31 January 2013

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

In Brooklyn, Mafiaesque "Modesty Patrols" are terrorizing the Ultra Orthodox community:
The Brooklyn shopkeeper was already home for the night when her phone rang: a man who said he was from a neighborhood “modesty committee” was concerned that the mannequins in her store’s window, used to display women’s clothing, might inadvertently arouse passing men and boys.

“The man said, ‘Do the neighborhood a favor and take it out of the window,’ ” the store’s manager recalled. “ ‘We’re trying to safeguard our community.’ ”

In many neighborhoods, a store owner might shrug off such a call. But on Lee Avenue, the commercial spine of Hasidic Williamsburg, the warning carried an implied threat — comply with community standards or be shunned. It is a potent threat in a neighborhood where shadowy, sometimes self-appointed modesty squads use social and economic leverage to enforce conformity.

The owner wrestled with the request for a day or two, but decided to follow it. “We can sell it without mannequins, so we might as well do what the public wants,” the owner told the manager, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals for talking.


The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who prosecuted the Weberman case, has now received allegations that members of a modesty committee forced their way into a home in the borough, confiscating an iPad and computer equipment deemed inappropriate for Orthodox children, officials say. Allegations have also surfaced that a modesty committee threatened to publicly shame a married man who was having an affair unless he paid the members money for what they described as therapy.

“They operate like the Mafia,” said Rabbi Allan Nadler, director of the Jewish studies program at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

Rabbi Nadler, who testified at Mr. Weberman’s trial, said that modesty committees did not have addresses, stationery or business cards, and that few people seemed to know where their authority originated, though it was doubtful, he said, that they could continue operating without the tacit blessings of rabbinical leaders.

Another  Shanda before the Goyim,.

There Will Be a Primary in the Democratic Senate Race in Massachusetts

We already knew that Ed Markey was in the race, but now Stephen Lynch has announced that he will run as well.

Lynch is a right wing ratf%$# who voted to intervene in the Terri Sciavo affair, where the Republicans in Congress decided to intervene in the medical affairs of a brain dead woman, one of only 30 Democrats who did this, and the only Dem from New England to do so.

He's an opponent of abortion rights, and was a big booster of the war as well.

Here's hoping that Lynch gets destroyed in the primary, and that it leads to him being unseated in the 2014 9th district elections as a result.

As to how the primary will effect the special election, where Scott Brown is almost certain to be the  Republican candidate, I generally favor primaries.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Initial claims spiked last week, with initial claims rising by 38,000 to 368,000, with both continuing and extended claims rising.

Not a good report, but it's only one, so I's wait for next week's report before drawing any conclusions.

30 January 2013

The Opposite of Noblesse Oblige

In the Guardian, George Monboit talks about his experience as a student in a British public (private) school, and notes that this sort of background creates people who are completely disassociated from the wants and needs of the rest of society.  I can't really do justice through excerpts, but here are two paragraphs to give you a sense of this:
Last year the former Republican staffer Mike Lofgren wrote something very similar about the dominant classes of the US: "the rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens … the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it."


So if you have wondered how the current government can blithely engage in the wholesale transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, how its frontbench can rock with laughter as it truncates the livelihoods of the poorest people of this country, why it commits troops to ever more pointless post-colonial wars, here, I think, is part of the answer. Many of those who govern us do not in their hearts belong here. They belong to a different culture, a different world, which knows as little of its own acts as it knows of those who suffer them.
He draws his net a bit narrower than I would, he ascribes these characteristics pretty much exclusively to conservatives, while I would apply it more generally to our ruling class.

It explains why we see so many cases of, to quote Pete Townshend, "Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss."

As you ascend the political pyramid, your world increasingly becomes that of the rich elites, and increasingly, their needs become your needs.

Go read this.

Oh Snap!

4th quarter GDP fell by an 0.1% rate:
The federal government helped bring the economic recovery to a virtual halt late last year as cuts in military spending and other factors overwhelmed the Federal Reserve’s expanded campaign to stimulate growth.

Disappointing data released Wednesday underscore how tighter fiscal policy may continue to weigh on growth in the future as government spending, which increased steadily in recent decades and expanded hugely during the recession, plays a diminished role in the United States economy.

Significant federal spending cuts are scheduled to take effect March 1, and most Americans are also now paying higher payroll taxes with the expiration of a temporary cut in early January.

The economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the last three months of 2012, the worst quarter since the economy crawled out of the last recession, hampered by the lower military spending, fewer exports and smaller business stockpiles, preliminary government figures indicated on Wednesday. The Fed, in a separate appraisal, said economic activity “paused in recent months.”
The private sector is recovering, but cuts in federal spending more than offset this.

This is not as bad as what the Germans are doing with the Euro Zone.  We are experiencing a sort of "austerity lite", and it is doing real damage to our economy.

Some Good News

It looks like Europe will be implementing a financial transaction song with teeth:
The details of Europe’s new financial transactions tax won’t be made public for a few weeks, but the FT’s Alex Barker has seen a draft, and it looks impressively robust. The tax is being implemented by 11 countries, including most importantly Germany and France, and it’s going to be levied at two levels: 0.1% on securities trades, and 0.01% on derivatives trades. It’s also going to be very difficult to dodge: any trader whose institutional headquarters is in one of the 11 countries will have to pay the tax, as will all transactions taking place in those countries, and all transactions involving securities issued in those countries.

The tax will have two main purposes. The first is to raise substantial tax revenues on the order of $45 billion per year; the second is to discourage financial speculation. I’m hopeful on the former, but less so on the latter.

As Robert Peston and Avinash Persaud pointed out back in 2011, financial transactions taxes work pretty well: even the UK, which is implacably opposed to the European tax and which won’t ever join such a scheme, levies a surprisingly large 0.5% tax whenever anybody — anywhere in the world — trades a UK stock. And yet, somehow, London remains the first choice for international companies looking for a place to list their shares.
I aggee with Felix Salmon's closing:
So let’s hope that this tax gets introduced; that it works; and that the rest of the world, seeing the costs and the benefits, starts to follow suit and sign on too. The area covered by the initial 11 countries is big enough that the tax will work well at inception, but as more and more countries join the scheme, the tax will become increasingly efficient and effective. Maybe, eventually, it could even incorporate the U.S.
Personally, I would like to see the tax on securities should be a bit hither (about 0.3%) derivatives should be much higher (at least .1%, and better yet something north of ½%), but I really want to see this camel's nose to get under the tent.

Two, Cats, Both Wrong

We've been trying to use a "have a heart" trap to catch Hummus (shown).

Today, we caught two cats at the same time, but they were just some feral cats from the neighborhood.

One looked a bit like Hummus, but  wasn't her.

Unfortunately, in the process of checking it out, I got a bit scratched up.

Hind claws, so it smarts a lot.

29 January 2013

Least Surprising News of the Day

Timothy Geithner's Treasury Department ignored guidelines and allowed bailed out banksters to write their own paychecks:
The Treasury Department ignored its own guidelines on executive pay at firms that received taxpayer bailouts and last year approved compensation packages of more than $3 million for the senior ranks at General Motors, Ally Financial and American International Group, according to a watchdog report released Monday.

The report from the special inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program said the government’s pay czar signed off on $6.2 million in raises for 18 employees at the three companies. The chief executive of a division of AIG received a $1 million raise, while an executive at GM’s troubled European unit was given a $100,000 raise. In one instance, an employee of Ally’s Residential Capital was awarded a $200,000 pay increase weeks before the subsidiary filed for bankruptcy.


Monday’s report evaluates Treasury’s actions since then, with stinging allegations of lax oversight and supervision. Romero said Geoghegan deferred to the pay proposals provided by the companies, approving raises above pay limits and failing to link compensation to performance.

“Treasury made no meaningful reform to its processes,” the special inspector said in the latest report. “Lacking criteria and an effective decision-making process, Treasury risks continuing to award executives of bailed-out companies excessive cash compensation without good cause.”
This is so not shocking.

Words Cannot Express My Disgust

Israel has been administering the Depo-Provera contraceptive to Ethiopian Women without their knowledge:
It isn’t an apology or an acceptance of responsibility. But for the first time, an Israeli government official has admitted what thousands of Ethiopian Jewish women have allegedly known for years – doctors in Israel have been injecting Ethiopian women with long-acting birth control medication known as Depo-Provera without the informed consent of the women. The effect of the shots lasts for months and the practice effectively sterilizes women for that period of time. Many Ethiopian women have reportedly received these shots for years with little or no say in the decision to receive them.
This is bigoted, and this is contemptible.

Whoever was behind this needs to be drummed out of the medical profession.

At least they have put an end to the practice:
Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu has instructed the four health maintenance organizations to stop the practice as a matter of course.

The ministry and other state agencies had previously denied knowledge or responsibility for the practice, which was first reported five years ago.

Gamzu’s letter instructs all gynecologists in the HMOs "not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.
This is quite literally the least they could once this came to light.

In addition to being racist, it's bad medicine. Depo-Provera has a lot of nasty side effects.

Patent Troll Loses Big

Newegg has prevailed against a patent troll claiming patents on an online shopping court:
Anyone who visited Soverain Software's website could be forgiven for believing it's a real company. There are separate pages for "products," "services," and "solutions." There's the "About Us" page. There are phone numbers and e-mail addresses for sales and tech support. There's even a login page for customers.

It's all a sham. Court records show Soverain hasn't made a sale—ever. The various voice mailboxes were all set up by Katherine Wolanyk, the former Latham & Watkins attorney who is a co-founder and partial owner of Soverain. And the impressive list of big corporate customers on its webpage? Those are deals struck with another company, more than a decade ago. That was OpenMarket, a software company that created these patents before going out of business in 2001. It sold its assets to a venture capital fund called divine interVentures, which in turn sold the OpenMarket patents to Soverain Software in 2003.


Soverain isn't in the e-commerce business; it's in the higher-margin business of filing patent lawsuits against e-commerce companies. And it has been quite successful until now. The company's plan to extract a patent tax of about one percent of revenue from a huge swath of online retailers was snuffed out last week by Newegg and its lawyers, who won an appeal ruling [PDF] that invalidates the three patents Soverain used to spark a vast patent war.


For Newegg's Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng, it's a huge validation of the strategy the company decided to pursue back in 2007: not to settle with patent trolls. Ever.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, 'This is bullsh%$,'" (%$ mine) said Cheng in an interview with Ars. "We saw that if we paid off this patent holder, we'd have to pay off every patent holder this same amount. This is the first case we took all the way to trial. And now, nobody has to pay Soverain jack squat for these patents."


Soverain's plans were always bigger than Amazon and Newegg. It wanted nothing less than to extract a patent tax from the entire retail sector, using three patents it claimed covered pretty much any use of "shopping cart" technology.

Just saying "do it on the Internet" isn't a novel invention, the appeals court ruled [PDF]. The three-judge panel found that all of the "shopping cart" patent claims were rendered obvious in light of the CompuServe Mall.
I think that in the future, I'll Newegg will be at the top of my list for shopping.

Hurrray for the ……………… Swiss?

Switzerland citizens have petitioned binding shareholder votes on executive compensation to referendum:
In February 2008, Thomas Minder, a Swiss businessman whose family-owned company is best known for its old-fashioned herbal toothpaste, attacked his banker, UBS Chairman Marcel Ospel, as if he were a form of stubborn plaque. At a shareholders' meeting in Basel, he stormed the podium as Ospel addressed the crowd. Ospel's bodyguards grappled with Minder and wrestled him away before he could land his symbolic blow — he was trying to hand the embattled head of Switzerland's largest bank a bound copy of Swiss company law, which codifies corporate temperance.

"Gentlemen, you are responsible for the biggest write-downs in Swiss corporate history," Minder had railed just a few minutes before, referring to UBS's loss of $50 billion during the subprime meltdown that prompted it to seek a government bailout. "Put an end to the Americanization of UBS corporate philosophy!"

The bodyguards marched Minder out of the hall amid a chorus of boos and jeers. Two months later, Ospel was gone, taking the fall for UBS's recklessness, but Minder's campaign against big bonuses had only just begun; shortly after Ospel was ousted, Minder filed the 100,000 signatures needed to launch a referendum to impose some of the tightest controls on executive compensation in the world.

Of the top 100 Swiss companies, 49 give shareholders a consulting vote on the pay of executives. A few other countries, including the United States and Germany, have introduced advisory "say on pay" votes in response to the anger over inequality and corporate excess that drove the Occupy Wall Street movement. Britain is also planning to implement rules in late 2013 that will give shareholders a binding vote on pay and "exit payments" at least every three years. Minder's initiative goes further, forcing all listed companies to have binding votes on compensation for company managers and directors, and ban golden handshakes and parachutes. It would also ban bonus payments to managers if their companies are taken over, and impose severe penalties — including possible jail sentences and fines — for breaches of these new rules.
Honestly, I was hoping that someone would do this, but in my wildest dream, I would have not have thought that it was the Swiss who would be at the forefront of this movement.

It appears that I have some stereotypical views about the Swiss, basically as conventional banker types, which does not reflect the actual reality.  I've got to be more enlightened.


Biotech firms are aggressively lobbying to ban the use of generic alternatives to their ruinously expensive drugs:
In statehouses around the country, some of the nation’s biggest biotechnology companies are lobbying intensively to limit generic competition to their blockbuster drugs, potentially cutting into the billions of dollars in savings on drug costs contemplated in the federal health care overhaul law.

The complex drugs, made in living cells instead of chemical factories, account for roughly one-quarter of the nation’s $320 billion in spending on drugs, according to IMS Health. And that percentage is growing. They include some of the world’s best-selling drugs, like the rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drugs Humira and Enbrel and the cancer treatments Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan. The drugs now cost patients — or their insurers — tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Two companies, Amgen and Genentech, are proposing bills that would restrict the ability of pharmacists to substitute generic versions of biological drugs for brand name products.

Bills have been introduced in at least eight states since the new legislative sessions began this month. Others are pending.
Seriously. We need to move away from proprietary IP licensed drug development leveraging government research to another model.

The current one is not working.

They use monopoly rents to further expand their monopoly rents by capturing the political process, and we all pay, over, and over, and over, and over again.


The WTO has just granted Antigua and Barbuda the right to ignore U.S. Copyrights because of our clamp-down on gambling:
A long-simmering trade conflict between the United States and Antigua and Barbuda appears to be boiling over.

Antigua and Barbuda, which has a $1 billion economy, is planning on getting legal retribution from the United States’ $15 trillion economy over its refusal to let Americans gamble at online sites based in the Caribbean nation — perhaps by offering downloads of American intellectual property, like Hollywood films, network television shows or hit pop songs. On Monday, the World Trade Organization gave its go-ahead for Antigua and Barbuda’s tentative plan.

“The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States government’s long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling,” Harold Lovell, Antigua’s finance minister, said in a statement. “These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua have resulted in the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers.”

The conflict’s roots are a decade old. The World Trade Organization said that the United States had violated its trade agreements by preventing Americans from betting at sites based in Antigua and Barbuda. Because Washington is unwilling to make the betting legal, the countries have been locked in a dispute over what constitutes fair trade practices and fair compensation.

The online gambling industry was at one point the second-largest employer in the Caribbean country, its government has said, and economists estimated its worth at $3.4 billion. Gambling employment has dropped to fewer than 500 people from more than 4,000 as a result of the United States’ trade policy, it said.

On Monday, a dispute settlement body in Geneva gave Antigua and Barbuda the nod to, in essence, violate American intellectual property rights to make up its losses, calculated at $21 million a year.

It remains murky just how the Antigua and Barbuda government might go about it. But trade watchers suggested it might set up a site where viewers could pay a pittance to watch a film or television show with an American copyright. The United States might not be able to shut the site down under international law.
BTW, it was the US that insisted on having cross-retaliation, where misbehavior in one industry could result in penalties at another industry.

In a best case scenario, I hope that this doesn't get resolved, and the "content owners"  (actually the holders of exclusive licenses) find their stuff on the internet for next to nothing.

Hollywood and Silicon Valley will doubtless freak out, but if this continues down this path, and Antigua does distribute IP protected content, the US is forbidden from retaliating, so we see what happens if a bit of IP sanity breaks out.

My guess is that it won't be the apocalypse that the MPAA and the RIAA predicts, and maybe they will be viewed like the proverbial "Boy Who Cried Wolf."

My previous posts about this are here, and it appears to me that this is moving very slowly, my earliest post is from 2007(!), and the complaint, and the remedy, remain the same as my original post, but we now finally have a ruling.

Quote of the Day

As I've written previously, we are past the point in this country now where one's views on homosexuality can be called a "matter of conscience." No. Being against equality here isn't a matter of conscience anymore than having been against racial equality in 1955 was. It is just bigotry plain and simple. Enough. Piss off. Go form your own Boy Scouts. Go form your own stupid country. You aren't America anymore.
Michael Tomasky

We Love Those Little Fuzzy Murderous Psychopaths

Awww!!! It's so cute!!!
A new study has revealed that cats are merciless killing machines cutting a wide swath through indigenous wildlife:
For all the adorable images of cats that play the piano, flush the toilet, mew melodiously and find their way back home over hundreds of miles, scientists have identified a shocking new truth: cats are far deadlier than anyone realized.

In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States — both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it — kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.

Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and an author of the report, said the mortality figures that emerge from the new model “are shockingly high.”
I loves my cute little black hearted merciless killing machines.

They are so cute.  Squeeee!!!!

28 January 2013

Iceland Wins in Court Over Icesave Deposite Guarantees

I'm not particularly surprised:
A European court has cleared the Icelandic government of failing to guarantee minimum levels of compensation for UK and Dutch savers in the collapsed Icesave bank.

Icesave, run by the Icelandic Landsbanki, collapsed in 2008 along with all of Iceland's banking system.

The UK and Dutch savers were bailed out completely by their governments.

The ruling may halt the UK's attempt to get all of its money back from the Icelandic government.


The Icelandic government said it took "considerable satisfaction" from the ruling from the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) Court.

"Iceland has from the start maintained that there is legal uncertainty as to whether a state is responsible for ensuring payments of minimum guarantees to depositors using its own funds and has stressed the importance of having this issue clarified in court," it said.


The EFTA judgement stated: "The Court holds that the Directive does not envisage that the defendant itself must ensure payments to depositors in the Icesave branches in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, in accordance with Articles 7 and 10 of the Directive, in a systemic crisis of the magnitude experienced in Iceland."
What's the core issue here is that Iceland guaranteed these accounts up to £16,300, but the British and Dutch cover the whole account, and demanded that Iceland pay the whole amount.

This is separate from the attempts to make the bondholders whole, for which there is no legal obligation whatsoever.

Things to do in Boise When You're Dead*

OK,there is no actual dying involved, but I will be in Boise, Idaho for about 30 hours on business (Sunday night through about Noon on Tuesday) next week.

It's a work thing, but I figure that I'll have Monday evening off.

Any suggestions of things to do?  I've been told that there are some good Basque restaurants in the area, though I haven't got any specific names.

*Truth be told, I've never seen the movie Things to do in Denver When You're Dead, but the title has stuck in my head.

27 January 2013

This is Called Circling the Drain

The Army has decided to delay its Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program:
Army acquisition leaders moved Jan. 16 to delay its top modernization program, the Ground Combat Vehicle, in hopes of making it more viable in the face of expected defense budget cuts.

The Army issued a memorandum Jan. 16 announcing the addition of a six-month extension of the Technology Development phase of the GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle program. Defense companies will have more time to “refine vehicle designs,” according to an Army statement.
They have been playing around with all sorts of whiz bang technology, the weight has ballooned to that of an M-1 tank, and there have been repeated delays and cancellations. (Background here)

This is a clusterf%$#, and it will continue to be a clusterf%$#, and the best case will be an over priced, under performing, Byzantinely complex and hard to support system.

Read Charlie Pierce

He says it all on the recent DC Court of Appeals ruling:
David Sentelle Is A Hack

By Charles P. Pierce

The next time I hear some lefty mooing about the president's having let down the side on something or another, it better be about something of substance, like the Keystone XL pipeline, or I'm going to boot said lefty's hindquarters in the general direction of the federal appeals court of the District Of Columbia, which today laid down the most singular piece of partisan hackery to come out of a court since Antonin Scalia picked the previous president. For precise legal analysis, I'll leave it to Scott at LG&M to explain. This, children, is what you get when you operate politically under the theory that They're All The Same. You get 20 or 30 years of primarily Republican judges acting primarily as Republicans, drawn from the legal chop-shops in the conservative movement bubble, and doing their partisan duty like performing seals.

Read the rest.

Geithner As Sociopath: The Interview

In an interview with Liaquat Ahamed at The New Republic Timothy Geithner reveals his good German.

In response to the idea of justice, his response was that it, "wasn't his thing."
LA: One of the ways that people have figured out in the past to reconcile the politics was to go populist. That was what Roosevelt did. You, on the other hand, had been resolutely against that. You refer to it as Old Testament justice, implying that while it may be emotionally satisfying, it doesn’t serve any purpose.

TG: I never used that phrase as a pejorative description. I just used it as a simple shorthand to refer to the understandable need people had for justice. But the President didn’t ask me to come do this to be the architect of a political strategy. I never felt that was my thing. I had some views on the issue, but I didn’t give them much weight. I thought my job was to figure out the financial parts.
(emphasis mine)

Justice doesn't matter, and notwithstanding his protestations, he ridiculed it as, "Old Testament justice".

He knows that his job is to be the lick-spittle watchdog for the banksters.

Note however that the Cossacks work for the Czar

I Guess that Texas Was Sick of Being a Laughing Stock

This is why the Texas legislature took the power to select textbooks away from Texas Board of Education:
Much has changed since then. In 2011, the Texas Legislature shifted authority to order textbooks from the state to individual school districts with Senate Bill 6. The law deprived the board of its final say-so. Now, school districts have control over how they spend their almost $800 million on learning materials.

“It’s pretty clear that it reduces our authority in the sense that we’re not the only game in town,” board member Michael Soto, D-San Antonio told the Austin American-Statesman.

Filmmaker Scott Thurman describes it this way: Before, “the textbook publishers had to meet 100 percent of the TEKS [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards]. In The Revisionaries, I follow the process of making those standards. Now, they only have to meet 50 percent of the standards…Textbook publishers have a little more wiggle room.”

He speculates that SB6 was passed because of the controversy the board raised in 2009 and 2010. “According to moderate members of the board, the far right didn’t like this at all. They wanted complete control. They wanted to lock in those standards and not allow textbook publishers to work around it.”
Yes, having a Board of Ed that is batsh%$ insane is a problem, particularly when, before the new law, they dictated text books for 5 million students in one fell swoop, which would lead text book publishers to make their books for everyone match the frequently nonsensical requirements of this body.

This is very good news for education in the US.

Reid Never Intended to Reform the filibuster

The problem is that he has gone native:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.

“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).

But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.

“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).

But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.
The Republicans have created a new reality in the Senate, and the older Democratic Senators do not realize that it's not going back to the way it was before.

We need new leadership in the Senate.

25 January 2013


H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

24 January 2013

This is All F%$#ed Up and Sh%$

I am referring, of course, to Israel's election results:
Coalition talks have begun in Israel after near-complete general election results gave right-wing and centre-left blocs 60 seats each in parliament.

President Shimon Peres is expected to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to form a new government.

His Likud-Beitenu alliance lost a quarter of its seats in the Knesset but remains the largest grouping with 31.

He has offered to work with the newly-formed Yesh Atid party, which shocked observers by coming second with 19.

However, its leader, popular former TV presenter Yair Lapid, has demanded reform of a law under which ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students can defer their military service. Religious parties in the current governing coalition are strongly opposed to any changes.

Mr Lapid has also said he would only join a government that was committed to reviving the peace process with the Palestinians.
In 3rd place again is labor, and Kadima, formerly the leading opposition party, is down to just two seats.

I'm hoping that Yesh Atid gets into the coalition (does not look likely), because it has a strongly secular platform, and ending the draft exemption and subsidies to the Ultra-Orthodox would be a very good thing.

As to figuring out what this all means, I'm not sure that anyone knows what it means.

Certainly, I cannot figure out how this will all sort out.

More Agreement With the IMF

They are saying that Britain should back off its austerity policies:
Britain should tone down its austerity plans to help the struggling economy, the International Monetary Fund's chief economist has suggested.

Olivier Blanchard said the budget in March would be a good time for George Osborne to "take stock" of his plan A.

The comments, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, came after the IMF trimmed its forecasts for the UK and global growth. The British economy is now expected to expand by 1% rather than 1.1% this year, and 1.9% rather than 2.2% next year.
Twice in a day I agree with them.

Go figure.

The IMF Gets One Right

IMF chief Christine Lagarde is calling for increases in the minimum wage, strengthening the social safety net, and reining in bankers pay:

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, has warned that "corrosive" inequality was hindering the world's economic recovery.

In a combative speech to an audience of some of the world's wealthiest financiers at the World Economic Forum, [Davos] Ms Lagarde said that bankers' pay should be cut to close the gap between the rich and poor. "Excessive inequality is corrosive to growth; it is corrosive to society. I believe that the economics profession and the policy community have downplayed inequality for too long" she said.

Ms Lagarde, a former French finance minister who was appointed head of the International Monetary Fund in 2011, added that it might be necessary for nations to impose minimum wages in order to reduce income gaps.

II believe policies such as robust social safety nets, extending the reach of credit, and – in some cases – minimum wages can help" she told the audience of business and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Ms Lagarde also warned that necessary reforms of the multinational banking sector, which plunged the Western world into recession in 2008-09, were being watered down by industry lobbying.


Ms Lagarde told delegates that bankers' pay is too high. "We must move in the direction of more prudent compensation practices" she said. "Ultimately, this is all about accountability: we need a financial sector that is accountable to the real economy– one that adds value, not destroys it".
Your mouth to God's ear, ma'am.

Good Riddance

Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division at the Department of Justice and pimp for the banksters, has resigned:
Lanny Breuer is out as head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, according to the Washington Post. After his ratlike performance on Frontline (transcript here) it won’t be long before we find him at some creepy New York or DC law firm defending his best friends, the banks and their sleazy employees. His legacy is simple: too big to fail banks can’t possibly commit crimes, so minor civil fines and false promises of reform are punishment enough. Jamie Dimon couldn’t have put it better.
BTW, the Department of Justice has said that they would never work with the producer of the segment ever again:

He's gone, but I'm certain that he's going to a cushy Wall Street gig where he will make millions of dollars.

It's how back loaded bribery works.

It's a Petri Dish for Narcissistic Sociopaths

The filibuster stands largely unchanged:
The Senate enacted modest reforms to its filibuster rules with votes that kept bipartisan relations intact but left disappointed liberal groups fuming.

The reforms are the biggest changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules in decades but fell well short of drastic reforms demanded by labor unions and liberal-leaning advocacy groups.

The deal negotiated between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) provoked an outcry from liberal groups.

Passage of the deal sets to rest Reid’s threat, which he had wielded for months, to use the so-called "nuclear option" to change the Senate’s filibuster rules through a simple majority vote.

The enacted reforms do not include the implementation of the talking filibuster, which would require senators seeking to block legislation to actively hold the floor and debate. If debate stops, the pending matter moves to a simple majority vote, under this proposal.

Nor does it shift the burden of sustaining a filibuster onto the minority party by requiring senators to muster 41 votes to continue blocking legislation. Now the burden is on the majority to round up 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
It's streamlined a bit, but only a bit.

I'm depressed.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Initial unemployment claims just fell to a 5 year low, as did the 4-week moving average, continuing, and extended claims.

Good news.  Let's hope for more.

Tobin Tax Progresses in Europe

The EU has begun to implement a plan to tax financial transactions:
A hotly contested tax on financial trades took a big step forward on Tuesday when European Union finance ministers allowed a vanguard of member states to proceed with the plan.

The so-called Robin Hood tax would apply to trading in stocks, bonds and derivatives. Although the tax would probably be small — one-tenth of a percentage point or less on the value of a trade — it could earn billions of euros for struggling European governments.

Algirdas Semeta, the European commissioner in charge of tax policy, called the decision “a major milestone in tax history” and said the levy could be imposed starting next year. But deep concerns about how it would work could still lead to delays.

The European Commission, the bloc’s policy-making arm, still needs to draft the final legislation, and the 11 states in favor of the law will have to give their unanimous approval before it becomes law — two more than the minimum required for legislation to be drafted.

A significant complication is opposition to the tax by Britain, which has the largest trading hub in Europe in the City of London. But because Britain has decided to stay outside the group of states applying the tax, its resistance would probably not stop the plan from moving ahead.

Among the 27 members of the European Union, the proposal has firm backing from Germany, France and nine other countries. Others might eventually support the idea, which is closely associated with James Tobin, a United States economist and Nobel laureate who suggested a version of it in the 1970s.
In addition to be a good source of revenue, it creates a large disincentive for short-term speculation by making it more expensive.

Here is hoping that this becomes a permanent fixture of the world economy.

This Looks Promising

Obama has nominated former US Attorney Mary Jo White to head the S.E.C.

She has a reputation as a tough prosecutor, so hopefully there will be a bit less in the toothless consent decree area coming out of the agency.

Just When You Think that Republicans Get Any More Contemptible………

A state legislator in New Mexico proposed legislation to make a rape victim who has an abortion guilty of felony destruction of evidence:
A bill introduced by a Republican state Representative would make it a third-degree felony for a woman who was impregnated as the result of a rape or incest to have an abortion.

House Bill 206, brought by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, is sure to be one of the most controversial bills of the session. While other bills do all they can to discourage women from having abortions by delaying the process, this bill would actually make it a third degree felony to not carry to term a pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest.

ProgressNow New Mexico executive director Pat Davis calls the bill “blatantly unconstitutional” and opposes the bill.

“The bill turns victims of rape and incest, who have just been through a horrible sexual assault, into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” David said in a statement. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.”
It in net, and blew up in her face, and suddenly, she is saying that she will rewrite the bill so that it would only apply to the rapist if they coerce an abortion.

If that had been her goal in the first place, she would have put it in in the first place.

Seriously, how do evil f%$#s like this get elected?

Deep Thought

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

23 January 2013

Britain's Cameron Calls for Referendum on EU Membership

He wants to get back some of the powers that have gone to the EU, but the big story is that he is calling for a referendum on leaving the EU:
David Cameron has said the British people must "have their say" on Europe as he pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the election.

The prime minister said he wanted to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and then give people the "simple choice" between staying in under those new terms, or leaving the EU.

The news was welcomed by Eurosceptics who have long campaigned for a vote.

France and Germany both warned the UK could not "cherry pick" EU membership.

During noisy Prime Minister's Questions exchanges in Parliament, Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Cameron was "running scared" of the UK Independence Party, whose poll ratings have been rising.
It's not just the UKIP. It's also the right wing of his own party who is Euroskeptical, though the Lib-Dems, his junior coalition partners are strongly pro-EU, so he's got a nasty balancing act.

As to how the vote goes?  My prediction is that the vote won't ever happen.

I think David Cameron will find a way to declare victory and so not hold the vote.

Then again, my powers of prognostication suck wet farts from dead pigeons.

More on the 2nd Amendment and Its Relationship to Slavery

I will direct you to The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, a 102 page article published in the U.C. Davis Law Review in 1998.  (Link is to the abstract, you can download the PDF from there)

This is a (obviously) a much longer, and much more extensively annotated, piece than either Thom Hartmann's pro 2nd amendment/slavery patrol link article or Paul Finkleman's argument against this.

I've read the full article, though it was a quick read, and while it clearly does not go as far as Hartmann, author Carl T. Bogus merely addresses the adoption of the 2nd amendment, rather than the whole Constitution as Hartmann does, but he does make a compelling case that the 2nd amendment was specifically a collective right granted to the states, and that the support for this amendment was driven by the fears of slave owners about an uprising, particularly in Virginia.

Bogus (I love that name) does admit that he no evidence that Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights to preserve slavery, he does show that Madison's compatriots and constituents in Virginia found the possibility that Congress would disarm the state slave patrols to be a concern of paramount importance.

In either case, it does make a slam dunk case for the 2nd amendment as a collective right assigned to the states, and not a personal right, which makes the so-called "strict constructionists" who voted for a personal right to firearms in District of Columbia v. Heller to be hypocrites and hacks.

He Didn't Tweet a Picture of His Penis to a Football Player's Imaginary Penis, So it Does Not Matter………*

This explains why the media has largely ignored the revelation in the latest release of the Federal Reserve's meeting minutes from 2007, which is that Timothy Geithner was leaking changes to the discount window to the big banks ahead of their official release:
In the summer of 2007, as storm clouds gathered over the world's financial system, then-New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner allegedly informed the Bank of America and other banks about the possibility the U.S. central bank would lower one of its critical interest rates, according to a senior Fed official.

Jeffrey Lacker, the head of the Richmond Fed, originally raised the allegation during a Fed conference call in August 2007, and he stuck to his 5-year-old claim against the current U.S. treasury secretary in a statement provided to Reuters on Friday.

"From conversations I had prior to the video conference call on August 16, 2007, I was aware of discussions among a few large banks about borrowing from their discount windows to support the asset backed commercial paper market," Lacker said in the statement. "My understanding was that (New York Fed) President Geithner had discussed a reduction in the discount rate with these banks in connection with these initiatives."
The folks at Zero Hedge were the first ones to notice this, and they nail it when they say, "[J]ust when we thought our opinion of the outgoing Treasury Secretary and former NY Fed head Tim Geithner, whose TurboTax incompetence is now legendary, couldn't get lower, it got lower. Much lower."

Here is the pertinent section from the transcript of the August 16, 2007 conference call:
MR. LACKER. If I could just follow up on that, Mr. Chairman.


MR. LACKER. Vice Chairman Geithner, did you say that [the banks] are unaware of what we’re considering or what we might be doing with the discount rate?


MR. LACKER. Vice Chairman Geithner, I spoke with Ken Lewis, President and CEO of Bank of America, this afternoon, and he said that he appreciated what Tim Geithner was arranging by way of changes in the discount facility. So my information is different from that.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE. Okay. Thank you. Go ahead, Vice Chairman Geithner.

VICE CHAIRMAN GEITHNER. Well, I cannot speak for Ken Lewis, but I think they have sought to see whether they could understand a little more clearly the scope of their rights and our current policy with respect to the window. The only thing I’ve done is to try to help them understand—and I’m sure that’s been true across the System—what the scope of that is because these people generally don’t use the window and they don’t really understand in some sense what it’s about.
They also note that there was a sudden and unexplained jump of 50 points (4%) in the S&P 500 in just 1 hour.  (Note that they also make a compelling circumstantial case that Geithner's schedule indicates that he leaked this information)

BTW, as ZH also notes, the Fed's 5 year delay in the release of records means that Geithner has outlasted the statute of limitations.

Awfully convenient, nu?

We won't have a fix to our financial system until Geithner, and his mentor Robert Rubin are under criminal investigation for what they dud.

*Not my words, but a slight reworking of sentiments expressed by JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

22 January 2013

This is Why You Cannot Trust Republicans

The Virginia state senate is evenly divided by party, but yesterday, when a Democratic member of the institution was at the inauguration, they passed a Gerrymandered redistricting of the senate:
An ambush reapportionment effort by Virginia Senate Republicans spilled into partisan conflict tinged with racial resentment Tuesday, raising fears of a legislative train wreck that would derail the Republican governor’s final bid for a legacy.

Black Senate Democrats referred to the GOP’s party-line power play Monday as “plantation politics,” reprising the specter of the same spiteful partisan gridlock that paralyzed the Senate last year.

A scowling Gov. Bob McDonnell delivered a clear rebuke while most Republicans in the House maintained a cold, dismayed silence over the Senate move that caught them off guard.

“Obviously the tactics used yesterday were a surprise and don’t think that’s the way business should be done,” McDonnell said. “I’m not happy about the things that have happened.”

“What I’ve said is that this session should be about education and transportation, not redistricting and other things,” he said.

Despair over the partisan rift was so deep that many lawmakers of both parties compared the damage to the 2001 session, the only one in modern Virginia history to adjourn without finishing work on the state budget.

Ignoring ancient legislative traditions and even a just 2004 amendment to the Virginia Constitution that limits redistricting to once a decade, the Senate’s 20 Republicans shocked Capitol Square by their actions Monday. They abruptly amended a House bill that previously made minor technical boundary adjustments into a total revision of all 40 Senate districts passed in 2011.

With Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh away at President Barack Obama’s inaugural Monday, Senate Republicans caught the 20 Senate Democrats one vote short and muscled Sen. John Watkins’ surreptitious floor amendment to passage on a 20-19 vote with little debate in just 30 minutes.
(emphasis mine)

As to "Governor Ultrasound's" disapproval, I would not expect a veto.

After all, he disapproved of the transvaginal ultrasound bill, and signed that into law.

Even if he were inclined to veto the bill, McDonnell wants to be the Republican Presidential or Vice-Presidential pick in 2016, and dirty tricks and voter suppression has become a core value of today's Republican Party.

Now Roll Up the Co-Conspirators

Nechemya Weberman has been convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 103 years:
An unlicensed therapist and respected member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was sentenced on Tuesday to 103 years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing a young woman, beginning the attacks when she was 12.

The therapist, Nechemya Weberman, 54, a member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg, did not react as the judge sentenced him. The victim, now 18, who delivered an impassioned statement asking for the maximum sentence to be imposed, dabbed away tears.

“The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done,” Justice John G. Ingram of State Supreme Court said before imposing the sentence, which was close to the longest the law allows. Justice Ingram praised the young victim’s “courage and bravery in coming forward.”

The proceedings were closely watched, as this was the first high-profile case against child sexual abuse that the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, had brought against a member of the politically powerful Satmar ultra-Orthodox community during his more than two decades in office. This sentence is the longest a Brooklyn court has imposed on a member of the ultra-Orthodox community for sexual abuse of a child.
More significant, they managed to get some of the Satmar Jewish community who attempted to intimidate witnesses:
Critics have charged Mr. Hynes with not being aggressive enough in going after molesters in the politically well-connected community. But Mr. Hynes has attributed the lack of prosecutions on the intimidation to stay silent that ultra-Orthodox sexual-abuse victims and their families often face from their own community leaders.

Support for Mr. Weberman was strong in powerful circles of the Satmar community after his arrest in 2011, with hundreds turning out for a fund-raiser for his defense. But the courtroom on Tuesday was about equally divided between supporters for him and for his victim.

Mr. Hynes has said he believes the case may be a turning point for ultra-Orthodox victims of sexual abuse. In addition to convicting Mr. Weberman, his office also charged seven Hasidic men with bribery and intimidation of Mr. Weberman’s victim, who testified over four days. Prosecutors say they know of more victims who were too afraid to testify.
Hopefully, this won't stop here.

The harassment and coverups within the ultra-Orthodox community on this matter is endemic, and it will not stop until prosecutors go after people who do this.

Another Day, Another School Shooting

Lone Star College in north Houston.

Obama's Speech

I did not hear his inaugural address, but I did read the transcript, and I'm with Digby when she says, "nothing the President says matters."

This is not specific to Obama, it's a fact of life about Presidential speeches in general, and what he says at the inauguration in particular don't mean a whole lot.

Ralph Nader Has Become a Repulsive Figure in American Public Live

In his latest bon mot, he comes out against gun control and suggests that government abrogate the 1st amendment to ban video games:
Not one to keep his opinion to himself, former presidential candidate Ralph Nader has come down hard on video games. In fact, he has gone as far as to call the companies that make them "electronic child molesters."

In an interview with Politico yesterday, Nader blasted President Obama's gun control package that was unveiled last week. The two-time Green Party presidential candidate said that the president's plan needs to go further in regulating video game creators that add violence to their games.


"All this is fine with the companies -- these boys and girls spent more than $25 billion last year, and what they got in return is violent, addictive, and tawdry sensuality," Nader wrote in his blog at the time. "These electronic child molesters have little sense of restraint or boundaries. Their odious fare is becoming more coarse, more violent, and more interactive to seduce these youngsters into an addiction of direct video game involvement in the mayhem."
(emphasis mine)

Tawdry sensuality?

Just how f%$#ed up is this man?

Nader made contributions to the public space on consumer safety and the environment in the 1960s and 1970s, but then in the 1960s and 1970s, Fred Phelps was a fierce fighter for civil rights in Kansas.

Neither of their actions in the past reflect who they are today.

The Best Reason for Scottish Independence

Earlier this month, the UK Treasury declared that, following a period of intense and prolonged analysis of the economic numbers, each of us would be £1 a year worse off in an independent Scotland. Put another way, for £1 a year you will never have to endure the economic privations of a Conservative government ever again. You will not be penalised for being poor or old and nor will you suffer the pain of watching your young boys being killed in illegal wars or occupations.

21 January 2013

And Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory………

Harry Reid on the filibuster.

Yes, he's trying to preserve the silent filibuster:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) doesn’t plan to advance a “talking filibuster” proposal envisioned by liberals who want sweeping changes to the stodgy Senate.

But he still may invoke what critics call the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules that would limit the use of the filibuster, force senators to hold the floor in certain situations and require those stalling legislation to deliver 41 votes, several people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

He is concerned that the Republicans will be even more obstructionist if he requires a talking filibuster.

Hello? Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader, filibustered his own bill, and have you seen the graph?  (Note that the 2012 numbers are incomplete)

Seriously.  They cannot get any more obstructionist.

What the f%$# is he thinking?


Just Read Charlie Pierce

He talks about the chattering classes, and aptly titles it What Are The Gobshites Saying These Days?

Just go read it.

Another Position on the 2nd Amendment

Paul Finkleman makes the obvious point that the 2nd amendment was passed after the Constitution was approved, as evidenced by the fact that it's an amendment, making Thom Hartmann's argument that the it was about slave patrols moot.

The Bill of Rights was passed about two years after the Constitution was ratified, though some states had not ratified the Constitution, by the time that the Bill of Rights was proposed.

The actual line may be somewhere in the middle. You see, one of the factors in the ratification of the Constitution, was the Massachusetts Compromise, which involved a commitment to amending the Constitution, including the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which includes militia rights.

Considering that it was Mason and Madison, both of whom were slave holders, who were instrumental in the development and ratification of the Bill of Rights, it's still a matter of some dispute.

My inclination is to lean a little bit on the side of Thom Hartmann, particularly given the history, which clearly shows that slavery was arguably the most contentious issue at the constitutional amendment.

In any case, it is more ambiguous than I originally suggested.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

I Saw This on Key and Peele

Seriously, just watch!
Seriously, the Republicans are now arguing that they are intransigent assholes because Obama made them do it:
The first day of the House Republicans’ retreat was devoted, in large part, to persuading House Republicans to stop saying offensive things about rape and to stop thinking they can use the debt ceiling to hold the economy hostage after losing the 2012 election.

To state the obvious, these are not topics that should actually need to be covered at a retreat of House Republicans. We should be able to take it for granted that our legislators won’t petulantly crash the economy or offend rape survivors. That the House GOP leadership had to mount an organized campaign to convince GOP members of those things is evidence that something has gone wrong in the Republican Party.

No one knows that better than Republicans themselves. But it’s very difficult to be a Republican in a time of GOP dissolution. And so recent weeks have birthed the strangest strain of commentary I can remember: The Republican Party’s crazy opinions are President Obama’s fault.

The logic here is weirdly impeccable. The Republican Party’s dilemma is that House Republicans keeps taking all kinds of unreasonable and unpopular positions. If Obama weren’t president, the House Republicans wouldn’t be taking so many unreasonable and unpopular positions. But since Obama is president, and since he does need to work with House Republicans, he is highlighting their unreasonable and unpopular opinions in a bid to make them change their minds, which is making House Republicans look even worse. And so it’s ultimately Obama’s fault that House Republicans are, say, threatening to breach the debt ceiling if they don’t get their way on spending cuts. After all, if Mitt Romney had won the election, the debt ceiling wouldn’t even be a question!
If you are wondering why this sounds like a sketch from show on Comedy Central, it's because it is a sketch from a show on Comedy Central. (See vid)

Of all the lame excuses that I've ever heard from anyone, "It's not our fault, Barack Hussein Obama makes us batsh%$ insane!" is the lamest.

You guys might want to consider some very powerful anti-psychotic drugs.

Deep Thought

Time for a revolution.

H/t Neo at the Stellar Parthenon BBS

20 January 2013

Gripen NG is a Go

The Swedish Air Force has ordered 60 of the new Gripens, (paid subscription required) with the first to be delivered in 2018.

It will be interesting to see how it plays in the world market.

It's light weight and low operational costs, along with Saab's decision to partition between mission systems and flight-critical functions, which should simplify upgrades, should make it attractive to budget conscious nations.

Hopefully, This Will Amount to Something

The IRS is investigating the political Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS to see if they violated tax code:
Big dark-money groups like the Karl Rove-advised Crossroads GPS promised the IRS they would have "limited" involvement in politics—in order to protect their nonprofit tax-exempt status—yet went on to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the 2010 and 2012 federal elections. Now several tax policy experts, including a former high-ranking IRS official who ran the division overseeing nonprofits, say the IRS must bring the hammer down on these shadowy nonprofits or risk looking weak and useless.

"The government's going to have to investigate them and prosecute them," says Marcus Owens, who ran the IRS's tax-exempt division for a decade and is now a lawyer in private practice. "In order to maintain the integrity of the process, they're going to be forced to take action."


The most high-profile nonprofit to tell the IRS one thing and seemingly do another is Crossroads GPS, the powerful group cofounded by Karl Rove. In a 41-page application, dated September 3, 2010, Crossroads told the IRS it would spend only a "limited" amount of money on influencing elections. Crossroads is different from the two groups mentioned above in a crucial way: The IRS has yet to approve its tax-exempt application, which means its 2010 application is confidential. Yet ProPublica obtained it and exposed the gap between what Crossroads said in September 2010 and what it went on to do.

Despite telling the IRS it would spend a "limited" amount of money on politics, Crossroads unloaded nearly $16 million in dark money on political advertising during the 2010 campaign and more than $70 million to influence the presidential and congressional contests in 2012.


Hill says she doubts whether the IRS has the "political will" to go after political nonprofit groups, which spent well over $400 million on the 2012 elections and often have direct ties to top Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Yet what's at stake, Hill adds, is nothing less than the very integrity of the tax law. "We have tax laws on the books—the question now is, does the IRS intend to enforce the law?" she asks. "Or are we all just going to pretend that the laws are going to be enforced?"
I'm inclined to believe Frances Hill when she doubts that the IRS has the political will to enforce the law. 

The IRS cannot do this without support from the Department of Justice and from the White House, because there will be a storm of coordinated faux-outrage from the right wing punditry.

Based on prior history, it is highly unlikely that the White House will have the IRS's back when this happens.

19 January 2013

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

The DC Court of Appeals has just ruled that almost all recess appointments are unconstitutional:
Strictly curbing the President’s power to temporarily fill government posts to keep an agency in operation, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled Friday that the constitutional authority to fill a vacancy can only be used when one Congress has ended and before a new Congress comes to town, or when there is a formal break at the end of one session, but not during any other mid-session break. That part of the ruling by the three-judge panel was unanimous. On a second part, a two-judge majority ruled that the vacancy-filling power only applies to vacancies that actually open up during a formal recess, between sessions or between Congresses. Because lower courts are split on both issues, this historic controversy over the constitutional separation of powers is likely to go on to the Supreme Court.

In the current atmosphere of partisan gridlock, which often involves thwarting of presidential nominations, the ruling provides a major new opportunity for a minority in the Senate to deny the President the authority even temporarily to put a new government officer to work in a vacant spot. When a vacancy arises while Congress is in session, and the Senate does not act on it, the President will not be able to fill it during the next time the Senate takes a break. The ruling came one day after the Senate chose not to make a major change in its filibuster rule, which is the main weapon of a Senate minority seeking to challenge presidential action.
I expect an appeal to the Supreme Court, though they may ask for an en banc hearing by the whole court of appeals first.

Unsurprisingly, David Sentelle, the right winger who gave us Ken Starr, is a part of this.

The 2nd part of the ruling ruling, where they say that the only recess that counts is the few days every two years when the old Congress has ended, and the new Congress is sworn in, flies in the face of over 150 years of precedent.

As to the pro-forma sessions, Obama needs to go Article 2 Section 3 of the Constitution on Congress:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of
Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
(emphasis mine)

So, with the House refuses to adjourn, which is what led to the pro-forma sessions, Obama can adjourn them.

As to the claim that recess appointments can only be made during intercongress recesses, and not intracongress recesses, I cannot believe that the Supreme Court could support that, but since Bush v. Gore, I've made it a point of never underestimating the politicization of the right wing of that body.

Your Military Video Pr0n

Here is a video from Saab for the Gripen.

It's a little bit fantastical, but at least it has a narrative, as opposed a to pr0n movie metal soundtrack.

I think that the Gripen really has the possibility to be this generation's F-5, small, cheap, and ubiquitous, though it is operating at a political handicap, because it is not made by, or going to be fielded by, the nations that are the biggest players diplomatically or militarily.

H/tThe DEW Line

When You Don't Meet Performance Targets………

The Department of Defense lowers the target:
The US Department of Defense is lowering the performance bar for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter according to a new report by the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E).

The specifications for all three variants pertaining to transonic acceleration and sustained turn rates have been reduced. Worst hit in terms of acceleration is the US Navy's F-35C carrier-based model.

"The program announced an intention to change performance specifications for the F-35C, reducing turn performance from 5.1 to 5.0 sustained g's and increasing the time for acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach by at least 43 seconds," reads the report prepared by J Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's DOT&E. "These changes were due to the results of air vehicle performance and flying qualities evaluations."

The US Air Force F-35A's time has slipped by eight seconds while the US Marine Corps short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B's time has slipped by 16 seconds. However, turn rates for both the A and B models have been impacted more severely than the USN variant. Sustained turning performance for the F-35B is being reduced from 5G to 4.5G while the F-35A sinks from 5.3G to 4.6G according to the report.
They also have issues with the horizontal tails getting too hot and delaminating, buffet/wing drop issues, and the they still do not have the helmet mounted display working properly.

And let's not get started on the software.

This continues to be a clusterf%$#, but with hundreds of billions already invested already, no one is willing to bite the bullet and walk away.

They will continue to throw good money after bad.

This Does Not Make Me Appreciate Guns

5 People Shot At 3 Different Gun Shows On Gun Appreciation Day

Even by the standards of the NRA, "Gun control is hitting the target," this is an unqualified fail.

Thankfully, no fatalities.

Quote of the Day

How is the world ruled and how do wars start?

Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read.
—Karl Kraus

H/t A Tiny Revolution.

What it Means to be an Occupying Power

Full disclosure, I have not read the book in question, but this review of Kill Anything that Moves, by Nick Turse gives a remarkable picture of our experience in Vietnam:
Now, in Kill Anything that Moves, Nick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth.

Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and first-hand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.
This is the reality of war, and this is the reality of occupation and counter-insurgency.

For all those people who wonder about what will happen when when our military leaves Afghanistan, and our mercenaries leave Iraq, the first question is whether our presence helps them in the first place, and the burden of proof must be on those who support occupation.

18 January 2013

No Accountability for the Right Wing

Karl Rove just got a 4 year contract extension from Fox News, despite his meltdown on election night 2012:
Politico reports that Fox News has extended Karl Rove's contract through 2016. If the past is any indication, you can expect the network to continue to be used as a fundraising and publicity vehicle for Rove-affiliated outside groups, Republican Party propaganda masked as news analysis, and repeated failure to disclose Rove'sentangled interests.

Rove, the so-called "architect" of President Bush's election wins, was hired as a Fox contributor in 2008.

During his appearances, Fox has frequently failed to inform its viewers that Rove is still an active participant in Republican Party politics -- specifically the creation and operation of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, his PAC and non-profit, respectively, that spent millions opposing Democrats in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
He called everything wrong, he pissed away millions of dollars given him by right-wing rich chumps, and he ……… gets his paid gig at Fox extended by 4 years.

I wish that I had a job where I could f%$# up this badly, and still get my lucrative contract renewed.

Say what you will about the VWRC (Vast Right Wing Conspiracy), but their pay and benefits are pretty damn good.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

We have the 2nd bank failure of the year, 1st Regents Bank, of Andover, MN.

I'll start putting out a graph with the next closing, there is just not enough data for good data pr0n right now.

Interesting History on the 2nd Amendment

I've made the comment that the current gun regulation regime is driven by issues of race.

Specifically, once the Black Panthers (the real ones, not the current wannabees) started carrying weapons openly, and then went to the California legislator while packing heat, it led to the passing of what was then the strictest gun control laws in the nation, signed into law by Ronald Reagan, because, "Oh Noes, Blax with Gunz", and this panic about "black militancy" also led to the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Once this law was, passed, gun organizations, most notably the NRA started freaking out, because, Oh Noes, I Needs Gunz to Protekt me from Blax!

So we saw the development of the modern paranoiac gun "rights" movement.

Well, it turns out that race has had a major role in using and owning firearms in the United States goes back far further.

Historical documents show the 2nd amendment was put in the constitution to sanction paramilitary militias used to keep slaves from revolting or escaping:
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, "The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search 'all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition' and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds."

It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?" If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

Sally E. Haden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, notes that, "Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller." There were exemptions so "men in critical professions" like judges, legislators and students could stay at their work. Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 - including physicians and ministers - had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.
The 2nd amendment was not about allowing citizens to resist tyranny, it was about allowing states to enforce the tyranny required to keep slaves in chains.

Live and learn.

H/t Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.