Month: September 2011

Only One in 25?

A study has found that 1 in 25 business is a psychopath:

One out of every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic, a study claims.

The study, conducted by the New York psychologist Paul Babiak, suggests that they disguise the condition by hiding behind their high status, playing up their charm and by manipulating others.

Favourable environmental factors such as a happy childhood mean they can function in a workplace rather than channelling their energies in more violent or destructive ways. Revealing the results in a BBC Horizon documentary, Babiak said: “Psychopaths really aren’t the kind of person you think they are.

“In fact, you could be living with or married to one for 20 years or more and not know that person is a psychopath.

“We have identified individuals that might be labelled ‘the successful psychopath’.

“Part of the problem is that the very things we’re looking for in our leaders, the psychopath can easily mimic.

On Wall Street, I would expect the number to be closer to 24 out of 25.

Yummy Schadenfreude

A researcher at a pharmaceutical company was laid off shortly after another company acquired his employer, and shut down their research center.

Well, a few days ago, he was contacted by the blokes wot fired him, and asked to testify on their behalf in some patent litigation.

They offered a consulting fee and legal representation, but he declined, and contacted the attorneys for the other side.

His last sentence, “I explained that I do not want money but maybe they could re-evaluate how they are going to treat the R&D inventors in the future. You know, in case they need them again,” is a hoot.

Sex Abuse Victims Call For Investigation of Vatican by the Hague

You know, for the past 150 years, the Vatican has been a religious institution masquerading as a nation state, and not it looks like it might bight them on the ass, because the cause of its victims has been forwarded to the International Criminal court in the Hague:

A group representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests is asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and three senior cardinals for alleged crimes against humanity.

A New York-based legal charity says they failed to prevent child abuse.

A Vatican lawyer called the case a “ludicrous publicity stunt”.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of sex abuse cover-up scandals in recent years.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which is filing the complaint, says it has submitted more than 20,000 pages of evidence of crimes committed by Catholic clergy against children and vulnerable adults to the Hague-based court.

It is being supported by abuse victims in the United States, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican,” said the CCR’s lawyer, Pam Spees.

“In this case, all roads really do lead to Rome.”

The International Criminal Court was set up nine years ago to deal with serious international crimes. It lists rape and sexual violence as crimes against humanity.

Time for the Church to fish or cut bait.

If they are a religion, then they do not have sovereign immunity, and, in the case of Rome, Italian prosecutors should be investigating them.

If they are a state, then it’s the Hague, Bitches.

I’ve Been Saying This for Years, But Who Listens to Me

I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!

POGO has reviewed cases where private contractors have assumed government functions, and in the overwhelming majority of the cases (33 out of 35) federal employees were cheaper than contractors:

Executive Summary

Based on the current public debate regarding the salary comparisons of federal and private sector employees, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO)[1] decided to take on the task of doing what others have not—comparing total annual compensation for federal and private sector employees with federal contractor billing rates in order to determine whether the current costs of federal service contracting serves the public interest.

The current debate over pay differentials largely relies on the theory that the government pays private sector compensation rates when it outsources services. This report proves otherwise: in fact, it shows that the government actually pays service contractors at rates far exceeding the cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable functions.

POGO’s study analyzed the total compensation paid to federal and private sector employees, and annual billing rates for contractor employees across 35 occupational classifications covering over 550 service activities. Our findings were shocking—POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services. Specifically, POGO’s study shows that the federal government approves service contract billing rates—deemed fair and reasonable—that pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the total compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services.

Additional key findings include:

  • Federal government employees were less expensive than contractors in 33 of the 35 occupational classifications POGO reviewed.
  • In one instance, contractor billing rates were nearly 5 times more than the full compensation paid to federal employees performing comparable services.
  • Private sector compensation was lower than contractor billing rates in all 35 occupational classifications we reviewed.
  • The federal government has failed to determine how much money it saves or wastes by outsourcing, insourcing, or retaining services, and has no system for doing so.
POGO’s investigation highlights two basic facts about outsourcing government work to contractors. First, comparing federal to private sector compensation reveals nothing about what it actually costs the government to outsource services. The only analysis that will shed light on the true costs of government is that of contractor billing rates and the full cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable work. The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan recently completed a fundamental study of costs, and found that, in certain contingency operations, although savings resulted from hiring local or third-country nationals, military and civilian employees cost less than hiring American contractors.

Second, the federal government is not doing a good job of obtaining genuine market prices, and therefore the savings often promised in connection with outsourcing services are not being realized. The argument for outsourcing services is that, by outsourcing services on which the government holds a monopoly, free market competition will result in efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars. But our study showed that using contractors to perform services may actually increase rather than decrease costs to the taxpayers.

The big growth in the use in contractors began under the 1st Bush administration with his Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, being at the vanguard of such efforts.

And then he went to run Halliburton, where he got millions to help them get billions of the slush funds that he set up.

Private contracting was never about saving the taxpayer money, it was about two things: reducing the capabilities of the government (because guvment is ebil), and creating an opportunity for corruption and graft.

It turns out that there are some unlikely voices who might agree, specifically Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Diane Feinstein* and new CIA director David Petraeus, are calling for drastic reductions of the use of contractors by the intelligence community:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, pointed out the broken promise at a hearing Tuesday, noting that the intelligence community is not living up to a commitment to reduce private contractors by 5 percent a year.

“We had an agreement in 2009 to reduce [intelligence community] contractor numbers by 5 percent a year, but it’s clear that progress has not been maintained and sufficient cuts are not being made,” Feinstein told a joint-hearing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to assess progress in U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis over the last ten years.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that “core contractors,” meaning those who directly augment the government’s intelligence staffs, accounted for 23 percent of the total intelligence community workforce, down only 1 percent from the year before, Feinstein pointed out.


One week into his new role as CIA director, David Petraeus testified Thursday that contractors are at the top of his list of potential cuts in the new era of belt-tightening.

“Contractors – we’re looking very hard at that as one of the areas we can achieve some savings,” Petraeus said, recognizing the fact that many contractors have been devoted partners and have died in service to their country.

Nice to see some of the PTB getting a clue on this.

*Full disclosure, my great grandfather, Harry Goldman, and her grandfather, Sam Goldman were brothers, though we have never met, either in person or electronically.

Sikorsky Says X2 Technology Does Not Scale Beyond Medium Lift

Any helo folks out there who can explain this:

Sikorsky’s breakthrough X-2 high-speed helicopter likely can’t be scaled up to the size of a heavy-lift helo, a Sikorsky executive told reporters Sept. 14.

“There is a question on the scalability on the X-2 technology at the medium class,” said Scott Starrett, Sikorsky’s vice president for government business development. “When you get to the utility-medium or attack-medium class, it scales nicely.” However, with size and weight increases “you starting getting up to that kind of payload and physical size and it gets to be a different challenge for the technology.”

Starrett said that the company’s CH-53K, which Sikorsky is developing for the U.S. Marine Corps, could fit into the Defense Department’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) requirement for the heavy-lift helicopter.

Certainly, one explanation here is that Sikorsky is big on the CH-53K, which is under budget and ahead of schedule, but under threat from the V-22 mafia, who see it as a threat (it equals or bests the V-22 in everything but speed with less deck space and lower cost), and they don’t want this as a distraction.

The other alternative is that coaxial rotors simply do not scale well.

When one looks at large twin main rotor helicopters, the Chinook and the (huge) Mil MV-12, it seems that spaced, rather than coaxial or intermeshing (Kaman) rotors are the architecture of choice.

Huh, Neat Tech

It appears that machining titanium at cryogenic temperatures extends tool life:

Cryogenic titanium machining improves cutting-tool life by a factor of 10 with appropriate material removal processing speed. The Joint Program Office in coordination with the F-35 Fracture Control Board (FCB) approved the new process for standard roughing operations, impacting the most time-consuming and cost-intensive machining processes associated with manufacturing titanium parts. Broadly applied, this new technology could improve affordability and efficiency in the production of the F-35, which is approximately 25 percent titanium by weight.

My guess would that this generates smaller chips, that it might prevent material from adhering (galling, welding, etc.) to the tools, and it might slow the formation of an oxide coating, but I’d love to hear the theory behind it.

I would make an observation here:  If you have an aircraft that is 25% by weight titanium, you have a very expensive aircraft.

Stage Two of the Phone Hacking Scandal

It looks like the government and the police are using Britain’s odious Official Secrets Act in an attempt to ferret our the leakers:

The Metropolitan police are seeking a court order under the Official Secrets Act to make Guardian reporters disclose their confidential sources about the phone-hacking scandal.
In an unprecedented legal attack on journalists’ sources, Scotland Yard officers claim the act, which has special powers usually aimed at espionage, could have been breached in July when reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies revealed the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. They are demanding source information be handed over.
The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, said on Friday: “We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost”.

Tom Watson, the former Labour minister who has been prominent in exposing hacking by the News of the World, said: “It is an outrageous abuse and completely unacceptable that, having failed to investigate serious wrongdoing at the News of the World for more than a decade, the police should now be trying to move against the Guardian. It was the Guardian who first exposed this scandal.

The first rule of law enforcement is that the Cops will go after you if you embarrass them, and so now they are going after the paper that broke the story.

They haven’t invoked the Act againt the Murdoch papers, where police took bribes for information, but they are going after the Guardian, where police misconduct was revealed.

The fact that they are bringing out the big guns indicates that this is going to be getting a lot worse very soon.

Obama Loses Frank Rich

For not prosecuting the banksters. This is significant because, as Matt Taibbi notes, was “one of Obama’s great supporters in the punditry world,” and Rich’s latest piece is positively brutal:

What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away.”

After the 1929 crash, and thanks in part to the legendary Ferdinand Pecora’s fierce thirties Senate hearings, America gained a Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and the Glass-Steagall Act to forestall a rerun. After the savings-and-loan debacle of the eighties, some 800 miscreants went to jail. But those who ran the central financial institutions of our fiasco escaped culpability (as did most of the institutions). As the indefatigable Matt Taibbi has tabulated, law enforcement on Obama’s watch rounded up 393,000 illegal immigrants last year and zero bankers. The Justice Department’s bally­hooed Operation Broken Trust has broken still more trust by chasing mainly low-echelon, one-off Madoff wannabes. You almost have to feel sorry for the era’s designated Goldman scapegoat, 32-year-old flunky “Fabulous Fab” Fabrice Tourre, who may yet take the fall for everyone else. It’s as if the Watergate investigation were halted after the cops nabbed the nudniks who did the break-in.


The fallout has left Obama in the worst imaginable political bind. No good deed he’s done for Wall Street has gone unpunished. He is vilified as an anti-capitalist zealot not just by Republican foes but even by some former backers. What has he done to deserve it? All anyone can point to is his December 2009 60 Minutes swipe at “fat-cat bankers on Wall Street”—an inept and anomalous Ed Schultz seizure that he retracted just weeks later by praising Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein as “very savvy businessmen.”

Obama can win reelection without carrying 10021 or Greenwich in any case. The bigger political problem is that a far larger share of the American electorate views him as a tool of the very fat-cat elite that despises him. Given Obama’s humble background, his history as a mostly liberal Democrat, and his famous résumé as a community organizer, this would also seem a reach. But the president has no one to blame but himself for the caricature. While he has never lusted after money—he’d rather get his hands on the latest novel by Morrison or Franzen—he is an elitist of a certain sort. For all the lurid fantasies of the birthers, the dirty secret of Obama’s background is that the values of Harvard, not of Kenya or Indonesia or Bill Ayers, have most colored his governing style. He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys.


Obama soon retreated into the tea-party mantra of fiscal austerity. Short-term spending cuts when spending is needed to create jobs make no sense economically. But they also make no sense politically. The deficit has never been a top voter priority, no matter how loudly the right claims it is. At Obama’s inaugural, Gallup found that 11 percent of voters ranked unemployment as their top priority while only 2 percent did the deficit. Unemployment has remained a stable public priority over the deficit ever since, usually by at least a 2-to-1 ratio. In a CBS poll immediately after the Democrats’ “shellacking” of last November—a debacle supposedly precipitated by the tea party’s debt jihad—the question “What should Congress concentrate on in January?” yielded 56 percent for “economy/jobs” and 4 percent for “deficit reduction.”

Geithner has pushed deficit reduction as a priority since before the inauguration, the Washington Post recently reported in an article greeted as a smoking gun by liberal bloggers. But Obama is the chief executive. It’s his fault, no one else’s, that he seems diffident about the unemployed. Each time there’s a jolt in the jobless numbers, he and his surrogates compound that profile by farcically reshuffling the same clichés, from “stuck in a ditch” to “headwinds” (first used by Geithner in March 2009—retire it already!) to “bumps in the road.” It’s true the administration has caught few breaks and the headwinds have been strong, but voters have long since tuned out this monotonous apologia. The White House’s repeated argument that the stimulus saved as many as 3 million jobs, accurate though it may be, is another nonstarter when 14 million Americans are looking for work.


(emphasis mine)

If he’s losing (possibly already lost) someone like Frank Rich, who was  treating like the 2nd coming, he’s losing a lot of people.

About the only silver lining for this is that Rich, unlike myself, or Yves Smith, is unwilling to call him and his administration corrupt over this.

And the Republicans War on Organized Labor Continues

The House just passed a bill which would castrate the National Labor Relations Board:

The House voted on Thursday to approve a Republican-backed bill that would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from trying to block Boeing from operating a new $750 million aircraft assembly line in South Carolina. The largely party-line vote was 238 to 186.

Republicans denounced the labor board’s case against Boeing, asserting that the board was overreaching its authority and should not be dictating where companies can locate their operations. But many Democrats and union leaders condemned the legislation, arguing that it undercut an independent federal agency and favored Boeing, a potent lobbying force and prominent political donor.

Under the bill, an unusual effort to curb a federal agency’s actions in a pending case, the labor board would be barred from seeking to have an employer shut, transfer or relocate employment or operations “under any circumstances.”

The bill, called the “Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act,” is expected to face a battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate. In the House vote, the partisan divide was clear: only eight Democrats voted for the bill and only seven Republicans voted against.

Republicans have repeatedly criticized the board’s acting general counsel for filing a complaint against Boeing last April, accusing the company of building an assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., as a form of retaliation against unionized employees in Washington State who have engaged in five strikes since 1977, including a 58-day-walkout in 2008.

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits companies from taking any actions, whether firing employees or relocating a factory, against workers for exercising federally protected rights that include forming a union or going on strike.

“F%$# the law, we’re for rich pigs,” so say the Republicans.

The management at Boeing Publicly Stated that they were establishing a factory in South Carolina in retaliation for earlier (legal) strikes.  If there is no sanction allowed for blatant and admitted law breaking, it will get worse.

Then again, the Republicans don’t think that rich people should be prosecuted for breaking the law.

Why Our Economy is Going to Continue to Suck

First, because consumer expectations for the future just hit a thirty one year low, and second, because this fear is justified, because this feeling is an accurate reflection of a reality where your net worth is falling:

Consumer sentiment inched up in early September, but Americans remained gloomy about the future with a gauge of expectations falling to the lowest level since 1980, a survey released Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment edged up to 57.8 from 55.7 the month before, which had been the lowest level since November 2008. It topped the median forecast of 56.5 among economists polled by Reuters.

“Overall, the data indicate that a renewed downturn in consumer spending is as likely as not in the year ahead,” survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

“Even without a downturn, consumer spending will not be strong enough to enable the rapid job growth that is needed to offset reduced long-term expectations.”

The gauge of consumer expectations dipped to 47.0 from 47.4. It was the lowest level since May 1980. The economic outlook for the next 12 months fell to 38 from 40, the lowest since February 2009 when the world economy was gripped by the credit crisis.


It’s understandable if Americans feel poorer. It’s because they are.

The net worth of American households decreased nearly 0.3% in the second quarter as the value of their homes and stock portfolios slumped, according to data released Friday by the Federal Reserve.

Household wealth fell to $58.5 trillion, as home values skidded 0.5% and financial assets, including stock holdings, slipped 0.3%.

And consumers’ balance sheets may get worse before they get better, courtesy of declining stock prices over the past three months.

Half measures, and a fetish with punitive austerity do not make for either a recovery or consumer confidence.

1000 Words On Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age

I think that one of the reasons that Obama took raising the Medicare eligibility age off the table is this report, which gives us this little picture:

For the non chart pr0n inclined, the first thing that you notice is that it costs society twice as much to move these folks off the Medicare rolls.

The next thing to notice is that almost almost half of that cost is born by people who are under 65, who, because of community rating, will have to cover much of the increased expenses.

And then there is the huge hit on 65-66 year olds and their employers.

What isn’t listed here is the loss in market power that would result, with an associated increase in costs.

It’s bad policy, it’s bad politics, and thankfully Obama realizes this ……… For a while, at least.

It’s Jobless Thursday

And not only were the numbers worse than expected, but they are the worst numbers since June, with claims closing by 11,000 to 428,000, with the 4 week moving average rose by 4,000 to 419,500, though continuing and total claims both fell slightly.

We are not in a recovery, as the latest Philadelphia Fed’s Survey of manufacturing showed, with the numbers indicating contraction.

Why people aren’t running around like their hair on fire over this, I do not understand.

Lovely, Just Lovely

If you ever wondered why we need civil liberties, this story about how the FBI decided to explicitly teach its agents Islamophobic bullsh%$:

The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.


In this case, the FBI’s Allen says, the counterterrorism agents who received these briefings have “spent two to three years on the job.” The briefings are written accordingly. The stated purpose of one, about allegedly religious-sanctioned lying, is to “identify the elements of verbal deception in Islam and their impacts on Law Enforcement.” Not “terrorism.” Not even “Islamist extremism.” Islam.

(emphasis mine)

The nickel tour is that they turned over rocks and invited the most repugnant bigoted wingnuts to develop a curriculum to train their agents.

After all these years, they are still J. Edgar Hoovers merry band of thugs with a badge, and I don’t want these folks taking a piss without a judge reviewing this, which is why things like the judicial review free National Security Letters are such a bad idea.

What we won’t see happening here is someone getting fired over this, because law enforcement will only police itself when there is absolutely no alternative.

Everyone in the chain of command who knew about this should be fired, and those who should have known should be transferred to the FBI office in Nome, Alaska.

Oh Crap

As Dave Weigel, notes, “Pennsylvania Ponders Bold Democrat-Screwing Electoral Plan,” which would serve to award most of the states electoral votes to the Republican regardless of the vote count:

Laura Olson reports on the happenings in Harrisburg, where Republicans now control all of the branches of government:

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state’s “winner-takes-all” approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he’s suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.

In other reports, Pileggi sounds awfully sanguine about the effect this would have on PA as a swing state. Why even bring that up? Pennsylvania is typically a closely-divided state, and while it’s gone Democratic in every election since 1992, it’s been heavily campaigned-in every year.

So, let’s pretend this is a totally political neutral decision. If the next Republican candidate breaks the streak and wins the state, it would be horrible for him — he’d shed electoral votes. But if the president wins, he’s down at least nine, possibly ten electoral votes, because congressional districting is slanted towards the GOP.

When Democrats come to power, they try to do things and mend fences, and when Republicans come to power, they try to tear things down and use the political process in the relentless pursuit of power.

Considering that the American public generally considers Terri Schiavo to have better ideas to Republicans, but they remain competitive politically seems to indicate that they play the game a lot better than the Democrats do.

I think that it’s likely to happen, the idea of shaming Republicans into doing the right thing is laughable, though there is opposition, both from the Pennsylvania Republican Congressional delegation, as well as people who feel that the state would be ignored, as it would lose its swing state status.

Elizabeth Warren Announces Run for Massachusetts Senate

Elizabeth Warren has officially declared her run for the Senate.

I understand why she feels the need to run, but I am pessimistic.

First, whatever you say about Republican Scott Brown, he is a very good campaigner, second, the Dems are rooting for her to lose almost as much as the Republicans are, because they can then argue that people don’t want real consumer protections.

And if she wins, she ends up in the Senate, where she would enter a seniority driven and hidebound old boys club that would do their level best to keep her away from any meaningful voice on finance.

I wish her luck, but it’s a lose-lose for her us.

Well, at least she’s better than Brown, who’s a smarmy right wing ratf%$#.

Her campaign web page is here.

Thanks Barack

So, the Dems just lost the special election to replace Anthony Weiner, losing the Congressional district to the ‘Phants for the first time im almost 90 years. (!)

While the Democrat, David Weprin, by all accounts ran a horrible campaign, we also need to understand that that the Republicans aggressively tried to make this campaign national rather than local, and it does not bode well for keeping the White House, or the Senate, or retaking the House in 2012.

I understand that no will save it publicly, but this is not good news for Barack Obama or the Democratic party.

Unfortunately, particularly inside Obama administration’s reality distortion field, they are telling themselves that it’s not about them, and so will not learn from this.