31 May 2012

It's Jobless Thursday!

And initial claims are up, 1st quarter GDP is revised down, and the ADP job numbers are anemic.

BTW, the Indian economy appears to be slowing down too.

This seems to happen every summer.

For the past three years, there has been an apparent pickup in the Fall and Winter that sputters out toward the end of Spring.

I;m beginning to think that the seasonal adjustments need to be tweaked.

Appeals court strikes down DOMA

Fabulous! 2 snaps up!

The entire law was not struck down, but the section that prohibits the federal government from providing tax and other benefits to people who are legally married has been struck down under the Equal Protection clause.

It's doubtless going to the Supreme Court, where it will be close.

The Big Dog is Coming to Wisconsin

Bill Clinton is heading to Wisconsin to campaign for Scott Walker's recall:
Former President Bill Clinton has decided to go to Wisconsin to campaign against Scott Walker in the final days of the battle over whether to recall the Wisconsin Governor, a move that could give a boost to the anti-Walker forces in a campaign that will depend heavily on who turns out to vote, a source familiar with Clinton’s plans confirms to me.

As late as yesterday afternoon, it was still not certain whether Clinton would go to Wisconsin. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a meeting with Democrats, seemed to suggest that he was trying to determine whether he would go. But neither the DNC nor Clinton’s camp would confirm whether it was going to happen, and Democrats cautioned that Clinton had not made up his mind.

But now he will go to Wisconsin, the source confirms.

Democrats badly want Clinton to campaign in Wisconsin for Tom Barrett, and had lobbied him heavily for weeks. But Clinton remaind undecided until today.
For the past month, the Democratic establishment has pretended that the recall does not matter, and now, suddenly they all showing up to campaign.

Either the internal polling is looking good, or the rank and file have been hammering them, or maybe both.

Either way, this is a positive development.

Google Wins

The judge has now ruled on whether or not the Java API is covered by coopyright, and he said no.

This must be the one of the few federal judges out there who understands programming:
Oracle's legal battle to break itself off a chunk of the smartphone market by attacking Android looks dead in the water today, after a federal judge who recently finished presiding over the six-week Oracle v. Google trial ruled that the structure of the Java APIs that Oracle was trying to assert can't be copyrighted at all.

It's only the code itself—not the "how-to" instructions represented by APIs—that can be the subject of a copyright claim, ruled Judge William Alsup. "So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API," wrote the judge.

Google had copied certain elements—names, declaration and header lines—of the Java APIs. Alsup ruled that even though Google could have rearranged "the various methods under different groupings among the various classes and packages," the overall name tree is "a utilitarian and functional set of symbols, each to carry out a pre-assigned function... Duplication of the command structure is necessary for interoperability."


Alsup compared APIs to a library, with each package as a bookshelf in the library, each class a book on the shelf, and each method a chapter out of a how-to book. "As to the 37 packages, the Java and Android libraries are organized in the same basic way but all of the chapters in Android have been written with implementations different from Java but solving the same problems and providing the same functions." The declarations, or headers, "must be identical to carry out the given function," wrote Alsup.

Ninety-seven percent of the source code in the API packages is different; it's only the three percent that overlaps that formed the heart of Oracle's copyright claim. That three percent included packages, methods, and class names. But those declarations—like starting a function with package java.lang—can only be used in certain ways. "In order to declare a particular functionality, the language demands that the method declaration take a particular form," notes Alsup (emphasis in original).

Alsup's ruling comes less than a month after a European court made a decision along the same lines, finding that programming APIs can't be copyrighted because it would "monopolize ideas."
Judge Alsup gets it.

He understands the basic concepts, and he understands computers.

I am pleasantly surprised.

Edwards Not Guilty on 1, Mistrial on 6

Considering the fact that the judge bent over backwards for John Edwards, this is a win for Edwards.

Considering the fact that the judge was clearly in the prosecution's pocket, allowing testimony that had nothing to do with the underlying crime for the squick factor, and forbidding the presentation of an FEC ruling which said that the expenditures were legal, the prosecution has to be thinking that this case is a loser.

Rmoney 2012!

You gotta love this.

The Romney campaign came up with an iPhone app, and they misspelled America.


H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

30 May 2012

Why I'm Voting in November

Because the bigots in Maryland have turned in sufficient signatures to put a repeal of same sex marriage on the ballot:
Activists working to repeal Maryland's same-sex marriage law have collected more than twice the signatures needed for a referendum — likely ensuring that the measure will be on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

The law's opponents submitted 122,481 signatures in favor of a referendum; 55,736 are required. If enough are verified as legitimate, as expected, Maryland will be in the center of a national debate on same-sex marriage, with groups on both sides preparing to spend millions.
I'm still debating between writing in Stewart/Colbert or Colbert/Stewart, but I'm voting against the hate amendment.

Why Newspapers are Dying

Because their owners are draining them dry. First, it was the Bancroft family and the Wall Street Journal, and now it's the Ochs-Sulzberger family the management and the New York Times:
About $11 million of [former NY Times CEO] Robinson’s exit package was from her pension and retirement plan. Another roughly $7 million consisted of her yearly compensation and awards, and stock options she was entitled to after her years at the Times. But she also received a $4.5 million consulting contract, a kind of gratuitous bonus that didn’t look or smell right to anyone who was toiling on Eighth Avenue and worrying over pensions in danger of being frozen in ongoing labor negotiations. That payout has since become the centerpiece of rancorous disputes between the Newspaper Guild of New York, the newsroom’s union, and management. The intense discussions are still in progress as of this writing, hung up on a suggestion made by the Guild to redesign the Times’ pension system.

In the era of Arthur Sulzberger Jr., when newspapers have flailed under new digital realities, the New York Times Company has shrunk dramatically. Once it was a wide-ranging media empire of newspapers and TV stations and websites, and even a baseball team, that was worth almost $7 billion; today it’s essentially two struggling newspapers and a much-­reduced web company, all worth less than $1 billion (for comparison, consider that the Internet music company Pandora is valued at almost $2 billion). Despite the shrinkage, the company has retained essentially the same top-heavy management, which it has kept well compensated. Even though the paper froze executives’ pensions in 2009, as it is threatening to do with union employees, the company created two loopholes, called the Restoration Plan and the Supplemental Executive Savings Plan, which allowed certain high-earning executives to take money out anyway. As a result, Janet Robinson received an additional lump-sum payment of over half a million dollars upon exiting the Times.
And the family wants to re-institute their $20+ million dividends.

Newspapers have a problem, and it's largely Craigslist eating their lunch on classified ads.

Cutting reporting staff to make a crappier product won't fix this in the long term, though it might get those damn dividends flowing for the nest few years.

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

I did not think that it was possible for a pedophile priest could get any less sympathetic, but the Transportation Security Administration has proved me wrong, because they hired him as a supervisor of the gropers at Philadelphia International Airport:
The CBS 3 I-Team has learned that a Catholic priest who was removed from the ministry over sex abuse allegations now holds a sensitive security post at Philadelphia International Airport.

The security checkpoint between Terminals D and E is a busy place where thousands of people – including lots of kids – pass through every day. But you might not believe who the I-Team observed working as a TSA supervisor at that checkpoint this week: Thomas Harkins.

Until 2002, Harkins was a Catholic priest working at churches across South Jersey. But the Diocese of Camden removed him from ministry because it found he sexually abused two young girls. Now, in a new lawsuit, a third woman is claiming she also is one of Harkins’ victims.

The I-Team asked Harkins about the suit as he was leaving his shift at the airport.

“I have nothing to say,” was Harkins’ reply.

The new lawsuit, filed in federal court against the Camden Diocese says quite a bit. It accuses Harkins of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl 10 to 15 times in 1980 and 1981. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the alleged victim, claims the abuse occurred while Harkins was a priest at Saint Anthony of Padua parish in Hammonton, NJ, with one assault even occurring in Harkins’ bedroom at the rectory.
Seriously, this just boggles the mind.

BTW, props to the Camden Diocese, which, unlike to many other dioceses, got rid of this guy, but f%$# the TSA.

H/T Americablog.

Finally, the National Dems Do Something in Wisconsin

After saying that the recalls does not matter, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has finally deigned to spend a few hours in Wisconsin campaigning for a recall:
Racine -- Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told 75 Democratic Party supporters Wednesday that the national party was "putting all of our effort into this fight" to help Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett topple Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election.

"Scott Walker has worked hard to make sure that people think that he's the rock star of the right-wing tea-party extremism that the Republican Party has allowed to take them over," she said. "And that is not what voters in Wisconsin want to see happen."

Wasserman Schultz made two appearances in Wisconsin, appearing with Barrett at a fundraiser in Milwaukee and then speaking with campaign volunteers at a Democratic Party headquarters in Racine.
The optimist would hope that the internal polling is showing good numbers.

The pessimist would say that she was getting so much flak from the base that she had to make a pro-forma attempt.

I am a pessimist.

On a related note, if anyone was wondering if Martin O'Malley is looking to run for president, wonder no more:
Gov. Martin O'Malley, continuing to build on his high national profile as head of the Democratic Governors Association, will travel to Wisconsin Thursday to campaign for the challenger in the effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Colm O'Comartun, executive director of the DGA, said O'Malley will make a one-day trip to the Badger State to support Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the hard-fought contest. O'Malley will follow that trip with a three-state swing through New England.

Walker, who was elected in 2010, was forced into a recall election after pushing through legislation stripping public employees in Wisconsin of collective bargaining rights. That action made him a target of organized labor, but also brought him a huge infusion of campaign cash from national business groups and conservative organizations.

O'Comartun said the DGA has already supplied $3.2 million to the Barrett campaign as part of a strategy adopted even before Barrett won the nomination in a primary earlier this month. Despite a wide gap in financing between the challenger and the incumbent, O'Comartun said Barrett is in "good shape" with days to go before the June 5 election. Recent independent polls have shown Walker ahead of Barrett, though a Democratic survey released Wednesday shows the race a dead heat.
Unlike the DNC, the DGA has aggressively supported the recall, and, win or lose, they, and by extension Hizzoner, have come off as stand up guy.

Good for him.

Billions for the Banksters, But Not One Cent for the Citizens

The European Commission is recommending a massive bailout for the banks, but nothing to help the citizens:
The European Commission has proposed that money set aside for helping governments should be used to bail out ailing banks directly.

The commission also pushed for more integration through a euro-wide "banking union" and a single deposit protection scheme to protect savers.

"Flexibility and speed are of the essence," its head Jose Manuel Barroso said.

The call comes as fears over the health of Spanish banks have shaken markets.

Bankia, Spain's fourth largest bank, has asked for another 19bn euros recently from Madrid, which itself is struggling to get spending under control to meet its deficit targets.

"To sever the link between banks and the sovereigns, direct recapitalisation... might be envisaged," the commission said.

The commission's comments are part of its analysis of Europe's response to the debt crisis. "The economic situation in the euro area deteriorated significantly over the last year," the commission said.
But the answer real pain of ordinary people is for them to suck it up.

This is f%$#ed up.


H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

'Nuff Said

Christine Lagarde, who recently chided Greek tax evaders, pays no taxes on
her $551,700 annual compensation

29 May 2012

I Fear That My Son Might Be Ineluctably Evil

I was getting my son to bed, and in a fit of bad parenting, I told him to, "Put his head on the f%$#ing pillow."

He asked me if his pillow actually did this, and I told him that Rule 34 said yes.

He asked what Rule 34 was, and I said that it was, "If it exists, there's pr0n for it."

His response, "So there's Rubik's Cube Pr0n?"

I'm afraid to Google it.

We Are Doomed

Felix Salmon explains how the insurance that is not insurance has wiped out the banks and turned them into casinos:
Entities who want to really take on credit risk are called banks, and they do so by lending. People who sell credit protection in the markets, by contrast, are traders and speculators who trust in the liquidity of the CDS market and who are sure that they will be able to get out quickly if things turn against them. And thus is the CDS market used shunt risks off, unseen, into the tails.

Liquidity isn’t just dangerous in the loan market. Look at houses, which used to be highly-illiquid investments characterized by a long-term relationship between a homeowner and a lender. When did things fall apart? When that relationship was replaced by a frenzy of securitization and refinancings, with even 30-year mortgages lasting for just a year or two before they were paid off by someone flipping their house or deciding they needed a cash-out refinance. The more liquid housing became — the closer it came to being piggy bank, to be tapped for cash at any time — the more dangerous it became, as well.
Mr. Salmon does not believe that the CDS will be banned, but I'd like to see them regulated as real insurance, which would prohibit the naked CDS, for the same reason that they don't allow you to buy insurance that pays you when you torch your neighbor's home.

That's been the law of the land for 266 years, but about 20 years ago, we let it slide, with disastrous results.

So How Are We Not Terrorists?

In the New York Times, they have an article on how the Obama administration selects people for their kill list, and according to sources, among those flagged, "Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years."

We are sending drones with missiles after 17 year old children.

And what is whispered in the article is that a political electoral calculus is motivating much of this, which does not make this better.

Spain weighs Bankia debt issue - FT.com

Spain has nationalized the failing bank Bankia and it proposed recapitalizing it with Spanish government debt:
Spain is considering directly injecting its own government debt into BFA-Bankia to help fund the stricken lender’s €19bn nationalisation, in an attempt to sidestep borrowing money directly from the bond markets.

The plan, viewed as highly unorthodox by analysts, involves Madrid issuing Spanish government guaranteed debt to Bankia in return for equity, with the bank then able to deposit the bonds with European Central Bank as collateral for cash.

On Friday Bankia, Spain’s third-biggest lender by assets, announced that the state would invest €19bn in what will be the country’s largest ever bailout, with the government expected to control about 90 per cent of its shares.
This would have the effect of the ECB purchasing Spanish debt, which the ECB (the German Bundesbank) is opposed to.

It would be a win win for everyone, but since there is no pain for the ordinary Spaniard involved, the European Central Bank has rejected the deal:

A Spanish plan to recapitalise Bankia, the troubled lender, by indirectly tapping the European Central Bank for cash, was bluntly rejected as unacceptable by the ECB, European officials said.

News of the rejection came as Spain faces elevated borrowing costs in the bond markets, tries to persuade investors it can contain problems in a banking sector weighed down by €180bn of bad property loans and, on Tuesday, saw its central bank governor stand down early.

Madrid had floated the unorthodox idea over the weekend of recapitalising Bankia by injecting €19bn of sovereign bonds into its parent company, which could then be swapped for cash at the ECB’s three-month refinancing window, avoiding the need to raise the money on bond markets.

The ECB told Madrid that a proper capital injection was needed for Bankia and its plans were in danger of breaching an EU ban on “monetary financing,” or central bank funding of governments, according to two European officials.
At this point, the best action for the Spanish government is to allow the bank to default on its bonds (not its deposits), where I am certain that German bank exposure is high.

The Spanish should not make the same mistake as the Irish.  Do not make the bondholders whole.

If you do, you are simply taxing your citizens to fund foreign investors bets.

There is no obligation, either legally or morally, to do so.

H/t Eschaton

Nope, No Racism Here

Justin Combs excelled at football, and got a 3.75 GPA, and so he got a $54K mertit and athletic scholarship to UCLA.

It appears that the good folks at CNN find this controversial, because it was Shawn "P-Diddy" Combs kid, (no direct link, they don't deserve it) and they want him to give the money back.

There are plenty of kids who get scholarships whose parents are filthy rich, but they aren't black, in a profession which is stereotypically black (rap), so there is no question if they should return their scholarships.

I believe that a two word phrase was in the head of whoever whoever mad this post (no name listed) on CNN.

The first word was probably "uppity", and the second word probably began with the 14th letter in the English alphabet.

H/t Atrios.

Dieing Well

Music impresario Kathi Goldmark:
Kathi Kamen Goldmark, a beloved San Francisco literary impresario and country-rock singer, died May 24 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 63.

Ms. Goldmark died at UCSF Medical Center surrounded by family and friends, including authors Amy Tan, Dave Barry and Maya Angelou. In her last hours, musician Roger McGuinn of the Byrds sang an Irish hymn to her over the phone, and Judy Collins called to sing "Amazing Grace." As the end drew near, Ms. Goldmark mouthed something toward those around her. It was "Rosebud," the famous last line from "Citizen Kane." And she smiled as she whispered it.

"She had a sense of humor right until the end," said Barry, the humorist. "There has never been a funnier lady."
I hope I do half as well when my time comes.

Read the rest.

I wish that I had known of her before reading her obituary.

28 May 2012

It's Been a Long Time Since I've Seen an NBA Star Make an Old-Fashioned Layup

Which I much prefer to the dunk.

In any case, this is NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving making layups.

It might have something to do with the fact that he's pretending to be a 70 year old man:

Note that this video is an ad, and its presence on my blog does not constitute an endorsement on my part. I prefer Coca-Cola.

You Have It Backwards

Howie Klein wonders, "Do ALL The Members Of The House Financial Services Committee Take Bribes From The Banksters?"

He has it backwards. The HFCS is a bloated and overstaffed committee, with two or three times the members that it actually needs, and it does this, because it's known as a "money" committee.

Basically, people are put on it so that they can fund raise from the banksters.

It's less of a bribe than it is a shakedown.

The purpose of the committee at its current size is to facilitate taking legalized bribes from the financial services industry.

Why Democrats Lose Elections

Because our so-called leaders are cowardly incompetents:
The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said Friday that if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) doesn’t prevail over Gov. Scott Walker (R) in next month’s Wisconsin recall election, there won’t be any ramifications for Democrats nationally.

“I think, honestly, there aren’t going to be any repercussions,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a broad-ranging interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”

“It’s an election that’s based in Wisconsin. It’s an election that I think is important nationally because Scott Walker is an example of how extreme the tea party has been when it comes to the policies that they have pushed the Republicans to adopt,” Wasserman Schultz said. “But I think it’ll be, at the end of the day, a Wisconsin-based election, and like I said, across the rest of the country and including in Wisconsin, President Obama is ahead.”
Timidity to the point of paralysis.

You have a major election, near on a make or break issue, for organized labor, and the DNC is afraid to expend any resources, because it's not a slam dunk.

It is no wonder that George "If you not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time" McClellan was a Democratic presidential nominee.

Yes, the folks that they are disappointing won't vote for Mitt, but I think that they won't canvass or stuff envelopes for you either.

Best Memorial Day Speech Ever

Joe Biden.

There appears to be a correlation between "gaffe prone" and honest.

26 May 2012

Light Posting for the Next Few Days

It's the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

25 May 2012

Deep Thought

I looked for the image after seeing it on a T-Shirt.

Eschaton: An Enormous Mustache

I really cannot add anything to it:

H/t Atrios.

So, How Was Your Date With Shrek?

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS, both for the pic, and the basic joke.

This is the Best Take on the Cover Yet


24 May 2012

It's Jobless Thursday!

And basically it's the same-old same-old with initial claims hanging around at the 370K doldrums.

Additionally, we have mixed news in other metrics, with capital equipment orders and the purchasing managers index falling, while consumer confidence and durable goods orders rose.

HP Lays Off 27,000

They say that it will save $3½ billion annually, but less than a year ago, they dropped more than $10 billion on stock buybacks.

In America investing in your business is for punks. You buy back stock, and fire people, and use the stock bounce to justify your outsize year end bonus.

It's f%$#ing how quickly sales weasels and financial types can destroy a business previously run on technology and innovation.

H/t Atrios.

Pass the Popcorn…

Pass the Popcorn
It looks like former TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky is writing a tell-all memoir about his experiences with the Bush and Obama administration:
From December 2008 until March 2011, Barofsky was the Special Inspector General charged with oversight of TARP, working to ensure against fraud and abuse in the spending of the $700 billion allocated for the bailouts. From the start he was in constant conflict with the officials at the Treasury Department in charge of the bailouts who were in thrall to the interests of the big banks and steadfastly failed to hold them accountable, even as they disregarded major job losses caused by the auto bailouts and failed to help struggling homeowners. Barofsky recounts how his reports of a wave of criminal mortgage fraud and other abuses being perpetrated against homeowners in connection with programs that the Treasury itself set up were ignored time and again.

Barofsky offers detailed accounts of the behind-the-scenes conflicts and his struggles with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the Bush appointed “TARP Czar” Neel Kashkari and his successor, the Obama appointed Herb Allison, and others. His revelations show in stark detail just how captured by Wall Street our political system is; why the banks have not been held accountable; and how the failure to enact effective regulation has put the country in danger of an even bigger crisis in the future.
I can't imagine that either Obama or Geithner are happy about this.

23 May 2012

We is Doomed

There used to be a saying about Henry Luce's publications, "Life is for people who can't read, and Time is for people who can't think."

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

DINOs, F%$# 'Em

Gee, a bunch of the Democrats In Name Only are objecting to the Obama campaign's ads criticizing Romney's tenure as head of Bain Capital.

You know, if you took their dicks out of your mouth, and realized that campaign donations from rich looters are not the be all and end all, you would realize that this is a political winner:
Some influential Democrats on and off Capitol Hill are refusing to give President Obama political cover for his attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital.

Despite pushback from more than a half-dozen Democrats, the Obama campaign on Tuesday defended how it has scrutinized Romney’s business background.
The business model of private equity firms is to make money by either flipping, or leveraging firms, to extract value.

They are the financial equivalent of automotive chop shops.

Google Did Not Infringe Java Patents

The jury has ruled that Oracle's patents were not infringed by Android:
Google on Wednesday was cleared of charges that it had infringed Oracle's Java patents, ending the second major phase of the trial.

"Today's jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle’s patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem," a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Oracle, however, did not concede defeat. "Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java," an Oracle spokesperson said via email. "We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java's core write once run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility."

Oracle filed its lawsuit against Google last August and the trial began in mid-April. Oracle initially talked about $6 billion in damages. At the moment, it appears Oracle is unlikely to win enough to cover its legal costs.
All that's left is the whether or not Java's API, basically the standards for interoperability, are copyrightable.

The jury didn't rule on this, they could not come to a conclusion on fair use, and they were instructed by the judge to assume that the API is copyrightable. The judge will decide these matters of law, the jury was to rule on matters of fact.)

It appears from the Slashdot discussions that the judge actually made an effort to understand the technical issues, so his ruling should be interesting.

Leadership Matters

Here's a shocker. Now that Barack Obama has endorsed same-sex marriage, the polls are moving abruptly in that direction:
Public opinion continues to shift in favor of same-sex marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which also finds initial signs that President Obama’s support for the idea may have changed a few minds.

Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal, hitting a high mark in support while showing a dramatic turnaround from just six years ago, when just 36 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.

The poll also finds that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama’s announcement of his new position on the matter. Though statistically significant, it is a tentative result because of the relatively small sample of black voters in the poll.
Leadership generates its own support for policy.

Hopefully, this lesson will stick, but I doubt it.

22 May 2012

Your Moment of Schadenfreude

The Heartland Institute, the phony "think tank" bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, is imploding as a result of revelations proving this:
The first Heartland Institute conference on climate change in 2008 had all the trappings of a major scientific conclave – minus large numbers of real scientists. Hundreds of climate change contrarians, with a few academics among them, descended into the banquet rooms of a lavish Times Square hotel for what was purported to be a reasoned debate about climate change.

But as the latest Heartland climate conference opens in a Chicago hotel on Monday, the thinktank's claims to reasoned debate lie in shreds and its financial future remains uncertain.

Heartland's claims to "stay above the fray" of the climate wars was exploded by a billboard campaign earlier this month comparing climate change believers to the Unabomer Ted Kaczynski, and a document sting last February that revealed a plan to spread doubt among kindergarteners on the existence of climate change.

Along with the damage to its reputation, Heartland's financial future is also threatened by an exodus of corporate donors as well as key members of staff.

In a fiery blogpost on the Heartland website, the organisation's president Joseph Bast admitted Heartland's defectors were "abandoning us in this moment of need".
They flipped out, and this was inevitable once they were outed as bought and paid for:
The pressure point occurred last February when the scientist on the conference mugs, Peter Gleick, used deception to obtain confidential documents from Heartland, including a donors list and plans to indoctrinate school children against belief in climate change.
Once the Charade was outed, they had no choice but to go full wingnut.

A Saint's Bones, Ronald Reagan's Blood, It's All the Same

It appears that someone has found an old vial of Reagan's blood, and is selling it:
Ronald Reagan's foundation expressed outrage on Monday at a British company's auction of what it says is a vial of the late U.S. president's blood taken at the hospital where he was treated after a 1981 assassination attempt.

PFC Auctions, a company based in Guernsey in the United Kingdom, announced on Sunday that it would sell the vial of blood in an online auction set to end on Thursday.

The vial was taken at George Washington University Hospital on March 30, 1981, after Reagan was wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C., PFC Auctions said on its website. It is said to have come from a person whose late mother had worked at a medical lab.

"If indeed this story is true, it's a craven act and we will use every legal means to stop its sale or purchase," John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, said in a statement.

The website for PFC Auctions said the latest online bid for the vial stood at 6,270 British pounds ($9,910). A PFC Auctions representative could not be reached for comment.
I guess that this is the Republican equivalent of a piece of the true cross, or Jesus' foreskin.  (Yes, Virginia, one of the medieval scams was his foreskin.)

BTW, here is the kicker:
The seller said he or she had contacted the California-based Ronald Reagan Library and Museum, which is run by the late president's foundation, months ago and had been told that Reagan's family would like to have the vial given to them.

"I told him that I didn't think that was something that I was going to consider ... and that I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that President Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it," the statement said.

H/t Ed Kilgore. BTW, read the comments on the his post, they are hysterical.

Two …… Three … Seven Billion

It looks like their losses for JP Morgan's bad day at the casino might increasing.

In any case, it's bad enough that they are dropping a stock buyback,:
The crisis at JP Morgan escalated yesterday as it emerged its trading losses in London could rise to as much as $7bn (£4.5bn) and the US bank cancelled a share buyback. Fears were growing that the losses could spiral from an initial $2bn, which was declared on 10 May, as JP Morgan struggles to unwind the massive bets made by the so-called "London Whale" trader Bruno Iksil.

In a further blow, chairman and chief executive Jamie Dimon has suspended plans to use the US bank's own funds to buy back $15bn worth of shares. Buybacks are a popular way for firms to use up cash sitting on the balance sheet and prop up the share price.
I'm inclined to believe that the losses are going to get a lot worse.

Stock buybacks are all about management making sure that shareholders won't feel inclined to try to fire them.

They are bailing out the boat, and they decided that they needed to toss out the life-jackets to lighten the load.

Not good.

Just When You Thought that Grover Norquist Could Not Get Any More Absurd

He is now comparing the Schumer-Casey bill to penalize people like Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin for renouncing US citizenship is like Nazi Germany:
The anti-tax activist Grover Norquist on Friday compared a new Democratic proposal to penalize Americans who renounce their citizenship to evade taxes to policies employed by the Nazis and communists.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced legislation this week — in response to a Facebook co-founder ditching his citizenship — that would force wealthy people who give up their U.S. citizenship to prove that they did not do so for tax reasons.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the targeting people that turn in their passports reminded him of regimes that had driven people out of the country, only to confiscate their wealth at the door.

“I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well,” said Norquist. “He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”
This guy has as his goal for the federal government is that he wants to, "shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

And people think he's a "very serious person" in DC. He isn't.

He's a radical whose ultimate goals are closer to that of Timothy McVey than they are to David Brooks.

21 May 2012

Yes, We Are at War With Pakistan

At the NATO summit in Chicago, Obama refused to talk with Pakistani President Zardary:
The rift between the US and Pakistan deepened on Monday as the Nato summit in Chicago broke up without a deal on Afghanistan supply routes.

Barack Obama, at a press conference to wind up the summit, made no attempt to conceal his exasperation, issuing a pointed warning to Pakistan it was in its wider interest to work with the US to avoid being "consumed" by extremists.

Seldom in recent years have the tensions between Washington and Islamabad been on public show to the extent as at the Chicago, overshadowing the two-day Nato summit.

The main point of friction is Pakistan's closure of Nato supply routes to Afghanistan in protest over drone attacks and a US air strike in November that killed two dozen Pakistani troops.

Obama refused to make time during the two-day summit to see the Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari for a face-to-face bilateral meeting. In a press conference, Obama made a point of stressing that the only exchange he had with his Pakistani counterpart was short. "Very brief, as we were walking into the summit," Obama said.

The US president said he "did not want to paper over the cracks" and that there has been tension between the US-led international force in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last few months.
I'm not sure if this is a ramping up of tension, or a recognition by Obama that the military is running the show.

But the fact is that we are effectively at war with a significant portion of the Pakistani state security apparatus, which is actively destabilizing Afghanistan because they see Karzai as being to favorably disposed toward India.

20 May 2012


About a week and a half ago, I blogged about how the black hat orthodox community in Brooklyn has been engaging in a systematic program of intimidation and harassment against people who report allegations of the child abuse to the police.

I called them despicable and evil, and I said that I hoped that the Brooklyn DA would go after these instances of intimidation.

Well, my wish has been granted, Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes is opening up a criminal investigation into these allegations:
The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, is setting up a panel of prosecutors and investigators to crack down on witness intimidation in child sexual abuse cases in the borough’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Speaking on NY1 on Thursday night, Mr. Hynes said he was asking the panel to “come up with some alternatives to break down this wall of intimidation.”

He criticized elements in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community over their treatment of sexual abuse victims.

“The level of intimidation is not found nearly as much in organized crime,” he said. “It’s extraordinary just how relentless these people can be.”

“There is no concern for the victim in parts of these communities,” he added. “Everything is for the abuser, and that’s the horrible thing that we have to deal with.”

It was a shift in tone for Mr. Hynes, who in the past has praised ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders for helping to fight crime in their neighborhoods.
Hopefully, this is real, and not a task force for appearances sake only.

Nothing will change though, until we start seeing the senior rabbis behind this behavior, those with big names and many disciples, are brought up on formal charges.

Trust Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner to Do the Right Think…

When there is absolutely no alternative to doing the right thing.

It looks like little Timmy is Treasury Secretary speak to tell Jamie Dimon to get the f%$# off the board of the New York Bank of the Federal Reserve following his little $2 billion (actually $3 billion) screw-up at JP Morgan Chase:
In an interview Thursday on PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had the following exchange:
“JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think Jamie Dimon should be off the board [of the New York Federal Reserve Board]?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER: Well, that’s a question he’ll have to make and the Fed will have to make. But again, on the basic point, which is it is very important, particularly given the damage caused by the crisis, that our system of oversight and safeguards and the enforcement authorities have not just the resources they need, but they are perceived to be above any political influence and have the independence and the ability to make sure these reforms are tough and effective so we protect the American people, again, from a crisis like this. And we’re going to, we’re going to do that.”
In the diplomatic language of Treasury communications, Mr. Geithner just told Jamie Dimon to resign from the New York Fed board (here is the current board composition).  It looks bad – and it is bad – to have him on the board of this key part of the Federal Reserve System at a time when his bank is under investigation with regard to its large trading losses and the apparent failure of its risk management system.  (Update: Mr. Dimon is on the Management and Budget Committee of the NY Fed board; here is the committee’s charter, which includes reviewing and endorsing “the framework for compensation of the Bank’s senior executives (Senior Vice President and above)”.)
Simon Johnson thinks that Dimon will ignore him, and I agree.

Geithner is the banksters bitch, and is not sincere in his request.  He just wants the appearance of getting tough on malfeasance in the financial sector, not the reality.

Deep Thought

Whoever came up with the idea of graduation ceremonies for anything below high school should be drawn, quartered, and burnt.

Whether it's elementary school, middle school, or (in today's case) Hebrew school, it really needs to stop.

I Have a New Definition of Wicked Stupid

I was at a bar and bat mitzvah yesterday, and there was a girl (about 13) wearing high spiked heels.

On one shoe, the straps were undone.

Why were they undone?

In order to accommodate the ankle brace she was wearing.

Hopefully, she will grow out of the stupid.

19 May 2012

The National Review: America's Source for Crappy Journalism

They had a scoop that Elizabeth Warren, founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Senate Candidate had plagiarized another book.

The problem was that they missed the fact that Warren's book was published first:
The National Review says Elizabeth Warren is guilty of the gravest crime a writer can commit: Plagiarism. Katrina Trinko compares passages from “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Money Lifetime Plan,” Warren’s book with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, with passages from “Getting on the Money Track,” a book by Rob Black. The passages line up perfectly. The wording and even the punctuation are identical. It’s plagiarism all right. Except it looks very much like Warren is actually the victim.

The National Review headline says “Plagiarism in Elizabeth Warren’s 2006 book.” The body refers to Warren publishing the book “in 2006″ and Black’s book coming out in 2005. That’s true! Except that in 2006 the paperback of Warren’s book was published. The hardcover came out in March of 2005. Black’s book seems to have come out, if Amazon is correct, October 14 2005. (Or, according to Barnes and Noble, July 2005?) Months after Warren’s book. Unless there was an earlier published hardcover version that I can’t find on Amazon, it seems like Black most likely plagiarized Warren.
The National review has since retracted the story.

Another Shoe Drops for JP Morgan

That $2 billion that they lost in obscure casino games? Well now it's at least 3 billion:
The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses.

When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank.

A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations.
We're going to end up bailing out these ratf%$#s in the next few years, mark my words.

It will either be directly, or indirectly through their counter-parties.

18 May 2012

Deep Thought

Well, What Do You Know, The DoJ Gets One Right

The Justice Department has vigorously defending the right of the general public to videotape police officers on duty:
As police departments around the country are increasingly caught up in tussles with members of the public who record their activities, the U.S. Justice Department has come out with a strong statement supporting the First Amendment right of individuals to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties.

In a surprising letter (.pdf) sent on Monday to attorneys for the Baltimore Police Department, the Justice Department also strongly asserted that officers who seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or without due process are in strict violation of the individual’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The letter was sent to the police department as it prepares for meetings to discuss a settlement over a civil lawsuit brought by a citizen who sued the department after his camera was seized by police.

In the lawsuit, Christopher Sharp alleged that in May 2010, Baltimore City police officers seized, searched and deleted the contents of his mobile phone after he used it to record them as they were arresting a friend of his.
I am very surprised.

Pleased, but surprised.

I'd like to see some prosecutions of overzealous cops, but I would consider this highly unlikely.

17 May 2012

The EU Bureaucracy Isn't Completely Stupid

The EU's financial services regulator is proposing allowing for a binding shareholder vote on executive compensation:
Shareholders in Europe’s listed companies will be given a binding vote on pay while those who invest in banks will gain powers to set a cap on bonus levels, under plans being drawn up by senior EU officials.

The initiative from Michel Barnier, the EU’s top financial services regulator, would hand bank investors the voting power to curb “morally indefensible” pay and limit the gap between the lowest and highest paid. Banks would also be forced to disclose their top 20-30 earners.

The French commissioner outlined his plans in an interview with the Financial Times in which he laid out his response to pay rebellions that have rattled executives at Barclays , Citigroup and AstraZeneca .

“I like that expression – the shareholder spring – or even a regulation spring, a rule-making spring,” he said. “I’m very attentive to this movement which I see as very positive. It corresponds with what I’ve been doing for the last two years. We need to put responsibility and transparency everywhere.”
Your mouth to God's ear, Mr. Barnier.

They Own Us

Too hot for TED
When someone gives a TED talk suggesting that lower taxes on the very wealthy actually makes out economy worse off, because the middle class is the real engine of job growth.

The response of TED was to refuse to release the video of the talk:
TED, the nonprofit organization that organizes and promotes wonky web videos on varying issues known as “TED talks,” has reportedly decided not to publish a video on income inequality in which venture capitalist Nick Hanauer declares, “Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs.” TED organizers deemed the talk too “politically controversial,” and in an email obtained by the National Journal, TED curator Chris Anderson told Hanauer that “we couldn’t release it, because it would be unquestionably regarded as out and out political. We’re in the middle of an election year in the US. Your argument comes down firmly on the side of one party.
It's the super-rich's world, they just allow us to rent a space in their attic.

BTW, the "Curator" of TED posted his his response online. The phrase, "Whiner" comes to mind. (Be sure to read the comments, they realy cut him a new one)

Basically, this was cut because the thesis makes the moneybags who back TED feel bad. The "Masters of the Universe" really think that they are different and special.

Thus they cannot abide being described as an effect rather than a cause.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Initial claims were flat.

All the numbers were basically in a holding pattern.

So, not awful, but still in a kind of a sucky place.

I Approve of this Act of Populist Pandering

Mario Andrew Cuomo has proposed putting a cap on executive pay at non-profits that get state contracts:
New York proposed regulations Wednesday to limit spending by state contractors, including a $199,000 executive pay cap that can be exceeded only with a special waiver or using money other than state tax dollars.

The proposals by 13 agencies cover contractors -- many of them nonprofits providing social services -- that receive more than $500,000 in state support annually representing at least 30 percent of their total funding. A contractor could pay executives more than $199,000 from other funds as long as salaries are below the top 25 percent in the field.

"These regulations will allow the state government to identify and stop the few providers that pocket taxpayer dollars rather than use them to serve the public," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a prepared statement. In January, he issued an executive order to limit reimbursable costs by service providers who account for roughly one-third of the state's $132.5 billion budget, noting one downstate provider of early intervention special education drew a salary of $2.2 million and a $1 million shareholder distribution.
Now, start applying it to for profit's as well.

How the ECB Will Destroy the Euro Zone

It's now beginning to look like Greece will end up leaving Euro Zone.

The problem is that the EU is a consensus body, so Greece would have to agree to leave.

The solution is therefore to create conditions that are so onerous that Greece will have to leave.

The problem is that the only way that they can really do this is by crashing their banking system so that the only alternative is to leave the currency union.

The problem is that everyone knows this, and so we are seeing a slow-motion bank run in Greece, and we're likely to see one in the rest of the peripheral nations:
Clever, huh? The only hitch is that, now that the game plan is becoming clear, rational Greeks are not choosing to wait for an EZ attack before withdrawing their funds from Greek banks and transferring them somewhere, anywhere, else. There is a gradually accelerating bank run taking place which is likely to reach criticality before a Greek-EZ policy showdown can take place.

There is a broader lesson here. By threatening to choke the Greek banking system, the EZ implicitly threatens to do the same for Spain or even Italy. They can say otherwise, but why should depositors in shaky peripheral banks believe them? Withholding euros from peripheral banking systems is a gun that goes off before it is fired. Simply brandishing this weapon is causing havoc and speeding the demise of the entire zone.

Better to put the gun away and do what should have been done all along: have the ECB assume the lender of last resort function for all EZ banks, with centralized financing of deposit insurance in particular. Don’t use the threat of a financial panic as a policy tool.
Greece should never have been a part of the Euro Zone, and considering the fact that they have more in common with the 3rd (corruption, dynastic politics, tax evasion, huge underground economy, etc.) world than they do with Western Europe, it's arguable that they should never have been brought into the EU.

But most of the problems here, and what will cause the collapse of the Euro if it is not corrected, is that the basic system is fundamentally flawed.

It is pro-cyclical, it seems to be structured primarily for the financial industry, and it has no mechanism to address imbalances between member states.

If they continue on this path, it won't just end the Euro Zone, it could cause a breakup of the EU.

16 May 2012

So Not Shocking

Matt Taibbi is looking at documents from the Overstock.com case against the banksters, and discovers some remarkably informative unintentional release of information:

The lawyers for Goldman and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch have been involved in a legal battle for some time – primarily with the retail giant Overstock.com, but also with Rolling Stone, the Economist, Bloomberg, and the New York Times. The banks have been fighting us to keep sealed certain documents that surfaced in the discovery process of an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit filed by Overstock against the banks.

Last week, in response to an Overstock.com motion to unseal certain documents, the banks’ lawyers, apparently accidentally, filed an unredacted version of Overstock’s motion as an exhibit in their declaration of opposition to that motion. In doing so, they inadvertently entered into the public record a sort of greatest-hits selection of the very material they’ve been fighting for years to keep sealed.+


The lawsuit between Overstock and the banks concerned a phenomenon called naked short-selling, a kind of high-finance counterfeiting that, especially prior to the introduction of new regulations in 2008, short-sellers could use to artificially depress the value of the stocks they’ve bet against. The subject of naked short-selling is a) highly technical, and b) very controversial on Wall Street, with many pundits in the financial press for years treating the phenomenon as the stuff of myths and conspiracy theories.

Now, however, through the magic of this unredacted document, the public will be able to see for itself what the banks’ attitudes are not just toward the “mythical” practice of naked short selling (hint: they volubly confess to the activity, in writing), but toward regulations and laws in general.

“F%$# the compliance area – procedures, schmecedures,” chirps Peter Melz, former president of Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corp. (a.k.a. Merrill Pro), when a subordinate worries about the company failing to comply with the rules governing short sales.

We also find out here how Wall Street professionals manipulated public opinion by buying off and/or intimidating experts in their respective fields. In one email made public in this document, a lobbyist for SIFMA, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, tells a Goldman executive how to engage an expert who otherwise would go work for “our more powerful enemies,” i.e. would work with Overstock on the company’s lawsuit.
(%$# mine)

Here's the nickel version.

Short selling works as follows:
  • Locate the requisite shares of stocks.
  • Borrow them (and pay a fee).
  • Sell the borrowed shares.
  • Wait.
  • Buy shares, and return to borrower.
If the share price falls in the interim, you make money.

If it rises, you lose money.

Fairly simple and straightforward, and legal.

What isn't legal is naked shorting, where you sell the shares, but have never borrowed them.

At one point, because of naked shorts, 107% of all outstanding shares were for sale, with the obvious effect of depressing the stock price (supply and demand), which pretty much guarantees a profit by short sellers, and you do not have to pay fees to borrow the stock.

It's a win-win for everyone, except of course, the poor dupes who think that they won't get ripped off by the banksters when they try to invest.

Something We Can All Agree on Regarding Israel

That Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA) should have nothing to do with any initiative involving Israel, nor, for that matter, should he be allowed to cut his own meat:
It seems that Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) is a tad out of the loop on matters of Middle East peace. If it were up to him, Israelis and Palestinians would restart peace talks under the guidance of their respective leaders, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.

His advice does not seem to take into account the fact that Arafat died in 2004 and Sharon has been in a coma since 2006.

“With the global war against terrorism, it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat to clamp down on Palestinian extremists that have perpetuated violence and to restart a peace process that has collapsed,” wrote Pitts in a recent, rather outdated response letter to a constituent.
Perhaps Pitts should try to address some other burning issues from the 1990s, like making Newt Gingrich shut the f%$# up.

Hmmmm …… Things haven't changed as much over the past 15 years as I've thought.


I just found out that an old friend, Tom Fish, has died.

15 May 2012

Greeks to Hold New Elections

Roll Stewart!
They couldn't form a coalition, so there will be a caretaker government followed by a new election. It appears that the left leaning SYRIZA party rejected the proposal for a "government of technocrats".

What a surprise, the group they are saying here is to allow the EU (the Germans, really) to take over the country and democracy be damned.

Jon Stewart nails it when he notes that nearly 70 years after the end of WWII, the Germans rule Europe.

Appeals Court Rules That Disclosure required for 501(c)4 Contributions

The DC Circuit has refused a stay from a circuit court decision requiring that 501(c)4s disclose donors if they make political ads:
Big news from the D.C. Circuit in this order and opinion. The opinion for two of the three judges explaining the reasons for denying the stay lean heavily on how the challengers to the district court ruling are unlikely to succeed in their legal arguments on appeal. The court also stresses the values of disclosure, reaffirmed on an 8-1 vote by the Supreme Court in Citizens United. [UPDATE Bloomberg BNA reports: "Attorneys for two groups sponsoring political ads, which intervened in the case to try to preserve FEC rules allowing them to keep their donors confidential, had no immediate comment about a possible appeal of the stay ruling by the D.C. Circuit panel."]

But this open a host of unanswered questions about how 501c4 groups and other groups which run issue ads will deal with these new disclosure requirements.(I’m talking here not about political committees such as Crossroads GPS, which masquerade as social welfare groups, but real 501c4s that occassionally get involved with issue adss.) I expect this stay request to now end up before the Supreme Court, where the outcome may be different.

If further stay attempts fail, and if there are no emergency FEC rules put in place (and the FEC’s frequent 3-3 deadlocks mean new rules are unlikely), we could well see 501c4 groups [UPDATE: and importantly 501c3 groups] creating new separate funds to run these ads, so that the groups need disclose the names of only those donors funding these ads (rather than all of their donors).
You need to remember that before Karl Rove's super PAC used the 501(c)4 fig leaf to hide its donors, they raised a pitiful amount of money (IIRC, less than 100 Grand).

For real non-profits, if they want to participate in electioneering, it's just a matter of separating the funds and donations. For something like Rove's Crossroads operations, which serve primarily as a way to launder money, it really complicates things.

While We Are On the Subject of Mississippi

The governor of North Carolina has invoked the Magnolia State as a synonym for a backwards society:
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue says Tuesday's passage of Amendment One makes the state look like Mississippi. Perdue made the remarks in response to a question from WITN's Brittany Gunter while in Greenville Friday morning.

On Tuesday, 61% of the state's voters approved the constitutional amendment which bans same sex marriages. State law already prohibits gay marriages.

The governor, a Democrat who said leading up to the vote that she was against the amendment, told WITN that the result is wrong for the state.

"People around the country are watching us, and they're really confused to have been such a progressive forward thinking economically driven state that invested in education and that stood up for the civil rights people including the civil rights marches back in the 50s and 60s and 70s," said Perdue. "People are saying what in the world is going on with North Carolina, we look like Mississippi."
Yes. Yes you do look like Mississippi, and yes, this is a bad thing.

Why Yes, Antonin Scalia has Gone Nuts

It appears that there is a growing consensus on this matter:
In January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of “high-handedness.” He was just getting warmed up.

Over the next 3 1/2 months, Scalia asked whether federal immigration policy was designed to “please Mexico,” fired off 12 questions and comments in 15 minutes at a government lawyer in a case involving overtime pay, and dismissed part of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s defense of President Barack Obama’s health-care law as “extraordinary.”

Scalia’s tone this year, particularly in cases involving the Obama administration, is raising new criticism over the temperament of a justice who has always relished the give-and- take of the Supreme Court’s public sessions. Some lawyers say Scalia, a 1986 appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan, is crossing the line that separates tough scrutiny from advocacy.

“His questions have been increasingly confrontational,” said Charles Fried, a Harvard Law School professor who served as Reagan’s top Supreme Court advocate. While the justice has always asked “pointed” questions, in the health-care case “he came across much more like an advocate.”

Scalia’s approach is fueling the perception that the biggest cases this term, including health care, may be influenced by politics, rather than the legal principles that he and other justices say should be their guide. A Bloomberg News poll in March showed that 75 percent of Americans think the court’s decision on the 2010 law will be based more on politics than on constitutional merit.
Scalia has always been a partisan political hack, but lately, he's not even trying to pretend that he has an open mind.

How About a Coat Hanger Vasectomy for Him?

After having passed a bill that would effectively outlaw abortion clinics in the United States, Mississippi State Representative Bubba Carpenter is crowing about the return of coat hanger abortions to his state:
"It's going to be challenged, of course, in the Supreme Court and all -- but literally, we stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi, legally, without having to-- Roe vs. Wade. So we've done that. I was proud of it. The governor signed it into law. And of course, there you have the other side. They're like, 'Well, the poor pitiful women that can't afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.' That's what we've heard over and over and over.

"But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we've decided to do. This became law and the governor signed it, and I think for one time, we were first in the nation in the state of Mississippi."
These people are deeply evil.

Trying to find common ground with them makes nor more sense than trying to find common ground with the late and unlamented Osama bin Laden.

They need to be run out of the body politic.

I am a Moron

I locked myself out of my car last night, and as a consequence (yes, I know correlation is not causation) I'm having some issues with muscle spasms in my back.

Nice locksmith.  Got into my car in about 30 seconds, but it added to my stress level, and I've carried stress in my body since I was 7.

Went to the chiropractor after work today.

14 May 2012

While We Are On the Subject of Scott Walker

We now have video of Scott Walker telling a wealthy donor that he will use divide and conquer to make Wisconsin a right-to-work red state:
A filmmaker released a video Thursday that shows Gov. Scott Walker saying he would use "divide and conquer" as a strategy against unions.

Walker made the comments to Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since given $510,000 to the governor's campaign - making her Walker's single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history.

The filmmaker has done work on Democratic campaigns and gave $100 in 2010 to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's challenger in the June 5 recall election.

In the video shot on Jan. 18, 2011 - shortly before Walker's controversial budget-repair bill was introduced and spawned mass protests - Hendricks asked the governor whether he could make Wisconsin a "completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work" state. The Republican donor was referring to right-to-work laws, which prohibit private-sector unions from compelling workers to pay union dues if the workers choose not to belong to the union.

Walker replied that his "first step" would be "to divide and conquer" through his budget-adjustment bill, which curtailed most collective bargaining for most public employee unions.
It's rather unsurprising therefore, that a number of public safety unions, like the State Troopers Union are withdrawing their endorsements of him in 2010, and endorsing Tom Barrett. (Hereafter referred to as "The other guy")

While such rough and tumble politics may be the reality in Wisconsin, the people of the Badger State* tend to seem themselves as practicing a more civil form of politics.

*Except for the right-wing Fox River Valley, where they have a f%$#ing monument to f%$#ing Joe f%$#ing McCarthy.

Why Not to Give to the Democratic Establishment

The biggest political contest in the United States in the next month is the Scott Walker recall, and the Democratic National Committee is refusing to supply resources for the all critical GOTV effort:
Top Wisconsin Democrats are furious with the national party — and the Democratic National Committee in particular — for refusing their request for a major investment in the battle to recall Scott Walker, I’m told

The failure to put up the money Wisconsin Dems need to execute their recall plan comes at a time when the national Republican Party is sinking big money into defending Walker, raising fears that the DNC’s reluctance could help tip the race his way.


According to the Wisconsin Dem, the party has asked the DNC for $500,000 to help with its massive field operation. While the DNC has made generally supportive noises, the money has not been forthcoming, the official says — with less than a month until the June 5th recall election. The DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


“Scott Walker has made this a national election,” the Wisconsin Dem tells me. “If he wins, he will turn his victory into a national referendum on his ideas about the middle class. It will hurt Democrats nationally. The fact that [national Dems] are sitting on their hands now is so frustrating. The whole ticket stands to lose


UPDATE: Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Mike Tate goes on record about the dispute in a statement:
“Having received absolute support from the Democratic Governors Association, we also are in conversation with the Democratic National Committee to help in this battle against Scott Walker, a right-wing diva who has the full backing of the national corporate Tea Party movement.”
UPDATE II: Wisconsin Dems say the problem isn’t with the Democratic Governors Association, which has already committed more to the recall fight than they’ve ever committed to a Wisconsin gubernatorial election in recent history. Still no comment from the DNC.
I'm thinking that the DNC is having a hissy fit because labor is not interested in funding their national convention in a right-to-work state, but stupidity and evil are nearly as valid explanations.

Quote of the Day

It is now fair to say that a Harvard MBA is more of a threat to national
security than an Islamic radical
— Comment by John
I would have thought that George W. Bush would be proof enough of that.

13 May 2012

Words I Never Thought That I Would Ever Say

Good for George Lucas.

George Lucas wanted to expand his movie studios in Marin County, but has been running into a torrent of obstructionism and NIMBY from the local home owners for 25 years, and so they've thrown in the towel, and will be selling the land to the Marin County Foundation to create low-income housing:
He's working with the Marin Community Foundation to instead construct affordable housing for either low-income families or seniors living on small, fixed incomes. In order to smooth along the development, he's already given them all of the pricey technical studies and land surveys Lucasfilm spent years conducting. And we think that's just great. Because if there's one thing rich people will hate more than having movie magic made in their backyard, it's poor people moving in.

And the LCS is Beginning to Look Like a Real Dog

Serikously, the most recent list of problems with the ships makes one wonder if they will ever be combat ready:
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) USS Freedom is plagued by extensive corrosion and manufacturing issues more recent and serious than anything the Pentagon or prime contractor Lockheed Martin has publicly acknowledged thus far.

This is based on a guided tour of the ship in dry dock, as well as sources intimately familiar with Freedom’s design, repairs and operations, U.S. Navy documents and defense analysts.

The vessel is rusting and blistered by corrosion in many areas, marred by crack repairs throughout the deckhouse and hampered by what appear to be flaws in vital piping systems.

Corrosion is particularly evident throughout the ship’s waterborne mission area, located at the Freedom’s stern, because of a large gap between the stern doors and the vessel’s deck floor, which allows water to pour in when the doors are closed. They are supposed to form a watertight seal (see photo.)

As part of its plan to address some of the Freedom’s problems, the Navy is apparently adding more sailors – a move that runs counter to the ship’s basic concept of operations, which are meant, among other things, to reduce weight and costs by deploying a ship with as few crewmembers as possible.

The vessel – the first ship of what is supposed to be the future cornerstone of U.S. surface naval power – left dry dock at the end of April for tests off the California coast. Equipment failures had cut short previous test attempts in January and February. The Freedom had been at sea 15-20 days in the 16 months before leaving pier side for the recent tests and underway 12 hr. since June 27, 2011, when it docked for recent repairs.
This is further complicated by the fact that the one of the Navy's goals on this ship was to completely minimize crewing, which means that there is little, if any capability to fix problems as they develop:
But some members of Congress see it differently. “Making sure the stern door seals shut is shipbuilding 101,” says U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I’m troubled that the Navy would accept so many deficiencies in a program that seems to be riddled with serious problems,” Speier said after Aviation Week shared with her staff photographs and other material gathered from the ship tour.

Navy officials and program supporters say some of the problems are due to first-of-class growing pains and the learning curve achieved by getting to know the maintenance needs of a ship that until about a decade ago was little more than a concept.

LCS is meant to be maintained differently from other Navy vessels. “Crews do minimal maintenance on board,” Capt. John Neagley, the acting LCS program manager, said during a briefing at the Navy League’s recent annual Sea Air Space conference.

And the ship’s current concept of operations, or conops, reinforces that idea. “The crew has no surplus capacity to absorb additional duties,” reads the conops, last revised in 2009. “There are no spare sailors or officers assigned to LCS.”

To further address some of the corrosion problems on both the Freedom – developed and built by a team lead by Lockheed – and the LCS-2 USS Independence – developed and built by a team lead by General Dynamics and Austal USA – the Navy has put in additional cathodic protection systems, which protect metal surfaces by making them cathodes of an electrochemical cell.
BTW, there are reports that Austal, which uses cathodic systems on its civilian high speed ferries, suggested putting in such a system for their LCS, but the Navy shot it down. (Smooth move, USN)

I don't think that the Navy's fetish of cutting crewing is producing a viable platform.

Me Want!

It appears that a bloke has a bunch of late model Spitfires in Myanmar:
This story is not about JSF, or Rafale or Typhoon or Gripen but about one of the world's legendary planes: the Spitfire, a large number of which – up to 120 – [other reports list it at just 20] were found in almost pristine condition in Burma last February and are now going to be returned to the UK.

Thanks to an English farmer's dogged determination and willingness to spend a considerable amount of his own money, the Griffon-engined Mark XIVs Spitfires have been located and British Prime Minister David Cameron has secured a deal that will allow them to be dug up and shipped back to Britain almost 67 years after they were hidden more than 40-feet below ground.

The aircraft were discovered in February by English farmer David Cundall, 62, who has spent 15 years, travelled 12 times to Burma and spent more than £130,000 in his quest. Using radar imaging technology Cundall found the aircraft buried at a former Royal Air Force base. They had been shipped to Burma and then travelled by train to the RAF base during the war, but were never used because by the end of the war they were nearing obsolescence. Unwilling to leave high-performance, if out-dated, aircraft in a country with an uncertain future, Britain’s South East Asia command decided to bury them. As many as 120 Spitfires, original cost about £12,000, may have been disposed of in this way.

“They were just buried there in transport crates,” Cundall told the Daily Telegraph which published the story today (May 7). “They were waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred. They will be in near perfect condition.”

12 May 2012

Newspapers Are Not Dying, They Are Being Murdered by Management

Because instead of reinvesting in their business, they are spending their money on dividends and stock buybacks:
The Washington Post Company‘s dismal quarterly earnings release last week was received with something of a shrug—more of the same. But the report is worse than the reaction suggests and raises fundamental questions about the Post’s strategy, not just for the newspaper, but for the whole company.

If you hadn’t heard, the Washington Post Company is basically a for-profit college/SAT-prep firm that sidelines as a cable-TV provider and newspaper publisher. The august Washington Post (I’ll italicize Post here when referring to the newspaper and won’t when referring to its parent) contributed just 15 percent to its namesake company’s revenue in the first quarter but was a $23 million drag on the bottom line.

Kaplan, the Post’s education division, is the company’s cash cow, and a few years ago looked like the newspaper’s savior. But its revenue has fallen sharply over the last year and a half since for-profit schools, very much including Kaplan’s, came under pressure for predatory practices. Its sales tumbled 14 percent from 2010 to 2011 and dropped another 11 percent in the first quarter.

Its deteriorating prospects spells more trouble for the Post’s newspaper division, whose very bad first quarter included not only that $23 million loss but also a 7 percent decline in revenue. Crucially, its digital ad revenue—the paper’s main hope for the future—went into reverse and hit negative 8 percent. It’s just the latest in a long line of bad results.

The Post’s newspaper division (which includes Slate) has posted losses in thirteen of the last fifteen quarters, a trail of red ink that has led to cumulative losses of $412 million over the period. Its revenue has declined in twenty of the last twenty-two quarters and last year it brought in fully one-third less—$314 million—than it did at its peak in 2006. Layoffs have reduced the Post’s newsroom to a little more than half its peak size.

Despite this, the company continues to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases. The Post is disgorging the cash, as JW Mason calls it, to investors and depriving its businesses of resources.


This is financialization at work. Instead of investing in its business operations, the Post is investing in its stock, which is a very different thing. The only way this bet pans out is if the Post’s shares rebound significantly in coming years. Would you put money on that? I sure wouldn’t (moreover, the company effectively levered up to buy them. The Post rolled over $395 million in debt in early 2009 to mature in 2019—at a 1.75 percent premium to its old bonds).

Where would the Post be if its parent company had invested even one-quarter of that nearly one billion dollars in its newspaper, or in some other profit-making, preferably non-predatory venture? That’s unknowable, of course, but it’s worth thinking about when you ponder why newspapers haven’t better adapted to the digital age.
The facts are stark, though I think that part of the the author's thesis, that the WaPo should go behind a paywall, is fundamentally wrong.

People have not payed for news in newspapers since the beginning of the modern mass market newspaper, they have paid for ink on paper, and the content has been paid for by advertising.

The problem is not the internet, it's Craigslist. The classifieds have always been the most profitable source of ad revenue for papers, particularly in local markets.

Unfortunately, as opposed to finding a way to fight this, or another potential source of revenue, the news papers go for Wall Street rules, which means asset stripping rather than investment.

JP Morgan Chase Goes Wile E. Coyote

So, JP Morgan Chase just lost at least $2 billion in ill conceived derivatives trades:
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said the firm suffered a $2 billion trading loss after an “egregious” failure in a unit managing risks, jeopardizing Wall Street banks’ efforts to loosen a federal ban on bets with their own money.

The firm’s chief investment office, run by Ina Drew, 55, took flawed positions on synthetic credit securities that remain volatile and may cost an additional $1 billion this quarter or next, Dimon told analysts yesterday. Losses mounted as JPMorgan tried to mitigate transactions designed to hedge credit exposure.

“There were many errors, sloppiness and bad judgment,” Dimon said as the company’s stock fell in extended trading. “These were egregious mistakes, they were self-inflicted.”

The chief investment office was thrust into the debate over U.S. efforts to ban proprietary trading when Bloomberg News reported last month that the unit had taken bets so big that JPMorgan, the largest and most profitable U.S. bank, probably couldn’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets. Dimon, 56, had transformed the unit in recent years to make bigger and riskier speculative trades with the bank’s money, five former employees said.
Just so you know, the "Synthetic credit securities" mentioned means that this is basically pure gambling.  There is no ownership or insurance interest in the underlying investment.

It's not surprising that the SEC has decided to look at this.

As a result of this blowup, Fitch's and S&P have downgraded the bank.

Henry Blodgett accurately obaserves that, "It's Just Kids Playing With Dynamite".

Rather unsurprisingly, advocates of more regulation of the financial industry, are calling for an aggressive implimentation of the Volker rule.

Of course, Jamie Dimon does not think that this shows a need for more regulations, because, "Just because we're stupid doesn't mean everybody else was."

No, actually,  you're all stupid f%$3s, and you blew up our economy 4 years ago, and the taxpayer dumped more money into you keeping you afloat than we spent on the WW II.

Why no senior banksters have been indicted is beyond me.

Lamest Political Party in the History

Professor Pongoo
Pole to poll: Professor Pongoo won more votes than the Liberal Democrats in a council election in Edinburgh. Photograph: Ali Tibbitt/ STV
While there are significantly less viable parties out there, Canada's Rhineroceros Party, and the Monster Raving Looney Party in the UK, but because they fancy themselves as being in the big leagues in Britain, the Liberal-Democrats win the prize:
If there was a symbol of the Liberal Democrats' discomfiture as their vote plummeted across Scotland and the rest of the UK, it came in the shape of a penguin.

In the Pentland Hills ward for Edinburgh city council, the Lib Dem candidate won fewer votes than Professor Pongoo, or independent candidate Mike Ferrigan, who ran his campaign in a full penguin suit.

Professor Pongoo, who stood to raise awareness of social and environmental issues, took 5.6% of first-preference votes to the Lib Dems' 4.7%.
On the brighter side ……… Ummmm ……… There is no brighter side. You were outpolled by a bloke in a f%$#ing penguin suit!

About the only thing more embarrassing would be to be out-polled by the  Fabian Socialists.