31 August 2012

It's Friday, Have a Cat

The joys of I Can Has Cheezburger?

On Clint Eastwood's Speech

I cannot wait to see how Stewart and Colbert address this.

Here are some pictures for your edification, swiped from the Stellar Parthenon BBS:

I really don't have anything else to add.

I Will Drink This Before I Die

H/t JR at SP:

30 August 2012

Light Posting for the Next Week

Charlie's Bar Mitzvah is the Saturday after this one, and I'm prepping for a cooking competition this Saturday, so it will be light posting for a while.

29 August 2012

Good News Out of Florida

Federal Judge Robert Hinkle has announced that if the Appeals court remands or dismisses the state of Florida's appeal, he will issue a permanent injunction against their voter suppression law:
A federal judge said Wednesday he would permanently remove harsh restrictions on third-party voter registration groups that have handicapped registration efforts in Florida this year. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle said he would grant a motion to permanently remove the restrictions once he receives confirmation that a federal appeals court has dismissed the case (the state of Florida has agreed to dismiss their appeal).
Hopefully, this will happen in the rest of the states that are trying to people from voting while black.

Too Good Not to Share

FWIW, I am following the Republican Convention only so far as I can by listening to Stewart and Colbert and following political cartoons.

H/t Neophyte at SP for the pic.

My Life is Complete

I hav found a website that has translated "My Hovercraft is Full of Eels" into the following languages:  Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, (Modern Standard), Armenian, (Eastern), Armenian, (Western), Aromanian, Azeri, Basque, Belarusian, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Breton, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cebuano, Chamorro, Chinese, (Cantonese), Chinese, (Mandarin), Chinese, (Taiwanese), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Frisian (Northern), Frisian (Western), Galician, Georgian, German, Greek (Ancient), Greek (Modern), Greenlandic, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Inuktitut, Irish (Gaelic), Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Low German, Luxembourgish, Macedonian, Manx, Māori, Malay, Malayalam, Maltese, Marathi, Mongolian, Norwegian, Occitan, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Sardinian, (Logudorese), Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Shona, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Sumerian, Swahili, Swedish, Swiss German, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tok Pisin, Tongan, Tsotsil, Turkish, Tuvan, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Venetian, Vietnamese, Võro, Welsh, Yiddish, Yorùbá, Zulu, Klingon, Avallaen, Esperanto, Interlingua, Ithkuil, Lojban, Toki Pona, Volapük.

There are languages on this list that I've never heard of.

For those of you who don't understand, it's a Monty Python thing:

The Story Behind the Story

OK, one of the inevitable cliches of modern Presidential campaign coverage is the veepstakes, followed by the post mortem of this decisions.

Well, this article has a deeply interesting back-story:
Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t willing to give up the New Jersey statehouse to be Mitt Romney’s running mate because he doubted they’d win, The Post has learned.

Romney’s top aides had demanded Christie step down as the state’s chief executive because if he didn’t, strict pay-to-play laws would have restricted the nation’s largest banks from donating to the campaign — since those banks do business with New Jersey.

But Christie adamantly refused to sacrifice his post, believing that being Romney’s running mate wasn’t worth the gamble.

“[Christie] felt, at one point, that [President] Obama could lose this. And, look, there still is that chance. But he knows, right now, you have to say it’s unlikely,” one source said.

The tough-talking governor believed Romney severely damaged his campaign by releasing only limited tax returns and committing several gaffes during his international tour in July.

Certain Romney was doomed, Christie stuck to his guns — even as some of his own aides pushed him to run, another source said.
OK, why is this story different from all the other useless veepstake gossip?

It isn't the pay to play rules, which are straightforward: If a governor is running, the big banks pretty would have to choose between contributing to Mitt, or doing pension business with New Jersey.

The big story is that this article was published in the The New York Post.

That's right, it was published in Rupert Murdoch's house organ (there is the Wall Street Journal, but they have to preserve the illusion of credibility in non-business news).

I've racked my brain, and I can come up with only two reasons for Murdoch allowing a story like this to be published:
  • He is convinced that Romney is going to lose.
  • He has Barack Obama's genitals in his back pocket.
It could be both.

Basically, when you look at Murdoch's media empire, much of it depends on regulatory arbitrage, allowing him to form defacto monopolies, and skirt media cross ownership rules.

It's why his continued ownership of dead tree newspapers make sense:  To a much greater degree than the broadcast medium, they can engage in long form journalism that sets the tone for a campaign, and so politicians curry favor with him.

The papers may not generate profits, but they allow him to curry favor with politicians and regulators, which in turn make the size and scope of his broadcast and satellite operations possible.

H/t Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

28 August 2012

F%$# the NRA, Without Lube

We had another shooting, this one local:
Charged as an adult in the Perry Hall High School shooting, 15-year-old Robert Wayne Gladden Jr., was held without bond Tuesday as a portrait of a withdrawn and occasionally bullied student with a troubled home life emerged through interviews with classmates and court documents.

The suspect, who underwent a mental health evaluation Tuesday, remains at the Baltimore County Detention Center. He was charged with attempted murder and assault in the cafeteria shooting on Monday, the first day of classes. Gladden's lawyer, George Psoras Jr., cautioned against a rush to judgment, saying the bullying his client endured pushed him to a breaking point.
(Emphasis mine)

One of Natalie's BFFs, Abbey, goes to Perry Hall high, and was in the cafeteria when the shooting went down.  (She was uninjured)

What a Surprist

A federal appeals court has determined that Texas' redistricting plan had a deliberately discriminatory intent and effect:
Hispanic and black voters in Texas were vindicated on Tuesday when a federal three-judge panel rejected the state’s new redistricting plans for Congressional and state legislative seats. A panel of the United States District Court in the District of Columbia properly found that the maps, based on the 2010 census, had a discriminatory purpose and effect in reducing the ability of minority voters to elect candidates they favor.

The evidence of the discrimination was stark. Almost 90 percent of the 4.3 million growth in the state’s population in the last decade came from minority residents. That growth qualified Texas for four additional Congressional seats, and it required the state to create new voting districts. Yet instead of adding districts in which minority voters could elect candidates of their choice, the Republican-controlled Legislature drew the districts in a way that reduced the number represented by members of minority groups. About some districts, the panel said, the plans maintained “the semblance of Hispanic voting power,” but the mapmakers actually diluted it.

Texas is covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for its history of voting discrimination. It was in court because it had to get prior approval for any changes to its voting procedures from a federal court or the Justice Department — and it could receive permission only if it could prove that the changes would not have a discriminatory effect. The judges, sensibly, said no.

As the court’s majority opinion noted, no major surgery was performed by the lawmakers on the Congressional districts of white incumbents. But there was “unchallenged evidence” that in four minority districts, the Legislature performed surgery to cut out “economic engines” and harm the districts. In a couple of cases, the Republicans cut out the district offices of the members of Congress.
You mean that Texas Republicans are racist ratf%$#s?


You Just Knew That He Had His Piggy Little Fingers in All This

I'm (very) late to this story, but I'd just like to note that televangelist Pat Robertson is up to his hips in blood diamonds and crimes against humanity:
On February 4, 2010, Charles Taylor testified before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, that Robertson was his primary political ally in the US. Taylor stated during his war crimes trial that Robertson had agreed to promote Liberia to the US administration in exchange for additional benefits for Freedom Gold, Ltd.
I really wish that we had signed onto the International Criminal Court.

I Will Be Going Back to Blogger Comments

JS-Kit, formerly Haloscan, is dropping their service, so I'm going back to Blogger comments.

No comments should be lost, but the look and feel will change, and commenting may be buggy for a while.

Any recommendations as to a commenting system will be considered.

Blogger's commenting system is a bit antediluvian.

27 August 2012

No Blogging for You!

No Soup For You!
I was unrooting my phone so that I could update, and I forgot to uncheck the "repartition" check box on ODIN, so I wiped my phone.

Thankfully, I regularly backup my contacts, and my web browser, and so it was just a matter of reinstalling the apps, which I had recorded in screen shots for just such an emergency.

Still have to fix the ringtones though.

BTW, I cannot recommend my contacts synching utility MyPhoneExplorer, highly enough. It allows one to sync, contacts, calendar, and notes via USB, Bluetooth, or WiFi. It can work with both its own PIM, or with Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.

26 August 2012

Russia to Order AN-70 Transports

The Russian Air Force is planning to order 60 of the transports:
Ukrainian company Antonov together with Russian United Aircraft Corporation will participate in manufacturing Antonov An-70 transport airplanes. Russian defense ministry already placed an order for 60 such machines, USD 67 million apiece. Developed since 1978, An-70 can carry heavier cargo than existing transport planes and land on ill-equipped runways.

An-70 can carry 300 troopers, or 200 injured persons, or 47 tons of freight. Comparably, the closest alternative to An-70 – the Airbus A400M Atlas - can carry 37 tons of cargo. Market price of the Spanish A400M is EUR 145 million, whereas the Ukrainian An-70 costs less than USD 70 million.

Planes An-70 will be produced at JSC Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Production Association in Kazan, Russia. The plane can fly at a speed of 780 kilometers per hour at distances of up to 7,800 kilometers. An-70 is capable of landing on 600-800 meter runways with earth surfaces. Onboard navigation equipment allows the plane to land and takeoff at airports lacking special earth-based equipment.
This is interesting, and not just because it represents a rapprochement between Russian and Ukrainian defense industry.

By almost every metric (except for noise where, the contra rotating props create a racket), it equals the A400M, and if this order is sufficient to make the production line viable, it could be a major headache for EADS.

APKWS Reaches Deployment

The US Marine Corps is planning to deploy the laser guided 2.75" rocket to Afghanistan:
An unguided, Vietnam War-vintage missile with a dispersion pattern of up to 500 yards at medium ranges is being transformed into a precision air-to-ground weapon that already has been fired into a laser spot – about the size of a basketball – at a range of three miles.

The new weapon, with a warhead that can punch through a wall and then explode, is expected to be operational on U.S. Marine Corps helicopters in Afghanistan as early as this spring.

BAE Systems expects to deliver its next batch of low-rate production Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) missiles directly to the U.S. Marine Corps for shipment to operational units. The first 325 low-rate production missiles were delivered to the Navy Department in December, and the second lot of 600 will be dispatched in early fiscal 2012. With the end of operational testing in January, a full-rate production decision for about 1,000 missiles a year is expected to follow early in the year.
Particularly in a place like Afghanistan, where the opposition does not have heavy armor, it makes a lot more sense than something like the the Hellfire, which is too heavy and too expensive.

My other posts about this are here.

25 August 2012

India Looks to Go CATOBAR

It appears that will be going with catapult launchers:(Paid Subscription Required)
The Indian navy is likely to call an end to its tryst with ski-jump aircraft carriers, deciding that its next big vessel will be a flat-top with a catapult-launch system.

While India's first home-built carrier, known as the Vikrant, is to be a 44,000-ton short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery (Stobar) carrier, the second ship—tentatively titled Vishal (“Immense”)—is seen as a 65,000-ton flat-top with a steam-catapult system . The Naval Design Bureau, which oversees design and implementation of all indigenous warship building efforts, is expected to freeze its requirements by year-end.

A commodore with the Naval Design Bureau says, “A decision has been taken to move away from conventional Stobar and short-takeoff-or-vertical-landing (Stovl) operations.”

The navy's Sea Harrier fleet is closing out its service. The Indian carrier Vikramaditya—the former Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov—and first indigenous carrier (Vikrant) will be transition vessels to Stobar operations. The next logical step is catapult-assisted takeoff-and-barrier-arrested recovery (Catobar), “which brings with it immense advantages in the mix of assets we can deploy on deck,” says the commodore.

The navy has been known to want to deploy heavier fighters from a carrier. Still, the freeze on a flat-top catapult-launch design also dramatically changes the navy's future fighter requirement. In 2009, the service invited information to support a purchase of aircraft for deck-based operations, which did not specify launch type but had been presumed to be Stobar. Several companies were asked for information: Russia's MiG and Sukhoi for the MiG-29K and Su-33 , respectively; Dassault Aviation with the Rafale (noting that the Rafale could be modified for Stobar operations); Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ; Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet ; and two aircraft concepts— Saab 's Sea Gripen and Eurofighter 's Naval Typhoon.
The real issue here is not deploying fighters, which generally have the thrust to weight ratio to deploy from a ski jump, but the ability to deploy aerial early warning aircraft, carrier onboard delivery, and tankers, which have a lot less go.

What, Senior Military Officials Are Willing to Put Sailors At Risk to Appease Defense Contractors?

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!
The officers evaluating the Lottoral Combat Ship (LCS) suppressed negative testing data:
U.S. Navy emails and other documents suggest that officials muzzled bad test results for the first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) variant, the USS Freedom, at a crucial time in the program’s development, when the service was considering which seaframe to pick for the $30 billion-plus fleet.

Top program officers for the ship and at Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) told subordinates to avoid certain language in the test-result reports because of concerns over the downselect decision, the documents show. One naval officer said in an email he would delete the offensive wording of the report.

The Navy acknowledges it clamped down on “widespread” discussion of “preliminary” test results, but says it did so to prevent an “unfair comparison” between LCS-1 and the competing LCS-2, the USS Independence, because the second ship had yet to go through the same trials.
Yeah, sure.

They were just trying to be fair.

I'm not taking personal checks from these wankers.

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

He died from complications of bypass surgery.

H/t xkcd.

Cessna Jumps on the Diesel Band Wagon

They will be putting a diesel in the model 182 Sklylane: (Paid Subscription Required)
While avgas consumers and suppliers fret over the future of their leaded fuel, Cessna is partially weaning itself of that toxic brew by equipping its popular Model 182 Skylane with a Jet A-burning diesel engine. Others are likely to follow.

Unveiled at the Experimental Aircraft Association's recent annual gathering in Oshkosh, Wis. (see p. 35), the Turbo Skylane JT-A (photo) is fitted with the new SR305-230E engine built by SMA, a subsidiary of Snecma of France. The four-cylinder, 227-hp powerplant is already certificated by both the European Aviation Safety Agency and FAA , and Cessna hopes to begin deliveries of its newest model in early 2013.

While Austria's Diamond Aircraft has been producing aircraft powered by Austro Engine diesels for several years, the entry into that market by the much-larger Wichita aircraft maker with wide name recognition and a global support network is significant and likely to find favor, particularly in lesser-developed regions where avgas is scarce and expensive. Visitors at the Oshkosh introduction told Cessna personnel that the per-gallon price of 100LL avgas at some remote locations had topped $22.
Austro is a former Diamond Aircraft subsidiary (they spun it off) founded to replace the Thielert engine after that company's implosion.

24 August 2012

The Onion Predicts the Future Once Again

Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting
UPDATE: Never Mind

Shortly after they published this article, there was a shooting incident at the Empire State Building, and they had to update the article.

F%$# the NRA and the rest of the masturbatory gun nuts out there.

Hun, Some of Rmnney's Tax Evasion Was Pretty Simple

Basically, he took management fees and converted them to carried interest, in order to secure the lower capital gains rate:
Two and Twenty. Private equity fund managers are compensated in two primary ways: management fees and carried interest. The management fee, traditionally two percent annually, is paid to the managers to cover overhead, salaries, and so forth. The carried interest, traditionally twenty percent, is a share of the profits from the underlying investments. My paper Two and Twenty described the typical arrangement. Management fees are taxed at ordinary income rates; carried interest is often taxed at capital gains rates. I focused in the article on why the carried interest portion is better viewed like bonus compensation and should be taxed at ordinary income rates.

Management Fee Conversion. Current law on carried interest is already a sweetheart tax deal for private equity, but why not make it better? Private equity folks are not the type to walk past a twenty-dollar bill lying on the sidewalk. In the 2000s it became common for private equity fund managers to “convert” their management fees into carried interest. There are many variations on the theme, but here’s how many deals worked: each year, before the annual management fee comes due, the fund manager waives the management fee in exchange for a priority allocation of future profits. There is minimal economic risk involved; as long as the fund, at some point, has a profitable quarter, the managers get paid. (If the managers don’t foresee any future profits, they won’t waive the fees, and they will take cash instead.) In exchange for a minimal amount of economic risk, the tax benefit is enormous: the compensation is transformed from ordinary income (taxed at 35%) into capital gain (taxed at 15%). Because the management fees for a large private equity fund can be ten or twenty million per year, the tax dodge can literally save millions in taxes every year.

The problem is that it is not legal. Because the deals vary in their aggressiveness, there is some disagreement among practitioners about when it works and when it doesn’t. But in my opinion, and the opinion of many tax practitioners, the practices that were common in the private equity industry in the 2000s became very, very questionable, and it’s unlikely that they would have stood up in court.
Tax attorney and professor Victor Fleischer does the dumpster diving in Gawkers Bain document dump and this is the first bit of specific skulduggery that I've seen as a result.

23 August 2012

Pass the Popcorn…

Gawker has acquired a cache of nearly 1000 internal documents detailing activities at Bain Capital, and they appear to show some fairly arcane tax avoidance schemes used by Rmoney to hide income from the IRS:
Mitt Romney's $250 million fortune is largely a black hole: Aside from the meager and vague disclosures he has filed under federal and Massachusetts laws, and the two years of partial tax returns (one filed and another provisional) he has released, there is almost no data on precisely what his vast holdings consist of, or what vehicles he has used to escape taxes on his income. Gawker has obtained a massive cache of confidential financial documents that shed a great deal of light on those finances, and on the tax-dodging tricks available to the hyper-rich that he has used to keep his effective tax rate at roughly 13% over the last decade.

Today, we are publishing more than 950 pages of internal audits, financial statements, and private investor letters for 21 cryptically named entities in which Romney had invested—at minimum—more than $10 million as of 2011 (that number is based on the low end of ranges he has disclosed—the true number is almost certainly significantly higher). Almost all of them are affiliated with Bain Capital, the secretive private equity firm Romney co-founded in 1984 and ran until his departure in 1999 (or 2002, depending on whom you ask). Many of them are offshore funds based in the Cayman Islands. Together, they reveal the mind-numbing, maze-like, and deeply opaque complexity with which Romney has handled his wealth, the exotic tax-avoidance schemes available only to the preposterously wealthy that benefit him, the unlikely (for a right-wing religious Mormon) places that his money has ended up, and the deeply hypocritical distance between his own criticisms of Obama's fiscal approach and his money managers' embrace of those same policies. They also show that some of the investments that Romney has always described as part of his retirement package at Bain weren't made until years after he left the company.

H/t Americablog, and the documents can be examined here.

It also appears that it's getting coverage in the main stream old media (ABC) as well.


It's Jobless Thursday

And initial jobless claims are worse than expected.

Additionally, it looks like China's economy is approaching stall speed:
A key private sector indicator on Thursday, which showed Chinese factory activity slumped to a nine-month low in August against expectations of a modest pickup, throws up the question whether the worst is yet to come for the world’s second largest economy.

The second quarter, during which growth slowed to 7.6 percent, was regarded by many economists as the bottom for Chinese economic growth. However, experts say this view may have been overly optimistic.
It should be noted that while 7.6% seems to be a blisteringly hot growth rate, China has been running double digit numbers routinely for some time. (With the obvious caveat that Chinese numbers are crappy, but the delta probably remains significant.

I'm Impressed

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi has issued a decree ordering that journalists who have been detained under Egypts media laws must be released:
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi issued a decree barring the detention of journalists awaiting trial, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, citing presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.

In response to Mursi’s action yesterday, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered the release of Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Al-Dostour, MENA reported, citing Deputy Prosecutor General Adel el-Saeed. He was freed late yesterday, the Associated Press reported.

Egyptian journalists and rights groups have described the prosecution of Afifi, whose newspaper has been critical of the Muslim Brotherhood, as a benchmark of press freedom under Mursi and the most aggressive action by Islamists against what they portray as biased media coverage.
This was not something that I would have expected, but my guess is that he he is much more forward looking in his views of free speech and society than the generals we have been backing all these years.

But I think that we will still see a full court press from the usual suspects at the Council for Foreign Relations screaming "Islamist".


22 August 2012

Not Enough Bullets…

One of the largest food trading firms in the nation is bragging about how drought and food shortages will make them lots of money:

Every so often a business titan forgets himself, drops his guard and tells us what he’s really thinking.

So it was that a big cheese at the world’s largest commodities trader bragged that the worst drought to hit the US since the 1930s – and the worrying volatility in food prices around the world – will be “good for Glencore”.

On one reading, Chris Mahoney, the business titan in question, appeared to be celebrating the destruction of 45 per cent of America’s corn and 35 per cent of its soya bean crops this year. The crisis threatens to push cereal prices to a new record in a move that will put further pressure on the world’s poorest people and raises the prospect of a fresh round of food riots.

Mr Mahoney’s comments have put the spotlight firmly back on food prices, which rose by an average of 6 per cent globally in July, while cereals accelerated considerably faster still, jumping by 17 per cent to within a whisker of their record in April 2008, according to the UN.

“The US weather starting mid-May...has been among the worst three or four years of the century, comparable to the dust bowl years of the mid-30’s,” said Mr Mahoney, Glencore’s head of agriculture, suggesting that it won’t be long before cereal prices hit a new record.

“In terms of the outlook for the balance of the year, the environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities [the sale and purchase of an asset to profit from price differences in different markets],” he added.
The usual suspects were suitably appalled, but as Concepcion Calpe of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization noted, it won't happen because agribusiness in general, and Glencor in particular, "Know this and have been lobbying heavily around the world to water down and halt any reform."

Our economy is run by and for sociopaths, and they control our food.

Read this Series

Naked Capitalism is doing a series analyzing private equity, and their first article, which explains how private equity exists solely through a massive infusion of government money:
This is the first in a series of postings on the private equity industry (“PE”) and will serve as an introduction to private equity investing.

Private equity practitioners, including most famously Mitt Romney, often depict their sector as the epitome of private enterprise. These claims are false. Private equity firms not only depend directly and substantially on government support, they have also actively cultivated links to the state.

Some readers may know that private equity relies heavily on tax subsidies. Private equity firms engage in debt-leveraged buyouts of public and private companies, and the interest charges on this debt are tax deductible. But most members of the public do not know that close to half the investment capital in private equity funds is contributed directly by government entities. In this respect, private equity is little different than companies like Fannie, Freddie, and Solyndra that are regularly criticized in the media as recipients of government subsidies.

Their decisions to invest government funds in private equity reflect assumptions by government officials that have gone unchallenged and, we contend, are quite likely incorrect. Moreover, virtually all of the important details of the private equity investments made by these state investors are kept secret at the insistence of PE firms, in striking contrast to every other type of government contract.

This is not surprising.

Private equity, even when compared to hedge funds, are remarkably opaque, with no prospectus, and little information given to investors.

Even the payoff date is not revealed to investors.

Of course for a public pension manager, they will be gone when it all turns to sh%$.

They'll probably working for a private equity fund.

If you are investing other people's money (as in the contributions of state employees) and someone lies to you about possible return on investment, and this would allow your bosses in the governors' mansions and the state houses to balance the budget, you are inclined to be quite credulous.

An Update from Obama's Gulag

Looks like those military tribunals are not going as well as expected, so now they are trying to ensure that effective and vigorous representation by counsel is impossible:

In a federal court hearing that fully disclosed the deepening level of distrust between the military officers who run the Navy’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the volunteer lawyers who represent the detainees there, the presiding judge reacted with obvious skepticism to the military’s new move to curb those lawyers’ activities there.


As the hearing unfolded, a government lawyer suggested darkly that detainees’ lawyers have brought unspecified “contraband” into their meetings with clients at the Naval prison, and argued that intensifying activities in prosecuting war crimes cases there are raising new security fears among military officers, with many more lawyers in their midst. Answering those expressions of distrust, lawyers for detainees countered that the government cannot be trusted to keep its word even if it promises not to interfere with legal representation; they cited shifting details of lawyer curbs as well as the government’s more fully expressed doubts that some of the detainees have any remaining right to a lawyer.

“‘Counsel visits [to Guantanamo] are a burden on the resources and manpower of Guantanamo Bay to provide accommodations for counsel and on security personnel to ensure the safety of counsel and their good behavior as well,” Justice Department attorney James J. Gilligan said at the hearing. In turn, one of the lawyers for the detainees, New York attorney Rebecca Briggs, contended that “these limitations [on counsel's access] that are being added in footnotes [in government access rules] just highlight the fact that their assurances to yield their discretion responsibly cannot be taken at face value, unfortunately.”
When the rabid right wing rants that Barack Obama wants to create some sort of Soviet style totalitarian state, they miss the fact that Obama has already done so, but he hasn't expanded it beyond Muslims ……… yet.

21 August 2012

Here is an Interesting Case

An appeals court has reinstated a case against the South Burlington, VT jail for slavery, for forcing inmates in pretrial detention to do hard labor:
A man who claimed he was forced to do manual labor while detained pending trial can proceed with claims against the state of Vermont under the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude.

In an opinion on Friday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a lower court wrongly denied Finbar McGarry a chance to argue that he was forced, against his will and under threat, to work in a prison laundry.


For six weeks, McGarry said he was forced to work three days a week for up to 14 hours at a time washing other inmates' laundry at a pay of 25 cents an hour.

The work was hot, unsanitary and resulted in his getting an infection in his neck, McGarry said. If he refused to work, McGarry said prison officials threatened to send him to "the hole," where inmates were confined for 23 hours a day.


His lawsuit, which he filed himself, asked for $11 million in damages.

In dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Garvan Murtha in Brattleboro, Vermont, ruled that the state was immune from McGarry's claims because he had failed to show that the prison work was sufficiently akin to African slavery.

Appeals judges Robert Katzmann, Barrington Parker and Richard Wesley, however, disagreed with the judge's reading of the 13th Amendment, which was enacted in 1865.

"The Amendment was intended to prohibit all forms of involuntary labor, not solely to abolish chattel slavery," the opinion, drafted by judge Parker, said.

More broadly, the appeals court said Vermont could not treat people in custody pending trial the same way it treats convicted prisoners, such as compelling them to participate in work programs designed to rehabilitate inmates.
The Supreme Court has recognized that you cannot treat people in pretrial detention the same as people who are serving a sentence, and if this stands, this will make a major change in the operation our prison industrial complex.

Why the Banksters Should Go to Jail, Part XXIX

There is an interesting article in Scientific American which argues that punishing cheaters produces evolutionary pressures toward cooperation:
Humans are one of the most cooperative species on the planet. Our ability to coordinate behavior and work collaboratively with others has allowed us to create the natural world’s largest and most densely populated societies, outside of deep sea microbial mats and a few Hymenoptera mega-colonies.

However, a key problem when trying to understand the evolution of cooperation has been the issue of cheaters. Individuals in a social group, whether that group is composed of bacteria, cichlids, chimpanzees, or people, often benefit when cooperating with others who reciprocate the favor. But what about those individuals who take advantage of the generosity of others and provide nothing in return? These individuals could well thrive thanks to the group as a whole and end up with greater fitness than everyone else because they didn’t have to pay the costs associated with cooperating. For decades the idea that cheaters may in fact prosper has been the greatest difficulty in understanding cooperation as an evolved trait.

However, it turns out that cooperation could be a viable evolutionary strategy when individuals within the group collectively punish cheaters who don’t pull their weight. For example, Robert Boyd, Herbert Gintis, and Samuel Bowles published a paper in the journal Science in 2010 with a model showing how, so long as enough individuals work together to punish violators, each cooperative individual in the group can experience enhanced fitness as a result.
This is why, "Looking forward and not back," is so harmful to society.

Whether it's the torture by the Bush administration (or for that matter by the Obama administration) and the misdeeds of the banksters must be prosecuted to the fullest extant of the law.

In failing to do this, Obama and Holder are, whether they realize it or not, are actively selecting for corruption and fraud.

Google Agrees With Me

They think that software patents suck wet farts from dead pigeons too:
Google suggested today that it might be time for the U.S. to ditch software patents.

"One thing that we are very seriously taking a look at is the question of software patents, and whether in fact the patent system as it currently exists is the right system to incent innovation and really promote consumer-friendly policies," said Pablo Chavez, Google's public policy director.

Chavez's remarks at the Technology Policy Institute's conference here this morning come as the Mountain View, Calif. company is enmeshed in a series of legal actions involving software patents, including Oracle (which Google won at trial) and Apple (which is still pending).

Software patents have become increasingly controversial in technology circles, in part because of the rise of what are derisively called "patent trolls," and in part because of the mixed quality of the patents that the U.S. government has granted. In April, Twitter announced a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech companies, saying its patents would only be used for defensive purposes -- not to block rivals from innovating.
How about throwing some money towards the whores in Congress investing in some lobbying to change the laws.

IP as currently administrated in the United States are a major impediment to innovation, not the incentive to innovation it is supposed to be.

20 August 2012

God Bless The Onion

I Misspoke—What I Meant To Say Is 'I Am Dumb As Dog Sh%$ And I Am A Terrible Human Being'

By Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) August 20, 2012

As a politician, I often find myself in situations where, unfortunately, I express a certain thought or idea poorly, or find my words taken out of context. Indeed, that is what happened this weekend. Upon reviewing the impromptu remarks I made Sunday afternoon, I can now see that I used the wrong words in the wrong way. I would now like to set the record straight with the American people and clear up some confusion about what it was I intended to convey.

You see, what I said was, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But what I meant to say was, “I am a worthless, moronic sack of sh%$ and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever.”
(%$ mine)

They owe me a screen cleaner.

Not a Surprise

A three star general is now alleged to have explicitly ordered the tortured of Bradley Manning:
An order to submit WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning to harsh and allegedly illegal treatment in prison apparently came from the upper echelons of the Marine Corps.

According to military e-mails released to Manning’s defense, a three-star general was the force behind the marching orders to hold Manning as a maximum-custody detainee under prevention-of-injury watch, or POI — orders that resulted in severe conditions at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, that left Manning isolated and repeatedly mistreated by his guards.

Defense attorney David Coombs disclosed the contents of the e-mails in a post published on his blog on Friday. He did not publish the actual e-mails.

Coombs called the treatment a “flagrant violation” of his client’s right to not be punished prior to trial and has filed a motion asking for the charges against Manning to be dismissed based on the allegedly unlawful treatment.

“These e-mails reveal that the senior Brig officer who ordered PFC Manning to be held in MAX and in POI was receiving his marching orders from a three-star general,” Coombs wrote on his blog. “They also reveal that everyone at Quantico was complicit in the unlawful pretrial punishment, from senior officers to enlisted soldier.”
OK, we now know that when Obama said that he had "received assurances" that Manning's treatment was "Humane", those assurances almost certainly came directly from this unnamed general, and Obama either knew this, or he was willfully blind, as did everyone between the two of them in the chain of command.

As a rough guess, I figure that something over half of the General officers in the military, along with their superiors on the civilian side of Pentagon, are aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.

This is why you cannot allow any torture:  It grows to subsume your entire state security apparatus, because eventually the whole of the state has to join in the coverup.

Charlie Gets in Touch With His Inner Geek

Click for full size

Not as bad as I feared.

With the cube, he has a little James Bond thing going on
Saturday evening, we picked up Charlie's Bar Mitzvah suit after some tailoring.

Well, Charlie really hated the idea of wearing a tie, but he has to wear one, so we got him a normal tie when we bought the suit a week ago.

On Saturday, he said that he wanted to wear a bow-tie.

I told him that I did not know how to tie a bow-tie, and that I had already paid for a tie.

He agreed to pay for the tie out of his own money, and said that he'd learn to tie a bow tie from Youtube.

Sunday morning, we fired up the laptop, and he stood in front of the mirror, and practiced, but he didn't get it right.

Well, we had a wedding to go to, a three hour trip to Lakewood, NJ, and he practiced, and he taught himself how to wear a bow tie on the way. (We brought the regular tie as a backup)

So, he's spouts obscure scientific erudition, he does Rubik's Cube type puzzles, and now he's wearing a bow tie.

As you can see, I got some action pix (my phone has a rapid fire shooting option) of him doing a one-handed solve.


There is no hope for him.

19 August 2012

On the Road Today

My chevrusa's, (Torah study buddy for Charlie and I) daughter got married in Lakewood, NJ, and so it's road trip crew.

This takes me out of my social comfort zone:  I've become comfortable with studying and praying with black hat orthodox, but the social interactions are far less copacetic.

So the wedding ceremony is fine, but I feel a bit like an alien at the reception.

To quote David Byrn, " You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

18 August 2012

Consumer Sentiment Improves

It's a 3 month high, but it's still a crappy 72.4.



Hannity: "Paul Ryan Has Become A National Sex Symbol.

Just Ewwww!!!

This guy probably pulls down more in an hour than I do in a year.

Why does he still have a job?

H/t Atrios.

Not Javajo, Not Cherokee, Not Sioux, this is the Jioux

Click for full size

This is not Indian Jewelry
This may very well be the the most clueless eBay ad ever.

This is not Indian jewelry, though it was probably worn as a "member of the tribe.:

H/t my dad, who sent this via email.

My older physicist brother, rarely at a loss for words had only one, "Gevalt."

My first reaction was to wonder if it was cast, stamped out of stock, or done by hand.

17 August 2012

This is Evil

Why We Love Cats, Part 22

Yeah, This is a Cool Window Tint Job

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS

How to Know When You've Pissed off a Judge

One hint is when he asks if you are smoking crack:
Tempers boiled over in court this morning, with the judge in the case between Apple and Samsung flat out yelling at Apple for trying to book too many witnesses in its last few hours.

"I am not going to be running around trying to get 75 pages of briefings for people who are not going to be testifying," U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh told Apple's lawyer Bill Lee.

"I mean come on. 75 pages! 75 pages! You want me to do an order on 75 pages, (and) unless you're smoking crack, you know these witnesses aren't going to be called when you have less than four hours," Koh said.

"Your honor, I can assure you, I'm not smoking crack," Lee replied matter-of-factly.
It's never good to piss off a judge, but the fact that it's Apple playing bullsh%$ patent bully does infuse in me a bit of Schadenfreude.

16 August 2012

Assange Formally Granted Asylum by Ecuador

This is not an unexpected development.

The British are saying that they are never going to allow his passage out of the country, and are continuing to imply that they will use a law passed in late 1980s to raid the Ecuadorean embassy.

The law in question was passed after someone shot a Bobby from inside the Iranian Lybian embassy, which is clearly a different circumstance from this.

The real issue here is that pretrial process, and extradition, in Sweden is opaque, and Assange has publicly stated that he would be willing to go to Sweden if they gave him guarantees that he would not be transferred to US custody.

This is about Obama, and people close to him, desperately wanting to get their hands on him so that they can make an example of him. (Even if there is not a successful prosecution, there will be torture, even if he does not get sent to Gitmo, look at what they did to Bradley Manning in pretrial detention.)

Rather unsurprisingly, all the news that's fit to print, i.e. the NY Times reported this as a hit piece against Assange.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Initial claims ticked up slightly, slightly worse than expected.

We are in a holding pattern until war breaks out in Europe the Euro Zone collapses.

15 August 2012

Thanks Angie

The Euro Zone is back in recession:
The economy in the euro zone officially shifted to contraction from stagnation in the second quarter of 2012, data showed on Tuesday, portending a recession for the region later in the year that would put even more pressure on political leaders struggling to keep the common currency intact.

Gross domestic product from April through June fell 0.2 percent from the previous quarter for the 17 countries that use the euro, according to preliminary estimates by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. In the previous quarter, growth was zero.

Economists said the decline in output, caused partly by government budget cutting, meant the euro zone was likely to enter recession, broadly defined as two consecutive quarters of shrinking output. Even the German economy, which has helped compensate for weakness in Italy and Spain, seemed to be losing momentum.

“Growth of the German economy was no longer strong enough to keep the total euro zone economy above the zero line,” Christoph Weil, an economist at Commerzbank, wrote in a note to clients.

The newest data added to the challenges facing euro zone leaders as they return from vacation and again confront the debt crisis. Slower growth almost automatically translates into lower tax receipts, because people lose their jobs and companies earn less profit. That, in turn, puts even more stress on government budgets.
Madam Chancellor, this is an artifact your austerity fetish.


Is the USDA a wholly-owned subsidiary of Monsanto?
This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.

No Rule of Law for You!

Well, we now have reports that
Ecuador intends to grant Julian Assange asylum, but it appears that the British are threatening to storm the embassy:
Ecuador has accused the UK of making a "threat" to enter its embassy in London to arrest Wikileaks' Julian Assange.

Mr Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over assault and rape claims, which he denies.

Ecuador foreign minister Ricardo Patino also said a decision on the 41-year-old's bid for political asylum had been made and would be announced later.

The Foreign Office said it could revoke the embassy's diplomatic status.


At a news conference in Quito on Wednesday, Mr Patino said a letter from the UK government was delivered through a British embassy official.

"Today we received from the United Kingdom an express threat, in writing, that they might storm our Embassy in London if we don't hand over Julian Assange," he said.

"Ecuador rejects in the most emphatic terms the explicit threat of the British official communication."

He said such a threat was "improper of a democratic, civilised and rule abiding country".

"If the measure announced in the British official communication is enacted, it will be interpreted by Ecuador as an unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act and as an attempt against our sovereignty. It would force us to respond," he said.

"We are not a British colony".

A Foreign Office spokesman said the UK remained "determined" to fulfill its obligation to extradite Mr Assange.
If you are old enough to remember the Iranian hostage crisis, it wasn't the Iranian government that took the American embassy in Tehran, it was a bunch of kids with no "official" ties to the government.

Even Ayatollah Khomeini understood that the consequences of flaunting the sanctity required a fig leaf.

The British are not doing this for the Swedes. They are doing this because the US government, with the certain knowledge of, and likely active participation of Barack Obama personally, has demanded this.

Seriously, Obama's war on whistle blowers makes Richard Nixon look like the Sunlight Foundation.

Deep Thought

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

14 August 2012

Off For the Rest of the Evening

Storm from hell is blowing in, and I don't want to risk the computer.

Paul Ryan, Insider Trader

Click for full size

Found on Facebook
Brad Delong looks at Paul Ryans trading records in 2008, and concludes that he had to be trading on information from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury:
I don't want to hire as my vice president and federal budget czar somebody who uses Congressional inside information to profit by switching his portfolio back and forth between Citigroup and Goldman five times a year: I want somebody with better ethics.

I don't want to hire as my vice president and federal budget czar somebody who investing very part-time with no analytical support and without inside information switches his portfolio back and forth between Citigroup and Goldman five times a year: I want somebody with a better brain.
Look at the trades. He's clearly trading on inside information.

Time to Keep Your Cash in Your Mattress

In a ruling from the failure of a brokerage in 2007, a court has ruled that segregated client funds can be used by the firm for as collateral, and the bank gets priority for the clients' money:
A ruling in the case of failed futures brokerage Sentinel Management Group could make it more difficult for customers to recoup money lost in the much larger collapse of MF Global, according to Sentinel's bankruptcy trustee.

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a ruling that puts Bank of New York Mellon ahead of former customers of Sentinel in the line of those seeking the return of money lost in the 2007 failure of the suburban Chicago-based futures broker.

The appeals court affirmed an earlier district court ruling that the bank had a "secured position" on a $312 million loan it gave to Sentinel, which turned out to have been secured by customer money.

Futures brokers are required to keep customers' funds in dedicated accounts to protect them from being used for anything other than client business.

However, Thursday's ruling suggests that brokerages can use customer funds to pay off other creditors, Sentinel trustee Fred Grede told Reuters.

"I don't think that's what the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had in mind" with its requirement that brokers keep customer money separate from their own, he said.

"It does not bode well for the protection of customer funds."

Worse, Grede said, is that the ruling suggests that a brokerage that allows customer money to be mixed with its own is not necessarily committing fraud.

That may raise the bar for proving that MF Global Holdings Ltd, under then-CEO Jon Corzine, misused customer funds as it scrambled to meet margin calls to back bets on European debt in the brokerage's final days. A $1.6 billion customer shortfall remains.


Customer funds were allegedly moved from the protected accounts to other accounts so they could be used as collateral for loans to Sentinel's own trading operations.

The appeals court said that "perhaps the bank should have known that Sentinel violated segregation requirements" but agreed with the district court's earlier ruling that "such a lack of care does not rise to the level of the egregious misconduct" needed to reprioritize a claim.

"That Sentinel failed to keep client funds properly segregated is not, on its own, sufficient to rule as a matter of law that Sentinel acted ‘with actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud' its customers," U.S. Circuit Judge John D. Tinder wrote in the ruling.
If you have your money in an account, the firm can steal it and use it for loan collateral, and the bank gets it all.

For ordinary people who, for example, simply get a good deal on a used car that later turns out to have been stolen, they have to give the car back, even though they had no reason to know that he car was stolen.

But for the banks, if they are willfully blind,  they get to keep the stolen property, because the law does not apply to them.

We need to end this sh%$.  My next post discusses what would work, but ever won't be done by either the current administration, or by a possible Romney administration.

13 August 2012

Just Lock Them Up

Giancarlo Spagnolo, a professor at the University of Rome, makes a rather appealing suggestion, that we start criminally charging the banksters:
Recent revelations on traders’ behaviour in the Libor rigging case are worrisome not only as a sign of the rotten culture of financial operators, but also for the sense of legal impunity prevailing among them (Economist 2012). They suggest that bank CEOs and supervisors may have tolerated or encouraged rate rigging, or negligently lost control of banks’ operations, for years. They also indicate that law enforcement has been extremely weak in the realm of banking and finance. The recent allegations that some large UK banks have been involved in extensive money-laundering activities in favour of Mexican drug cartels and Iran reinforce this impression considerably.

In the light of these revelations, on 25 July the European Commission amended its proposal for a Regulation and a Directive on insider dealing and market manipulation to include criminal sanctions against that type of price fixing. Meanwhile, following a report by the FSA on the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the UK Treasury had already opened a consultation on how to introduce criminal sanctions against failed banks’ directors, ranging from automatic debarment to full fledged prison for extreme reckless behaviour.

The need for tougher sanctions is self-evident, as is the need to hold accountable negligent regulators. But are criminal sanctions a good remedy for financial misbehaviour? Wouldn’t it be better to substantially increase monetary fines? The question is warranted given that, with few exceptions, modern economists from Becker (1968) onwards regard monetary fines as a more efficient law enforcement instrument than non-monetary criminal sanctions (Polinski and Shavell 2000, Werder and Simon 1986).

The problem with monetary fines is that not always can wrongdoers be fined at a sufficient level to achieve deterrence. Wrongdoers may:
  • Not have sufficient wealth, or may conceal it;
  • Transfer fines to other parties (uninformed shareholders, directors’ insurance funds, etc.); or
  • Be protected by limited liability (for corporate fines).
In the remainder of this column, I will try to clarify why these problems are particularly acute for banks and in particular for bankers, intended as those individuals with inside information and control on the banks’ business (traders, directors, CEOs…). As we will see, the same reasons that for a long time have made banks 'special' for competition policy also ensure that to deter bankers' wrongdoing, non-monetary criminal sanctions are necessary.
As an aside here, the idea of piercing the veil of corporate indemnification, so, for example, income of all forms in excess of (for example) that of the President of the United States, would not be covered by limited liability for a period of a few years.

Prof. Spagnolo does not discuss this, but it should be up there.

If people knew before the fact that if their banks had to bailed out, that all their property could be taken by a court judgement, it would deter them.

As it stands now, the worst case, taking the example of Michael Milken, who did his few years at club Fed, and left still prison fabulously wealthy.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

The Mandatory Read of the Day

Harold Feld, who had the misfortune of having his iPod stolen from his car, on how the MPAA (and RIAA) would deal with a similar situation.

Just go read.

Tweet of the Day

Once again, Michael Moore


12 August 2012

Wrap Party Tonight

Charlie and Sharon both acted in the Open Space Arts community theater's 2012 Summer Playwright’s Festival, which had 5 (one was rained out) shows over the past two weeks.

Natalie also worked tech for the troupe, but was at a performing arts sleep-away camp,  Tizmoret Shoshana, for the performances.

Charlie had to take a role on 24 hours notice when another actor left the festival on short notice.

This afternoon was the last show, shop they had a wrap party, and since Sharon had a concert that she wanted to see,  Ayelet HaShachar, immediately after the play, I took Charlie to the party.

In any casee it's been a fun, but hectic, Sunday.

11 August 2012

There are Really Evil People in Kansas

Case in point, most of the members of the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, who are attempting to strip a doctor's license for not forcing a 10 year old girl with mental health issues to carry her uncle's baby to term:
The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, the governing body that regulates the practice of medicine in the state, stripped the medical license of a woman who refused to force a mentally-ill 10 year old to give birth.

As Robin Marty reports, Dr. Ann Neuhaus became the target of domestic terror group Operation Rescue after her colleague, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered. Neuhaus assisted Tiller by providing second opinions for mental health exceptions for late-term abortions.

Operation Rescue filed a negligence complaint against Neuhaus alleging that her exams were not thorough enough to support her medical conclusions and her follow-up care was inadequate because she did not recommend counseling or hospitalization after each procedure.

Neuhaus offered a rebuttal of her own. “To even claim that isn’t medically necessary qualifies as gross incompetence,” said Neuhaus. “Someone’s 10 years old, and they were raped by their uncle and they understand that they’ve got a baby growing in their stomach and they don’t want that. You’re going to send this girl for a brain scan and some blood work and put her in a hospital?”
Seriously, these are deeply evil religious zealots, and they are way closer to terrorists who intend to strike in the United States than most of the threats that the FBI manufactures.

I'm not hoping for drone strikes against these folks, but it's clear that there are more direct links to terrorism with Operation Rescue than there is with, for example, the now shuttered Holy Land Foundation.

Mitt Picks a Running Mate

So, Mitt Rmoney has picked Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running.

Only in America could be someone who idolizes a virulently anti-religious atheist with the sexual morals of a rabid mink in heat could be considered the savior of the Republicans, and conservative politics.

Of sourse, it is America, so Paul Ryan, who is such a fan of hack writer Ayn Rand that he requires his staff to read every page of Atlas Shrugged.

He's also the guy who put forward a budget that eliminated Medicare, which led to some very surprising losses in special elections for the GOP.

I can't imagine that Willard needs to appease the party's right-wing base this badly, so I gotta figure that this is a ploy to get Obama to stop talking about his tax returns, or lack thereof.

If you don't know who Paul Ryan is, I would refer you to Charlie Pierce on what a contemptible piece or work he is.

BTW, Michael Moore had the tweet of the day:


This might be unfair to Charles Manson.

10 August 2012

OK, This is So F%$# Creepy It's Not F%$#ing Funny

H/t Vonners Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Kitty, Switch to Decaf!

H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

In the Ocean, No One Can Hear You Scream

This critter does have an H.R. Giger thing going on.

H/t Vonners at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!!

No bank failures this (or last) week, see the full FDIC list, but we had the 8th credit union failure of the year, United Catholic Credit Union. Full NCUA list)

As the graph pr0n shows, things are looking up:

09 August 2012

Initial Jobless Claims Down 6,000

To 361,000 better, but still sucky.

What a Surprise, The Vampire Squid Skates

What a surprise, Goldman Sachs gets to defraud its customers in and lie to Congress about the Abacus deal, where they sold bad loans to investors, and then bet against them, and there is no prosecution:
Neither Goldman Sachs Group Inc nor its employees will face U.S. criminal charges related to trades they made during the financial crisis that were highlighted in a 2011 U.S. Senate report, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

The unusual announcement not to prosecute criminally came in an unsigned statement attributed to the department.

Few expected the bank to face criminal charges, but in April 2011, U.S. Senator Carl Levin asked for a criminal investigation after the subcommittee he leads spent years looking into Goldman.

Levin's subcommittee held televised hearings as part of its inquiry, which centered on a subprime mortgage product known as Abacus. He said Goldman misled Congress and investors.

Goldman employee Fabrice Tourre still faces a civil complaint from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He has denied any wrongdoing and was the only person accused.

Goldman itself settled with the SEC for $550 million in July 2010 without admitting wrongdoing.
(emphasis mine)

Why am I not surprised?

08 August 2012

Dualing Quotes of the Day

It's a tough choice, reader(s), which do you prefer:
Why David Cameron is the ultimate "seagull" manager

He flies in, makes a lot of noise, dumps on everyone from a great height, and then flies out again.
Or this one:

Romney finally gets a supporter who changes positions as often as he does.

Thomas Myer, on the news that pr0n star Jenna Jameson has endorsed his candidacy.
It's a tough call.

It Won't Pass

The Maryland Health Security Act of 2012, a single payer health care proposal, has been submitted to the legislature.

A quick Google reveals that it's been submitted since at least 2008, so I don't expect anything to come of it though.

07 August 2012


Darcy Burner has lost the primary for Washington's 1st district.

Former Microsoft exec Suzan DelBene after dropping over a million dollars of her own money, bought second place (it's a non-partisan primary, with Teabagger Republican John Koster getting a plurality).

Rather unsurprisingly, DelBene also got the lion's share of the Democratic Party establishment, since they go for the money, and real Democrats scare them.

So the good folks in the 1st have the choice of the Teabagger or the MBA.

My condolences.

Yep, It Happened in Libya Too

When you allow the House of Saud and the rest of the Medieval Gulf Despots determine which Arab regimes to overthrow, they go after the secular regimes, and the armies that they fund engage in ethnic and religious persecution and bigotry:
Syria’s 2.3 million Christians, constituting about 10 percent of the country’s population, have generally known a more privileged existence under the Assad dynasty than even the Shiite Alawi sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs. Yet their allegiance to Assad was never absolute. Some Christians openly clamored for political change in the early months of the anti-government uprising. But as the rebellion became suffused with Sunni militants sympathetic to or affiliated with Al Qaeda, Christians recoiled.

A churchgoing Syrian told me that he used to see himself primarily as “Syrian” and that religious identity, in political terms, was an idea that never occurred to him — until an opposition gang attacked his family earlier this year in Homs. “It’s a label they pinned on us,” he said. “If their revolution is for everyone, as they keep insisting it is, why are Christians being targeted? It is because what they are waging is not a struggle for freedom, and it’s certainly not for everyone.”

As Saudi Arabian arms and money bolster the opposition, the 80,000 Christians who’ve been “cleansed” from their homes in Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan in Homs Province in March by the Free Syrian Army have gradually given up the prospect of ever returning home.

The rebels’ conduct has prompted at least some Sunnis who had supported the rebels and once-wavering Syrians to pledge renewed loyalty to Assad. Many who once regarded the regime as a kleptocracy now view it as the best guarantor of Syria’s endangered pluralism.

A Sunni shopkeeper in the impoverished suburb of Set Zaynab, which was partly destroyed in the clashes last week, no longer supports the rebellion. “I wanted Assad to go because he is corrupt,” he said. “But what happened here, what they did, it scared me. It made me angry. I cannot support the murder of my neighbors in the name of change. You cannot bring democracy by killing innocent people or by burning the shrines of Shiites. Syrians don’t do that. This is the work of the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia,” he added, referring to the ultra conservative Sunni sect.

Repeated attempts by Free Syrian Army fighters to destroy a shrine to Sayyida Zeinab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad revered by Shiites, have not yet caused the area’s Sunni minority to flee — many Shiites here have refused to blame their Sunni neighbors for the rebels’ crimes.

Over the past week, more than a dozen Syrians — chiefly Alawi and Christian, but also a handful of Sunnis — affirmed to me their determination to pick up arms to defend Assad.

The seeming indifference of the international community to the worsening condition of Syria’s religious minorities — and the near total absence of censure of the opposition forces by the Western governments arrayed against Assad — is breeding a bitter anti-Americanism among many secular Syrians who see the United States aligning itself with Saudi Arabia, the fount of Wahhabism, against the Arab world’s most resolutely secular state.

Fresh from abetting the suppression of a pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Syria is part of its effort to attenuate Iran’s influence and cripple what it fears is a growing Shiite corridor of power in the Middle East.

Most Syrians, regardless of their faith, want the power to change their government. But the armed groups that have seized control of the rebellion, now contaminated with Al Qaeda fighters and corrupted by Saudi money, have repelled many people.
This is no surprise.

The Libyan transitional government, also funded by the Saudis and the various Emirates is doing the same thing, engaging in ethnic cleansing of Black African Libyans.

The Assad Regime sucks, but for the United States to allow its own interests in a modern, generally secular governance in the Arab world to be subverted to the needs of the ineluctably corrupt House of Saud, is simply nuts.

A majority of the 911 hijackers were Saudi for a reason.

The House of Saud bankrolls much of the infrastructure of terrorism in the world, exporting a harsh and reactionary ideology, and it is not in the best interest of the United States.

H/t Washington's Blog.

no surprise. The Lybians are doing the same with Black African Lybians.

An Interesting Insight into the Role of IP in Developing Societies

Indeed, only 1,000 new works appeared annually in England at that time -- 10 times fewer than in Germany -- and this was not without consequences. Höffner believes it was the chronically weak book market that caused England, the colonial power, to fritter away its head start within the span of a century, while the underdeveloped agrarian state of Germany caught up rapidly, becoming an equally developed industrial nation by 1900.

Even more startling is the factor Höffner believes caused this development -- in his view, it was none other than copyright law, which was established early in Great Britain, in 1710, that crippled the world of knowledge in the United Kingdom.

Germany, on the other hand, didn't bother with the concept of copyright for a long time. Prussia, then by far Germany's biggest state, introduced a copyright law in 1837, but Germany's continued division into small states meant that it was hardly possible to enforce the law throughout the empire.

Höffner's diligent research is the first academic work to examine the effects of the copyright over a comparatively long period of time and based on a direct comparison between two countries, and his findings have caused a stir among academics. Until now, copyright was seen as a great achievement and a guarantee for a flourishing book market. Authors are only motivated to write, runs the conventional belief, if they know their rights will be protected.

Yet a historical comparison, at least, reaches a different conclusion. Publishers in England exploited their monopoly shamelessly. New discoveries were generally published in limited editions of at most 750 copies and sold at a price that often exceeded the weekly salary of an educated worker.

London's most prominent publishers made very good money with this system, some driving around the city in gilt carriages. Their customers were the wealthy and the nobility, and their books regarded as pure luxury goods. In the few libraries that did exist, the valuable volumes were chained to the shelves to protect them from potential thieves.

In Germany during the same period, publishers had plagiarizers -- who could reprint each new publication and sell it cheaply without fear of punishment -- breathing down their necks. Successful publishers were the ones who took a sophisticated approach in reaction to these copycats and devised a form of publication still common today, issuing fancy editions for their wealthy customers and low-priced paperbacks for the masses.
This is an intriguing though.

I think that the current IP regime, both copyright and patent has become excessive, and serves to hinder innovation and creativity, rather than enhancing it.

But, I am still surprised that even the relatively modest protections in the 18th and 19th century,* appeared to be a major impediment to development.

I guess that those economist say about rent seeking behavior is truer than I thought.

*You had to explicitly file for copyright, and the term was only 14 years, and copyright infractions were a private tort, not a criminal infraction with the threat of years in jail.

Iceland Gets it Right, Part XXVII

Now Iceland is separating its commercial and its investment banks:
Iceland was brought to the brink of bankruptcy when its biggest banks failed four years ago. Now, the site of the world’s most spectacular financial collapse is becoming a pioneer in banking reform.

“We’ve been burned by this and that’s why we have to look very closely at what we need to do to prevent it happening again,” Economy MinisterSteingrimur J. Sigfusson said in an interview. “Icelanders are more interested in taking greater steps than small steps when it comes to regulating banking.”

His party, the junior member in Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir’s coalition, has submitted a motion to parliament to stop banks using state-backed deposits to finance risky investments. The move puts Iceland on course to become the first western nation since the global financial crisis hit five years ago to force banking conglomerates to split their business.

It’s a proposal that’s gaining traction elsewhere. Even Sanford “Sandy” Weill, whose 1998 creation of New York-based Citigroup Inc. (C) triggered the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that paved the way for financial behemoths, now says investment banks should be separated from deposit-taking banks. Opponents including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon say diverse businesses are needed to spread risk across divisions and stay competitive.
Gee, Glass Steagall was a good idea.

There is a shocker.

They appear to be the only government in the world that has had the fortitude and the foresight to actually learn from their own financial disaster.

Spitzer Ain't Olbermann but He's Good

Bringing on Felix Salmon* and Dennis Kelleher to discuss our we need to put some senior banksters in handcuffs was a good move:

*Unfortunately, he was not wearing his Willy Wonka suit.

Read the Rude Pundit

Read his full throated endorsement of Harry Reid's accusation against Mitt Romney. (NSFW)

I completely agree with his sentiments.

H/t Cthulhu* at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

*No, not the unspeakably malevolent super-being, the contributor to the Stellar Parthenon.
OK, I've never seen the two of them together, so Cthulhu might actually be the Cthulhu, but the mere fact that he is on a BBS, interacting with humans would seem to mitigate against this.
Yes, I know, this is the internet, where no one knows if you are a dog.

06 August 2012

What Might Be the Most Important Story You Have Not Heard About the Oak Creek Massacre

Yes, the events in Oak Creek are a tragedy, but this was not the only act of right wing bigoted domestic terrorism in recent months, it wasn't even the only act of right wing bigoted domestic terrorism this weekend.

Some Klan wannabee firebombed a Mosque in Joplin Missouri.

These are not isolated incidents. Rather this is a part of a deliberate effort to create an environment that encourages people with a few screws loose to engage in acts of terrorism.

The assassination of George Tiller is another part of this trend.

Well This Might Explain the Whole Tax Return Thing

Marcy "Emptywheel"  Wheeler finally has a decent theory as to why Mitt Rmoney is refusing to release his taxes.

Basically this theory concludes that Reid (a fellow Mormon) has good information that Romney has been shorting the Mormon Church on his tithes:
For the record, I think Mitt has multiple reasons to hide his tax returns. I think it’s largely about what his returns would say about his business practices, it’s partly about his tax shelters, and, one way or another, it’s about his relative loyalty to his church and his country.

But here’s a thought.

Harry Reid, Mormon, and Senator from Nevada, is the one leading the charge to return attention to Mitt’s tax returns.

He attributes his claim that Mitt paid no taxes for ten years to someone who invested with Bain. Now he may know his purported Bain-related source because he travels the halls of power. But Bain has very close cultural ties to the Mormon Church–according to some, improperly so. Moreover, because Mitt and other Bain execs have given so much to the Mormon Church in the form of Bain stocks, high ranking Mormon insiders may have a better idea of what Bain Capital actually does–and how Mitt valued his holdings before he gave them to the Church–than most others.

So Reid may be calling out Mitt not just as a former boxer, but as someone who shares a very wealth-based and close knit faith with Mitt.

Add in the practice–which even an outsider like me saw when I lived in UT and worked for a predominantly Mormon company in the 1990s–of gossip about tithing, notably whether Mormon colleagues tithed pre- or post-tax. That’s another reason why Reid may have a better sense of what Mitt’s tax practices look like than DC pundits might guess on face value.

Finally, though, there’s this. If one of the reasons Mitt is hiding his tax returns does have to do with under-tithing (as the returns Mitt released may suggest), and not just his business practices and tax shelters, remember that both CO (2.15%) and especially NV (over 5%) have larger Mormon populations than average. Nate Silver considers NV the state with the biggest return on investment per voter (CO is 6th). These are lean Democratic states that Mitt might need to win if Obama’s attacks on Bain outsourcing continue to turn the race in the manufacturing swing states (though if Mitt doesn’t win FL and VA, it may be moot anyway). Driving down the Mormon enthusiasm for Mitt might be one way to boost Obama’s chances.
It's an interesting theory.

H/t Atrios.

He Can See Russia from His Mansions!

H/t Vonners at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

I Missed this Bon Mot from [i]The Onion[/i]

U.S. Flag Recalled After Causing 143 Million Deaths

Seen on Facebook


05 August 2012

A Baloney Sandwich

Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, who rose to infamy when he pepper sprayed women who were peacefully behind a police line, has been thrown to the wolves by the city of New York, which is refusing to defend him in civil suits filed against him:
New York City has distanced itself from a high-ranking police official accused of firing pepper spray at Occupy Wall Street protesters, taking the unusual step of declining to defend him in a civil lawsuit over the incident.

The decision means Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna also could be personally liable for financial damages that may arise out of the suit, said lawyers familiar with similar civil-rights claims.

The 29-year veteran has asked a judge to reverse the city. "He wasn't doing this as Anthony Bologna, mister. He was doing this as Anthony Bologna, deputy inspector, NYPD," said his lawyer, Louis La Pietra. Mr. Bologna's union, the Captains Endowment Association, is now covering the cost of his defense.

Mr. Bologna was one of the most contentious public figures to emerge out of frequent clashes between Occupy Wall Street protesters and police officers last fall. A video that purported to show him aiming pepper spray at a group of demonstrators who were being held behind orange netting was widely viewed on the Internet.

Four weeks after the Sept. 24 incident, which allegedly occurred during an unpermitted march that ended in dozens of arrests, an internal investigation found Mr. Bologna in violation of New York Police Department guidelines. He was given a departmental punishment called a command discipline and docked 10 vacation days.
The city's action is an uncommon occurrence, and I'm wondering if this means that he will start rolling on higher-ups.

This should get interesting.