31 July 2013

Federal Court Rules that Federal Reserve Cannot Be the Banksters Bitch Over Swipe Fees

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon just ruled that the Federal Reserve's rules on debit card swipe fees are too bank friendly and ignore the statutory requirements of Dodd-Frank:
The Federal Reserve disregarded Congress’s intent when deciding how much banks can charge merchants for debit-card transactions, a judge ruled, rejecting Dodd-Frank-imposed regulations governing “swipe” fees.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington ruled today that the Fed didn’t have the authority to set a 21-cent cap on debit-card transactions. Leon said the rule, which has been in effect since October 2011, would remain in place pending new regulations or interim standards.

“The Board has clearly disregarded Congress’s statutory intent by inappropriately inflating all debit card transaction fees by billions of dollars and failing to provide merchants with multiple unaffiliated networks for each debit card transaction,” Leon said in his 58-page ruling.

The groups, in a lawsuit filed in November 2011, said merchants will be “substantially harmed” by the fees the Fed set under the Durbin Amendment, a provision of the Dodd-Frank legislation. The rule went into effect on Oct. 1, 2011.

“The board’s final rule permits banks to recover significantly more costs than permitted by the plain language of the Durbin Amendment and deprives plaintiffs of the benefits of the statute’s anti-exclusivity provisions,” the retailers argued in their complaint.
What?  The law is not friendly enough to the banks, and so the Fed draws up regulations ignoring the law? 

I am so (not) surprised.

The NSA Spying Gets Worse

Now we have XKeyscore, which "collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'."
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.

The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian's earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.


The files shed light on one of Snowden's most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
So, either Rep. Rogers knowingly lied, or he was lied to by the state security apparatus.

Yeah, it just keeps getting worse, and there is more to come, at least that is what Senator Ron Wyden said yesterday when he said that, "U.S. intelligence agencies’ violations of court orders on surveillance of Americans is worse than the government is letting on," which means that even with a incredibly compliant FISA Court (You need to keep them away from toilet paper, because they will sign anything), they be bothered to follow the "law".


Retta on stereotypes on Conan:

30 July 2013

What Ezra Klein Said

He notes that when pundits talk about "the center", they are endorsing a radical agenda that is overwhelmingly opposed outside the beltway:
Martin’s article doesn’t define “the center.” But it’s not the center of public opinion. It’s more a reference to an amorphous Washington consensus. Insofar as that concept ever made sense, the idea was that it’s the legislative center, the zone of compromise where things can actually get done. But even that concept has begun to break down in recent years, as that Washington center — what you might call the “Simpson-Bowles center” — no longer holds any weight in Congress.

When you’re judging policy, “good” and “bad” are descriptions that make sense. So are “popular” and “unpopular,” and “likely to pass” and “no chance.” But “the center”? It’s time to retire that one, or at least come up with a more rigorous definition of what we mean when we use it.

How Torture Comes Home, Part 55

We now have a report that the CIA is hemorrhaging because its management sucks:
For the Central Intelligence Agency, he was a catch: an American citizen who had grown up overseas, was fluent in Mandarin and had a master's degree in his field. He was working in Silicon Valley, but after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he wanted to serve his country.

The analyst, who declined to be named to shield his association with the CIA, was hired in 2005 into the agency's Directorate of Intelligence, where he was assigned to dig into Chinese politics. He said he was dismayed to discover that unimpressive managers wielded incredible power and suffered no consequences for mistakes. Departments were run like fiefdoms, he said, and "very nasty internecine battles" were a fixture.

By 2009, he had left the CIA. He now does a similar job for the U.S. military.

CIA officials often assert that while the spy agency's failures are known, its successes are hidden. But the clandestine organization celebrated for finding Osama bin Laden has been viewed by many of its own people as a place beset by bad management, where misjudgments by senior officials go unpunished, according to internal CIA documents and interviews with more than 20 former officers.
So, how does this relate to torturers?

Because the torturers are people who are not that good at their jobs. If they were good, they wouldn't have to break the law to create the illusion of results. (A quick Google shows that torture does not work)

Of course, between the torture fetishists of Bush and His Evil Minions, and the torture apologists of Obama and His Evil Minions, torture has become a ticket that you need to punch to advance in "the agency".

So, because successive White Houses have institutionalized torture, they have also institutionalized incompetent agents who become incompetent managers who are fearful that their lack of ability will be exposed.

We have incentivized torture, incompetence, and corruption for people who want to have intelligence as a career path.

This is Beyond Orwell's Wildest Imaginings

In his seminal work 1984, he coined the idiom, "We've always been at war with Eastasia."

Well, Obama and His Evil Minions have done this one better, and they claim that the list of people that we are at war with is classified:
Back in May, we noted the oddity of the charges in Bradley Manning's trial, in which he was accused of aiding three different "enemies," with the last one being classified. Specifically, he was accused of aiding Al-Qaida, Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP, which is different than AQ itself) and... mystery enemy. Back at the beginning of July, the government quietly dropped the charge against the classified enemy, so that's no longer in play in that case. That said, apparently this concept of classifying who we're at war with wasn't just limited to the Manning trial. ProPublica has the ridiculous and frightening tale of finding out that the answer to the simple question of who the US is at war with, is apparently classified as well.

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”
The Pentagon also went on to tell ProPublica that revealing who we're actually at war with would do "serious damage to national security." The main reason? They think those groups would use the info as good publicity and allow them to recruit more.………
If the UK were to hook up a generator to the grave of Eric Arthur Blair, they could power all of Europe, because he is surely spinning in his grave at unbelievable speed.


Pic of the day:  Why conservatives hate New York City Bike Share:

Going to Lunch, and It Was On the Radio

Bradley Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge, Aiding the Enemy.

I do not think that Manning "won", because I expect him to get at least 20 years, but Barack Obama, and the US state security apparatus lost.

They means that the American people had a sort of a win, though.

29 July 2013

One of the Worst of the Blue Dogs Gets a Free Pass

Bill Halter, who nearly defeated the despicable Blanche Lincoln in the 2010 Arkansas Democratic Primary, has decided to withdraw from the race for Governor, leaving the race to one of the Dlue Doggingist of the Blue Dogs, Mike Ross.

It appears that the proximate cause is anemic fund raising.

My guess is that this is payback from the Clintons, who have not "gotten over" his challenge to Lincoln. (She would have lost anyway, the polls were clear on that.)

This sucks.

More Adventures of the New Party of Jefferson Davis

Paul Krugman notes that the current attempts by Congressional Republicans to use the threat of a government shutdown to roll back Obanmacare mirrors the actions of the South when they tried to destroy the United States.

You see, Marco Rubio is now claiming that Obama wants to shut down government because he will not end his health care plan.

As Krugman notes, Lincoln nailed this at his Cooper Union speech over 150 years ago:
Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me - my money - was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.
The party of Lincoln has become the party of Jefferson Davis.

A New Definition of Chutzpah………

Know your meme
Yes, John Pike, infamous as the Pepper Spray cop in Berkeley, who subsequently became a meme, and is now a poster boy for the banality of evil, has now filed for workmans' comp:
The former UC police officer who was internationally condemned for pepper-spraying demonstrators at UC Davis is seeking workers' compensation, saying he suffered psychiatric injury as a result of the November 2011 incident.

John Pike has a settlement conference set for Aug. 13 in Sacramento, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations' website and an Associated Press report.

Pike was fired in July 2012, eight months after a task force investigation found that his action was unwarranted.
I'm beginning to think that the only folks out there with a bigger sense of entitlement than Congressional Republicans Newt Gingrich are bad cops.

Whenever the worm turns, and the scrutiny that they apply to others is applied to them, they employ every trick in the book to avoid justly deserved consequences.

28 July 2013

The Joys of Children are Without Number

We took Natalie to  Camp Tizmoret Shoshana, a Jewish performing arts camp.

It is at Capitol Camp, about 50 miles from home.

So, we packed up in the morning, and drove her to camp.

100+ miles round trip, and then Sharon and Charlie had to get ready for their performances at Open Space Arts this afternoon.

Only Natalie forgot a few things: her music theory notebook, Portman (her marionette), and her towels.

Then, after the play, we get a text that she had also forgotten her asthma inhaler.

So, instead of getting her stuff to her tomorrow, we had to go back tonight.

So, back we went, another 2 hour round trip.

At one point, we drove through a thunderstorm that felt like the apocalypse.

We had zero visibility, and the almost constant lightning had the wipers strobing across the windshield.

We are now headed back home (Sharon is driving), finally.

I swear, Natalie would forget her own head if it weren't attached.


Libertarian Paradise:

27 July 2013

Light Posting Tonight

Lying down on a heating pad.  My back is killing me.

26 July 2013

Opening Night

Sharon and Charlie had roles in Open Space Arts' Summer Playwrites Festival, and Natalie, who had a scheduling conflict this year, was working tech crew.

OSA is a community theater in Reisterstown, and the festival had 7 one act plays.

I filmed out for them.

No blogging tonight as a result

Posted via mobile.


H/t Naked Capitalism for the pic.

25 July 2013

Eric Holder Will Sue Texas Under the Voting Rights Act

He has announced that he will sue Texas under section 3C of the voting rights act. Basically, the Supreme Court invalidated the old list that was incorporated into the law when it was first passed (Section 5 4), but section 3, which can be invoked on the basis of specific actions by a state, can also require preclearance on voting changes.

This has been invoked before, albeit briefly:
The Obama administration moved to retain some oversight of the way states conduct elections after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, setting up a new fight with Republican governors.

The legal strategy, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday, is directed initially at Texas' voting procedures, but it promises to have much broader impact: The action in Texas, Mr. Holder said, "will not be our last." Other states expected to receive Justice Department scrutiny include South Carolina, North Carolina and Alaska.

On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a panel of judges in San Antonio to order continued scrutiny of the state's voting rules and operations, following the Supreme Court ruling in June that effectively nullified what had been a requirement for the state to seek federal approval of any changes.

In an announcement that drew strong criticism from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans in other states, the attorney general said the Justice Department would invoke a little-used section of the law as a replacement measure for the one the Supreme Court struck down.

In its decision, the court effectively voided Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by ruling unconstitutional the formula the federal government used to identify jurisdictions that must receive its approval—a process called preclearance—before changing voting procedures.

Now, Mr. Holder said, the Justice Department will use Section 3 of the law to try to keep Texas subject to preclearance. Under Section 5, certain states and counties with a history of discrimination against minority voters couldn't implement voting-rule changes without federal approval. Under Section 3, a court must first find evidence of intentional discrimination—a tougher test—before subjecting the jurisdiction to preclearance.

In the Texas case filed late Thursday, Justice Department lawyers are seeking a 10-year preclearance period.
In this case, the "tougher standard" is not so tough.

There was already a finding of fact by a court a few months ago (under the now defunct section 5) that Texas was engaged in discrimination.

I also think that discovery, when the DoJ computer forensics teams go through emails at the Texas state house, should be very interesting.

Props to Eric Holder. (I cannot believe that I just wrote that)

It's Jobless Thursday!!!

Initial claims rose by 7K to 343,000, though the less volatile 4 week moving average fell by 1250, as did both continuing and extended claims.

Generally, a decent set of numbers.

Hopper Wins

Which is good.

If the networks had won, they would have tried to come up with a way to prevent people from going to the bathroom during the ads.

But the courts have affirmed the right for viewers to use ad skipping technologies:
A federal court decision Wednesday gave fresh support to a new technology that helps consumers avoid a basic irritant of television watching — the commercial.

Dish’s Hopper service, which automatically removes advertisements before consumers view recorded shows, is the latest technology to worry broadcasters. These companies have long reaped profits from a practice that is as old as the television itself — forcing viewers to watch ads before they can see the rest of a show.

But a growing slew of technology firms, from Amazon to Netflix, has roiled the industry by offering programs outside the traditional distribution channels that for years dictated what appeared on the living room television. For far less than what cable companies charge, these upstarts are giving consumers more control over what they watch and when they watch it, while enabling them to easily skip ads. Google, the owner of YouTube, became the latest to join this trend, unveiling a device on Wednesday that pumps online videos and other content directly into television sets.

Such innovations have raised questions about how many Americans are actually viewing commercials these days and cast a shadow over a basic way that television funds itself. Digital video recorders have become so common that many consumers fast-forward through ads. With Dish’s Hopper, people can watch shows free of commercials shortly after they are broadcast live.

Now that Hopper has received greater legal support, analysts expect cable companies, DVR providers and others who distribute television content to quickly offer similar services.
While the business fallout from this is unclear, if it had gone the other way, it would have been incredibly ugly for the end users.

I'm not reflexively supportive of technology, but the record in entertainment is clear:  Not only do innovations benefit the end user, it also creates new revenues for the content providers.

Schadenfreude on 401(k) Plans

Ian Ayres, a professor at Yale, has been reviewing 401(k) programs, and will publicize the really sucky plans that charge excessive fees:
A Yale Law School professor is causing a ruckus among U.S. corporations with plans to publicize a study of employers' 401(k) plan costs.

The professor, Ian Ayres, has sent about 6,000 letters to companies, saying he would disseminate the results of his study using Twitter, with separate hashtags for each company.

Prof. Ayres has mailed out several different versions of the letter since June, and at least one said that he had identified an employer's 401(k) specifically "as a potential high-cost plan." He said that he and his research partner planned to publicize the results in spring 2014.

Tri-City Electrical Contractors Inc., in Altamonte Springs, Fla., received one such letter on July 5. It said that the company's plan ranked worse than 77% of plans of comparable size based on total plan cost.

"As a reminder, fiduciary duties are the most stringent imposed by the law, and require administrators to act solely in the interests of plan participants," continued the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The letters come as administrators of 401(k) plans have been under fire for what some workers and retirees say are excessive fees. Federal fee-disclosure rules went into effect last year requiring 401(k) administrators to better spell out the fees being charged to plan sponsors and participants.
The problem is that there are a lot of 401(k) administrators who over-promise returns to justify inflated fees.

Call me old fashioned, but I think that there should be (low) statutory limits on 401(k) and IRA because otherwise, the tax breaks are simply going straight into Wall Street's pockets (expense ratio is largely unrelated to plan returns).

If you want to blow your money on a mutual fund manager who charges high fees, it's your business, until Uncle Sam starts supplying tax benefits, at which point, it becomes a matter for the public to discuss.

Small Business Owners Are Complaining Because E-Verify Works, not Because it Doesn't

The Wall Street Journal writes about the problems that employers are having with E-Verify, the online worker verification system run by the INS.

The problem is not that the system is too buggy, its early problems have been ironed out, and it's not too expensive, it's free, no, for the small businesses interviewed, the problem is that works the way that it is supposed to:
Since January, Daniel VanLoh has turned away nine new dishwashers and one line cook from his four Atlanta, Ga., restaurants within days of hiring them.

The reason: Not one was authorized to work in the U.S., according to background checks he ran on the job applicants using a federal verification system, known as E-Verify.

He says he's now struggling to fill six openings, with some job seekers simply walking away after hearing that the company uses the free, Internet-based system to check their immigration status.
This is the way that this is supposed to work.  Proper enforcement of worker verification is supposed to keep people who want to work illegally out of the job rolls.

Here is the money quote:
This month, Georgia required small employers to screen applicants with the system, a move that extended existing requirements for larger firms. At least 15 other states, including Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina, have enacted laws in recent years requiring at least some, if not all, employers to run E-Verify checks on job applicants before hiring them. The laws don't require employers to check existing employees.

Scott Whitehead, who operates an Atlanta landscaping service, began using E-Verify July 1. Over the past three weeks, he says he hasn't found a single authorized worker among more than 50 applicants at his metro area firm, Unlimited Landscaping & Turf Management Inc. "Every immigrant who walks through this door is illegal" according to the online check, says Mr. Whitehead, whose firm has more than 100 employees.

He says the checks are shrinking the pool of applicants he's able to hire. As he struggles to fill openings, existing maintenance workers, most of whom he pays about $14 an hour, are demanding higher wages.
(emphasis mine)

Gee without the possibility of easily recruiting workers who are willing to live in immigration status enforced peonage, his workers are asking for more money.


BTW, Whitehead's solution is to engage in illegal discrimination:
The system is also bringing anxieties about productivity, he says. To avoid running afoul of the new Georgia law, Mr. Whitehead plans to hire only U.S. citizens who clear the system, even though, in landscaping, he has found that immigrant workers are generally more productive.
This is a violation of the civil rights law.

You cannot discriminate against legal workers on the basis of immigration status.

Unemployment is over seven percent, and if your crappy job cannot attract legal workers at a given wage, then raise the f%$#ing wage.

Even in Bankruptcy, Detroit Must Pay for a Millionaire's Toys

Bankruptcy, Schmankruptcy, billionaire Mike Ilitch's new stadium must get its $450 million:
When Detroit filed for what is the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history, one of the items immediately placed on the potential chopping block was pensions for current retirees who had worked for the city. A pension shortfall accounts for $3.5 billion of the city's $18 billion in debt, and the city's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has called for "significant" pension cuts.

But even with pensions possibly getting the axe – along with who knows what else in terms of services for the already downtrodden city, or even masterpieces at the Detroit Institute of Art – Detroit still seems ready to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for a new arena for the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings………
This is not The Onion.

Detroit is in bankruptcy (sort of, long story), but this billionaire has to get a shiny new stadium for his team.

It buggers the mind.


Below is a recent video of the proto-Punk group Death.

This group (some of the guys on stage in the vid are the sons of the original members) were from Detroit in the 1970s.

They predated the Sex Pistols, and the Ramones, and the Dead Kennedys, and the Clash by a few years.

As I've noted earlier, it does make you wonder how much the emergence of Punk was more of a societal trend than it was a

24 July 2013

We Lose

The House has narrowly rejected an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill to restrict NSA spying on Americans:
U.S. lawmakers angry about domestic telephone record-collection lost an effort to curtail funding for the intelligence-gathering tools revealed by fugitive U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden.

On a vote of 205-217, the House rejected an amendment that would have limited the National Security Agency’s ability to collect communications records.

Implementation of the amendment could have created a new burden on telephone and Internet companies to retain bulk data, in addition to ending the NSA’s blanket collection of phone records. Those possibilities led the White House, Republicans leaders and many congressional Democrats to oppose the proposals, pitting them against lawmakers from both parties who champion civil liberties and privacy.
The by-party tally is Democrats  (111-83), and Republicans (94-134), a 5 vote margin, and it is almost certainly only because Obama started seriously twisting arms on the Dem side of the aisle in the past 48 hours or so.  (My rep, John Sarbanes, voted yes).

Hopefully, this is only the start of the fight, and the next time, the good guys will pick up a few more votes, and win.

Quote of the Day

If the NYT really cared about keeping the newspaper business profitable they wouldn’t be calling for Anthony Weiner to get out of the Mayor’s race.

Josh Marshall

Just When You Thought that Obama's Secrecy Fetish Could Not Get Any More Reprehensible………

I present to you the case of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who was imprisoned at the demand of the US government because he revealed that it was a US drone strike, and not a Yemeni army attack, that killed 41 civilians in al-Majalla in 2009.

His "trial" was condemned as a kangaroo court by numerous human rights group, and when the President of Yemen wanted to pardon him because of internal protests, Barack Obama personally called him to brow beat him into extending his detention.

Well, Shaye has now been released, but the official wheels in the Obama administration continue to try to grind him to dust:
News broke yesterday afternoon that, after a nearly three-year-long imprisonment, Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye had been released by the Yemeni government. Shaye's work drew international attention in 2009 when he reported on a U.S. airstrike in the Yemeni village of al-Majalla that killed 41 civilians. He also conducted multiple interviews with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

U.S. officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, have told journalists that Shaye facilitated AQAP attacks, but his accounts of his arrest detail press intimidation by the Yemeni government, then still headed by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who resigned amid mass protests in November 2011. Shaye's five-year prison sentence has drawn criticism from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Yemen-based Freedom Foundation.

The U.S. government is still concerned about Shaye. Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told FP this morning by email, "We are concerned and disappointed by the early release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai, who was sentenced by a Yemeni court to five years in prison for his involvement with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula." Meehan did not comment on whether the United States advocated against his release.
This is so repulsive on so many levels.

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Banksta

Because as a bankster you can break into someone's house, and take all their stuff, and not only are not arrested, you don't have to pay them anything for this:
An Ohio bank is refusing to reimburse a Vinton County woman whose house they unjustly repossessed while she was out of town.

Katie Barnett recently returned home after being away for two weeks to find that the lock on her door had been changed. She crawled in through the window to find all of her stuff missing.

Barnett suspected she had been robbed — and she wasn't too far off.

It seems that, while Barnett was gone, the First National Bank of Wellston arrived at her place of residence, broke in, and took possession of all her belongings, including the house.

Except, as it later turned out, they had the wrong address.

"They told me that the GPS led them to my house," Barnett told 10TV. "My grass hadn’t been mowed and they just assumed."

Phoning the local police to report the incident did Barnett little good, as the McArthur Police Chief refused to investigate and considered the case closed.

But for Barnett, the ordeal is very much ongoing.

With all of her stuff either sold off by the bank or thrashed, the homeowner presented the bank's president with an $18,000 estimate for restitution.

He refused to pay up.

"He got very firm with me and said, ‘We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,’" Barnett recalled. "I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer. They took my stuff and I want it back."
(emphasis mine)

Seriously, will no one prosecute these rat bastards?

They break into your house, they steal and trash all of your stuff, and when caught, they refuse to make you whole.

I would suggest that Katie Barnett lawyer up, put a lien on the f%$#ing bank's HQ, and then start foreclosure proceedings.


Another thought on the Trayvon Martin murder:

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

23 July 2013

It Means that She Frightens Them………

Politico, the epitome of the mindless and soulless Washington, DC stupidity, has published a hit piece on Elizabeth Warren.

They now see her as a threat.

A Patent Troll Bites the Dust

One of the worst of the parasite, Eolas, has had its patents invalidated:
The inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, had never testified in court before last year. In February 2012, he left Cambridge to fly down to Tyler, an East Texas city of about 100,000, to testify at a patent trial. It was the culmination of a bold campaign by a man named Michael Doyle to levy a vast patent tax on the modern web.

Berners-Lee was one of several web pioneers who came through the court during the course of a four-day trial, which ultimately convinced a jury to invalidate two patents owned by Eolas, the tiny patent-holding company that Doyle and his lawyers transformed into one of the most fearsome "patent trolls" of all time.

Now Eolas appears to be gone for good. The company mounted a lengthy appeal, but it was all for naught; this morning, a three-judge appeals panel affirmed the jury's verdict without comment.


Pei-Yuan Wei created the pioneering Viola browser, a key piece of prior art, while he was a student at UC-Berkeley in the early 1990s. Scott Silvey, another UC-Berkeley student at that time, testified about a program he made called VPlot, which allowed users to rotate an image of an airplane using Wei's browser. VPlot and Viola were demonstrated to Sun Microsystems in May 1993, months before Doyle claimed to have conceived of his invention.
Eolas claimed an tremendously broad patent on all forms of interactive web products.

Why the f%$# has Eolas been able to blackmail people for so long?


Why Janet Yellen will not Become the Federal Reserve Chairman

Because she has ovaries:
The favored parlor game of the political-economic complex right now is guessing who will replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The clear front-runner is Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen. But she’s by no means a sure thing.

One important reason she’s not — and I don’t know another way to say this — is sexism, as evidenced by the whispering campaign that’s emerged against her.

The message isn’t always delivered in a whisper, of course. In May, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher suggested on CNBC that if Yellen is chosen, the pick will have been “driven by gender.” That’s more of a shouting campaign.

Fisher hastened to add that Yellen is “extremely capable.” But, he said, “there are other capable people.” Capable people, I guess, who are male, and thus whose picks wouldn’t be driven by gender.

But Fisher’s comments aren’t the sort that matter in this process. They’re too crude. The significant doubts about Yellen are transmitted with more subtlety, and for months they’ve been coursing through the cloistered, close fraternity that will drive the selection of Bernanke’s successor.
If you look at the dynamics of the Obama administration and finance, at least under the auspices of (the now thankfully in private life) Timothy Geithner was contempt against those who lacked a Y chromosome.

Notwithstanding the presence of Valerie Jarrett, the Obama administration has many of the aspects of an old boy's club, and even if you ignore the "boys" part, it is a club, and Larry Summers is most assuredly a part of that club, and Janet Yellen isn't.

Barack Obama Reveals that he is Black

Barack Obama has spent pretty much all of his time on the national stage trying to avoid the accusation that he is the stereotypical "Angry Black Man", and so, with the brief exception (which he walked away from as quickly as he could) of a comment on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.

This is why Obama saying that 35 years ago that he would be Trayvon Martin was such a big deal:
Barack Obama used an unexpected speech at the White House to personally address the debates over race relations that have convulsed America since George Zimmerman was acquitted over the shooting of the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

In remarks immediately interpreted as the most expansive comments on race since he became president, Obama said the US was still not "a post-racial society".

"You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is: Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," he said.
But once again, it appears that Obama immediately followed this up by pandering to bigots racial profilers by floating the name of New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who has aggressively profiled blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims:
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama endorsed New York City police commissioner, and stop-and-frisk cheerleader, Ray Kelly as an adequate replacement for Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Under Kelly, the New York Police Department’s policy on randomly stopping people in the streets and then questioning and patting them down for weapons and drugs, imposed a stiff burden on black and Latino residents. According to the ACLU in New York, between 2002 and 2011, black and Latino New Yorkers made up close to 90 percent of those stopped by police — 88 percent of whom had no weapons or drugs on them when it happened. Kelly has staunchly defended the policy regardless of the racial profiling it codifies and its fruitless conclusions.

But Obama told Univision on Wednesday that “Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” and that the police commissioner is “one of the best there is” — an “outstanding leader in New York.”

“Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is,” said Obama. “But if he’s not I’d want to know about it. ‘Cause, you know, obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job.”

This endorsement seems tone deaf given the current conversations nationwide around national security. Kelly’s “extraordinary” work in New York City has led to the city council passing the Community Safety Act, which scales back the police’s ability to racially profile considerably. Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy is being challenged in federal court by the Center for Constitutional Rights right now. Obama’s own Justice Department may be sending in a federal monitor to ensure that NYPD stops racial profiling. The following, questioning and apprehension of targeted black males is at the crux of the current debate around George Zimmerman’s killing Trayvon Martin.
Also, you have to read the New York Times OP/Ed by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
It was candidate Obama who in 2008 pledged to “ban racial profiling” on a federal level and work to have it prohibited on the state level. It was candidate Obama who told black people that if they voted they would get a new kind of politics. And it was State Senator Obama who understood that profiling was the antithesis of such politics. Those of us raising our boys in the wake of Trayvon, or beneath the eye of the Demographics Unit, cannot fathom how the president could forget this.
Of course, the best argument against allowing Ray Kelly anywhere near law enforcement are the words of Ray Kelly, who, writing in (where else) The Wall Street Journal, where he engages in transparent lying to defend his career:
Since 2002, the New York Police Department has taken tens of thousands of weapons off the street through proactive policing strategies. The effect this has had on the murder rate is staggering. In the 11 years before Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, there were 13,212 murders in New York City. During the 11 years of his administration, there have been 5,849. That's 7,383 lives saved—and if history is a guide, they are largely the lives of young men of color.

So far this year, murders are down 29% from the 50-year low achieved in 2012, and we've seen the fewest shootings in two decades.
He knows that these numbers are reflected nationwide in any number of cities with all sorts of different sorts of police tactics.

He knows these numbers, and the reason that he lies about this is because the only way that he can defend his contemptible policies is to misrepresent his numbers, and what they mean.


It's a new feature for my blog.

Basically stuff that I don't have anything about but, "KEWL!!!!"

I'll be doing this whenever the f%$# I feel like it.

For your amusement:

22 July 2013

Obama Continues to Spy on Ordinary Americans

They just got a 3 month extension of its data drift net of Verizon, and one would assume everyone else too:
The National Security Agency has been allowed to extend its dragnet of the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon through a court order issued by the secret court that oversees surveillance.

In an unprecedented move prompted by the Guardian's disclosure in June of the NSA's indiscriminate collection of Verizon metadata, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has publicly revealed that the scheme has been extended yet again.

The statement does not mention Verizon by name, nor make clear how long the extension lasts for, but it is likely to span a further three months in line with previous routine orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa).

The announcement flowed, the statement said, from the decision to declassify aspects of the metadata grab "in order to provide the public with a more thorough and balanced understanding of the program".

According to Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, the Verizon phone surveillance has been in place – updated every three months – for at least six years, and it is understood to have been applied to other telecoms giants as well.
Not feeling hopey changey here.

What Yves Smith Said

She makes a compelling case against Larry Summers being the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that he is a polarizing personality who refuses to listen to others:
The big problem with Summers is not his record on deregulation (although that’s bad enough) or his foot-in-mouth remarks about women in math, or for suggesting that African countries would make for good toxic waste dumps. No, it’s his appalling record the one time he was in a leadership position, as president of Harvard. Summers was unquestionably the worst leader in Harvard’s history.

Summers, unduly impressed with his own economic credentials, overruled two successive presidents of Harvard Management Corporation (the in-house fund management operation chock full of well qualified and paid money managers that invest the Harvard endowment). Not content to let the pros have all the fun, Summers insisted on gambling with the university’s operating funds, which are the monies that come in every year (tuition and board payments, government grants, the payments out of the endowment allotted to the annual budget). His risk-taking left the University with over $2 billion in losses and unwind costs and forced wide-spread budget cuts, even down to getting rid of hot breakfasts.


So Summers couldn’t keep his ego out of the way, bullied the people around him, ignored the advice of not one but two presidents of Harvard Management, and left a smoldering pile of losses in his wake. And serious adults are prepared to allow someone with so little maturity and such misplaced self confidence to have major sway over much bigger economic decisions?

Summers’ second big problem is the scandal that led to his ouster at Harvard, which was NOT the “women suck at elite math and sciences” remarks. The university has conveniently let that be assumed to be the proximate cause.

In fact, it was Summers’ long-standing relationship with and protection of Andrei Schleifer, a Harvard economics professor, who was at the heart of a corruption scandal where he used his influential role on a Harvard contract advising on Russian privatization to enrich himself and his wife, his chief lieutenant Jonathan Hay, and other cronies. The US government sued Harvard for breach of contract and Shleifer and Hay for fraud and won.
And yes, he was also hip deep in the ouster of Brooksley Born for her demands that derivatives be regulated.

So, he doesn't listen, he alienates those around him, he is deeply involved in a massive corruption scandal, and he has been wrong on basically everything outside of academe.

Given this record, I expect him to fail up into the Federal Reserve.

Why I Want Rush Holt and not Corey Booker to be the Next Senator from New Jersey

Go Rush Holt!
Rush Holt has proposed eliminating the tax cap on social security, which would keep the fund solvent until the sun burns down to a cinder.

You won't hear this from Corey Booker, because he is owned by Wall Street, who is determined to get their hands on this money, so that they can generate fees.

Helen Thomas Dead at 92


While it was clear from her statements later in life, she was aggressively anti-Zionist, it should be noted that this was not her journalistic beat.

On her beat, the White House, she was a pain in the ass to 10 successive administrations, which is what a reporter assigned to the White House is supposed to do.

Johnny Cashing It Today

Remember when I complained about ruining my shirt by leaving an uncapped pen in my pocket?

My dad, who follows my blog, sent me a bunch of dark colored shirts, including a black dress shirt.

Without thinking, I put on the black shirt today, and also grabbed a pair of black slacks.

I got comments on my style sense from about 5 people at work, the best being, "Johnny Cashing it today?"

I think that this is the closest that I have ever been to being fashionable in my life.

I Don't Give a Crap

It has been reported that Britain's biggest welfare family is expecting their first child.

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is reportedly in labo(u)r.

To quote George Washington, "Let there be no Kings."

Americans should not be following this news with baited breath.

I can't wait to hear what Vonners, my (small R) republican British friend has to day about this.

Posted via mobile.

21 July 2013

Gee, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

After all, the market solves everything, so the sale of the UK's primary blood plasma supplier to Bain Capital should work out just fine:
The Government was tonight accused of gambling with the UK’s blood supply by selling the state-owned NHS plasma supplier to a US private equity firm.

The Department of Health overlooked several healthcare or pharmaceutical firms and at least one blood plasma specialist before choosing to sell an 80 per cent stake in Plasma Resources UK to Bain Capital, the company co-founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in a £230m deal. The Government will retain a 20 per stake and a share of potential future profits.

PRUK has annual sales of around £110m and consists of two companies: it employs 200 people at Bio Products Laboratory (BPL) in Elstree, Hertfordshire, and more than 1,000 at DCI Biologicals Inc in the US. DCI collects plasma from American donors and sends it to BPL where it is separated into blood proteins, clotting factors and albumin for supply to NHS hospitals in the treatment of immune deficiencies, neurological diseases, and haemophilia.
Considering the damage caused in the US because the American Red Cross (under the direction of Liddy Dole) and big pharma, both of whom resisted 100% testing for years,and  killed tens of thousands of hemophiliacs in the United States, and many times that world wide, this does not fill em with confidence about the UK blood supply.

Silly Rabbit, Extradition is for Other Countries

Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA station chief in Rome, was arrested in Panama on an Italian warrant after he was convicted in absentia for kidnapping Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and sending him to Egypt to be tortured.

Less than 24 hours later, he was on his way back to the United States, free from any legal jeopardy:
Former CIA Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, who was convicted in Italy of kidnapping an Egyptian Muslim cleric and recently arrested in Panama, is headed back to the United States, a State Department spokeswoman said on Friday.

"It is my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States," said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman.
So he'll probably never face trial for this.

In an interview, he invoked the good German defense:
He was quoted as telling Il Giornale newspaper in 2009 that he was not guilty and was carrying out orders from his superiors.
Just following orders. I thought that Nuremberg settled this matter. This is not supposed to be a valid defense.

But don't worry, he has already suffered great punishment:
Also in that interview, he said he had wanted to stay in Italy but his retirement villa with vineyards had been seized to cover court costs.
Compare this to what is looking at Edward Snowden.

Note also the case of Posada Carriles, who blow up a civilian airliner, but lives in safety in the United States.

Bank Failure Friday on Sunday!

We had the 10th credit union failure last Monday, Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union, the rate of bank and credit union failures certainly have been slowing down.

20 July 2013

19 July 2013

Went to Another Concert Tonight

A band called Junior Doctor.

They are doing an (I kid you not) living room tour, which is why out looks like they are playing in a living room.

We drive across the Bay Bridge to Stevenville.

Good music, and the bass player/keyboardist (Davey Hoogerwerf) was particularly impressive. His bass playing was insane.

Because of the limitations of playing in a living room, the drummer, Jarrod Kearney, played a Cajón, the box like instrument that he is sitting on.

Mark Hartman does lead vocals and rhythm guitar.

It was (obviously) a very intimate setting.

Natalie got a compliment on her song writing (she had shared some songs with then a few weeks back via Facebook). This had her going "SQUEEE!" All the easy home.

Charlie got himself filmed by the band members once they saw his mad (Rubik's) cube skills.

It was a good time for all, though there was a 45 minute hangup on the Bay Bridge going home because of an accident.

Posted via mobile.

18 July 2013

At a Vort

(Yiddish for engagement party)

This is my nephew and his betrothed.

Posted via mobile.

17 July 2013

What Stefan Svallfors Said

He has nominated Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize as a way for the Nobel committee to atone for giving the aware do Obama:
In his letter addressed to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Stefan Svallfors praised Snowden for his“heroic effort at great personal cost.” He stated that by revealing the existence and the scale of the US surveillance programs, Snowden showed “individuals can stand up for fundamental rights and freedoms.”

“This example is important because since the Nuremberg trials in 1945 has been clear that the slogan ‘I was just following orders’ is never claimed as an excuse for acts contrary to human rights and freedoms,” Professor Svallfors wrote.

He emphasized that the decision to award the 2013 prize to Edward Snowden would also “help to save the Nobel Peace Prize from the disrepute incurred by the hasty and ill-conceived decision to award US President Barack Obama 2009 award.”
Not being George W. Bush is an insufficient reason to give someone a f%$#ing Nobel f%$#ing Peace prize.

Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever

So, a judge rules that guards grabbing the genitals of Guantánamo prisoners who want to talk to their lawyers is interfering with their right to counsel, so they are appealing:
A federal appeals court is allowing Guantánamo guards to resume searching detainees’ genitals on their way to and from legal meetings while the Obama administration challenges a federal judge’s ruling that the searches unfairly impede attorney-client interaction.

The order Wednesday by a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit capped 24 hours of legal wrangling: The Justice Department asked a New York lawyer to let guards search her client’s genital area, the lawyer refused and the Southern Command’s top general joined the fray with a sworn declaration that a federal judge got it wrong.

Groin searches aren’t intended to prevent legal meetings, said Southcom’s Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, noting that his Guantánamo soldiers similarly search captives meeting with Red Cross delegates.

Past practice of shaking a captive’s trousers to see if “nails, shanks, ragged scraps of metal” fall out “posed an unacceptable risk to the safety and security of detainees and guards,” Kelly said.

Last week, detainee lawyers persuaded U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth that the invasive searches, adopted amid a widespread hunger strike, were discouraging some of Guantánamo’s 166 captives from voluntarily leaving their cells for meetings with their lawyers. Lamberth ordered the guards to stop it, and resume the practice of physically shaking the waistband of the pants of a prisoner to see if any contraband comes out.


In his ruling last week, Lamberth concluded that the motivation for the searches was not to enhance security but to deter the detainees’ access to attorneys by implementing search procedures that are “religiously and culturally abhorrent” to devout Muslims.

Lamberth’s ruling had sought to reset the search procedures to an era before Latif’s death. The judge noted that there was no proof that Latif hid the drugs in his genital area.


In London, detainee attorney Crider, who works for a non-profit law firm Reprieve, called the refusal to follow Lamberth’s order “contempt of court, pure and simple. Why is it suddenly essential for the government to grope my clients in a way that been off-limits for years?”
I'm beginning to think that the Bush/Cheney regime of overt lawlessness is preferable to the protestations by Obama and His Evil Minions that they "respect" the rule of law and due process.

Where is the outrage?

The Final word on George Zimmerman, Care of Alex Fraser

Dear George Zimmerman,

For the rest of your life you are now going to feel what its like to be a black man in America.

You will feel people stare at you. Judging you for what you think are unfair reasons. You will lose out on getting jobs for something you feel is outside of your control. You will believe yourself to be an upstanding citizen and wonder why people choose to not see that.

People will cross the street when they see you coming. They will call you hurtful names. It will drive you so insane some days that you'll want to scream at the top of your lungs. But you will have to wake up the next day, put on firm look and push through life.

I bet you never thought that by shooting a black male you'd end up inheriting all of his struggles.

Enjoy your "freedom."


A black male who could've been Trayvon Martin
From his Facebook page.

Those Whom the Gods Destroy, They First Make Weird(er)

So, Michelle Bachmann is under investigation for campaign finance violations, one of her staff has been charged in petty thefts in other Congressional offices, and now its been revealed that aa Conservative Christian group mailed vibrator to Michele Bachmann:
.Hundreds of pages of email and text message correspondence made public last week shed new light on the infighting and organizational disarray that have plagued America’s leading conservative Christian political consulting firm in recent months.

As BuzzFeed reported in June, the Columbus-based Strategy Group for Media — which has represented dozens of tea party and religious right Republicans, including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich — has been mired in lawsuits and internal tumult since last spring, when seven of the firm’s managers staged a religious intervention with their CEO, Rex Elsass. After the managers made their demands in a dramatic meeting that culminated with them laying hands on their boss and praying for his soul, Elsass fired three of his top lieutenants, including his longtime protégé and Strategy Group President Nick Everhart.

The series of emails and text messages, made public on the Franklin County Court website in the ongoing lawsuit between Everhart and Strategy Group, adds further detail to that meeting, and shows the extent to which the company’s managers were worried about Elsass’ psychological and spiritual health. They also reveal potentially embarrassing anecdotes for the company, including one incident in which an executive said Elsass accidentally mailed a “female pleasure machine” to Rep. Michele Bachmann.


And an email thread from May 29 — after the three managers were fired — featured Strategy Group’s former voter-contact consultant P.J. Wenzel making reference to Elsass sending “female pleasure machines” to Bachmann. The emails don’t elaborate on the incident, but one person familiar with the story told BuzzFeed that Elsass had intended to give Bachmann a vibrating head massager to help alleviate her migraines, and that the employee he sent to buy the gift accidentally purchased something that more closely resembled a sex toy — and sent it to her office.

Tyler said the item in question was purchased at Brookstone and was not a sex toy, but he declined to provide further information about the product. (Brookstone announced in 2011 that it had begun selling “pleasure objects.”)

The person familiar with the story said the firm successfully retrieved the gift before Bachmann could open it.
Seriously, have you noticed that when a political figure's career is in a death spiral, that there suddenly emerge a plethora of stories that are even weirder than before?

By this benchmark, I think that Michelle Bachmann will be sent to Gitmo.

16 July 2013

If the Washington Post Were to Replace Richard Cohen with Pat Buchanan………

No one could tell the difference, except that Pat is a more interesting writer.

So, it's OK to stalk a black boy in a hoodie because he's a black boy in a hoodie, just like when he said that it was OK for jewelers to refuse to allow black people into their stores.

He also decided that the Polanski child rape was no big deal, basically because he likes Chinatown.  (I would note that there are legitimate issues of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, which are serious issues, but Cohen, and the almost as awful Anne Applebaum, are just horrible human beings.)

I do not understand why Cohen is not sweeping floors for a living.

Unloading on Florida After the Zimmerman Verdict

The hosts of Comedy Central both unload with both barrels



A well deserved smackdown of a state that seem determined to elevate Carl Hiassen from novelist to documentarian.

Damn, This is Weird

There have been rumors of a corruption investigation f Representative Michelle Bachmann for some time. Well, now a senior staffer of hers has been arrested for petty thefts from other Congressional offices.

Have you ever noticed that just before a political figure is frog marched out of the building in handcuffs, their staff starts getting busted for the weirdest crap?

Well, it looks like Bachmann is on the hit parade:
That's Javier Sanchez back in June of this year with his then-boss, Michele Bachmann. [Not bothering with the picture here] They're headed for a closed briefing on the NSA disclosures. Javier Sanchez was a high-level legislative director for Michele Bachmann, assisting her with issues such as immigration reform, the farm bill, and her oxymoronic assignment to the House Intelligence Committee.

On July 11, Mr. Sanchez was arrested on charges that he burglarized several offices belonging to other House members. From news reports, it appears that some thefts took place back in 2012 and others in 2013.
It has been noted that, "Sanchez has been charged with Theft II," which is for amounts less than $1000.00.

If this is the indicator that I think that it is, then Michelle Bachmann is toast.

I Think that Carl Levin Just Suggested that Obama Fire James Clapper

Seeing as how Levin is one of the most intelligence agency friendly Senators, so the fact that he is subtly suggesting that DNI Clapper be fired is a significant thing:
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Tuesday that he was “troubled” by the testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and was unsure how Clapper could be held accountable.


The testimony prompted criticism from lawmakers and led to some calls for his resignation over the false testimony.

Levin said he wouldn’t go that far but suggested that the only way Clapper could be held accountable was if President Obama fired him.

“I’m troubled by that testimony, obviously,” Levin said at a breakfast roundtable hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

“How do you hold him accountable? I guess the only way to do that would be for the president to, somehow or other, fire him,” Levin added. “I think he’s made it clear that he regrets saying what he said. I don’t want to call on the president to fire him, although I’m troubled by this.”
Actually, the distinguished gentleman from Michigan does want Clapper fired, he would not have brought it up, and then dismissed the suggestion, if he did not want Clapper gone.

15 July 2013

Tweet of the Day

Not a Great Day for Jews

It is Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month Av, and a small subset of the nasty bits of Jewish history follows:
  1. The report of the spies from Canaan, resulting in the people of Israel spending 40 Years in the Desert.
  2. The destruction of the 1st Temple.
  3. The destruction of the 2nd Temple.
  4. The Romans razed Betar, killing 100,000 Jews.
  5. The Romans plowed the temple mount.
  6. The start of the 1st Crusade.  (You see it as a coming together of Christendom.  I see it as a pogrom with years of murder and rape.)
  7. The expulsion of Jews from England.
  8. The expulsion of Jews from France.
  9. The expulsion of Jews from Spain.
  10. Germany entered the WW I. (Can be legitimately claimed to have directly led to the Shoah)
  11. Formal approval of the "Final Solution" by the Nazis in 1941.
  12. Deportations to Treblinka from the Warsaw Ghetto begin in 1942.
Excuse me while I find something sturdy to cover my head with.

14 July 2013


The Commodities Futures Trading Commission could have instituted real and effective rules on swaps trades by doing nothing, but they caved to the banks, because the banks refused to prepare for the deadline:
I’m going to be brief, in part because the CFTC’s probable demonstration of lack of gumption is still in play, while the SEC’s was expected but nevertheless appalling. But the bottom line is that even though we seem some intermittent signs of the officialdom recognizing that big banks remain a menace to the health and well-being to the general public*, the measures to constrain them continue to be inadequate.

As readers may recall, CFTC chairman Gary Gensler was in a position to stare down bank efforts to water down critical provisions of Dodd Frank on derivatives (see here for details of the issues at stake). The short version is that Gensler did not have the votes among his commissioners to support his position since the Administration had managed to appoint a bank stooge as one of the Democrats. However, Gensler controlled the agenda. That meant he had the option of not putting the matter to a vote of his fellow commissioners at all, which meant Dodd Frank would become effective as written (mind you, normally legislation does legitimately require some tweaking since the legislative language may be imprecise or not mesh well with existing rules).

What appears to have forced Gensler to relent was not the CFTC politics, but bank refusal to prepare, which meant they could stamp their feet and say if Gensler did not back down, the markets would blow up and it would all be his fault.
Read the rest, and you will not just be disgusted by the CFTC, you will want to replace the SEC with a trained monkey as well.

13 July 2013

Barack Obama Gets a Warning from Dianne Feinstein*

If there is one constant in the US Senate, it is that Dianne Feinstein is friendly to an expansive and intrusive state security apparatus.

Thus her signing onto letter to Obama suggesting that his allowing the force feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo is illegal is a big deal:
Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin sent Obama a letter yesterday, using Kessler’s [The Federal Judge who condemned the force feeding, but said that she had no standing to rule] ruling to connect the two explicitly.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Gladys Kessler also expressed concern about the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Court denied detainee Jihad Dhiab’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop force-feeding due to lack of jurisdiction, but in her order, Judge Kessler noted that Dhiab has set out in great detail in his court filings “what appears to be a consensus that force-feeding of prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” The United States has ratified the ICCPR and is obligated to comply with its provisions. Judge Kessler also wrote, “it is perfectly clear from the statements of detainees, as well as the statements from the [medical] organizations just cited, that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process.” (emphasis added).

The judge concluded by correctly pointing out that you, as Commander in Chief, have the authority to intercede on behalf of Dhiab, and other similarly-situated detainees at Guantanamo. The court wrote: “Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that ‘[t]he President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. …’ It would seem to follow, therefore, that the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority—and power—to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”

Feinstein only by association makes the next part of her argument. We comply with these treaties by complying with our Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel or unusual punishment. And the government has long said that if we can do something elsewhere in a our gulag system, we can do it in Gitmo.


Say what you will about DiFi (lord knows I’ve often said the same, where I thought it appropriate), but she has just told a President from her own party that he’s breaking the law.
This is what you call a, "statement against interests."

When DiFi is implying that your intelligence activities are over the top, you have jumped the shark.

I would also note that the Snowden matter might very have something to do with this, she also sent a letter expressing concerns to SecDef Hagel about a month ago (about a week and a half after the Snowden revelations).

The US state security apparatus still thinks that this will blow over, but even DiFi realizes that something has changed.

*Full disclosure, her grandfather, Sam Goldman, and my great-grandfather, Harry Goldman, were brothers.

Back Loaded Bribery

If you play ball with the monied people who want law and regulation structured to ensure that their wealth increases even more, then they reward you with lucrative jobs, like a high paid lobbyist, or, as in the case of Timothy "Eddie Haskell" Geithner, an absurdly lucrative speaking gig:
During his tenure as Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner was constantly dogged by the belief that he was spawned from Wall Street. This thinking was false: If you need a refresher, Geithner had actually spent most of his career in government, and none of it at a bank. When he left office this year, Geithner said that it would be "extremely unlikely" for that to change.

But as it turns out, Geithner is now being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by massive financial organizations. It's just that he isn't being paid to work on Wall Street; he's just being paid to talk every now and then.

The Financial Times reports that Geithner, like countless former public servants before him, has hit the highly lucrative speaking circuit. He's already made about $400,000 in just three engagements. And that tab is being footed by financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank and Blackstone, which paid him about $200,000 and up to $100,000, respectively.
No one ever explicitly told Geithner that if he protected the banksters, he woud get a payoff, but this is explicit in Washington, DC's revolving door.

He knew that he would get rewarded, and he has not been disabused of this belief.

H/t Gaius Publius.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Boeing

A Boeing 787 caught fire at Heathrow, though there are no indications that batteries are involved:
Investigators classified the fire that broke out on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at London's Heathrow airport as a "serious incident" but have found no evidence it was caused by the plane's batteries, Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said on Saturday.

The question of whether the fire was connected to the batteries is crucial because the entire global fleet of Dreamliners, Boeing's groundbreaking new flagship jet, was grounded for three months this year due to battery-related problems.

The AAIB designation fell just short of a full-blown "accident" on the scale it uses to describe investigations. The agency's preliminary probe is expected to take several days, opening up Boeing to more questions about its top-selling plane.
When Boeing decided that it would be a good idea to outsource most of its expertise to "risk sharing partners", it was pretty much inevitable.

As I noted 2 years ago in the case of Dell Computer, this is penny wise and pound foolish:
So the decline of manufacturing in a region sets off a chain reaction. Once manufacturing is outsourced, process-engineering expertise can’t be maintained, since it depends on daily interactions with manufacturing. Without process-engineering capabilities, companies find it increasingly difficult to conduct advanced research on next-generation process technologies. Without the ability to develop such new processes, they find they can no longer develop new products. In the long term, then, an economy that lacks an infrastructure for advanced process engineering and manufacturing will lose its ability to innovate.
Boeing's problems are further complicated by the fact that its partners did not have the time to develop the expertise to do the job right, so now we have a troubled airliner where the sum of the parts is less than the whole.

F%$# Florida

George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin.

The problem here is that the law, and quite honestly the whole governmental apparatus, of Florida is broken.

Between stand your ground, and half-assed Sanford cops, my guess is that this was inevitable.

Expect more people to be shot for being black in "stand your ground" states now.

12 July 2013

51 Years Ago Today

The rolling stones played their first gig in public.

Feel old? I do.

Well Duh!

The Washington Post notes that, "Lawmakers say administration’s lack of candor on surveillance weakens oversight."

Gee, you think?
Lawmakers tasked with overseeing national security policy say a pattern of misleading testimony by senior Obama administration officials has weakened Congress’s ability to rein in government surveillance.

Members of Congress say officials have either denied the existence of a broad program that collects data on millions of Americans or, more commonly, made statements that left some lawmakers with the impression that the government was conducting only narrow, targeted surveillance operations.

The most recent example came on March 12, when James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the government was not collecting information about millions of Americans. He later acknowledged that the statement was “erroneous” and apologized, citing a misunderstanding.
"Misunderstanding," my ass.

Clapper was given a day's notice that the question was going to be asked, and he was given an opportunity to further clarify immediately after the fact.

He simply lied, because he knew that he could.