Month: February 2012

Not Enough Bullets…

Seriously, if I read one more story about these parasites complaining because they can’t do whatever they want whenever they want, I’ll go postal:

Andrew Schiff was sitting in a traffic jam in California this month after giving a speech at an investment conference about gold. He turned off the satellite radio, got out of the car and screamed a profanity.

“I’m not Zen at all, and when I’m freaking out about the situation, where I’m stuck like a rat in a trap on a highway with no way to get out, it’s very hard,” Schiff, director of marketing for broker-dealer Euro Pacific Capital Inc., said in an interview.

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.

“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”

The smaller bonus checks that hit accounts across the financial-services industry this month are making it difficult to maintain the lifestyles that Wall Street workers expect, according to interviews with bankers and their accountants, therapists, advisers and headhunters.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”


If they feel so bad about driving a “Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (the Volkswagen of supercars.)”, or to go to a market in Brooklyn to score cheaper salmon, I have a suggestion for them, be the guy from Fight Club.

You know the one:

And this button-down, Oxford-cloth psycho might just snap, and then stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers. This might be someone you’ve known for years. Someone very, very close to you.

Save one round for yourself, and you will do the world a favor.

F%$# Me!

And not in a good way, because that fatuous preening faux Democrat Bob Kerrey has decided to change his mind and run for the Nebraska Senate:

Kerrey had announced earlier this month that would not try to return to the Senate, citing his family in New York City.

“Doing things the conventional way has never been my strong suit,” he said in a statement. “I came to realize that my previous decision was the easy one, not the right one. My commitment to serve Nebraska and America, and to be part of the debate about the challenges we face, was too strong to dismiss.”

His wife went from opposing to supporting the idea, according to a Democratic official, and that played a big role in his reversal.

“My family supports this decision 100 percent,” Kerrey said in his statement.

Just what we need, another Fox News Democrat who leads with cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth guys have it right, moving the dialogue in your direction is more important than winning any election, and when the party supports people who try to undermine core party values, the dicussion moves in the wrong way.

I have a Cat Infestation

No, really.

The cat that beat me up when I attempted to adopt it has apparrently found a way to transit into the house, and score food from the cat dishes in the basement.

I’ve got to figure a way to co-opt it, because in a conflict, mano a gato, it will kick my butt, because it already has.

Catnip, I need lots of catnip.

BTW, this is the first time that I’ve ever used Windows Live Movie Maker.

This is chapter 3 of the tale of RP the Cat.

What’s the Difference Between a “Moderate” Democrat and a “Moderate” Republican?

A moderate Republican will buck the party, but on the close votes about an important issue, will vote with the Republicans.

A moderate Democrat will buck the party, but on the close votes about an important issue, will vote with the Republicans.

So, I see the fact that Olympia Snowe is joining Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson in retiring from the Senate as an unalloyed good:

Citing excessive partisanship and a dispiriting political environment, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a three-term Republican from Maine, said Tuesday that she would not run for re-election in November. Her surprise decision delivered a potential blow to Republicans who need just a handful of seats to regain control of the Senate; Ms. Snowe was considered one of their safer incumbents.

“After 33 years in the Congress this was not an easy decision,” said Ms. Snowe, 65, a moderate who served 16 years in the House before moving to the Senate. “My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election.”

Her entire statement sounds like a hissy fit, so maybe it’s a fit of pique.

The lateness of her announcement, it’s almost March , does jam up the Republicans, particularly since Maine is really not fertile ground for the Teabagger types, particularly after their close exposure to flying monkey right wing nut job, and current governor, Paul LePage, and moderate Republicans have to deal with Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth.

Romney Wins in Michigan and Arizona

The freak show will continue, but it’s over.

About the only people who will keep propping up the freak of the week against Romney will be the press corps(e) because they hate Mitt Romney, and because it sells newspapers.

Seriously though, why does the mainstream political media sound like a bunch of junior high school girls slamming other girls over their shoe choices.

Score One for the Good Guys

It looks like the Obama administration has shut down an NSA proposal to continuously monitor huge portions of the internet:

The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.

The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.

While the NSA does good work, their world view, and hence their policy prescriptions, are driven by the fact that they are eavesdroppers.

Basically, they want to make their jobs easier, without any sort of cumbersome review of civil rights protections. It’s the inevitable consequence of who they are and what they do.

Their organizational imperative leads them to support policies that can be described as either totalitarian or sociopathic, which is why care should be taken to ensure that they are the servant, and not the master, of security policy in the United States.

H/t Kevin Drum.

This is a Feature Not a Bug

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times is noticing that the Social Security tax holiday is putting the program at risk:

The accepted response to the economic deal reached in Congress last week, extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance and maintaining reimbursement levels for Medicare doctors, is huzzah!

Finally Congress got something important done with a minimum of brinkmanship and posturing, and more than a few minutes before the deadline. A threat to the embryonic economic recovery was averted, and the extensions even pushed any subsequent fracas over the same issues to the end of this year, safely past the presidential election.

So why should we consider this action cause for despair?

It’s because with every extension of the payroll tax holiday, which was first enacted in 2010, the prospect that Congress will ever restore the tax to its statutory 6.2% of covered income recedes a little bit further over the horizon. And that’s bad medicine for Social Security.

To be fair, thus far the payroll tax holiday hasn’t impaired Social Security’s fiscal resources one bit. By law, 100% of the cut must be compensated for by transfers from the general fund; those transfers have come to about $130 billion since 2010, covering the original “temporary” one-year holiday and a two-month extension passed late last year.

The new extension will require a further transfer of about $94 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Yet because of the unique features of the program’s financing, tampering with its revenue stream is playing with fire. The payroll tax is currently set at 12.4% of wages, split equally between employer and employee, up to a maximum of $110,100. The tax holiday cuts the employee’s 6.2% share to 4.2%.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) put it well when he excoriated President Obama and his fellow congressional Democrats for approving a measure that places Social Security’s financial stability on the table. “I never thought I would live to see the day when a Democratic president … would agree to put Social Security in this kind of jeopardy,” he said. “Never did I ever imagine a Democratic president beginning the unraveling of Social Security.”

Even conservatives who aren’t fans of the program’s current structure acknowledge how hard it will be at any point in the foreseeable future to restore the old rate.


But the worst aspect of the payroll tax holiday is that it erodes Social Security’s standing as a unique government program with its own revenue stream, a tax dedicated to its upkeep alone. Melding its own revenue with that of the federal government at large chips away at its standing, facilitating no one’s goals except those who want to see the edifice pulled down.

The more the program has to rely on general income tax revenue, the shakier becomes its claim to being a special case among government expenditures. When program-slashers sharpen their axes in Washington, the line has always been drawn at Social Security because it’s funded by a source distinct from the income tax.

Barack Obama has been looking to dismantle Social Security since the start of his Presidential campaign, he stacked the “super-committee” with Social Security foes, and tried to sell the program out in the debt ceiling deal, so this course of action is consistent with past behavior. (Additionally, he tried to do the same to Medicare. where he suggested means testing)

I’m not sure why, it could be his exposure to Chicago School economists, it could be that he feels that this is a way to stroke his “bipartisanship” fetish, or he could simply have a temperament that cannot see beyond the consensus of the “very serious people”.

Remember, notwithstanding the alleged benefits for the poor, this replaced “Making Work Pay,” which was more generous for people making less than the median household wage.

Why Does the Media Not Doing Even the Most Basic Due Diligence?

So, the news media is reporting how the Occupy movement is starting a super PAC.

Yeah, bull sh%$. It turns out that in the space of a few minutes, with the aid of Google you can find that the person behind it is a fanatic Ron Paul supporter with a history of severe mental illness:

Last week, several news organizations carried a story about an alleged Occupy PAC that, if true, would have driven another stake of political cynicism in the heart of the fractured movement, built on idealism and opposition to the corruption of American politics.

Paperwork for the PAC was filed with the FEC by 32-year-old John Paul Thornton of Decatur, Alabama, who says he was inspired by Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC. Mother Jones reported that “[u]nlike Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, though, Thornton says in his first interview on the subject that OWS PAC is no joke.” Meanwhile, The Atlantic Wire wrote that the organization was specifically registered as a “SuperPAC” that could raise unlimited amounts of funds that Thornton intended to funnel to “federal candidates pledging to get money out of politics, including Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.”

There’s only one problem: The alleged “Occupy PAC” story isn’t at all what it seems, and had any of the reporters who first “broke” it last week bothered applying a little professional skepticism, the story never would have got off the ground, and never would have created yet another layer of disillusionment and cynicism that Occupy’s enemies have been actively sowing.

There many obvious warning signs about Thornton on the public record. For example, John Thornton admitted to a reporter from Capital New York that he was a Ron Paul supporter. You don’t have to be a veteran journalist to know that a guy who supports a far-right Republican libertarian who wants to abolish financial regulations and laws protecting labor and the environment, and favors Citizens United and unregulated lobbying, isn’t exactly representative of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Being a Ron Paul supporter in Occupy is one thing; it’s another thing altogether when a libertarian sets up a SuperPAC in Occupy’s name.


According to newspaper accounts, Thornton lost his defense-contracting job in the summer of 2008, after a violent psychotic episode landed him a criminal conviction and a nearly two-month jail sentence. His parents said that Thornton, who was 28 at the time, started losing his mind after getting out of the National Guard. And after string of run-ins with law, which included the violation of a protection order filed by his ex-wife, a judge sentenced him to 60 days in the tank.

The kicker here is that Breitbart actually scooped the reporters on the fact that this guy is a Paulite nut job, because it makes good copy for him, and it syncs with his goal of sliming the Occupy movement.

The more conspiratorially minded of you might think that this is something from the corporate task-master, but the reporter who broke this was Andy Kroll of Mother Jones, and while Mother Jones may be a number of things (after all, they fired Michael Moore, and had to settle out of court for wrongful termination),. they are not a corporate mouthpiece.

This just a lazy sloppy reporters who saw a story with some pop to it, and decided that it was easier to write the story without doing any leg work.

Unfortunately, this is the rule, rather than the exception.

Bully For Him!

In Tunisia, Yunisian President Marzouki has requsted that the parliament pass a law banning accusations of blasphemy:

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Saturday called on parliament to outlaw accusations of blasphemy as a threat to public order.

“Such practices can threaten the peace between citizens living in the same country and lead to conflict,” Marzouki warned in a statement.

He asked the president and members of the Constituent Assembly which in December approved the North African country’s new government to adopt legislation “that outlaws accusations of blasphemy.”

Violators of the new law should be prosecuted “to protect the coexistence, fraternity and solidarity among Tunisians,” he said.

I think that the right to blaspheme is among the most basic of human rights, so I am heartened by this development.

Too Extreme For Pat Buchanan????? Seriously!?!?!?!

You know, when Pat Buchanan is telling you that you are being too radical, you have a problem:

But it seems that some Republicans think their party has gone too far. Yesterday, Virginia legislators backed away from a “personhood” measure and the state’s conservative governor removed his support for an extreme ultrasound bill. Even Pat Buchanan, a leader on social issues within the party and a former GOP presidential candidate, this morning warned that Republicans like Rick Santorum are overreaching in their opposition to contraception.

On C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Buchanan described the debate over contraception as “beyond the political realm”:

I think if you get down into where [Santorum’s] been discussing it on the merits and demerits of contraception…that’s a moral issue. […] We talked about that in college endlessly, but I think you move into an area where people don’t understand yet and where it’s beyond the political realm. And I think that’s where Santorum has gone and gotten himself. He’s gotten himself tied up in some of these arguments, and I don’t think he’s handled them with clarity.

(emphasis original)

Yes, that is Pat “It probably sounded better in the original German” Buchanan saying that this culture war sh%$ is a bit over the top.

We live in strange times.

I Was Wondering When Someone Would Do This

It’s a fact that from its beginnings, the 7-inch diameter AIM-120 AMRAAM has outperformed its 8-inch diameter predecessor, the AIM-7 Sparrow, (30 miles for the final version of the Sparrow as versus 40+ for the first version of AMRAAM) even though it weighs less than half as much, and contains less far less fuel than its predecessor.

Part of this is due to improvements in propulsion, new propellants and whatnot, and part of it is because the aerodynamic configuration (tail steering rather than the Sparrow’s mid body control surfaces), but most of this is from an optimized flight path, because with its active seeker and sophisticated autopilot, the AMRAAM does not need to keep its nose constantly on target.

I’ve always wondered why someone hasn’t applied active radar homing on a Sparrow sized missile.

Well, it looks like Japan is looking at doing this (paid subscription required):

Japan already has bought Raytheon AIM-120 Amraams, so why is it spending ¥36 billion ($468 million) to upgrade about 60 F-2 fighters with the Mitsubishi Electric Corp. AAM-4B missile?

Although the benefits to Japanese industry are obvious, details of the upgrade and the missile itself suggest that the program is giving an enormous boost to the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries fighter’s ability to counter enemy aircraft. The weapon has at least one advanced feature that other such missiles lack: a seeker with an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

The program will move into high gear in the financial year that begins April 1. The work is progressing in two parallel programs: integration of the AAM-4B missile, and upgrade of the J/APG-1 radar to a more powerful standard called J/APG-2. The improved radar, needed to exploit the new missile, will incidentally raise the capabilities of the aircraft by offering greater detection ranges.

Both systems have been developed by the Japanese defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute with considerable help from contractors, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the missile integration and Mitsubishi Electric for the radar. The same companies are contracted to do the installation work. Ministry officials tell Aviation Week that development went smoothly and is now complete.

Early in the development program, in 2001, the ministry gave rough indications of the AAM-4B’s capabilities. It could be launched at a 20% greater range than could the then-current AAM-4 and at least as far as an “AIM-120B+,” a standard that was expected to appear around 2004. The crucial claim was that the AAM-4B could switch to autonomous guidance at a 40% greater range than either of the other two missiles and would similarly outperform what was expected to be the 2009 standard of the Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder). In a 2010 paper, the ministry attributed the seeker’s greater performance to the higher transmitting power available from the AESA.

The implication is that an F-2 firing AAM-4Bs can stop tracking the target for missile guidance much sooner than an unmodified F-2 can—and officials tell Aviation Week that the key aim of the project is indeed to increase the range at which an F-2 can turn away.

The AAM-4B won’t make any international sales, of course, because the Japanese constitution, and it won’t fit in the F-22 or F-35 weapons bays, but I can see a larger being an equalizer on other aircraft.


SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro is now saying that there may be some real problems with high frequency trading:

Chairman Mary Schapiro of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is worried about the rise of high-frequency trading, but two years after the agency flagged the phenomenon as a potential problem, she says regulators still don’t know enough to do much more about it.

High-frequency trading, which is practiced by hedge funds and other technologically turbocharged investors, involves the purchase and sale of large volumes of shares in tiny fractions of a second, often to exploit fleeting inconsistencies in the markets.

At a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with reporters Wednesday, Schapiro said that major regulators from various countries gathered in the fall to confidentially compare notes about high-frequency trading.

“And we all concluded that we have concerns but we don’t have enough data yet to really be able to justify significant additional steps at this point,” Schapiro said. “We need to have a much deeper understanding of the impact of high-frequency trading on our markets.”

This is why financial “innovations” should be treated the same way that the FDA treats drugs: You don’t get to use them until they are proven safe and effective.

But beyond this, it’s clear that HFT is a form of front-running, where computers see incoming orders, and get to the queue ahead of those orders in order to profit from the market move.

A financial transaction tax of 10 (I’d actually favor 50) basis points would solve this, and a lot of the other problems of our financial system.

Dungeons and Draghi*

Someone has finally set up the Greek/Euro financial crisis as a choose your own adventure game:

Reading the media and blogs, it seems to me that left and right are united in the view that the Greek default is being handled appallingly, that the current attempts at a solution are childishly obviously wrong and that everything is the fault of someone, probably the Germans. My own view – that it is not at all clear what the direction of policy is, and that although I don’t agree with the troika plan, it’s recognizable as a good-faith plan made by conscientious international civil servants working under unimaginably difficult political constraints in an economic context that was irreparably broken before they got there – is, as always, unpopular.

I don’t have a solution myself – the more I end up discussing this with people, the more I am reminded of the London Business School proverb taught on some of the gnarlier case studies, which is “Not All Business Problems Have Solutions”. So, CT hivemind, what do you think the best outcome is? Below the fold, I note some talking points, aimed at preventing our commentariat from falling into some of the pitfalls and mistakes which appear to be dominating debate at present. Because the whole issue is a twisty turny maze which at times seems to consist of nothing but false moves, I am presenting it in the form of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. I would note at this stage that I could probably have presented it in a funky HTML way rather than making you scroll up and down, but I have convinced myself that this is a feature rather than a bug – the medium matches the message here, because international debt negotiations are cumbersome, inconvenient and irritating too. Also, it is probably easier than it needs to be for readers to end up at the wrong paragraph and get a confusing jumbled narrative which bears little resemblance to the decisions they thought they’d made. Again, this is a crucial part of giving you the authentic international financial diplomacy experience.


It’s an inspired idea.

*Not my bon mot. One of the commenters on  the above post came up with it.

Being Unwilling to Train Employees is Not a Skilled Worker Shortage

What Ryan Chittum says:

What’s going on here? The Post writes that the laid-off workers don’t know how to operate newfangled machinery and that Baby Boomers are retiring but younger generations “have avoided the manufacturing sector because of the volatility and stigma of factory work, as well as perceptions that U.S. manufacturing is a ‘dying industry.’”

I have another way to put that: These young folks don’t want to spend a lot of money and time training to do a specific job they might not get only to get laid off when some private-equity slicks (where the real money’s at) buy out the company and ship the jobs to China.

That’s what happens when owners and management have shredded the social contract. They find workers can’t or won’t do what they need them to. A flexible workforce has its downsides too.

This entire spate of stories about employers being unable to find qualified workers is crap.

What they really mean is that they cannot find people who need no training and are willing to work at slave wages, but that does not sell papers.

They Posthumously Baptized Anne Frank Again?!?!!?

Oh those whacky Mormons:

Anne Frank, one of the most renowned Jewish victims of the Holocaust, has allegedly been baptized -again- in a Mormon temple. The proxy ritual, known as a ‘baptism for the dead’ reportedly happened in the Dominican Republic.

On Saturday, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was said to have performed the ceremony posthumously, according to whistle blower Helen Radkey.

Radkey, a Salt Lake city researcher and former member of the church, discovered that Anne Frank, who died in a concentration camp at 15, was baptized by proxy over the weekend.

The situation also stirred conflict between the two religions, as the Mormon church vowed to stop the posthumous baptisms. But the ritual has been carried out at least nine times in Frank’s case, over 10 years, from 1989 to 1999. Radkey said she made the discovery of the incident when Frank’s name appeared in a database for proxy baptism, which is usually only open to Mormons.

It is so on, bitches.

The Stupidest Thing Ever Written

Surprisingly enough, it’s not Thomas Friedman who wrote this, it was David Graeber, in his book, Debt: The First 5000 Years.

I have to admit that I have not actually read this book, (and now, I never will) I am relying on a review from LizardBreath at Unfogged, and this is what she finds:

But then he starts talking about how democratic methods of structuring organizations are often more efficient than rigid hierarchies, and so will often arise spontaneously when people really need to be get things done. And he uses Apple Computers as an example:

Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other’s garages.

I don’t know all that much about the history of Apple or of the computer business generally, but I’m pretty sure that’s as wrong as it could possibly be. Apple was founded by two guys, neither of whom (AFAIK) worked for IBM (maybe for a very short time? But certainly not extendedly). It was notoriously a rigid, top-down hierarchy, it was founded in the ’70s, not the ’80s, and who had a laptop until the very end of the ’80s? That’s a whole lot of wrong for one sentence.

It’s so stupid, that I am amazed that this wasn’t written by Tom Friedman.