Month: August 2014

Pass the Popcorn

Pass the Popcorn

In 2012, Michelle Bachmann accused the Ron Paul Presidential campaign of bribing Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson for his changing his endorsement from her to the Libertarian stalwart.

Well, it turns out to be true.

Sorenson has pled guilty to taking at least $25,000.00 to switch his endorsement.

While this bit of of corruption may not seem significant beyond an indication that the Iowa caucuses are too corrupt and thus should lose their first in the nation status, there is actually more to this.

Specifically, it appears that Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign manager, Jesse Benton, is hip deep in this.

How is is significant today that the campaign manager for an iconoclast’s 2012 campaign is implicated in  bribery scandal?

Here’s how:

Neither Lori Pyeatt, Ron Paul’s granddaughter and the treasurer of his 2012 presidential campaign, nor Jesse Benton, who was Paul’s campaign manager (and is now manager of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign), had responded to requests for comment at the time this post was published.

(emphasis mine)

So Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager is implicated in a bribery scandal, and what’s more, it appears that he might be rolling over to prosecutors:

It isn’t clear if the investigation is continuing, but Sorenson has been granted immunity from further prosecution on federal and state charges, as has his wife, according to the plea agreement. has learned that two grand juries have been investigating the events in Iowa, one focused on the Paul campaign and one on Bachmann’s. Last August, published a copy of a memo written by Aaron Dorr, the head of the Iowa Gun Owners, in which he outlined Sorenson’s demands to switch his endorsement. Included in the emails surrounding the negotiations were several top Paul campaign officials, including Benton.

(Again, emphasis mine)

So Sorenson is singing to the feds like a canary, and Mitch McConnell’s (soon to be former?) campaign manager is clearly in the prosecutor’s cross-hairs.

Cease Fire in Gaza

So Hamas picks up some more anti-Israel political cred, and Israel mows the lawn, and nothing really changes:

After 50 days of fighting that took some 2,200 lives, leveled large areas of the Gaza Strip and paralyzed Israel’s south for the summer, Israeli and Palestinian leaders reached an open-ended cease-fire agreement on Tuesday that promised only limited change to conditions in Gaza and left unresolved the broader issues underpinning the conflict.

Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, declared victory even though it had abandoned most of its demands, ultimately accepting an Egyptian-brokered deal that differs little from one proffered on the battle’s seventh day. In effect, the deal put both sides back where they were at the end of eight days of fighting in 2012, with terms that called for easing but not lifting Israeli restrictions on travel, trade and fishing in Gaza.

It’s the world’s most depressing remake of Groundhog Day.

Investment Banker is New Economy Minister In France

Francois Holland makes the worst possible choice:

After a day and a half of protracted negotiations following the forced exit of three rebels from his cabinet, the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, on Tuesday night appointed a new economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker on the right of the Socialist party.

As President François Hollande struggled to overcome a political crisis sparked by leftwing dissidents who campaigned against the Socialist government’s austerity policies, Valls also announced that finance minister Michel Sapin, a close ally of Hollande, was being put in charge of overseeing public accounts. Macron is close to Sapin and Hollande, which should ensure that the government in future speaks with one voice on economic policy.

Five months after putting Valls in charge of a “fighting” government, Hollande had demanded “clarity” and “coherence” following the surprise resignation of the cabinet, including the economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg.

Valls has vowed to pursue the government’s three-year economic plan providing for an easing of the tax burden on businesses and 50 billion euros in spending cuts.

(Emphasis mine)

A disastrous wrong policy with disastrous bad optics.

Hollande is imploding faster than Nicolas Sarkosy.

The German promulgated austerity fetish is going to give France a president le Pen.

New York Times Declines to Endorse Andrew Cuomo

I still think that Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu are unbelievably long shots, and that the putative Republican nominee is pretty much the only in ‘Phant in New York willing to be that embarrassed in a state wide campaign, but the fact that the New York Times has refused to endorse him for reelection is a pretty big deal:

More than four years ago, while announcing his campaign for governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo stood in front of the Tweed Courthouse in downtown Manhattan and said Albany’s antics “could make Boss Tweed blush.”

New York had had enough corruption, he said, and he was going to put a stop to it. “Job 1 is going to be to clean up Albany,” he said, “and make the government work for the people.”

Mr. Cuomo became governor on that platform and recorded several impressive achievements, but he failed to perform Job 1. The state government remains as subservient to big money as ever, and Mr. Cuomo resisted and even shut down opportunities to fix it. Because he broke his most important promise, we have decided not to make an endorsement for the Democratic primary on Sept. 9.

His opponent in the primary is Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham Law School who is a national expert on political corruption and an advocate of precisely the kind of transparency and political reform that Albany needs. Her description of Mr. Cuomo as part of a broken system “where public servants just end up serving the wealthy” is exactly on point, but we decline to endorse her because she has not shown the breadth of interests and experience needed to govern a big and diverse state.

Why endorse no candidate in a major state primary? Here’s how we see it: Realistically, Governor Cuomo is likely to win the primary, thanks to vastly greater resources and name recognition. And he’ll probably win a second term in November against a conservative Republican opponent. In part, that’s because issues like campaign finance rarely have been a strong motivator for most voters. Nonetheless, those who want to register their disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s record on changing the culture of Albany may well decide that the best way to do that is to vote for Ms. Teachout. Despite our reservations about her, that impulse could send a powerful message to the governor and the many other entrenched incumbents in Albany that a shake-up is overdue.

So basically, the Times is disgusted by Andrew Cuomo, and they wanted to endorse Ms. Teachout, but she’s too much of a long shot for them.

The primary is in 2 weeks, September 9, and I am with Ryan Cooper when he says, “It’s time for Democrats and progressives to get rid of this toad.”

The bottom line is that Andrew Cuomo is the worst kind of backstabbing, triangulating “centrist” in the wretched No Labels mold. Better for liberals to beat now, or at least make his victory as unimpressive as possible, before we have to beat him in a presidential primary down the line.

Needless to say, the Zephyr/Wu ticket is on my Act Blue Page

James Woods, Democrat for Congress, Who Mails Condoms to Pro-Lifers

The condom

His letter

Abortion criminalizers mail a questionnaire to a Democratic congressional candidate, and he mails them back condoms stamped “Prevent Abortion.” How can you not love that?

In response to a letter-writing campaign promoted by an anti-abortion organization, Democratic congressional candidate James Woods is mailing back condoms — campaign condoms.

The form-letters sent to Woods, who’s running for the Congressional District 5 seat currently occupied by Republican Congressman Matt Salmon, asked him to sign a pledge to fully support the “sanctity of life” in a candidate survey from the National Pro-Life Alliance.

“Woods did return the survey, but stood in opposition to the entire platform of the Alliance,” Woods’ spokeswoman Seráh Blain tells New Times.

The people who mailed this letter to Woods will also be getting some protection in the mail from the Woods campaign headquarters. Woods’ campaign also included a letter explaining why he’s not going to support the platform of the National Pro-Life Alliance.

This is epic beyond my capacity for to express.

He’s a long shot candidate, and he’s unopposed in the primary, and he’s blind, and he’s an atheist, and I’m putting him on Matthew Saroff’s Act Blue Page.

Give him money, or you make bunny cry.

It is Like Goatse* for Star Trek

Interestingly enough, this is from a “Gen” Star Trek (The Original Series) fanzine from the late 1970s, and you can still find copies on eBay.

Had to be an amazing labor of love, because you would have to pay for a 4-color press to do that cover art, and that would have been some serious bank.

What the f%$# were they thinking with the artwork?

*If you do not know what Goatse is, Do Not Google It!!!! That which is seen cannot be unseen.
Not containing sexual content, basically what you might find on broadcast TV.

Open Carry This!

Local Coverage

In an eerie echo of the actions that led Ronald Reagan to sign into California law what was then the most restrictive gun law in the United States, the the Huey Newton gun club is staging open carry demonstrations:

A Texas gun club named after one of the founders of the Black Panthers Party marched in Dallas on Wednesday to protest against police brutality, KTXA-TV reported.

Around two dozen members of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club carried rifles and red, black and green flags as they marched through the city’s south side, sometimes chanting in support of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.

“If they don’t get these killer cops and corrupt cops under control,” a member identifying himself as Commander Drew X was quoted as saying. “What happened in Ferguson is going to be nationwide.”

The club’s leader, Huey Freeman, said Wednesday’s march would be the first step in a campaign of “civilian patrols” through the area. The state’s open carry law allows “long gun” owners to display them unless it is meant “to cause alarm.”

“We believe we can police ourselves and bring security to our community, ridding our community of black-on-black crime, violence, police terror, etcetera, etcetera,” Freeman told KXAS-TV.

Needless to say, I do not approve of open carry protests, but I do find a bit of schadenfreude in the the undoubted freakout that is going on in Dallas about black men open carrying.

While on the Subject of Right Wing Governors Facing Criminal Investigations………

It turns out that Scott Walker was illegally coordinating with 3rd party groups:

Gov. Scott Walker prodded outside groups and individuals to funnel millions of dollars into Wisconsin Club for Growth — a pro-Walker group directed by his campaign adviser — during the recall elections in 2011 and 2012, according to court documents unsealed for a short time Friday afternoon.

The documents form much of the basis for prosecutors’ theory that Walker’s campaign and conservative groups illegally cooperated to help him and other Republicans. Walker and the groups deny they broke any laws, noting two judges have sided with them.

Among the funds that flowed into the Wisconsin Club for Growth was $700,000 from a company trying to build a massive open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Soon after the 2012 recall and general elections, Walker and Republicans eased environmental regulations, helping the firm.

“The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth,” said an April 28, 2011, email from Kate Doner, a Walker campaign consultant, to R.J. Johnson, an adviser to Walker’s campaign and the advocacy group. “Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept corporate and personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.”

In the email, Doner wrote to Johnson that Walker wanted Wisconsin Club for Growth exclusively to coordinate campaign themes. “As the Governor discussed … he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging,” she wrote.

Walker’s campaign has paid Doner’s fundraising firm $1.26 million since 2011, including more than $70,000 in his latest spending report.

The hundreds of pages of documents that became available Friday afternoon also showed Walker’s team sought to solicit funds for the Wisconsin Club for Growth from an array of nationally known donors to fend off his 2012 recall. Real esate developer Donald Trump, industrialist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson were all targets.


Mining company Gogebic Taconite LLC’s $700,000 contribution to the Wisconsin Club for Growth was not publicly known until Friday.


Gogebic first announced its plans in November 2010. By mid 2011, the company said that it wouldn’t move forward until Wisconsin changed iron mine laws to give more certainty to the regulatory process.

The company had an early hand in writing a mining bill and continued to play a key role throughout the legislative process. The bill, one of GOP’s signature pieces of legislation since Walker’s election, was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Walker in early 2013.

Why hasn’t he been indicted yet?

H/t Charlie Pierce, for this update on, “Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest facility formerly known as the state of Wisconsin.”

We Are Completely F%$#ed

Three weeks ago, I wrote how warming in the Arctic is producing massive methane plumes as the methane hydrate on the ocean floor melts, well it’s also happening off the East Coast of the United States:

Plumes of bubbles streaming from hundreds of newly discovered sea-floor seeps between North Carolina and Massachusetts are likely to contain methane and could be adding as much as 90 tonnes of the planet-warming gas to the atmosphere or overlying waters each year, research published Sunday in Nature Geoscience suggests.

An estimated two-thirds of the emissions emanate from sediments at depths where methane-rich ices may be decomposing due to warming waters along the ocean bottom, the researchers say. Effects of these plumes on climate and ocean chemistry are not yet clear, but could extend well beyond the plumes themselves.


However, many of the sources along the continental slope lie at cold depths in which ices have formed at high pressures within sea-floor sediments, which once trapped methane produced by microbes living there. These ices may now be slowly breaking down because of the warming of overlying waters, says Skarke. At least one previous study2 has hinted that warming waters are destabilizing methane-rich ices at moderate depths farther south along the US Atlantic coast.

This is end of the world stuff.


France’s Hollande Doubles Down on Austerity in Futile Attempt to Boost his Prospects

Francois Holland’s Economy Minister calls out the German austerity fetish, and in response, he reshuffles his cabinet to give him the boot:

French president François Hollande took the biggest gamble of his two-year-old presidency on Monday by ordering his reformist prime minister to form a new government which will exclude Socialist dissidents demanding an end to economic austerity policies dictated by Germany.

Casting off his characteristic indecision, Hollande agreed to prime minister Manuel Valls’s offer to dissolve the cabinet amid a political crisis triggered by the country’s outspoken economy minister.

The dissolution of the cabinet allows Hollande to form a new government without dissenting voices.

In a defiant farewell speech at the economy ministry, Arnaud Montebourg, said the austerity drive in France and Europe was a “financial absurdity,” and accused Hollande and Valls of ignoring his pleas for a “moderate and balanced” alternative.

Less than an hour after he was called into Valls’s office for a 15-minute meeting, Montebourg said austerity-inspired tax increases had undermined purchasing power and has led to the rise of extremist parties.

Montebourg said the “incorrect” austerity policies followed by the European Central Bank and EU member states had “continued to mire the eurozone in recession and soon, deflation”. Education minister Benoît Hamon and culture minister Aurélie Filippetti also said that they would not take part in the new government.

Holland has decided that he has to throw in with Angela Merkel’s twisted morality play in the desperate hope for his own political survival, his popularity is currently at a Cheneyesque 17% (!) approval rating.

It’s not gonna work, austerity will continue to depress economies and stoke the political right.

So the next president of France is either going to be a Gaullist, or Marine Le Pen.*

*I think that I just threw up in my mouth.

Quote of the Day

Make no mistake: this is why conservatives are so enamored of block grants. It’s not because they truly believe that states are better able to manage programs for the poor than the federal government. That’s frankly laughable. The reason they like block grants is because they know perfectly well that they’ll erode over time. That’s how you eventually drown the federal government in a bathtub.

Kevin Drum

He makes the observation that the TANF (what used to be called Welfare) block grants have had the effect of creating massive cuts in the program, and then (IMNSHO accurate) generalizes to block grants generally:  Just level fund them, and the program shrinks to meaninglessness.

BTW, f%$# Bill Clinton for shredding the social safety net for unneeded political benefit.  (He would have beaten Bob “Bob Dole” Dole in any case)

Dumbass of the Day

Michael Lind.

It’s a completely incoherent analysis of the Rick Perry indictment.

Well, Mr. Lind in particular, and the self described “Radical Centrist” New America Foundation in general.

BTW, as a interesting note, the papers in Texas, from the the Dallas Morning News the flagship newspaper of the journalistic cancer that is A,H, Belo Corporation, to the relatively liberal Austin American-Statesman, have thought that the indictment was justified, and they are the ones who have been following this sh%$.

South Africa Unveils World’s Ugliest Warplane

South Africa’s Paramount Group has announced that its Advanced High-performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft(AHRLAC) has entered flight test. It appears to occupy the niche for austere military and police reconnaissance. It is also really fugly:

South Africa’s Paramount Group announced on 13 August that its AHRLAC [advanced high-performance reconnaissance light aircraft] has entered flight testing; just shy of three years after launching the indigenous project.

“Unique-looking” is probably the nicest way to describe the prototype’s look, although we certainly do like the chosen camouflage scheme (squint a bit and it’s almost a mini OV-10 Bronco with Slovakia’s funky MiG-29 markings; or is that just me?).

It has gone from project launch to first flight fairly quickly, about 3 years, and there are reconnaissance and light strike versions, but it has a face only a mother could love.

Bad Day at the Office


SpaceX’s latest booster just blew up shortly after launch:

An experimental reusable rocket made by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. exploded over Texas on Friday, the company announced.

The test booster, known as the F9R and a successor to the Grasshopper rocket, self-destructed several hundred feet over the company’s facility in McGregor after a problem was detected. There were no injuries.

“Three engine F9R Dev1 vehicle auto-terminated during test flight,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted. “No injuries or near injuries. Rockets are tricky.”

There is a reason that it is called “Rocket Science”, I guess.

Why Ignoring the Marine Insurance Act of 1746 is a Bad Idea, Part MCMXXVII

For those who don’t remember, the Marine Insurance Act of 1746 required, “Anyone seeking to collect on an insurance contract to have an interest in the continued existence of the insured property.” (Link)

Basically, it means that you cannot purchase insurance on your neighbors home, and collect when you burn it down.

The act was passed because around that time, there was a war between Britain and France, and some people were purchasing insurance on ships, and then send the itinerary and manifest to accomplices in France, who would relay this information to the French navy, who would seize the ship, and the insurance fraudster and his accomplish would divide the spoils.

In 1999, it was decided that the form of insurance known as a Credit Default Swap wasn’t insurance, because, well ……… because.

As a result, we have seen an explosion in speculators who insure things, and then blow them up.

Well it now appears that the Vulture funds who pushed Argentina into default may have engaged in this strategy:

So for Elliott an unseemly legal victory may not mean cold cash. Fear of default and/or eagerness to please Argentina may prompt some in the financial community to buy them out at a good price, but a sure thing that is not. Whatever American courts say, for all the reasons above, Argentina will probably not settle. Those bonds bought cheap (according to sources, Elliott spent close to $50 million purchasing about $220 million of old Argentinian bonds in 2008) may have looked to an informed observer beforehand quite unlikely to produce a decent return.

So why bother with an exorbitant legal fight? Well, the CDS route would be one reason. The likelihood of CDS triggering (failure to pay on foreign exchange bonds) would have appeared as very high precisely for all the reasons that make the likelihood of a settlement so low.

This scenario may have seemed plausible, at least more so than expecting Argentina to pay holdouts in full or something close to it. Elliott may have known payment is a long shot, but being a bondholder at least lets it try for a legal solution that could lead to default. That pari passu had been breached would have been a no brainer, for “all” you needed was to show that the country had legally subordinated you versus other creditors, and Argentina did that in 2005 by passing the so-called Lock Law prohibiting itself from making good on the holdouts (this was a key argument to have the courts declare a breach of pari passu; apparently, this kind of explicit de jure discrimination-subordination of creditors is very unusual).

Obtaining ratable payment as a remedy is unusual, though not unprecedented, but may have seemed like good odds in this case given the specific wording of the pari passu clause in question (which seemed to call for equal payments and not just equal rank) and the uniquely uncooperative character of the debtor; from reading the courts´ statements, one can sense that discomfort with the country´s attitude forced the judges´ hands towards a solution that in any other case may have seemed too harsh. Argentina´s behavior presented a unique opportunity to persuade a court to impose ratable payments; discipline for an unruly country.

With hindsight, Argentina was the perfect collaborator to have the CDS trigger: the Lock Law, tirades against holdouts, and contempt for court rulings on the way to its final refusal to settle guarantee that a failure to pay event materialised. For all the Kirchner government rage against speculators, in what would be a delicious paradox, it may have made the vultures rich by triggering the CDS.

This is actually a higher percentage strategy than getting 100¢ on the dollar from Argentina.

They make money, and in the process, they inflict enormous pain on the people of Argentina, and does damage to the US as a venue for sovereign debt.

I’m with Paul Volker when he said only the worthwhile innovation of this generation was the ATM.

Israel Chooses the Stupid

I’m not talking about the Gaza campaign, I’m talking about the Health Ministry banning Fluoridation in drinking water:

Contrary to the advice of public health and dentistry experts in her own ministry and academia, Health Minister Yael German has decided to prohibit the fluoridation of drinking water around the country.

She also issued her decision Sunday in contravention of a letter written exactly two years ago by Prime Minister (and then-official health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu, who told Knesset Interior Committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen that he [Netanyahu] “could not agree to the cessation of fluoridation” of potable water. Netanyahu continued that municipalities had requested to continue their fluoridation of water and that they should be allowed to do so.

The Health Ministry introduced mandatory water fluoridation in 1970 in cities, towns and settlements with over 5,000 residents, and indeed, 70 percent of Israelis have received fluoridated water delivered to their taps. But German opposed it as Meretz-Party mayor of Herzliya and stopped it in her city. Just weeks after entering office as health minister, she declared that she would stop fluoridation and, encountering fierce criticism from critics in leading Israeli schools of public health and dentistry and from her own ministry experts, she wavered and suggested as late as June that fluoridation could be an option instead of being outlawed.

German’s spokesmen said that only Ireland and Israel require fluoridation of drinking water, but her critics responded that everywhere else is it an option open to all local authorities except where barred completely only in Holland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

You know, the Purity of Essence folks really get on my years.

H/t Crooks & Liars.

A Fact of Ferguson that is Finally Getting Mainstream Notice

The fact that more than 20% of the budget of the town of Ferguson comes from tickets and warrants issued by police shows that the police are not there to protect the populace, they are there to extract tribute from them:

Scratch any social crisis, and you’re likely to find economics not far below the surface. Via ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis legal-aid nonprofit, we can see how this has worked to create the dismaying spectacle of the breakdown of justice in Ferguson. (H/t Alex Tabarrok, via Kevin Drum.)

According to the group’s recent report on the municipal court system in St. Louis County, the Ferguson court is a “chronic offender” in legal and economic harassment of its residents. There’s not much of a secret why: the municipality collects some $2.6 million a year in fines and court fees, typically from small-scale infractions like traffic violations. This is the second-largest source of income for that small, fiscally-strapped municipality.


For a low-income community–and for a black community subjected to the racial profiling, as the report documents–these fines can gather force like a boulder rolling downhill. 

Tabarrok points to the report’s observation that the Ferguson court processed the equivalent of three warrants and $312 in fines per household in 2013.

“You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate,” he notes. “You get numbers like this from [B.S.] arrests for jaywalking” and what the report calls “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay without a meaningful inquiry into whether an individual has the means to pay.”

The reason that the minorities in Ferguson do not see the police as their defenders and their protectors, it’s because they aren’t.

This arrangement, where peace officers have as their primary function tax collections, is fundamentally pathological and corrupt, and it needs to stop.