27 March 2023

From the Land of the Guillotine

In 1958, at the prodding of Charles de Gaulle, the France's 5th Republic was established. (It could be argued that it was a coup)

It established what can be best described as an, "Elected Dictatorship," because de Gaulle despaired of French parliamentary politics, or as he put it, "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?"

Generally, France's President has used this power with restraint, but after Macron invoked pension cut-backs by decree after it was clear that the National Assembly and Senate would not approve the bill, the country has erupted in protest:

It’d been hanging over France’s retirement reform fight from the beginning — a reminder that, come hell or high water, President Emmanuel Macron intended to have his way.

Last Thursday, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced that Macron’s government would “commit its responsibility” (the terse wording for decree in the French constitution’s Article 49, Section 3) to force adoption of a hike in the retirement age from sixty-two to sixty-four. Promptly filed on Friday, two motions of no confidence in response — the only way to reverse a so-called 49.3 —were struck down in the National Assembly on March 20. Enough MPs from the center-right Republicans, ostensibly an opposition party, opted to prop up Macron’s minority government.

Macron’s pension bill is now set to become law, barring a few scenarios like an appeal to the Constitutional Council and a possible referendum initiative to revoke the package. The government’s reform was officially about covering a budgeting hole and calming the supposedly wary financial markets, as Macron is said to have warned in the cabinet meeting last Thursday when the decision to force the legislation was finally made.

Unofficially, pulling off retirement reform had morphed into an obsession for the president, who came to view it as a silver bullet for reaffirming his authority at the start of his second term. The irony now is that Macron has fired the first shot in a political crisis that has left him increasingly isolated.

The 49.3 is one of the most brazen acts of executive privilege allowed by France’s top-heavy Fifth Republic — the political system established by Charles de Gaulle after he maneuvered back to power following a 1958 right-wing putsch. While in last June’s parliamentary elections Macron’s supporters remained the single largest bloc, they lost their majority of seats; already before last week’s pension decision, Borne had used this power to override parliament ten times before, on a string of budgeting bills.

But falling back on the 49.3 for a sensitive issue like pension reform means igniting a political powder keg. The president’s single-minded quest to force his desired reform — one rejected by an alliance of the country’s unions and whose economic justification has been criticized by the state’s own pension advisory body — is dangerously straining France’s governing institutions, astonishing the opposition and even some of the president’s allies.

Millions of people have taken to the street since mid-January, when the legislation was formally introduced and placed on a fast-track pathway to rush to adoption in fifty days. If it was not enough to bring the government to reconsider its package, the wave of strikes and protests has at least forced Macron into the embarrassing position of strong-arming his signature reform. It could end up turning into a Pyrrhic victory for the president.

And a powder keg it is. 

Pretty much the entire country is on a general strike, with (and this is the first time that I have ever heard of this) staff of the Louvre Museum blockading entrances in protest, in addition to road blockages, strikes by garbage collectors in Paris, transportation workers, refinery workers, students, teachers.

Basically it's pretty much everyone but the brutal and confrontational French riot police.

The right wing in the Parliament rallied to Macron's support, at least to the degree that Macron survived a no-confidence vote, but his actions, and particularly the unilateral nature of those actions, has led to protests unlike anything in my memory.

It's gotten dicey enough that a state visit by King Charles of the UK had to be postponed.

Certainly the optics, a state dinner at Versailles invokes Maria Antoinette's apocryphal, "Let them eat cake," quote, were absolutely atrocious.

In the, "This sh$# is getting real," department we had protesters setting fire to the Bordeaux city hall, which is rather more aggressive than the usual vandalism from the small number of assholes at French protests, who normally content themselves with smashing the windows of McDonald's Restaurants and the like.

As it stands, the French state security apparatus appears to continue to (brutally) support the regime, albeit with the condemnation of the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner.

I do not know if the French 5th Republic will survive this, but I hope not.  It is a truly awful way to govern a society.

Fuck Your Thoughts and Prayers

Another school shooting, this one at a private religious school, (Presbyterian) the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennesee.  There are 7 dead, 3 staff including the principal, 3 children, and the shooter who was shot by the police.

Doubtless, we will have numerous hypocrites saying, "Thoughts and prayers."  Fuck them.

If someone out there is considering a spree killing, please consider, 11250 Waples Mill Road Fairfax, VA 22030.  That is the headquarters for the National Rifle Association:

Here's what we know about Monday morning's mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville.

Three adults and three children are confirmed dead at the private Christian school in Nashville. The suspect was also killed, in an altercation with police.


Three children and three adult staff members are confirmed dead in the shooting. The victims identified by police are children Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney , all age 9, and adults Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61. Koonce was the Head of School.


Police identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who police killed at the scene. Hale was a former student at The Covenant School, according to police.

Hale was an illustrator and graphic designer who used he and him pronouns, according to a police spokesperson. Police initially identified Hale by his birth name and gender.

I believe that the news report is dead-naming Hale.  I think that he was using Aiden.

Seriously, fuck the NRA, fuck the American culture of violence, and fuck toxic masculinity, even if it was acquired later in life.

We are a nation of angry and murderous men.


Have some Llamas with hats. It starts strong, but gets a bit tedious at the end1

Are You a Bicyclist Who Envies Those Guys with Truck Nuts?

The similarty is remarkable

Like truck nuts, only for bikes

Now with blue balls

Said no one EVER!

These are bike nuts.

They actually call it, "Creative Silicone Bicycle Tail Lights," but it's bike nuts. 

If you examine the method of attachment closely, you might notice that these could also be used as an impromptu cock ring.

I just want to note that I have received no consideration of any sort for discussing this product.

If I had received a consideration, I would still consider these as stupid as hell, because they ARE as stupid as hell.

26 March 2023

Looting Much?

As Silicon Valley Bank moved toward an increasingly risky portfolio, senior executives scored increasingly remunerative pay packages.

It's almost like they gamed the system to reward themselves for destroying the bank.

It's EXACTLY like they gamed the system to reward themselves for destroying the bank.

Executive pay at Silicon Valley Bank soared after the bank embarked on a strategy to boost profitability by buying riskier assets exposed to rising interest rates, according to a Financial Times analysis of securities filings and people familiar with the matter.

The jump in pay for chief executive Greg Becker and chief financial officer Daniel Beck was a result of large multiyear bonus awards pegged to the bank’s return on equity (RoE), a key measure of profitability that rose sharply between 2017 and 2021, the filings show.

Becker’s cash bonus peaked at $3mn in 2021, more than double the amount he received four years earlier. Beck earned a $1.4mn bonus in 2021, more than four times the amount he received in 2017 after joining the company.

The higher bonuses helped push Becker’s total pay to $10mn in 2021, an increase of almost 60 per cent compared with four years earlier. Beck earned nearly $3.8mn, a jump of roughly double over the same time period.

Current and former SVB executives told the Financial Times that SVB boosted returns by buying long-term paper, especially mortgage bonds, that bolstered earnings because they generated higher yields. The strategy backfired when interest rates rose sharply and depressed the value of the bonds.

If you pay people for bad, short-sighted management, you get bad, short-sighted management.

In related news, the founder of First Republic Bank, and his relatives, receivied similarly inflated pay as they destroyed that bank:

First Republic Bank paid family members of its founder, James Herbert, millions of dollars for work at the lender in recent years, including for consulting services related to interest rates and risk, according to public disclosures the bank made as part of annual filings. 

The bank paid Mr. Herbert, who was chief executive before stepping into the executive chairman role last year, $17.8 million in 2021, the bank’s disclosures for that year said. The compensation was more than CEOs at most similar-sized banks.

A consulting company owned by Mr. Herbert’s brother-in-law earned $2.3 million for advisory work related to its “investment portfolio, risk management, interest rate and economic outlook and other financial matters” in 2021, it said in an annual proxy filing filed last spring. First Republic also paid Mr. Herbert’s son $3.5 million to oversee a lending unit at the bank, the disclosures said. The two family members were paid similar amounts in 2020.

First Republic, which was the country’s 14th largest bank measured by assets at the end of 2022, has been at the center of contagion fears in the U.S. banking system, with its stock down over 90% in the past three weeks. Known for catering to wealthy individuals, the bank has raced to stem a rush of depositors pulling funds amid concerns that First Republic has some similarities to now-failed Silicon Valley Bank.


Asked about the payments to Mr. Herbert’s son and brother-in-law, a spokesman said the bank has a policy for transactions with family members “and fully discloses such transactions each year.” He said executive compensation in 2021 reflects that the company “outperformed industry peers and the S&P 500 from 2016 to 2021, and delivered strong shareholder returns.”

These failures are not an artifact of incompetence.  They are not mistakes.

This is deliberate and sustained looting.

Lock them up.

Remember that I Mentioned Duetsche Bank

I'm not sure if the German mega-bank is in trouble, but there appear to be sufficient concern that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz felt compelled to dismiss any concerns about the bank.

This is not something that fills me with confidence:

Olaf Scholz has rejected comparisons between Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse as a slump in the German lender’s shares sparked a further day of turmoil for the banking sector.

Speaking after Deutsche shares fell as much as 14 per cent on Friday, Germany’s chancellor sought to shore up confidence in the country’s biggest bank, with investors still nervous after the forced takeover of Credit Suisse last weekend.

“Deutsche Bank has fundamentally modernised and reorganised its business and is a very profitable bank,” Scholz said at a summit in Brussels after being asked if the lender was the new Credit Suisse. “There is no reason to be concerned about it.”

No mention here of the repeated allegations, and settlements, involving allegations of sanctions violations, money laundering, etc. 

Experts are dismissing any risk to the bank, saying that the bank is, "The victim of an irrational market." 

Yeah, I believe this man, he's an expert:  (Not)

Deutsche Bank AG shares plunged the most in three years on Friday, suggesting that a week of soothing words from central bankers and politicians have failed to calm broad worries about the financial sector.

As observers tried to explain the move, analysts at Citigroup Inc. said it may be down to an “irrational market.” While that’s a concern in itself, even more worrying is the risk that negative views spiral out of control and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That threat was highlighted this week by Mark Branson, who heads Germany’s bank regulator BaFin. He told Bloomberg that while European banking is safe, one problem area is “contagion via psychology.”

Yeah, and the fact that the EU has inmiserated Greece and Italy to force austerity budgets that would bail out the Deutsche Bank has nothing to do with the recent crisis of confidence.

Pay no attention to €42,000,000,000,000.00 of dubious derivatives on their books.

They are digging in a pile of horse-sh$#, and expecting to find a pony.

It's All a Scam

I figure that it is time to loop back around to Sam Bankman-Fried, and his increasingly long list of fraud and theft. It has now been revealed that the disgraced former head of the FTX crypto exchange took $2.2 billion from the business before its collapse.

More than $2bn was transferred to Sam Bankman-Fried from FTX entities, according to bankruptcy court filings made by the new management of the cryptocurrency exchange on Wednesday night.

According to a press release describing financial statements filed with the bankruptcy court in Delaware, Bankman-Fried and five members of his inner circle transferred $3.2bn in total to their personal accounts in the form of “payments and loans”, the funds primarily coming from Alameda Research, a crypto trading hedge fund affiliated with FTX.

John Ray, the new chief executive of FTX appointed at the time of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings in November, has been seeking to identify the location of cryptocurrency and other assets that can be eventually returned to the millions of FTX customers whose accounts have been frozen since its collapse.

Bankman-Fried is facing a dozen federal charges related to the collapse of FTX accusing him of securities fraud and looting the platform for personal gain. FTX’s management said on Wednesday the $3.2bn figure did not include $240mn for “luxury property in the Bahamas”, “political and charitable donations”, and “substantial transfers” to subsidiaries. Filings showed Bankman-Fried had received $2.2bn.

This is not a surprise.  SBF, as he is known, was clearly running robbing his customers blind.

This is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that the people who dominate the philosophical fraud known as "Effective" Altruism, ignored warnings about SBF's fraud for years, largely because SBF was giving them a lot of money.

Quoting Upton Sinclair, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Leaders of the Effective Altruism movement were repeatedly warned beginning in 2018 that Sam Bankman-Fried was unethical, duplicitous, and negligent in his role as CEO of Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm that went on to play a critical role in what federal prosecutors now say was among the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history. They apparently dismissed those warnings, sources say, before taking tens of millions of dollars from Bankman-Fried’s charitable fund for effective altruist causes.

When Alameda and Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange FTX imploded in late 2022, these same effective altruist (EA) leaders professed outrage and ignorance. “I don’t know which emotion is stronger: my utter rage at Sam (and others?) for causing such harm to so many people, or my sadness and self-hatred for falling for this deception,” tweeted Will MacAskill, the Oxford moral philosopher and intellectual figurehead of EA, who co-founded the Centre for Effective Altruism.

Yet MacAskill had long been aware of concerns around Bankman-Fried. He was personally cautioned about Bankman-Fried by at least three different people in a series of conversations in 2018 and 2019, according to interviews with four people familiar with those discussions and emails reviewed by TIME.

He wasn’t alone. Multiple EA leaders knew about the red flags surrounding Bankman-Fried by 2019, according to a TIME investigation based on contemporaneous documents and interviews with seven people familiar with the matter. Among the EA brain trust personally notified about Bankman-Fried’s questionable behavior and business ethics were Nick Beckstead, a moral philosopher who went on to lead Bankman-Fried’s philanthropic arm, the FTX Future Fund, and Holden Karnofsky, co-CEO of OpenPhilanthropy, a nonprofit organization that makes grants supporting EA causes. Some of the warnings were serious: sources say that MacAskill and Beckstead were repeatedly told that Bankman-Fried was untrustworthy, had inappropriate sexual relationships with subordinates, refused to implement standard business practices, and had been caught lying during his first months running Alameda, a crypto firm that was seeded by EA investors, staffed by EAs, and dedicating to making money that could be donated to EA causes.
More from TIME


It’s not entirely clear how EA leaders reacted to the warnings. Sources familiar with the discussions told TIME that the concerns were downplayed, rationalized as typical startup squabbles, or dismissed as “he said-she said,” as two people put it. EA leaders declined or did not respond to multiple requests from TIME to explain their reaction to these warnings and what they did in response. But by the end of 2018, Bankman-Fried’s behavior was such an open secret that EA leaders were debating Bankman-Fried’s presence on the board of the Centre for Effective Altruism. In emails among senior EA leaders, which TIME reviewed, one person wrote that they had raised worries about Bankman-Fried’s trustworthiness directly with MacAskill, and that MacAskill had dismissed the concerns as “rumor.” In 2019, Bankman-Fried left CEA’s board.


Why did the braintrust of a social movement dedicated to virtuous impact apparently fail to heed repeated warnings about one of their own, while continuing to promote him publicly as a force for good? For a group of philosophers who had spent their lives contemplating moral tradeoffs and weighing existential risks, the warnings about Bankman-Fried may have presented a choice between embracing a big donor with questionable ethics or foregoing millions of dollars they believed could boost their nascent movement to help save the future of humanity. In a span of less than nine months in 2022, Bankman-Fried’s FTX Future Fund—helmed by Beckstead—gave more than $160 million to effective altruist causes, including more than $33 million to organizations connected to MacAskill. “If [Bankman-Fried] wasn’t super wealthy, nobody would have given him another chance,” says one person who worked closely with MacAskill at an EA organization. “It’s greed for access to a bunch of money, but with a philosopher twist.”

You know, "Greed for access to a bunch of money, but with a philosopher twist," is a pretty summary for "Effective" Altruism, though I still prefer the description, "Prosperity gospel for agnostics."

It's all about the Benjamins.

25 March 2023

Good Point

I believe that I have noted on a few occasions, the US foreign policy establishment sees unconditional surrender as a precondition for negotiations. 

This has never been particularly effective, and will be even less effective as we move to a multi-polar world. 

It appears that I am not alone in this insight.  One hopes that it is not just limited to Daniel Larison and me:

State Department spokesman Ned Price answered a question on North Korea diplomacy today, and his answer unwittingly demonstrated the folly of the U.S. approach:
On your first question, it unfortunately is a purely hypothetical question. It’s an academic question, because we have been clear and consistent in conveying publicly and through all channels available to us that we are prepared and willing to engage in constructive diplomacy with the DPRK towards what is the goal we share with our allies and partners of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula [bold mine-DL]. And I say it’s hypothetical and academic because at every turn the DPRK has failed to engage meaningfully on these offers. But were that to be the case, were the DPRK to take us up on this, we would look to see if we could devise practical steps that could help to advance what is that longer-term objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The goal of the complete denuclearization of the peninsula is at odds with engaging in constructive diplomacy with North Korea. As long as this remains the goal of U.S. policy, there is not going to be constructive diplomacy. When “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” means nothing more than North Korea’s unilateral disarmament, North Korea isn’t going to “engage meaningfully” with a demand for its own capitulation. Of course North Korea has “failed to engage,” because they have no incentive to entertain the terms that the U.S. has set.

It should also be noted that the "Complete denuclearization of the peninsula," does nothing about the nuclear armed aircraft carriers and submarines around the Korean peninsula, so it is unilateral disarmament, i.e. capitulation, that is demanded as a precondition to negotiations.


The U.S. is the more powerful and secure state, and it has the luxury of taking the first step to revive negotiations if it wishes to negotiate. Because it is much more secure, the U.S. has greater flexibility and freedom of action than North Korea, and that means that the U.S. is in a position to break the current impasse. It cannot do that if it remains wedded to maximalism and coercive tactics. 

The US foreign policy "Blob" is a toxic mix of hubris, incompetence, and stupidity.

Took Them Long Enough

Given the record of self-dealing, opaque investments, Byzantine contracts, and insanely high fees, an increasing number of public pension funds are backing off from their arrangements with private equity firms.

Some U.S. public pension and investment funds are pulling back on private equity after a decade of state and local retirement systems aggressively pursuing the expensive, risky and hard-to-trade asset class.

Maryland’s $65 billion retirement system is investing less new money in private equity. At Alaska’s $77 billion state fund, the investment chief wants to cancel a planned ramp-up. And the $615 million pension fund of Mendocino County, Calif., last month opted against introducing private equity to its investment mix. 


Over the past decade, state and local officials committed more money to private-equity managers. Those managers offered supercharged returns on portfolios of private companies that they bought, overhauled and then sold. But public funds had to lock up their money, often for more than a decade, with limited visibility and limited options in the case of losses.


U.S. pension and investment funds are part of a larger wave of institutional investors pulling back on private equity.

Even if PE firms generated the returns that they promise, the fees (and other gotchas) that they charge make their returns positively pedestrian.

I am not sure how PE managed to create the illusion that they had some sort of special sauce to the pension funds when there is none, I'm thinking various forms of bribery, both legal and illegal, figure prominently.

Tweet of the Day

This is an accurate description of going on in France, albeit in terms generally reserved for non-white nations.

IMNSHO, this is a well deserved characterization.

Twitter user Gathara has a whole series of these, and they are amusing and insightful.

After Studiously Ignoring the Story for 57 Years

The New York Times finally gets around to seriously reporting on the worst kept secret of the era, that Ronald Reagan colluded with the Iranian government against the best interests of the United States for electoral advantage.

This is not a surprise. Nixon used Anna Chennault to sabotage the Vietnam peace talks for the same reason in 1968.

I guess treason is OK if you are a Republican:

It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.

It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent.

His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics and former Texas governor who had served three presidents and just lost his own bid for the White House. A former Democrat, Mr. Connally had sought the Republican nomination in 1980 only to be swamped by former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Now Mr. Connally resolved to help Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter and in the process, Mr. Barnes said, make his own case for becoming secretary of state or defense in a new administration.
Lesson 1:  The people holding power in your organization will always f$#@ you to preserve that power, even if it might damage that organization.
What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.

Then shortly after returning home, Mr. Barnes said, Mr. Connally reported to William J. Casey, the chairman of Mr. Reagan’s campaign and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, briefing him about the trip in an airport lounge.

Mr. Barnes is no shady foreign arms dealer with questionable credibility, like some of the characters who fueled previous iterations of the October surprise theory. He was once one of the most prominent figures in Texas, the youngest speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and later lieutenant governor. He was such an influential figure that he helped a young George W. Bush get into the Texas Air National Guard rather than be exposed to the draft and sent to Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson predicted that Mr. Barnes would become president someday.

Now I want more information on how George H.W. Bush (Papa, not fils) was involved, because there has been discussion of this for decades.


Mr. Barnes identified four living people he said he had confided in over the years: Mark K. Updegrove, president of the L.B.J. Foundation; Tom Johnson, a former aide to Lyndon Johnson (no relation) who later became publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of CNN; Larry Temple, a former aide to Mr. Connally and Lyndon Johnson; and H.W. Brands, a University of Texas historian.

All four of them confirmed in recent days that Mr. Barnes shared the story with them years ago. “As far as I know, Ben never has lied to me,” Tom Johnson said, a sentiment the others echoed. Mr. Brands included three paragraphs about Mr. Barnes’s recollections in a 2015 biography of Mr. Reagan, but the account generated little public notice at the time.

Records at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum confirm part of Mr. Barnes’s story. An itinerary found this past week in Mr. Connally’s files indicated that he did, in fact, leave Houston on July 18, 1980, for a trip that would take him to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel before returning to Houston on Aug. 11. Mr. Barnes was listed as accompanying him


Mr. Barnes recalled joining Mr. Connally in early September to sit down with Mr. Casey to report on their trip during a three-hour meeting in the American Airlines lounge at what was then called the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport. An entry in Mr. Connally’s calendar found this past week showed that he traveled to Dallas on Sept. 10. A search of Mr. Casey’s archives at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University turned up no documents indicating whether he was in Dallas then or not.

Mr. Barnes said he was certain the point of Mr. Connally’s trip was to get a message to the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. “I’ll go to my grave believing that it was the purpose of the trip,” he said. “It wasn’t freelancing because Casey was so interested in hearing as soon as we got back to the United States.” Mr. Casey, he added, wanted to know whether “they were going to hold the hostages.”


Suspicions about the Reagan camp’s interactions with Iran circulated quietly for years until Gary Sick, a former national security aide to Mr. Carter, published a guest essay in The New York Times in April 1991 advancing the theory, followed by a book, “October Surprise,” published that November.


To forestall such a scenario, Mr. Casey was alleged to have met with representatives of Iran in July and August 1980 in Madrid leading to a deal supposedly finalized in Paris in October in which a future Reagan administration would ship arms to Tehran through Israel in exchange for the hostages being held until after the election.


Still, a White House memo produced in November 1991 by a lawyer for President George H.W. Bush reported the existence of “a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown.” That memo was not turned over to Mr. Hamilton’s task force and was discovered two decades later by Robert Parry, a journalist who helped produce a “Frontline” documentary on the October surprise.

Reached by telephone this past week, Mr. Sick said he never heard of any involvement by Mr. Connally but saw Mr. Barnes’s account as verifying the broad concerns he had raised. “This is really very interesting and it really does add significantly to the base level of information on this,” Mr. Sick said. “Just the fact that he was doing it and debriefed Casey when he got back means a lot.” The story goes “further than anything that I’ve seen thus far,” he added. “So this is really new.”


But as the years have passed, he said, he has often thought an injustice had been done to Mr. Carter. Discussing the trip now, he indicated, was his way of making amends. “I just want history to reflect that Carter got a little bit of a bad deal about the hostages,” he said. “He didn’t have a fighting chance with those hostages still in the embassy in Iran.”

So, now we know that they did it, and we know that Bill Casey knew about it.  Now we need to what ever actions were taken, because it's clear that these accusations have some merit, and its equally clear that there would have been other avenues pursued as well.

While we are at it, how about taking Reagan's name off of the airport and the carrier.

Hoping for an Alien Abduction Right Now

Yes, this story is real, and I no longer want to be on this planet.

Also, writers for The Onion are seriously considering retirement after this.

Kanye West is returning to social media to share an update on his feelings toward Jewish people.

The rapper and fashion mogul, who now goes by Ye, shared a post on Instagram Friday (March 24) claiming that actor Jonah Hill’s performance in 21 Jump Street helped change his views about antisemitism.

“Watching Jonah Hill in 21 Jump street made me like Jewish people again,” Ye wrote alongside a poster for the 2012 comedy, which also starred Channing Tatum. “No one should take anger against one or two individuals and transform that into hatred towards millions of innocent people.”

The rapper added, “No Christian can be labeled antisemite knowing Jesus is Jew. Thank you Jonah Hill I love you.”

As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know."

24 March 2023

Just Jumped Out of a Floor 20 Window

And at floor 12, so far, so good.

A note to my reader(s) it was not me wot jumped out of a 20th floor window, it's the world's banking system.

Since Credit Suisse went tits up, we have not had any bank failures of note, though there are some rumblings about concerns with some European and US banks.

I really hope that there is an air bag on floor 1.

More Elections Have Consequence

While Joe Biden's economic team (renominating Jerome Powell, Janet Yellen, etc.) and the foreign relations team (Blinken, Austin, Nuland, etc.) have not been good, those in the areas of consumer protection and antitrust have been pretty good, and none have been better than  Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, who just proposed a rule that would require vendors to make canceling a service just as easy as signing up.

As it stands right now, you click, "Yes," on a website, and in order to terminate, you have to call an always busy phone line, to get an address to send a letter to request a meeting, and at that meeting they say, "If you don't mind leaving a blood-sample, and a piece of skin off the back of the scalp just here, it's just for identification, you can't be too careful."

Lina Khan wants people to be able to terminate service just as easily as they sign up:

Canceling a subscription should be just as easy as signing up for the service, the Federal Trade Commission said in a proposed "click-to-cancel" rule announced today. If approved, the plan "would put an end to companies requiring you to call customer service to cancel an account that you opened on their website," FTC commissioners said.

The FTC said the click-to-cancel rule would require sellers "to make it as easy for consumers to cancel their enrollment as it was to sign up," and "go a long way to rescuing consumers from seemingly never-ending struggles to cancel unwanted subscription payment plans for everything from cosmetics to newspapers to gym memberships."


"The proposal states that if consumers can sign up for subscriptions online, they should be able to cancel online, with the same number of steps. If consumers can open an account over the phone, they should be able to cancel it over the phone, without endless delays," FTC Chair Lina Khan wrote.


The proposed rule requires a simple cancellation mechanism for any medium in which a consumer signs up for a service, including Internet, telephone, mail, and in-person. It says:
On the Internet, this "Click to Cancel" provision requires sellers, at a minimum, to provide an accessible cancellation mechanism on the same website or web-based application used for sign-up. If the seller allows users to sign up using a phone, it must provide, at a minimum, a telephone number and ensure all calls to that number are answered during normal business hours. Further, to meet the requirement that the mechanism be at least as simple as the one used to initiate the recurring charge, any telephone call used for cancellation cannot be more expensive than the call used to enroll (e.g., if the sign-up call is toll-free, the cancellation call must also be toll-free). For a recurring charge initiated through an in-person transaction, the seller must offer the simple cancellation mechanism through the Internet or by telephone in addition to, where practical, the in-person method used to initiate the transaction.

The Republican on the FTC finds this necessarily burdensome, because the rights of businesses to screw their customers is a law handed down by the almighty himself, except of course for TikTok.

I am rather surprised that Biden chose so well with Ms. Khan.

Elections Have Consequences: Michigan

Following the adoption of impartial redistricting process, the Democrat Party in Michigan controls both houses of the legislature and the Governor's mansion.

Rather than spending their time trying to appeal to people who literally want to kidnap and execute them, the Dems got down to business in Lansing, and have now repealed the states right-to-work law.  They also repealed the decades old state abortion ban, passed gun control legislation, added LGBTQ to the list of classes protected from discrimination.

This is good policy and good politics, but all too often, "Moderates" in the party apparatus who want to suck up to the Chamber of Commerce and try to renege on these promises, with the inevitable electoral disaster to follow.

You win an election, you deliver what you promise, and if possible you engage in activities that secure the support of the electorate, things like this repeal:

For several decades now, a basic political dynamic has recurred in Washington. Afforded political power, Republicans push their agenda as fiercely and aggressively as possible, using every tool at their disposal. Among Democrats, something like the opposite is more typically the case. Awarded a sweeping mandate in 2008 and a governing trifecta in 2009, to take a recent example, Barack Obama and his administration refused to go to the mats for the public option for health care, refrained from overhauling America’s financial system, and backed away from promised reforms that would have made it easier for workers to organize unions.

. ………

Elected with their own governing trifecta last November — the first of its kind in forty years — state Democrats are now, refreshingly, pursuing a version of Snyder’s strategy in reverse. In a single day alone, ignoring the anguished cries of their Republican counterparts, Michigan’s Democrat-controlled legislature passed a new gun control law, voted to repeal the state’s unenforceable abortion ban, and enshrined protections for LGBTQ citizens. Significantly, legislation to end the state’s Snyder-era right-to-work law was just passed through the Michigan house and senate and is now on its way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for approval.


Elected Democrats winning political power and wielding it to expand basic rights while rolling back draconian legislation imposed by the Right. What a thought. 
Indeed.  People don't vote for the civility fairy, they want their elected officials to kick ass and take names, and will support those politicians who do so.

Support Your Local Police

Oh, the Poor Delicate Snowflakes

So, cops raided rapper Afroman's (Joseph Foreman) home with guns srawn, terrorized his wife and kids, broke his front door, vandalized his home security system so he would have no record of their search, possibly stole $400 in cash, and ATE THE LEMON POUND CAKE IN HIS KITCHEN, found nothing.  (As Anna Russel would say, "I'm not making this up, you know.")

No charges were ever filed

In response, Afroman used the footage from his home security system and his wife, and made a number of rap videos featuring the footage, so the delicate snowflakes at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office are suing, claiming that they have suffered mockery and emotional distress when the videos when viral.

F$#@ them with Cheney's Dick.

You raided his house, broke in his door, vandalized his home security system, and ate his cake, but their poor delicate feelings are hurt:

Seven Ohio cops who raided a rapper known as Afroman’s house last summer are now suing the rapper after Afroman made music videos using footage from the raid. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office police officers allege that the rapper is profiting off unauthorized use of their likenesses, not only in the music videos but also on merchandise created after Afroman’s social media posts and music videos went viral on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Cops suing say they’ve been subjected to death threats, ridicule, reputation loss, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, and other alleged harms and will continue to suffer unless the court forces Afroman to destroy all the merchandise and posts bearing their likenesses.

They are suffering from very well deserved, "Ridicule, reputation loss, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, and other alleged harms".

Ars couldn’t immediately reach Afroman, whose real name is Joseph Foreman, for comment, but Vice talked to him in January. Afroman told Vice that after the raid, he suffered, too, losing gigs and feeling powerless. He decided to create music videos for songs called “Lemon Pound Cake,” “Why You Disconnecting My Video Camera,” and “Will You Help Me Repair My Door” to reclaim his good name.

The cops’ warrant shows that officers conducted the raid to seek evidence of “drug possession and trafficking, as well as kidnapping,” The Guardian reported, but no evidence was found, and no charges were issued against Afroman.

Afroman was not present during the raid, and his music videos relied on security camera footage and videos shot by his wife on her phone. The rapper claims that police destroyed his property and seized $400. “I felt powerless yet angry," he told Vice. "These guys can destroy my property and I literally couldn’t do nothing about it.”

He said that releasing the music videos was his only way to process these feelings and that he was shocked when the videos went viral. “The only thing I could do was take to my pen and sing about the injustice,” Afroman told Vice. “And to my surprise, it’s going over well!”

. ………

Now, it seems that officers have reached their breaking point after months of alleged public ridicule, with each demanding at least $25,000 in damages on five separate counts in their complaint against Afroman. Ohio law bans the use of an individual’s persona—such as Afroman's use of officers' faces in videos and on T-shirts—for commercial purposes without authorization.

“Personas of the plaintiffs were not used by defendants in connection with any news, public affairs, sports broadcast, or political campaign, and their unauthorized use of plaintiffs' personas for commercial purposes was not justified or excused,” their complaint said. It also alleged that Afroman violated officers’ right to privacy and made false statements.

According to the complaint, Afroman appeared in an interview on VLADTV, where he “admits to using images and clips from the search in videos and promotion.” Clips include officers asking for a piece of lemon pound cake and dismantling a security camera to prevent more footage. They’re asking a jury to award damages and require Afroman to stop using their likenesses in his videos and promotional materials. They also want him to delete “dozens of videos and images” posted on “various social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram.”

Among these social media posts that cops said would offend a reasonable person is an Instagram post showing one officer, Shawn Cooley, who is seen in the raid footage asking for a piece of pound cake. The post shows Afroman wearing a shirt with Shawn Cooley’s face next to Family Guy’s Peter Griffin with a caption that says, "Good Morning Ladies!!! What up Fellas??? Congratulations to Police Officer Poundcake. Thank you for getting me 5.4 MILLION hits on TikTok. I couldn't have done it without you obviously! Congratulations again; you're famous for all the wrong reasons.”

Afroman told Vice that he considered the raid harassment and that his music videos were meant to raise awareness of an alleged pattern of abuse, saying that “sheriff's officers in this county have been doing people dirty for a very long time and getting away with it.” 

First, there is no expectation of privacy when police engage in an official action, particularly when they are engaging in a swatting a house.

Also, this is newsworthy, and his rap videos are arguably news reporting, and so his use is probably protected under the first amendment.  Also, filming police in the execution of their duties is specifically protected under the first amendment as well, as has been decided multiple times across multiple courts.

The law that they are suing under has specific exemptions for news, and breaking down the door of a man whose songs had charted in the US and around the world is pretty explicitly newsworthy.

Also, it appears that the statute that they are suing under has an exemption for literary and musical work.

The above legal opion, along with the conclusion that their argument would have the effect of banning the use of home security cameras in Ohio, are not a product of my lack of legal expertise.  This came from lawyer Steve Lehto who did a YouTube about this.

Here is hoping for a summary judgement and sanctions against the cops and their lawyers.

23 March 2023

Bye, Felicia!

Howard Schultz, long time head of Starbucks and a union busting son of a bitch, is stepping down as CEO of the coffee giant. (again)

He's leaving 2 weeks early, just before the annual meeting, and just before he testifies before Congress.

His behavior over the years has been appalling, and over the past few years, as the union organizing efforts at Starbucks has expanded, he has destroyed the company's reputation among its customers and his employees (sorry, "partners") almost as thoroughly as Carly Fiorina destroyed HP.

Here's hoping that his both as a corporate executive and as a political candidate, (he [sort of] ran for President in 2029) is over forever.

The man is a cancer on society:

On Monday, interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stepped down from his position about two weeks ahead of his previously announced schedule — and three days before the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Schultz will be testifying under oath on the national stage next week about the company’s labor practices under him and his predecessors. The outgoing executive only agreed to testify under threat of a subpoena from Senator Bernie Sanders, who called Schultz out publicly in his position as head of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

My guess is that he was pushed, and he was told that if he were still CEO at the shareholders' meeting he would be subject to. [unfortunately only] metaphorical poo flinging, so it was best for him to exit early.


Schultz portrays himself as a working-class kid from the Brooklyn projects who grew up to found a $100-billion-plus company and become a billionaire himself. He lived the American dream, and he did it while supposedly maintaining progressive values at the company, like LGBTQ friendliness, health insurance for part-timers, fair treatment for people of color, and more. He even wants you to know that he cares deeply about his company’s workers.


But if that image reflected the reality for Starbucks baristas, large numbers of them wouldn’t be on Medicaid or without a living wage. And they wouldn’t be organizing unions in mass numbers, as they have been recently, and calling attention to Schultz’s own abuses and that of the company under his tenure.

In reality, Schultz is a CEO who fights unions and their first contract. He has opposed his workers’ attempts to secure their rights and well-being, with Starbucks illegally undermining its own workers’ rights hundreds of times for decades under his influence and leadership.

In the past year and a half alone, Starbucks has closed stores where workers were in the middle of union drives, closed stores that already had unionized, cut workers’ hours, offered benefits and raises to nonunion stores, held captive-audience meetings at which managers bully and intimidate workers with anti-union messages, and much more, creating a climate of retaliation.


Because of the work of SBWU and allies like other labor organizations and Senator Sanders, Schultz is now among the best known union-busters in the country. The idea of him heading the Department of Labor as a progressive choice wouldn’t pass the laugh test at this point. One hopes that other union-busting CEOs are similarly put through the ringer by the labor movement.

Howard, your coffee sucks.  It tastes like a charcoal briquette , and you suck even worse.

I hope Bernie Sanders flays you alive at the hearings.

And Now on to Credit Suisse

In response to years of mismanagement, with a side order of money laundering, Credit Suisse was subject to a forced sale to UBS with a backstop from the Swiss government to the tune of ₣12,500 ($13,00.00) for every man, woman, and child in Switzerland, a total of ₣109,000,000,000.00.

But it's not a bailout, because ……… The Aristocrats!

There is not a whole bunch that I can add to the immediate cause of all of this, that Credit Suisse was a corrupt and poorly run bank was a not particularly well kept secret for years.  (The same goes for Deutsche Bank, but it's not in crisis ……… so far ……… today)

It's been experiencing a slow-walked bank run for the past 2-3 years, and SVB's collapse turned that into a rout.

Adam Tooze has an interesting take on all this, which is that Switzerland, specifically Zurich, and he calls out the, Zurich based liberal elites, (Liberal in the 19th century hyper-capitalist sense) specifically,  their efforts, "To build corporate champions of global scale on the basis of the incestuous networked politics of Switzerland."

It is a rather interesting  take on all of this, but I am more inclined to believe that this, much like Silicon Valley Bank's failure, is more an artifact of our corrupt and risky international financial amusing.

There is a bit of Shadenfreude in all of this though,

The Swiss Bank's failure looks to be turning one of the constants in bankruptcy on its head.

Typically, the shareholders are at the very end of the line as debtors, but in the case of Credit Suisse, Contingent Convertibles (CoCo) bond holders are behind the shareholders, which is creating outrage from people who neglected to read the specific terms of those bonds, which means that as opposed to getting a major haircut, they are getting nothing:

One of the elements in the takeunder by UBS of Credit Suisse was that CHF 16 billion (about $17.3 billion) in CoCo bonds got wiped out totally, while shareholders got wiped out only almost totally. Swiss regulator FINMA, when announcing the deal on Sunday, said that CoCo bonds would be written down to zero, in a sense subordinating bondholders to shareholders, which is like a total no-no very-bad-boy thing to do, because normally, shareholders would get totally wiped out first, and then bond holders would start taking their turn.

Turns out, there were some clauses in the documents of the CoCo bonds, issued in Switzerland, that allowed this under certain conditions and triggers. But no one ever reads any clauses, and so it came as a surprise, shaking up the $275 billion market for these creatures that came out of the swamp of the Financial Crisis.

What are Additional Tier 1 CoCo bonds?

CoCos – short for “contingent convertible capital instruments,” also known as Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds – were created in Europe in response to the financial crisis as a way to boost bank capital without diluting existing shareholders. Before, a bank would have to sell shares to raise capital, thereby diluting existing shareholders. With this instrument, they could weasel their way around selling shares and still raise capital for regulatory purposes. 


Credit Swiss has been teetering on the brink for years. It has been hobbling from scandal to scandal, each time losing billions of francs along the way, and each time, its shares got beaten to a new record low. And all along the way, new investors were bamboozled into investing billions of dollars in this thing to boost its capital and keep it alive. And the money just vanished. The culture of risk-taking and doing shady deals was something that could apparently not be changed by the CEOs that came and went. Or they didn’t want to change it – despite rhetoric to the contrary – because they were focused on boosting the share price or whatever. The SNB wouldn’t let it collapse, and regulators didn’t force it to straighten out. But a lot of losses to the Swiss public and investors could have been avoided if this creature had been taken out the back and shot years ago.

Please, won't someone think of the investment bankers? 

They have a mistress, a rent boy, and cocaine habit to support.

The idea that they should have to find honest work shocks the conscience.

Oh the hu……… Well, you know.

Thursday Jobless Report

Initial claims were basically unchanged, dropping to 191,000 from last week's 192,000, seasonally adjusted.

Worker filings for unemployment benefits held nearly steady last week, showing that the broader labor market remains robust despite large companies announcing layoffs.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, decreased slightly by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 191,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The level of claims fluctuated earlier this month, in part because of school closures, but broadly remains historically low. The four-week average of weekly claims, which smooths out volatility in the weekly numbers, edged lower last week to 196,250.


Continuing claims, a proxy for the total number of ongoing unemployment-benefits payments, increased by 14,000 to 1.69 million in the week ended March 11. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

The level of insured unemployment is somewhat elevated from a low point of about 1.3 million last spring. Modestly elevated continuing claims could be a sign some beneficiaries are taking longer to find new jobs.

So, notwithstanding the tech layoffs, which I think are more herd mentality juicing executives stock options than anything else, we are not seeing an uptick in job losses.

Also, as I have noted before, I think that the Covid-19 pandemic has screwed up the seasonal adjustments, so we may be seeing some effects from that.


Nae True Scotsman*

In Australia, the Select Committee on Foreign Interference (Talk about setting something up with a preordained conclusion) commissioned a study which concluded that (surprise) TikTok is not really a privately owned firm, but rather an arm of the government of China.

Of course, this means that the app can be banned, or its domestic assets expropriated, through legislative or executive action without any involvement of the courts, despite the general consensus amongst the powers that be in the West we continue to maintain that our economic system depends not only depends on the rule of law to private businesses, but that it relies on giving private businesses extra-legal rights through trade deals and secret kangaroo courts.

The hypocrisy here is stunning:

ByteDance, the Chinese developer of TikTok, "can no longer be accurately described as a private enterprise" and is instead intertwined with China's government, according to a report [PDF] submitted to Australia's Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media.

The report, by a quartet of researchers, was hailed as "the most comprehensive exploration yet of the CCP's ties to TikTok" by Brendan Carr, commissioner of the United States' Federal Communications Commission. India's IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar retweeted Carr's remarks.

The report alleges that China's government noticed as Douyin – the Chinese version of TikTok – boomed. Beijing then commenced a campaign employing its "legal and extra-legal mechanisms for influencing, coercing and controlling China's nominally privately-owned technology companies."

ByteDance has since become a publisher of state propaganda and built surveillance and analytics capabilities that make both Douyin and TikTok a tool China could use to profile individuals. In the words of the report's authors, this leaves ByteDance as "a 'hybrid' state-private entity."

How remarkably convenient.

How remarkably self-serving.

You would have to be an idiot to trust that Bytedance/TikTok would keep your personal information safe, just as you would for Twitter, or Instagram, or Google/Youtube, or WhatsApp,, or the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™.

Honestly, I'm not sure who I trust less, the Chinese Communist Party, or domestic social media apps that have been shown repeatedly to lie about your privacy for a few bucks.

*There is a concept in philosophy called the, "No True Scotsman," fallacy. Basically, you redefine reality to fit the facts. So if I say, "No Scotsman puts sugar on their porridge," and you say, "My Uncle Angus McTavish puts sugar on his porridge," I respond, "He's no true Scotsman."

Yes, I know, Australia is actually pretty far east to be called the west, but culturally and economically, it is the west, and buys into the Neoliberal sanctity of private property at all cost bullsh$#.

Speaking of Rich Poxes on Humanity

Jack Dorsey, under whose leadership Twitter turned into a cesspool of hate and bigotry, (now being made even worse by Elon), is is now being targeted by notorious short seller Hindenburg over the allegedly fraudulent practices of his company Block, the mobile payments processor formerly known as Square.

Allegedly, the company has been evading anti-money laundering statutes, over-reporting the number of users that it has, and predatory lending.

Not a huge fan of short sellers, but here's hoping that they take Dorsey to the cleaners:

Shares of the payments company formerly known as Square fell about 15% on Thursday after a short seller questioned the company’s user numbers and accused it of predatory tactics.

Hindenburg Research said a two-year investigation into Block Inc. found the company “obfuscates” its Cash App service’s true user numbers by reporting misleading metrics “filled with fake and duplicate accounts.” It also accused the company of taking advantage of the demographics it claims to serve—lower-income people and minorities—with “predatory loans and fees.”

Hindenburg’s report is “factually inaccurate and misleading” and “designed to deceive and confuse investors,” Block said in a statement. The company also said it was exploring legal action against the short seller.

Short sellers profit when a stock falls. They do this by borrowing stocks that they believe are overvalued, selling them, and buying them back later at a lower price.


Block is best known for its signature white credit-card readers that let businesses accept payments with a smartphone or tablet, though its Cash App peer-to-peer payment service has been a key driver of the company’s growth in recent years. The ease with which Block made it possible for people to accept stimulus checks and unemployment benefits in Cash App during the Covid-19 pandemic helped turbocharge its usage.


Hindenburg said much of Cash App’s pandemic-induced growth came from facilitating suspect payments. Public records Hindenburg requested from states including Massachusetts and Ohio showed that a bank that partners with Cash App had a disproportionate number of suspect payments for unemployment benefits. Former Cash App employees that Hindenburg interviewed estimated that a large portion of Cash App accounts were potentially fake, raised red flags for fraud or were connected to a single real person.

Cash App’s compliance controls were another target for Hindenburg. The short seller cited court documents in which law-enforcement agencies said criminals used Cash App to move drug money or pay for sex trafficking. A Baltimore gang even named itself Cash App, Hindenburg said. Members of the gang pleaded guilty to drug charges.


“Block has misled investors on key metrics, and embraced predatory offerings and compliance worst-practices in order to fuel growth and profit,” Hindenburg said in its report.

Hindenburg called attention to investigations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and many state attorneys general into Cash App’s business practices, including its handling of customer complaints and disputes. Block disclosed those matters in securities filings and said the CFPB’s investigative requests were “overly burdensome” in court documents.

Nathan Anderson’s Hindenburg has previously targeted companies including Nikola Corp., the electric truck maker whose founder was later convicted of securities fraud, and Indian conglomerate Adani Group.

There really is a culture of criminality at the core of America's tech sector.  It started small, things like Jobs and Woz phone phreaking, and now you crap like Tharanos, false claims of self driving cars, counterfeit users, and dubious claims of profitability.

If a prosecutor were to get medieval on the sector, particularly the VCs who promulgate the frauds and get out before they collapse, perhaps our allocation of capital, and our society, would be more productive.

22 March 2023

Trying to Catch a Falling Knife, and Failing

The beatings will continue until the morale improves
So, the Federal Reserve only raised its benchmark Federal Funds rate by 25 basis points (¼%) today.

They are attempting to forestall a wage price spiral, one which is not remotely close to actually happening, given that inflation is was at 6%, while wage growth was only 3.6% year over year.  (Lower wage workers are doing better than that, so there has been some compression in wages [a good thing] but that is irrelevant to the inflation argument)

The Fed is in a tough position, because they have to choose between overreacting to inflation, which is what they get praised for, and not torpedoing the banks, who are their real "customers", who stand to suffer major losses and potential liquidity crises from their portfolios of hold to maturity bonds:

The Federal Reserve approved another quarter-percentage-point interest-rate increase but signaled that banking-system turmoil might end its rate-rise campaign sooner than seemed likely two weeks ago.

The decision Wednesday marked the Fed’s ninth consecutive rate increase aimed at battling inflation over the past year. It will bring its benchmark federal-funds rate to a range between 4.75% and 5%, the highest level since September 2007.\

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said officials had considered skipping a rate hike after banking stress intensified last week. And he hinted that Wednesday’s increase could be their last one for now depending on the extent of any lending pullback that follows a bank run earlier this month. Regulators shuttered Silicon Valley Bank and a second institution, Signature Bank, two weeks ago, and bailed out uninsured depositors to stave off a panic.

History rhyming

While all this is going, we are seeing home prices falling YoY for the first time in 11 years, and if that does not bring back memories of the great recession, you were probably pretty f$#@ing young, or in a coma, at the time.

The first year-over-year drop in home prices in more than a decade and a dip in mortgage rates snapped a yearlong streak of declining monthly home sales, showing the effects of the Federal Reserve’s campaign to raise interest rates.

Sales of previously owned homes, which make up most of the housing market, rose 14.5% in February from the prior month, but were down 22.6% from a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. Sales had decreased for 12 consecutive months through January.


Buyers benefited from a slight improvement in affordability as home prices ticked lower and mortgage rates eased from a 20-year high touched last fall.

The national median existing-home sale price fell 0.2% in February from a year earlier to $363,000, the first year-over-year decline since February 2012. Median prices, which aren’t seasonally adjusted, were down 12.3% from a record high in June.

Mortgage rates topped 7% in November, but fell to near 6% in early February, before fluctuating in recent weeks.

Note that this was all before Silvergate, and Silicon Valley Bank, and Signature Bank all struck an iceberg and sank.

In related news, it appears that a lot of money, something north of ½ trillion dollars has been sucked from banks over the past few years though a facility that the Federal Reserve has offered called reverse repo

Basically, instead of offering financial instruments for quick cash, banks and money market funds (the high fiance type, not the savings accounts at your bank that offer an additional ½% interest and require you to maintain a high balance)

This facility was intended by the Fed to help wind down their quantitative easing (printing money and giving it to Wall Street criminals) in a relatively orderly manner.

Instead, deposits in banks are down 3% as a result, meaning that banks have less, not more cash in reserve.

This one we can blame Ben Bernanke for, he initiated the program, not Jerome Powell.


An unlimited source of energy:

I Can Haz Prosecushuns?

After being told to preserve records by the US Department of Justice, Google continued to have its chats auto-delete in direct contravention of those instructions.

At this point, it's not enough to make them pay a few bucks, that is just a cost of doing business.  You need to frog-march executives out of their offices in handcuffs:

Google defended its use of "history-off chats" for many internal communications, denying the US government's allegation that it intentionally destroyed evidence needed in an antitrust case. The history-off setting causes messages to be automatically deleted within 24 hours.

The US government and 21 states last month asked a court to sanction Google for allegedly using the auto-delete function on chats to destroy evidence and accused Google of falsely telling the government that it suspended its auto-deletion practices on chats subject to a legal hold. Google opposed the motion for sanctions on Friday in a filing in US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Google said it uses a "tiered approach" for preserving chats. "When there is litigation, Google instructs employees on legal hold not to use messaging apps like Google Chat to discuss the subjects at issue in the litigation and, if they must, to switch their settings to 'history on' for chats regarding the subjects at issue in the litigation, so that any such messages are preserved," the Google filing said.

So, they f$#@ing pinky swear not to use the self-destructing chats.  Bullsh$#.

There is a requirement when such a request is made to actively preserve documents, not send out a quiet memo saying, "If you are using chat, and your discussion involves what we are being sued about, please try to remember to turn off the auto-delete function."


Google's filing came in response to the US arguing that Google should have disabled auto-delete by default instead of "abdicat[ing] its burden to individual custodians to preserve potentially relevant chat."

"Google consciously failed to preserve relevant evidence. The daily destruction of relevant evidence was inevitable when Google set a company-wide default to delete history-off chat messages every 24 hours, and then elected to maintain that auto-delete setting for custodians subject to a litigation hold," US Justice Department of Justice antitrust lawyers told the court on February 23.

The US and states' lawsuit against Google was filed in October 2020 and alleges that Google illegally maintains monopolies in the markets for search and search advertising through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices. The US said Google "had a duty to preserve employee chat messages" starting in 2019 when it became clear that litigation was imminent.

They could have literally just flipped one switch, and the chats would have been preserved for a total cost measured in pennies.

Also, Google lied about it:

The Justice Department's motion last month said things happened very differently. "Google systematically destroyed an entire category of written communications every 24 hours" for nearly four years, the government motion said, continuing:
All this time, Google falsely told the United States that Google had "put a legal hold in place" that "suspends auto-deletion." Indeed, during the United States' investigation and the discovery phase of this litigation, Google repeatedly misrepresented its document preservation policies, which conveyed the false impression that the company was preserving all custodial chats. Not only did Google unequivocally assert during the investigation that its legal hold suspended auto-deletion, but Google continually failed to disclose—both to the United States and to the Court—its 24-hour auto-deletion policy. Instead, at every turn, Google reaffirmed that it was preserving and searching all potentially relevant written communications.
The history-off chats are also a subject of dispute in a separate lawsuit filed by Epic Games, which alleged that Google illegally monopolized the market for distribution of mobile apps and mobile app payment processing on Android. Epic filed a motion to sanction Google for alleged spoliation of evidence in October.

It's clear that Google has been setting its internal chats to auto-destruct by default after 24 hours specifically to obstruct any investigation or lawsuit.

Setting the chats up to do so destroys a significant amount of the utility to their use, because you have no record on Wednesday regarding what you were told on Monday.

Lock them up.