Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ese río en Argentina

Does denial make it so, in Buenos Aires;
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said that "to claim that Argentina has entered into technical default is an absurd falsehood".
The people holding Capitanich's government's money have a different opinion;
The Bank of New York Mellon (BNY) sent a formal letter to holders of Argentina's exchange bonds essentially confirming that the sovereign had defaulted.
The letter confirmed that BNY, acting as trustee, was still holding the funds that would have covered the payment due by July 30 in the wake of a US court order not to release the funds.

Being under a king is a wonderful thing

Claimed Henry Hazlitt, that the beauteous Magda Lupescu (as she rushed to Rumania's rescue) said, Is Democracy better, I esk you? Well, El Rey, is it?

Spain's Supreme Court says it will consider an appeal of a rejected paternity suit filed against the recently abdicated King Juan Carlos. 

The court said the case of Alberto Sola, who claims he may be the ex-monarch's illegitimate son, had been under review in a lower court but was raised to the Supreme Court this week following new legislation.

Juan Carlos' immunity as king meant two paternity test demands, including Sola's, were thrown out by lower courts in 2012. Sola's appeal follows the rejection of another suit he filed in 2013.
Juan Carlos lost his immunity when he stepped down in June....


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

War. What's it good for?

Absolutely something good, says Thomas Sowell--who, as an economist is trained to evaluate things by their incentive structures--if the stuffed shirts like Sec'y of State John Kerry would shut up;
...where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage? The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.
"Cease-fire" and "negotiations" are magic words to "the international community." But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish? In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run, they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.
In the long run there will be more dead thanks to the likes of Kerry, but students of history know something else;
At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.
But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States.
If Hamas knew Israel would be unconstrained in its response, by international opinion, it's likely they would not even think of shooting rockets into their neighbor's territory. Peace would be at hand.

When light rail isn't convenient

Have your getaway car waiting after you rob the sitting ducks;
According to [Seattle] police, the victims all got off the light rail at the Columbia City Station around 10:15 p.m.
The suspects, who had their T-shirts pulled up over their faces, reportedly came up behind two of the victims -- a 13-year-old girl and 21-year-old woman -- in the 5000 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, showed their guns and took the victims' purses.
....According to police, the men ran to a silver car with large chrome rims parked at 30th Avenue South and South Dawson Street and fired two shots into the air before driving away.
At least they carpooled.

FDA to Ebola sufferers: Drop Dead

Or, keep your shirts on(?);
Campaigners are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States to fast-track their authorisation of the TKM-Ebola drug.
The petition, created on, states: 'One of the most promising is TKM-Ebola manufactured by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals.
'This drug has been shown to be highly effective in killing the virus in primates and Phase 1 clinical trials to assess its safety in humans were started earlier this year.'
In July the FDA put clinical trials on hold, despite the fact 14 research participants had already safely tolerated the drug, campaigners said.
Cue the apologists, 'But we kept thalidomide off the market!'. But, what's the comparative body count?

D Day for thee, Argentina

It's the 30th of July, and that means Argentina has to belly up to the bar in New York and pay their overdue tab;
Despite the defiant tone of the government, many people seem resigned. Argentina has defaulted before and it will do it again.
I met Carina Etchegaray, the mother of two children aged 14 and 16.
When Argentina last defaulted at the end of 2001, she lost huge amounts of savings.
She had wanted to buy a house for her young family. But at the end of 2001, the government introduced what was known as the "corralito". It literally means a small enclosure in Spanish, but refers to when the government partially froze bank accounts and people were stopped from taking money out.
"When we finally had the money, because of devaluation, we could only buy a car for the same quantity of money we had for a house," she says.
But she is also practical.
"We live with this shadow of crisis. You have to continue with your life because you have children and have to work.
"You have to adapt - in this country, it's the way of life."
What we've bolded in the above ought to warm the cockles of Scott Sumner's Market Monetarist heart, but what's a nice girl like Cristina Kirchner doing in a place like New York federal court?

Well, to make a long story short, the 'way of life' (weaker than weak rule of law) in Argentina meant that if you want to sell sovereign bonds to the world (i.e., borrow their money) you have to subject yourself to an authority where they haven't (yet) hanged all the lawyers.

In which case 'the vultures' will come home to roost, eventually. Como hoy. If they didn't, international finance as it is known, will be changed drastically, to the detriment of just about everyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What socialists do well

In Chile it's belt tightening time;
SANTIAGO – Budget Director Sergio Granados told Congress today that the Bachelet administration is now looking for 2014 GDP to come in at 3.2 percent, down from a previous forecast of 3.4 percent.
Granados also said that the fiscal deficit, after implementation of tax reform, will be 2.0 percent compared to the previous estimate, not including tax reform, which would have been 0.9 percent. The updated calculation of tax revenues will be slightly lower with a slightly higher expense component.
The Central Bank’s most recent Financial Trader’s Survey showed that the majority of respondents are looking for an even lower 2014 GDP at 2.9 percent.
Chile. Formerly the jewel of South America.

Growing on Dollar Trees

Profits, they hope, by serving the poor!
The acquisition of Family Dollar by Dollar Tree has created, overnight, an $18 billion 13,000 store powerhouse. This newly combined company has some pretty big implications for not just the deep discount segment of retail, but mass merchants too.
....“This is a transformational opportunity,” said Dollar Tree CEO, Bob Sasser. “This acquisition will extend our reach to lower-income customers and strengthen and diversify our store footprint. Combined, our growth potential is enhanced with improved opportunities to increase the productivity of the stores and to open more stores across multiple banners.”
Why won't the customers just go to Wal-Mart or Target?
Chains from Walmart all the way down to regional players such as Shopko have been chasing these shoppers for decades. As dollar stores proliferated in the 1990s, so did sections within larger stores selling similar merchandise. No name deeply discounted store brands appeared at Walgreens and Walmart to counter those offered at dollar stores.
Even Target succumbed, creating a small area near store entrances with a revolving selection of deeply discounted items in bins.
They would, if there was one handy, but;
...the small stores are easily dropped into urban, suburban and rural communities alike. These units are cheap to build and turnkey operations.
Meet the new Mom n' Pop retailers.

Y'all kin fergit it

Let's say neether, or nyether, of the parties wanted it to play out this way;
Some employees at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee complained about a class aimed at teaching them how to reduce their Southern accents. Now, managers are calling the whole thing off.
The course had been advertised as a way to feel confident in meetings, when one might need to speak with a more neutral accent. The class was touted as a way to "be remembered for what you say and not how you say it."
....ORNL spokesman David Keim said the class "probably wasn't presented in the right way" and managers decided to cancel it after other employees complained.
In Tennesseean?

A horse for the course

Right after the borscht, presumably;
A man in Siberia elected to kill and eat his horse rather than let the animal fall into the clutches of local bailiffs.
Orlik the stallion was due to be impounded over his owner's debt of about 18,000 rubles ($500), the Novosibirsk region's branch of the bailiffs service said.
But Orlik was nowhere to be found when they came to the man's ranch in the region to collect the steed, the service said on its website.
A hasty investigation established that the debtor had butchered and eaten the horse.
 The court has made its decision. Now let them enforce it...burp.
Russian bailiffs have been known to seize items including sex dolls, dog clothing, felt boots, a tsar bust, Sphynx cat, beehives and a reinforced concrete fence. In Krasnoyarsk, debt dodgers' mugs started appearing on beer coasters in 2013, and later that year, bailiffs ambushed one offender at his own wedding. 
 He probably let them know where to rescue find him.

When Governor Inslee is bought...

He stays bought (at least by unions, without whose money he wouldn't be Governor). Even when one of Washington state's largest industries is the target;
Citing threats from union pickets, state grain inspectors are refusing to enter United Grain Corp.'s export facility at the Port of Vancouver, prompting the company to shut down the largest grain elevator on the West Coast. The latest development in the bitter, 17-month-long standoff between United Grain, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has triggered a new round of finger-pointing, with no solution in sight.
"For all practical purposes, we're shut down," Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association — whose membership includes United Grain — said Thursday.
It's not the first time the company's operation has experienced interruptions. And shippers may still use other grain terminals in the region. But the full stop of United Grain's operation has prompted national and state agricultural and export interest groups to call on U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to restore inspections by directing federal personnel to take over the work.
 Why are the state inspectors refusing to do their jobs?
A primary issue in the latest flap over grain inspections is Gov. Inslee's decision in mid- to late-June to stop providing the State Patrol security escorts for state inspectors that he'd ordered last fall. The inspectors had said they were being intimidated and threatened by union picketers while trying to reach United Grain through a gate on the port's east side.
And their boss, Governor Jay Inslee, refuses to do anything to protect them.
In an email to The Columbian Thursday, Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Inslee, said the governor originally authorized the security escorts to support inspections, in hopes it would give United Grain and the Longshore union time to negotiate an agreement. Smith said negotiations "during that eight months were unsuccessful, and it became increasingly clear that keeping (State Patrol) escorts in place was not resulting in productive negotiations as intended."
Ignoring the 'starving children in Asia' who might need the grain, Governor Inslee used to be a congressman from Eastern Washington (i.e., he used to represent the grain exporters) but lost that seat to a Republican in the 1990s. He moved west of the Cascade mountains to the Seattle area and ran, successfully, for congress in the Seattle area.

Payback. Payoff (to his new financial backers). It's politics.

Monday, July 28, 2014

FedEx 'pectations

Stalinism--where everything is prohibited except that which is strictly allowed, by the authorities--was thought to have vanished from the planet with the demise of the USSR. However, the US Dept of Justice has found a way to expand its authority over normal commercial acts among consenting adults;
The Justice Department indicted FedEx earlier this month, charging conspiracy to distribute controlled substances because of the shipper's alleged role in transporting painkillers and other prescription drugs that had been sold illegally. FedEx is scheduled to be arraigned in the proceeding Tuesday morning in San Francisco.
Putting aside how a corporation is indicted (the Board of Directors? the stockholders?), FedEx is engaging in lawful activity by transporting packages from one location to another openly and in broad daylight. If the Feds think there are illegal substances in those packages, they could simply impound them (with a lawfully obtained warrant) and arrest the sender of the package.

But, apparently that wouldn't generate any revenue;
UPS signed a non prosecution agreement in March 2013 in connection with the same probe by the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal prosecutors into its dealings with prescription-drug shippers. It agreed last year to pay $40 million in a deal that required it to admit to its conduct and to start an online-pharmacy compliance program.
FedEx seems to have declined to pay to have its 'nice little shipping business' protected. Instead, they said, 'Show us the bad guys.', and 'then we'll cooperate with you.'
FedEx said in its statement regarding the indictment earlier this month that it transports more than 10 million packages every day and can't police every one. In addition, it said it has repeatedly asked the government for a list of shippers engaged in illicit activities but hasn't received one. "Whenever DEA provides us a list of pharmacies engaging in illegal activity, we will turn off shipping for those companies immediately," said Patrick Fitzgerald, senior vice president of marketing and communications, in the statement.
Which is the way things are done in a free society.

Cry me a rio, James

Bill Clinton's political strategist James Carville always said he wanted to be reincarnated as the bond market, since it was so powerful;
Argentine bonds slid to a five-week low on Monday as the clock ticked toward what could be the country's second default in 13 years.

Argentina's dollar bonds due 2033 fell to 81.375 cents on the dollar, a five-week low and down from as high as 90 cents on the dollar as recently as Thursday.

...."The market is starting to crack," said Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America strategy at Jefferies. "I think we're still heading lower. The market had been holding out that there could be a last-minute deal."

Ms. Morden said a survey of investors by Jefferies showed 57% expect Argentina to default. She said she personally put that probability at 85%.
Economic reality isn't optional.

Except for the dachas, the special hard currency stores, the limousines and designer clothing

The power of intellectual fashion is on display at Deutsche Welle;
['Income inequality'] was also not much of a problem in Communist nations such as Russia and China because there was relatively little wealth to begin with. Elites may have lived better but they were constrained by the relative poverty of their countries. Since the new age of globalization began in 1989, China and Russia have become much richer, which increases the opportunities for cronyism and theft by elites.
Most Russians in Moscow lived in communal apartments while top Communist Party officials had luxury apartments confiscated from the Tsarist era aristocracy. They also had special stores only they could shop in, special restaurants, cars with special lanes reserved for them. And (small favor), they had the power of life and death over 'the people' who displeased them.

In Mao's China most people lived in the countryside in hovels shared with their livestock...if they were lucky enough to have livestock. Again, not Communist Party officials.

While, in the West, the people had ready access to McDonald's, Sizzler Steakhouses, K-Mart, Sears, JC Penney, and Kroger. Things beyond the wildest imaginings of the proletariat in Communist countries.

The situation in the US is exacerbated by bank and auto bailouts, other forms of government favoritism, and an opaque and complex tax system. The causes of income inequality in China, Russia and the US are different but the result is the same. China has greater income inequality than the US, but both countries are approaching the point where income inequality is so extreme that it threatens to cause social disorder.
Proof of that assertion being what? Was the social disorder instigated in the 1960s/70s by Barack Obama's neighbors Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn  caused by income inequality--Ayers father was easily one of the 1%.

Don't let a little thing like reality get in the way of your religious belief, DW.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In jeopardy question; What is, That's not funny!

How many Boeing unionists does it take to be offended at a little joke?
Boeing Co. CEO Jim McNerney apologized Friday for saying the aerospace giant's employees were "cowering" during his tenure, a comment one union official called "a new low" in the company's relationship with workers.
McNerney made the remark during a Wednesday call with analysts when he was asked if he is thinking about retiring after he turns 65 next month. McNerney said he won't retire because "the heart will still be beating, the employees will still be cowering," ...
Speaking of 'new lows';
Machinists union international President Tom Buffenbarger issued a statement Friday saying the "unfunny and unnecessary remarks" serve as a "reminder that the Jack Welch style of anti-personnel management is still alive and well at Boeing."
"If he is able to get his foot out of his mouth, the very next thing we hear from Mr. McNerney should be a sincere apology to all employees at Boeing," Buffenbarger added.
Yeah, it's supposed to be the Boeing executives cowering under their desks worrying about the machinists taking over the factory;
Seattle City Council member-elect Kshama Sawant told Boeing machinists her idea of a radical option, should their jobs be moved out of state. 
The workers should take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine,” Sawant announced to a cheering crowd of union supporters in Seattle’s Westlake Park Monday night.
Was that a joke?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Know who's holding your kids hostage?

In Miami, it's the police;
The Miami Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #20 and the Miami Dade Public Schools Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #133 hold the safety of our children in the City of Miami in the highest regard. We are both disturbed by the thoughtless and obvious politically motivated decision to place older retired police officers in Miami Dade Public Schools. These police officers have not been recently psychologically screened and may not pass the minimum physical standards required of a police officer currently serving the community. They will present, at best, a false sense of security in our schools and, at worst, a potential danger to the safety of our children.
And now that they're no longer dues paying members of our unions, screw them.
After the tragedy in Newton Connecticut in 2012, a renewed call was raised for well qualified police officers to be assigned to area schools. The Fraternal Order of Police is in full agreement with this goal and we are lucky enough in Miami-Dade to have one of the finest public school police departments in the nation. We had previously spoken with the school board leadership and agreed that a sworn, certified-qualified, able-bodied, police officer should be permanently assigned to every public school.
It's all about the kids safety. Sure it is.

Expropriators eating their own

The workers united...and found out just what they had to lose, in Venezuela;
For almost five years, workers from the state-run Orinoco steelmaker Alfredo Maneiro (SIDOR) have been negotiating a collective agreement with the government, with no apparent success. Instead, these workers, who once supported the expropriations of these same industries, now say they have been being betrayed by the Chavista politburo.
During a press conference on Wednesday, the president of the National Assembly and vice president of the PSUV ruling party, Diosdado Cabello, was unimpressed and hit back. His strong statements toward the trade unions described them as “mafias.”
For several months now, the unions have led protests and strikes to force the government to abide by their promises. However, according to Cabello, the union’s actions are only meant to “affect the company’s productivity as part of a greater plan to destabilize the country.”
“They are demanding conditions that are impossible to meet,” explained Cabello.
Tell it to the capitalists, guy.

The nerve!

Jamie Murguia asks a good question;
Usually when a business decides to open or expand in South Carolina we’re inundated with emails, tweets, and Facebook updates from the governor, the Commerce Department, and/or some other politician taking credit for creating jobs. There’s an entire campaign within the Department of Commerce that promotes how “Just Right” South Carolina is for everything: “From our picturesque coast to our breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains – and from our small towns to our big cities and big businesses – there’s something about the Palmetto State that makes it just right for people from all walks of life and for companies of all kinds and sizes.”
But, apparently there is actually a business South Carolina isn’t “just right” for, a popular and widely publicized company bringing jobs that, curiously enough, very few politicians are clamoring to take credit for. The company is Uber, a ride-sharing service that’s thought to be taking business from traditional taxi cabs. Since its announcement on July 10, police and regulators have targeted the company and drivers who offer services through the Uber app.
One would think an administration so focused on “job creation” as the current one claims to be would support a business that encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in people. Uber gives drivers “the power to manage [their] own schedule,” offer rides when available, and “go offline” when they’re not, according to their website.
Instead South Carolinas authorities are actively discouraging this job creator by threatening the people who take the job with arrest.

Thanks, Brad. Now about your own error...

Thanks to the good offices of Berkeley economist (and former Deputy Asst. Treasury Sec'y) J. Bradford DeLong, the HSIB is made aware of (for our nighttime procrastination) this error committed by Michael Cannon. Who mans up;
I discovered an error that I committed in, but that does not weaken or alter the conclusions of, the amicus briefs Jonathan Adler and I filed with the courts of appeals in both Halbig v. Burwell and King v. Burwell.
On pages 11-12 of our Halbig brief and pages 14-16 of our King brief, we claimed the bipartisan Small Business Health Options Program Act, introduced in 2008 (S.2795) and again in 2009 (S.979) by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), conditioned tax credits to small businesses on states establishing “SHOP” Exchanges.  Those bills in fact explicitly authorize tax credits to participating employers whether a state or the federal government established the Exchange. The error was mine. I apologize to the courts and my coauthor.
So will Brad and co-signatory to their own amicus brief in Halbig/King, Jonathan Gruber, similarly own up to an error of much greater import?

That is, since Gruber has been exposed as having twice in January 2012 admitted that the subsidies in the PPACA were intended, by the clear language of the statute, to be available only through state created exchanges, will they alert the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court to their falsehood?

That might even be a morning must read, Brad.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Coup de Gruber

Not a good day to be an MIT economist named Jonathan, as a second podcast has surfaced (scroll down 4 speakers) where architect of Obamacare states, clearly and explicitly (at 33:00), that the governors and legislatures that have failed to establish state health insurance exchanges are passing up hundreds of millions of dollars--if not billions--in subsidies to their citizens.

I.e., those subsidies are only available for health insurance purchased on state exchanges, not on federal exchanges. Which Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are denying.

Gruber has been busy explaining away his first second such statement made in Virginia a few weeks before a week after this one in San Francisco, as a response to a question from the audience that he erred on. But, the latest one has his admission in his prepared speech.

Don't expect any more $400,000 consulting gigs to come your way soon, Jon.

[Update] While Gruber isn't a lawyer, and can't thus be disbarred, what is the penalty for filing an amicus brief with an Appeals Court that contains a falsehood?

[Update II] Peter Suderman of provides the text of Gruber's San Francisco remarks;
The third risk, and the one folks aren’t talking about, which may be most important of all, is the role of the states. Through a political compromise, it was decided that states should play a critical role in running these health insurance exchanges. And health insurance exchanges are the centerpiece of this reform, because they are the place that individuals can go to shop for their new, securely priced health insurance. But if they are not set up in a way which is transparent, and which is convenient for shoppers, and which allow people to take their tax credits and use them effectively by health insurance, it will undercut the whole purpose of the bill.

Now a number of states have expressed no interest in doing so. A number of states—like California, has been a real leader—one of, I think it was the first state to pass an exchange bill. It's been a leader in setting up its exchange. It’s a great example. But California is rare. Only about 10 states have really moved forward aggressively on setting up their exchanges. A number of states have even turned down millions of dollars in federal government grants as a statement of some sort—they don’t support health care reform.

Now, I guess I'm enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange the politicians of a state are costing state residents hundreds and millions and billions of dollars, that they'll eventually throw the guys out. But I don't know that for sure. And that is really the ultimate threat, is, will people understand that, gee, if your governor doesn't set up an exchange, you're losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens. [emphasis added]

How fast can he talk?

Turkey's politicians aren't immune to railmania;
Turkey has inaugurated a high-speed rail link between Istanbul and Ankara, slashing by half the seven-hour journey time between the two cities.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled aboard the first train in the service from Ankara, stopping at a town en route to make a campaign speech.
The tracks allow trains to reach speeds of up to 250 km (155 miles) per hour.
So Turkish citizens don't have to wait for political speeches. That's progress.

We're from the government and...

 we have too much time on our hands (though we could do worse things than edit Wikipedia);
Wikipedia administrators have imposed a ban on page edits from computers at the US House of Representatives, following "persistent disruptive editing".
The 10-day block comes after anonymous changes were made to entries on politicians and businesses, as well as events like the Kennedy assassination.
The biography of former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard [who eats Mexican babies]".
One staffer said they were being banned for the "actions of two or three".
Edits from computers using the IP address belonging to the House of Representatives have been banned before, following similar acts of vandalism.
Oh, those darned congressional staffers!

Been working on the railroad for the rich

Or, at least, the upper middle class says Randall O'Toole;
Nationwide, the data reveal, 5.0 percent of workers take transit to work. For low-income workers–those making less than $25,000 a year–the share is only slightly higher, at 5.9 percent. The shares are lower for other income classes except for people earning $75,000 a year or more, 6.1 percent of whom take transit to work. Where just under 1.2 million people who earn less than $10,000 take transit, more than 1.3 million people who earn more than $75,000 take transit.
How did we get here, from there?
Most people believe we originally decided to have government take over transit to help low-income people who were transit-dependent. In fact, Congress first passed the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964 to rescue commuter trains in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco, whose private operators wanted to terminate service. In other words, transit was really a subsidy to big-city downtown property owners, not low-income workers.
Later he adds unionized public transit workers to the subsidized list.
We also know that transit isn’t particularly green: except in New York and a few other big cities, transit uses a lot more energy and emits a lot more pollution, per passenger mile, than driving. Nor, outside of New York, does transit carry enough people to relieve much congestion, especially when you consider that the real congestion problem is poorly priced roads, a problem that isn’t solved by providing transit alternatives. All of which leads me to conclude that there is no longer any sound reason for giving $41 billion in subsidies to transit each year.
Transit has become nothing more than a source of political favors to unions, downtown property owners, and rail contractors. 
Actually, it always was just that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

¿Cómo va?

Not muy bien, if you listen to the socialists in Venezuela;
One thing is clear: these policies [Chavezmo/Maduroismo] have reached their limits. Inflation has reached an annualised rate of 60%, there is a serious problem of scarcity of basic food products and the foreign exchange controls have been manipulated by the capitalists through open fraud, overpricing and the black market.
And the government is caving to reality, they say;
Ruling class analysts have interpreted the removal of [Marxist Minister for Planning Jorge] Giordani as a defeat for those who advocated the maintenance of those measures in one way or another. They see the government’s economic team moving faster to implement measures to ease up controls and regulations.
Mad as hell, Not going to take it anymore!
The attempt to regulate capitalism has reached its limits. There are only two ways out of the current situation of economic dislocation: either to allow for the normal functioning of the capitalist market or to move towards the democratic planning of the economy for the benefit of the majority. 
This is only possible by expropriating the wealth of the oligarchy and imperialism which still control key levers of the economy in Venezuela.
Venezuelans unite! You have nothing to lose...but your freedom and your lives. ¿Cuál es el problema?

Psst; Ich bin ein Berliner

Keep it to yourself, dig?
Under-the-table deals in Berlin don't stop at the Thai meadow [where unlicensed restaurants operate]. Here in the German capital, thousands of people sublet their apartments to tourists for cut-rate prices, for example. There are numerous platforms where people can advertise and rent flats on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. And there are just as many customers dying to live like the locals and take the offer. Many of the deals are illegal....
That's the neue Weltordnung.
Disused, abandoned factories and empty, run-down buildings are a common sight in many districts of Berlin. They shape the city's countenance - and its lifestyle. Why leave old buildings to raccoons and stray dogs when they can be transformed into hip party locations? 
That's all done illegally, of course, because registering the building would mean paying taxes and taking care of some repair work to make sure the roof doesn't cave in on revelers.
Disrespect for authority.


Where have you gone Fred Kite

Somehow, incompetence must have become valid grounds for dismissal, rather than victimization, in the UK;
New business is coming from unexpected places to help power the whirring, high-tech lathes on the factory floor of Future Advanced Manufacture, one of the companies spearheading Britain's manufacturing revival.
"Even the Germans are starting to deal with us, which is unheard of," said Future AM's managing director Craig Peterson.
Manufacturing accounts for only a tenth of Britain's economy, compared with more than a fifth in Germany which is Europe's leader in the sector. But British factories are in the midst of a resurgence.
Ah, The Way We Were, pre-Margaret Thatcher. Now it's all business;
The Confederation of British Industry, cites political risk as the main threat to the recovery, ahead of the Scottish independence referendum in September and next year's 2015 election.
Consistency in government and monetary policy is key, said EPM Technology's Mulholland.
"We don't need fandango new ideas - we need to have the ear of government," he said.
The UK government used to be all too willing to lend an ear to Labour represented by characters like Peter Sellers, as depicted in the above clip from I'm All Right, Jack. Let's hope, for Britain's sake it doesn't revert to form.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Father knows best

Something to be said for parental control, after all, it seems;
The teenager who moved out of her parents' home and then sued them for child support after they ordered her to stop seeing her boyfriend has secured a temporary restraining order against him.
Rachel Canning, 18, from Lincoln Park, New Jersey, accused Lucas Kitzmiller of choking her with his hands during a fight early on Sunday morning, her father Sean Canning told USA Today.
Mr Canning explained that Kitzmiller, 18, allegedly assaulted the girl in the street and, as he tried to stop her, she jumped in her car and drove to Denville Police headquarters.
We told her so?
In her lawsuit, Rachel had sought child support, private school and college tuition and payment of her legal bills.
She settled for getting her bedroom back.

Ali Mespionage

France's security services can learn a lot by just observing the right people;

French cultural monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were top terror targets of a foiled French jihadist, according to leaked transcripts published Wednesday of Internet conversations he had with an al-Qaeda-linked group.

The messages were sent using a “special encryption programme”, according to French daily Le Parisien, and took place between a 29-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent, named only as Ali M, and a “senior member” of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The pair exchanged messages online for a year, according to the report.
Actually, the top terror targets appear to be Frenchmen;
“The targets should be average French citizens from the poorer classes gathering in small places, such as bars and nightclubs,” he [Ali M] wrote. Wanting to avoid any attacks on France’s Muslim population, he suggested avoiding shopping areas.
....the leaked message talks about “cultural events taking place in southern France during which Christians gather for a month”.
“The roads become thick with people and just a single grenade would be enough to hurt dozens of people,” the message continued. “Imagine the effect of an improvised explosive device (IED).”
Imagine the effect of respecting all the guy's rights to privacy.
Later transcripts reveal Ali M’s willingness to recruit others to the cause, and are followed by an invitation to meet AQIM leaders in the Saharan south of Algeria “for ten days of training and to learn military techniques, after which you will return [to France] to await further instructions.”
In May 2013, Ali M wrote that he was ready to travel to Algeria, via Tunisia, and had a ticket booked for July. He was arrested a week before his departure by officers of the French DGSI domestic intelligence services.

Illegal subsidies being illegally paid

Now that the Washington DC Court of Appeals has ruled (Halbig v Burwell) that subsidies (and their companion taxes) authorized by the IRS outside of State exchanges, are in violation of the text of the law known as Obamacare (the PPACA), this GAO report may be moot. But it is still instructive;
Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday.
The weak link seemed to be call centers that handled applications for frazzled consumers unable to get through online.
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office told a House committee that its investigators were able to get subsidized health care under fake names in 11 out of 18 attempts — even after's much maligned online system flagged some applications as problematic.
The GAO is still paying premiums for the policies, even as the Obama administration attempts to verify phony documentation.

Domo styled

Leave it to the Germans to bring order to camps;
Refugee camps are often located in remote and difficult environments. And whether it's because of a natural disaster or conflict, displaced people may find themselves living in tents or improvised shelters for years, sometimes decades.
"A tent is very good to deliver short term relief. It's very lightweight and can be transported to any area of the world very quickly. But then the problems start," says Daniel Kerber.
The Berlin-based designer leads an organisation called morethanshelters.
His team has designed a new shelter system called Domo. It is a tent-like shelter that is easy to set up and long-lasting. But unlike standard humanitarian-issue tents, the Domo is highly adaptable to climates and to people's needs.
Given what's going on in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq,'s a growth industry.

They may not know about much of their art

But as long as the workers in the Prado have jobs searching for it, they're satisfied;
In the 1980s, the Prado gave around 350 canvases up for lost. A decade later, the inventory showed that 500 artworks had gone missing or been destroyed.
The number of pieces is now up to 885. But, some things may turn up?

But the museum’s explanations have failed to convince the Audit Court, which insists on the need to carry on searching for the artworks and to provide oversight of any works on deposit at associated art centers.
The monitoring agency also lamented the absence of a periodical report on the state of the collections, calling it “a weakness” that should be corrected, and criticized “the high number and dispersion” of Prado works at other cultural centers, which “makes oversight particularly difficult.”
The Audit Court also underscored the “lack of sufficient human resources” to manage the art deposits.
!Más trabajos!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Poetry in the motion

Hey, so he was a Stalin apologist.  He could rhyme couldn't he;
A cross-party group of parliamentarians announced Tuesday a bill which, if it succeeds where previous attempts have failed and overcomes political divisions, will re-name Chile’s most important airport to honor Pablo Neruda — on the condition it is his poetry and not his leftist politics that is memorialized.
....This attempt to rename the country’s most important airport is not the first, however. As [Deputy Issa] Kort noted, previous efforts proved controversial due to the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s extensive involvement with with and support for the government of former marxist President Salvador Allende. The cross-party group supporting this bill believes the new proposed title, “Poet Pablo Neruda,” is a more palatable alternative.
Maybe naming a library after him might be more appropriate, then.

Four score and seven years ago, Sherlock

And still insisting on copyright protection, are the heirs of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle;
[US Supreme Court] Justice Elena Kagan dismissed a plea by the Scottish author's heirs, who aimed to delay another writer's ability to use Holmes and his loyal assistant Dr Watson in a new book.
....But their lawyer told AFP that the heirs would follow up "in the coming months" and looked forward to presenting their arguments in a petition to review the lower court's decision.
Let's hope he's paid by the hour (and he probably is).
Holmes and Watson, Doyle characters who appeared for the first time in print in 1887, are in four of his novels and 56 stories published in the United States through 1927.
All these are in the public domain, except for the last 10 -- published from 1923 to 1927 -- meaning the vast majority can be used in any way without paying the Doyle estate a licensing fee.
Which seems more than generous, all those years of royalties.

Honest graft

Compared to what, you ask?
Hilario Ramírez Villanueva ...stood up before 50 residents at an electoral event. These men and women were bored with the previous speaker, the former mayor. But now they were listening to Ramírez utter a sentence that would make its way into the footnotes of Mexican history books. He stood on stage and, with a microphone in hand, said: “They have criticized me because I really like money. Who doesn’t? [They also say] that I stole from the mayor’s office. Well, yes, I did steal from it. I stole from it, I stole from it, I stole from it but – just a little – because it was pretty poor. It was nothing more than a little shaving off.”
Meet the new Mayor.

Maybe because he was telling the truth; he's a comparative saint in Mexico;
... Elba Esther “La Maestra” Gordillo, the leader of the powerful national teacher’s union. She served time in prison in 2013 for misappropriating $200 million. The arrest of this woman, a compulsive shopper who could buy 10 pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes or diamonds worth $350,000 from Tiffany’s in one go, was seen as a warning signal from President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexico being notable for its low average level of education.
The most notable figures who have fallen have been the governors because of the power the Mexican federal system entrusts in their offices. And, among them, Tomás Yarrington shines like a black pearl. The former governor of Tamaulipas state on the Mexican-American border, who ran for president on the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ticket, became a fugitive from the law after the United States ordered his capture for bank fraud, money laundering, accepting bribes from the Gulf Cartel, and even cocaine trafficking. While on the run, the elegant Yarrington opened a Facebook page where he insists on his innocence and declares himself a victim of political persecution.
The neighboring state of Coahuila has also seen its governor flee. Jorge Torres, a PRI member, is wanted for money laundering. The face of this once-powerful figure is now posted on the website of the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration, next to the sour faces of a motley crew of fugitives. The reward, it says, is negotiable.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ce qu'ils ont demandé

They got it. Happy now?
Feature film production in France fell nearly a quarter in the first half of the year, according to the latest figures released by the Federation of Cinema Industries (FICAM) on Wednesday.
Down 24 percent, only 55 films went into production in the first half of the year, compared with 72 during the same period last year.
At a minimum;
FICAM also cited the new rules of what is called the “collective agreement,” which regulated the industry practices and created minimum wages in several sectors, including technicians such as electricians and camera operators, costume and wardrobe workers, and assistant directors.

After a decade of debate, the agreement was signed by trade unions and the Association of Independent Producers (API), which represents major production companies Gaumont, MK2, Pathe and UGC in France, in October 2012 and went into effect Jan. 1, 2013. At the time, many directors opposed the measures saying that the new wages and stipulations regarding overtime and night shoots would jeopardize low-budget films.
 Bold in the above by HSIB.

Lo que este país necesita es un buen impuesto del 5%

Tax the hombres behind the tree, not we artistes;
Spain’s arts and entertainment sector faces “disaster” as a result of the government’s decision two years ago to apply a 21-percent sales tax to movie, concert and theater tickets, according to an open letter from industry representatives presented to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last week.
....Sales tax, or VAT, was raised from eight to 21 percent in September 2012. Since then, say sector representatives, there has been a 30-percent drop in cinema, theater, concert and dance attendances, along with a “drastic reduction in the ability to produce new content, one that will be difficult to recover from, and that has badly hit businesses, which are closing down: exposing the total uselessness of a measure that is as absurd as it is destructive.”
Because the competitors have lower taxes;
Spain is alone among EU nations in imposing such a high level of sales tax on the arts. In France the figure is five percent; in Greece, nine percent, and 13 percent in Portugal.
That's entertainment!

Pacific Heights II

The Melanie Griffith role is filled, so who have they got for Michael Keaton's game theorist;
Cory Tschogl says she has an Airbnb squatter - a guest who rented her Palm Springs vacation condominium, then stopped paying rent, refused to leave and threatened her with legal action.
"It's a horror story," said Tschogl, 39, who lives in San Francisco.
It's also a cautionary tale, illustrating the tenuous nature of new marketplaces that let people rent homes or rooms to strangers.
Not exactly. It has to be in the right place, for the right time period;
Now she's hired a lawyer, who will cost several thousand dollars and take three to six months to evict the tenant, who now has renters' protections under California law because he has occupied the unit over 30 days.
Sonny Bono's Law (as explained to Chris Matthews on Hardball about 15 years ago): There are people who will game any system. In this case, those 'renters protections under California law'.

But hey, the lawmakers' intentions were good. What could go wrong?
The guest booked the space for 44 days from May 25 to July 8 and paid for the first month in advance through Airbnb. After 30 days, Airbnb notified Tschogl that its attempts to collect the balance due "did not succeed" without specifying why. The company eventually paid her the two weeks' missing rent.
After numerous e-mails and calls from Tschogl, Airbnb offered to pay for the man to stay at a hotel for 30 days, but said he didn't respond to e-mails and his phone was disconnected.
Once the 44 days were up, Tschogl texted the renter that his reservation contract was over and that the power would be shut off in 24 hours.
The guest texted back saying he was legally occupying the condo and that loss of electricity would threaten the work he does at home that brings in $1,000 to $7,000 a day.
The texts threatened to press charges for "blackmail and damages caused by your negligence and malicious misconduct, including $3,800 PID Espresso machine as well as medical bills for my brother's hospital visit after he got sick here drinking unfiltered tap water."
That's what.

If it's a good deed, it shall not go unpunished

Nice to be able to live in the lap of luxury on $45,000 per year?  That argument is taken with a straight face by a Seattle PI reporter;
The Theodora’s owners, Volunteers of America, describe the proposed closure and sale of the 114-unit facility as necessary to improve the lives of the residents, most who get by exclusively on public assistance and veterans benefits.
“The 50 year-old building – with small efficiency rooms, no individual kitchens and an overall antiquated design – no longer serves our mission or the needs of our residents,” said David Burch, a Volunteers of America spokesman.
The charity is selling the building, and using the proceeds (up to $9,000 per resident) to relocate their tenants to other sites. They only went that route after considering their options;
Volunteers of America worked for years to craft a redevelopment plan that was feasible for The Theodora, Burch said by email. When none was found, the charity contacted 75 other nonprofits in an effort to offload the facility; none were willing to take on the property.
“Nonprofits told us that because of the building’s age and current configuration, they could not afford to acquire, renovate and operate the building,” Burch said. “This situation cannot be sustained long-term and we decided that selling The Theodora on the private market would be the most prudent solution.”
Enter the professional kibitzers;
News of the sale prompted the formation of the Theodora Rescue Committee, which, with the help of the Tenants Union of Washington State, has held several protests calling for the building to be maintained as-is.
 At whose expense? We're guessing not the Tenants Union of Washington States's.

And is anyone surprised that this 'fight' is being billed as the rich against the poor;
Members of the committee have contended the building will be replaced with “luxury housing for the wealthy.” They’ve asked the supporters to fight to stop the redevelopment from going forward.
I.e. to prevent Seattle from having more housing;
Goodman Real Estate Group [the developer buying the Theodora] President and CEO George Petrie rejected the contention that the recreated apartments will be out of the reach of Northeast Seattle workers.
Petrie said the apartments will be aimed at people earning 65 to 85 percent of the median income for the area. While the exact figure varies by family size, that amount equates to less than $45,000 a year for a single person or $64,000 for a family of four.
“The new apartments will not be luxury homes – rather we are committed to adding more workforce housing to the neighborhood and city,” Petrie said by email.
Housing for all those newly-made-middle-class by Seattle's $15 per hour minimum wage?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

You can leave your name and number...

But Jim Rockford won't be getting back to you any longer;
James Garner, the actor and producer who has died aged 86, made his reputation in the late 1950s as the shrewd, anti-heroic gambler Bret Maverick in the iconoclastic Western series of the same name — and sealed it as the 1970s private investigator Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files.
Garner fell into acting when, driving down a Los Angeles street after he'd been discharged from the army (and winning two Purple Hearts in Korea) he noticed a sign on a building with an old acquaintance's name advertising his theatrical agent services. Serendipitously, a car pulled out from the curb, leaving an empty parking space. 'What the heck...'

That led to his first acting job; a non-speaking role as a military judge observing the legal arguments in the play The Caine Mutiny. Since he didn't have any lines to learn himself, he decided to make himself useful to the play's stars--one of whom, Henry Fonda, took notice of him and assisted his career--by reading with them as they learned their parts. That characteristic of Garner's surfaced time and time again over the years, making him extremely popular with his fellow actors, directors and camera/lighting/sound/stage hands.

His attitude was, 'I’ve done a lot of casual work, and acting is a lot easier than laying carpets.' Though the business end of acting he didn't take casually at all. He was party to two lawsuits that helped define a new paradigm for the business. The first was one Jack Warner never forgot, nor forgave.

Garner was a $400 per week contract player with Warner Bros. in the mid 1950s when the writer/producer Roy Huggins--'I have a love-hate relationship with James Garner; I love him, he hates me.'--was assigned Garner to be the star of Huggins' new and idiosyncratic Western television program, Maverick.  Jack Warner didn't want to waste money hiring a new actor for a show he wasn't sure was even going to last.

Huggins--who had only been allowed to make his labor of love (a non 'John Wayne' Western TV show) as a reward for having revitalized a failing Warner's television program (Cheyenne starring Clint Walker) a year earlier--didn't want Garner for the role of Bret Maverick. He'd had him in an episode of Cheyenne and didn't visualize him as at all right for what he had in mind. But Warner insisted on using the actor who was already being paid.

Fortunately for Huggins, who tells what happened in one of his interviews on the TV Legends site, Garner's take on the character of Maverick was superior, and funnier, than Huggins'. Maverick became that season's biggest hit, even outdrawing The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. James Garner's introduction to the economics of the entertainment industry was about to start.

Garner found out from reading Variety that Maverick was bringing in something like $50,000 per week for Warner Bros (split 50/50 with the show's sponsor Kaiser Aluminum). Naturally he wanted an increase in his pay for being the goose laying the golden eggs. Warner flatly refused to even discuss a raise, insisting that Garner had to honor his contract. So Garner was stranded...until the right opportunity presented itself.

Which opportunity was a strike by the Screen Writers' Guild. Warner's response to that was to close the studio, to save money while the strike lasted. But Garner objected that he had to be paid his weekly salary regardless. Warner claimed that there were no scripts with which to shoot, and Garner pointed out that Warner Bros. had rooms filled with scripts previously written,  that could be shot.

It came to an actual courtroom trial--legal wrangles back then moved through the courts much more quickly--when Garner sued Warner for breach of contract. Garner's lawyer made mincemeat of Jack Warner, exposing him on the stand as a liar, and Garner won the lawsuit. That gave Garner two options. 1. He could collect the $400 per week back pay Warner hadn't paid him. 2. He was free to leave Warner and the contract he'd signed.

Obviously, Garner took the latter option. He went over to the movies and quickly became wealthy. And Jack Warner's Pound foolishness cost him what would have been a share in Garner's productive endeavors.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bit o' license

New York, New York. Where, if it exists, there'll be a taxpayer-paid-regulator using it to justify his existence;
New York's top financial regulator on Thursday proposed the toughest restrictions onbitcoin companies to date, unveiling a plan that would require firms dealing in virtual currencies to hold certain levels of capital, hire compliance officers and obtain special licenses.
Regulators around the country are grappling with how to oversee virtual currencies as more entrepreneurs create bitcoin trading exchanges and merchants accept it as a method of payment.
The latest proposals come after nearly a year of scrutiny by the New York Department of Financial Services.
"My hope is that the companies that can meet these rules will give consumers a lot of confidence when they do business with these companies, and that will help those companies thrive and succeed," said Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the department, in an interview.
Nice little virtual currency you've got there. Be a shame if....