31 January 2015

Quote of the Day

Someday, what passed for the American left will actually realize that the game is called politics, and it involves getting things done.
Bear who Swims (Aka my hairier brother, Stephen)

30 January 2015

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

We just had the 1st credit union faiure of the year, American Bakery Workers Federal Credit Union of Philadelphia, PA.

Jon Stewart Weeps

Mitt Rmoney has announced that he will not be running for President in 2016:
On a ski lift high above the powdery slopes of Deer Valley, Utah, Mitt Romney made it clear: His quest for the White House, which had dominated nearly a decade of his life, was coming to a close.
In a talk with his eldest son, Tagg, between runs down the mountain on Monday, Mr. Romney, 67, said he had all but decided against a third bid for the White House.

The conversation, according to a person familiar with it, came after days of increasingly gloomy news reached the Romney family.

Donors who supported him last time refused to commit to his campaign. Key operatives were signing up with former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. The Republican establishment that lifted Mr. Romney to the nomination in 2012 in the face of scrappy opposition had moved on.
I don't think that there is anyone, besides the Mittster, who is more disappointed by this than the writers of topical comedy.

They already had the jokes written, because they could have used their jokes from 2012 and 2008 with a few tweaks.

For the rest of us though, it is a win.

29 January 2015

Alan Grayson Was Right! They Want You To 'Die Quickly'*

Michael R. "Andromeda" Strain. a resident "scholar" for the American Enterprise Institute, penned an OP/ED, and the moral pygmy that is Washington Post editorial editor Fred Hiatt, published a work titled, "End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay."

He wants the death penalty for poverty.

What's more, he tacitly admits that Obamacare saves lives.

 Seriously, the Washington Post has the 2nd worst opinion pages in the nation.

*This is not my bon mot, it is courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

The Best "Pass the Popcorn" Moment of the Year so Far

Pass the Popcorn
The only gay state legislator in Alabama, State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), has just announced that her fellow representatives had better walk the "family values" walk if they talk the "family values talk", and that she will publicly out the philanderers in the state house:
State Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, is threatening to play hardball in the fight over marriage equality in her state. Over the weekend, Todd warned her colleagues who oppose same-sex marriage that they’d better be careful about the way they defend “traditional” marriage, and about the way they conduct their own lives: according to the Times Daily, the representative claimed she’s prepared to out lawmakers rumored to have had extramarital affairs, but who proclaim to defend family values.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” Todd posted on Facebook over the weekend. “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”
I haven't been this amused about the juxtaposition of marital infidelity and politics since Larry Flynt offered a bounty for cheating Congress critters during the height the attempted putsch against Clinton in 1998.

Women, Hit Your Congressman with a Clue Stick

After decades in politics, Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) has come up with the revolutionary idea that he should  actually talk to women about reproductive rights:
There are many factors involved when a woman decides to end a pregnancy, and over the past 14 years in political office, I have gained a deeper understanding of the complexities and emotions that accompany the difficult decisions that women and families make when confronted with these situations.

I was elected to political office at a young age, and being raised in a Catholic household, always considered myself pro-life. My faith is important to me, and like many Catholics I strive to adhere to its principles, especially one of the essential and highest teachings of “judge not, lest ye be judged.” I’ve heard firsthand from women of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds about the circumstances and hardships that accompany this personal choice, which we should not judge.

I have sat with women from Ohio and across the nation and heard them talk about their varying experiences: abusive relationships, financial hardship, health scares, rape and incest. There are endless stories about women in troubling situations — the woman who became pregnant and has a violent spouse; the woman who lost her job and is unable to afford another child; or the underage girl worried she’ll be thrown out of her house if she reveals her pregnancy.

These are just a few of the many stories I have heard. Each of these women lived through difficult and personal situations with few options and no clear path to take. This is why there is no easy answer.

These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families.

As my friend and colleague U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro says, “Nobody celebrates abortion.” No woman makes this decision lightly. Each and every American deserves the right to deal with these difficult situations in consultation with their families, close friends or religious advisers. No federal or state law banning abortion can honestly and fairly take into account the various circumstances that make each decision unique.

Where government does have the ability to play a significant role is in giving women and families the tools they need to prevent unintended pregnancies by expanding education and access to contraception. We must get past the ignorance, fear and — yes — discrimination against women that lead to restrictions on contraception and age-appropriate sex education.

Only then can we hope to continue to make significant advances in what should be our true, shared objective: reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, which make up the vast majority of abortions. Isn’t that a simple approach on which we all could agree? This is not a partisan issue, but instead a personal one.


Today, I am a 41-year-old father and husband whose feelings on this issue have changed. I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal. And while I have deep respect for people on both sides of this conversation, I would be abandoning my own conscience and judgment if I held a position that I no longer believed appropriate.

I have come to believe that we must trust women and families — not politicians — to make the best decision for their lives.
I think that a part of this is that he realizes that his long held support for criminalizing abortion is a losing proposition, a part of this is some maturity that comes with time, and part of this is that he realized that his former anti-abortion fellow travelers don't just want to ban abortion, they want to ban all forms of birth control, because they want to punish women for having sex.

In either case, it is an indication that the Democratic party is becoming a less friendly place for those would restrict a women's reproductive choices, which is a good thing.

28 January 2015

I Think that the US Attorney Just Painted a Target on Hizzonner Cuomo

With the indictment of Sheldon Silver, it is clear that the US Attorney is going to be turn over some rocks in Albany, but it now sounds as if he is drawing a bead on Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos:
One day after charging one of New York’s leading lawmakers with exploiting his office to obtain millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York delivered a stinging condemnation of the culture of corruption in Albany and said the system was set up to breed misdeeds.

The prosecutor, Preet Bharara, speaking at the New York Law School on Friday, castigated how deal-making has long been done in Albany — by “three men in a room” (the governor, the State Assembly speaker and the State Senate majority leader), who work in secret and without accountability to decide most vital issues.

For decades, state government has essentially been controlled by the three leaders. When they emerge from their private meetings, issues are usually settled, with no cause for public debate.

Mr. Bharara said this structure could lead to the kind of corruption outlined in the criminal complaint unveiled on Thursday against Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who has been the Assembly speaker for two decades.

If the charges are proved true, he said, then “at least one of the proverbial three men in a room is compromised.”

If that is the case, he said, “then how can we trust that anything that gets decided in Albany is on the level

By concentrating power in the hands of so few, he said, good people are discouraged from running for office because they know they will have little influence on important matters.

If you are one of the three people in the room, you have all the power and everyone knows it,” he said.

There is no need to brook dissent, encourage debate or explain yourself. “If you are one of the three men in the room you keep people in the dark because you can,” he said.

Mr. Bharara seemed to revel in mocking Albany and ridiculed the very concept of “three men in a room.”


As an example of such thinking, he cited the former leader of the State Senate who instructed his members to deliver their public disclosure forms by hand rather than mailing them so as to avoid any possible federal mail fraud charges — the unspoken assumption being that lawmakers might have lied on those forms.


But he urged voters to get angry, to demand change. “My hope is that in bringing the case,” he said, “there will be reform.”

“That almost happened with the Moreland Commission,” Mr. Bharara said, referring to the anticorruption panel established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that was looking at lawmakers’ behavior when the governor shut it down. “But it turned out to be a little bit fleeting.”
It sounds to me like he's looking at Cuomo very closely.

27 January 2015

Inside Baseball, but it is the Supreme Court

Like many other courts, the Supreme Court can also mete out discipline against misbehaving lawyers who are/were before it.

The court has now decide to make the disciplinary docket public:
Beginning on February 1, the Supreme Court will publicly disclose documents on actions it is considering or taking to discipline lawyers who are members of its bar, a process long shielded in privacy, the Court announced on Tuesday. Currently, that file is treated as confidential, although final disciplinary actions are made public along with regular orders on pending cases. In the new arrangement, attorneys involved in a case may ask to keep their response confidential, in whole or in part.

Under the new disclosure policy, the Court’s announcement made clear, public availability of that docket will be the general rule. It will apply to documents filed after February 1. But if there are reasons to keep an attorney’s response confidential, that will be considered on a case-by-case basis, if sought by the lawyer involved. Typically, a lawyer is notified that potential disciplinary action is being considered by way of a “show cause” order, to which the lawyer then has a chance to respond and to argue against a disciplinary order.

One of the Court’s most noteworthy disciplinary cases now unfolding involves a “show cause” order issued on December 8, involving a Washington, D.C., attorney, Howard Neil Shipley. The order told him to respond within forty days on why he should not be sanctioned for his handling of a specific petition for review. There was no explanation of why that document may have involved a breach of either the Court’s rules or ethical rules. The petition at issue was rambling and, at several points, nearly incoherent. There was an indication that a non-lawyer may have had a central role in its drafting.
The reason that this is significant is that it is highly likely that this change in policy will work it way down to lower courts, and the law "profession" is sorely in need of sunlight on issues of ethics, which is typically handled ways that serve members of the state bars more than the interest of their clients.

The filing in question was in Sigram Schindler Beteiligungsgesellschaft MBH v. Lee, (copy and paste is your friend) a patent case, and it appears that the filing was basically gibberish.

Someone on/around SCOTUS has decided that there is a significant possibility that much of the brief was written by the holder of one of the patents at issue, and that Mr. Shipley simply put his name on it without any meaningful review.

Still, it's kind of weird.

Yes, That Military Rape Problem is Being Handled………

That's why the Army put a rapist in charge of prosecuting rapes:
A former Army prosecutor has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of several sexual assault charges, including rape and forcible sodomy, against multiple victims.

A court-martial panel on Monday found Maj. Erik J. Burris guilty of two specifications of rape, four specifications of assault, forcible sodomy, and disobeying an officer, Fort Bragg said in a statement.

He was found not guilty of other sodomy and assault charges.

Burris had been serving as the chief of justice for the 82nd Airborne Division when the allegations against him came to light, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman told BuzzFeed News.
(Emphasis mine)

Seriously, you need to take this out of the chain of command.

Church of England Enters 20th Century

The Church of England has appointed its first female Bishop. The American branch of the church, the Episcopal Church, first did so in 1989:
The Church of England consecrated its first woman bishop on Monday, the culmination of years of efforts by Church modernizers to overcome opposition from traditionalists - one of whom briefly shouted a protest during the service.

More than two decades after the Church allowed women to become priests, 48-year-old mother-of-two the Reverend Libby Lane became Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony at York Minster, a Gothic cathedral in northern England.

The protest came as John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, asked the congregation whether Lane should be consecrated as Bishop.

As the congregation chorused its approval, a lone man's voice shouted above them: "No, not in the Bible."

When Sentamu asked the question again, there was no dissent and the ceremony went ahead.

During the service, which ended in applause, Sentamu and other bishops ceremonially laid their hands on Lane and prayed for her.
This is really something that should have happened in the last century, but religious institutions are frequently MANY centuries behind the time, so this ain't too shabby.

FCC to Marriott: Go Cheney Yourself

The FCC just made it clear to hotels and convention centers, you block WiFi, and there will be sanctions:
After Marriott blocked Wi-Fi hotspots in parts of its hotels, the FCC sent a stern warning: don't even think about trying that again.

"The Communications Act prohibits anyone from ... interfering with authorized radio communications, including Wi-Fi," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. "Marriott's request seeking the FCC's blessing to block guests' use of non-Marriott networks is contrary to this basic principle."

Wheeler pointed out that the FCC's Enforcement Bureau fined Marriott (MAR) $600,000 for blocking Wi-Fi, and said the agency will fine other hotels if they try anything similar.

After being fined, Marriott petitioned the FCC to change the Communications Act so that it could block access to Wi-Fi devices in its conference spaces. The hotel chain said it needed to block Wi-Fi hotspot access in conference centers because attendees could launch cyberattacks on the company's network or disrupt Wi-Fi service for the conference or guests.

Many customers were outraged by the petition, claiming that Marriott's request for a conference center Wi-Fi ban was a veiled attempt to ban access in hotel rooms and lobbies as well.
Of course it was.

Overpriced phone and internet has been a major profit center for hotels, and they are eager to find ways to get that money back.

The law is pretty simple though:  Civilians operating radio jammers is illegal.

In fact, it's illegal for most law enforcement as well.

Why do I Even Bother?

On Sunday, I lambasted Sarah Palin's word salad at the so called Freedom Forum.

I probably should have waited until Monday.

Once again, Jon Stewart's sarcastic elegance makes me look as incoherent as ……… well ……… Sarah Palin.

The irony is quite obvious to me.

I've been served.

26 January 2015

BTW, Those People Saying that Greece has no Leverage? It's Bullsh%$

Greece, the only Eastern Orthodox Christian nation in the Eurozone, has a number of close cultural ties to Russia.

What's more, Russian tourism, which has been hurt by sanctions, is a big part of their economy.

It is not in Greece's national interest to extend the sanctions, and I expect the new PM, and whoever ends up his Foreign Minister are likely to make this clear on any negotiations with the ECB and EU:
The first test for Syriza would be its stance toward European sanctions on Russia. EU measures including curbs on financing for Russian state-owned banks and a ban on the export of sophisticated energy-exploration equipment will lapse in July unless renewed unanimously by the 28 EU governments.
July is the same deadline for the continuation for Greece's bailout.

I'm pretty sure that Greece could get a decent deal from Russia if it voted against sanctions.

Smells like leverage to me.

If It's a Blizzard, Uber will be Price Gouging

Here in New York City and other parts of the Northeast, the snow has begun to fall and it likely won’t stop for the next 24 hours or longer. Some estimate the city will be buried in up to 30 inches of snow by late tomorrow.

For customers of Uber and Lyft, that should bring up nightmares of blizzards past when Uber’s surge prices hit seven to eight times the normal rates — or upwards of $30 a mile.

With that in mind, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference, “Price gouging in the context of an emergency is illegal.” In response, Uber and Lyft have capped their surge prices at 280% and 200% respectively.

The cap is a welcome gesture, but doesn’t that still constitute “price gouging in the context of an emergency”? Under New York State law, price gouging is defined as an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption of the market.” Like many laws, there’s a bit of vagueness written into that language, and I’ve reached out to the Attorney General’s office to ask whether Uber’s and Lyft’s capped surge rates qualify as “unconscionably excessive” and will update the post if I hear back.
Seriously.  This is a company whose business model is, "We're contemptible greed-head ratf%$#s."

Why do people use this, and why do their massively underpaid drivers stay with them?

Syriza Wins Election

He formed a (rather odd) coalition with the, "populist right-wing Independent Greeks party," as he secured only 149 seats in the 300 seat assembly, Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras has been sworn in as Prime Minister:
A new chapter in Greece’s uphill struggle to remain solvent – and in the eurozone – has begun in earnest as anti-austerity politicians assumed the helm of government following the radical left Syriza party’s spectacular electoral victory on Sunday night.

Ushering in the new era, Alexis Tsipras was not sworn in, as tradition dictates, in the presence of Archbishop Iernonymos but instead took the oath of office in a civil ceremony. At 40, he becomes the country’s youngest premier in modern times.

The leftist, who surprised Greeks by speedily agreeing to share power with the populist rightwing Independent Greeks party, Anel, was on Monday afternoon handed a mandate by president Karolos Papoulias to form a government following his investiture at the presidential palace. Afterwards, the new prime minister pronounced that he will give his all “to protect the interests of the Greek people”.

Earlier, Panos Kammenos, Anel’s rumbustious leader, emerged from hour-long talks with Tsipras saying the two politicians had successfully formed a coalition.

“I want to say, simply, that from this moment, there is a government,” Kammenos told reporters gathered outside Syriza’s headquarters.
This was a bit of a surprise.

It was generally expected that the centrist/center left The River (To Potami) party would be a likely coalition partner, who would be expected to be more attuned with Syriza's stated policies.

I think that there were 7 reasons for him to go with Anel:
  1. To Potami was formed roughly a year ago by a TV news personality, Stavros Theodorakis, and as such its existence beyond this election cycle is not by any means a sure thing.  (Anel is only a bit older, having been formed in 2012)
  2. Theodorakis is very much not a Euroskeptic, and drew "Red Lines" (German) on leaving the Euro and a deposit levy, and taking the first item off the table fatally weakens the Greek negotiating position.
  3. To Potami has very much focused on "Structural Reforms" (which appear to be defined as the reduction in patronage and corruption) to the exclusion of everything else, which would also make them an unreliable.
  4. Anel has a history of working left wing parties on issues of common interest. (Panhellenic Citizen Chariot)
  5. Anel is Euroskeptic, and really hates the Germans. (It has a demand for reparations from Germany for WWII).
  6. The founder of Anel is a long term politician, the founder of To Potami is a news talking head.  I think that the latter is far more likely to channel the behavior of pastry chefs.
  7. To Potami seems to be kind of a "Seinfeld" party, in that it doesn't seem to be about much beyond platitudes, and Theodorakis' personality.
 In any case, it is significant that Tsipras' first act as PM was pretty clearly a bit "F%$# You" to the Germans:
His first act as prime minister was to lay flowers at the National Resistance Memorial at Kaisariani, which commemorates 200 Greeks who were killed by Nazis there in the second world war. The highly symbolic act was interpreted by Greek TV commentators as “another up yours to the Germans”.

I would call it a very well deserved "Up Yours" to the Germans.  Merkel has been "n***er baiting" the southern tier of the Eurozone for domestic political consumption, .

As to what it means, a lot of ink (electrons?) has been spilled about how little leverage Greece has, but this has been the same media sources who try to cast Syriza as the new Khmer Rouge.

Two Nobel Prize economists, Joseph Stiglitz, and Paul Krugman, have both weighed in on the damage inflicted by "confidence fairy" based austerity today, and they both gave it a thumbs down.

Stiglitz is very clear, and he blames Germany, not Greece for the disaster that is the policy for Greece: (And Ireland and Portugal, and to a lesser degree, Spain and Italy)
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told CNBC on Monday that the euro zone should stay together but if it breaks apart, it would be better for Germany to leave than for Greece.

"While it was an experiment to bring them together, nothing has divided Europe as much as the euro," Stiglitz said in a "Squawk Box" interview.


Greece is not the only economy struggling under the euro, and that's why a new approach is needed, Stiglitz said. "The policies that Europe has foisted on Greece just have not worked and that's true of Spain and other countries."


He said the real problem is Germany, which has benefited greatly under the euro. "Most economists are saying the best solution for Europe, if it's going to break up, is for Germany to leave. The mark would raise, the German economy would be dampened."

Under that scenario, Germany would find out just how much it needs the euro to stay together, he added, and possibly be more willing to help out the countries that are struggling. "The hope was, by having a shared currency, they would grow together." But he said that should work both ways.
I've been saying that Germany is the problem, and not the solution for a while.

Prof Krugman sees it as primarily a failure of policy brought on by adherence to thoroughly discredited economic theory:
To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission — extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions.

You see, the economic projections that accompanied the standby arrangement assumed that Greece could impose harsh austerity with little effect on growth and employment. Greece was already in recession when the deal was reached, but the projections assumed that this downturn would end soon — that there would be only a small contraction in 2011, and that by 2012 Greece would be recovering. Unemployment, the projections conceded, would rise substantially, from 9.4 percent in 2009 to almost 15 percent in 2012, but would then begin coming down fairly quickly.

What actually transpired was an economic and human nightmare. Far from ending in 2011, the Greek recession gathered momentum. Greece didn’t hit the bottom until 2014, and by that point it had experienced a full-fledged depression, with overall unemployment rising to 28 percent and youth unemployment rising to almost 60 percent. And the recovery now underway, such as it is, is barely visible, offering no prospect of returning to precrisis living standards for the foreseeable future.


Still, in calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.
I'm inclined to go with Stiglitz' here. 

I think that once again, the German sense of exceptionalism has screwed up the Eurozone from day one, and until the rest of the member nations get together to challenge Merkel's fairy tail, the Euro will continue to circle the drain.


 How to gift wrap your cat:

I am surprised about just how accepting this cat is of this.

My darlings would have drawn blood.

Since it's been a while, here is a bonus vid:

25 January 2015

I Think I'm Going to be Sick

I'm watching TV, and an ad for Jackson Hewett comes on, talking about all their offices, including about a thousand in Wal-Marts.

The background music is, I've Been Working on the Railroad, and it's sung by Pete Seeger.

Seriously, Pete Seeger, who would never do this, and must be spinning on his grave over this.

I confirmed this via a Google search, and it appears that his family licensed this use.

It's not some sort of bullsh%$ record label stealing for the artist bullsh%$.

Stop the world.  I want to get off.

I am so angry that I could chew iron and spit nails.

So Much for "Safe" Vaping

It turns out that E-Cigs are pumping outs lots of formaldehyde.

So much for safe smokes:
Vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — researchers reported Wednesday.

The findings, described in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, intensify concern about the safety of electronic cigarettes, which have become increasingly popular.


He [David Peyton, one of the researchers] calls it "masked" formaldehyde because it's in a slightly different form than regular formaldehyde — a form that could increase the likelihood it would get deposited in the lung. And the researchers didn't just find a little of the toxicant.

"We found this form of formaldehyde at significantly higher concentrations than even regular cigarettes [contain] — between five[fold] and fifteenfold higher concentration of formaldehyde than in cigarettes," Peyton says.

And formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

"Long-term exposure is recognized as contributing to lung cancer," says Peyton. "And so we would like to minimize contact (to the extent one can) especially to delicate tissues like the lungs."
So, yes, FDA regulations is a good idea, and applying the same smoking bans to E-cigs as for the old fashioned cigarettes is an even better one.

And I Thought that US Defense Procurement was Tortuous………

After 32 years development, India's first indigenous fighter has entered service, albeit with far less "indigenous" content than originally envisaged:
The Indian Air Force (IAF) today received the first indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and built by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). The LCA, also named ‘Tejas’, was handed over today by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar to the Indian Air Force Chief Air Marshal, Arup Raha, in Bangalore. Parrikar congratulated all parties involved in the program for their achievement and called upon them to ‘think out of the box’ to meet the schedule and challenges by applying the right management tools. “Work culture should modify by adapting better technology and tools to achieve better results” Parrikar urged his audience.

LCA-SP1, the first aircraft handed over to the air force, rolled off the HAL assembly line in September and, since then, has been inspected to Initial Operational Clearance II, attesting its airworthiness for operational missions. Previous Tejas fighters delivered to the IAF since 2011 have been used primarily for training, as they were qualified only under ‘IOC-I’ rating. Full operational clearance of the LCA is expected by the end of 2015.

Initially HAL will produce only six aircraft per year, the goal is to build 20 aircraft by 2018 to equip Bangalore based No. 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) – the first IAF squadron to fly the Tejas. Production will slowly ramp up to 16 aircraft per year. Overall the IAF plans to deploy 10-14 squadrons, each equipped with 21 Tejas.


Meeting deadlines has not been the strong side of the LCA program. [You can say that again —mgs] Launched in 1983 to replace India’s Russian-made MiG-21 fighter jets, the LCA took 32 years to mature to this stage – an extremely long process, even by Indian standards. Most of the MiGs it was supposed to replace have already been phased out; about a hundred that still remain in service are to be retired by 2017. With the French Rafale contract signing nowhere in sight, and LCA gearing up slowly to deliver only a single squadron in two years, the IAF will have to deactivate 10 squadrons by 2017, against a force structure requirement of 42 squadrons originally planned.


As production gears up, the Tejas is expected to begin to produce a return on investment – the unit cost of the aircraft is expected to be between $27 and $32 million (170-200 Crore), which is less than half the cost of an Indian-built Su-30MKI and significantly lower than other, fully equipped western alternatives, such as the Gripen and F-16. However, the Tejas will be more expensive than the less-equipped Chinese or Korean fighters, such as the JF-17 and F/A-50.
At a production rate of 6 a year? Puh-lease.
Although India presents the LCA as an indigenous aircraft, even HAL admits it is not fully domestic, as its engine, some of the avionics, and some of the weapon systems are foreign. In fact, only 60 percent of the aircraft is ‘indigenous’. When the program began the intention was to make the LCA fully indigenous. This would have required Indian industry to master new production techniques and to develop an indigenous engine, as well as indigenous electronic, electro-optical and electro-mechanical systems, and software systems, including flight controls and mission management systems.
The relatively high level of foreign content is likely to make those numbers impossible.

I do not doubt that there will be 1-2 squadrons equipped, but not 200 aircraft, particularly when it still needs a lot of development to match payload and range capacity of its near peers. (At least according to Wiki)

I Made a Jive Ass Newbie Mistake on "Ball-Gate"

Last week, I looked at deflate-gate (the Patriots ball inflation "scandal"), and ran some numbers.

I used °F, and figured that if the balls were filled up to 12.7 psi at 70°F, and they cooled to 20°F, you would get a pressure drop of 1.38°F.

Boyle's law is PV=nRT, where P=pressure, V=Volume, n=the amount of the gas in moles, R=the ideal gas constant, at T=temperature.

Since in the football, volume, amount of gas, and the ideal gas constant remains the same, so we can reduce this to:


Then we can solve for P2: P2=(P1/T1)T2

So, the math looks good, where is the "Jive Ass Newbie Mistake?

Because the pressure in the football isn't 12.5 psi it's 27.2 (12.5+14.7) psi.

Boyle's law is based on absolute pressure, not gauge pressure. Gauge pressure is the difference between the absolute pressure of what you are measuring and the atmospheric pressure.

I am a complete tool for screwing this up.

It turns out that using absolute pressure, a 31 degree ball will be 2.076 psi under-inflated.

So, "Ball-Gate" is largely just an effort by Roger Goodell to make people forget that he is an incompetent and corrupt liar.  (Ray Rice and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, two name just 2)

Full disclosure: My wife is a Patriots fan, though I'm not.

I'll be watching the Superbowl for the ads.

(On edit)
There also might be water vapor in the air used to inflate the ball that would further exacerbate the pressure drop as it condenses.

(2nd edit)
I just realized that I had not posted this on my blog before, the screw up was on a comment I made on Facebook.

Still, I will apologize here.

Pass the Popcorn

Pass the Popcorn
The DoJ has opened an inquiry on Michelle and Marcus Bachmann for campaign finance violations in her 2012 run for President:
Representative Michele Bachmann’s presidential hopes ended 20 months ago, but her brief and chaotic campaign continues to be the focus of ethics investigations.

The latest is a federal inquiry into whether an outside “super PAC” improperly coordinated strategy with Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign staff, including her husband, in violation of election laws.

The Department of Justice demanded records from the super PAC last week of its finances and its communications with Mrs. Bachmann; Marcus Bachmann, her husband; and former staff members, according to a grand jury subpoena reviewed by The New York Times.

The investigation appears to stem from a complaint a former campaign staff member made to the Federal Election Commission and to the F.B.I. The staff member told of overhearing the president of the super PAC asking a Bachmann senior adviser about buying advertising on radio and TV stations in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3, 2012.
Her political career is already over, but some jail time would be a nice message to those who think that they are anointed by God to rule over us.

The message is, "Pride goeth before a fall."

There May Be Hope for Us Yet………

American craft breweries collectively now sell more than 16.1 million barrels of beer annually, outpacing, for the first time, Budweiser.

At least one thing is right with the world.

For the Love of Ghod, Make it Stop!!!

Kind of Like Norman Rockwell ……… On Acid
Caribu Barbie has announced that she is seriously considering running for President in 2016:
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told The Washington Post in an interview Friday that she is “seriously interested” in running for the White House in 2016.

“You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested,” Palin said, when asked to clarify her thinking about a possible presidential bid.

Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, said she stood by comments she made Thursday in Las Vegas to ABC News, where she first expressed enthusiasm about potentially competing for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I am. As I said yesterday, I’m really interested in the opportunity to serve at some point,” Palin said Friday, as former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a potential 2016 rival, looked on.
She also just delivered a speech at Steve King's wingnut extravaganza "Freedom Forum".

It appears that her teleprompter froze, and she had to "wing it".

The speech was so remarkable that the DNC communications director issued the following two wrod press release:

While I am sure that Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore are rejoicing, but the rest of us are in for some very "interesting" times. (as in the Chinese curse)

24 January 2015

F%$# the Cable Companies

The FCC is proposing that broadband be defined as 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload, and the cable companies are having kittens:
The cable lobby is opposed to a Federal Communications Commission plan to define "broadband" as speeds of at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps up.

Customers do just fine with lower speeds, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) wrote in an FCC filing Thursday (thanks to the Washington Post's Brian Fung for pointing it out). 25Mbps/3Mbps isn't necessary to meet the legal definition of "high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology," the NCTA said.

"Notably, no party provides any justification for adopting an upload speed benchmark of 3Mbps," NCTA Counsel Matthew Brill wrote. "And the two parties that specifically urge the Commission to adopt a download speed benchmark of 25 Mbps—Netflix and Public Knowledge—both offer examples of applications that go well beyond the 'current' and 'regular' uses that ordinarily inform the Commission’s inquiry under Section 706" of the Telecommunications Act.

Hypothetical use cases showing the need for 25Mbps/3Mbps "dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user," the NCTA said.

"Netflix, for instance, bases its call for a 25Mbps download threshold on what it believes consumers need for streaming 4K and ultra-HD video content—despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of consumers use their broadband connections in this manner, and notwithstanding the consensus among others in the industry that 25Mbps is significantly more bandwidth than is needed for 4K streaming," the NCTA said. "Meanwhile, Public Knowledge asserts in conclusory fashion that an 'average' US household constantly streams at least three high-definition movies simultaneously while also running various 'online backup services and other applications'—without providing any evidence indicating that such usage is at all 'average.'"

The commission defines broadband as 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up but hasn't changed the definition since 2010. The FCC is required under Section 706 to determine whether broadband is being deployed to Americans in a reasonable and timely way, and the group must take action to accelerate deployment if the answer is negative. Raising the definition's speeds provides more impetus to take actions that promote competition and remove barriers to investment, such as a potential move to preempt state laws that restrict municipal broadband projects.
Here is the money quote:
Though a majority of Americans can purchase broadband of at least 100Mbps, Wheeler has focused on the lack of competition at higher Internet speeds. While 75 percent of American homes have at least two options for wired broadband of 4Mbps/1Mbps, only 25 percent have a choice of at least two providers at the 25Mbps/3Mbps threshold:
4/1 download is the telco's old DSL, which hasn't been upgraded since the early 200s.

What's more, it never will be upgraded, as the phone companies have decided that there is not sufficient profit there.

By upgrading the definition of broadband to something that actually describes the way that broadband is used today, it makes it far more difficult for states to prevent municipal broadband.

Seriously, just f%$# the cable companies.

Come to think of it, "F%$# the Cable Companies," would be a good platform for a political party.

23 January 2015

F%$# Me! I Agree With a Fox News Doctor!

He's right, you know
Fox Doc Marc Siegel has condemned the anti-vaxxer movement over the Measels outbreak in Disney Land:
Fox News medical correspondent Marc Siegel lashed out on Thursday at parents who refused to give their kids vaccines for putting everyone else at risk.

Reports this week said that at least 70 cases of measles had been confirmed at Disney theme parks, with 62 of those cases occurring where the anti-vaccination movement is thriving in Orange Country, California.

During his Thursday appearance on Fox News, Siegel, who is an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, wasted no time in blaming anti-vaxxers for the outbreak.

"Let me be clear on this, I see no debate whatsoever. Period," Siegel said. "This is the greatest vaccine that has ever been created in the history of vaccines."

The doctor pointed out that "measles is the most contagious virus known to man."
Your mouth to God's ear, Doctor Siegel.

I cannot believe that I am posting a Fox News clip with approval.

Well, Now We Know Why Andrew Cuomo Killed his Corruption Comission

Sheldon Silver who has been speaker of the New York State Assembly, has been indicted by the Feds on corruption charges:
His power unbending, his whims often unexplained, Sheldon Silver, in his two decades as speaker of the State Assembly, became a seemingly indestructible presence at the nucleus of the New York political world, a steady advocate for liberal causes and a master tactician in Albany’s closed and entrenched way of governance.

But Mr. Silver’s arrest on Thursday on corruption charges has thrown into question that arrangement, in which the governor and the leaders of the two chambers of the Legislature privately decide the most crucial policies of the state. It is a potentially seismic shift in power whose reverberations may be felt throughout the state, from the speaker’s home district on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to the grounds of the State Capitol.

Until now, Albany lawmakers accustomed to what prosecutors called a “show-me-the-money culture” have taken comfort in knowing that their most powerful figure was unassailable — untouched despite years of inquiries, suspicions and rumors of impropriety.
It appears that the crux of the matter is that Silver was paid large sums by his law firm for work which either did not justify the payments, or for which he did no work.

In essence, he is accused of using this law firm to launder bribes.

Here is hoping that he sees the writing on the walls, and starts singing like a canary.

Clearing out the cesspool in Albany would be a good thing.

This is Not a Dilemma Unless You Let the House of Saud Make it One

The collapse of the Yemeni government under the assault of the Houthi militias is a good thing for everyone but the House of Saud:
The American-backed government of Yemen abruptly collapsed Thursday night, leaving the country leaderless as it is convulsed by an increasingly powerful force of pro-Iran rebels and a resurgent Qaeda.

The resignation of the president, prime minister and cabinet took American officials by surprise and heightened the risks that Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, would become even more of a breeding ground for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has claimed responsibility for audacious anti-Western attacks — including the deadly assault on Charlie Hebdo in Paris this month.
The Houthi are Shia, and Al Qaeda is virulently anti-Shia, and if they take power, they will undoubtedly be an implacable foe of the terrorist organization.

This is not an issue for the United States.

In fact, a Houthi dominated government is likely to be better at fighting Al Qaeda, because they understand the genocidal ferocity of that group against Shiites.

The only people who should have a problem is the House of Saud, who have been applying pressure for years to ensure the complete disenfranchisement of Shiites pretty much everywhere.

Unfortunately, the US foreign policy establishment does not understand that their foreign policy interests are not the same as those of the Saudis.

It's Bank Failure Friday!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Highland Community Bank, Chicago, IL
Full FDIC list

Not enough data to show anything, but enough for a picture, so, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

Scholars in Pakistan Say What I've Been Saying for Years

That the prevalence of terrorism in the Muslim world is largely funded by the House of Saud:
Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Hussain Pirzada has accused the Saudi government of creating instability across the Muslim world, including Pakistan, through distribution of money for promoting its ideology.

Addressing a two-day 'Ideas Conclave' organised by the "Jinnah Institute" think tank in Islamabad, the federal minister said 'the time has come to stop the influx of Saudi money into Pakistan'.
Now if only someone like a US Senator were to issue a similar condemnation.

It is patently clear that the font from which international Jihad springs is the pocketbook of the House of Saud.

They fund the schools where Jihadis are created, the social welfare organizations which they fund are Islamist, and they make a concerted effort to export their home grown nut-jobs to other Arab and Muslim nations, where they are some else's problem.

H/t Emptywheel

Cue the Internecine Clusterf%$#

The Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has died at age 90, and will be replaced by his brother, Salman ibn Abdilaziz Al Saud, who is 79 and is rumored to be suffering from dementia:
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has died at age 90, state television reported early on Friday, with his brother Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz succeeding him as the new ruler of the world's top oil exporter.

King Salman, 79, immediately appointed his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir, a move seen to avert widespread speculation about the path of the royal succession.

State television said King Abdullah, who took power in 2005 after the death of his brother King Fahd, died of pneumonia. He was admitted to the hospital on December 31, state media reported at the time.
It's pretty clear that Salman is a place holder.

It is tough to figure out what is going on in the mess that is the dynastic mess that is the House of Saud, but a year ago, I would a have argued that Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was next in line after King Salman, but seeing as how he has been the driving force behind backing the group now known as ISIS/ISIL/IS while trying to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, and it appears that he was fired from his position as Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency as a result.

This sort of dynastic instability has does not bode well for the future of the House of Saud, which to my mind, is a good thing.

22 January 2015

Quote of the Day

The most dangerous thing for religion is when it's married to political power. When it's an instrument of political power then it betrays its own message.
Orthodox Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious Affairs at the American Jewish Committee

21 January 2015

Seen on Facebook

I had a cat who was very much like that with catnip.

I miss Tudza.

H/t Terrell Suggs.

Not Enough………

The SEC has fined Standard & Poor's ratings agency and banned them from rating mortgage backed (MBS) securities for a year:
Financial companies are still paying the price for the crisis of 2009, as Standard & Poor’s showed when it agreed on Wednesday to pay the US government and two states more than $77m to settle charges that it inflated its ratings of mortgage-backed securities.

In its first enforcement action against a major rating agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused S&P of fraudulent misconduct, saying the company loosened standards on its ratings to drum up business in recent years.

The agreement requires S&P to pay more than $58m to the SEC, $12m to New York and $7m to Massachusetts.

As part of its agreement with the SEC, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, a division of McGraw Hill Financial, will take a “timeout” from rating certain types of mortgage-backed securities for a year.

“These settlements involve findings of intentional fraud in 2011 and 2012, well after the financial crisis,” said Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s enforcement division, on a call with reporters. “The financial crisis may be behind us, but these cases are an important reminder that the race-to-the-bottom behavior exists even though the financial crisis has ended.”

S&P said in a statement that it did not admit or deny any of the charges.

It’s likely the first in a line of settlements between S&P and government agencies. In 2013, the Justice Department and attorneys general from other states filed civil lawsuits against the company for misrepresenting risks in the years leading up to the financial crisis.

“This is the first time a major credit rating agency has been subject to a timeout,” Ceresney said. “It’s unprecedented.”
It is only unprecedented because the Obama administration has been so deferential to the banksters.

It's chump change for them, and they are a (relatively) small player in the MBS ratings game, so they will be crying to the bank.

What should have happened is a criminal indictment, which would have been immediately followed by an Arthur Andersen style implosion.

That would make the banksters sit up and notice.

A Poem for You

I had a little bird,
And its name was Enza.
I opened the window
And in-flew-enza.
Yes, I gots the Flu.

I has a sad.

The Push-Back Against the Lindsey Graham Presidential Needs to Get Less Awful

Let's be clear here:  Senator Lindsey Graham is a blithering idiot, whose only claim to policy expertise is his playing ventriloquist dummy to petulant child Senator John Sidney McCain III's harebrained "Forever War" foreign policy initiatives.

This is a guy who has literally been wrong on absolutely every foreign policy initiative that he has ever been a part of.

He makes Richard Bruce Cheney look level headed and competent.

These are all legitimate reasons for him to be criticized, and ridiculed, for his recent statements about running for President.

There is also the issue of his personal affect.

Specifically, for lack of a better term, he minces almost as much as Michelle Bachmann's husband Marcus.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that)

So, over the past few days, we have been bombarded with tasteless cartoons and Photoshop jobs mocking the (never Married, not that there's anything wrong with that) distinguished gentleman from South Carolina.  (I'm talking to you, Howie Klein)

Lindsey Graham sucks, both as a potential candidate, and even more so as a potential President.

It simply does not matter whatever else he does, or does not suck.

Republican Family Values in Action

The Teabagger is the one on the Left
Teabagger heroine, and terrorist wannabe, Holly Fisher has been exposed exposed cheating on her military veteran husband:
In July, liberals were delighted by the moronic antics of a woman who quickly became known as “Holly Hobby Lobby.” Shortly following the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling that allowed companies to inject their religion into female employees’ healthcare, Holly Fisher decided to poorly “troll” liberals a bit.

Our heroine bravely stood in front of a Hobby Lobby store wearing a “PRO-LIFE” t-shirt and holding a Chick-Fil-A cup. She captioned her photo “HOW TO MAKE A LIBERAL’S HEAD EXPLODE,” and set it loose on Twitter.


This photo gained Holly the admiration of the conservative world. Quickly, she became a hero to all who have trouble figuring out how to work a microwave. [I love that turn of phrase MGS] Unfortunately, her new photo — the one conservatives adored — bore a striking resemblance to “the White Widow,” a jihadist suicide bomber who blew herself and four other people up in 2004.


“The conservative woman behind several viral photos cheated on her combat veteran husband repeatedly & then lied about it, Gotnews.com has learned,” [The world's worst undeserving claimant of the term "Journalist", and member of the class Myxogastria, Charles C.] Johnson wrote.

According to Johnson, multiple sources within the Tea Party confirmed that Fisher had a prolonged affair with Joel Frewa, a now-former video editor for the Tea Party News Network. Johnson says Frewa resigned after word of the affair began to leak out.

“The affair took place at a “Restoring the Dream” event, a Faith & Freedom conference, and on Election night 2014,” Johnson said.
The irony here is delicious, but it is far from surprising.

H/t Blade at the Stellar Parthenon.

20 January 2015

Not Watching the State of the Union

I'm brewing something:  Low grade fever, sore throat.

I am already feeling crappy, so I am disinclined to listen to Obama.

It won't help.

19 January 2015

Never Underestimate the Benefits of Some Good Beaver

It looks like one the consequences of the California drought is that the state will be aggressively reintroducing beavers to mitigate problems from the current lack of rainfall:
Californians are crossing their fingers for more rain after three punishing years of drought have left streams, rivers and wetland parched.

One animal has the potential to restore these dry landscapes.

With their industrial buck teeth and flat tails, beavers and their dams offer a defense against drought, a solution to reversing the effects of climate change. The rodents are known as ecosystem engineers. And they once populated most of California (and the Bay Area) until fur traders nearly wiped them out in the 19th century,

“This state has lost more of its wetlands than all other states, and beavers can rebuild those wetlands,” said Rick Lanman of the Institute for Historical Ecology in Los Altos. “Knowing that it is native should help guide restoration efforts.”

Beaver dams bestow benefits to the environment that we humans can’t easily copy. They turn land into a sponge for water. Their gnawing and nesting promotes richer soil and slows down water, improving imperiled fish habitat. Their dams raise water tables, nourishing shrubbery alongside streams that stabilize eroding banks and add habitat for birds and deer. They also help the endangered California Red-legged frog.

After beavers move to a new area, at night, they drag a tree across a shallow stream to start a dam. They carry rocks and mud with their paws and branches with their big incisors. Water in these beaver ponds would otherwise flow away. So it’s no surprise that thirsty western states are turning to the furry critters with open arms.


Government agencies are hosting a workshop series in a few western states and writing a guide on how to use beavers for restoration. California Fish and Wildlife is starting to embrace the beaver, a shift beaver advocates applaud.

“Our effort now is to show its many sides, sides that have always existed,” said Kevin Shaffer, a fisheries manager for state Fish and Wildlife. “We are investigating how beaver promote habitat and water conservation through their habitat manipulation. We are also creating public and scientific information about the beaver, its ecological role and current regulations and laws affecting its management and conservation.”
In addition to being highly effective, they work without pay.

It's a win-win.

Hello? It's Time for the FBI to Visit and Start Breaking Heads!

Last week, I noted that the County DA had charged police with murder for shooting a homeless man.

Well, now the City Attorney and the Police are conspiring to exclude prosecutors from police involved shootings:
This week, Bernalillo County (N.M.) District Attorney Kari Brandenburg charged two Albuquerque police officers with murder in the killing of homeless man James Boyd. The shooting was captured on video and widely covered in the national media. Brandenburg’s decision comes on the heels of the controversial non-indictments in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, which sparked protests around the country. It didn’t take long for Albuquerque police and their supporters to react.
 A top prosecutor for District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office was shut out of a briefing after a fatal police shooting near San Mateo and Constitution NE on Tuesday evening, Brandenburg told KRQE News 13.

Police officials and others were gathering to discuss the most recent developments in the investigation a few hours after the shooting, Brandenburg said. Chief Deputy DA Sylvia Martinez attempted to join the briefing, but Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy would not let Martinez attend.

What Brandenburg said happened Tuesday evening would be an unprecedented move by city of Albuquerque officials, and it comes a day after Brandenburg charged two APD officers with murder in the March shooting death of homeless camper James Boyd.

Levy invoked the charges in barring Martinez from the briefing, according to Brandenburg.

“Sylvia was told that our office has a conflict of interest because we charged the officers,” she said.

Reached by telephone for comment Tuesday evening, Levy, who has for years worked as APD’s attorney, refused to answer questions . . .

Prosecutors’ presence at the scenes of police shootings and inside the investigatory briefings has been ubiquitous for decades here. In fact, the DA’s participation in the investigations is memorialized in a written agreement with APD and other agencies signed in 2004.If true, this is really reprehensible behavior and an abdication of office on the part of both police and the deputy city attorney. It’s also just the latest example of law enforcement officers and their supporters demonstrating incredible petulance in retaliation for public scrutiny or the rare attempt to hold rogue cops accountable for their actions.
(Emphasis mine)

This is deeply corrupt.

What's more it's deeply evil.

It is an attempt to create an absolute impunity for bad cops.

The Feds need to be involved, and they need to kick some major league ass.

Hopefully My Last Comment on the Oscars………

The front page of the Oakland Tribune in response to the essential whiteness of the nominees is epic:

H/t TPM.

Rahm Emanuel Takes Chicago Corruption to a New Level

I'm not particularly surprised.

You see hizzoner Rahm Emanuel is declaring that the Chicago pension funds are not a part of city government so that he can ignore pay to play rules:
On its face, Chicago’s municipal pension system is an integral part of the Chicago city government. The system is included in the city’s budget, it is directly funded by the city, and its various boards of trustees include city officials and mayoral appointees. Yet, when it comes to enforcing the city’s anti-corruption laws in advance of the Chicago’s closely watched 2015 municipal election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is suddenly arguing that the pension funds are not part of the city government at all.

The counterintuitive declaration came last month from the mayor-appointed ethics commission, responding to Chicago aldermen’s request for an investigation of campaign contributions to Emanuel from the financial industry. The request followed disclosures that executives at firms managing Chicago pension money have made more than $600,000 worth of donations to Emanuel. The contributions flowed to the mayor despite a city ordinance — and an executive order by Emanuel himself — restricting mayoral campaign contributions from city contractors.

Brushing off the lawmakers’ complaint about Emanuel’s donations from the financial industry, the mayor’s ethics commission issued a nonbinding legal opinion arguing that Chicago’s pension systems are “not agencies or departments of the city, and thus firms that contract with them are not doing or seeking to do business with the city.” The commission’s interpretation means financial firms’ business with Chicago pension funds should be considered exempt from city ethics laws.

You can take pay to play campaign donations for the pension fund because it isn't really goverment?

This is pretty damn corrupt.

Technically, the SEC could rule on this:
With the mayor attempting to exempt the pension system from the city’s ethics rules, [Alderman Scott] Waguespack says the lawmakers are counting on the federal government to enforce a 2011 Securities and Exchange Commission rule aiming to restrict contributions to public officials from executives at financial firms that manage public pension money. To that end, Waguespack and two other lawmakers have filed a formal complaint with the SEC, which responded with a letter saying the agency will review their complaint “in connection with our statutory and regulatory responsibilities.”
Yeah, like that is going to happen.

Emanuel is a FOB (Friend of Barack), so nothing is going to happen to him, at least until after 2016.

First Woman Appointed Halakhic Decisor in Israel

About bloody time.

Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld has been appointed the chief religious authority West Bank settlement of Efrat:
The moderate West Bank settlement of Efrat has appointed a woman to serve as a religious leader, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin appointed Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld to the position, which includes the responsibility to answer questions on halakha (Jewish law).

Rosenfeld is a student in the Susi Bradfield Women's Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL ), which is part of Midreshet Lindenbaum, a liberal Modern Orthodox women’s seminary. The five-year program ordains women, allowing them to issue halakhic rulings and give spiritual advice. The ordination is similar to what Orthodox rabbis have, but the graduates are not called rabbi.

Rosenfeld’s appointment is the first time a woman has been appointed to an official position of Orthodox communal leadership in Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, director of the WIHL, told the Post.

Even so, Efrat’s state religious council, which would normally pay the salary of a community’s religious leader, is not paying Rosenfeld. Instead, Riskin is paying her salary privately through charitable donations.
So, she's not getting paid by the community.

Well, it's a start.

(On Edit)

My preferred status would be that there is no government funding of religion, but I am very American that way.

This Does not Bode Well for the Euro or the Eu

As you are no doubt aware if you follow the financial papers, the Swiss Central Bank abruptly ended its peg to the Euro, and then all hell broke loose:
One does not normally see sharp right angles in financial charts, but you could pretty much cut yourself on this chart of the volatility of the Swiss franc against the euro:

One straightforward takeaway is: Whoa, that volatility is super high! But perhaps a more useful takeaway is: Whoa, it was super low for a really long time! This is of course because the Swiss National Bank capped the franc's value against the euro: The SNB wanted a price of no less than CHF 1.20 per euro, and the euro itself wanted a price of no higher than CHF 1.20 for reasons of its own, so the result was pretty much a peg at slightly above 1.20. In the 12 months ending on Wednesday, the euro traded in a range of 1.20095 to 1.23640 francs:


That chart looks more jagged than it is, because you're standing too close to it. Here, I've zoomed out by two days:


On the other hand! Imagine being a retail foreign-exchange broker and letting your customers day-trade Swiss francs with lots of leverage. How much leverage would you feel comfortable giving them? Well, if daily moves are typically less than 0.1 percent, then that means that 95 percent of the time their positions will move by less than 0.2 percent in a day. So if you required 2 percent margin -- that is, you demand $2 of cash from them for every $100 worth of Swiss francs that they trade -- you'd feel pretty safe. That would mean that, 95 percent of the time, customers couldn't lose more than one-tenth of their equity in a day -- so if they lost money and skipped out on you, you'd be able to liquidate their positions without getting close to losing any of the money you'd lent them.

On the other hand when the euro/franc moves by 19 percent in a day, they're gonna get utterly smoked, and so are you. This is roughly the boat in which FXCM Inc. finds itself. Like many other retail foreign exchange brokers, it offered 50:1 leverage on FX trades. And yesterday its "clients experienced significant losses" on the Swiss franc move, and "generated negative equity balances owed to FXCM of approximately $225 million." id="footnote-1421429157415-ref">  And now it's in talks with Jefferies Group for a large cash infusion to fix the problem. FXCM is also distinguished by just an unbelievable sense of irony:
FXCM Chief Executive Officer Drew Niv, in remarks published in Bloomberg Markets magazine’s December issue, said individual currency traders are enticed by the chance to control large positions with little money down.

“Currencies don’t move that much,” he said. “So if you had no leverage, nobody would trade.”
Famous last word words. FXCM is basically insolvent now, and is relying on a loan from a "white knight", in exchange for who knows what concessions.

Here is the scary quote about this:
As realized volatility gets lower, estimates of future volatility -- and so estimates of future losses -- get lower. And so position limits get higher, as banks feel safer with the risks they're taking, because, on a historical basis, they don't look that risky. And then the risk that didn't look risky becomes the one that gets you.
So, what we have just had a major case of "It's different this time" contagion because a non-EU member dropped a peg following months (years?) of denials.

We have another player, and one who is one of the EU's  "stronger" members who is not on the Euro, but is on a peg, Denmark, which retains the Krone.

And Denmark is promising to do whatever it takes to keep their peg:
Denmark moved to quash speculation it may follow Switzerland and abandon its euro peg, delivering a surprise interest-rate cut to prevent the krone gaining further.

“We have the necessary tools to defend the peg,”Karsten Biltoft, head of communications at the Copenhagen-based central bank, said by phone. Asked whether Denmark could ever consider abandoning its currency peg, he said, “Of course not.”

Since the Swiss National Bank shocked markets on Jan. 15 by jettisoning its three-year-old euro peg, Scandinavia’s biggest banks have fielded calls from hedge funds and other offshore investors asking whether Denmark could be next. Danske Bank A/S (DANSKE) has sought to dispel the speculation, noting Denmark’s three-decades-old currency regime is backed by the European Central Bank, unlike the SNB’s former system.


The Danish bank today cut its deposit rate to minus 0.2 percent, matching a record low, from minus 0.05 percent and lowered its lending rate to a record 0.05 percent from 0.2 percent. While the bank can adjust rates at any time, it traditionally announces changes on Thursdays and mostly in connection with ECB moves.
Is it just me, or do the assurances of the bankers at Copenhagen not sound particularly credible right now?

If Denmark is forced to drop its peg, all hell breaks loose, because it opens a Pandora's box of asymmetries that have been growing in the Euro zone, and the EU over the past 3 decades.

It will not be pretty.

I Saw the Debut of the Nightly Show Last Night

It's not bad, but I miss Colbert.

I'll give it a few months for them to find its feet.

It took me a couple of years to get The Colbert Report.

A Correction:

When I wrote about the fact that the Iditarod sled dog race was beginning to look like Arizona, I mentioned that I saw the start of the Iditerod in 1968.

This is in error.  It was a different race.

According to Mutharch, aka Saroff, aka my dad, it was the the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous which was a fair and a roughly sled dog race of about 25k.

My apologies.

18 January 2015

Finally, Eric Holder Does Something Meaningful About Law Enforcement Overreach

Eric Holder has massively curtailed the asset forfeiture program:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. It allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

“With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,” Holder said in a statement.
Any actions to curtail a procedure that can only be described as enforcement under the color of law is a good thing.

It it both corrupt and corrupting.

It Couldn't Happen to a More Deserving Genocidal Monster

The attempted genocide suit against Scott Lively, one of the architects of Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, will be allowed to go forward:
Most of us go our entire lives without ever standing trial for crimes against humanity. Then again, most of us aren’t notorious bigot Pastor Scott Lively, whose life work seems to be to ask the question: “How can I make gay people miserable across the world?”

In the United States Lively’s homophobic messages are largely ignored, and in recent years he has had to endure various setbacks at the state and federal level as equality makes historic gains. Undeterred, Lively has sought out foreign lands where his particular brand of ruthless anti-gay ideas are more accepted. In Uganda, he found a home away from home. During a Christian “workshop” in the African nation he managed to become one of the principal architects behind some of the most retrograde anti-gay legislation on the planet.


Unfortunately for Lively, orchestrating genocide in another country is kind of frowned upon, and in 2012 a lawsuit was filed against Lively in federal court in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity. This week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lively’s final request to have it dismissed because, well, the whole genocide thing.
Lets be clear:  This is not criminal charges.  This is a civil suit under the Alien Tort Statute, but the judge has allowed discovery to proceed, and this should detail the full extent of Mr. Lively's perfidy.

He has been protesting that he actually recommended against jailing (and in earlier versions executing) the LGBT community in Uganda, but I am certain that discovery will show that he was actively advocating for genocide.

Here's hoping that he is left bankrupt and broken by this.