31 May 2013

The horror

My daughter had a birthday party top go to, and she needed a card, a mask (costume party), and a present ("Bazinga" apparel).

So I had to go shopping with (ominous music) a 15 year old girl.

Tekeli Li!!!!!!!!

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30 May 2013

Accountability in Free Trade, What a Concept

Following a spate of horrific fatal disasters at Bangladeshi textile industry pressure is increasing end special trade status between that nation and the US:
After several deadly factory disasters in Bangladesh — including the collapse of an eight-story garment factory last month that left at least 1,127 people dead — labor advocates are stepping up pressure on the Obama administration, calling for it to convey its disapproval of working conditions in the country by revoking its special trade status.

But federal officials remain conflicted over the American government’s responsibility for safer labor conditions overseas, and in meetings in recent weeks they disagreed over what combination of carrots and sticks would work best to achieve this goal.

Some officials, particularly in the State Department, say that if trade status is revoked, Washington will lose its leverage to pressure Bangladesh to improve building codes and labor rights. Labor advocates and officials from the Labor Department counter, however, that this leverage is lost anyway if the administration is never willing to use it.

“By failing to take serious action before now even in the face of phenomenal, unprecedented death of workers, U.S. trade officials have already sent the wrong message to Bangladesh,” said Brian Campbell, policy and legal programs director of the International Labor Rights Forum, a workers advocacy group. “It’s time to send a strong signal.”
Mr. Campbell is right.

If you are not willing to have consequences to an employment regime that is corrupt and patently anti-worker (the factory owner has to approve before employees can join a union) because you fear losing leverage, then you never had any leverage to begin with.

If the US revokes the trade status, it is likely that the EU will as well, so this is a big deal, and a well deserved response.

This is not just poor pay and working conditions in Bangladesh, it is also that the state security apparatus murder labor organizers:
Last April, Aminul Islam, a prominent worker advocate, was found dead, his body bearing signs of torture. Reporters in Bangladesh said there was evidence that the government’s security forces might have been tied to the death. No one has yet been arrested. According to American diplomats and labor officials, there has been little progress in the investigation.

It's not going to happen now, because the Obama administration is populated by "free market mousketeers", who believe that lowered trade barriers created improved working conditions and worker protections (they don't Bangladesh, QED), make everyone richer, and keep your daughter from dating that guy with the piercings and tattoos.

It's Jobless Thursday!!

And initial jobless claims rose by 10,000 to 354,000, with the 4-week moving average rising 6,750 to 347,250, continuing claims rising by 63,000 to 2.99 million.

The number of emergency claims fell by 50,000 to 1.73 million, but much of that could be claim exhaustion.

So the numbers are a bit worse than they were last week, but still not too bad.

An unalloyed good number however is that pending sales of existing homes sales hit a three-year high, though I am worried that the purchase of homes as rental properties might be the latest bubble.

Speaking of Fails………

How about that funny looking guy with the big ears?

You know, the one who ran against John McCain in 2008?

Well, there are reports that that he will nominate Bush Administration apparatchik James Comey as the next FBI director:
President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.

Comey, 52, was at the center of some of the most bruising debates over counterterrorism during the Bush administration and established a reputation as a fierce defender of the law and the integrity of the Justice Department regardless of the political pressures of the moment.

The expected nomination of Comey, a Republican, was seen in some quarters as a bipartisan move by a president besieged by Republicans in Congress. But Chuck Hagel’s prior service as a Republican senator from Nebraska did not spare him from a bruising nomination battle for secretary of defense.
(emphasis mine)

Yes, more of the PPUS (Post Partisan Unity Schtick).  It does not work, and neither does starting the negotiation process with capitulation does a disservice to the basic morals on that Obama purports to believe it.

Notwithstanding the fact that he opposed one the most egregious excesses of the Cheney Bush administration, he is a bad guy, who has next to no interest in supporting civil rights, as the ACLU has observed:
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – Below is a statement from Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on President Obama's reported plan to nominate James B. Comey as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"While the ACLU does not take official positions on nominations to appointed office, there are many questions regarding Comey's record that deserve careful scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. As the second-highest ranked Justice Department official under John Ashcroft, Comey approved some of the worst abuses committed by the Bush administration. Specifically, the publicly available evidence indicates Comey signed off on enhanced interrogation techniques that constitute torture, including waterboarding. He also oversaw the indefinite detention without charge or trial of an American citizen picked up in the United States and then held for years in a military brig. Although Comey, despite tremendous pressure from the Bush White House, deserves credit for courageously stopping the reauthorization of a secret National Security Agency program, he reportedly approved programs that struck at the very core of who we all are as Americans.

"It's critical that the Senate ensures that the men and women of the FBI know that they have a leader who will demand adherence to the rule of law and will hold those accountable who do not, wherever he or she may find them."
Seeing the Obama administration's consistently dismissive attitude towards civil rights (Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever), they may see his role in the some of the worst excesses of the Bush administration, including torture, as a plus.

Epic Fail

John Sidney McCain III goes to Syria. He takes a picture with the noble freedom fighters. One small problem: it turns out that two of the guys are terrorist who kidnapped religious pilgrims :
Everything was going relatively smoothly following John McCain's surprise visit to hang out with Syrian rebels this week until Lebanon's Daily Star reported that one of the "brave fighters" pictured on the senator's Twitter is "a known affiliate of the rebel group responsible for the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims one year ago." If so, McCain's office said, that would be "regrettable."

"According to families of the remaining captives and one of the released men, Anwar Ibrahim, one of the men standing alongside McCain in photographs released by the senator's office, is Mohammad Nour, the chief spokesman and photographer for the Northern Storm kidnappers," according to the Daily Star. "Ibrahim and other members of the kidnapped family said they recognized Nour, and another man affiliated with the group, also identified as 'Abu Ibrahim,' immediately after seeing the photos."
So, John McCain thinks that he knows who the good guys are.

Here's a thought, if you cannot tell who is the good guys are, it's best not to choose sides.

29 May 2013

Good Point

C.P. Chandrasekhar, discussing the so called middle income trap, where developing countries stall out at a slightly improved standard of living.

Why did places like Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan become prosperous, while newer partners to the dance don't.

Money quote is at the end:
And there are many who argue that growth in Asia stalled not before they liberalized but after they did. This is based in particular on the evidence that dynamism in Asian economies other than China, and to an extent India, faltered after the 1997 crisis. That crisis, we must recall, was related to the financial liberalisation many of these countries were forced to adopt, either as a quid pro quo for continued access to the export markets on which they were excessively dependent, or because waning manufacturing export competitiveness as a result of rising wage costs and appreciating currencies, pushed them into liberalisation of financial policies in the hope of making financial services the new engine of growth. The result was vulnerability to boom-bust cycles of various kinds that led to the synchronised downturn in many countries (with Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, among them) in 1997-98.

This should possibly lead to two conclusions. The first is that, beyond a point export-driven growth has a way of running into internally generated constraints. Second, that among the factors that can undermine a country’s growth prospects, even at relatively higher income levels, is excessive liberalisation, especially financial liberalisation. Possibly most countries, whether poor, rich or in some ‘middle income’ range, find their growth has stalled for reasons such as these.
(Emphasis mine)

Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan experienced their growths during the 1960s and 1970s, before we had "liberalization" (deregulation) and expanding inequality.

I tend to come from this from a more sociological perspective than a classical economic one, and I would argue that a liberalized economic policies, and in particular financial liberalization, is analogous to the colonial regimes in the 1800s.

The expanded financial services industries suck the marrow out of, well basically everyone in an orgy of non productive rent sinking, much like the colonial Satraps in the time of Victoria.

Basically, the banksters are f%$#ing the rest of us like a drunk sorority girl.

It shows that Timothy Geithner's, and Wall Street's creepy vision of the future:
Geithner hunched his shoulders, pressed his knees together, and lifted his heels up off the ground—an almost childlike expression of glee. “We’re going, like, existential,” he said. He told me he subscribes to the view that the world is on the cusp of a major “financial deepening”: As developing economies in the most populous countries mature, they will demand more and increasingly sophisticated financial services, the same way they demand cars for their growing middle classes and information technology for their corporations. If that’s true, then we should want U.S. banks positioned to compete abroad.
Is a disaster for the rest of us.

The Stoopid!!!! It Burns Us!!!!!

This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him.*
In response to the collapse of I-5 bridge north of Seattle, Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt,(a Republican, of course) thought that the concerns were overblown, because, "11 of the 12 Sections of the Bridge Are Still Standing":
In the wake of the I-5 bridge collapse, the progressive activist group Fuse put together an online petition, urging state legislators to "Fix our crumbling roads and bridges!"


Hard to read that as a controversial request, unless, of course, you are state Representative "Angry Ed" Orcutt (R-Kalama), the ranking Republican on the house transportation committee. Via email, Orcutt responds defensively to petitioners, objecting to any effort to "leverage more tax dollars" in response to the Skagit River bridge collapse:
[I]t is clear that the reason for the collapse was due to a collision with the super structure of the bridge — not a lack of structural integrity of the bridge. The bridge would indeed be standing today had the truck's load NOT rammed the super structure of the bridge. In fact, 11 of the 12 sections of the bridge are still standing.
Dude, it's not a bridge any more, it is a f%$#ing pier!!!!

Or, to quote yet another movie:
Garry: The generator's gone.

MacReady: Any way we can we fix it?

Garry: It's "gone", MacReady.
*What, you've never seen Ruthless People? Great movie.

Full letter after the jump:

Narcissistic Twaddle from "Liberal Hawks"

The Washington Post published an article about how the Liberal Hawks are cowed because of their failures in Iraq and Libya:
For interests on both sides of Syria’s civil war, this has been the week to increase the pressure. Hezbollah sent reinforcements to the troops of President Bashar al-Assad, and Russia reiterated its intention to furnish the regime with weapons. At the same time, Republican Sen. John McCain secretly visited rebels and promised to push the Obama administration to arm the retreating forces. The European Union allowed its weapons embargo to lapse as nations such as Britain and France appear increasingly eager to aid the opposition fighters.

But amid the burst in outside engagement, one influential group seems noticeably silent. The liberal hawks, a cast of prominent left-leaning intellectuals, played high-profile roles in advocating for American military intervention on foreign soil — whether for regime change or to prevent humanitarian disasters. They pressured President Bill Clinton to intervene in Bosnia, provided intellectual cover on the left for President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and urged President Obama to engage in Libya. But even as the body count edges toward 100,000 in Syria and reports of apparent chemical-weapons use by Assad, liberal advocates for interceding have been rare, spooked perhaps by the traumatic experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and the clear reluctance of a Democratic president to get mired in the Middle East. Call them Syria’s mourning doves.

“Everybody has their own ghosts to deal with,” said Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration official and leading proponent of intervention in Syrian. “But those people understand that what is going on in Syria cannot go on indefinitely.”
Why the f%$# should we listen to these folks.
  • They were wrong about Iraq.
  • They were wrong about Libya (where Islamist rule, and ethnic cleansing of black Africans is the rule).
  • They have been agitating for a military strike against Iran, which would probably extend the rule of the mullahs by decades, as Saddam's attack in the 1970s cemented their rule.
And now their feelings are hurt because people don't take their push for military intervention seriously.

It's just a no fly zone ……… Only a no fly zone is very clearly an act of war:
Kudos to Josh Rogin for breaking the news that "the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria." But wouldn't it be a more powerful story without the euphemism?

Relying on the term "no-fly-zone" is typical in journalism. But that is a mistake. It obscures the gravity of the news.

Here's how an alternative version of the story might look: "The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing multiple targets inside Syria, constantly surveilling Syrian airspace alongside U.S. allies, and shooting down Syrian war planes and helicopters that try to fly around, perhaps for months."

The term "no-fly-zone" isn't analytically useless. It's just that folks using it as shorthand should make sure everyone reading understands that, as Daniel Larison put it right up in a headline, "Imposing a No-Fly-Zone in Syria Requires Starting a New War." That becomes clearer some paragraphs later in Rogin's article, when he discussed Senator John McCain's advocacy for a "no-fly-zone." "McCain said a realistic plan for a no-fly zone would include hundreds of planes, and would be most effective if it included destroying Syrian airplanes on runways, bombing those runways, and moving U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Turkey close to the border so they could protect airspace inside northern Syria," he wrote.
(emphasis mine)

I would also note that anyone who thinks that this operation would be limited to air and air defense assets should look at the Libyan intervention, where it turned almost immediately into direct close air support for the rebels.

This has disaster written all over it.

There is a reason that "Liberal Hawks" were described as "Useful Idiots" by Tony Judt.

I Wonder What Happened?

So, I get up this mourning, and discover that Michele Bachmann is not running for re-election.

Seeing as how she literally thinks that she its on a mission from God, I gotta conclude that an indictment its about to get unsealed.

On an electoral level, this might make switching her seat from red to blue more difficult, because the district is pretty Republican, and having a slightly less obviously batsh@# insane candidate might make the swart easier to hold onto for the 'Phants.

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28 May 2013

Why Would a Race Baiting Republican Go to the Wall Over Medicaid Expansion?

Yes, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is following through on her threat to veto all legislation until Medicaid expansion is passed:
Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has a message for her party: expand Medicaid — or else.

The combative GOP governor is sticking by a threat she made to veto all legislation until lawmakers resolve the 2014 state budget and pass Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. On Thursday, Brewer proved that wasn’t just talk, vetoing five bills sent to her desk in quick succession.

“I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us: adoption of a fiscal 2014 state budget and plan for Medicaid,” wrote Brewer in her veto message. “It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat.”

Arizona officials only have five weeks before reaching the constitutional deadline for passing a budget. Last Thursday, six Republican state senators joined a unified Democratic caucus to pass a Medicaid expansion bill — but efforts have been gummed up in the state House since then.

Brewer isn’t letting the issue slide. She has been touring the Grand Canyon State to shore up support for the expansion and put pressure on reticent lawmakers in her own party.
Seriously, I do not know where this is coming from.

This is the politician who continuously repeated false claims about beheaded bodies in the desert, and blamed "Mexicans," and she is going to the mat for Obamacare?

I really cannot figure out her angle on this. 

From a budget and economic standpoint, it makes sense, it makes the state more attractive to employers, and the Feds cover almost all the costs for the next few years, but budgetary reality is not something that typically drives movement conservatives.

The Only Way that They Could Be More Evil Would be to Buy a White Persian Cat

I was talking to my son, and told him that Monsanto just got more evil. He said that it was not possible, and I told him that Monsanto has hired the mercenary outfit Blackwater to track anti GMO activists.

My son acknowledged his error, and admitted that the agricultural biotechnology could get more evil:
Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.


Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world's largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto's security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson "understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name.... Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for." Black added that Total Intelligence "would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto." Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater "could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally." Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto's "generous protection budget" but would eventually become a line item in the company's annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto's Wilson initially said, "I'm not going to discuss it with you." In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating "there was no such discussion." He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto "with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites." Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was "a completely separate entity from Blackwater."
Seriously, this just buggers the mind.

For their next product, Soylent Green!

Why Stay Out of Syria, Reason Number 1325

It appears that the UN peacekeepers on the Golan will have to pull out if weapons are sent to the rebels:
The future of the long-running UN peacekeeping mission on the strategic Golan Heights between Syria and Israel has been thrown into question as a result of Britain's decision to defy most of the EU and force the lifting on the two-year arms embargo on Syria.

The Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, and vice-chancellor, Michael Spindelegger, said on Tuesday they would probably pull out more than 300 peacekeepers if Britain helped arm the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

A withdrawal would heighten the growing sense of greater Middle East crisis, creating a vacuum on the strategically vital heights which the Israelis would be tempted to fill quickly.

Vienna stressed there was no need for haste as no weapons supplies were yet flowing. While declaring it had no intention of supplying arms immediately, Britain reserved the right to do so. Britain can start shipping guns and missiles to Syria on Saturday when the embargo lapses. But it has pledged to give negotiations another chance in Geneva next month while reserving the option of arming those in the fractious Syrian opposition it deems "moderate" from August.
And while we are at it, we should note that the EU move has prompted Russia to announce that it will be delivering advanced SAMs to Syria:
Russia said on Tuesday that it would supply one of its most advanced anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government hours after the EU ended its arms embargo on the country's rebels, raising the prospect of a rapidly escalating proxy war in the region if peace talks fail in Geneva next month.

Israel quickly issued a thinly veiled warning that it would bomb the Russian S-300s if they were deployed in Syria as such a move would bring the advanced guided missiles within range of civilian and military planes in Israeli air space.

"The shipments haven't set out yet and I hope they won't," Moshe Ya'alon, the Israeli defence minister, said. "If they do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we'll know what to do.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, argued that the delivery of the S-300 system had been previously agreed with the Syrian government in Damascus and would be a "stabilising factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict. That appeared to be a reference to the UK and France, who pushed through the lifting of the EU embargo on Monday night and are the only European countries currently considering arming the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Of course, the S-300 is useless against the rebels, but it would be pretty useful to deter NATO from acting against Syria.

BTW, I understand why the Israelis are freaking. Depending on model (the S-300 is a complete air defense system with a variety of interceptors), the range of the missile could be as much as 200 km, which would cover about 2/3 of Israeli air space from Quneitra.

OK, I'm Having Some Transportation Mishaps Today, and So is All of Baltimore

Bad day at the office
I was driving down the road on I-795, and a red pickup truck a few car lengths ahead of me had its driver's side front wheel come off.

The truck continued down the road, trailing sparks from the break disk on the pavement.

Thankfully, the driver managed to control the truck, and get off onto the right shoulder.

The wheel continued to roll down the road, and careened off the center median Jersey barrier, and wheel bounced across three lanes, and also went off the right shoulder.

Thankfully the wheel did not hit anyone either, though it came within 10 feet of me and another driver.

I then called 911, changed my underwear, and went off to a scheduled appointment with my chiropractor.

As to the rest of Baltimore,  there was a train derailment and explosion in Rosedale:
A freight train smacked into a truck carrying garbage and careened off the tracks in Rosedale Tuesday afternoon, triggering an explosion felt throughout the region and sending up a plume of black smoke visible for miles.

Authorities identified the driver of the truck as John Alban Jr., a retired Baltimore County firefighter who owns a waste collection company near the scene of the crash. The Essex man was listed in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said. No other serious injuries were reported.

Officials shut down surrounding roads for several hours, slowing traffic through the region. The roads were reopened by Tuesday night, and a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration said the morning commute should not be affected.

Michael “Vince” Brown, the operations manager at a business near the crash site, was sitting in his office at about 2 p.m. Tuesday when it began to “rumble and shake.”

“I screamed at my employees, ‘Everyone get in their cars and get out of here now,’” Brown said. “We were on Lake Drive, and I asked if everyone was there, and as soon as I said that, the train blew up. It blew me against my car.”
Authorities have advised people in a two block radius to leave the area because of possible toxic fumes.

27 May 2013

How Worship of the Unbridled Market is Taking the United States to 3rd World Nation Status

Premature babies are dieing of starvation because feeding babies is not profitable enough for sufficient stocks to be maintained:
Because of nationwide shortages, Washington hospitals are rationing, hoarding, and bartering critical nutrients premature babies and other patients need to survive. Doctors are reporting conditions normally seen only in developing countries, and there have been deaths. How could this be allowed to happen?


Except for a mind-boggling problem that Atticus’s [A child born 4 months early, and currently in the NICU] hospital—one of the most prominent in the country—has been powerless to solve: Atticus isn’t receiving some of the critical nutrients he needs to survive.

Doctors and pharmacists say that because of nationwide shortages caused by a combination of factors—manufacturing problems, a market with few incentives for companies to produce low-profit drugs, and the government’s delayed and inadequate action—thousands of patients are being malnourished.


Experts call the nutrient shortage a public-health crisis and a national emergency—and are astounded that the government and manufacturers have let the situation become so dire.

“Children are dying,” says Steve Plogsted, a clinical pharmacist who chairs the drug-shortage task force of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). “They’re not getting any calcium or any zinc. Or they’re not getting any phosphorous, and that can lead to heart standstill. I know of a neonate who had seven days without phosphorous, and her little heart stopped.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career, and I’ve been a pharmacist for 40-some years,” says Michael Cohen, president of the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) and a 2005 MacArthur Foundation fellow. “This should never be allowed to happen.”

There are 300 drug, vitamin, and trace-element shortages in the US, the highest number ever recorded by the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which began tracking national shortages in 2001. Approximately 80 percent of these are generic injectables, or drugs given intravenously.


The nutrients in shortage aren’t rare. “We’re talking about zinc, phosphorous, calcium—trace elements,” says CHA president Mark Wietecha. “These aren’t the latest genetically modified drugs or something coming out of modern high-tech environments. These have been around for decades.”


Some hospitals have resorted to bartering with one another to secure even a small supply of nutrients, and many are rationing.

At least one NICU in the District is administering some trace elements only three days a week instead of seven. At Atticus’s hospital, no patients heavier than 2½ kilograms (5½ pounds), including NICU babies, are getting intravenous phosphorous. “You could have a brand-new, full-term baby and they don’t qualify,” a staff member says. “There are really sick babies and one-, two-, three-year-olds that don’t get anything at all because we’re rationing it for our tiniest preemies.”


When Miguel Sáenz de Pipaón, a neonatologist at a prominent hospital in Madrid, arrived in the US for a research visit, he was stunned by the nutrition shortages.

“It’s crazy,” he says. “That doesn’t happen in Europe.” He noted that the US relies on a 25-year-old lipid emulsion, which is in shortage, while European hospitals use a newer version that’s readily available. Rather than import the newer emulsion, the US has left many patients without any lipids at all.

The only shortage Sáenz de Pipaón could recall in Spain occurred two years ago when a Canadian factory stopped making trace elements. His hospital pharmacy immediately secured the product from a Swedish manufacturer and had it for patients within two days.

Hospital staff wonder why the FDA hasn’t already put a process in place to streamline foreign inspections and certifications so that labs abroad can manufacture emergency supplies on short notice.

Jensen says the FDA is working on it and that imported nutrients will be shipped soon: “It took a long time to find companies willing to do it, mainly because they couldn’t meet US needs and didn’t have the ability to ramp up for the US. The good news is we’ve got different firms willing to do this for phosphates, zinc, and trace elements. We moved as quickly as we could.”
Yes, moved as quickly as they could. (Not)

You can be certain that a (castrated over the past few decades) FDA is consulting with the manufacturers, so as to avoid hurting their business models.
“The FDA has repeatedly told us that the shortages are short-term and that they don’t need to import yet,” says neonatologist Steve Abrams of Texas Children’s Hospital. “There’s been a general sense that this problem will go away if we just wait until next Tuesday, and next Tuesday just hasn’t come for the last 2½ years.
They keep kicking the can down the road, because they, and the congressmen who vote on their budget, ahve been captured by pharma.

26 May 2013


H/t Jim Romenesko.

We Do Not Need This Congressional Seat This Much

I am talking about North Carolina's 7th district, and its current incumbent, "Democrat" Mike McIntyre:
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) told North Carolina television station WECT that he’s unhappy the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay youth.

“I’m very disappointed,” McIntyre said. “I know my church has a long history of producing Eagle Scouts including my son and I know that many organizations that sponsor scouting are quite concerned about that and did not feel like it was an appropriate step. I know I’m concerned about it and did not think it was an appropriate step.”
No surprise that it's also a member of the Blue Dog caucus.

We do not need Democrats who openly endorse bigotry.

Hopefully, he gets a primary challenge, but I just checked out Act Blue, and right now, he is the only candidate.

All You Need to Know About Barack Obama is that His Crucial Mentor is Penny Pritzker

Without Penny Pritzker, the scion of the Hyatt hotel chain, Barack Obama would have never achieved anything in politics. She was the first, and arguably the most enthusiastic, big money donor to fund the political career of that guy with the funny name.

The most recent news is that she had to modify the financial disclosure forms that she filed when she was submitted as commerce secretary, because she understated her pay from her consulting by at least $80 million.

What makes this even worse is that these wages were pay to offshore funds to avoid taxes:
And also like many of the plutocrats in America Pritzker has a lot of tax abnormalities involving offshore accounts. But now Prtizker is under fire for providing a false financial disclosure statement which she has since amended.

Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker inadvertently understated a portion of her income by at least $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination to be U.S. Commerce secretary and has amended the document.
Forms released online last night by the Office of Government Ethics show that Pritzker earned additional income for consulting work on hundreds of trusts, including family trusts, beyond what she disclosed last week. The omission, discovered by Pritzker’s financial advisers, was due to a clerical error, said Susan Anderson, the nominee’s spokeswoman
Not surprisingly Pritzker makes a nice chunk of change “consulting” with other 1%ers.
Documents released last week show Pritzker received $32.2 million for a decade’s worth of consulting on the restructuring of domestic trusts. The filings released yesterday show she earned at least $80 million for that work, according to Bloomberg’s compilation of the data. The revised total is in addition to the amount reported last week, according to Anderson.
Pritzker, whose family founded Hyatt Hotels Corp, is scheduled to testify on her nomination before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. She disclosed last week that she earned $54 million in consulting fees last year for a similar restructuring of trusts based in the Bahamas, also over 10 years. The Bahamas’ income wasn’t changed in the amended disclosure document.
Just what we need in a Commerce Secretary, someone who knows how to help companies offshore their profits to avoid tax liabilities.

Also, she has a long history of avoiding taxes through arcane instruments and offshoring for her own benefit.

We also have the the fact that she profited at taxpayer expense when she ran Superior Bank into the ground by aggressively pursuing subprime loans.  (Also here)

Also, as head of Hyatt, she has a long history of being virulently anti labor union, (also here.) as well as being a big supporter of Rahm Emanuel's plans to privatize public education.

And finally there are the longstanding family ties between the family fortune and organized crime.

The reason that this is important is not because of her nomination.  The Commerce Secretary's job has traditionally been the aggressive support of what is now called "the 1%".

Her relationship to Barack Obama is important because it defines his entire political career.

It's why we are not seeing a pursuit of the banksters, and we are seeing a pursuit of a "grand bargain" on Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, which will have grandma eating cat food.*

*In the interest of health, I would suggest that people eat dog food, and not cat food. Cats because they are one of the few true carnivores, do not need the complex carbohydrates and fats that people, and dogs do. As such, dog food is better for you than cat food because it provides carbs and essential fatty acids. A dog can go blind if it is fed on cat food, but a cat lives just fine on dog food. The phenomenon is known as rabbit starvation.

Shoot Me Now!

Well, this sucks:
President Obama held a private meeting with top national security journalists on Thursday afternoon following his national security policy address at the National Defense University in Washington, POLITICO has learned.

Present at the meeting were Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist; Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau chief; Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post; David Igantius, the Washington Post columnist; Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic correspondent and Bloomberg View columnist; and Joe Klein, the Time Magazine columnist.

This is like a rogues gallery of people who are wrong about everything.

25 May 2013

This May Be the Best Snark so Far this Century

When Robert Gibbs was asked about a Maureen Dowd article criticizing Obama, he replied that he did not read her regularly, because she had been writing the same article for the past 8 years:
During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Gibbs was asked if he happened to read Dowd's latest column, in which she called Obama "a sad sack" who could use a little bit more John F. Kennedy.

"I don't normally read Maureen," Gibbs said. "I don't largely because it's sort of largely the same column for the last, like, eight years."
That's going to leave a mark.

Bigotry is as Bigotry Does

It appears that the Southern Baptist convention does not support the Boy Scouts if they do not allow them to be bigots:
Reaction to the Boy Scouts of America’s decision yesterday to allow openly gay scouts but continue the ban on gay adult leaders is drawing intense reaction from all sides.


Richard Land, an executive with the Southern Baptist Convention, said he expected many churches to quit sponsoring scout troops. “Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules,” Land, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Baptist Press news service. “I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.
Not "approving" of homosexuality may not necessarily make you a homophobic bigot, but demanding the right to what is a public accommodation on the basis of your disapproval does make you a homophobic bigot.

In the case of the Southern Baptist Convention, I am not surprised by this. Their bigotry dates back to their origins as a schismatic movement dedicated to promulgating slavery.

Just When You Thought that Democrats Could Not Get Any More Craven………

David Vitter proposes a lifelong ban from food stamps for felons, and Democrats blithely included it in the Ag bill:
In today’s Senate debate on the farm bill, Senator David Vitter offered — and Senate Democrats accepted — an amendment that would increase hardship and will likely have strongly racially discriminatory effects.

The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since. In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.

So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut.

Given incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact. Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.
Robert Greenstein, the author of this post, is an optimist. He notes the disparate racial impact, but does not draw the proper conclusion: Disparate racial impact is a goal of Vitter, not an incidental effect of the proposal.

I'm not surprised that David Vitter proposed this.  He's just another evil Republican with a diaper fetish who procures prostitutes.

I am depressed that Democrats allowed this amendment to pass.

Illinois is not the Place where I Expect an Outbreak of Sanity………

But the vote banning abstinence only sex education in public schools can only be called an outbreak of sanity:
Illinois public schools will be required to include medically accurate information about birth control in their sex ed classes under a measure that the state legislature passed this week. HB 2675, which Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is expected to sign into law, will prohibit health classes from teaching abstinence-only curricula.

Illinois’ current law requires sex ed classes to emphasize abstinence as “the expected norm,” and stipulates that “course material and instruction shall stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are ready for marriage.” Public schools can choose between teaching abstinence-only education, using a mix of stressing abstinence while providing comprehensive information about birth control and condoms, or simply declining to provide any sex ed instruction. Under HB 2675, schools won’t be able to choose the abstinence-only option anymore — they’ll need to either offer comprehensive information about prevention methods, or decide not to offer any sex ed courses whatsoever.

State Sen. Linda Holmes (D) spearheaded the measure because she doesn’t believe that abstinence-only curricula adequately equips teens with the resources they need to safeguard their sexual health. “In fantasy land, we teach our kids abstinence — and they listen. But we know they don’t necessarily follow that advice,” Holmes explained. “They are going to be confronted with the issue of sex before they’re 21 years old, or 25, or whenever they decide to get married.”
Abstinence-only education is a toxic mix of lying and slut shaming.

Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart noted that her abstinence only education made her feel worthless, and that it kept her from trying to escape.

Abstinence only education is a gift to potential rapists and child abusers, because it creates even more shame and hopelessness in victims.

24 May 2013

About F%$#ing Time

In a shift, America's premier spy agency had decided to start spying again:
For more than seven years, Mike — a lean, chain-smoking officer at the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Virginia — has managed the agency’s deadly campaign of armed drone strikes. As the head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, Mike wielded tremendous power in hundreds of decisions over who lived and died in far-off lands.

But under a new plan outlined by the Obama administration on Thursday, the Counterterrorism Center over time would cease to be the hub of America’s targeted killing operations in Pakistan, Yemen and other places where presidents might choose to wage war in the future. Already, the C.I.A.’s director, John O. Brennan, has passed over Mike, an undercover officer whose full name is being withheld, for a promotion to run the agency’s clandestine service.

It is a sign that Mr. Brennan is trying to shift the C.I.A.’s focus back toward traditional spying and strategic analysis, but that is not an easy task.
Missing from the story is why the CIA moved from intelligence business into the murder business.

It happened because the CIA was not constrained by treaty, law, or culture in the same way that the military was. It was another Guantanamo style black hole, and this was reinforced the fact that the CIA is by design far more opaque than the military, and far more Contemptuous of congressional oversight.

The CIA got into the wholesale murder business because it was a conscious decision made by the Bush administration to avoid the rule of law and public disclosure. This decision has been and embraced and extended by the Obama administration, at least until recently.

Things that Pundits do Not Understand

To paraphrase Paul Krugman, it's not all about them.

He's right, of course, but I think that he misses the dynamic:  Pundits are supposed to be narcissistic sociopaths.  It's the nature of the medium:
Brad DeLong and Dan Drezner wearily continue the policing of Michael Kinsley. I’ll leave it in their hands. But may I say that there is a serious pundit lesson here — namely, that it’s not about you.
Basically, Kinsley has been on a jihad against Krugman because other people took apart Kinsley's essay on austerity, which was both wrong on the basic history, and fetishized other people's suffering.

I'm not sure why patron saint of dumb-f%$# mindless contrarianism is upset with Paul Krugman, but being wrong is what Michael Kinsley does best.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

Not any banks, but we do have the 8th credit union closure of the year:

And here is the credit union closing:
  1. Electrical Workers #527 Federal Credit Union, Texas City, TX

Full NCUA list

May is proving to be a busy month. 

In His House at R'lyeh, Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming*

Archeologists have found a massive buried structure beneath Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee):
The massive circular structure appears to be an archaeologists dream: a recently discovered antiquity that could reveal secrets of ancient life in the Middle East and is just waiting to be excavated.

It’s thousands of years old — a conical, manmade behemoth weighing hundreds of tons, practically begging to be explored.

The problem is — it’s at the bottom of the biblical Sea of Galilee. For now, at least, Israeli researchers are left stranded on dry land, wondering what finds lurk below.

The monumental structure, made of boulders and stones with a diameter of 70 meters (230 feet), emerged from a routine sonar scan in 2003. Now archaeologists are trying to raise money to allow them access to the submerged stones.

“It’s very enigmatic, it’s very interesting, but the bottom line is we don’t know when it’s from, we don’t know what it’s connected to, we don’t know its function,” said Dani Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa who is one of several researchers studying the discovery. “We only know it is there, it is huge and it is unusual.”
A massive ancient structure underneath a body of water full of historical and mystical overtones.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

* Not exactly my line, Molly NYC made an abbreviated version of this in thee comments for the linked article.

23 May 2013

Speaking of Not Being Surprised………

We are now discovering that charter schools in Tennessee have been systematically kicking out struggling students just before state test time, pushing them back to public schools, who take the hit on their test scores, while the charters get money for the time that they were at their schools:
Leaders with Metro Nashville Public Schools have serious concerns about what is happening at some of the city's most popular charter schools.

Students are leaving in large numbers at a particularly important time of the school year, and the consequences may have an impact on test scores.

Charter schools are literally built on the idea that they will outperform public, zoned schools. They are popular because they promise and deliver results, but some new numbers are raising big questions about charter schools.

One of the first things a visitor sees when stepping into Kipp Academy is a graph that shows how Kipp is outperforming Metro schools in every subject.

However, Kipp Academy is also one of the leaders in another stat that is not something to crow about.

When it comes to the net loss of students this year, charter schools are the top eight losers of students.

In fact, the only schools that have net losses of 10 to 33 percent are charter schools.


"That's also a frustration for the zoned-school principals. They are getting clearly challenging kids back in their schools just prior to accountability testing," said MNPS Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr.

Nineteen of the last 20 children to leave Kipp Academy had multiple out-of-school suspensions. Eleven of the 19 are classified as special needs, and all of them took their TCAPs at Metro zoned schools, so their scores won't count against Kipp.
Of course it won't count against Kipp.

The evidence, when corrected for things like students socio-economic status, is that charter schools don't do any better than public schools, but that fact is ignored, because the educational reform establishment is dedicated to creating a for-profit educational system, so if fraud is required so that Wall Street can make a few bucks off of our children.

It's applying the sub-prime mortgage industry to our education system.

H/t Diane Ravitch.

Not a Surprise………

The Washington Post has a must read article describing just how the "talking points" over Benghazi evolved, and the bottom line is that, in a response to some basic information from Congress a few days after the killing of Ambassador Stevens.

Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence wanted some clarification on what was known, and what they could talk about, and then-CIA director David Petraeus, always looking for an opportunity to polish his public image, created a report that largely, and incorrectly exonerated him and the agency:
The controversy over the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attack last year began at a meeting over coffee on Capitol Hill three days after the assault.

It was at this informal session with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the ranking Democrat asked David H. Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time, to ensure that committee members did not inadvertently disclose classified information when talking to the news media about the attack.

“We had some new members on the committee, and we knew the press would be very aggressive on this, so we didn’t want any of them to make mistakes,” Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) said last week of his request in an account supported by Republican participants. “We didn’t want to jeopardize sources and methods, and we didn’t want to tip off the bad guys. That’s all.”

What Petraeus decided to do with that request is the pivotal moment in the controversy over the administration’s Benghazi talking points. It was from his initial input that all else flowed, resulting in 48 hours of intensive editing that congressional Republicans cite as evidence of a White House coverup.

A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies, reveal Petraeus’s early role and ambitions in going well beyond the committee’s request, apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency.

The information Petraeus ordered up when he returned to his Langley office that morning included far more than the minimalist version that Ruppersberger had requested. It included early classified intelligence assessments of who might be responsible for the attack and an account of prior CIA warnings — information that put Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior officials within his own agency.
(emphasis mine)

What a surprise.  A tragedy occurs, and the narcissistic preening peacock that is David Petraeus decided to leave no stone unturned ……… In the cause of polishing his own image.

What we know now is that the Benghazi consulate was almost entirely a CIA operation, and the f%$#-up was almost entirely a CIA f%$#-up, and, true to his history, David Petraeus' response was one focused managing the public response, and not in creating an honest assessment of the causes and solutions.

And I'm Done

Everything looked OK.

I am now looking forward to eating solid food.

This read what I was prepping for last might.

Posted via mobile.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up………

When this hits the internet, I've posted ahead of time, I will be in my doctor's office, getting a routine colonoscopy.

If you think that this is over-sharing, you will be glad to know that I will not be sharing photographs.

It should be routing, but I am looking to having some real food after the procedure.

I've been off of solid food for 36 hours, and NPO since early this morning.

22 May 2013

No blogging tonight

I am engaged in some rather involved, and remarkably unpleasant, preparations tonight.

Posted via mobile.

21 May 2013

Another Day, Another Army Sex Scandal………

A brigadier general in charge of Army Training Center and Fort Jackson:
The Army announced it has suspended the commander of Fort Jackson, S.C., amid misconduct allegations that include adultery and a physical altercation, according to a spokesman for Training and Doctrine Command.

Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts was suspended today as commander of the Army Training Center and Fort Jackson by TRADOC commander Gen. Robert W. Cone, based on a preliminary investigation by Army Criminal Investigation Command. The investigation pointed to a breach of good order and discipline, “which was contrary to Army values and could not be condoned,” said spokesman Harvey Perritt.
This is not a problem that can be handled internally.

Explain to me again why we need to keep sexual offenses prosecution in the military chain of command under the UCMJ?

This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him.*

I am referring, of course, to former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, who's latest brainstorm is that Obama should appoint Kenneth Starr as a special prosecutor to investigate the latest ginned up faux scandals against the Obama administration:
Republicans are howling for President Obama to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups. The president should call their bluff.

The president should announce that he has told the Justice Department to appoint an independent investigator with bulldog instincts and bipartisan credibility. The list of candidates could start with Kenneth Starr, who chased down the scandals, real and imagined, of the Clinton presidency. It might include Patrick Fitzgerald, who was special counsel in the Valerie Plame affair, winning the conviction of Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and who has successfully prosecuted two corrupt governors of Illinois, one from each party.
This is batsh%$ insane.

It's also ahistorical. Ken Starr did not pursue any real scandals, that was done by his predecessor, Robert Fiske, who uncovered significant corruption in Arkansas. Starr had no interest beyone his witch hunt.

Ken Starr???? This is beyond the wildest dreams of the writers for The Onion.

I cannot believe that anyone can be this obtuse.

Neither can the people reading his post.  The comments are nearly universally disparaging.

The stupid, it burns us.

*What, you've never seen Ruthless People? Great movie.

20 May 2013

Charlie Pierce Speaks

He observes that ABC reporter Jonathan Karl's entire report on "talking points" regarding Benghazi is completely bogus. His source lied to him, and there was no effort made to protect the State Department (and by extension, Hilary Clinton).

Karl's "apology" is a typical non-apology apology. He says that the story still stands, but that quote was the whole story.

Pierce's analysis on this is spot on:
………If Jonathan Karl doesn't like being called a hack, then he should stop being a hack. Here's one way to do it.

Blow the source who lied to you and, therefore, lied to us.

Do that. Or be a hack.

There's no third alternative.
An interesting fact that Pierce cites is that Karl's entrée into "journalism" was was through a right wing organization founded by William F. Buckley, and currently run by the infamous right wing liar publisher Alfred Regenry:
Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04).

The Collegiate Network also provides paid internships and fellowships to place its members at corporate media outlets or influential Beltway publications; 2010-11 placements include the Hill, Roll Call, Dallas Morning News and USA Today. The program’s highest-profile alum is Karl, who was a Collegiate fellow at the neoliberal New Republic [TNR] magazine.
FAIR rightly calls him a right wing mole.  The Collegiate Network is not a journalist organization, it just plays one on TV.

I would also that between Glass, Shalit, Siegel, and now Karl, TNR under the ownership of Marty Peretz seems to be a petri dish for journalistic malfeasance.


Is EVERY Market Rigged?

This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions

19 May 2013

Yet Another Reason Not to Be Involved in Syria

In addition to the fact that the difference between the good guys and the bad guys is that the bad guys are the ones not literally eating human hearts, it now seems that just as the "Very Serious People" are demanding that we take down the Assad regime, the rest of the world is getting cold feet about the whole thing:
There is a change in the global political position towards Syria. Here are three recent indicators. Via FLC we learn of a significant position change in Tunisia:
Tunisia wants to reopen its embassy in Syria which has been closed for more than two years and has sent a request in this vein to the government in Damascus. Tunis is yet to receive a reply from Syria’s foreign ministry and a diplomatic source said that the letter has been sent to the foreign ministry since “last week.”


Tunisia quickly closed its embassy when the uprising against the Assad regime began in 2011. It will become the first country to reopen its diplomatic office in Syria if its request receives a positive response from the foreign ministry.
Tunisia is especially significant as it is part of the Arab League and its government is led by the Ennahda party which is ideological affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Tunisia is threatened by the Ansar al-Sharia Salafist movement, some of who's supporters are fighting on the Syrian insurgency side, and the Ennahda government recently moved against that group.

Another sign that the international wind is changing was last weeks United Nation General Assembly vote on a nonbinding Qatari resolution against Syria. The resolution itself had to be rewritten some six times and while it gained the vote of 107 states a similar resolution last year was favored by 130 states.

A third sign is the seemingly changing position in Israel where a political mood is turning towards keeping the Syrian president Bashar Assad in power:
“Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there,” one senior Israeli intelligence officer was quoted as saying. A weakened, but intact Assad regime would be preferable for Syria and the Middle East, the Times reported intelligence sources as saying.
That view will likely later be reflected in Washington where the "Assad must go" crowd has yet to weaken its position.
This is what happens when you let your foreign policy be driven by the Gulf kingdoms desire to eliminate secular Arab regimes.

If the House of Saud and its ilk had the slightest desire to help the people of Syria (they don't), there would be any number of ways for them to handle it without Islamicizing (Sunni-izing really) the conflict.

Well, At Least It's not My Daughter Flashing for Beads at Mardi Gras

It's my son doing karaoke version of Katy Perry's California Gurls.:

Note that the "Music" tag on this post is a matter of some dispute.

18 May 2013

World's Least Reassuring Pie Ever

H/t Vonners at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

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

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Central Arizona Bank, Scottsdale, AZ
Full FDIC list

This closing was odd, because it occurred on Tuesday, May 14. The last time we had a bank closing not on a Friday, it was Park Avenue bank in 2010, and it was closed because of fraud.

In this case, it appears that there may be some issues with the bank holding company, Capitol Bankcorp, which has been shedding subsidiaries for the past few years and this might be an issue of cross guaranty issues:
After controlling more than 50 banks at its peak, Capitol Bancorp has reduced its subsidiary count to 12 banks through intra-company mergers and divestitures to outside parties. Primarily, the mergers and sales are designed to raise capital or avert a failure. A failure of any one bank subsidiary could trigger the failure of all banking subsidiaries. Through statute referred to as Cross-Guaranty, the FDIC can demand reimbursement for the cost of a failure against any of Capitol Bancorp's still open banking subsidiaries. To facilitate the divestitures, the FDIC has issued at least 16 Cross-Guaranty waivers. Some observers may question the cost effectiveness of issuing the waivers.

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. First Kingdom Community Federal Credit Union, Selma, AL

Full NCUA list

The 2nd quarter is showing a lot more activity than the 1st quarter did.

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

16 May 2013

This is a Feature, Not a Bug

At Salon, David Dayen observes that it, "Turns out much-hyped settlement still allows banks to steal homes,' even after the much hyped mortgage settlement.

This is not an oversight.  The Obama administration has aggressively allowed banks to cheat customers an investors since day one.

Basically, they see this as a way of making sure that the banks appear solvent.

See my writings on HAMP. Here is one quote:
Warren asked Geithner repeatedly about HAMP. After several evasions, Geithner said about the banks, “We estimate that they can handle ten million foreclosures, over time… this program will help foam the runway for them.”
By "them", he means the banks.

By foaming the runway, he means that it allows them to delay writing down bad loans, and continue to extract payments and fees by cheating the public.

The suggestion that this is anything but deliberate policy is simply naive.

This is a Shanda Before the Goyim

A tool to run comparisons
Israel has the highest proportion of its population living in poverty of any OECD nation:
Israel has the highest rate of poverty of all developed countries, according to a report released by the 33-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Wednesday.

The OECD found that Israel's poverty rate stands as almost 21%.

It also put Israel at fifth place among countries with the widest gaps between rich and poor, after Chile, Mexico, Turkey and the United States, while Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Denmark were the most egalitarian societies.
Israel has been practicing Thatcher style economics, even the Labour Party, for the past few decades, which could explain this.

I'm also wondering how much of this number is driven by the growing number of Heridi Jews in Israel. They are about 10% of the population, and are disproportionately: Over half the Heridim live in poverty, and are on government assistance, as versus about 15% of the general population.

Much of this differential is actually an artifact of poverty by choice. Many in this community prefer to remain on the dole, so that they can study Torah.

Of course, there is no requirement for someone not to work in order to study Torah.

Maimonides was a noted doctor, Rashi was a vintner, and the Baal Shem Tov was an inn keeper.

I do not know of anyone of this generation with the chops of those folks. Get a f%$#ing job.

It's Jobless Thursday!

And the numbers are not great:
The number of people who applied last week for new unemployment benefits surged to the highest level in a month and a half, indicating the U.S. labor market is still not healing fast enough to rapidly bring down the nation’s jobless rate.

Initial jobless claims climbed by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000 in the week ended May 11, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to 330,000 from a revised 328,000 in the prior week.
It should be noted that the 4-week moving average only rose by 1250, and continuing claims fell 4,000.

15 May 2013

The Only People Having a Worse Week than the Obama Administration

The Pentagon.

Where they have yet another soldier in charge of a sexual assault prevention office accused of sexual assault, and this time, we have an super-sized the accusations of rape with an accusation of pimping!
An Army sergeant who served as a sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Fort Hood, Tex., is under investigation for allegations of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates, Pentagon officials said late Tuesday.


The noncommissioned officer under investigation had been working as an “equal opportunity adviser and sexual harassment/assault response and prevention program coordinator” with a battalion of troops — about 2,000 soldiers — assigned to the Army’s III Corps at Fort Hood when the allegations surfaced, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The suspect was not identified by name. One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no charges have been filed, said the portion of the inquiry related to pandering refers to allegations that the soldier was involved in managing a prostitution operation, perhaps involving a subordinate.
Un-dirty-word believable.

I'm beginning to think the whole  "Convening Authority" structure of military justice, where the commanding officer has unlimited authority to decide whether or not to file charges, and can over the ruling of a court martial, needs to be rethought, and not just for cases of sexual assault.

More Evidence of German Self-Mythologizing

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the recent stories about the Germans being poorer than the rest of Europe, and how it was largely bullsh%$?

Well, it appears that it was even more bogus than I had previously thought. You see the difference in household wealth is almost entirely due to difference in household sizes:

Media hype had been generated by the ranking of the countries’ median household wealth results, especially by the fact that:
• Germany was in last place with €51,400.
• Italy and Spain were significantly above France with wealth equal to €173,500 and €182,700 respectively, compared to the French households’ €115,800.
The mean household wealth averages paint a very different picture to current narratives about the relatively wealth of nations in the Eurozone. The relative dispersion in the estimates is much smaller: the German household mean is €195,200, while for France, Italy and Spain it is €233,400, €275,200 and €291,400 respectively. Moreover, Germany climbs six places in the wealth ranking.
As already noted by De Grauwe and Ji (2013), Germany’s position at the bottom of the median ranking is simply due to its large wealth inequality compared with the others. This is confirmed by observing that the concentration of wealth, measured by a Gini index of 0.76, is much higher in Germany, while for France, Italy and Spain the estimate is smaller (0.68, 0.61 and 0.58 respectively).
Household Size Matters
This analysis does not take account of household composition in the various countries. The distribution of household wealth across countries is affected by differences in the demographic characteristics of households (age, education, household size):
• In northern countries, households are generally small, often composed of a single member.
• In the south it is not unusual to find many people, even from different generations (grandparents, parents and children), living together.
The splitting up of household members produces a sort of partition of wealth among the households they generate, as happens when young members exit the household to form a new family.

A simple way to sterilise for household size is to consider per capita averages:
• The per capita wealth figure for Italy and Spain is €108,700, slightly higher than for France (€104,100) and Germany (€95,500).
BTW, do you know one of the reasons that there are more multigenerational households in the Mediterranean Euro nations?

Because the generous social welfare system in Germany allows for generations not to live together. (Things like high quality government subsidized elder care and strong pensions).

So, Now That We Have a Week of "Scandals"………

The Obama administration has come out in favor of a media shield law that they had previously tried to delay and kill:
Under fire over the Justice Department’s use of a broad subpoena to obtain calling records of Associated Press reporters in connection with a leak investigation, the Obama administration sought on Wednesday to revive legislation that would provide greater protections to reporters in keeping their sources and communications confidential.

President Obama’s Senate liaison, Ed Pagano, on Wednesday morning called the office of Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and asked him to reintroduce a version of a bill that he had pushed in 2009 called the Free Flow of Information Act, a White House official said.

The bill would create a federal media shield law, akin to ones most states already have, giving journalists some protections from penalties for refusing to identify confidential sources in federal law enforcement proceedings, and generally enabling journalists to ask a federal judge to quash subpoenas for their phone records.


The top Democrat on the committee, Representative John Conyers of Michigan, noted that he had sponsored a version of the Free Flow of Information Act that passed the House twice when it was under Democratic control. He said he would reintroduce his version, too, and he said he hoped that Republicans — who until recently had called for more aggressive investigations of leaks — would support it.

The version the Obama administration is seeking to revive, however, is the one that was chiefly sponsored by Mr. Schumer, which was negotiated between the newspaper industry and the White House. It was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan 15-to-4 vote in December 2009. But while it was awaiting a floor vote in 2010, a furor over leaking arose after WikiLeaks began publishing archives of secret government documents, and the bill never received a vote.

In a statement confirming that he would reintroduce the legislation, Mr. Schumer referred to the controversy over the subpoena of A.P. calling records, saying: “This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public’s right to the free flow of information. At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case.”
So, they are supporting the fake bill that they and Chuck Schumer drew up a while ago in an attempt to kill Conyer's real reform.

Same sh%$, different day.

Yes, We Have to Get Deeply Involved in the Syrian Civil War

One of the putative "good guys" in Syria has been caught on tape eating a dead soldier's heart:
A video which appears to show a Syrian rebel taking a bite from the heart of a dead soldier has been widely condemned.

US-based Human Rights Watch identified the rebel as Abu Sakkar, a well-known insurgent from the city of Homs, and said his actions were a war crime.

The main Syrian opposition coalition said he would be put on trial.

The video, which cannot be independently authenticated, seems to show him cutting out the heart.

"I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog," the man says, referring to President Bashar al-Assad as he stands over the soldier's corpse.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Abu Sakkar is the leader of a group called the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Al-Farouq Brigades. He insults Alawites, the minority offshoot of Shia Islam to which Mr Assad belongs.

"The desecration and mutilation of a killed person is definitely a war crime," Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC. "This one particularly disturbing because of the sectarian nature of the language used by Abu Sakkar.
Seriously, does anyone now think that it's a good idea to choose sides in this clusterf%$#?

Well,. anyone without a history of insanity, or members of the Senate with the last name of McCain, anyway? (But I repeat myself)