Month: April 2014

I Got my Ass Owned

When I wrote about evidence that Poland training Right Wing Paramilitaries from the Ukraine, I relied (and noted at the time) that the story came from a translation of a Polish weekly by a 911 truther.

Well, it appears that the original source, the Polish publication Nie is a news and PARODY publication, much along the lines of Le Canard Enchainé, which has both broken news, and done parody.

As Thierry Meyssan notes, “This article is based on information obtained by the Polish opposition. I erroneously cited as my source the satirical weekly Nie, which published a pastiche mixing truths and non-truths. The data it provides needs to be verified.”

Needless to say, 911 truthers are inherently unreliable sources, so without alternate credible sources, I will not publish.

Note also that Google translate is not adequate for many foreign sources for verification.

My apologies.

We are Having a Spot of Weather


Clip Image for Slide Show

Normally, I would not write about this, but a city block of street in Baltimore just slid into a rivine:

A nearly 120-year-old retaining wall that has troubled Charles Village residents for decades collapsed Wednesday amid a month’s worth of rain, dumping street lights, sidewalks and half a dozen cars onto the CSX rail tracks below.

No injuries were reported. City officials evacuated 19 adjacent homes along East 26th Street and urged residents to avoid the area in case of lingering instability.

The landslide halted CSX rail traffic through what is a main artery to the port of Baltimore. The track carries cargo containers handled by rail at the state’s Seagirt Marine Terminal, a substantial economic engine for the region.

I think that I also saw animals pairing up 2 by 2.

Another Day, Another Shooting

This time at a Fedex in Kennesaw, Georgia:

A FedEx Corp package handler armed with a shotgun opened fire at a shipping facility in suburban Atlanta early on Tuesday, injuring six people before killing himself, apparently with his own weapon, police and hospital officials said.

Three people were in critical condition, two of them with life-threatening injuries, after being shot by the 19-year-old gunman just before 6 a.m. EDT at a FedEx warehouse near the airport in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, police and hospital officials said.

The shooter, identified as Geddy L. Kramer of Acworth, Georgia, drove up to the security guard shack at the warehouse and shot the guard before entering the warehouse where he shot the other five people, according to police.

FedEx employee Liza Aiken told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was correcting addresses on packages when she saw a colleague dressed in black and armed with a knife, gun and a cartridge belt strapped across this chest.

“He had bullets strapped to his chest like Rambo,” she told the newspaper. “He looked like he was heading into war.”

The kicker, Kennesaw, Georgia has a mandatory gun law, which requires heads of households to own a firearm and ammunition:

Gun law

The town is noted for its unusual gun legislation. In 1982 the city passed an ordinance [Sec 34-21][19]

(a) In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.

(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.

Gun rights activist David Kopel stated that there is evidence that this gun law has reduced the incident rate of home burglaries citing that in the first year, home burglaries dropped from 65 before the ordinance, down to 26 in 1983, and to 11 in 1984.[20] The overall crime rate had decreased by more than 50% between 1982 and 2005.[21] Another report observed a noticeable reduction in burglary from 1981, the year before the ordinance was passed, to 1999. A 2001 media report stated that Kennesaw’s crime rates continued to decline and were well below the national average, making citizens feel safer and more secure.[22] The city’s website says that the city has the lowest crime rate in Cobb county.[23]

Remember what Wayne LaPierre said about the defense against a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun?

Not so much.

Muck Fyhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold founded Intellectual Ventures, and proceeded both directly, and through a shadowy shell companies, has proceeded to use dodgy patents, and threat of expensive litigation to extort money from businesses.

Well, we have just had a on the first case that IV put its own name on, and Myhrvold’s baby went down in flames:

Intellectual Ventures (IV) is the world’s biggest patent-licensing company and boasts of having collected tens of thousands of patents since it was founded in 2000. It’s raised about $6 billion from investors over the years, and to recoup that money, it started filing lawsuits over patents a few years ago. In 2013, it launched a new salvo, filing 13 lawsuits against major US banks, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Capital One.

The Capital One case ended last Wednesday, when a Virginia federal judge threw out the two IV patents that remained in the case. It’s the first IV patent case seen through to a judgment, and it ended in a total loss for the patent-holding giant: both patents were invalidated, one on multiple grounds. (An IV case against Motorola went to a jury, but it ended in a mistrial, and no new trial has been scheduled.)

The case was just weeks away from a jury trial, but US District Judge Anthony Trenga didn’t let it get that far. In an opinion published Wednesday, Trenga found that IV’s patents were simply abstract ideas: “nothing more than the mere manipulation or reorganization of data,” he wrote. “At most, the patents describe a more efficient system or method for performing tasks than could be done without a computer, i.e. monitoring expenditures according to preset limits (the ‘137 Patent) or determining what would appeal to a particular user from a particular website (the ‘382 Patent.)”

Unfortunately, I can think of no way to make Myhrvold’s business model, and those of other patent trolls illegal (as in go to jail), but perhaps we can see some meaningful changes to the law to make this behavior legally untenable.

I hope that Monsanto’s in the crosshairs as well.  In many ways, they are worse, because, our lives do not depend on the CWV code on a credit card, but they do depend on food.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

This Should Have Happened Years Ago

Donald Sterling has been banned from the NBA for life and must sell the LA Clippers.

I do not know whether this will survive the inevitable court challenge (If the NBA were smart, they would make an above market value offer to get this sh%$ off the table).

Still, I think that the big point was made by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that we have known that Sterling was a racist dirtbag for years:

Yes, I’m angry, too, but not just about the sins of Donald Sterling. I’ve got a list. But let’s start with Sterling. I used to work for him, back in 2000 when I coached for the Clippers for three months. He was congenial, even inviting me to his daughter’s wedding. Nothing happened or was said to indicate he suffered from IPMS (Irritable Plantation Master Syndrome). Since then, a lot has been revealed about Sterling’s business practices:

  • 2006: U.S. Dept. of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination. Allegedly, he said, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
  • 2009: He reportedly paid $2.73 million in a Justice Dept. suit alleging he discriminated against blacks, Hispanics, and families with children in his rentals. (He also had to pay an additional nearly $5 million in attorneys fees and costs due to his counsel’s “sometimes outrageous conduct.”)
  • 2009: Clippers executive (and one of the greatest NBA players in history) sued for employment discrimination based on age and race.


What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?

He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?


Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.

I got nothing to add, really.


Here is a drink that you will never see on Maddow, the Alien Brain Hemorrhage: (H/t JR at the Stellar Parthenon BBS)

Why is this Woman Still a Part of Our Political Discourse?

Sarah Palin just said that, “Waterboarding Is How We Baptize Terrorists.”

No, I am not paraphrasing, this was a direct quote:

With her legitimate political career all but unsalvageable, Sarah Palin has embraced her new role as a carnival barker. Speaking over the weekend at the National Rifle Association “Stand And Fight” rally at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Palin attempted an Ann Coulter routine meant to offend anyone not white and at least a little racist. “Not all intolerant, anti-freedom leftist liberals are hypocrites,” she offered before endorsing torture. “I’m kidding — yes, they are!” Zing — plus 1,000 patriot points.

And then her centerpiece joke, which really had very little to do with the gun nuts directly. “If I were in charge …” — wistful pause — “they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” The crowd erupted.

How I long for the day that she is relegated to the ash heap of history.

Firefly Ran 1 Season, and Bank of America Still Exists?

In the latest f%$#-up, Bank of America had to suspend its stock buyback and dividends because the “misfigured” its capital levels:

Bank of America Corp said on Monday that regulators had suspended its plan to buy back more shares and raise its dividend after the bank realized it had miscalculated a measure of the capital on its books.

The second-largest U.S. bank said fixing the mistake reduced a capital level by $4 billion, or about three-quarters of the extra money that the Federal Reserve had approved its returning to shareholders over the next year.

News of the gaffe sent the bank’s shares down 6.3 percent on Monday to close at $14.95, in the biggest one-day decline in the stock since November 2012.

The announcement illustrates how difficult it is to determine appropriate capital levels for the biggest banks, particularly under hypothetical stress situations that regulators consider. Bank of America now has to submit its request to return more capital to shareholders for a third time, and the Fed itself previously erred in projecting the bank’s minimum capital ratios under a stressed scenario.

The previously approved increase in the bank’s dividend would have been the first since the financial crisis, and raising it has been a focus of top executives. Banks historically paid out relatively high dividends, spurring retirees and other investors seeing income to buy their shares.

Banks failed to cut their dividends even as their earnings shrank during the financial crisis, burning up valuable capital and leaving them more vulnerable as the housing market deteriorated. In response, lawmakers have given regulators much more control over banks’ plans to return funds to shareholders.

The Fed said Bank of America has 30 days to submit a new plan that corrects the errors and ensures no further reporting problems if it would like to return more money to shareholders over the next four quarters.

Seriously.  Just how f%$#ed up does a bank have to be to have the Federal Reserve, an organization which has not just been captured by the finance industry, but which is in part owned by the by the finance industry, to reverse a decision to increase dividends?

BTW, does anyone actually believe that it “miscalculated” its capital ratio?

My guess is that there were a bunch of stock options vesting, and this accounting “error” facilitated top execs cashed in.

This bank is too corrupt, or too incompetent, to continue to exist in its current form.

Fed press release after the break:

Press Release

Release Date: April 28, 2014
For release at 9:00 a.m. EDT

The Federal Reserve Board on Monday announced it is requiring Bank of America Corporation to resubmit its capital plan and to suspend planned increases in capital distributions. The decision relates to the disclosure by Bank of America that the banking organization incorrectly reported data used in the calculation of regulatory capital ratios and submitted as inputs for the most recent stress tests conducted by the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve can require a banking organization that is part of the annual Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) program to resubmit its capital plan at any time if there is a material change that could potentially lead to an alteration in a firm’s capital position. Bank of America will be required to resubmit its capital plan within 30 days, unless that time is extended by the Federal Reserve. Bank of America must address the quantitative errors in its regulatory capital calculations as part of the resubmission and must undertake a review of its regulatory capital reporting to help ensure there are no further errors.

Until receiving notice that the Federal Reserve has not objected to the new capital plan, Bank of America will not be able to increase its capital distributions, including those increases approved during the 2014 CCAR exercise last month.

The Federal Reserve in CCAR evaluates the capital planning processes and capital adequacy of the largest bank holding companies, including the firms’ proposed capital actions such as dividend payments and share buybacks and issuances.

For media inquiries, call 202-452-2955

Quote of the Day

Yes, I know Michele Bachmann is from Minnesota and Steve King is from Iowa, but all this proves is that in the 150 or so years since the Civil War, the vituperative Confederate agenda of anti-Americanism has managed to spread its irresistible redneck poison into benighted pockets across the country. Kind of like Waffle House.

Chuck Thompson

(Emphasis mine)


The Nexus of Sports and Racism, and Clueless Conservative Bloggers

Normally, I would not comment on the the recent racial diatribe of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but the right wing blogs, who have spent the past few years claiming that there is no more racism, decided that the sports mogul is proof that racism does continue to exist ……… in the Democratic Party.

The problem is that none of them bothered to look at his party registration:

Over the weekend, while nation-wide attention was focused on the racist comments reportedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, some conservative commentators were focused on something else: Sterling’s party affiliation.

Specifically, certain conservatives were taking the media to task for supposedly ignoring Sterling’s ties to the Democratic Party. But a bit of context was missing. Sterling is a registered Republican.

A search of The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s website using Sterling’s name, date of birth, and address turns up a Republican registration, and the registrar-recorder’s office confirmed the information to TPM on Monday. (The initial tip came to TPM from public records compiler eMerges.)


By Monday afternoon, The National Review had updated its piece on Sterling’s political ties. The correction read as follows:

“An earlier version of this post identified Sterling as a Democrat. Although his political donations appear to have been exclusively to Democrats, his official party affiliation is not known. A Clippers representative did not respond to requests for his present political affiliation.”

You f%$#ed up.  He is a registered ‘Phant, and if you had practiced journalism 101, you would have found this out.

Admit it, and move on, wankers.

The Bunco Wing of the Republican Party

There is a wing of the Republican party which is dedicated to fleecing some of their not particularly too bright follower.

I discussed this a while back with the case of Linda Chavez and her husband Christopher Gersten, who set up a PAC where 99% of the costs went to overhead (them).

Well, it looks like the Tea Baggers have gotten into the act:

When the Tea Party Patriots threw its support last month behind Matt Bevin, the underdog conservative challenger trying to unseat top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, President Jenny Beth Martin vowed the group would be “putting our money where our mouth is.”

So far, its super PAC has mustered just $56,000 worth of mailers in Kentucky on Bevin’s behalf — less than half the amount it has paid Martin in consulting fees since July.

The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which blew through nearly $2 million on expenses such as fundraising, polling and consultants in the first three months of this year, is not alone in its meager spending on candidates.

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.

I’m not sure why, but when you peruse ads at right wing sites, Worldnet Daily and Glen Beck are among the worst offenders, are chock full of what appears to be transparently deceptive sales pitches.

The Democratic Party establishment lies to its supporters, but they aren’t trying to sell overpriced gold coins and the like.

I’m not sure where there is a cultural difference.  I would think that grifting would cross cultural lines.

Oh, Not this Sh%$ Again

Jeb Bush is now saying that he is thinking about running for President in 2016:

Jeb Bush on Wednesday was the most vocal he’s been about considering a run for the White House in 2016.

The Republican told a crowd of about 200 people at a Catholic Charities fundraiser in New York that he is “thinking about running for president,” according to an attendee.

The response came to one of the first questions posed to Bush at the Union League luncheon. After his answer, the room went wild, and then someone said they hoped he would take the step.

Please, God, make it stop!

Another Bush?

Haven’t they done enough to destroy this country?

Mazel Tov!

Google has fired the head of its Google+ effort, and will be redirecting its resources:

When Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, suddenly announced his departure from Google today, many were left wondering “why” and what it meant for the future of Google+. He didn’t give a reason for leaving, but according to a report from TechCrunch, the likely reason is a major shakeup for Google’s social network.

In short, Google seems to be backing away from the original Google+ strategy. The report states that Google+ will no longer be considered a product that competes with Facebook and Twitter, and that Google’s mission to force Google+ into every product will end. With this downgrade in importance comes a downgrade in resources. TechCrunch claims that 1000-1200 employees—many of which formed the core of Google+—will be moved to other divisions. Google Hangouts will supposedly be moved to Android, and the Google+ photos team is “likely” to follow. “Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform,” the report said. The strange part is that both of these teams create cross-platform products. So if the report is true, there will be a group inside the Android team making iOS and Web apps, which doesn’t seem like the best fit.

A Google spokesperson gave Ars the same statement the company gave TechCrunch: “Today’s news has no impact on our Google+ strategy—we have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google+, Hangouts, and Photos.” On Gundotra’s announcement post, Larry Page wrote “we’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever-increasing number of Google+ fans.”

Despite Google’s denial, it makes sense for the company to back away from Google+. The social network hasn’t gained the massive userbase it would need to rival Facebook, and the aggressive integration strategy has been universally hated by users. As Google gets bigger and bigger, it faces harsher scrutiny, and few things the company has done have been more disliked than Google+. According to the report, Google+’s YouTube takeover was seen as “a rocky move” even inside the company.

The G+ strategy was driven by abject terror of Facebook, and the change in direction implies that Google is no longer driven by this.

My guess is that Google sees something in the reams of data that they accumulate showing that Facebook’s “threat” is of less concern.

In any case, I’m just glad that they won’t continue to break their other apps in order to foist Google+ on the rest of us.

Why a French Economist has So Many Wingers Terrified

Paul Krugman has an interesting OP/ED on Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Picketty makes the assertion that capital demands rates of return greater than that of the underlying economy, and that, over the long run capital will extract more and more of the overall economy, to the detriment to wages and labor.

As Krugman notes, this work has the apologists for the rent seekers apoplectic:

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

I’ll come back to the name-calling in a moment. First, let’s talk about why “Capital” is having such an impact.

Mr. Piketty is hardly the first economist to point out that we are experiencing a sharp rise in inequality, or even to emphasize the contrast between slow income growth for most of the population and soaring incomes at the top. It’s true that Mr. Piketty and his colleagues have added a great deal of historical depth to our knowledge, demonstrating that we really are living in a new Gilded Age. But we’ve known that for a while.

No, what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved.

For the past couple of decades, the conservative response to attempts to make soaring incomes at the top into a political issue has involved two lines of defense: first, denial that the rich are actually doing as well and the rest as badly as they are, but when denial fails, claims that those soaring incomes at the top are a justified reward for services rendered. Don’t call them the 1 percent, or the wealthy; call them “job creators.”

Needless to say, the defenders of oligarchy are unamused by this.

The book, which, if reports are true, uses rather traditional economic tools, makes a compelling argument that excessive wealth is not synonymous with virtue.

I’m putting Capital in the Twenty-First Century on my summer reading list.

Imagine That, Military Technology Developed Over 20 Years Sees Countermeasures Developed

Bill Sweetman, writing in Aviation Week, observes that the F-35’s stealth capabilities, when juxtaposed with its limited jamming suit are inadequate: (Paid Subscription Required)

Using secrecy to squelch debate is undesirable. Using bogus secrecy to do it is, to borrow the British civil service’s strongest term of opprobrium, unhelpful.

It’s reasonable, if misguided, to argue that the U.S. military has all the EA-18G Growlers that it needs. It does not make sense first to maintain that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not need electronic-attack (EA) support, but then simply to cite “its combination of stealth and advanced sensors” in support of that statement, while withholding comment on any details. And that is what Lockheed Martin has been doing. (The JSF project office is not commenting at all on the issue.)

Two characteristics of the JSF that bear on this debate have been raised by Boeing and recent think-tank papers. One is the fighter’s susceptibility to detection by very-high-frequency (VHF) radars, and the other is the extent of its EA, or jamming, capability.

They are not secret at all. The F-35 is susceptible to VHF detection and—as Boeing’s charts suggest—its jamming is mostly confined to the X-band, in the sector covered by its APG-81 radar. These are not criticisms of the program but the result of choices by the customer.

To suggest that the F-35 is VHF-stealthy is like arguing that the sky is not blue—literally, because both involve the same phenomenon. The late-Victorian physicist Lord Rayleigh (photo) gave his name to the way that electromagnetic radiation is scattered by objects that are smaller than its wavelength. This applies to the particles in the air that scatter sunlight, and aircraft stabilizers and wingtips that are about the same meter-class size as VHF waves.

The counter-stealth attributes of VHF were discussed here a few months ago (AW&ST Sept. 16, 2013, p. 30). They were known at the dawn of stealth, in 1983, when MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory ordered a 150-ft.-wide radar to emulate Russia’s P-14 Oborona VHF early warning system. Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth division should know about that radar—they built it.

VHF-stealth starts with removing the target’s tails, as on the B-2, but we did not know how to do that on a supersonic, agile airplane when the JSF specifications were written.

Neither did the technology to add broadband active jamming to a stealth aircraft exist in 1995. Not only did stealth advocates expect jamming to fade away, but there was an obvious and (at the time) insoluble problem: To use jamming, you have to be certain that the radar has detected you. Otherwise, jamming is going to reveal your presence and identify you as a stealth aircraft, since the adversary can see a signal but not a reflection.

We can be sure that onboard jamming has not been added to F-35 since. Had the JSF requirements been tightened by one iota since the program started, its advocates would be blaming that for the delays and cost overruns.

What the JSF does have is an EA function in the radar and an expendable radar decoy—BAE Systems’ ALE-70—which may be free-flying or towed, most likely the former. Both are last-ditch measures that would be used to disrupt a missile engagement, not to prevent tracking.

Potential opponents have known of stealth for over 30 years, and the mathematics of this technology have been public for even longer, so the use of lower frequency radars (as is the case of the confusingly name VHF) along with advances in computer power and phased array radars, imply that the effectiveness of stealth has been mitigated.

This is why the USAF putting its eggs in on basket, stealth, is concerning.

I Would Expect to See More of This………

Ecuador has expelled a military contingent from the US embassy:

Ecuador has ordered 20 U.S. Defense Department employees attached to the U.S. Embassy in Quito to leave the country next week, U.S. officials confirmed, further straining an already rocky relationship between President Rafael Correa and the Obama administration.

The Ecuadorean government made the request on April 7, asking the U.S. embassy in Ecuador to end the activities of the Security Cooperation Office by Wednesday, said Jeffrey Weinshenker, an embassy spokesman. He said that the civilian and military workers had been mainly engaged in joint programs with Ecuador to fight human smuggling and the drug trade.


In an email, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Angela Cervetti said, “[the U.S.] regrets that the outcome will severely limit our bilateral security partnership. Our close military cooperation over the past four decades has resulted in significant advances against drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, and other transnational crime.”

But the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington characterized the closing of the Security Cooperation Office as part of an agreement with the Obama administration. “A core group of U.S. military attaches will remain, as typical for normal bilateral relations,” an embassy statement said.

In January, Mr. Correa had said that Pentagon workers were used to “infiltrate” Ecuador. The order ousting the Americans came days after Mr. Correa wrapped up a U.S. tour that included talks at Yale and Harvard universities and television interviews where he described himself as a “modern socialist” who wanted to improve relations with the U.S.

When juxtaposed with this:

Correa said he became aware of what he described as a bloated US military presence in his country after learning that four Pentagon personnel were aboard an Ecuadoran military helicopter that came under fire in October near the border with Colombia.

When you consider things like the role of the US Army School of the Americas, which educated generations of military juntas and coups in Latin America, it has to be a legitimate matter of concern for any government that military personnel and contractors are operating in military operations without the knowledge of the sponsoring government.

This is particularly of concern for someone like Correa who is not particularly friendly to the US agenda in that part of the world, particularly when one sees the sort of activities that the US engages in its neighbor Venezuela, where it is clear that there is an active attempt to destabilize the government.

The Rich are not the Best of Us, they are the Worst of Us

An interesting study finds that the more money you have, the more likely you are to ignore rules and endanger others:

What defines low socioeconomic status? Objectively, it means fewer economic resources and educational opportunities, less access to elite schools and clubs, more subordinate positions in the workplace, and increased levels of stress. For the upper-class, it’s just the inverse: more resources, more leisure, less stress.

From the realities facing each group, you might assume that members of the lower-class would be more focused on meeting their own survival needs and, thereby, prioritize their needs over those of others. As a result, you might also expect them to be less trustworthy as compared to members of the upper-class who, given their greater resources, have the luxury to trust. But if you do, you’re missing a central point about how trust really works. Trust isn’t a luxury. It’s a tool we need to get by when we can’t make it on our own; it’s a means of survival for those who must depend on others. Viewed this way, predictions about trust and class get turned on their heads.


To relate that to social class, consider this experiment. You’re standing on a corner in downtown San Francisco. It’s a four-way stop, meaning cars are supposed to pause before entering the intersection. As you’re sipping your latte, you look to your left before stepping off the curb. The car approaching is a shiny BMW. Do you cross? How about if it’s a Ford Fusion? The model of trust I’ve been describing suggests you might want to pause if it’s the BMW. There’s really only one way to tell, though. You’ve got to put yourself out there. And that’s just what Paul Piff and colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley did.

As cars approached this busy intersection in San Francisco, a researcher would enter the crosswalk. Unbeknownst to drivers, he also noted the make of their car and their perceived age and gender. The main datum for each car was whether the driver paused to let the researcher cross at the stop sign (as is required by the California Vehicle Code) or sped up to cut him off and thereby proceed more quickly toward the driver’s goals. Paul and colleagues divided drivers into five SES categories based on their cars—think Hyundais on one end and Ferraris on the other. The results were quite remarkable.

At the lowest end of the class gradient, every single driver stopped to let the pedestrian entering the crosswalk continue on his way. Midway up the class ladder, about 30 percent of drivers broke the law and cut off the pedestrian so that they could keep going. At the upper end of SES, almost 50 percent of drivers broke the law to put their own needs first. At the most basic level, these findings offer a provocative warning. When you’re vulnerable, upper-class individuals are more likely to disregard the trust you place in them if doing so furthers their own ends.

This is the first of a number of tests executed by Professor Piff did.

The better off someone was, the more likely to act in a completely self-absorbed and untrustworthy manner.

It applied to cars, lying to a potential job applicant about a job, or cheating at a gambling game.

It is precisely the opposite of the Calvanist ethos that grips the right wing.