07/09/2015 archive

How to Survive the “Apocalypse Dow”

Most of us didn’t even notice the New York Stock Exchange went “dark” for over four hours after a computer, or something, hiccuped. This isn’t something new and it probably won’t have nay impact on trades or the market itself. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and her guest Kelly Evans, host of CNBC’s Closing Bell explain the past history of outages and the causes, mostly squirrels.

The new host of CBS’ “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert, aka Supply Lord of The Afterscape, gives his reaction to the black out and how to survive “Apocalypse Dow.”

Get your survival kits and bulk supplies from Costco.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Trevor Timm: The FBI doesn’t want to have to force tech companies to weaken encryptio

The director just wants every device and software manufacturer to volunteer to create backdoors for the government to snoop on Americans

It’s never a good sign when you have to declare during a debate that “I really am not a maniac.”

But that’s what FBI director Jim Comey found himself saying in advance of his testimony to the senate on Wednesday where he once again argued that tech companies need to figure out a way to install backdoors in all their communications tools so that there’s never an email, text or phone call that the US government can’t get its hands on. [..]

The entire premise of the debate that the FBI is “going dark” and can no longer read the communications of criminals – which they have been claiming for 20 years, by the way – is false, as the law professor Peter Swire later told the same senate panel. We are living in “the golden age of surveillance,” Swire argued, and we can look no further than the countless stories about NSA mass surveillance that have come out in the past two years, which by the way, could not be done without the FBI’s close assistance.

Comey says all he wants is a “debate” about the issue. Well, we’ve had the debate. We had it for 20 years. The debate is over – embrace encryption to protect our security. Don’t outlaw it for marginal gains at the expense of everyone.

David Cay Kohnston: How private equity cheats pensions at workers’ expense

Spoiler: It’s all about public policy

It’s time for American workers to understand the game of private equity, because it’s being played at their expense, thanks to rules put in place by Congress.

Here’s how the game currently works: Workers sell their jobs, pensions and futures, for little to nothing in return. The buyers are those masters of unproductive capital acquisition, private-equity funds.

Their game is short term. Companies are acquired with lots of borrowed money. (Congress incentivizes this by making interest a tax-deductible business expense.) Some of the borrowed money is almost immediately used to repay the general partner and some other investors so they end up with a cost-free stake. If your equity stake costs less than zero, your returns are infinite.

The remaining equity in such deals comes primarily from pension funds – that is, from workers.

Rep. Alan Grayson: Why Is Everyone Angry? I’ll Tell You Why

This is a short essay on voter anger — its origin, its attributes, its meaning and its cure. Hint: Most Americans are worse off than they were a long time ago.

I started noticing voter anger around 2009. Initially, its locus was the Tea Party. They’re the ones who would form a circle around a political event, holding hands, and start chanting expletives. I attributed this to the Tea Party’s deep dissatisfaction with living in the 21st century. To them, basically, everything went south when Jane Wyatt stopped playing Robert Young’s Stepford wife on Father Knows Best, and started playing Spock’s mother, Amanda … Grayson, on Star Trek. (Does that mean that Spock and I are future relatives? I don’t know.) For them, things have never been the same since.

Generally speaking, the problem for Team Blue is not anger; it’s apathy. However, by roughly the year 2012, Team Blue had caught up in the Anger Games, and the score was tied. [..]

But here is the deeper explanation for all of that anger: For most Americans, life simply is getting harder. This was painfully obvious from a Sage Foundation study last year, following up on an article in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The study looked at changes in the wealth of American households over a decade, from 2003 to 2013. The study found that median net worth had dropped by 36 percent, from $87,992 to $56,335.

Let me repeat that: The net worth of the average American household dropped by more than one-third in ten years. The decline from the 2007 peak was almost 50 percent, in just six years. (Most of that loss was in the value of one’s home — home is where the heartache is.)

That’s why everyone is so angry.

Dean Baker: Sluggish economy? Blame the weather

Ignore economics writers who make grand conclusions about short-term data

Economists and economic reporters tend to get carried away about short-term movements in the economy. They often assess data without considering the larger context, which can lead them to exaggerate the good or bad news. And since most economists and economic reporters move in herds, we get dramatic tales of booms and busts in the business section that don’t necessarily correspond to anything in the real world. [..]

There is a banal explanation for this rapid switch from boom to bust, as well as for the original boom itself: the weather. The weather was unusually bad throughout the Northeast and Midwest this year, and snowfall in major metropolitan areas such as Boston hit new records. When it’s cold, when there’s a lot of snow on the ground and when the streets are blocked, people are less likely to go out to dinner or shop for clothes. They are also likely to put off buying a car or looking for a new house. As a result, consumption is likely to be much weaker than would otherwise be the case.

Of course, Boston and dozens of other cities get snow almost every winter; this routinely disrupts peoples’ regular consumption patterns. That’s why our data are seasonally adjusted; it doesn’t matter that we get six inches or a foot of snow in the Northeast if that’s what was expected. It only skews the numbers when we get six feetof snow, which was the case in Boston this year. So when winter is worse than usual, the economy – in real life, and particularly in the papers – suffers.

Diane Ravitch: Arne Duncan’s Legacy

When Obama was elected, many educators and parents thought that Obama would bring a new vision of the federal role in education, one that freed schools from the test-and-punish mindset of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. But Arne Duncan and Barack Obama had a vision no different from George W. Bush and doubled down on the importance of testing, while encouraging privatization and undermining the teaching profession with a $50 million grant to Teach for America to place more novice teachers in high-needs schools. Duncan never said a bad word about charters, no matter how many scandals and frauds were revealed. [..]

It will take years to recover from the damage that Arne Duncan’s policies have inflicted on public education. He exceeded the authority of his office to promote a failed agenda, one that had no evidence behind it. The next president and the next Secretary of Education will have an enormous job to do to restore our nation’s public education system from the damage done by Race to the Top. We need leadership that believes in the joy of learning and in equality of educational opportunity. We have not had either for 15 years.

George Monbiot: Greece is the latest battleground in the financial elite’s war on democracy

Greece may be financially bankrupt, but the troika is politically bankrupt. Those who persecute this nation wield illegitimate, undemocratic powers, powers of the kind now afflicting us all. Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes.

The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives. [..]

The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.

This will work.

Betting on the New York Ferris Wheel to Elevate Staten Island’s Fortunes

By PATRICK McGEEHAN, The New York Times

JULY 8, 2015

With so many moving parts, the wheel’s planners still face many hurdles. But Rich Marin, president and chief executive of the New York Wheel, said financing is not one of them.

His company is close to raising the full $500 million it will need to build the wheel along with a terminal building and parking garage, he said. Nearly one-third of that sum, $150 million, has been collected from 300 Chinese families that invested with the hope of receiving visas that would allow them to live in the United States.

Mr. Marin, who worked on Wall Street for years, said that the wheel “might not have been built” without the Chinese investors, and that their enthusiasm was a “very strong indicator” of the project’s viability. He added that a Chinese tour operator predicted that the wheel would be so popular with tourists from China that it would be wise to include a 600-seat food hall in the terminal.

The developers still hope to raise some of the financing for the $350 million project from foreign investors seeking visas through the EB-5 program, Mr. Capoccia said, but he declined to say how much.

In Mr. Marin’s offices in Manhattan, some bound copies of renderings of the wheel are titled “The Bloomberg Wheel.” Travis Noyes, the chief marketing officer for the wheel, said the books were intended as a tribute to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for championing the project. But Mr. Noyes admitted that he had entertained the idea of signing up Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire, or his company as a sponsor.

The Breakfast Club (Pure as the Driven Snow)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgFirst of all it will be another sucky blogging day because unless you’re interested in the Donald (I think he’s a hoot and hope he wins, TMC thinks he’s a disaster and has gone all prepper) or Greece (who knows and if Tspiras really was hoping he’d lose the referendum he should be the first one against the wall) or are convinced that Anonymous is attacking the tools of corrupt capitalism in the form of the NYSE, WSJ, and UAL (we can only wish it were true) instead of it being the logical outcome of their tightfisted parsimony and corporate beancounting ignorance, there isn’t really much new news, at least in science and technology.

However I did discover this sponsored link ad fishing around for material-

New Website Reveals Personal Information Even Google Can’t Find

9:06am Friday, June 5, 2015

Been issued a speeding ticket? Failed to stop at a stop sign? What about your family members? And friends? If you are like most of us, the answer to at least one of those questions is “yes”-the vast majority of us have slipped up at least once or twice.

Instant Checkmate aggregates hundreds of millions of publicly available criminal, traffic, and arrest records and posts them online so they can easily be searched by anyone. Members of the site can literally begin searching within seconds, and are able to check as many records as they like (think: friends, family, neighbors, etc. etc.).

After that, search all of your family members. If your aunt gets a speeding ticket every month, you’ll know. If your parents have kept arrests hidden from you, you could uncover them instantly.

One of the most interesting aspects of Instant Checkmate is that it shows not only criminal records, but also more general background information like marriage records, divorce records, various types of licenses (medical, firearm, aviation, etc.), previous addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, estimated income levels and even satellite imagery of known addresses-it’s really pretty scary just how much information is in these reports.

Mine?  Not so much.

Oh, I admit (kind of desire actually in a perverse sort of way) that ek hornbeck has left a screaming stain of infamy and obnoxiousness across the Tubz in 10 years of activity, but that’s not my real name.  In the Army they have what is called a “Good Conduct” medal that is jocularly awarded for “years of undiscovered crime” and that’s true enough (though I have never been a member of any armed service).

Under ek my record of shame is easily discernible, under my real name not at all.  Google doesn’t find me in it’s first 100 results and this service suggests 5 individuals, none of them me, and at that with the head start of the state I reside in.

Oh sure, if you happen to know my address you can get it on Google Maps, my phone number is pretty hard because it’s registered to my business, not to me.  I’ve had my occasional run ins with Johnny Law, traffic tickets and such, but apparently they are not electronically available.

So why am I so despised and yet so hidden?  It’s simple enough and I certainly encourage you to take these steps unless you are already compromised (and I’ll have some advice on how to fix that below).

I have never used my real name on the Tubz except in business situations (unavoidable if you want to buy stuff) and my credit cards are all business.  Personal stuff I pay for in cash.  Since there’s hardly any point to keeping your money in a bank at 0% I use one only where I must.

I belong to no social networking sites except Facebook (and blogs).  All of my accounts lead to blind e-mails and when requested for personal information I lie my ass off.  None of your damn business anyway.  There is no page in my real name and even ek doesn’t have one.  If you are my friend you know my friends only name (no, it’s not my real one) and that is strictly policed for privacy using independent accounts I haven’t revealed to anybody, to the average enquirer there is my Avatar and Background- that’s it.

Now what I’m mostly concerned about is casual harassment from companies that want to sell me stuff and people I’ve pissed off with my sentiments (you ‘Good Germans’ and rapist apologists know who you are).  Surprisingly I still maintain my Welcome New Users mailbox so if you hate me enough you can direct your spam there where I can report it troll.

Nothing is going to conceal you from a government agency with sufficient interest so you might as well give up on that, but it’s impressive the amount of hassle and garbage you can avoid if you’re reasonably careful.

That’s all well and good, but I’m hopelessly exposed.

Say goodby to all that.  What I mean is that you must abandon all your old accounts except as curiosities and contact points.  Change your IP or get a VPN.  Change your bank, preferably to a small credit union.  Change your name if necessary (marriage is good for that and hardly raises an eyebrow, better yet get gay married).

Most importantly and hardest to do, you have to change your habits and the people you’re associated with.  Not that I would, but if I were to sock dK in a serious way (I have half a dozen accounts I have access to, I don’t use them because dK is boring and silly) the very last thing I’d do is show up in the Daily Show diary posting as if nothing had changed.

As a matter of fact I got bit by troll hunting the other day at European Tribune.  BruceMcF had said it was a good place to keep up on Greece and I hadn’t visited for a really long time.  When I tried to log in I found out I had never registered.  Ok- ek hornbeck, I’m not ashamed of my history, I have a body of work and I called out people who were assholes and bullies (that includes you Denise and you too Meteor).

In my introductory comment I mentioned my association with some past members of ET which generated the instant “How is it that this n00b knows these figures from our past?  He must be a witch!”

Well, you know, better late than never.

Anyway my point is if I were looking to sock I would have been very careful indeed not to say anything which would indicate I had any experience at all other than what you’d randomly find in a casual Google covering the past couple of weeks.  As it is I’m not very interested in being anyone except ek at this point nor do I have a need to.

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History July 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

July 9 is the 190th day of the year (191st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 175 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1995, the Grateful Dead gave their last concert at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.

For mishima

Odds or Onions

Can you pick The Onion without hovering your mouse over the links.

Hint: It has nothing to do with gardening.

Connecticut town’s Boom Box Parade celebrates its 30th year

WILLIMANTIC, Conn.- The town’s annual Independence Day parade once again will include the traditional Little League teams, floats sponsored by local businesses, fire trucks and politicians. But, for the 30th consecutive year, there will be no marching bands.

In what has become an offbeat tradition, the participants and the spectators will instead be carrying radios tuned to the same local station, which will provide traditional marching music. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the town’s annual Boom Box Parade, which kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“I didn’t think the idea would work,” said Wayne Norman, the WILI-AM radio personality who has served as grand marshal for all 30 parades. “I didn’t think people would get the concept. Boy was I wrong.”

The parade dates to 1986, when the town couldn’t find an available marching band for its Memorial Day parade. Organizer Kathy Clark approached the radio station for help. Station officials said it was too late to organize and publicize for that holiday, but they began planning with Clark for July Fourth, and the tradition was born.

Norman said the staging area was empty two hours before the parade but by the time it was ready to start more than 2,000 people were there, all carrying boom boxes.

Norman said there were some evolutionary pains as the portable radios, ubiquitous in the 1980s, went the way of the cassette tape and were replaced by iPods and other portable electronic devices.

He said any radio or device with a speaker and a way to access the radio station is welcome. “We ask people to please not wear headphones,” he said. “We don’t outlaw them, but it kind of defeats the purpose.”

The parade, he said, celebrates independence in all its connotations. There is no registration to march. Anyone can participate, and people are free to bring signs, promote causes, even advertise for their businesses.

Norman said that in an ironic twist the Windham High School band, which was not around to march in 1986, this year provided a recorded piece that will be played during the parade.

A lot of groups just have fun with the event. That would include the Traveling Fish Head Club of Northeastern Connecticut, which Norman said walks up from the nearby Hop River to join the parade disguised as a giant fish made from wood, wire and papier-mache. “We don’t have many rules,” Norman said. “We just ask people to wear red, white and blue and bring a flag and a radio.”

Members of the state legislature and Congress and the governor often march in the parade, though Norman said they usually get a bigger turnout of politicians during an election year.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal shows up every year. He said he loves the parade because it has a spirit that is quintessentially American. “It’s good old Connecticut ingenuity,” he said. “Let’s use boom boxes if we can’t have a band. Let’s make do. Let’s invent. Our ingenuity will make it happen.”

‘Vampires’ keep doctors in the dark for fear of stereotyping: study

SALMON, Idaho- It is not easy being a vampire, and even harder to come out of the coffin to a physician or therapist for fear they will misinterpret the habit of ingesting the blood of willing donors or succumb to stereotyping, a study finds.

Research led by D.J. Williams, director of social work at Idaho State University, indicated that people who identify themselves as “real” vampires – that is, needing others’ blood to gain energy – would not disclose their practices to those in the helping professions and risk reactions like ridicule, disgust and possible diagnosis of a mental illness.

The paper, published in the latest issue of Critical Social Work, a peer-reviewed journal based in Canada, found that authentic vampires as opposed to “lifestyle” vampires – black-clad figures with phony fangs – might be stereotyped by clinicians whose fields discourage biases.

Williams, who has studied self-identified vampires for nearly a decade, finds they come from every walk of life and profession, including doctors, attorneys and candlestick makers.

“They are successful, ordinary people,” he said. Except they are very, very tired. That’s apparently the chief reason they find a consenting adult willing to allow them to use a scalpel to make a tiny incision in the chest area so they can ingest a small amount of blood for energy, the study found.

Williams and another researcher based the paper on the responses of 11 people who had identified themselves as vampires for many years and could be relied on to be open and honest, and who gain permission from practicing adults before ingesting their blood, he said.

“The real vampire community seems to be a conscientious and ethical one,” Williams said. The challenge is finding non-judgmental clinicians to whom vampires can disclose their alternative lifestyles, he added. “Most vampires believe they were born that way; they don’t choose this,” Williams said.

The global vampire population is thought to number in the thousands, he said.

Trump Tells Iowa Dairy Farmers He Has Cows 500 Times Bigger Than Theirs

ARNOLDS PARK, IA- Appearing at a campaign event in the early primary state, real estate mogul and presidential candidate Donald Trump told an assembled group of dairy farmers Monday that his cows were 500 times bigger than theirs.

“Your cows are small and scrawny, and you should be embarrassed to milk them,” said Trump, adding that each of his cows was the size of “at least” a dozen Cadillacs and had “udders that’ll make your head spin.” “No one raises dairy cows as gigantic or successful as I do; everyone knows that. My cattle are winners, and you people would be lucky to have them graze here.”

Chatting with patrons at a diner later in the day, Trump reportedly said the apple pie was a disgrace and that his pies were a mile wide, with a perfect crust that made all the losers jealous.

Eric Holder Returns to His Roots

After six years of protecting them, former Attorney General Eric Holder triumphantly returned to his roots, the law firm where he defended Wall Street and the banking industry before his appointment as AG. As though this was ever in doubt.

Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Barack Obama’s former top cop cashes in after six years of letting banks run wild

Eric Holder has gone back to work for his old firm, the white-collar defense heavyweight Covington & Burling. The former attorney general decided against going for a judgeship, saying he’s not ready for the ivory tower yet. “I want to be a player,” told the National Law Journal, one would have to say ominously.

Holder will reassume his lucrative partnership (he made $2.5 million the last year he worked there) and take his seat in an office that reportedly – this is no joke – was kept empty for him in his absence.

The office thing might have been improper, but at this point, who cares? More at issue is the extraordinary run Holder just completed as one of history’s great double agents. For six years, while brilliantly disguised as the attorney general of the United States, he was actually working deep undercover, DiCaprio in The Departed-style, as the best defense lawyer Wall Street ever had.

Holder denied there was anything weird about returning to one of Wall Street’s favorite defense firms after six years of letting one banker after another skate on monstrous cases of fraud, tax evasion, market manipulation, money laundering, bribery and other offenses. [..]

In this light, telling reporters that you’re going back to Covington & Burling to be “engaged in the civic life of this country” seems like a joke for us all to suck on, like announcing that he’s going back to get a doctorate at the University of Blow Me.

Holder doesn’t look it, but he was a revolutionary. He institutionalized a radical dualistic approach to criminal justice, essentially creating a system of indulgences wherein the world’s richest companies paid cash for their sins and escaped the sterner punishments the law dictated.

The transcript can be read here

Eric Holder Returns as Hero to Law Firm That Lobbies for Big Banks

By Lee Fang, The Intercept

After failing to criminally prosecute any of the financial firms responsible for the market collapse in 2008, former Attorney General Eric Holder is returning to Covington & Burling, a corporate law firm known for serving Wall Street clients.

The move completes one of the more troubling trips through the revolving door for a cabinet secretary. Holder worked at Covington from 2001 right up to being sworn in as attorney general in Feburary 2009. And Covington literally kept an office empty for him, awaiting his return.

The Covington & Burling client list has included four of the largest banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Lobbying records show that Wells Fargo is still a client of Covington. Covington recently represented Citigroup over a civil lawsuit relating to the bank’s role in Libor manipulation.

Covington was also deeply involved with a company known as MERS, which was later responsible for falsifying mortgage documents on an industrial scale. “Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and several other large banks,” according to an investigation by Reuters.

The Department of Justice under Holder not only failed to pursue criminal prosecutions of the banks responsible for the mortage meltdown, but in fact de-prioritized investigations of mortgage fraud, making it the “lowest-ranked criminal threat,” according to an inspector general report.