't even staffing that.

If there was any question as to whether the banksters owned Obama, it's been answered.

And on the other side is Mitt, who is a bankster.

What a choice.

17 April 2012

Signs of the Apocalypse: Bloomberg Edition

The editors at Bloomberg are calling for an increase in the minimum wage:
Here’s an unhappy observation about the minimum wage: Congress last increased the rate in stages in 2006, topping it out at $7.25 an hour in 2009, or $15,080 a year.

That amount, when adjusted for inflation, is actually lower than what a minimum-wage worker earned in 1968 and is too meager to offer anyone the chance to climb out of poverty, let alone afford basic goods and services.

About 10 states are now considering raising the rate, and Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, is proposing to increase the federal rate in three increments to $9.80 an hour in 2014. Many of the initiatives under consideration would smartly tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, meaning that those workers’ wages would finally keep up with inflation.


It’s also becoming clear that many Americans are being forced to take lower-paying jobs and that a low-wage bias is creeping into the economy, as Bloomberg economist Joseph Brusuelas recently put it. In many cases, minimum-wage work is all that’s available, which may explain why such workers are older and better-educated than they were three decades ago. In 2010, nearly 44 percent of minimum-wage workers had either attended or graduated from college, up from 25.2 percent in 1979, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank.

Raising the minimum wage won’t entirely solve the problem of anemic incomes, but it would help. Economists have long found that boosting the minimum wage can raise income levels for those earning just above the minimum. Employers, seeking to protect “wage ladders,” often bump up salaries for slightly higher-paid employees, too.

The editorial page of Bloomberg is not like the moon-bat insane Wall Street Journal's page, they don't contract facts on the front page in the OP/Ed Section, but this is not a populist publication by any means, and they just called out the neoliberal consensus that calls for more suffering from the least of us.

I'm beginning to think that economic populism may be a winner this year.

Wisconsin Voter Suppression Law Won't Be In Effect in November

The State Supreme Court has decided not to review the court decisions at this time, so the injunction remains in place:
The state Supreme Court refused Monday to immediately take up a pair of cases that struck down the state's new voter ID law, a decision that will likely mean citizens won't have to show identification when they cast ballots in recall elections in May and June.

The court's terse orders send the cases back to two different appeals panels, though the cases could eventually return to the Supreme Court.

The justices issued their orders just three weeks before the May 8 primary for Democrats to pick a candidate to run against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election.

Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan in March blocked the voter ID law for the April presidential primary, saying it likely disenfranchised voters, based on testimony that there are more than 220,000 Wisconsin residents who do not have photo IDs but who are otherwise qualified to vote.

A trial in that case began Monday, and Flanagan is expected to decide whether to lift his injunction or block the law permanently after it concludes this week. The case was brought by the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera.
My guess is that one of the 4 reactionary hacks (7 members on the WI state Supreme Court) on the court looked at the political landscape, and realized that there was no benefit to jumping in line, because it would put a pall over the recall election.

Another Reason Banksters Walk

Because there are a lot of people who make a lot of money by finding the scammers and betting on the damage that they do, like this short seller:
But then he came to the nub of the issue. The easiest scammer to find is a repeat offender. We actively seek out people who promote dodgy stocks and who who are repeatedly involved in dodgy companies. The slogan is “once a scumbag, always a scumbag”. That slogan is probably not strictly accurate - but we only need to be right 90 percent of the time to be fantastic at this business – and the recidivism amongst scammers is surprisingly high.


So, says my son asks you like nasty people to steal from poor investors, mutual funds (and he did not say pension funds for school teachers) so that you can join them in taking the loot by being a short-seller – and you don't want the regulators to do anything about it because there are more opportunities for you?

Sheepishly I confess yes.

And he says with a mixture of admiration and horror: “daddy you are more evil than I thought”.
As shocking as the outright law breaking on Wall Street it, what is legal is even scarier.

I'm surely not the first one to observe this, but the incentives in our financial system are seriously whack.

Betraying Women for Fun and Profit

It looks like the Democratic establishment in Michigan is going all in for a Congressional candidate who has voted to defund Planned Parenthood:
That's a serious question: Who does the DCCC back in the Michigan 3rd CD race?
Context — Obama's White House is in the process of trying (and failing) to damp down the firestorm from the gay community about Obama's pointed refusal to grant the same protection against same-sex–preference bias as it routinely grants to other biases.
Marcie Wheeler, who lives in the district pointed it out this way:
Meanwhile, the Democrats are still going to use GOP attacks on women as a political stunt. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted or re-tweeted 7 comments about women’s issues yesterday, in addition to the seemingly mandatory condemnation of Rosen.

I was particularly amused by this DWS tweet:
Bottom line: Choice, affordable contraception, and Planned Parenthood are at stake in this election. http://j.mp/I6A8c0

As it happened, a few hours after DWS sent that tweet, I went to a Debbie Stabenow event hosted by a local women’s group. As we were waiting for the Senator to speak, a top county Democrat was sitting several rows behind me trying to convince some of the women not to support Trevor Thomas. “There is absolutely no way he can win,” the guy said (the polling says he’s wrong, and I suspect he knows that). In addition to saying a gay man can’t win, he also said a pro-choice person can’t win in the district (his listeners pointed out that Stabenow herself had won the district; so have at least two other pro-choice candidates). Then he described Steven Pestka, using the line Michigan Democrats used to defend Bart Stupak as he was rolling back access to choice for women across the country.
He’s with us on everything else.
But the really appalling comment, uttered by a man at a women’s event, was this:
I need to win this year.
If the guy were reasonably intelligent, he might have said, “we need to win the gavel back for Nancy Pelosi.” But he couldn’t even muster a “we need to win” this year. Nope. It was “I need to win this year,” and that’s why women have to suck it up and vote for someone who has attacked their autonomy in the past.

Steve Pestka’s with us on everything else, this guy said at a women’s event. But he’s not just anti-choice. When he was in the State House (the experience locals point to to claim he’s a better candidate than Trevor) he scored a whopping 0% on votes to support choice. That included a vote for HB 4655, which singled out Planned Parenthood to be defunded, precisely the outrage–at the national level–that Democrats use as the cornerstone of their metaphorical attack on the GOP for its “War on Women.”
It really is remarkable just how craven, and willing to abandon core principles the professional Democrats are, and how f%$#ing stupid this sort of behavior is.

Cowardly political calculation, particularly with the active public support of the party establishment, turns off voters.

Though I'm Sure that New Yorkers are Glad to be Rid of Rush…

It appears that the numbers don't lie, but right wing economists do:
Proponents of the migration myth are at it again, trying to sell the idea that if states with lower taxes gain more population than states with higher taxes, taxes must be the reason.

To prove that people migrate from state to state in search of lower taxes, the latest edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Rich States, Poor States” report notes that, over the past two decades, Hawaii (which has an income tax with a relatively high top rate) has lost twice as many residents to other states as Alaska (which has no income tax).

Wait, you might ask. What about differences in the job market? Oil prices? Housing costs? Shouldn’t we take these and other potential factors into account?


For example, ALEC attributes Florida’s 46 percent population gain between 1990 and 2010 to its lack of an income tax, ignoring the fact that neighboring Georgia — which has an income tax — grew by 50 percent over that period.

As for Alaska and Hawaii – the states that ALEC uses to illustrate the tax-flight myth — IRS data show that, in fact, slightly more households are moving from no-income-tax Alaska to high-income-tax Hawaii than the other way around. In 2010, the last year for which data are available, 300 households moved from Alaska to Hawaii; 287 moved the other way.

As our report stated:

It would not be credible to argue that no one ever moves to a new state because of the desire to live someplace where taxes are lower. But neither is it credible to say that taxes are a primary motivation, nor that migration has a large impact on the revenue impact of tax measures.
As for Rush, he probably decided to move to Florida because it's easier to get a direct flight to the Dominican Republic from the sunshine state.

After all Rush has to be able to indulge his "tourist proclivities."

H/t Mark Thoma.

Vikram Pandit, F%$# You

What Cee Lo Green Said (NSFW)
At the Bank of America's annual meeting,; shareholders voted down Vikram Pandit's pay package:
In a stinging rebuke, Citigroup shareholders rebuffed on Tuesday the bank’s $15 million pay package for its chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit, marking the first time that stock owners have united in opposition to outsized compensation at a financial giant.

The shareholder vote, which comes amid a rising national debate over income inequality, suggests that anger over pay for chief executives has spread from Occupy Wall Street to wealthy institutional investors like pension fund and mutual fund managers. About 55 percent of the shareholders voting were against the plan, which laid out compensation for the bank’s five top executives, including Mr. Pandit.

“C.E.O.’s deserve good pay but there’s good pay and there’s obscene pay,” said Brian Wenzinger, a principal at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, a Philadelphia money management company that voted against the pay package. Mr. Wenzinger’s firm owns more than 5 million shares of Citigroup.
Capitalism is a bitch, ain't it, Mr. Pandit?

We need a lot more of this.

 In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the feeling of amusement.

16 April 2012

Stating the Obvious

Eliot Spitzer notes that Barack Obama was on Wall Street's side from Day One:

That being said, I think that Spitzer is wrong on the finer points here. He thinks that the tepid (largely phony) moves toward regulation have turned Wall Street against Obama, not his occasional speeches about "fat cat bankers."

I think that it is these words. These are very rich men, who spend their lives surrounded by toadies and sycophants who validate their self worth, because of they have a pathetic need for affirmation.

People simply don't tell them that they might not be the most valuable people in the world in their world, so when Obama offers the most tepid of critiques, while doing their bidding, they freak out.

I just wonder how small these guy's penises are.

A Nice Recapitulation of Rather and Bush

I'm not sure if it really reveals much, but I think that it's pretty clear that Rather and his producers got punk'd by Karl Rove.

It's basically a recapitulation of what we know, but the circumstantial evidence is:
  • George W. Bush got into the National Guard because his dad, or someone close to him, pulled stings.
  • Ben Barnes was in the thick of things, and some (remarkably corrupt) doings involving the Texas Lottery were involved, which might have been the real reason that Harriet Miers was dropped as a Supreme Court nominee.
  • Texas is generally a festering pit of corruption and self dealing.
  • That what Dan Rather reported was probably true, but that someone *cough* Karl Rove *cough* used false documents to simultaneously get the facts out and discredit them.  (He appears to have done the same with the late J. H. Hatfield with his book Fortunate Son)
  • Bush almost certainly stopped flying when he became afraid to fly.
So there are no new blockbusters, and quote honestly, much like the Reagan/Bush deal to keep the Iranian hostages locked up in 1980, the 'Phants are well past the denial stage, and into dismissing the whole affair as irrelevant common knowledge.

H/t Jesse Singal at Washington Monthly.

WhyEeveryone at the ECB Should be Fired and Replaced With Kitchen Appliances, Part CLXVII

The banksters at the ECB, those self-appointed protectors against the ravages of inflation, are demanding an inflation adjustment for their pensions:
Since the start of the Eurosystem our brave inflation warriors at the ECB regularly praise themselves what a heck of the job they are doing about their primary objective the maintenance of price stability. But yesterday the German Daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) published an article (German), that our guardians of price stability fight another good fight. The employees of the ECB want their own pensions to be inflation protected.

So the same folks who lecture member states of the Eurozone about the danger of private sector labor and pension contracts being inflation-indexed because of moral hazard want their own pension contracts inflation-indexed. For this fight to be successful ECB employees deploy a very evil institution: the central banker union IPSO. According to the FAZ article a former employee sued the ECB with the help of IPSO at European Court of Justice.
Seriously, I cannot think of of a better illustration of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the so-called experts who want to tell us how we are supposed to run our economy.

Their rules only apply to us, not to them.

The Word for April in Pashtun is "Tet"

Charlie Pierce is right, There Is No Mission in Afghanistan Anymore. There Isn't Anything. There Is Only Abject Failure. And That Alone:
The attacks, they said, were "orchestrated." Or, if the people reporting them were being particularly precise, the attacks were "carefully orchestrated." The order of the adverbs is the order of battle. In Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters attacked the Afghan parliament building, and several embassies, and a NATO base. There also were attacks in the provinces. Those people old enough to remember the Tet Offensive can be excused if they mention the obvious parallels. Whatever its historical ambiguity as a military operation, Tet was a mind-quake in the United States. It forced the country to face squarely the sheer mendacity of its own government's statements about the war as a war. It redefined for the United States what "winning" in Vietnam meant and it redefined it as an impossibility. In Afgantsy, his admirably lucid history of the Russian catastrophe in Afghanistan, Rodric Braithwaite quotes an old aphorism of which the guerrilla fighters in that country were fond: The foreigners have the watches, but the locals have the time.

But the fact is that, in terms of the domestic reaction it provoked, Tet was closer to a beginning than it was to an end. The war would grind on for seven more years, two years longer than the Americans chose to stay with it. The domestic antiwar movement was just building toward a crescendo that few people could imagine; the shootings at Kent State were still two years away. Lyndon Johnson was still president, and the presumptive nominee of his party. Nixon was still something of an underdog. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. — they were still alive. The Vietnam War was just beginning to reach all corners of American society like a dark, living thing with a thousand faces.
That being said, Charlie explains that this is in some ways worse than Tet, because we've already lived through Tet, and apparrently have learned nothing:
And that is the biggest reason why what happened in Kabul this weekend is not Tet: because, when Tet happened, we didn't have Tet to remember and to learn from. Afghanistan was supposed to be the Soviet Union's Vietnam, and it did rather work out that way. But it turned out that Afghanistan was a worse Vietnam than Vietnam ever was, and we wandered over there just in time to make Russia's Vietnam our own. We have done what we came for. Osama bin Laden is as dead as Lord Kitchener; the al Qaeda network, at least in Afghanistan, is in a shambles. We do not have the power to enforce a stable government on a country that so manifestly resists the notion, especially when it comes from foreigners. What in hell are we doing over there anymore.
I think that Pierce is a bit optimistic: I think that the American establishment and the Pentagon learned the wrong lesson from Vietnam.

You see, they asked the question, "Why did we lose the war," and in their infinite wisdom, they concluded that it was because the "lost" the American public, so the answer to the Vietnam debacle was to create an all volunteer force, so middle America's sons would not be subject to conscription, and to ramp up restrictions and manipulate the media, embedded reporters and the like.

But we didn't lose the war. We were beaten.

That question, "How were we beaten," places the onus on that same American establishment and Pentagon, as opposed to scapegoating the public and the media, which is why they don't ask that question.

15 April 2012

While We Are On the Subject of Jabba the Governor

It appears that Republican "It-Girl" Chris Christie lied through his teeth about the reasons that he canceled the new tunnel to New York City:
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent Congressional investigators.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.

Canceling the tunnel, then the largest public works project in the nation, helped shape Mr. Christie’s profile as a rising Republican star, an enforcer of fiscal discipline in a country drunk on debt. But the report is likely to revive criticism that his decision, which he said was about “hard choices” in tough economic times, was more about avoiding the need to raise the state’s gasoline tax, which would have violated a campaign promise. The governor subsequently steered $4 billion earmarked for the tunnel to the state’s near-bankrupt transportation trust fund, traditionally financed by the gasoline tax.

On Tuesday, in a speech at a conference on taxes and the economy in Manhattan, Mr. Christie did not mention the report, but defended his decision to cancel the project, saying, “I refuse to compromise my principles.”


Martin E. Robins, the founding director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University and an early director of the ARC project, criticized the governor. “In hindsight, it’s apparent that he had a highly important political objective: to cannibalize the project so he could find an alternate way of keeping the transportation trust fund program moving, and he went ahead and did it,” he said.
(emphasis mine)

His principles in this case are pandering to "No New Taxes" promises that he made.

What a surprise.

H/T the Shrill One, Paul Krugman.

And Now They Are Claiming that Hyperlinking is Infringement

This is not about making money, This is about seizing control of how we discuss any form of media:
The Motion Picture Association of America is squaring off against a coalition of Internet giants and public interest groups over the key question of whether it's possible to directly infringe copyright by embedding an image or video hosted by a third party.

A federal judge took that position last July, prompting a chorus of criticism. Two briefs—one by Google and Facebook, the other by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge—attacked the decision as contrary to past precedents and potentially disruptive to the Internet economy. They asked the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn it.

Last week, the MPAA joined the fray with a brief in support of Illinois federal judge John F. Grady's ruling. It urged the Seventh Circuit not to draw a legal distinction between hosting content and embedding it. In the MPAA's view, both actions should carry the risk of liability for direct copyright infringement.

The case arose from a dispute over Internet pornography. MyVidster is a video bookmarking site that allows users to save links to their favorite videos and share them with others. The site supports embedding, so bookmarked videos can be viewed on a myVidster page surrounded by myVidster ads.
This is technical, but there is primary and secondary infringement, and the burden of proof is lower, and the penalties are higher, for the former.

If you extend primary infringement to embedding, which is practically indistinguishable from hyperlinks, then expect a full assault on hyperlinks, and if they win on this, the internet becomes another corporate walled garden.

Christie the Hutt Complains About Americans Being Couch Potatoes

Normally I wouldn't make fun of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for being a lazy fat slob. (Well, except for the bit where he takes a helicopter to his kid's high school baseball game, and is met by an SUV that takes him the final 100 yards to the bleachers. Ignoring that would be superhuman)

That being said, when he blames the American public for being couch potatoes, all bets are off: (and there is so much WTF in this)

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says that American are turning into couch potatoes,(first WTF) just sitting around waiting on their next check from the government.

Speaking to the Bush Institute Conference on Taxes and Economic Growth (WTF? The F%$#ing Bush Institute Conference on F%$#ing taxes and F%$#ing Economic F%$#ing Growth) in New York City on Tuesday, the first-term governor said that he had “never seen a less optimistic time in my lifetime.”
What major political figure resembles a fat slob sitting on his couch waiting for his check from the Koch Brothers Government?

Seriously, the Koch suckers out there have no sense of irony at all.

H/t Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

14 April 2012

I'm Not Sure if These are Winglets or Stators

Click for full size

I Think that it's more of a stator than a winglet
Aviation Week has an article about looking at winglets to increase the performance of the V-22 Osprey (paid subscription required):
The ability of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor to fly farther, as well as faster, than helicopters has been a key factor in its fight for survival for more than a decade. But now, with both CV-22B and MV-22B versions recently pressed into service on longer-range, self-deployed combat and rescue missions in Libya and Afghanistan, the hunt is on for greater unrefueled performance.

Squeezing more range out of the V-22 is not easy, however. Constrained from birth by the need to fit on the restricted decks of U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships, the tiltrotor was necessarily limited to smaller-than-optimal wing and rotor dimensions leading to an inevitable impact on range. Without the options of increasing wingspan or rotor diameter available to them, designers are taking a leaf out of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes playbook and studying nacelle-mounted “sails” that work on the same principle as winglets.

Although Bell Boeing declines to comment on the development, Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) confirms it is preparing to flight test a modified MV-22 with the upgrade which could boost range by almost 5%. The concept, which was studied by Boeing for the Special Operation Forces CV-22 version as far back as 1994, harnesses the energy from the vertical upwash around the wing and nacelle. In the case of the V-22, Bell Boeing’s research indicates upwash angles of 10-20 deg. around the nacelles at the nominal cruise pitch attitude of 8 deg. The additional upwash velocity produces a propulsive force by tilting the lift vector forward.
I should note that I am not an aerodynamicist, but it looks to me a lot of the gains from these surfaces are from straightening the rotational wash off the props, much in the same way that stators do in a multi-stage turbine.

Because it increases effective wing area, it would have the effect of reducing longitudinal stability, so the flight test regime will target this concern.

Aah!!!! Garlic Bread!

Passover is over!

I had garlic bread and linguini.


13 April 2012

Adventures in Hack Journalism

In this case it is draw by crayon libertarian Declan McCullagh with an assist by Greg Sandoval, who have decided that the way to write a story about the suit against apple Apple and the publishers who colluded with them was to show that Apple was going to win this suit by consulting with law profs who have been paid by right wing think tanks or have a long history of opposing anti-trust law.

They quote Geoffrey Manne, who works for the Hoover institute, Dominick Armentano, whose Independent Institute is funded by the Olins, the Kochs, and served as a "straw buyer" for Microsoft for the purchase of ads regarding that antitrust litigation, and Richard Epstein, who is the godfather of libertarian legal theory.

In the process, they ignore the facts of the case, as Time Magazine (of all people) documents:
So the publishers worked urgently to hatch a scheme to raise e-book prices before $9.99 became an “entrenched consumer expectation,” according to the lawsuit. Publishing executives are said to have plotted, cloak-and-dagger-style, during meetings at upscale Manhattan restaurants, and tried to conceal their communications “to avoid leaving a paper trail.” A favorite meeting spot was the Chef’s Wine Cellar, a private room at Picholene, just off Central Park West. It’s clear from the complaint that the Department of Justice went so far as to obtain the mobile-phone records of major-publishing-house CEOs.

Meanwhile, Apple was debating business models as it planned to storm onto the e-book market with the iPad. At one point, according to the lawsuit, Apple “contemplated illegally dividing the digital content world with Amazon,” with audio-video going to Apple and e-books to Amazon. Instead, Apple, led by content honcho Eddy Cue, reached out to the publishers to propose that the industry shift from a wholesale model, in which retailers set the price, to an agency model, in which the publishers set the price and Apple, as the “agent,” would receive a 30% commission.

Apple’s then CEO Steve Jobs described the talks in a now infamous quote that appeared in Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography: “We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.’” Apple played a special role in the plot, according to the government, acting as the “spoke” of a wheel of conspiracy by playing the major publishers off one another to ensure they all participated.
Even if Apple were not engaging in an illegal act on its own, it is engaging in an illegal conspiracy to fix prices, but the draw by crayon libertarian cannot extend his Rolodex beyond the usual suspects.

If the DoJ wanted to go RICO on their asses, it would get really ugly, but if you are a dedicated Randroid, you consult the usual suspects, and create the illusion that there is no "there" there.