Month: August 2012

How to Know When You’ve Pissed off a Judge

One hint is when he asks if you are smoking crack:

Tempers boiled over in court this morning, with the judge in the case between Apple and Samsung flat out yelling at Apple for trying to book too many witnesses in its last few hours.

“I am not going to be running around trying to get 75 pages of briefings for people who are not going to be testifying,” U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh told Apple’s lawyer Bill Lee.

“I mean come on. 75 pages! 75 pages! You want me to do an order on 75 pages, (and) unless you’re smoking crack, you know these witnesses aren’t going to be called when you have less than four hours,” Koh said.

“Your honor, I can assure you, I’m not smoking crack,” Lee replied matter-of-factly.

It’s never good to piss off a judge, but the fact that it’s Apple playing bullsh%$ patent bully does infuse in me a bit of Schadenfreude.

Assange Formally Granted Asylum by Ecuador

This is not an unexpected development.

The British are saying that they are never going to allow his passage out of the country, and are continuing to imply that they will use a law passed in late 1980s to raid the Ecuadorean embassy.

The law in question was passed after someone shot a Bobby from inside the Iranian Lybian embassy, which is clearly a different circumstance from this.

The real issue here is that pretrial process, and extradition, in Sweden is opaque, and Assange has publicly stated that he would be willing to go to Sweden if they gave him guarantees that he would not be transferred to US custody.

This is about Obama, and people close to him, desperately wanting to get their hands on him so that they can make an example of him. (Even if there is not a successful prosecution, there will be torture, even if he does not get sent to Gitmo, look at what they did to Bradley Manning in pretrial detention.)

Rather unsurprisingly, all the news that’s fit to print, i.e. the NY Times reported this as a hit piece against Assange.

Thanks Angie

The Euro Zone is back in recession:

The economy in the euro zone officially shifted to contraction from stagnation in the second quarter of 2012, data showed on Tuesday, portending a recession for the region later in the year that would put even more pressure on political leaders struggling to keep the common currency intact.

Gross domestic product from April through June fell 0.2 percent from the previous quarter for the 17 countries that use the euro, according to preliminary estimates by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. In the previous quarter, growth was zero.

Economists said the decline in output, caused partly by government budget cutting, meant the euro zone was likely to enter recession, broadly defined as two consecutive quarters of shrinking output. Even the German economy, which has helped compensate for weakness in Italy and Spain, seemed to be losing momentum.

“Growth of the German economy was no longer strong enough to keep the total euro zone economy above the zero line,” Christoph Weil, an economist at Commerzbank, wrote in a note to clients.

The newest data added to the challenges facing euro zone leaders as they return from vacation and again confront the debt crisis. Slower growth almost automatically translates into lower tax receipts, because people lose their jobs and companies earn less profit. That, in turn, puts even more stress on government budgets.

Madam Chancellor, this is an artifact your austerity fetish.

No Rule of Law for You!

Well, we now have reports that
Ecuador intends to grant Julian Assange asylum, but it appears that the British are threatening to storm the embassy:

Ecuador has accused the UK of making a “threat” to enter its embassy in London to arrest Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.

Mr Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over assault and rape claims, which he denies.

Ecuador foreign minister Ricardo Patino also said a decision on the 41-year-old’s bid for political asylum had been made and would be announced later.

The Foreign Office said it could revoke the embassy’s diplomatic status.


At a news conference in Quito on Wednesday, Mr Patino said a letter from the UK government was delivered through a British embassy official.

“Today we received from the United Kingdom an express threat, in writing, that they might storm our Embassy in London if we don’t hand over Julian Assange,” he said.

“Ecuador rejects in the most emphatic terms the explicit threat of the British official communication.”

He said such a threat was “improper of a democratic, civilised and rule abiding country”.

“If the measure announced in the British official communication is enacted, it will be interpreted by Ecuador as an unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act and as an attempt against our sovereignty. It would force us to respond,” he said.

“We are not a British colony”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the UK remained “determined” to fulfill its obligation to extradite Mr Assange.

If you are old enough to remember the Iranian hostage crisis, it wasn’t the Iranian government that took the American embassy in Tehran, it was a bunch of kids with no “official” ties to the government.

Even Ayatollah Khomeini understood that the consequences of flaunting the sanctity required a fig leaf.

The British are not doing this for the Swedes. They are doing this because the US government, with the certain knowledge of, and likely active participation of Barack Obama personally, has demanded this.

Seriously, Obama’s war on whistle blowers makes Richard Nixon look like the Sunlight Foundation.

Paul Ryan, Insider Trader

Click for full size

Found on Facebook

Brad Delong looks at Paul Ryans trading records in 2008, and concludes that he had to be trading on information from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury:

I don’t want to hire as my vice president and federal budget czar somebody who uses Congressional inside information to profit by switching his portfolio back and forth between Citigroup and Goldman five times a year: I want somebody with better ethics.

I don’t want to hire as my vice president and federal budget czar somebody who investing very part-time with no analytical support and without inside information switches his portfolio back and forth between Citigroup and Goldman five times a year: I want somebody with a better brain.

Look at the trades. He’s clearly trading on inside information.

Time to Keep Your Cash in Your Mattress

In a ruling from the failure of a brokerage in 2007, a court has ruled that segregated client funds can be used by the firm for as collateral, and the bank gets priority for the clients’ money:

A ruling in the case of failed futures brokerage Sentinel Management Group could make it more difficult for customers to recoup money lost in the much larger collapse of MF Global, according to Sentinel’s bankruptcy trustee.

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a ruling that puts Bank of New York Mellon ahead of former customers of Sentinel in the line of those seeking the return of money lost in the 2007 failure of the suburban Chicago-based futures broker.

The appeals court affirmed an earlier district court ruling that the bank had a “secured position” on a $312 million loan it gave to Sentinel, which turned out to have been secured by customer money.

Futures brokers are required to keep customers’ funds in dedicated accounts to protect them from being used for anything other than client business.

However, Thursday’s ruling suggests that brokerages can use customer funds to pay off other creditors, Sentinel trustee Fred Grede told Reuters.

“I don’t think that’s what the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had in mind” with its requirement that brokers keep customer money separate from their own, he said.

“It does not bode well for the protection of customer funds.”

Worse, Grede said, is that the ruling suggests that a brokerage that allows customer money to be mixed with its own is not necessarily committing fraud.

That may raise the bar for proving that MF Global Holdings Ltd, under then-CEO Jon Corzine, misused customer funds as it scrambled to meet margin calls to back bets on European debt in the brokerage’s final days. A $1.6 billion customer shortfall remains.


Customer funds were allegedly moved from the protected accounts to other accounts so they could be used as collateral for loans to Sentinel’s own trading operations.

The appeals court said that “perhaps the bank should have known that Sentinel violated segregation requirements” but agreed with the district court’s earlier ruling that “such a lack of care does not rise to the level of the egregious misconduct” needed to reprioritize a claim.

“That Sentinel failed to keep client funds properly segregated is not, on its own, sufficient to rule as a matter of law that Sentinel acted ‘with actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud’ its customers,” U.S. Circuit Judge John D. Tinder wrote in the ruling.

If you have your money in an account, the firm can steal it and use it for loan collateral, and the bank gets it all.

For ordinary people who, for example, simply get a good deal on a used car that later turns out to have been stolen, they have to give the car back, even though they had no reason to know that he car was stolen.

But for the banks, if they are willfully blind,  they get to keep the stolen property, because the law does not apply to them.

We need to end this sh%$.  My next post discusses what would work, but ever won’t be done by either the current administration, or by a possible Romney administration.

Just Lock Them Up

Giancarlo Spagnolo, a professor at the University of Rome, makes a rather appealing suggestion, that we start criminally charging the banksters:

Recent revelations on traders’ behaviour in the Libor rigging case are worrisome not only as a sign of the rotten culture of financial operators, but also for the sense of legal impunity prevailing among them (Economist 2012). They suggest that bank CEOs and supervisors may have tolerated or encouraged rate rigging, or negligently lost control of banks’ operations, for years. They also indicate that law enforcement has been extremely weak in the realm of banking and finance. The recent allegations that some large UK banks have been involved in extensive money-laundering activities in favour of Mexican drug cartels and Iran reinforce this impression considerably.

In the light of these revelations, on 25 July the European Commission amended its proposal for a Regulation and a Directive on insider dealing and market manipulation to include criminal sanctions against that type of price fixing. Meanwhile, following a report by the FSA on the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the UK Treasury had already opened a consultation on how to introduce criminal sanctions against failed banks’ directors, ranging from automatic debarment to full fledged prison for extreme reckless behaviour.

The need for tougher sanctions is self-evident, as is the need to hold accountable negligent regulators. But are criminal sanctions a good remedy for financial misbehaviour? Wouldn’t it be better to substantially increase monetary fines? The question is warranted given that, with few exceptions, modern economists from Becker (1968) onwards regard monetary fines as a more efficient law enforcement instrument than non-monetary criminal sanctions (Polinski and Shavell 2000, Werder and Simon 1986).

The problem with monetary fines is that not always can wrongdoers be fined at a sufficient level to achieve deterrence. Wrongdoers may:

  • Not have sufficient wealth, or may conceal it;
  • Transfer fines to other parties (uninformed shareholders, directors’ insurance funds, etc.); or
  • Be protected by limited liability (for corporate fines).

In the remainder of this column, I will try to clarify why these problems are particularly acute for banks and in particular for bankers, intended as those individuals with inside information and control on the banks’ business (traders, directors, CEOs…). As we will see, the same reasons that for a long time have made banks ‘special’ for competition policy also ensure that to deter bankers’ wrongdoing, non-monetary criminal sanctions are necessary.

As an aside here, the idea of piercing the veil of corporate indemnification, so, for example, income of all forms in excess of (for example) that of the President of the United States, would not be covered by limited liability for a period of a few years.

Prof. Spagnolo does not discuss this, but it should be up there.

If people knew before the fact that if their banks had to bailed out, that all their property could be taken by a court judgement, it would deter them.

As it stands now, the worst case, taking the example of Michael Milken, who did his few years at club Fed, and left still prison fabulously wealthy.

H/t Naked Capitalism.

Wrap Party Tonight

Charlie and Sharon both acted in the Open Space Arts community theater’s 2012 Summer Playwright’s Festival, which had 5 (one was rained out) shows over the past two weeks.

Natalie also worked tech for the troupe, but was at a performing arts sleep-away camp,  Tizmoret Shoshana, for the performances.

Charlie had to take a role on 24 hours notice when another actor left the festival on short notice.

This afternoon was the last show, shop they had a wrap party, and since Sharon had a concert that she wanted to see,  Ayelet HaShachar, immediately after the play, I took Charlie to the party.

In any casee it’s been a fun, but hectic, Sunday.

There are Really Evil People in Kansas

Case in point, most of the members of the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, who are attempting to strip a doctor’s license for not forcing a 10 year old girl with mental health issues to carry her uncle’s baby to term:

The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, the governing body that regulates the practice of medicine in the state, stripped the medical license of a woman who refused to force a mentally-ill 10 year old to give birth.

As Robin Marty reports, Dr. Ann Neuhaus became the target of domestic terror group Operation Rescue after her colleague, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered. Neuhaus assisted Tiller by providing second opinions for mental health exceptions for late-term abortions.

Operation Rescue filed a negligence complaint against Neuhaus alleging that her exams were not thorough enough to support her medical conclusions and her follow-up care was inadequate because she did not recommend counseling or hospitalization after each procedure.

Neuhaus offered a rebuttal of her own. “To even claim that isn’t medically necessary qualifies as gross incompetence,” said Neuhaus. “Someone’s 10 years old, and they were raped by their uncle and they understand that they’ve got a baby growing in their stomach and they don’t want that. You’re going to send this girl for a brain scan and some blood work and put her in a hospital?”

Seriously, these are deeply evil religious zealots, and they are way closer to terrorists who intend to strike in the United States than most of the threats that the FBI manufactures.

I’m not hoping for drone strikes against these folks, but it’s clear that there are more direct links to terrorism with Operation Rescue than there is with, for example, the now shuttered Holy Land Foundation.

Mitt Picks a Running Mate

So, Mitt Rmoney has picked Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running.

Only in America could be someone who idolizes a virulently anti-religious atheist with the sexual morals of a rabid mink in heat could be considered the savior of the Republicans, and conservative politics.

Of sourse, it is America, so Paul Ryan, who is such a fan of hack writer Ayn Rand that he requires his staff to read every page of Atlas Shrugged.

He’s also the guy who put forward a budget that eliminated Medicare, which led to some very surprising losses in special elections for the GOP.

I can’t imagine that Willard needs to appease the party’s right-wing base this badly, so I gotta figure that this is a ploy to get Obama to stop talking about his tax returns, or lack thereof.

If you don’t know who Paul Ryan is, I would refer you to Charlie Pierce on what a contemptible piece or work he is.

BTW, Michael Moore had the tweet of the day:


This might be unfair to Charles Manson.