30 April 2013

EU Bans Neonicotinoid Pesticides

They are cioncerned that these pesticides are causing colony collapse disorder:

Environmentalists hailed a "victory for bees" today after the European Union voted for a ban on the nerve-agent pesticides blamed for the dramatic decline global bee populations.

Despite fierce lobbying by the chemicals industry and opposition by countries including Britain, 15 of the 27 member states voted for a two-year restriction on neonicotinoid insecticides. That gave the European Commission the support it needed to push through an EU-wide ban on using three neonicotinoids on crops attractive to bees.

Tonio Borg, the EC's top health official, said they planned to implement the landmark ban from December. "I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22bn annually to European agriculture, are protected," he said.

Britain was among eight nations which voted against the motion, despite a petition signed by 300,000 people presented to Downing Street last week by fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett. The Independent has also campaigned to save Britain's bee population.

Four nations abstained from the moratorium, which will restrict the use of imidacloprid and clothianidin, made by Germany's Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by the Swiss company, Syngenta. The ban on use on flowering crops will remain in place throughout the EU for two years unless compelling scientific evidence to the contrary becomes available.

More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids, which attack insects' nerve systems, and falling bee numbers. The proposal by European Commission - the EU's legislative body - to ban the insecticides was based on a study by the European Food Safety Authority, which found in January that the pesticides did pose a risk to bees' health.
The argument against this is that the evidence is not sufficiently conclusive.

Hopefully, the two year ban should provide some good data, though the Wiki indicates that the pesticide can persist in the environment for more than two years.

Quote of the Day

The Republican congressional delegation -- particularly the members of the House -- are completely creatures of the base. They are former state legislators and state senators who got elected to those offices espousing ideas that likely were further out there than the ones they're spouting now. In large part, they were raised within the base's political structures, both inside and outside of government. They are the product of a closed information society, with its own history and its own science and its own truth. To borrow a line from Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail, the Republican members of the House are the fking base, motherfker. They're not asking for permission to do the right thing, and they're certainly not waiting for this president to provide it. They're not posing. They are not doing what they're told. They're doing what they believe.
Charlie Pierce on why Barack Obama will not find common ground with the Republicans in Congress
(emphasis mine)

You know this, and I know this, but Barack Obama is unwilling to recognize reality.

Jon Stewart Has a Comedygasm

Jon Stewart was positively ecstatic last night about the whole ricin mailer thing (see video).

You remember, how Paul Kevin Curtis, the Elvis impersonator, was framed for mailing poisoned letters to President Obama and Senator Wiker? Well they have now fingered an enemy of his, Everett Dutschke, for the deed, and he is a Wayne Newton impersonator.

Remember what the Chinese say about living in interesting times?

Well, for Jon Stewart, this makes his job pretty easy.

29 April 2013

Why am I not Surprised?

The New York Times has revealed that they delivered big sacks of cash to Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
President Hamid Karzai acknowledged Monday that the Central Intelligence Agency has been dropping off bags of cash at his office for a decade, saying the money was used for “various purposes” and expressing gratitude to the United States for making the payments.

Mr. Karzai described the sums delivered by the C.I.A. as a “small amount,” though he offered few other details. But former and current advisers of the Afghan leader have said the C.I.A. cash deliveries have totaled tens of millions of dollars over the past decade and have been used to pay off warlords, lawmakers and others whose support the Afghan leader depends upon.

The payments are not universally supported in the United States government. American diplomats and soldiers expressed dismay on Monday about the C.I.A.’s cash deliveries, which some said fueled corruption. They spoke privately because the C.I.A. effort is classified.

Others were not so restrained. “We’ve all suspected it,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and a critic of the war effort in Afghanistan. “But for President Karzai to admit it out loud brings us into a bizarro world.”

Mr. Karzai’s comments, made at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, where he is traveling, were not without precedent. When it emerged in 2010 that one of his top aides was taking bags of cash from Iran, Mr. Karzai readily confirmed those reports and expressed gratitude for the money. Iran cut off its payments last year after Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership deal with the United States over Iran’s objections.
I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!

I'm so not surprised that this was the guy that George W. Bush and his evil minions chose to run the country.

They wanted someone whom they could buy.

Unfortunately, they also found someone who doesn't stay bought.


Journeyman NBA center Jason Collins has become the first active player in a major US sport to come out as gay.

I expect that we will see dozens of athletes coming out in the next year or two.

This is Repulsive

Norristown, PA has a policy of trying to evict victims of domestic violence:
Gosh. Norristown, Pennsylvania seems like it must be a real nice place to live what with its strict schoolmarm rule against “disorderly behavior.” In order to be fair, however, the rule applies not only to those who perpetrate “disorderly behavior” but also to those who might happen to be victims of it. Best legal system in the world! Watch and learn, America: The Norristown police notified a woman whose boyfriend assaulted her that she was being evicted for the crime of disturbing the peace by being assaulted too many times.

From the ACLU:

Last year in Norristown, Pa., Lakisha Briggs’ boyfriend physically assaulted her, and the police arrested him. But in a cruel turn of events, a police officer then told Ms. Briggs, “You are on three strikes. We’re gonna have your landlord evict you.”

Yes, that’s right. The police threatened Ms. Briggs with eviction because she had received their assistance for domestic violence. Under Norristown’s “disorderly behavior ordinance,” the city penalizes landlords and tenants when the police respond to three instances of “disorderly behavior” within a four-month period. The ordinance specifically includes “domestic disturbances” as disorderly behavior that triggers enforcement of the law.
Oh, well, that certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, the poor police officers wouldn’t want to be dragged away from their donuts and coffee just because some broad got in a fight with her man because he didn’t load the dishwasher right or something, and then she called the 5-O on him just ’cause bitches, man, sometimes they’re like that.
After her first “strike,” Ms. Briggs was terrified of calling the police. She did not want to do anything to risk losing her home. So even when her now ex-boyfriend attacked her with a brick, she did not call. And later, when he stabbed her in the neck, she was still too afraid to reach out. But both times, someone else did call the police. Based on these “strikes,” the city pressured her landlord to evict.
Seriously.  How about arresting her psycho ex-boyfriend?

BTW, if you go the the ACLU link you will find that Norristown is not alone in this.

Any number of municipalities have a policy of punishing the victim, because it is inconvenient.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

It turns out that the interrogation of  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not merely involve not notifying him of his Miranda rights.  It may also have involved ignoring specific requests for a lawyer:
Since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody just over a week ago, the hue and cry in the public and media discussion has centered on “Miranda” rights and to what extent the “public safety exception” thereto should come into play. That discussion has been almost uniformly wrongheaded. I will return to this shortly, but for now wish to point out something that appears to have mostly escaped notice of the media and legal commentariat – Tsarnaev repeatedly tried to invoke his right to counsel.

Tucked in the body of this Los Angeles Times report is the startling revelation of Tsarnaev’s attempt to invoke:
A senior congressional aide said Tsarnaev had asked several times for a lawyer, but that request was ignored since he was being questioned under the public safety exemption to the Miranda rule. The exemption allows defendants to be questioned about imminent threats, such as whether other plots are in the works or other plotters are on the loose.
Assuming the accuracy of this report, the news of Tsarnaev repeatedly attempting to invoke right to counsel is critically important because now not only is the 5th Amendment right to silence in play, but so too is the right to counsel under both the 5th and 6th Amendments. While the two rights are commonly, and mistakenly, thought of as one in the same due to the conflation in the language of the Miranda warnings, they are actually somewhat distinct rights and principles. In fact, there is no explicit right to counsel set out in the Fifth at all, it is a creature of implication manufactured by the Supreme Court, while the Sixth Amendment does have an explicit right to counsel, but it putatively only attaches after charging, and is charge specific. Both are critical to consideration of the Tsarnaev case; what follows is a long, but necessary, discussion of why.


The primacy, and fundamental nature of the right to custodial interrogation counsel, however, was confirmed in the 1981 decision of Edwards v. Arizona, where the court held suspects have the right under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, as declared in Miranda, and that right cannot be invaded absent a clear and valid waiver. While it is true, under Berghuis v. Thompkins, a suspect must affirmatively invoke his right to counsel as opposed to simply standing silent, there is no authority for interrogators to simply ignore and frustrate, over an extended period, a suspect’s express request for counsel as appears to have occurred in Tsarnaev’s case.
You can be pretty sure that if the reports are accurate that Holder, and probably Obama, were aware of his request for counsel within minutes of his first request.

This is repulsive. 

These sorts of tactics are reminiscent of a police state.

28 April 2013

Dropped from My Blogroll

Matthew Yglesias has been dropped from my blogroll.

He just wrote an article saying that it's OK that all those people died in Bangladesh, it's a choice made by "rational actors" to trade safety for jobs:
I think that’s wrong. Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good.
Shades of Larry Summers suggesting that we ship toxic waste to Africa because they need the money.

The workers did not have a choice about safety. They knew that they, and their families, would face starvation if they got fired for not going into an unsafe building. The choice was made by their evil bosses.

This is a constant theme of his writing, and I am no interested in his faux liberal bullsh%$.

While there are people on my blogroll with who I profoundly disagree with because they provide insight into foreign view points.

Retired Maryland Republican hatchet man Joe Steffen, and Russian/Orthodox Christian Nationalist Stanislav Mishin are two such examples on my blogroll.

His view, which can best be described by the phrase, "Even the liberal The New Republic."

It's all about self-entitled white guys who never have to wonder about where their next meal is coming from play the Michael Kinsley counter-intuitive idiocy game in an attempt to prove how smart they are.

It's dull, it's predictable, it's bereft of any real insight, and it's off my regular reading list.

Awwww!!! Rick Perry' Feelings are Hurt!!!!

Texas' Business Climate in a Nutshell
So, following the fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people, Sacramento Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman accurately depicted the political-industrial of Texas, and Governor Rick Perry demanded an apology, and his butt boy/Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst demanded that he be fired.

It really does amaze me just how much the "Real Men" of the Republican Party whine like little bitches when someone makes a reasoned critique of their policies.

It's more than wimpy, it's stupid.

No one but a few people in central California would have known about this cartoon if he hadn't made an issue of it, but he just couldn't let it slide.

I should thank him.  I never would have seen the cartoon but for his foot in his mouth.

26 April 2013

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Parkway Bank, Lenoir, NC
  2. Douglas County Bank, Douglasville, GA

Full FDIC list

It is just two weeks, so it could be an outlyer, but the number of bank failures have doubled in those two weeks, which is not a good thing.

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

GDP Numbers Are Out

We saw a 2.5% annualized growth rate for the 1st quarter, which is kind of "meh", and below the 3% forecast, though the miss was largely driven by a fall in defense spending.

Consumer spending was reasonably robust.

Consumer sentiment fell, and inflation is still well below the Fed's 2% target rate, which is IMNSHO lowere than it should be in this situation anyway.

25 April 2013


The Rhode Island State Senate has approved same sex marriage.

They now have to reconcile their bill with a similar one that passed the state house.


Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff when he was Secretary of State is now saying that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld knew that most of the people in Guantanamo were innocent, but kept them locked up to avoid embarrassment:
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once declared that individuals captured by the US military in the aftermath of 9/11 and shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay prison facility represented the "worst of the worst."

During a radio interview in June 2005, Rumsfeld said the detainees at Guantanamo, "all of whom were captured on a battlefield," are "terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama Bin Laden's] body guards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th hijacker, 9/11 hijacker."

But Rumsfeld knowingly lied, according to a former top Bush administration official.

And so did then Vice President Dick Cheney when he said, also in 2002 and in dozens of public statements thereafter, that Guantanamo prisoners "are the worst of a very bad lot" and "dangerous" and "devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort."

Now, in a sworn declaration obtained exclusively by Truthout, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell during George W. Bush's first term in office, said Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld knew the "vast majority" of prisoners captured in the so-called War on Terror were innocent and the administration refused to set them free once those facts were established because of the political repercussions that would have ensued.


Wilkerson's declaration was made in support of a lawsuit filed by Adel Hassan Hamad, a 52-year-old former Guantanamo detainee who is suing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Joint Chief of Staff Richard Myers, and a slew of other Bush administration officials for wrongfully imprisoning and torturing him.
I don't expect that there will ever be any justice, either through civil action or criminal prosecution, but the recent return of Bush to polite society is an indictment of our society. (to say nothing of Cheney return as an old wise man on the Sunday shows)

H/t Naked Capitalism.

It's Jobless Thursday!

Initial claims fell to 339,000, the 4-week moving average fell to 357,500, and continuing claims fell by 93K to 3 million.

Good numbers.

The George W. Bush Library Opened Up Today

I'm not going to be visiting it.

I'd much rather go to the Nixon Monument.

I wish B. Kliban were still around.

Nearly half of all new IT jobs will go to guestworkers

Surprise, surprise. When you look at the immigration bill proposed by the "Gang of 8", it allocates half of all new IT jobs to guest workers:
S. 744, the comprehensive immigration bill introduced by the Senate “Gang of Eight,” dramatically increases the number of skilled guestworker visas available to employers in information technology (IT) and other sectors. The principal IT guestworker visa is the H-1B (49 percent of H-1B holders work in IT), which under current law is capped for private-sector employers at 65,000 per year plus an additional 20,000 for foreign graduates of U.S. universities. With certain exceptions, S. 744 will raise the cap initially to 115,000 and if strong demand continues, to 180,000 per year, with an additional 25,000 reserved for foreign graduates. Thus, under the likely high-demand scenario, we would have 120,000 more H-1Bs annually than we do now, and 58,800 of them would be in IT.

We can reasonably predict, therefore, that guestworkers will fill nearly half of all IT job openings for which a college degree is required each year. In a new report, Guestworkers in the High-Skill U.S. Labor Market, Hal Salzman, Daniel Kuehn, and B. Lindsay Lowell calculate that in 2011 there were approximately 483,000 IT job openings for college grads filled in the last year (including those with advanced degrees), a third of which were filled by newly arriving guestworkers in three different guestworker programs. As the figure shows, if S.744 is enacted and the maximum number of H-1B workers were allowed to enter and work in the United States, nearly 220,000 new job openings in IT would be filled by guestworkers—almost half the annual total as of 2011.
I guess that skilled IT positions are yet another "Job that Americans won't do".

Seriously, if we want things like H1B and  guest workers not to completely f%$# everyone outside of the 1%, we need to make sure that they are limited to truly essential and unique skill set.

The easiest way that you do this by making it more expensive than hiring an American.  You can jack up the application fees, possibly by using an auction system and a limited supply.

H/t PP at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

24 April 2013

She Stoopid, It Burns Us!!!!!!

Not only is CNN looking to relaunch Crossfire, but they are in negotiations with Newt Gingrich.

What on earth possessed them to try bring back that moribund franchise?

Did Jon Stewart teach you idiotic ratf%$#s anything the last time around? He literally embarrassed this show off the air.

Just the other day, he cut CNN a new on on their incompetent coverage of the Boston bombing.

Seriously, do not make him stop this car.

You do not want him to open up another can of whup ass on your flabby white asses.

Just in case you do not remember, let's roll tape:

How Obama's Drone War Is Hurting Us

We are creating an entire generation who hates us and wants us dead:
Americans wouldn't normally hear about how poor Yemeni villagers reacted to a drone strike. But Wessab is the home village of Farea al-Muslimi, a 22-year-old democracy activist who is among the most pro-American voices in Yemen. "I don't know if there is anyone on earth that feels more thankful to America than me," he said Tuesday in testimony before a Senate committee. "In my heart, I know I can only repay the opportunities, friendship, warmth, and exposure your country provided me by being their ambassadors to Yemenis for the rest of my life."


Despite all his reporting, he never imagined his own village, which doesn't even register on Google Maps, could be the site of an American drone strike. "In the past, most of Wessab's villagers knew little about the United States," he said. "My stories about my experiences in America, my American friends, and the American values that I saw for myself helped the villagers I talked to understand the America that I know and love. Now, however, when they think of America they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at any time. I personally don't even know if it is safe for me to go back to Wessab because I am someone who people in my village associate with America and its values." What American policymakers need to understand, he added, is that "Wessab first experienced America through the terror of a drone strike. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America."
Unfortunately, most of our state security apparatus cannot conceive anything beyond eternal war, eternally overpriced weapons systems, and killing brown people.

Read the rest.

Like Cthulhu With Fur

OK, you remember the kitten, right?

He's soooooooooo kawuuuuuutttteeee!!!

Well a couple of days after we got him, he chewed through the micro-usb cable my daughter uses to charge her phone.

Well, today, it was her ear phones.

Somehow I do not think that the warranty applies.

Maybe I should name him Nyarlathotep.

Unspeakably evil, but he can appear attractive when it suits him.

23 April 2013

Contemptible Ratf%$# Decides Not to Run for Reelection

Senator, and Glenn Quagmire impersonator, Max Baucus
I am referring, of course, to  short timer Senator Max Baucus, who has announced that he will not be running for reelection:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), one of the most influential congressional figures of his era, announced his intention Tuesday to retire, a move that could produce sweeping changes in the political and legislative landscape over the next two years.

The announcement could mark the beginning of one of the most consequential periods in Baucus’s long public career, because he pledged to devote the rest of his time in Washington to pursuing a comprehensive rewrite of the federal tax code, an effort that many see as key to breaking the fiscal gridlock that has paralyzed Washington in recent years.
BTW, if thie following paragraph does not fill you with dread, you have no soul:
That paralysis of taxes and spending has been a central feature of Obama’s presidency, and Baucus said that when the president called him Tuesday about his retirement, the talk quickly turned to tax reform. “They’re going to get tired of me,” Baucus said in an interview, adding that White House officials do not “know themselves where they are” on a strategy for ending the stalemate.
Because Baucus has been a cancer on the Senate in general, and Democratic Party in particular, and unencumbered by the potential for reelection, I think that he will try to f%$# the Democratic Party, and the country in any way he can.

After all, he has to be angling to get a cushy, and highly remunerative, gif from corporate America after he retires

As TPM reporter Brian Beutler pithily observes, it's not just that he comes from a conservative state, and so has to hew right.   It is that he hews right except when the politics make it absolutely impossible for him to do so:
Some pols are more or less faithful party-men who stray on occasion during challenging electoral cycles. Baucus, by contrast, has amassed a remarkably consistent record of working at cross-purposes with the rest of his party whether politics in Montana have demanded it or not.

He voted for the Bush Tax Cuts in 2001; then after securing re-election, and against the will of Democratic leadership, supported a Medicare prescription drug benefit that routed tax payer money through private insurers. He spent months and months behind closed doors with GOP lawmakers in 2009 in a futile search for bipartisan support for what became the Affordable Care Act. That quixotic effort dragged on well past the point at which party leaders believed it might pay off, and it delayed legislative action for so long that the bill nearly died when Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s seat to Scott Brown in early 2010.


A key exception to this track record is his long history of bucking GOP attempts to slash and privatize popular social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security. But viewed through the prism of his broader approach to politics, this seems more an idiosyncratic instance of liberal priorities lining up with Baucus’ venal decision making, than an expression of genuine commitment to the legacy of the New Deal and Great Society.

By contrast, his recent votes against gun legislation and the Democratic budget are vintage Baucus. One can argue that this sort of “independent streak” might protect Montana Democratic candidates in the abstract. But polling on the specifics doesn’t really back up the view that Baucus needed to buck his party on these measures to remain viable. Which helps explain why Baucus’ fellow Montanan Jon Tester (whom, I should note as a caveat won’t be in cycle again until 2018) voted ‘yes’ on both occasions.

(Read the whole thing)

I would also note that he, and his staff leave a trail of slime all the way to K Street:
Restaurant chains like McDonald’s want to keep their lucrative tax credit for hiring veterans. Altria, the tobacco giant, wants to cut the corporate tax rate. And Sapphire Energy, a small alternative energy company, is determined to protect a tax incentive it believes could turn algae into a popular motor fuel.

To make their case as Congress prepares to debate a rewrite of the nation’s tax code, this diverse set of businesses has at least one strategy in common: they have retained firms that employ lobbyists who are former aides to Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which will have a crucial role in shaping any legislation.

No other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms, according to an analysis by LegiStorm, an online database that tracks Congressional staff members and lobbying. At least 28 aides who have worked for Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, since he became the committee chairman in 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the Obama administration — more than any other current member of Congress, according to the analysis of lobbying filings performed for The New York Times.

K Street is literally littered with former Baucus staffers,” said Jade West, an executive at a wholesalers’ trade association that relies on a former finance panel aide, Mary Burke Baker. “It opens doors that allow you to make the case.”
(emphasis mine)

Hopefully, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who is popular and rather liberal by the standards of Montana politics.

22 April 2013

Worst People in the World

The modeling agents in Sweden tried to recruit models from an eating disorder clinic:
A well-known clinic in Sweden has managed to attract a following that stands outside the entrance, approaches patients, and ... tries to recruit them to be models?

Indeed, while the United States struggles to keep women's health clinic patients safe from vitriolic anti-abortion protesters, Sweden's issue is based at the 1,700-bed Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders, the largest clinic of its kind in the country. Agents have been known to stand outside the clinic and approach teenage patients, offering the sometimes horrifically ill girls work as models because of their small size. These instances provide a shocking look into how shallow the modeling world is capable of being, caring only about young women's physical attributes and not their health.

One of Sweden's largest modeling agencies once approached a 14-year-old girl and handed her a business card, while another girl who was so sick she was in a wheelchair was interviewed by another agent right outside the clinic. These awful people care not for these girls' poor health — you know, the reason they're at the clinic — but instead for their proven ability to lose a lot of weight very quickly.
This is so deeply evil that it just buggers the mind.

Their mothers should have drowned these guys at birth.

So Not Surprised

After well documented aggravated assaults against Occupy protesters, the DA has decided not to prosecute the thug cops who got caught on tape:
Two New York City police officials involved in separate incidents during the Occupy Wall Street protests won't face criminal charges, according to a report from NBC News New York.

Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna ("Tony Baloney," as he became known to Occupiers) and Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona were investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Bologna, who was immortalized in a hilarious Daily Show segment called The Vigilogna, was disciplined by the NYPD for pepper spraying two women who were caught behind mesh police netting during a demonstration in 2011. The department docked him 10 vacation days and reassigned him to Staten Island, but the DA has decided there's not enough evidence to prosecute him on criminal charges.

Kaylee Dedrick -- one of the pepper-sprayed women -- filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD and the officer.

The other incident, involving Cardona, was a few weeks later during an altercation with Occupy protester Felix Rivera-Pitre. The NYPD said that Cardona was sprayed in the face with an unknown liquid by a group of demonstrators and that Rivera-Pitre attempted to elbow Cardona in the face. Cardona is seen in the video below lunging at Rivera-Pitre. The protester said the attack was unprovoked and that Cardona punched him in the face, and tore an earring from his ear.
What a surprise.  Cops break the law in the service of the banksters, and the prosecutors no-bill.

You can see the videos at the link.


Futurama is being cancelled again.  The last new show will be in September.

Well, the fact that it was revived by Comedy Central after its cancellation by Fox is some small solace.

There are not a whole bunch of shows that get a 2nd lease on life.


The Boston Marathon bombing suspect has been formally arraigned in front of a Federal Judge:
The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was charged Monday with “using a weapon of mass destruction” that resulted in three deaths, according to documents filed in federal court.

The suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was charged by federal prosectors as he lay in a bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, officials said.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Monday in United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Mr. Tsarnaev was charged with one count of “using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction” against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of “malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.”

If he is convicted, the charges could carry the death penalty.

During the bedside arraignment, a magistrate judge advised Mr. Tsarnaev of his rights and the charges against him, according to court papers.
(emphasis mine)

Credit where credit is due, Eric Holder and Barack Obama decided not to try and put this guy before a military tribunal.

I'm sure that Senator Lindsey Graham is having a bitchy hissy fit right now, and that makes me smile.

I Wonder if this is About Race

The New York Times has an article about how the Danes are looking to roll back their social safety net:
It began as a stunt intended to prove that hardship and poverty still existed in this small, wealthy country, but it backfired badly. Visit a single mother of two on welfare, a liberal member of Parliament goaded a skeptical political opponent, see for yourself how hard it is.

It turned out, however, that life on welfare was not so hard. The 36-year-old single mother, given the pseudonym “Carina” in the news media, had more money to spend than many of the country’s full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16.

In past years, Danes might have shrugged off the case, finding Carina more pitiable than anything else. But even before her story was in the headlines 16 months ago, they were deeply engaged in a debate about whether their beloved welfare state, perhaps Europe’s most generous, had become too rich, undermining the country’s work ethic. Carina helped tip the scales.

With little fuss or political protest — or notice abroad — Denmark has been at work overhauling entitlements, trying to prod Danes into working more or longer or both. While much of southern Europe has been racked by strikes and protests as its creditors force austerity measures, Denmark still has a coveted AAA bond rating.

But Denmark’s long-term outlook is troubling. The population is aging, and in many regions of the country people without jobs now outnumber those with them.

Some of that is a result of a depressed economy. But many experts say a more basic problem is the proportion of Danes who are not participating in the work force at all — be they dawdling university students, young pensioners or welfare recipients like Carina who lean on hefty government support.

“Before the crisis there was a sense that there was always going to be more and more,” Bjarke Moller, the editor in chief of publications for Mandag Morgen, a research group in Copenhagen. “But that is not true anymore. There are a lot of pressures on us right now. We need to be an agile society to survive.”
The better term for an "Agile society" is a race to the bottom, and this really is the underlying principle of the Euro Zone, but I'm also wondering whether the fact that Danish society has become more multi-ethnic, and that there is a feeling, particularly amongst the nativist right, that taxpayer dollars are going to people who are not truly Danish.

It seems an unfortunate truism that attacks on the social safety net are frequently couched in terms of a condemnation of the lazy and undeserving "other".

Crowd Sourcing a Cat Naming

Click for full size

Kitteh playing games

Kitteh finds this interesting

Kitteh in box

Another Paparazzi? I vant to be left alone.

Ready to take a nap anywhere

Meatball is unamused by all of this fuss
Yes, crowd sourcing.  As my son said, "Crowd sourcing is sooooo 2013!"

In any case, there have been two suggestions made from family members. Sharon*, has taken to calling him (yes, he is a Tom, at least until he is old enough to get neutered) Annoying Kitten, and then started using the initials AK, which I then suggested adding -47 to, in homage of Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov's most famous contribution to the world of military arms, so she has taken to calling said cat, "AK-47".

I have two problems with this: First, it does not suit the cat. Cats are less assault rifles than they are stilettos. Second it seems that naming a pet after a weapon has a potential for accidental weapons discharge.

Natalie, on the other hand, has suggested, "Mr. Snugglypuff," because ……… well because she is a 15 year old girl who is a theater geek.  (And also, because he looks so cute, but a monster lurks behind the fur, a monster with teeth, and claws, and bent sense of humor.)

I am a firm believer that one does not name a cat.  Instead, one discovers the name that a cat already had, and I do not believe that either my daughter nor my wife have captured his name.

So, what do you think that we should call the cat.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.
I had a discussion with a Vietnam vet, Peter Meeledy, about how a dog named "VC" nearly started a firefight among his unit, because, well, when someone shouts "VC" in 1969, you tend to shoot first, and ask questions later.

21 April 2013

This is Trippy

So, it's a pitcher, huh?

Well, not exactly it's an all-in-one Jewish worship aid.  It's:
  • A dreydle.
  • A besamim box (spice holder)
  • An eternal flame.
  • A Megilla case with Megilla
  • An Etrog holder.
  • Shabbos candle sticks
  • A seder plate
  • A menorah
Like I said, it's trippy.

20 April 2013

Bacon, It's Not Just for Breakfast

You can also use it to cut a hole through armor plate:
I recently committed myself to the goal, before the weekend was out, of creating a device entirely from bacon and using it to cut a steel pan in half. My initial attempts were failures, but I knew success was within reach when I was able to ignite and melt the pan using seven beef sticks and a cucumber.

No, seriously. The device I built was a form of thermal lance. A thermal lance, typically made of iron instead of bacon, is used to cut up scrap metal and rescue people from collapsed buildings. It works by blowing pure oxygen gas through a pipe packed with iron and magnesium rods. These metals are surprisingly flammable in pure oxygen, releasing a huge amount of heat as they are consumed. The result is a jet of superheated iron plasma coming out of the end of the pipe. For sheer destructive force, few tools match a thermal lance. But iron isn't the only thing that's flammable in a stream of pure oxygen.
I've done some work with exothermic cutters, which are simpler than a thermal lance.

It's an iron tube. You blow oxygen through it, and when you strike an arc, you ignite the iron, and the hot stream of oxygen which burns through whatever you are cutting.

Basically, if you pass oxygen through a tube of anything which burns hot enough to start your target burning, and almost any metal or oil/fat will in a pure oxygen atmosphere, you can cut through almost anything.

Still, it's neat. 

Why a Carbon Tax is Better than a Carbon Market, Part 3.1415926

The EU which has the largest and most ambitious carbon market world, has effectively shut it down by refusing to subsidize it:
The European Parliament this week voted 334-315 (with 60 abstentions) against a controversial "back-loading" plan that aimed to boost the flagging price of carbon, which since 2008 has fallen from about 31 euros per tonne to about 4 euros (about $5.20). Since the vote, the price has fallen even farther, to 2.80 euros. The collapsing market is hardly the kind of firm foundation needed for building a clean-energy economy.

"Now, the market is dead, as far as I can see," said Steffen Böhm, director of the Essex Sustainability Institute at Britain's Essex Business School.

What will be the aftermath of the ETS collapse? Here's a quick primer on what happened, and what it could mean elsewhere, particularly in California, which inaugurated a new carbon market at the start of this year. (Related: "California Tackles Climate Change, But Will Others Follow?"
The "backloading" is an indirect subsidy which would pull carbon credits off of the market to raise prices.

Cap and trade does not work without extensive government intervention, it costs more to administer, and it requires extensive and ongoing government subsidies.

Tell me again why cap and trade is better than a carbon tax again?

The only thing that I can figure out is tribalism:  It allows politicians to create yet another mechanism for them to throw profits toward their classmates from their "elite" schools who are working at Wall Street or the City of London.

19 April 2013

It's Official: the SCOTUS' Resident Troll Does Not Give a Sh%$!

There really are not a whole bunch of formal rules for a sitting Supreme Court justice.

They are famously exempt from the ethics regulations that apply to other Federal judges.

That being said, there are a number of customs that have always been scrupulously observed.

One of them is not to make statements that appear to prejudge something that might come come before the court.

Well, Fat Tony just pissed on that one, and went one further, and made public statements on a case that is currently being decided by the court:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told university students that key provisions of the Voting Rights Act had evolved from an emergency response to racial discrimination in 1965 to an "embedded" form of "racial preferment" that would likely continue indefinitely unless the court acts to end them.

Justice Scalia, speaking Monday night at the University of California Washington Center, elaborated on remarks he made in February during Supreme Court arguments over the act's Section 5, which requires states and localities that historically discriminated against minority voters to obtain federal approval to change election procedures.

Section 5 functions as a racial entitlement because the federal government doesn't take a similar interest in protecting the voting rights of white people from racial discrimination, Justice Scalia said.

Congress repeatedly has reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, most recently in 2006, when President George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension. At February arguments, Justice Scalia dismissed overwhelming congressional support for Section 5 as "very likely attributable to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement."
Seriously. They heard the arguments, and they haven't made a decision yet, and he is making public statements on this?

Is he nuts? Is it Alzheimer's? Or maybe he realizes that he will never be Chief Justice, and he no longer gives a sh%$.

I do not know why he did this, nor do I care, but it is clear that he is no longer (if he ever was) fit to be a Supreme Court justice.

This is Not the Onion

You know that guy who is alleged to have mailed ricin laced letters to Obama and Congresscritters?

Wanna guess what his day job is?

He was an Elvis impersonator:
An Elvis impersonator named Paul Kevin Curtis who lives in Corinth Mississippi was charged Thursday for allegedly sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama, Sen. Roger Wiker (R-MS), and a judge in Lee County Mississippi. Court documents released by the Department of Justice show Curtis was charged with one count of sending a letter "containing threats to take the life of or to inflict bodily harm upon the president of the United States" and a count of sending a letter "containing a threat to injure the person of others."
We are living in very strange times.

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!

Daym!!!  It;s been a busy week for bank regulators:
  1. First Federal Bank, Lexington, KY
  2. Heritage Bank of North Florida, Orange Park, FL
  3. Chipola Community Bank, Marianna, FL

Full FDIC list

And here are the credit union closings:
  1. Shiloh of Alexandria Federal Credit Union,

Full NCUA list

We went from 9 total failures for the year to 13.  That's a big bump 

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

Google Has Done the Impossible………

Google has made me want to be a German:
Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) has asked Google to sign an undertaking that it will provide customer service by responding individually to users questions sent by email, said Carola Elbrecht, VZBV’s project manager for consumer rights in the digital world at the VZBV.

Signing such a document would expose Google to fines if it breached the undertaking. On the other hand, said Elbrecht, “If Google does not sign it, we’re going to court.”

Germany’s Telemedia Act requires businesses to provide an email address to allow customers to contact them quickly.

But, said Elbrecht, “It is not enough to just provide an email address that leads into emptiness, you also need to be able to communicate over it.” Responding to users attempting to get their questions answered with automatic replies, as Google does in Germany, is not sufficient, she said.
Seriously, dealing with issues on Blogger, or Gmail, or pretty much any Google product, you have no way of contacting a human being.

Their response is "check out the forums and support pages."

The forums are where people go when they don't have the answers, and it's exceedingly rare when a Google staffer deigns to read and answer a question, and the support pages are frequently incomplete and/or out of date.

This is Nucking Futs

I get that the bombing at the Boston Marathon is a big deal.

But the saturation coverage is excessive, and locking down the Boston Metro area, the home to about 4½ million people, is insane.

Seriously, if this happens in a place like London (52 dead, over 700 injured), or Madrid (191 dead and 2050 injured), they kept the cities open.

It seems that every time that something like this happens, we are greeted by our authorities telling us to indulge in underwear befouling terror.

Seriously, our reaction as a society (I'm not talking about the first responders here) has been one of profound cowardice, and government officialdom has encouraged this whole thing.

I wonder if this is the ultimate goal. Is it all about sending the message, "Live in obedient fear, citizen."

17 April 2013

Quote of the Day

On suggestions by a CEO of a company that makes its money from making all of us scared and paranoid:
It sounds to me like the Boston marathon attendees fell down on their job to prevent the attack.

Complete and utter paranoid nonsense

You have no obligation to be a free and voluntary force of Stasi informants.

Nor does the government have the ability to prevent every possible mishap.

What can be done is to care for the injured and assist, if possible, in finding those responsible.

Even more importantly, to live free of fear and suspicion of others.

Otherwise, the terrorists and their counterparts like Phrantceena Halres will have won.

—Patrick Durusau on the assertions of so called security experts that we all need to be paranoid and terrified
FYI,Halrez is, "founder, chairman and CEO Total Protection Services International, a security services company focused exclusively on high threat/close proximity safety and security services."

So she is in the "scaring the sh%$# out of us" business.

I'm Not Sure Who's the Rat, and Who is the Sinking Ship………

But following the discovery of a complaint filed by his ex-wife for trespassing at her home, the national GOP is pulling out all resources from his campaign:
National Republicans are pulling the plug on Mark Sanford’s suddenly besieged congressional campaign, POLITICO has learned — a potentially fatal blow to the former South Carolina governor’s dramatic comeback bid.

Blindsided by news that Sanford’s ex-wife has accused him of trespassing and concluding he has no plausible path to victory, the National Republican Congressional Committee has decided not to spend more money on Sanford’s behalf ahead of the May 7 special election.

“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election,” said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman.

Sanford is facing Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Clemson University administrator and sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, in a race that has grabbed the national spotlight.

The NRCC’s move comes hours after Tuesday night’s report by the Associated Press that Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, filed a court complaint accusing him of trespassing at her home in early February – which would be a violation of the terms of their divorce agreement.

Republicans said they were caught off guard by news of Jenny Sanford’s complaint. They worry other damaging revelations about Mark Sanford’s personal life that they aren’t aware of could come out in the coming weeks.
The calculus here is simple: The district is pretty red, and any money that they spent on Sanford now they would also have to spend in 2014 if he won, so it is better to let Colbert-Busch to have a few months in Congress, where her vote won't count.

That way you do not have Mark Sanford around your neck like a corpulent albatross.


New Zealand has legalized gay marriage.

I Do Not Care That Their Votes did Not Matter, Primary Them

The 4 Democrats who voted for the filibuster on the (already largely ineffectual) background checks on guns need to have their political careers ended:
As the Senate began voting Wednesday on nine proposed changes to a gun control bill, the centerpiece proposal on background checks quickly failed to win enough support, despite broad public backing.

The vote on the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment was 54 in favor, 46 against — failing to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move ahead. Four Republicans supported it, and four Democrats voted no.


In addition to McCain and Toomey, the amendment was supported by Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) The Democrats who opposed the measure were Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) The four Democrats face difficult reelections in rural states with strong gun cultures.
And their votes will not make a difference.

The NRA will still run ads against them, and the 10% of the electorate who oppose a sane background check policy would never vote for them.

It is more important to enforce meaningful party loyalty than it is to allow these ratf%$#s to hold their seats.

16 April 2013

Why Does George W. Bush Hate America?

Because that is the only reason that he would approve of his aid threatening to ban William F. Buckley from the radio because he criticized them:

Buried in this op-ed by former Bush speechwriter Matt Lattimer about Margaret Thatcher is this incredibly juicy nugget.
A few years later, when (William F.) Buckley questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war and George W. Bush’s 2008 surge, he was all but drummed out of the conservative movement. “If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign,” Buckley once said of Bush. For such apostasies, Bush aides threatened to ban Buckley from the radio airwaves. (I know because I was there.)
(emphasis mine)

These guys sound more like Stalinists every day.

Baghdad Burning is Back

Riverbend, who rose to notice as a blogger living in Baghdad (she documented just how corrupt and incompetent the invasion and administration were), has made her first blog post in over 5 years:
Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn't forget what this was about - making America safer... And are you safer Americans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about attacks on your embassies and diplomats? Why is it that you are constantly warned to not go to this country or that one? Is it better now, ten years down the line? Do you feel safer, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of the way (granted half of them were women and children, but children grow up, right?)?

And what happened to Riverbend and my family? I eventually moved from Syria. I moved before the heavy fighting, before it got ugly. That’s how fortunate I was. I moved to another country nearby, stayed almost a year, and then made another move to a third Arab country with the hope that, this time, it’ll stick until… Until when? Even the pessimists aren’t sure anymore. When will things improve? When will be able to live normally? How long will it take?
Nice to know that she is OK.

Why Big Pharma is the Problem, not the Solution

In their never ending quest to extort rents from the rest of us, big pharma has a new tactic, it has established bogus "safety programs" that prohibit the sales of their drugs to generic manufacturers:
For decades, pharmaceutical companies have deployed an array of tactics aimed at preventing low-cost copies of their drugs from entering the marketplace.

But federal regulators contend the latest strategy — which relies on a creative interpretation of drug safety laws — is illegal.

The Federal Trade Commission recently weighed in on a legal case over the tactic involving the drug maker Actelion, and earlier this month a federal suit was filed in another case in Florida.

“We definitely see this as a significant threat to competition,” said Markus Meier, who oversees the commission’s health care competition team.

The new approach is almost elegant in its simplicity: brand-name drug makers are refusing to sell their products to generic companies, which need to analyze them so they can create the copycat versions. Traditionally, the generic drug makers purchased samples from wholesalers. But because of safety concerns, an increasing number of drugs are sold with restrictions on who can buy them, forcing the generic manufacturers to ask the brand-name companies for samples. When they do, the brand-name firms say no.

Brand-name companies say they are protecting themselves — and patients — in case the drugs are somehow used improperly. They say no law requires one company to do business with another.

Advocates for generic drugs say the practice could limit access to the low-cost drugs, which they say have saved more than a trillion dollars over the last decade. They say the companies that have most aggressively pursued the tactic tend to be those with drugs that are nearing the end of their patent life.
The problem is that Pharma can use its monopoly rents to continue to game the political system to f%$# the rest of us.

It needs to stop.

Sarah Palin Did One Right Thing, and Alaska Republicans Vote to Overturn It

She changed the royalty structure for oil extracted from the state, and now Republicans have reversed this in a give away to big oil:
The Alaska Senate on Sunday afternoon approved the oil-tax bill that passed the House 13 hours before, sending to Gov. Sean Parnell the measure he had sought to save billions of dollars for Alaska's leading industry.

The Senate vote was 12-8 to concur with the revised bill that the House approved 24-15 just before 2 a.m. Sunday morning (on reconsideration, three Republicans switched to support the bill). The Senate vote came past the midway point of the 90th day of the 90-day session.

Parnell said that Alaska's current tax regime, which he backed as lieutenant governor in 2007 when it was pushed by Gov. Sarah Palin, is broken. It is taking so much money from industry, he said, that producers have been investing elsewhere, explaining the decline in oil production here. His bill, modified but not changed drastically in either the House or Senate, effectively wipes out Palin's tax policy, Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES.

The new bill ends ACES big progressive tax steps, where tax rates increase as the price of oil rises. Parnell and supporters said the progressive tax was punitive toward industry. ACES supporters agreed that the tax took too much money at high oil prices, but the remedy was to lower the rate -- not toss it.
Today's Republican Party in Alaska: too radical, too stupid, and too obsequious to big oil for Sarah Palin.

That is truly a major mind f%$#, and Alaska, arguably the state which is least suited to the actual cultivation of bananas, is an a clown like banana republic.

We Tortured

A bipartisan panel convened by the Constitution Project has concluded that torture was practiced, and was approved by our most senior leaders, and, perhaps more importantly, actually use the word torture:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.


The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.


The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries.
Unfortunately, they do not take a position on prosecutions, which means that their warnings on the US returning to torture are pretty toothless.

The people who conducted, and ordered, torture should be sent to a Federal "Pound Me in the Ass" prison for a very long time.


Gold prices are falling off a cliff, and Ron Paul is getting hosed:
A few weeks ago, we figured out what was happening to the Ron Paul portfolio — the former Texas congressman's 64% investment in gold and other rocks — and it wasn't pretty.


All told, the average loss was -40.3% over the past six months

Given that The Wall Street Journal reported that Paul's portfolio was worth between $2.44 million and $5.46 million — and that 64 percent of his assets were in these precious metal stocks — a very loose estimate is that Ron Paul has lost between $624,640 and $1,397,760 over the past six months, based on the average loss of his mining holdings. This assumes a 40.3% loss on 64% of his holdings.
It's not nice to feel pleasure at someone else's misfortune, but I am a bad man.


Gold buggery does not make you money, but selling gold buggery to rubes does.

What a Surprise, Right Wing Economists Fudged their Data………

The lead on the mass media stories is that Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's paper showing that debt levels above 90% of GDP have slower growth was an "Excel spreadsheet error", but every single error reinforces their pro-austerity arguments, which indicates that these omissions and errors were deliberate:
In 2010, economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff released a paper, "Growth in a Time of Debt." Their "main result is that...median growth rates for countries with public debt over 90 percent of GDP are roughly one percent lower than otherwise; average (mean) growth rates are several percent lower." Countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above 90 percent have a slightly negative average growth rate, in fact.

This has been one of the most cited stats in the public debate during the Great Recession. Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity budget states their study "found conclusive empirical evidence that [debt] exceeding 90 percent of the economy has a significant negative effect on economic growth." The Washington Post editorial board takes it as an economic consensus view, stating that "debt-to-GDP could keep rising — and stick dangerously near the 90 percent mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth."

Is it conclusive? One response has been to argue that the causation is backwards, or that slower growth leads to higher debt-to-GDP ratios. Josh Bivens and John Irons made this case at the Economic Policy Institute. But this assumes that the data is correct. From the beginning there have been complaints that Reinhart and Rogoff weren't releasing the data for their results (e.g. Dean Baker). I knew of several people trying to replicate the results who were bumping into walls left and right - it couldn't be done.

In a new paper, "Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff," Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst successfully replicate the results. After trying to replicate the Reinhart-Rogoff results and failing, they reached out to Reinhart and Rogoff and they were willing to share their data spreadhseet. This allowed Herndon et al. to see how how Reinhart and Rogoff's data was constructed.

They find that three main issues stand out. First, Reinhart and Rogoff selectively exclude years of high debt and average growth. Second, they use a debatable method to weight the countries. Third, there also appears to be a coding error that excludes high-debt and average-growth countries. All three bias in favor of their result, and without them you don't get their controversial result. ………


So what do Herndon-Ash-Pollin conclude? They find "the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim]." [UPDATE: To clarify, they find 2.2 percent if they include all the years, weigh by number of years, and avoid the Excel error.] Going further into the data, they are unable to find a breakpoint where growth falls quickly and significantly
The actual Excel error might be real, but the rest of this is a case of hypocritically massaging the data to get the results that they really wanted.

15 April 2013

Just When You Thought that Obama Could Not Get Any Worse………

He is proposing to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority to Wall Street for some magic beans:
The headline issue, cutting Social Security benefits by changing the measurement of inflation (the “chained CPI”), is something that writers on Naked Capitalism have been predicting for a long time. What has come as a shocking (but not surprising) twist is a bombshell buried in Obama’s budget: the proposed privatization of the Tennessee Valley Association. At this point I think it’s important to quote a part of this section of the budget at length:
TVA is a self-financing Government corporation, funding operations through electricity sales and bond financing. In order to meet its future capacity needs, fulfill its environmental responsibilities, and modernize its aging generation system, TVA’s current capital investment plan includes more than $25 billion of expenditures over the next 10 years. However, TVA’s anticipated capital needs are likely to quickly exceed the agency’s $30 billion statutory cap on indebtedness. Reducing or eliminating the Federal Government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require Federal participation, can help put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal path. Given TVA’s debt constraints and the impact to the Federal deficit of its increasing capital expenditures, the Administration intends to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole.
Notice how nonsensical the justification for the “divestiture of TVA” is. The authors clearly acknowledge that the Tennessee Valley Authority is a “self-financing Government corporation”. The TVA issues its own debt and also has income from electricity sales. Yet because its capital expenditures are counted as part of the federal deficit for accounting purposes, privatizing the TVA supposedly counts as a “spending cut”. This is the willful blindness of orthodox thought taken to extreme levels. Privatizing the TVA doesn’t shrink the amount of debt in the economy one cent; all it does is bring that debt onto private balance sheets. In fact, private investors will buy the Authority on mainly on credit, increasing the amount of private debt.
Note also whoever buys this will pay far less than market value, because that is how this sh%$ works, and since they get it on the cheap, their goal will be to suck the marrow out of it, and to raise rates on the people it serves as fast as it possibly can.

That's more than 9 million people he wants to f%$# like a drunk sorority girl.

Thatcher was too smart to privatize Britrail, but John Major was not, and the result was crappy service and fatal accidents.

It is so bad that even the Tories have disavowed selling off rail.

You will see the same from privatizing the TVA.

So, he's going after two of the remaining jewels in the crown of the New Deal, the TVA, and Social Security.

He's doing it because he wants to, because, except for the appeals to racial bigotry and abortion criminalization, he's well to the right of Ronald Reagan, and he hates the liberal wing of the Democrat Party in general, and the New Deal in particular.

I'm beginning to think that I should add the tag "Manchurian Democrat" to posts like this.

I Hope So

Ars Technica asks, "Will the Supreme Court end human gene patents after three decades?"

I think that it likely that they role back patent protections.

These days, they only seem to take patent cases when the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals goes too far with patents.  (Which it does with mind-numbing regularity):
Since the 1980s, patent lawyers have been claiming pieces of humanity's genetic code. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of gene patents. The Federal Circuit, the court that hears all patent appeals, has consistently ruled such patents are legal.

But the judicial winds have been shifting. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of gene patents. And recently, the Supreme Court has grown increasingly skeptical of the Federal Circuit's patent-friendly jurisprudence.

Meanwhile, a growing number of researchers, health care providers, and public interest groups have raised concerns about the harms of gene patents. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that more than 40 percent of genes are now patented. Those patents have created "patent thickets" that make it difficult for scientists to do genetic research and commercialize their results. Monopolies on genetic testing have raised prices and reduced patient options.

On Monday, the high court will hear arguments about whether to invalidate a Utah company's patents on two genes associated with breast cancer. But the legal challenge, spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, could have much broader implications. A decision could invalidate thousands of patents and free medical researchers and clinicians to practice medicine without interference from the patent system.
It's very clear that a gene is a discovery, not an invention, but the patent court believes that you can patent a rainy day (I mean this literally: They approved a patent on weather derivatives in Bilski v. Kappos, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court. This court also allowed for patenting of tax deductions)

You Remember When it Was Reported that Germans Were Amongst the Poorest People in Europe?

Well, Wolfgang Münchau has made what should be an obvious observation, that, "if the same unit of account gives us a higher wealth figure for Spain than for Germany, and when you also know that this cannot be true," which means that on a very deep level, a Euro in Spain is worth something different (less) than one in Germany:
A European Central Bank survey shows that households in northern Europe have a much lower net wealth than those in southern Europe. Average German net assets per household are just under €200,000, while they are €300,000 in Spain and €670,000 in Cyprus. No, this not a typo.

German newspapers screamed that poor Germans are bailing out rich Cypriots. This interpretation is wrong but the truth behind these counter-intuitive findings is even more disturbing. What the survey shows is not wealth differentials but the de facto exchange rates between the eurozone economies. They are not measures of net wealth but of imbalances. And they are enormous.

Since the start of the eurozone, wages and consumer prices have remained broadly constant in Germany. In southern Europe, the general level of wages and prices has increased year in, year out. Over the period, this persistent inflation gap has led to a large discrepancy in asset prices. This is why an apartment in Milan costs much more than one in Munich, the city with the highest property prices in Germany. A German euro buys more real estate in Munich than an Italian euro buys in Milan.

In the frantic German debate about these figures, the focus is on median wealth – the statistic that pinpoints the exact middle if one were to rank households by wealth. Looking at the median, the gap becomes even more extreme. In countries with extremely large wealth differentials such as Germany, where a few super-rich people own a large share of the land and real estate, the median is significantly lower than the mean.
When I mentioned that the Germans set up the Euro to export inflation to aid exports, I neglected to mention the obvious, that inflation is a devaluation of currency, and the inflation, largely caused by what the Germans demanded when the Euro was created.

Münchau correctly notes that the only way for this to be corrected is for Germany to inflate, or Spain (and the rest of them) to deflate, and since the Germans are opposed to any sort of meaningful inflation, this means crushing deflation in the rest of the Euro zone.

Of course, this doesn't mean that the Germans cannot come up with a way to make the situation even worse:
Professors Lars Feld and Peter Bofinger said states in trouble must pay more for their own salvation, arguing that there is enough wealth in homes and private assets across the Mediterranean to cover bail-out costs. “The rich must give up part of their wealth over the next ten years,” said Prof Bofinger.

The two economist are members of Germany’s Council of Economic Experts or “Five Wise Men”, a body that advises the Chancellor on major issues. There is no formal plan to launch a wealth tax but the council is often used to fly kites for new policies.
Yes, German "Wise Men".

Now there's a concept that makes the rest of us feel so confident about the future of the EU.
Prof Bofinger told Spiegel Magazine that it was a mistake to target deposit holders in banks, the formula used in the EU-IMF Troika bail-out for Cyprus where those with savings above €100,000 at Laiki and Bank of Cyprus face huge losses. “The canny rich in southern Europe just shift their money to banks in Northern Europe to escape seizure,” he said.

Prof Feld said a new survey by the European Central Bank had revealed that people in the crisis countries are richer than the Germans themselves. “This shows that Germany has been right to take a tough line of euro rescue loans,” he said.
Only, as Münchau notes, it's all about inflation and a market flaws created in the Euro Zone at German insistence.
The study shows how EMU states have twisted themselves into a Gordian Knot under monetary union, and why Germans feel a strong sense of grievance over escalating bail-out demands. Yet it is also highly controversial since it relies on data before the housing crash in Spain, and may understate implicit wealth in Dutch pensions or German life insurance.
Oh, yes, here is another reason why the numbers are bullsh%$.
Any attempt to enforce a wealth tax in future rescue talks will be seen by Club Med as further evidence that the Northern powers will try to impose all the burden of crisis adjustment on those in trouble rather than accepting their own shared responsibility for the failings of the EMU. This comes a day after Germany said over the weekend that there could be no banking union after all without a fresh EU treaty, effectively kicking the issue into touch for years.

Critics have long argued that North Europe is equally to “blame” for the crisis since it flooded the South with cheap credit, and they accuse Germany of destabilizing the intra-EMU trade system by screwing down German wages and running a current account surplus of 7pc of GDP.
(emphasis mine)

As I've said many times, it's exporting inflation to the periphery.

It's why kicking the Germans out of the Euro probably the only thing that will keep the EU together.
Any serious move to a wealth tax could the erode the pro-euro ardour of South Europe’s uber-rich. The ECB bond buying policy has largely rescued the wealthiest strata while the full brunt of EMU austerity has fallen on ordinary people and the unemployed.

The political debate on euro membership may change dramatically if rich Cypriots, Italians, Spaniards, and Portuguese start to see EMU as a threat to their property, rather than a defence.
This is seen as a problem. I see it as a solution.

The sooner that the Euro Zone breaks up, the more likely it is that we will not see the break up of the European Union and a return to conflict in Europe.

On Tax Day, Read Joseph Stiglitz

He makes the obvious point that the tax code since the Reagan tax cuts has skewed increasingly toward the richest people in our society:

Today, the deadline for filing individual income-tax returns, is a day when Americans would do well to pause and reflect on our tax system and the society it creates. No one enjoys paying taxes, and yet all but the extreme libertarians agree, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, that taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. But in recent decades, the burden for paying that price has been distributed in increasingly unfair ways.

About 6 in 10 of us believe that the tax system is unfair — and they’re right: put simply, the very rich don’t pay their fair share. The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes — far lower than mere millionaires, who pay about 25 percent of their income in taxes, and about the same as those earning a mere $200,000 to $500,000. And in 2009, 116 of the top 400 earners — almost a third — paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

Conservatives like to point out that the richest Americans’ tax payments make up a large portion of total receipts. This is true, as well it should be in any tax system that is progressive — that is, a system that taxes the affluent at higher rates than those of modest means. It’s also true that as the wealthiest Americans’ incomes have skyrocketed in recent years, their total tax payments have grown. This would be so even if we had a single flat income-tax rate across the board.

What should shock and outrage us is that as the top 1 percent has grown extremely rich, the effective tax rates they pay have markedly decreased. Our tax system is much less progressive than it was for much of the 20th century. The top marginal income tax rate peaked at 94 percent during World War II and remained at 70 percent through the 1960s and 1970s; it is now 39.6 percent. Tax fairness has gotten much worse in the 30 years since the Reagan “revolution” of the 1980s.

Citizens for Tax Justice, an organization that advocates for a more progressive tax system, has estimated that, when federal, state and local taxes are taken into account, the top 1 percent paid only slightly more than 20 percent of all American taxes in 2010 — about the same as the share of income they took home, an outcome that is not progressive at all.

With such low effective tax rates — and, importantly, the low tax rate of 20 percent on income from capital gains — it’s not a huge surprise that the share of income going to the top 1 percent has doubled since 1979, and that the share going to the top 0.1 percent has almost tripled, according to the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Recall that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the picture becomes even more disturbing.

LEONA HELMSLEY, the hotel chain executive who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1989, was notorious for, among other things, reportedly having said that “only the little people pay taxes.”

As a statement of principle, the quotation may well have earned Mrs. Helmsley, who died in 2007, the title Queen of Mean. But as a prediction about the fairness of American tax policy, Mrs. Helmsley’s remark might actually have been prescient.

Today, the deadline for filing individual income-tax returns, is a day when Americans would do well to pause and reflect on our tax system and the society it creates. No one enjoys paying taxes, and yet all but the extreme libertarians agree, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, that taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. But in recent decades, the burden for paying that price has been distributed in increasingly unfair ways.

About 6 in 10 of us believe that the tax system is unfair — and they’re right: put simply, the very rich don’t pay their fair share. The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes — far lower than mere millionaires, who pay about 25 percent of their income in taxes, and about the same as those earning a mere $200,000 to $500,000. And in 2009, 116 of the top 400 earners — almost a third — paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

Conservatives like to point out that the richest Americans’ tax payments make up a large portion of total receipts. This is true, as well it should be in any tax system that is progressive — that is, a system that taxes the affluent at higher rates than those of modest means. It’s also true that as the wealthiest Americans’ incomes have skyrocketed in recent years, their total tax payments have grown. This would be so even if we had a single flat income-tax rate across the board.

What should shock and outrage us is that as the top 1 percent has grown extremely rich, the effective tax rates they pay have markedly decreased. Our tax system is much less progressive than it was for much of the 20th century. The top marginal income tax rate peaked at 94 percent during World War II and remained at 70 percent through the 1960s and 1970s; it is now 39.6 percent. Tax fairness has gotten much worse in the 30 years since the Reagan “revolution” of the 1980s.

Citizens for Tax Justice, an organization that advocates for a more progressive tax system, has estimated that, when federal, state and local taxes are taken into account, the top 1 percent paid only slightly more than 20 percent of all American taxes in 2010 — about the same as the share of income they took home, an outcome that is not progressive at all.

With such low effective tax rates — and, importantly, the low tax rate of 20 percent on income from capital gains — it’s not a huge surprise that the share of income going to the top 1 percent has doubled since 1979, and that the share going to the top 0.1 percent has almost tripled, according to the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Recall that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the picture becomes even more disturbing.
He also notes that the increasingly unfair tax will hamstring voluntary compliance, which is at the core of our tax system.

If Republicans want to call this belief socialism, then we need a f%$#load more socialism.