Friday, July 13, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Condi Rice as VP candidate would be perfect. Imagine the ads: "No one could have imagined them taking a plane and slamming it into the Pentagon" Oh. And Sarah? STFU.
2) This is an interesting tactic in the Obama playbook this week/weekend: calling out Romney's qualifications. Eleven dimensional chess, indeed. This is pretty much daring Romney to start talking more thoroughly about his days at Bain Capital by mocking him as immature and naive. It could even force him to start releasing more tax returns. I wonder who drew up the psych profile on Romney here? It might actually work.
3) Sure. Privatization works. Munich '72, anyone?
4) Lemme see....eight years of Bush/Cheney -- bin laden, alive. Qaddafi, ally, Mubarak, ally. Four years of Obama? None of the above. Ima thinking Cheney doesn't know his ass from a shotgun blast.
5) If you use a GPS unit or have satellite radio or TV, expect problems this weekend, particularly Saturday. Also, check the night sky for aurora.
6) I think Mexican President-"elect" Pena Nieto may have had Karl Rove as his campaign advisor.
7) Not news: Ice cream trucks. News: On demand.
8) Saudi Arabia will be sending women to the Olypmics for the first time ever.
9)'s a shock...
10) We think so little of international communication: we have the internet, satellite link-ups, and so it's a blink of an eye. But it wasn't always so, until this little fellow got popped into space.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How Fluid Dynamics Can Predict Deadly Disasters


The Freeh Report

It's nice to see a real good scolding unfold:

Louis Freeh, who headed the Penn State investigation, has released a copy of the remarks he plans to give at a press conference at 10 a.m. today. You can read the full release online, but here are some highlights:

- “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”

- “Our investigative team made independent discovery of critical 1998 and 2001 emails – the most important evidence in this investigation.”

I want to focus on Joe Paterno. Here is a man who shaped and molded young men for six decades, and whose legacy has now been shattered because he valued his friend over what was moral and right. He portrayed himself as a just and moral man, and it was all a fraud. All of it.

Forget Spannier, Schultz, or Curley, altho they too should be held in the deepest of contempts. Given their positions, and their first loyalty to the university, we can expect this to be a difficult choice for them, precisely because we expect them to be sleazeballs in the first place.
But JoePa went to great lengths to flout his sense of right: he would bench players who weren't making it academically, for instance. He rubbed the collective noses of Penn State fans and alumni in his self-righteousness. And in so doing, he harmed all of those who believed in him for what? A pedophilic creep? A college that couldn't unlock itself from fundraising long enough to hear the ticking time bomb in their midst?
I feel sympathy for Paterno's friends and family. They were as hoodwinked as the rest of us, but had closer ties to the whole mess and are probably wondering if there was something, anything, they could have done. They may still be in deep denial, but that's a natural reaction when someone you admire to the point of deifying him suddenly crumbles in your face. You will expend mighty efforts to defend his memory and defend his legacy.
Better you should defend the family name now: acknowledge the truth, and work hard to make sure the future is brighter than the past for the Paterno family. JoePa's kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids will have to suffer the degradations and shame of this, unless the family pulls its collective heads out of its ass and starts working to fix things.
I feel sympathy for them for that work.
But I grieve for the children who JoePa and his cronies discarded like so much trash. Sandusky was a sick man. He could not control himself, clearly. It was up to the adults around him to make a stand, and these cool deliberate men chose evil. They did not.
They deserve whatever special hell awaits them.
If you are an adult male who suffered sexual abuse as a boy, I urge you to visit this site. You are not alone. There's 1 in 6 of us out there.

Today's Burning Question Of The Day brought to you by The Atlantic.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Intended Consequences

The city of Scranton, PA has slashed municipal salaries lower than a fry cook at McDonald's.
The city of Bakersfield, CA is about to declare bankruptcy.
Conservatives didn't go Galt, they brought Galt's Gulch here.
Do we like it?
In Scranton, the Democratic mayor can't get the Democratic city council to agree on a tax hike to cover salaries and to get the banks to lend to the city again. But a lot of the problem stems from two things: Republican governor Tom Corbett, who's more interest in voter ID and transvaginal ultrasounds than in good governance, and Republicans in Congress who insist on cutting aid to communities in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy.
Scranton, while not a poor town, is not exactly a hotbed of wealth. Families there can't afford to hire private security forces or private fire fighters.
Bakersfield is the culmination of some forty years of tax insanity in California as a whole, however. Proposition 13, and its aftermath (preventing local communities from circumventing that law), have created massive budget holes across the state at all levels of government. California now distributes block grants of tax revenues. You can bet those are based on antiquated formulae and reward communities favorable to the current legislature at the expense of communities who support the opposing party.
A quarter of a million people were affected yesterday by bad legislation, and bad administration.

Hello, Cancer, My Old Friend...

o/~ I wish you'd get the fuck off of my skin.... o/~
So the doctor called last night. When he biopsied me two Fridays ago, his parting words were "And hey! No news is good news, right?"
Obviously, when I heard his voice, I assumed it was not good news.
I seem to be on an every-other-year schedule: in even-numbered years, he finds a lesion to biopsy. Twice before, it's been basal cell carcinoma. He didn't mention what it was this time as he was focused on scheduling surgery (and I didn't ask because clearly he was pulling OT), but since he didn't seem to be panicked about it, I take some comfort there.
The location is odd, as well: it's just about where my bathing suit line would be on my back and it feels pretty deep, based on the scab from the biopsy. Odd, because I rarely go out in the sun without a shirt and sunscreen, but things happen. Might have happened on a dive boat. Might even pre-date my first cancer surgery, for that matter, when I might have spent more time at beaches.
It doesn't matter. It does worry me, tho. Is this a Russian Roulette thing? I've ducked serious cancers twice now. Does it eventually catch up with me? Melanoma? Keratosis/Squalmous cell? Melanoma are pretty aggressive cancers, and can metastasize.
This whole thing creates an uncertain low-level depression in me. It's the uncertainty. It feels constraining.
I have cancer. I accept that. I feel lucky with the kind of cancer that's bubbled up, but I also know that cancer will be with me for the rest of my days. I have to keep a careful eye on things like my skin and other body parts.
I like to picture cancer as an Internet troll, something to be beaten and mocked mercilessly, but at the end of the day, there's too much living to do to worry endlessly, obsessively, about it.
The Gary Ruppert of my body, if you will.
Still, even Internet trolls can surprise you and knock you back a step or so. It's been about twelve hours since this puppy popped his head up, and I'm sure by the end of the day I'll be fine, riding my bike and screaming at cab drivers again.
And it's kind of comforting knowing I'll have a "friend" for the rest of my days...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why The Business World Is Fucked Up

A full 25% of businessmen and women surveyed believed that it is not only acceptable but necessary to break laws and ethical codes in order to succeed in business.
One inference we may draw from this rather remarkable set of data is that the more successful any random group of executives is, the more likely there are skeletons in the closet.
Which brings me to the LIBOR scandal.

"A cesspit." That's how the usually measured Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England, described banks' attempts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

Faced by a throng of sound-bite-hungry British Parlamentarians, on Monday Mr. Tucker did a convincing job of rebuffing allegations that the authorities had put pressure on Barclays PLC to manipulate Libor, the world's most important interest rate.

There's a hint in that last paragraph as to why you should be paying more attention to this story. LIBOR is the rate that is the basis of the interest rate you pay on everything, from your mortgage and credit cards to student and auto loans.

Not the Fed rate, LIBOR. LIBOR (London InterBank Offered Rate) is set by a panel of lenders each night, and therefore is removed from the political pressures of the Federal funds rate (the rate at which banks lend money overnight to other banks in America.) Ostensibly, it should be a fairer and truer benchmark of, to put it in layman's terms, the cost of borrowing money.

Which is fine. Free markets, no social structural rate, no incentive for a government to raise or lower, yadayadayada. It makes sense for the markets to use this rate to set all other rates.


The investigation found that Barclays's traders communicated with colleagues at some of the 16 banks involved in Libor setting. As one Barclays trader explained to another one at a rival lender, "the trick is you must not do this alone." This kind of evidence should help regulators prove that others were in on the fix.

Given [Barclay's CEO Robert] Diamond's resignation, the question is whether CEOs of other firms will follow suit once their companies settle. While some will argue they weren't there at the time, those with long tenure and an investment-banking past will come under pressure.

"CEOs of other banks should be worried, especially those who rose through the ranks of the fixed-income and rate businesses" says Michael Karp, managing partner of Options Group, an executive search and consulting firm.

Ay, there's the rub. And also the rationale behind strict government oversight of the financial markets.
This crisis will make the subprime bubble look like a bump in the road. See, this means that not only were a handful of bankers in England making out like bandits, pumping up their bottom lines at the expense of, well, the entire fucking population of the planet, but likely it means that the US banks who issued those cards and mortgages and loans had foreknowledge of the rip-off.
And so now we get back to the original point of this post: the tendency towards rule- and law-breaking the higher up the financial food chain one gets.
Evidence suggests that this crisis was covered up furiously when the story began to break, back in April 2008.
After all, would TARP have ever happened if the American public had focused on the fact that the underlying structure of bank lending was rubble and sand? Is it any wonder now why banks, after receiving their injections of steroids, went about not lending to anyone? If it got out that they were scamming people, even as they were being scammed themselves, there might have been full-scale class warfare.
And as George W. Bush was still President at the time, that would not have boded well for the long-term electability of Republicans. Or for that matter, a certain wealthy Presidential candidate who banks most of his money overseas and reaps the benefits of investments that likely took advantage of these same scams.
Too, the entire sordid affair puts paid to yet another Republican talking point: that markets will fix themselves.
They might, but it takes time and in the interim, billions-- if not trillions-- of dollars will be illegally skimmed off an already struggling global economy.
Make no mistake about this: this incident could be the crack in the dam where the entire reservoir pours out onto the valley below. This one might actually put capitalism as we know it out of business.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Interesting Strategy

First, let me state my preference: in a perfect world, I'd let the Bush era tax cuts-- all three of them-- expire in full. The Clinton tax structure developed 23 million jobs and it was foolish and foolhardy to risk that kind of growth.
Then we could have talked about the fair share of the rich, rather than listen to them whine of how they pay such a proportionately high percentage of a dishearteningly low national tax burden.

CBS News has confirmed that President Obama will call on Congress Monday to pass a temporary, one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for people who make less than $250,000 a year.

The tax cuts are set to expire on January 1. With Monday's announcement, the president is hoping to show voters a very clear difference between himself and Mitt Romney.

For an election year in a sluggish economy, this is not a bad strategy. It does two things: it maintains the tax cuts for the real job creators (the middle class, who own something like 95% of the small business in this nation and created something like 90% of our jobs) while forcing Mitt Romney to defend lower taxes for the wealthy, who clearly do not create jobs, particularly when their money remains in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland.

Or in the Hamptons.

This does force Romney's hand at a time when Congress is in session, albeit a bit on the early side to have much impact in the silly season later. Except that Romney's words had best be chosen very carefully or Obama will use them in the debate.

Obama seems to be a pretty decent lawyer. He's entering evidence now that can be used later at what can only be considered a trial: the Presidential campaign, in which an entire 100,000,000 member jury will weigh each word and then vote precisely how they are told to.

Altho, in fairness, people seem to be paying attention already and making up their minds.

In the back of my mind, I see something like $6 to $8 billion being spent by Republicans and their superPAC allies in an attempt to unseat the incumbent. I don't see a lot of jobs being created and I see a romp by Obama in November.

And these are the guys who swear they're smart businessmen?