Month: January 2015

Rahm Emanuel Takes Chicago Corruption to a New Level

I’m not particularly surprised.

You see hizzoner Rahm Emanuel is declaring that the Chicago pension funds are not a part of city government so that he can ignore pay to play rules:

On its face, Chicago’s municipal pension system is an integral part of the Chicago city government. The system is included in the city’s budget, it is directly funded by the city, and its various boards of trustees include city officials and mayoral appointees. Yet, when it comes to enforcing the city’s anti-corruption laws in advance of the Chicago’s closely watched 2015 municipal election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is suddenly arguing that the pension funds are not part of the city government at all.

The counterintuitive declaration came last month from the mayor-appointed ethics commission, responding to Chicago aldermen’s request for an investigation of campaign contributions to Emanuel from the financial industry. The request followed disclosures that executives at firms managing Chicago pension money have made more than $600,000 worth of donations to Emanuel. The contributions flowed to the mayor despite a city ordinance — and an executive order by Emanuel himself — restricting mayoral campaign contributions from city contractors.

Brushing off the lawmakers’ complaint about Emanuel’s donations from the financial industry, the mayor’s ethics commission issued a nonbinding legal opinion arguing that Chicago’s pension systems are “not agencies or departments of the city, and thus firms that contract with them are not doing or seeking to do business with the city.” The commission’s interpretation means financial firms’ business with Chicago pension funds should be considered exempt from city ethics laws.


You can take pay to play campaign donations for the pension fund because it isn’t really goverment?

This is pretty damn corrupt.

Technically, the SEC could rule on this:

With the mayor attempting to exempt the pension system from the city’s ethics rules, [Alderman Scott] Waguespack says the lawmakers are counting on the federal government to enforce a 2011 Securities and Exchange Commission rule aiming to restrict contributions to public officials from executives at financial firms that manage public pension money. To that end, Waguespack and two other lawmakers have filed a formal complaint with the SEC, which responded with a letter saying the agency will review their complaint “in connection with our statutory and regulatory responsibilities.”

Yeah, like that is going to happen.

Emanuel is a FOB (Friend of Barack), so nothing is going to happen to him, at least until after 2016.

First Woman Appointed Halakhic Decisor in Israel

About bloody time.

Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld has been appointed the chief religious authority West Bank settlement of Efrat:

The moderate West Bank settlement of Efrat has appointed a woman to serve as a religious leader, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin appointed Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld to the position, which includes the responsibility to answer questions on halakha (Jewish law).

Rosenfeld is a student in the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL ), which is part of Midreshet Lindenbaum, a liberal Modern Orthodox women’s seminary. The five-year program ordains women, allowing them to issue halakhic rulings and give spiritual advice. The ordination is similar to what Orthodox rabbis have, but the graduates are not called rabbi.

Rosenfeld’s appointment is the first time a woman has been appointed to an official position of Orthodox communal leadership in Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, director of the WIHL, told the Post.

Even so, Efrat’s state religious council, which would normally pay the salary of a community’s religious leader, is not paying Rosenfeld. Instead, Riskin is paying her salary privately through charitable donations.

So, she’s not getting paid by the community.

Well, it’s a start.

(On Edit)

My preferred status would be that there is no government funding of religion, but I am very American that way.

This Does not Bode Well for the Euro or the Eu

As you are no doubt aware if you follow the financial papers, the Swiss Central Bank abruptly ended its peg to the Euro, and then all hell broke loose:

One does not normally see sharp right angles in financial charts, but you could pretty much cut yourself on this chart of the volatility of the Swiss franc against the euro:

One straightforward takeaway is: Whoa, that volatility is super high! But perhaps a more useful takeaway is: Whoa, it was super low for a really long time! This is of course because the Swiss National Bank capped the franc’s value against the euro: The SNB wanted a price of no less than CHF 1.20 per euro, and the euro itself wanted a price of no higher than CHF 1.20 for reasons of its own, so the result was pretty much a peg at slightly above 1.20. In the 12 months ending on Wednesday, the euro traded in a range of 1.20095 to 1.23640 francs:


That chart looks more jagged than it is, because you’re standing too close to it. Here, I’ve zoomed out by two days:


On the other hand! Imagine being a retail foreign-exchange broker and letting your customers day-trade Swiss francs with lots of leverage. How much leverage would you feel comfortable giving them? Well, if daily moves are typically less than 0.1 percent, then that means that 95 percent of the time their positions will move by less than 0.2 percent in a day. So if you required 2 percent margin — that is, you demand $2 of cash from them for every $100 worth of Swiss francs that they trade — you’d feel pretty safe. That would mean that, 95 percent of the time, customers couldn’t lose more than one-tenth of their equity in a day — so if they lost money and skipped out on you, you’d be able to liquidate their positions without getting close to losing any of the money you’d lent them.

On the other hand when the euro/franc moves by 19 percent in a day, they’re gonna get utterly smoked, and so are you. This is roughly the boat in which FXCM Inc. finds itself. Like many other retail foreign exchange brokers, it offered 50:1 leverage on FX trades. And yesterday its “clients experienced significant losses” on the Swiss franc move, and “generated negative equity balances owed to FXCM of approximately $225 million.” id=”footnote-1421429157415-ref”>  And now it’s in talks with Jefferies Group for a large cash infusion to fix the problem. FXCM is also distinguished by just an unbelievable sense of irony:

FXCM Chief Executive Officer Drew Niv, in remarks published in Bloomberg Markets magazine’s December issue, said individual currency traders are enticed by the chance to control large positions with little money down.

“Currencies don’t move that much,” he said. “So if you had no leverage, nobody would trade.”

Famous last word words. FXCM is basically insolvent now, and is relying on a loan from a “white knight”, in exchange for who knows what concessions.

Here is the scary quote about this:

As realized volatility gets lower, estimates of future volatility — and so estimates of future losses — get lower. And so position limits get higher, as banks feel safer with the risks they’re taking, because, on a historical basis, they don’t look that risky. And then the risk that didn’t look risky becomes the one that gets you.

So, what we have just had a major case of “It’s different this time” contagion because a non-EU member dropped a peg following months (years?) of denials.

We have another player, and one who is one of the EU’s  “stronger” members who is not on the Euro, but is on a peg, Denmark, which retains the Krone.

And Denmark is promising to do whatever it takes to keep their peg:

Denmark moved to quash speculation it may follow Switzerland and abandon its euro peg, delivering a surprise interest-rate cut to prevent the krone gaining further.

“We have the necessary tools to defend the peg,”Karsten Biltoft, head of communications at the Copenhagen-based central bank, said by phone. Asked whether Denmark could ever consider abandoning its currency peg, he said, “Of course not.”

Since the Swiss National Bank shocked markets on Jan. 15 by jettisoning its three-year-old euro peg, Scandinavia’s biggest banks have fielded calls from hedge funds and other offshore investors asking whether Denmark could be next. Danske Bank A/S (DANSKE) has sought to dispel the speculation, noting Denmark’s three-decades-old currency regime is backed by the European Central Bank, unlike the SNB’s former system.


The Danish bank today cut its deposit rate to minus 0.2 percent, matching a record low, from minus 0.05 percent and lowered its lending rate to a record 0.05 percent from 0.2 percent. While the bank can adjust rates at any time, it traditionally announces changes on Thursdays and mostly in connection with ECB moves.

Is it just me, or do the assurances of the bankers at Copenhagen not sound particularly credible right now?

If Denmark is forced to drop its peg, all hell breaks loose, because it opens a Pandora’s box of asymmetries that have been growing in the Euro zone, and the EU over the past 3 decades.

It will not be pretty.

Finally, Eric Holder Does Something Meaningful About Law Enforcement Overreach

Eric Holder has massively curtailed the asset forfeiture program:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. It allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

“With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,” Holder said in a statement.

Any actions to curtail a procedure that can only be described as enforcement under the color of law is a good thing.

It it both corrupt and corrupting.

It Couldn’t Happen to a More Deserving Genocidal Monster

The attempted genocide suit against Scott Lively, one of the architects of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, will be allowed to go forward:

Most of us go our entire lives without ever standing trial for crimes against humanity. Then again, most of us aren’t notorious bigot Pastor Scott Lively, whose life work seems to be to ask the question: “How can I make gay people miserable across the world?”

In the United States Lively’s homophobic messages are largely ignored, and in recent years he has had to endure various setbacks at the state and federal level as equality makes historic gains. Undeterred, Lively has sought out foreign lands where his particular brand of ruthless anti-gay ideas are more accepted. In Uganda, he found a home away from home. During a Christian “workshop” in the African nation he managed to become one of the principal architects behind some of the most retrograde anti-gay legislation on the planet.


Unfortunately for Lively, orchestrating genocide in another country is kind of frowned upon, and in 2012 a lawsuit was filed against Lively in federal court in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity. This week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lively’s final request to have it dismissed because, well, the whole genocide thing.

Lets be clear:  This is not criminal charges.  This is a civil suit under the Alien Tort Statute, but the judge has allowed discovery to proceed, and this should detail the full extent of Mr. Lively’s perfidy.

He has been protesting that he actually recommended against jailing (and in earlier versions executing) the LGBT community in Uganda, but I am certain that discovery will show that he was actively advocating for genocide.

Here’s hoping that he is left bankrupt and broken by this.

So, Warren Won, and Weiss is Out

Well, sort of.

He won’t be an Undersecretary of the Treasury, but he will be an adviser to the Treasury.

So, he will still be there, albeit without a budget or staff who report to him.

I suppose that this is as good as can be expected.

Over at Credit Slips, Adam Levitin, has a a very interesting perspective on the reactions to this development:

There’ve been a bunch of post-mortems of the Antonio Weiss nomination in the press the last few days (see, e.g., here, here, and here). When I read them I often feel like I’m reading a story about a kid who went to a fancy eastern boarding school, where he was head of the literary society, lettered in three sports, and did lots of charity work, but didn’t get into the Ivy League school where all of his family and family friends went. The result: shock and outrage that the kid was denied his birthright!

Being nominated for Undersecretary of the Treasury isn’t quite like getting into Harvard (or even Yale). Yet reading Weiss’s defenders’ (and their all-too-willing journalist abetters), one would think that’s the story. And that underscores precisely what the problem was with the Weiss nomination, and what Weiss’s defenders just don’t get (or want to admit they get): the assumption that Wall Street success entitles someone to an important policy position for which they have no apparent qualifications.

The problem with Antonio Weiss was never that he worked on Wall Street. It was that working on Wall Street was his only qualification (besides giving lots of political donations). ……… The problem was that Weiss’s Wall Street pedigree was that was touted as his only qualification (unless one counts bankrolling a little-read literary magazine), as if it should be self-evident that anyone C-suite type from Wall Street is qualified for any job at Treasury. ………

If one looks at the actual criticisms made of Weiss by his critics (as opposed to how they were characterized by his defendants), you’ll see that the core complaint is that Weiss lacked relevant qualifications for the particular position for which he was nominated. Doing international M&A had very little connection to the position for which he was nominated. Being a wealthy liberal donor with good connections shouldn’t result in an important policy position. ………

If Weiss had been the head of a Treasury desk or the head of compliance at a Wall Street bank or had some record of weighing in on policy issues, I don’t think you’d have seen the same pushback against his appointment. Yes, there are real concerns about intellectual capture at the Treasury and revolving door problems, but what it comes down to is that a Wall Street background alone should not block a nominee, but by the same token, a Wall Street background alone cannot be what qualifies a nominee.

The degree of self-entitlement that is felt by the movers and shakers in finance, and the degree to which this self-entitlement is blindly accepted by the “very serious people” in government who set our policy.

It explains why our financial policy is so f%$#ed up.

Shades of the Black Panthers in 1967

This had Governor Ronald Reagan signing the toughest gun control legislation in the United States

Following an anti-gun control demonstration which had open carry ammosexuals entering the statehouse, the statehouse has banned open carry on the premises:

In a classic case of a group hurting their cause more than helping it, approximately 200 gun rights activists demonstrated at Washington’s state capitol building on Thursday morning to ostensibly protest the passage of I-594, a law that expands background checks in the state. A large number of the demonstrators brought assault rifles and holstered pistols to the rally. Eventually, after a number of speeches on the steps of the Capitol, some of the activists entered the building with rifles and made their way to the gallery shortly after that morning’s House session had ended.

A day after this display, Lt. Governor Brad Owen, a Democrat and President of the Senate, announced that openly carried firearms are now banned from the public viewing area. Owen pointed out that other forms of demonstrating are prohibited in the public gallery, such as applause, and they do not allow backpacks and umbrellas to be brought into the area. With that in mind, it would only make sense that guns are off limits.

About the only hope for sensible gun control legislation in the United States is the complete batsh%# insanity of the ammosexuals.

Fairy Tales is as Fairy Tales Does

I’m not particularly concerned with the afterlife.

It’s never been a big part of Jewish theology.

I remember having a talk with a born-again Pentecostal, and my complete ambivalence toward the nature of the afterlife baffled her.

There is a consensus on the afterlife in Judiasm, but it is simply, “Yes”.

Some Jewish theologians have expressed a belief in a conventional sort of heaven, while others (particularly Kabbalists) favor reincarnation, and in either case, no one gets particularly exercised about it.

That being said, as my Pentecostal friend indicated, it is a big deal for Christians, which we frequently see aggressive attempts to prove the existence of heaven and hell. (I find these rather comical)

Well, it now appears that there is a “Heaven-Industrial” complex which is determined to sell heaven for profit:

UPDATE 1 ! According to sources, Lifeway intends to pull this book from it’s bookstore! Warren Throckmorton has the story, but the gist is that in response to  Throckmorton’s questions, “Martin King, Director of Communications at Lifeway issued a statement saying the stores are pulling the book:

“LifeWay was informed this week that Alex Malarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.” Therefore, we are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our Stores.”

We have commentary on this and will be posting a fuller update tomorrow morning. 

UPDATE 2! The Washington Post confirms that Tyndale House will also stop selling this book

UPDATE 3! Emails Suggest Lifeway President Knew of Heaven Scam, Chose Not to Act

Lifeway has been selling The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven for many years now. It is part of the trifecta of books on “heavenly tourism” that Lifeway has sold and has promoted, along with 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real. The co-author of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven – the boy himself – has written an open letter to Lifeway and admonished them for not holding to the sufficiency of Scripture, and has recanted his tale. For those who may not be familiar with of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, the publisher’s description is as follows:

“In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex–and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. ‘I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,’ a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just ‘terrible’ to a six-year-old. And, most amazing of all . . . Of meeting and talking to Jesus. ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ is the true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.”

It’s in this context- the context of Lifeway selling this book and making money off of it for years- that Alex Malarkey, the co-author of the book, has reached out to us.  [Update: Many people have asked if this is the first time Alex has spoken out directly. Although Alex’s mother has tried to speak out and contacted book-sellers and has been flatly ignored, going back to at least December 2012, on her blog and in other places, I believe this is the first time Alex has himself spoken out in such a direct way in his own…except for posting a comment relaying this information on the Alex Malarkey fan page on Facebook, after which the comment was deleted by moderators and he was blocked from the group. It doesn’t matter that we are or are not the first. That point is utterly irrelevant. What is relevant is that God willing we will be the last, and that we’re able to provide Alex with a wider audience that he had received the first few go-arounds to get people’s attention.

Seriously.  I’m beginning to think that Tartuffe should be required for every school kid in the United States.

Well, I Missed this News Story

Were any of the rest of you aware that a few days before the Charlie Hebdo attacks, ISIS managed to kill the Saudi general responsible for protecting the kingdom’s northern border against the terrorist group:

Last week, just before the Charlie Hebdo attack, ISIS sent a suicide team across the border into Saudi Arabia.  Here’s what happened.

  • The attack was successful.  The team found and killed the Saudi general (Oudah al-Belawi) in charge of the country’s nothern border zone at the outpost he was visiting (here’s a pic of the state funeral for some of the men killed in the attack).
  •  The target was significant.  General Oudah al-Belawi was in charge of the multi-billion dollar Saudi effort to secure the northern border against ISIS.  Not only has Saudi Arabia sent 30,000 additional troops to guard the northern border, it’s building a highly automated 600-mi security wall to protect itself (lots of robots and sensors).  Here’s a great graphic of the monstrosity from the Telegraph.  My take:  What a waste of time and effort. 


Here why this attack is signficant.  

  • It tells us that ISIS is starting to focus on Saudi Arabia –> with good reason.  The reason is that there’s simply no other way to unite the various groups under the ISIS banner.  ISIS, like all open source movements, needs to keep moving in order to stay alive (like a shark).  Right now, ISIS has stalled.  A jihad to retake the holy sites from the corrupt regime in Riyadh can serve as a simple plausible promise that can reignite the open source war ISIS started, on a global scale.

I can think of no better target for ISIS brutality than the House of Saud.

If this corrupt regime is devoured by the monster that they created, it would be poetic justice.

Unfortunately, it will be the subjects of that corrupt monarchy will bear the brunt of any conflict.

That Tom Tomorrow Cartoon Is Looking More and More Prescient

Over at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza has an analysis of Obama’s coat tails, and it shows that Obama has been the most disastrous 2 term presidential tenure in 60 years:

Everyone knows by now that 2010 and 2014 were very good to the Republican Party. What they don’t understand (or understand well enough) is just how good. Yes, Republicans now control the Senate and have their largest majority in the House since World War II. But it’s downballot (way downballot) where the depth of the Republican victories over the past three elections truly reveal themselves — and where the impact will be felt over the long term.


As NCSL notes, Republicans now control more than 4,100 seats — their highest number since 1920. After taking over 11 legislative chambers from Democrats in 2014, Republicans now control 30 state legislatures completely — and have full control of state government (state legislature and governorship) in 23 states. Democrats, by contrast, have full control of 11 state legislatures and total control of state government in just seven states. (Click here for an amazing NCSL chart that details which side controls every state legislature.)


The Fix
Republicans have gained more than 900 state legislative seats since 2010
By Chris Cillizza January 14 Follow @thefix

Everyone knows by now that 2010 and 2014 were very good to the Republican Party. What they don’t understand (or understand well enough) is just how good. Yes, Republicans now control the Senate and have their largest majority in the House since World War II. But it’s downballot (way downballot) where the depth of the Republican victories over the past three elections truly reveal themselves — and where the impact will be felt over the long term.

In the past three elections, Republicans have gained 913 state legislative seats, according to calculations made by Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia. Here are Sabato’s figures in chart form — and with historical comparisons — via GOP lobbyist Bruce Mehlman.
Now, there are more 7,000 state legislative seats in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which makes that 913 number slightly less eye-popping. Still, the Democratic losses between 2010 and 2014 amount to 12 percent of all state legislative seats nationwide.

As NCSL notes, Republicans now control more than 4,100 seats — their highest number since 1920. After taking over 11 legislative chambers from Democrats in 2014, Republicans now control 30 state legislatures completely — and have full control of state government (state legislature and governorship) in 23 states. Democrats, by contrast, have full control of 11 state legislatures and total control of state government in just seven states. (Click here for an amazing NCSL chart that details which side controls every state legislature.)

Why does the lopsided state of legislative control matter to national politics? For lots of reasons.

1. Policy is made at the state legislative level. That’s policy pertaining to states and policy that gets bumped up to the federal level. With Republicans in control of so many state governments, the policy incubator for their side will be vastly superior to what Democrats can do at the state and local levels.

2. State legislatures and governors redraw congressional lines. In most states, how the nation’s 435 House districts will look after the 2020 Census will be determined by state legislators and governors. And guess what? Republican legislators (and governors) are more likely to draw lines that are friendly to their side. Unless Democrats can reverse their state House and Senate losses before the 2021 redraw, Republicans could control the House for a very, very long time.

3. State legislatures are the minor leagues. Most of the politicians — President Obama included — who have gone on to great things, politically speaking, honed their craft in the state legislature of their home (or adopted home) state. Republicans’ farm system to grow the sort of talent that might one day run for House, Senate or even president is now significantly larger than that of Democrats.

Yes, in the near term, nothing matters more than which party hold the majority in the U.S. House and Senate. But, if you are playing the long game — and both parties have to if they want to stay vibrant and effective — what happens at the state legislative level has huge import. And, in that contest, there is no contest: Republicans are winning in a landslide.

Obama could not have done worse for the party if he had been trying.

This begs the question, how much has he actually concerned himself with the welfare of the party, which is the de-facto head.

Certainly, Obama ran the catastrophic 2010 campaign with the goal of it being a dry run for his 2012 run for reelection, which was precisely the wrong policy for an off-year election, and in 2014, he eschewed taking any policy actions that would have (a) been popular, and (b) would have improved the morale of the base, until after the election.

It does make this Tom Tomorrow cartoon a much more plausible:

H/t Digby.

Notorious V. V. P.

Aviaton Week‘s cover this week is announces its selection of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as person of the year.

Considering the fact that defense is a significant portion of the magazine’s bailiwick, it is not surprising that they titled the article, “The Notorious Mr. Putin.”

It makes sense, just as it does for them to cast it as a condemnation of his actions.  (Hence the notorious bit)

It’s really kind of silly, but I’d love to see Putin do a rap video.

Seriously, the USAF Has Degenerated into a Shill for Defense Contractors

Case in point, Major General James Post, USAF, just said that praising the A-10 close support aircraft to Congress is treason:

A top U.S. Air Force general warned officers that praising the A-10 attack plane to lawmakers amounts to “treason,” according to a news report.

Maj. Gen. James Post, vice commander of Air Combat Command, was quoted as saying, “If anyone accuses me of saying this, I will deny it … anyone who is passing information to Congress about A-10 capabilities is committing treason,” in a report published Thursday on The Arizona Daily Independent.

This is all about making sure that Lockheed Martin gets it’s vig, and that retiring generals get their cut.

They just deployed the A-10 to fight ISIS because they don’t have anything else than can do the job, and an Air Force senior leader is telling his subordinates to conceal information.

Making the USAF an independent branch of the military was a seriously stupid thing to do.

If Republicans Want to Impeach Obama, This Would Be a Good Starting Point

Buried in the report about the CIA hacking the Senate Intelligence Committee computers is a report that the White House approved explicitly approved these actions against congressional oversight:

According to a report by the CIA Inspector General, the White House was informed of the CIA’s plan to hack US Senate computers to discover what was going to be in the Senate Torture Report. CIA Director John Brennan met with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough then ordered CIA employees to “use whatever means necessary” to find out what Senate investigators knew.

Given the White House’s role in the illegal hacking of Senate computers it becomes obvious why the Justice Department headed by President Obama-appointed Attorney General Eric Holder is not likely to bring charges against the CIA – charges against the CIA could lead back to the White House.

The specific content of the conversation between Brennan and McDonough is not disclosed but after the conversation Brennan instructed his subordinates at the CIA to trash the Constitution and engage in espionage activity against the US Senate.

If the Congress can show that Obama knew about this, you have a deliberate attempt to subvert Congressional oversight and the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitutions.

If they go after him on this, it’s actually a decent case.

Of course, the most likely he was willfully blind, much as Reagan was with Iran Contra, which most certainly an impeachable offense, even if the Democrats didn’t have the stones to go there.

In fact, it could be argued that from a constitutional perspective, spying on the Senate oversight committee is worse.

In any case, it’s a lot worse than getting a blow job from an intern.

Cue Antonin “Fat Tony” Scalia’s Poo Flinging

Now that there has finally been a split between the Federal Districts, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a same-sex marriage ruling:

Taking on a historic constitutional challenge with wide cultural impact, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex marriage. The Court said it would rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex marriages and to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in another state. A total of two-and-a-half hours was allocated for the hearings, likely in the April sitting. A final ruling is expected by early next summer, probably in late June.

The Court fashioned the specific questions it is prepared to answer, but they closely tracked the two core constitutional issues that have led to a lengthy string of lower-court rulings striking down state bans. As of now, same-sex marriages are allowed in thirty-six states, with bans remaining in the other fourteen but all are under court challenge.

Although the Court said explicitly that it was limiting review to the two basic issues, along the way the Justices may have to consider what constitutional tests they are going to apply to state bans, and what weight to give to policies that states will claim to justify one or the other of the bans.

In a part of the order that was not entirely clear, the Court instructed lawyers to limit their written and oral arguments to the specific issues they had raised in taking the cases to the Court. That apparently meant that couples seeking to marry can only raise that issue, and couples seeking official recognition of their existing marriages can only argue that question.

I think that Scotus will rule in a way generally favorable to gay marriage, they would have taken the appeal last fall otherwise, but I do expect Scalia to be at his trollish worst, both at the oral arguments, and in his dissent or (God forbid) assent.

I Want to Move to Canada, and Not for the Healthcare This Time

Canada has just passed a law making illegal for software to update without the specific consent of the user. It’s an anti spyware/malware law:

Installing computer programs without consent became a civil offence punishable by fines in Canada this week.

Under the new regulations that form part of Canada’s anti-spam legislation, it is now illegal for a website to automatically install software on a visitor’s computer or for an app on your phone to be updated without first obtaining express consent from the owner or another authorised party. The updated rules are designed to protect Canadians from the “most damaging and deceptive forms of spam and online threats” without interfering with legitimate business.

The revised rules are targeting nuisances and worse such as adware on PCs and rogue apps on smartphones. False or misleading representations of products or services are also prohibited under the new regulations.

I will note that that this also has the effect of making Apple’s automatic, “Break your competitor’s software,” illegal.

I would like to see a similar law in the US.

While I am at it, I would also like to see an uninstaller as being mandatory under law.

The number of times that I’ve had to tediously uninstall a buggy update that installed itself (Adobe Acrobat comes to mind) pisses me off.

While I am at it, I want a pony.

What the F%$#ing F%$#?

Police Detained, and Child Protective Services opened an investigation on the family, because the parents allowed their children to walk home from the park:

It was a one-mile walk home from a Silver Spring park on Georgia Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. But what the parents saw as a moment of independence for their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, they say authorities viewed much differently.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they are being investigated for neglect for the Dec. 20 trek — in a case they say reflects a clash of ideas about how safe the world is and whether parents are free to make their own choices about raising their children.

“We wouldn’t have let them do it if we didn’t think they were ready for it,” Danielle said.


On Dec. 20, Alexander agreed to let the children, Rafi and Dvora, walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well.

The children made it about halfway.

Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them.


The more lasting issue has been with Montgomery County Child Protective Services, he said, which showed up a couple of hours after the police left.

Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for CPS, said she could not comment on cases but that neglect investigations typically focus on questions of whether there has been a failure to provide proper care and supervision.

In such investigations, she said, CPS may look for guidance to a state law about leaving children unattended, which says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. The law covers dwellings, enclosures and vehicles.

This is nuts.

Notwithstanding the , “It bleeds, it leads,” standards of local news coverage, children have literally never been safer from stranger abduction, and crime rates are at a decades long low, but the ginned up child abduction mythology of the early 1980s keeps the general public, as well as law enforcement and the social services bureaucracy, in a state of acute paranoia.

Quote of the Day

Lee Hamilton (former Congressman and former 911 commission co-chairman) calls for a complete end of torture, driven by improved Congressional oversight.

He believes that the reputational and social damage is such that it cannot be justified.

Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism, while lauding Hamilton’s call for and end to torture, notes that the fact that the former congressman is suggesting weak tea when specifically eschews prosecutions:

Kudos, but who would be stupid enough to believe us if we said we had? There is only one way to do that, and that’s to put the torturers on trial, and convict them.

He’s right.

Until we prosecute the worst of the torturers, and pull the security clearances of the rest, the senior staff of our state security apparatus will be populated by those torturers, any promise of better behavior is simply not credible.