Month: September 2011

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. Bank of the Commonwealth,Norfolk, VA
  2. Citizens Bank of Northern California, Nevada City, CA

Full FDIC list

So, after a week with no bank closings, we now had two.

The pace is clearly slower than last year, but I’m not sure if the pace of bad loans is slowing, or if we are simply running out of banks.

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

For All You Libertarians Out There, If You Think that Private Enterprise Will Protect You

How do you handle the fact that the auto communications company OnStar is going to track all the cars with operational units, and resell the data:

OnStar has begun notifying customers that it may continue to collect and use information about the vehicle even if the customer terminates his or her subscription.

In a privacy notice that will take effect this December, OnStar said that it would collect data as long as a data connection was active, including such details as the location and speed of the vehicle, as well as such fine-grained details as the odometer readings and tire pressure.

The privacy statement lists it as being effective as of Dec. 2011, although the statement also notes that the changes were made to the Jan. 2011 privacy statement.

In the privacy notification, OnStar said that it will share the information it collects with credit card processors and data management companies, as well as roadside assistance providers, emergency services providers, law enforcement, and wireless and satellite service providers.

The data collection can be halted, but OnStar must deactivate the data connection. “Unless the Data Connection to your Vehicle is deactivated, data about your Vehicle will continue to be collected even if you do not have a Plan,” the privacy policy states. “It is important that you convey this to other drivers, occupants, or subsequent owners of your Vehicle. You may deactivate the Data Connection to your Vehicle at any time by contacting an OnStar Advisor.”

Do you have OnStar?  Did you know about the change in the privacy policy?  Do you know whether or not a private individual could hack into your system and track you? 

How about a cop without a warrant?  (It’s still in litigation)

One Bright Side to the New Patent Law

Tax avoidance strategies are no longer patentable:

Did you ever think the clever tax-saving strategy your financial advisor is offering up could be patented?

For the past six years that question has been vigorously debated in the courts, at Congressional hearings and at gatherings of estate planners and other tax wonks. Congress finally put it to rest with a new law that President Obama signed on Sept. 16.

Under a provision in the far-reaching patent reform bill, it’s no longer possible to get a patent on a strategy for reducing, avoiding or postponing taxes. (See Section 14 of the law, which downloads here as a pdf.) By the time the bill, known as the America Invents Act, was signed into law, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had issued more than 161 tax patents, and another 167 tax patent applications were pending.

My preferred bill would have made it more difficult for patent trolls to get injunctions, and banned all business method patents, as well as patents on genes and software, but this is an improvement.

Quote of the Day

Politico, who always shorts Democratic Party Prospects, is saying that the Democrats’ chances of retaking the house are not good, and they uncork this one:

Now, resigned to the likelihood that the president will be a down-ballot drag in many races and absent signs of an electoral wave on the horizon, Democrats are scaling back their expectations.

(emphasis mine)

I tend to think of Politico as a bunch of shallow inside the beltway lizard brains (as in medulla oblongata), but they nailed it here.

Obama is a huge drag on the ticket, and the 2010 results, which were a reversal of historical proportions were the direct result of nationalizing the election and making Obama the issue.

I’m beginning to think that the eventual Republican nominee will have to do the equivalent of, “putting half a dozen children on a spit, and toasting them at the flame that comes out of their mouth,” to paraphrase Christopher Fry, in order for Obama to win.

Luckily for him, all the ‘Phants seem intent on doing this.

It’s Jobless Thursday

And while initial claims fell a bit, with the 4-week moving average rising, and continuing and extended claims both falling.

Still it’s 423,000 which is far short of a recovery.

On the other side, you have the Leading Economic Indicators beating estimates, but a lot of that was driven by an increase in the money supply as investors moved to (safer) cash from other less liquid investments.

Not only do I expect unemployment to remain above 9% for the foreseeable future, I expect it to top 10% again at some point in 2012.

Worst      Speaker      Ever

I mean, of course John Boehner.

It’s not because he’s an evil ratf%$#, I think that Newt has him beat on that particular qualification, but rather because he is completely unable to manage his caucus:

House Republicans tried a fresh strategy Wednesday night: Go it alone on a spending bill.

The result was an embarrassing setback.

Wednesday night’s rank-and-file rebuke of GOP leadership — with 48 Republicans bolting on a temporary spending bill — underscored the fact that the House Republican majority is still struggling to find unity on major spending bills. It also showed they still need Democratic votes to help them govern.

The pressure from an angry Speaker John Boehner didn’t work — he even threatened to strip committee assignments. Four dozen Republicans —mostly conservatives — wanted more cuts, and they just said no, creating an uncomfortable scene on the House floor as the funding bill failed on a 195-230 vote. Democrats showed a rare moment of unity in overwhelmingly opposing the continuing resolution, which would keep the government funded through Nov. 18.

Now, to prevent a government shutdown, Republicans will have to rewrite the bill and figure out how to get the votes.

Which means that he’s going to have to drop the offsetting cuts for the disaster relief, and come up with a bill to appeal to the Democrats, at least about 25 or so of them anyway.

The inmates are running the asylum, when Boehner should be the adult in charge.

Have you ever though how f%$#ing terrifying it is to think of a situation where a chain smoking tanaholic sot with the brains of a turnip like him has to be the adult in the room?

And he is 3rd in line to be the President.

Our Masters of the Universe CEOs, Now Accountability Free

Because Meg Whitman just became HP’s CEO.

Whitman’s claim to fame is her sting at eBay, where she made lots of acquisitions, most of them ill-starred. (Skype and their contentious stake in Craiglslist anyone?)

After HP’s disastrous acquisition of Compaq, and a string of management failures at the top, since their hiring of an outsider (Carly Fiorina), they have continued to bring in sales weasels for what is a technology driven company.

You know, maybe the company wouldn’t be flailing if the people running it actually understood the company, as opposed to stroking their own egos.

Seriously, there is no level of failure that will make one of the members of the CEO class unhirable.

Uh Oh………

It looks like company insiders have stopped buying their stocks:

Chief executives. Board members.

The head honchos. The people who know.

Just a few weeks ago, they were out in force, buying up shares in their own companies with both hands.

No longer. They’ve disappeared. Almost overnight.

“They’ve stopped buying,” says Charles Biderman, the chief executive of stock market research firm TrimTabs, which tracks the data. “Insiders aren’t buying this rally.”

Insider stock purchases, which surged above $100 million a day in the market slump last month, have now collapsed to just $13 million a day.

Meanwhile the ratio of insider sales to purchases has skyrocketed. Today insiders are dumping $7 in stock for each $1 that (other) insiders are buying. That’s a worrying ratio. Six weeks ago the amounts of purchases and sales were about equal.

It’s the kind of news that should give investors pause.

What insiders do with their own money is one of the stock market’s best barometers.

Gee, you think?

But ……… That would mean ……… That our noble captains of industry are using their internal knowledge of their businesses to derive an undeserved profit!

As the saying goes, “If you sit in on a poker game and don’t see a sucker, get up. You’re the sucker.”

Time to get out of the big casino if you are in.

Schadenfreude, Sweet Schadenfreude

It appears that News Corp has gotten a letter from the Department of Justice regarding possible violations of overseas anti-corruption laws:

News Corp. was sent a letter by U.S. prosecutors investigating foreign bribery, requesting information on alleged payments employees made to U.K. police for tips, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The letter is part of an effort by the U.S. Justice Department to determine whether News Corp. violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. News Corp. fell 1.7 percent on the news.

The inquiry advances an existing U.S. probe that is reviewing claims that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had their phones hacked by News Corp. employees. The letter doesn’t carry the same legal force as a grand jury subpoena, which would compel a response under law.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that reporters at New York-based News Corp.’s News of the World had hacked the voicemail accounts of celebrities and a young girl who had been kidnapped and murdered. Investigators subsequently began looking into allegations that the tabloid’s staffers made payments to police officers in return for confidential information.

Not a good day to be Rupert.

Well, Pull Down My Pants, and Paint My Butt Blue!

The latest poll has Elizabeth Warren up two points over Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, which, while within the margin or error, is still a 17 point swing in her favor:

Elizabeth Warren has had an incredibly successful launch to her Senate campaign and actually leads Scott Brown now by a 46-44 margin, erasing what was a 15 point deficit the last time we polled the state in early June.

Warren’s gone from 38% name recognition to 62% over the last three months and she’s made a good first impression on pretty much everyone who’s developed an opinion about her during that period of time. What was a 21/17 favorability rating in June is now 40/22- in other words she’s increased the voters with a positive opinion of her by 19% while her negatives have risen only 5%.

I would note that the general rule of thumb is that undecideds break 2:1 to the challenger, so this is a pretty ugly picture for the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts.

There are some important caveats here as well though.  Warren just announced, and so is likely experienced a bounce, and this is just one poll.

What’s more, Brown’s approval numbers are falling as well. (see chart pr0n)

My guess is that Massachusetts voters are beginning to understand that he is much more of a cog in the Republican party machine than he said while he was campaigning in the special election.

Police Withdraw their Official Secrets Act Filing Against the Guardian

It sounds like someone in Scotland Yard got a clue, and decided that doing Rupert Murdoch’s bidding in public was a bad idea:

The Metropolitan police has dropped its attempt to force the Guardian to reveal confidential sources for stories relating to the phone-hacking scandal.

Scotland Yard wanted a court order to force Guardian reporters to reveal confidential sources for articles disclosing that the murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked on behalf of the News of the World. They claimed that the paper’s reporter Amelia Hill could have “incited” a source to break the Official Secrets Act.

A police spokesman said: “The Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards consulted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting.

“The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter.

“In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps.”

The Met’s attempt to identify potential police leaks was widely condemned.

Just how did they think that it was going to look?


But Vegemite Is a Weapon of Mass Destruction

It appears that Australia’s Foreign Minister Paul Rudd was rather put off when homeland security wanted to prevent him from taking the brown food like substance on a commercial flight:

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had to talk himself out of trouble after airport officials flagged up a suspicious liquid in his cabin baggage – a jar of Vegemite.

Mr Rudd was heading to New York from Mexico City when he attracted the authorities’ attention.

He explained that the dark brown paste was his breakfast and, with help from local diplomats, was allowed through.

Vegemite, a savoury paste made from yeast extract, is popular in Australia.

It is similar to Marmite, which is widely eaten in the UK, but is hard to buy in many countries.

“Only problem travelling to NY is that they tried to confiscate our Vegemite at the airport. Needed Foreign Ministerial intervention,” Mr Rudd tweeted.

“Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you and I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through,” he said.

One bit of meta here, if you object to my using the the tag “Food” on this post, I understand completely.

It was a tough call for me.

The Banks are Going Spitzer on New York AG Schneiderman

They are hiring private investigators to dig up personal dirt on him and his staff:

The New York Post has a salacious story about Alisha Smith, a lawyer with the New York attorney general’s office, who is a dominatrix in her private life. Frankly, many of the skills honed by being a domme probably come in handy in litigation (such as knowing exactly how much pain and humiliation to administer when).

The problem isn’t with her having a kinky private life per se; it is the allegation by the Post that she may have gotten paid for performing at S&M parties. Smith makes all of $78,825 a year and the policy of the state AG’s office is for staff to obtain prior approval of any activity which will earn them more than $1,000. The Post presented its allegations about Smith, who was hired by Andrew Cuomo and played an important role in a securities fraud case that led to a $5 billion settlement by Bank of America. She has been suspended without pay as the AG conducts an investigation.

The banksters are going to stop at nothing to protect their asses, and what they feel is their God given right to earn insane pay for stealing money from the rest of us.

DoJ Files Against Texas Congressional Districts

They are saying that the new districts violate the Voting Rights Act:

The Justice Department said Monday that Texas’ state House and congressional redistricting plans didn’t comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), indicating they thought the maps approved by Gov. Rick Perry (R) gave too little voting power to the growing Latino population in the state.

Officials with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said the proposed redistricting plan for the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the state Senate complied with the Voting Rights Act, but indicated they had concerns with the state House plan and the plan for congressional redistricting.

The federal government “[denied] that the proposed Congressional plan, as compared with the benchmark, maintains or increases the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice in each district protected by Section 5,” DOJ lawyers write in a filing. “Defendants deny that the proposed Congressional plan complies with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

For all I complain about Obama, the fact that the professional staff in the DoJ’s civil rights division are allowed to do their jobs is an improvement over Bush and His Evil Minions.

Well Knock Me Over With a Sledge Hammer!

Barack Obama revealed his deficit plan, and for once, I’m pleasantly surprised:

President Obama will unveil a plan on Monday that uses entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings to reduce the federal deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next 10 years, administration officials said.

The plan, which Mr. Obama will lay out Monday morning at the White House, is the administration’s opening move in sweeping negotiations on deficit reduction to be taken up by a joint House-Senate committee over the next two months. If a deal is not enacted by Dec. 23, cuts could take effect automatically across government agencies.

Mr. Obama will call for $1.5 trillion in tax increases, primarily on the wealthy, through a combination of letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire, closing loopholes and limiting the amount that high earners can deduct. The proposal also includes $580 billion in adjustments to health and entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid. Administration officials said that the Medicare cuts would not come from an increase in the Medicare eligibility age.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on some of the details of Mr. Obama’s proposal said that the plan also counts a savings of $1.1 trillion from the ending of the American combat mission in Iraq and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

In laying out his proposal, aides said, Mr. Obama will expressly promise to veto any legislation that seeks to cut the deficit through spending cuts alone and does not include revenue increases in the form of tax increases on the wealthy.

I’m stunned.

His plan doesn’t suck (much), and it doesn’t cede major points to the Republicans as a starting point.

I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop (with all of his caving, I’m still going long on spelunking gear) .

Someone must have made it clear to him that while “the left” would vote for him in 2012, regardless of how much he flamed them, they made the point that if they do so reluctantly, then the low information independent voters won’t feel the enthusiasm, and they’ll not take the time to pull the lever for him.