Month: September 2010

This Is Bloody Amazing

Entwhistle’s bass playing here is completely sick, and Keith Moon is positively insane.

It’s a nice window into the band about a year before they became rock icons with the release of Tommy.

They were playing at the “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus,” and they so blew away the Stones that Mssr. Jagger and company did not have the stones* to release the film or album for almost 30 years.

Wow, just wow.

And that fringed jacket is so 1960s.

*Pun intended.

Economics Update

It’s jobless Thursday, and the initial jobless claims are out, initial claims down 16K to 453,000, and the less volatile 4 week moving average fell 6,250 to 458,000, a two month low, with continuing claims falling 83K to 4.46 million, and emergency claims falling 293K to 4.88 million.

Generally, the numbers are good, but still firmly in the 450-480K “sweet spot” where the numbers have lingered for most of this year.

Additionally, the revised GDP numbers have come out, and, for once, the numbers were revised up, from the truly anemic 1.6% annual rate releases last month to a (truly anemic) 1.7% annual rate.

In real estate, mortgage applications fell, despite falling rates, though the home purchase application index nosed up slightly.

In terms of the various indices out there, the Institute for Supply Management’s Chicago PMI rose in September, beating estimates.

Generally a good news day for this economy, this.

The DFHs* Eke Out a Small Win on Intel

The house has passed an intelligence authorization bill that expands oversight by requiring that the full intelligence committees in both the house and senate must be briefed, and by allowing the GAO to take a small peak at operations:

According to a draft bill that the House sent the Senate on Friday, the White House would be required to notify the full membership of both congressional intelligence committees of presidential directives to conduct covert action, known as “findings.” At present, the administration is required to notify only the so-called Gang of Eight, the chairmen and ranking members of each committee and the party leadership in both chambers.

It should be noted that any administration would have at least 180 days to make the notice, more if it said that it needed more time, so this is still weak tea.

Additionally, the bill also includes language that would for the first time give the GAO some access to the activities of the intelligence community:

The Government Accountability Office seems poised to play an increased role in intelligence oversight, despite a series of legislative setbacks and the Obama Administration’s threat of a veto earlier in the year.

The issue remains alive in the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act which was approved in the Senate on September 27 and which now appears likely to be enacted into law. The Act (in section 348) requires the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a directive on GAO access to intelligence community information — thereby setting the stage for a stable new role for the GAO in intelligence agency audits and reviews.

Personally, I think that this last bit will be a disappointment, either the DNI will issue a directive that says “go Cheney yourself,” to the GAO, or Obama will author a signing statement gutting this provision, because the intelligence community really does not want anything vaguely resembling accountability, and the state security apparatus owns the Obama administration.

*Dirty F%$#ing Hippies.

This Means Nothing

The House just passed a bill allowing for sanctions against countries that manipulate their currency, which is actually in accordance with free trade theory; an undervalued currency is a tariff on imports and a subsidy on exports.

The “free trade” absolutists would disagree, arguing since free trade creates democracy, cures rainy days, and keeps your daughter from dating that guy with the tattoo and the tongue studs.

Of course what they are really arguing is that they want to do whatever they can to depress American worker’s wages, because that’s how they get their consulting gigs.

This bill means nothing, and it never will, because it will never pass the Senate, and because in order for the tariff to be enforced, the US Commerce department must rule that the currency is “fundamentally undervalued,” which it will never do, because, it’s run by guys who worry that if they do so, their daughter will start dating that guy with the tattoo and the tongue studs.

Well, I Missed a Major Decision……

Bilski v. Kappos, a business patent case that made it to the Supreme Court was decided 3 months ago. Basically, Bilski had patented a method of hedging energy based on the weather.

The Supreme Court unanimously invalidated the patent, it was after the unique idea that one should bet on the weather, but by a 5-4 majority, they kept the business method patent, albeit with a tightening of standards:

While all nine justices agreed that the “invention” at issue in the case—a method for hedging weather-related risk in energy trading developed by Bernard Bilski and Rand Warsaw—was too abstract to merit patent protection, only four signed on to Kennedy’s opinion.

That opinion held that the “machine-or-transformation” test for patentability–created by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in its Bilski decision–was a “useful clue” when gauging a subject’s patentability but shouldn’t be considered the only applicable test.

I think that this was generally a loss for patent sanity, though it does make getting a business patent more restrictive, though, unsurprisingly, SCOTUS didn’t say how much more restrictive the standards should be.

My earlier posts on the matter.

Quote of the Day

Same as it ever was

This really does encapsulate Washington, DC, or at least the White and Federal part of the District:

When you can read an entire column by the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and never once feel the urge to cut out your own heart with a dull knife, you know that you no longer have the sense of outrage that is essential to reporting from our nation’s capital.

–Now former Washington, DC editor for Harpers Ken Silverstein, explaining why, though he will still write for the publication, he can no longer be their Washington Editor.

Basically, he has realized that if you don’t go native, you will go insane, and Mr. Silverstein has chosen to get out of Dodge.

He notes how little that things have changed:

I moved to Washington in 1993, when a young, new Democratic president replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress and with public opinion squarely in his corner, he had the opportunity to shake things up and change American politics. Instead, he and his party squandered their chance through timidity, weak leadership, a lack of any original ideas and their refusal to confront special interest groups.

Here we are seventeen years later and there’s a young, new Democratic president who replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress….

Well, by now you can probably guess where this is heading.

I also appreciate his observation that, “The [Obama Health Care] bill is widely unpopular, and not only because of the hyperbolic attacks on it by Republicans and Fox News. It’s unpopular because it’s a terrible piece of legislation.”

He will be working for a foundation doing long form journalism.

Go read his swan song. It’s a great piece of work.

Maryland Court Rules that Video Taping a Cop Waving a Gun Around Like a Lunatic is Not a Crime

The Cop is Completely Out of Control

Mr. Graber, was riding a motorcycle had a helmet cam.

He was also speeding and popping wheelies, which attracted the attention of the police, which is unsurprising.

What is a out of the ordinary is a police officer cutting him off in an unmarked car, and jumping out waving a gun and not identifying himself as a member of the police force until he basically had the gun in the guy’s face.

It looks all the world like an attempted motorcycle-jacking.

Well, Anthony Graber had a helmet cam, and posted the footage to Youtube a few days later, which is when things got hinky.

He was arrested, jailed, and charged with violating Maryland’s wiretapping stature, which forbids recording a private conversation without the consent of both parties, and faced 16 years in jail.

Despite the Maryland Attorney General’s advisory opinion that a public arrest is not a private conversation under the statute, the Harford County DA continued to pursue the suit, but the judge, just dismissed the suit:

Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr. had to decide whether police performing their duties have an expectation of privacy in public space. Pitt ruled that police can have no such expectation in their public, on-the-job communications.

Pitt wrote: “Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. ‘Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes’ (“Who watches the watchmen?”).”

Of course, that was the purpose of the charges, to intimidate people who would otherwise report on law enforcement misconduct.

The basic purpose of the arrest, and the ransacking of his house, and the felony charges, were retaliation for being a whistle blower.

Graber was also charged with possessing a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications” — referring to the video camera on his helmet. The judge disagreed with the prosecutor that the helmet cam was illegal, and concluded the state’s argument would render illegal “almost every cell phone, Blackberry, and every similar device, not to mention dictation equipment and other types of recording devices.”

A good decision, and perhaps the continued employment of the States Attorney and the police officers involved in this need to end.

This sort of abuse of power is antithetical to the rule of law.

They Who Must Not Be Named

I understand that Sarah Palin needs to be covered, as she is a Republican Party kingmaker, and a potential candidate for the presidency in 2012.

That being said, the current kerfuffle as to whether Sarah Palin was booed when she went on stage for an interview on the show Dancing With the Stars, that is clearly a “They Who Must Not Be Named” moment.

So DWTS, which I don’t watch anyway, is now on my list of TWMNBN.

That is all.

If there is justice in the world, Ms. Palin will be on the list shortly as well.

Stem Cell Funding Injunction Rescinded

I’m kind of surprised that the court did not tell Judge Lamberth to stop smoking pot.

But they have now permanently lifted the injunction against funding the research:

An appeals court has permanently lifted an injunction imposed by a federal judge, thereby allowing federally funded embryonic stem-cell research to continue while the Obama administration appeals the judge’s original ruling against use of public funds in such research.

Considering the Obama administration’s generally weak support for reproductive rights, I would have figured that they would have slow walked this, but I was wrong.

Background here.

And the Stupid Motherf%$#ers Never Even Tried to Make it a Campaign Issue

So a measure to repeal tax subsidies to ship jobs overseas failed in the face of a Republican filibuster:

As expected, a Senate bill designed to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs and manufacturing plants overseas failed a key test vote Tuesday.

With a 53-45 vote, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic efforts to end debate and ultimately vote on a “jobs” bill.

Top Democrats have claimed the bill would help keep American jobs from going overseas. But when it came to the test vote, four Democrats voted with Republicans to block the bill.

Here is the kicker:

The bill came out of nowhere last week and wasn’t discussed or debated, as a package, by any of the Senate’s committees. It would have given companies a break on payroll taxes for new U.S. jobs that replace positions that had been based overseas.

It’s a f%$#ing election year, and you weren’t using this as a club to beat Republicans over the head with on a daily basis for weeks?

Are these motherf%$#ers trying to lose the election?

Actually, considering the video evidence, the answer to that is probably yes.

Economics Update

I guess that the lede here is consumer confidence, which The Conference Board reports has fallen to a 7 month low. My personal guess is that the number is low because of the news reports that the recession has been over for over a year, which is so clearly contrary to what consumers see that it depresses them.

On the other hand, manufacturing jobs are reported to be growing strongly since the beginning of the year, which is a bit of a surprise.

In real estate, and, as Calculated Risk notes, the Case-Shiller numbers are out, and they are positively schizophrenic:

From the Financial Times: US home prices slip in July

From the WSJ: Home Prices Rose in July

From CNBC: US Home Prices Slipped In July And May Stabilize Near Lows

From MarketWatch: Home price growth slows in July

From HousingWire: S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite index rose 0.6% for July

Basically, some of them are reporting seasonally adjusted numbers, and some are reporting non-seasonally adjusted numbers. I would tend to go with the latter with July, since I think that the expiration of the tax credits probably overwhelmed any seasonal effects, and the composite 10 and the composite 20 numbers are a bit different, but basically it’s flat near the recent bottoms.

Finally, we have the various reports from the regional Federal reserve banks: Dallas, up slightly in September, Chicago down slightly in August, and Richmond down slightly in September.

In the Annals of the Repulsive……

View Larger Map
They are just off of I-88, in case you want to leave a flaming bag of sh%$ on the town hall doorstep

The town of Sidney, New York has earned a special place in the annals of perfidity.

There is a small community of Muslims on a farm in this town of 5,993.

They also have a small cemetary, which was approved by the town council a few years ago, but after what appears to be years of harassment from the authorities, town supervisor Bob McCarthy wants a court order to force the bodies to be exhumed and removed from the property.

It is people like Bob McCarthy who make me despair for the future of America.

That sound you her is Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville spinning in his grave.

Obama Doubles Down on Bush Policies Again

He is proposing mandating a back door in pretty much every form of communication on the internet:

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

This would mean that if you had two people communicating handling their own encryption, which a little program called PGP has been doing for decades, they would have to make it illegal.

Obama, a former lecturer on constitutional law, should know better. He is operating under the assumption that because he’s a good guy,* it’s OK for him to have this power, which is, of course completely antithetical to the most basic foundation of the constitution.

Some pertinent quotes:

But as an example, one official said, an investigation into a drug cartel earlier this year was stymied because smugglers used peer-to-peer software, which is difficult to intercept because it is not routed through a central hub. Agents eventually installed surveillance equipment in a suspect’s office, but that tactic was “risky,” the official said, and the delay “prevented the interception of pertinent communications.”

And, of course, there is nothing to prevent these guys from using similar software, and there is already a work around, as the official have admitted.

Even worse is this argument:

Moreover, according to several other officials, after the failed Times Square bombing in May, investigators discovered that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, had been communicating with a service that lacked prebuilt interception capacity. If he had aroused suspicion beforehand, there would have been a delay before he could have been wiretapped.


  • We had that there was a plan afoot.
  • We had no clue that Shahzad was involved with the Taliban.
  • We had no clue that the Taliban was looking at doing anything in the US, though the fact that we are dropping missiles on men, women, and children in their country might give them some motivation.
  • Having this capability would not have allowed us to determine any of the above.
  • However, if we had somehow discovered that this guy was hooking up with terrorists, it would have been easier to wiretap him.

There is also the fact that if you create a back door, it becomes a point of vulnerability for every hacker, crook, terrorist, or despot out there:

Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.

“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

Why there is such a determination by the Obama administration to embrace and extend every wrong-headed and un-American policy thought up by Bushand His Evil Minions is beyond me.

Doubling down on failed and expensive polices does not help.

* To the degree that someone who feels that he can be king and order the murder of American citizens for secret reasons can be considered a “good guy”.

Rat Rahm Leaving Sinking Ship Obama White House

Jake Tapper is reporting that Rahm Emanuel will be announcing his departure from the White House in the next week or so:

Although no final decision has been made because of family considerations, ABC News has learned that White House officials are preparing for Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to announce on Friday — as Congress adjourns for recess — that he is leaving his post to explore a run for mayor of Chicago.

White House officials expect that President Obama will also name an interim chief of staff, perhaps senior adviser Pete Rouse, at the announcement.

My thoughts, speaking from a position of complete ignorance regarding Chicago politics and a distant view of White House Kremlinology:

  • Richie Daley deciding not to run for reelection took everyone by surprise, which is why there might be a for Rahm to leave.
  • I get the feeling that Rahm may have been pushed, but it may just be people jockying for position now that they know that he is leaving.
  • He is not a shoe-in by any means, particularly if Obama is diminished by the election results. (The primary is in February)
  • This may be a part of the White House retooling its staff, there has been a lot of turnover, but the problems are pervasive enough that I would consider it to be rearranging deck chairs on the titanic. The problem is not senior staff, it is POTUS.

Still, I won’t miss him, and my condolences to the people of Chicago

More of This

Alan Grayson accurately calls his opponent Taliban Dan Webster.

This is what Alan Grayson does best: He explains the moral dimensions of Republican beliefs and Republican policy.

As opposed to drinking tea with the pinky extended, and talking about how stupid or lame the voters or your base is, he takes it to them.

If you don’t call out evil and insanity this time around, it becomes normal behavior the next time around.

This is why triangulation is a failure, it serves only to embolden your opponent to move further away from sanity when you extend the boundaries of what is socially acceptable discourse.

It’s why I love* Alan Grayson.

He understands the moral dimension to policy, and he aggressively communicates these dimensions.

Needless to say, the Beltway Kool Kidz club is having the vapors about his ads.

*In a 110% purely heterosexual kind of way, of course, as the General would say.