Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We're from the Massachusetts government and were here to...

Decrease demand for your services...if you're a nanny, housekeeper, or other home servant;
A new law set to take effect this week aims to increase protections for domestic workers in Massachusetts.
 Well that (our bold above) is the politicians' story.
The law requires people who hire nannies, caregivers and other domestic workers in Massachusetts to adhere to established labor standards and other worker protections.
Which, all other things remaining the same, will increase the cost (and decrease the attractiveness) of having domestic workers in the employ of Massachusetts' residents. For instance;
The law sets rules for sleep, meal and rest periods, and required that female domestic workers receive at least eight weeks maternity leave if they are full-time employees.
Which invites government into the household. Great protection for domestic workers.

Let me entertain you

As the Ironman at Political Calculations demonstrates, the average American has had less disposable income to devote to entertainment in recent years, because more has had to go to health insurance premiums. And Obamacare since 2010 has only made the trend worse;
A generic version of this curve [click on the above link to see] is often presented in basic economics textbooks, where it is often referred to as the "Guns and Butter" curve, which is used to illustrate the trade offs that consumers have to make when they have limited resources and are forced to choose how much of two very different goods they can afford to obtain based on their cost.
We bet you never expected the choice to be between health insurance and entertainment! As the chart reveals, consumers in recent years have found themselves in the situation where they are being forced to give up entertainment because of the rising costs of health insurance. Because entertainment is always a voluntary expenditure, which people choose to do in their leisure time as they engage in their preferred activities, anything that negatively impacts their ability to consume entertainment-related goods and services can be considered to be something that negatively affects their quality of life.
In this case, the negative impact upon their quality of life is the result of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which is alternatively known as just the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or more popularly as "Obamacare".
And the younger you are, the more entertainment you'll find yourself deprived.
...because the premiums paid by those consuming the most health care services (the Age 55-64 group), satisfying the Affordable Care Act's community rating mandate requires health insurers to further jack up the costs paid by younger Americans - adding to their increased costs. This is very specifically why U.S. health insurers jacked up the cost of health insurance for the Age 18-24 group as sharply as they did after 2011.
That, and young people have little experience of life beyond entertainment?

...the implementation of Obamacare decreased the quality of life for average Americans by driving up the cost of health insurance. By forcing average American consumers to only be able to choose policies with unnecessary and bloated coverage and by forcing them to subsidize the demographically higher income and the wealthiest consumers of health care services through their premiums or else pay higher income taxes, the ACA is costing tens of millions of Americans hundreds and thousands of dollars each that they can no longer spend how they would rather choose.
Never trust anyone over 30.

The lights didn't go on in Georgia

So the Insurance Journal's headline writer(s);
 Controversial Ridesharing Legislation Makes it Through Georgia Senate
couldn't read the text of their story;
The Georgia Senate has passed a slightly tweaked substitute measure to a House bill that apparently clears the way for Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies to keep operating in the state.
The substitute, which makes minor changes to the original bill by Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, passed last week 48-2.
 That's a controversy in Georgia?

Monday, March 30, 2015

'I vaguely remember that he killed her.'

Amanda Knox, recently absolved by the Italian Supreme Court of having participated in the murder of one of her roommates (Meredith Kercher) on November 1, 2007, once tried to blame that murder on her friend and employer Patrick Lumumba. In a statement to Perugia police, on November 6, 2007, she testified;
I met Patrick soon after [9:00] at the basketball court of Piazza Grimana and we went home. I do not remember if Meredith was already there or if she came later. I find it difficult to remember those moments but Patrick had sex with Meredith with whom he was infatuated but I do not remember well if Meredith had been threatened before. I vaguely remember that he killed her.
Which was the second of Amanda Knox's stories about the death of her flatmate. In the first one, Knox was spending the night of the murder at her boyfriend's home and didn't find out about the murder until the next day. When Italian Postal Police showed up at the shared apartment to investigate the appearance of two cell phones belonging to Ms. Kerchner in a garden of another house some distance away from where the girls lived, she told them not to worry that Meredith's room's door was locked, because she always locked it, even to take a shower.

That was the story told even as she and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were awaiting another Italian police squad to investigate the broken window in the room of yet another roommate of a possible burglary. Until THAT roommate turned up and put all the circumstances together; broken window, her clothing strewn on the floor, police on the scene asking about cell phones found elsewhere, blood in one of the apartment's bathrooms, and a locked door to Meredith's room....

When permission was given to the Postal police to force open that locked door, the body of Meredith Kercher was found. She'd been killed in a knife attack. But not by Patrick Lumumba, who had about 100 alibi witnesses who'd observed him working at the bar he managed, at the time Kercher was killed. Nor was there any DNA evidence putting Lumumba at the scene of the crime.

However, there was DNA evidence of Knox, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and a third party, Rude Guede. As well as other physical evidence--bloody footprints of Sollecito in the murdered girl's room, the knife used to kill her in Sollecito's apartment, an obviously staged burglary with glass broken from the inside by a rock, witnesses who'd seen Knox and Sollecito on the streets of Perugia at times they claimed they were inside Sollecito's home--that was adequate for them to be convicted.

In fact, Guede is still in prison for the crime. A murder that the evidence shows he could not have accomplished by himself--someone had to have assisted him in holding Meredith while he stabbed her and sexually assaulted her. Which seems to have escaped the notice of Doug Longhini of CBS News;
The first clue that there was maybe something amiss with the case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito came from stories I'd heard about what can be, at times, one of the most merciless groups around - high school kids.
Then there were the Italian Air National Guard memos he got from Lucy Ramirez?

Hobsbawm's choice

The perpetually indignant comrades at Morning Star: The People's Daily just don't think it fair that a guy can't be a foreign agent without being watched by MI5 (roughly equivalent to the FBI);
COLLABORATION between MI5 and the Gestapo was crucial to surveillance of Communist Party members in Britain including historian Eric Hobsbawm, an explosive new analysis reveals.
Historians yesterday blasted British governments for double standards as they attacked Eastern bloc states over surveillance while using similar tactics on an industrial scale.
The first sections of Mr Hobsbawm’s MI5 file were opened to public access at the National Archives last autumn, and reveal that British security services first took an interest after he corresponded with journalist and International Brigades member Hans Kahle.
Without mentioning--they could have read it in the London Review of Books article they cite--that Kahle was a Soviet agent living in wartime Britain, who defected to East Germany after the end of WWII and became head of the People's Police there;
MI5 had long been pursuing traces on Kahle – a comet’s tail of communist activism in Germany dating back to the 1920s and undimmed since his escape from Berlin at about the same time as Hobsbawm’s. Kahle’s file, PF 47,192, was opened in 1935, but it included close knowledge of his work for the KPD [German Communist Party] before this date, and it’s likely that some of this intelligence product came from MI5’s liaison with the Gestapo.
We love that, 'it's likely that some of this...'
Kahle, we learn, had escaped to Switzerland, but in 1935 he went to Moscow. A year later, he resurfaced in Spain as commander of the 11th International Brigade (he is the model for Hemingway’s General Hans in For Whom the Bell Tolls). He was also, according to information received by MI5, the ‘leader of the OGPU’ – one of the KGB’s predecessors – ‘in Madrid’.
The bit about the Gestapo, being thrown in for its scare value. MI5 was given information about Hobsbawm's political activities in 1933 (by the precursor to the Gestapo) after he fled to Great Britain to escape arrest in a Germany newly governed by Adolf Hitler. MI5 used whatever useful information came to it. From wherever (again from the LRB article);
According to Hobsbawm’s frank admission in [his memoir] Interesting Times, in the 1930s he would have done underground work for the Soviets if asked. His friendship with Kahle had prompted the suspicion at MI5 that he might indeed have been given ‘the touch’ (also known as ‘the hand on the knee’) by a Kremlin-directed agent: that he could be a Soviet courier, a spy even, one of those types who had fallen asleep in Marx’s beard and woken up in Stalin’s pocket.
Unfortunately, MI5 wasn't overly diligent, as they missed quite a few spies operating in Britain for the Soviet Union. Including those like Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs--also a German Communist refugee who had to flee Hitler in 1933--working on the atom bomb, and some of Hobsbawm's friends at Cambridge;
Anthony Blunt, having been refused entrance to the wartime Intelligence Corps after MI5 found traces of his previous communist associations, managed to talk his way into MI5 with the support of influential contacts. He went on to pass a good deal of classified material to his Soviet handlers. When Kim Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, fellow officer Hugh Trevor-Roper was ‘astonished’, as he knew him to have been a communist in the 1930s.
No suspicious activity here. Move along.

It's quite the fashion, the Continental

At least it is in China (or so Ford hopes);
Kumar Galhotra, president of the Lincoln division, said the spacious rear seat and luxury amenities were designed specifically for Chinese consumers, who consider riding in the back to be the height of opulence.
He said that focus groups in China were generally impressed by Lincoln’s American heritage and image. “They thought of the brand as very presidential,” Mr. Galhotra said. “That word came up again and again.”
Ford started selling Lincolns in China last fall, and the prestige of introducing a new full-size sedan is expected to help the brand build momentum.
And while Lincoln lacks the cachet of BMW or Mercedes-Benz in the United States, the Chinese market offers the brand a fresh start. “It doesn’t carry any baggage over there,” Mr. Phillippi said.
Poor choice of words, Mr. Phillippi; where will the golf clubs go?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Imam done tol' me

That Johnny Mercer was on to something...from Montpelier, France;
“No matter how much good you bestow upon a woman, she will deny it. Her selfishness drives her to deny it.” These were the words of Imam Mohamed Khattabi, delivered during a Friday sermon at the Aicha Mosque in Montpellier, southern France, on March 6, two days before International Women’s Day.
Standing high in the mosque’s minbar (pulpit), Khattabi continued: “This holds true for all women, whether Western, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. This is the nature of women.
“If a woman overcomes her nature and acknowledges [the truth] … Allah grants her a higher place in paradise. But if she succumbs to her nature, and refuses to acknowledge the man's rights – or rather, the goodness that man bestows upon her – she is destined to go to [hell]…”

Why the economics news is always bland

With apologies to the tastefully named Gregg Easterbrook;

Saturday, March 28, 2015

¿Qué dice, Pedro?

 Something else to talk about with Pedro Luis Pedroso, deputy director general of Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Cuban Foreign Ministry in D.C. next Tuesday, would be this, as reported in PanAm Post;
The Más Médicos (More Doctors) program of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has become steeped in further controversy after the Cuban government threatened to suspend the licenses of those Cuban doctors working in Brazil who return to the island for obligatory vacations without bringing their families.
The measure seeks to avoid a mass defection of Cuban medical staff, with Havana fearful of the example set by Venezuela where many loaned doctors failed to return to Cuba.
Brazil has over 10,000 Cuban doctors subcontracted through the Cuban government. Reportedly the government keeps about 90% of what Brazil pays for the medicos, with the doctors getting the remaining 10%. From each according to his ability!
The Brazilian health ministry has said that it’s unable to interfere in labor relations between the Cuban government and its citizens. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the body which supervises the link between Cuba and Brazil.
And PAHO has its own agenda;
Scandal erupted in Brazil after the leak of a video in which PAHO coordinator Mary Alice Fortunato Barbosa is heard discussing with Brazilian officials how the program is designed to cement bilateral relations between Cuba and Brazil, leaving other nations to one side.
PAHO has defended itself, saying that More Doctors is carried out “in compliance with legal requirements and international norms in transparent manner, and with rigorous administrative and financial procedures.”

Squeezing blood from Cuban turnips

The government of Cuba literally trades on its citizens' blood, according to blogger Yusnaby Perez;
Pero detrás de todo este altruismo socialista, cooperativista y voluntario, se deja ver una mecanismo macabro y perfectamente diseñado. Autobuses móviles que son preparados para la recolección de sangre que visitan las cárceles, donde abundan los donantes hambrientos, recibiendo migajas como recompensa a tan comportamiento ejemplar. Los reclutas que pagan dos años de servicio militar obligatorio se les exige que si quieren salir a su casa a visitar sus familias pueden intercambiar la por su líquido vital. Los Comité de Defensa de la Revolución hacen campañas de presión barrió por barrio, casa por casa, en búsquedas de “venas sangrientas” que como “buenos revolucionarios” quieran tener archivados estas “demostraciones morales” para ser tomados en cuenta cuando los repartos de televisores, u otros gratificantes que la estructura utiliza para afianzar el clientelismo político, método eficaz que mantiene a los ciudadanos como esclavos sociales.
Loosely; Behind the scenes of what is promoted as altruism (socialist; voluntary and cooperative) is the reality of mobile blood-collector buses visiting prisons to offer inmates some hope of lenient treatment in exchange for their fluids. Also, military conscripts who wish leave to visit their families can buy it with a blood donation.

The ubiquitous Committee for the Defense of the Revolution even sweeps neighborhoods, house by house, with  pressure campaigns for the people to show they are proper 'moral' revolutionaries. Demonstrated zeal in 'donating' blood being taken into account when the government decides to dole out goodies such as TV sets or other gifts.
La cara más triste de esta historia casi satánica es la referente a los presos políticos que fueron víctima de esta praxis a lo largo de la historia. Integrantes de grupos insurreccionales, al principio de la llamada revolución de 1959, fueron sometidos a la extracción de su sangre antes de ser fusilados. Exprisioneros han confirmado tales eventos donde levantaban a los reos y los llevaban al “hospitalito”, condenados que eran ejecutados al amanecer. Pero antes, su sangre que, aunque sea ‘sangre gusana’, igual se vende.
Again loosely;
The saddest part of the story is that from the beginning of the revolution in 1959, Che Guevara's execution squads would first extract blood from those who were scheduled to be shot. Calling it 'worm blood'.

Meanwhile, don't miss the great human rights debate in Washington next week;
Delegations from Cuba and the United States will meet in Washington to discuss human rights, as agreed in the midst of talks to restore diplomatic relations, Pedro Luis Pedroso, deputy director general of Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, revealed on Thursday in Havana.
Pedro promises;
... that Cuba will demonstrate its achievements in the promotion and protection of all human rights, not only of its own people but also those of many nations with which it has cooperated in areas such as health and education.
He added that the country does not consider itself to be perfect and recognizes there remain important goals to achieve. However, he highlighted the recognition received at the last Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council, where the international community praised and commended Cuban achievements in areas such as education, health and access to cultural rights, and the contribution the island has made in those same areas in other countries.
Such as literal blood-sucking.

Friday, March 27, 2015

He who forgets his past

Has the Bulgarian photographer Nikola Mihov around to provide some reminders of what Commieland was like;
“Searching for information on something that happened in Bulgaria 30 years ago is much like being an archaeologist collecting evidence on an event that occurred many centuries ago.”
.... “Many of the archives were destroyed on purpose because they were related to communism. Others were lost because the people behind them were simply not around anymore,” Mihov says.
If you're in Thessaloniki, Greece check it out.

They have their ups and downs

Pacific Standard, that is. Including;
Jump rope has gone through two popularity waves in the United States: in the 1940s and '50s, when ample concrete and clothesline turned Double Dutch into a girl's go-to activity; and from the '70s to the '90s, following the NYPD's "Rope Not Dope" campaign of 1973, which inspired the American Double Dutch League.
The median listing price of a home in Detroit in November 2014 was $16,000, a 13 percent increase from the previous year. The median listing price for homes nationwide in 2014 was $214,000.
  • A 2012 Harris Interactive Poll found that people with tattoos make up 38 percent of U.S. adults aged 30 to 39, 30 percent of adults aged 25 to 29, and 22 percent of adults aged 18 to 24. For the first time since Harris started the poll in 2003, women are more likely than men to have a tattoo.
  • In 2012, laser tattoo-removal services saw a 32 percent increase in business from the year before, according to the medical market research firm Patient's Guide. The most-cited reason for removal was "employment."
  • Remember when Charles Barkley said he wasn't a role model?

    Don't raise the alarm...

    Patience, patience. It's just the long rebound effect from the last Ice Age, says Brian K. Sullivan;
    NOAA describes it as similar to what happens when an aging mattress returns to its original shape after a person gets up in the morning. When the ice sheets first retreated, there was a quick rebound in many areas that slowed through the centuries, [research geologist Theresa] Damiani said.
    “It has been rebounding and it still is,” Damiani said. “It takes a very long time.”
    The Earth’s surface rises about 1 millimeter a month in Canada and about the same amount over the course of a year in the U.S., she said. For a place like Canada’s Hudson Bay, the changes would be apparent over a person’s lifetime, she said.
    “If you have a dock that you built, the ocean appears to be going down,” Damiani said.
    It isn’t that the sea level is dropping — it’s that the land is springing back up.
    Our bold, in the above, of course.

    Thursday, March 26, 2015

    Shouldn't he be TEACHING at the B school?

    Xavier's Sweet Sixteen team's center is Matt Stainbrook. He's 6' 10", drives for Uber, and is working on his MBA;
    "My little brother's a walk-on on the team, and he's doing undergrad classes right now while I'm doing my grad school in my fifth year. Grad school costs about $14,000 a year while undergrad costs about $43,000 a year. So, for me to be on scholarship and only using it for $14,000 didn't make sense to me. So, I talked to the compliance people, and they said I'd be able to switch my scholarship with my little brother, so I ended up doing that.
    "And in order to pay my bills, I needed a flexible job, something to do to make some money, and I saw someone Uber-ing one day, and I said, 'Hey, you know, that's probably something I can do. I have a car, I can drive.'"
    And he could explain Uber's surge pricing to his customers, we're willing to bet.

    Innocence ablog

    The Conversable Economist, Timothy Taylor, treads softly on the feelings of the Housing Cause Denialists;
    Let me offer a speculation: Say that the rules for taking our a mortgage had been tighter over time. Imagine the standard was that banks would decide what you can afford based on 25% of your income, not 30%, or that mortgages were typically available for 15 or 20 years, not 30. My guess is that bank lending for mortgages would be smaller. The size of homes might well have increased, but not as quickly. Less of US capital investment would be allocated to housing, which would make it possible for more to be allocated to investments that can raise the long-term standard of living. The US economy would be less vulnerable to recession. People who were less stretched in making their mortgage payments would be less likely to face default or foreclosure. And my guess is that many of us would have adapted perfectly well to living in smaller homes, because the smaller size would be usual and typical and what we expect. The money we weren't spending on housing would easily be spent on other forms of consumption.
    In short, the push for making mortgage loans more easily available is sometimes presented as if it can only make people better off. Either they can borrow the same amount as before, or they can decide that they would prefer to borrow more. But making mortgages more available also has number of tradeoffs, both for individuals who "can't eat bricks and mortar" and for the broader economy.
    We at HSIB, of course, have offered more pointed speculation a number of times on this blog; suppose the federal government hadn't launched an all out offensive against the too strict lending standards (even racist) on mortgage loans?  As Day and Liebowitz put it in 1998;
     The currently fashionable "flexible' underwriting  standards of mortgage lenders may have the unintended consequences of increasing defaults for the 'beneficiaries' of these policies.  
    Had the banks been left alone to set their own mortgage lending standards, as they pretty much did before the mid-1990s, how would the financial crisis/Great Recession have happened?

    Pelea de gatos socialista

    Presidente contra el ex-Primer Ministro (don't need those Yanqui imperialists for a fight);
    Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has lashed out against former Spanish [Socialist] Prime Minister Felipe González, calling him “a lobbyist” who has joined a “Madrid-Bogota conspiracy” aimed at overthrowing his government.
    The lobbyist charge being;
    ...the Venezuela president on Tuesday claimed that González was once “thrown out of Miraflores” presidential palace by the late President Hugo Chávez “around 2005 or 2006.”
    Maduro explained that González tried to convince Chávez to sell the Venezuelan state-owned telephone company Cantv to a company the former prime minister was representing.
    Which was the property of Verizon until it was nationalized by Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez in 2005.

    What's really going on is that the former Spanish PM has decided that Maduro is such an embarrassment to the Spanish-speaking world, that he was going to assume the legal defense of all those opposition-Venezuelans imprisoned by Maduro. Who decided the best defense would be something like the Latimore Offense.

    So President Maduro has his colleagues who are visiting in Spain, bad mouth the ex-PM;
    ...four deputies from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who were in Madrid, denounced González’s “interference” in their country’s internal affairs.
    At a news conference at the Venezuelan Embassy, one of the lawmakers, Darío Vivas, charged that some Spanish sectors were “seeking impunity” for the jailed opposition leaders. “How can you free a corrupt, fascist and repressive man like Antonio Ledezma?” Vivas asked.
    Well, you can try to marshall support from Spanish-speaking statesmen;
    González told Cadena SER that he had spoken with former presidents Julio María Sanguinetti of Uruguay, Ricardo Lagos of Chile, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil about creating an international front to work to free the political prisoners.
    The political prisoners held in Venezuel's prisons.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    BBC and the Beast

    They needed a stiff upper lip, to cut their own throat;
    Announcing his decision, Lord Hall said [Jeremy] Clarkson's dismissal was unavoidable after "a member of staff - who is a completely innocent party - took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature.
    "For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations."
    That remains to be seen. Especially since the contracts of Clarkson's sidekicks, James May and Richard Hammond, are also about to expire. What would prevent them from joining together again, on another network?

    Also, the man, Oisin Tymon, whose face got in the way of Clarkson's fist, says;
    I am well aware that many will be sorry his involvement in the show should end in this way.
    Including Mr. Tymon, we'd think.

    Pedicabbie may work from sun to sun

    Or even in the wee hours, but the monopoly-apologists--Competition? No likey.--work is never done. Nor do the Limehouse blues ever seem to go away, in London;
    ... a backlash against the rickshaws—part bike, part cart—is growing in tandem with their numbers.
    “An absolute menace,” says Steve McNamara.
    Who is, no surprise;
    ... general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, the big trade group for London’s black cabs. The LTDA’s principal adversary is online ride-sharing company Uber, against which it staged a huge protest last summer.
    Rather than produce a competitive product.
    But Mr. McNamara spares a few barbs for the rickshaw’s more analog nuisance. “It’s a complete madness that in 21st-century London you could have something that doesn’t belong even in a Third-World country.”
    Who, in a free society, should get to decide that, the big incumbent...or the people who need to get from point A to point B?

    Or the downtrodden workers of the world, for that matter;
    Tilda Jánosi arrived in London from Budapest three years ago with £10 in her pocket and no command of English. She took up rickshaw driving, she said, to learn the language “while making money to survive.”
    But Ms. Jánosi’s figure is leaner than her wallet. At 100 pounds, she’s half the size of some rickshaws. On one occasion, she had to ask her three passengers to get out of the pedicab and push. “As it was a cheery crowd of drunk bankers, they were more than happy,” she said.
    As free people, exchanging benefits with one another, usually are.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    La vie en rose

    One in five Frenchmen voted socialist/communist. Which isn't even up to Marine Le Pen's totals;
    FRENCH Prime Minister Manuel Valls scrambled to find positives in first-round local election results yesterday, in which his ruling Socialist Party was beaten into third place.
    Marine Le Pen’s fascist Front National (FN) came second in Sunday’s vote with 25 per cent of the vote, just behind Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party and its allies, who took 29 per cent.
    The Socialists and their allies won just 21.5 per cent, according to the Interior Ministry’s official results.
    Silver lining for the lefties being;
    The Communist Party and Front de Gauche scored about 9.4 per cent, well up on the 6.5 per cent won last year in the municipal and European elections.
    Putting up un front courageux;
    But Mr Valls said yesterday that he was “pleased in some way” that the FN support was not as high as expected.
    “The extreme right, though it is too high, is not at the forefront,” Mr Valls claimed.
    It's only about twice your size, Manny. If you subtract the Communists from the left coalition.

    Remembrance of controversies past

    When we (and Paul Krugman and Ben Stein) were young(er), many were called to high dudgeon over the trials of the Trial Lawyers;
    Bush S.E.C. Pick Is Seen as Friend to Corporations

    ....Mr. [Chistopher] Cox - a devoted student of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of unfettered capitalism - has a long record in the House of promoting the agenda of business interests that are a cornerstone of the Republican Party's political and financial support.

    A major recipient of contributions from business groups, the accounting profession and Silicon Valley, he has fought against accounting rules that would give less favorable treatment to corporate mergers and executive stock options. He opposes taxes on dividends and capital gains.

    And he helped to steer through the House a bill making investor lawsuits more difficult.
    The above is from Stephen Labaton's NY Times 2005 piece, which also quoted (as a presumably objective source) attorney Bill Lerach;
    William Lerach, a prominent shareholder lawyer in San Diego who a decade ago found himself on the losing end of the political battle over investor lawsuits, agreed that the Republicans on the commission will now be more unified. But as a result, he argued, the policies it sets could be devastating for investors.
    "I would expect that Cox will use his authority for an across-the-board assault on investor protection," Mr. Lerach said. "In my experience with him, I found him to be virulently anti-investor and unrestrained in his desire to gut the securities laws. It's hard to think of a worse choice for the S.E.C. This is a world-class payback to the corporate world."
    Which bill was the bi-partisan (passed by a Republican congress, vetoed by Bill Clinton--as a sop to his campaign contributing lawyers--but overridden largely thanks to Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman) Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) of 1995. Even the strangest of bedfellows weighed in on the side of the trial lawyers;
    Once upon a time, the threat of lawsuits hung over companies and auditors that engaged in sharp accounting practices. But in 1995 Congress, overriding a veto by Bill Clinton, passed the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, which made such suits far more difficult. Soon accounting firms, the companies they audited and the investment banks that sold their stock got very cozy indeed.
    That's Paul Krugman. His usually rabid crtitic, Ben Stein, tossed this into the mix;
    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a result of a mass of securities frauds in Silicon Valley and in the Drexel Milken world and in the S&L’s, there were hundreds of securities law private class action suits against managers, directors, lawyers, and accountants. The recoveries in these cases were in the tens of billions. The accountants were called to account and hated it. Their insurers on their malpractice policies hated the suits. So did Silicon Valley.

    The defendants did a smart cost-benefit analysis. They figured out that they would be better off if they got new laws to hinder lawsuits against them than if they actually went to the immense trouble of doing their work properly. It was far cheaper to pay campaign contributions to Congress than to forgo their freewheeling ways. So money was paid, promises were made, and the law was changed in 1995.
    So, the crony capitalists got their nefarious way? Not exactly, as we--under an earlier blogging guise--pointed out back in 2005;
    For the five years preceding the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) Bill Lerach and other securities litigation experts filed an average of 190 such class action lawsuits, with the high being 231 in 1994. For the five years following passage, the average was 187, with a high of 241 in 1998.

    Then the fun began. The numbers being: 493 in 2001, 272 in '02, 219 in '03, and 237 in '04.

    In addition the dollar settlements to these cases have tripled.
    So were the facts (as compiled by Stanford University). What's the more recent history under the Barack Obama regime (and with Republican Chris Cox nowhere to be seen)? Let's turn to Insurance Journal;
    Bringing a securities class action became less lucrative last year.
    According to a new Cornerstone Research report, total settlements in such cases hit their lowest point in 16 years.
    And, show me the money;
    The aggregate amount of settlements dropped 78 percent to $1.07 billion in 2014 from $4.85 billion in 2013. Last year’s figure is 84 percent below the average for the prior nine years, primarily because of a dearth of large cases, the legal consulting firm found.
    .... The average settlement amount, $17 million, was the lowest since 2000. In 2013, the average settlement size was $73.5 million.
    The number of settlements remained relatively constant last year at 63.
    Oh, Stephen Labaton's source, Bill Lerach? He went on to become a convicted felon;
    William S. Lerach, once one of the nation's most successful attorneys, was sentenced to two years in prison Monday for his part in a kickback scheme involving class-action lawsuits against some of corporate America's biggest names.
    .... U.S. District Judge John Walter said the kickback scheme had corrupted the law firm where Lerach practiced for 28 years "in the most evil way."

    Monday, March 23, 2015


    As Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber have pointed out in their book Fragile By Design, the logic of banking is politics more than it is economics;
    ...chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.
    Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.
    With the above in mind, we take note of a change in the bargain among 10 ASEAN countries, scheduled for this coming December;
    Major banks are realigning their businesses in Southeast Asia, where a winding back of cross-border tariffs and regulations has led to sharp rise in regional trade ahead of the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
    With even more international trade expected;
    Last year cross-border trade with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) surged 26 percent to $323 billion. However, this figure is expected to grow still further once the AEC is instituted by the end of 2015 with an anticipated combined gross domestic product of $2.1 trillion.
    And rather than have that trade financed by European and American megabanks, or others;
    ...international banks will face stiff competition from the regionals through the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework (ABIF), expected to be implemented by 2020.
    Under ABIF an ASEAN-based bank will be re-classified as a local bank across the 10 ASEAN countries, as opposed to being categorized as foreign banks in a neighboring country. This will enable them to compete with an influx of major banks from China and Japan.
    There's a new game of Asian bank bargaining afoot.

    Penalty kick

    We don't even pretend to understand a sport where you're not allowed to use your hands, nor how you cut your taxes by low-balling your employee compensation; 
    Spain's prosecutor has called on the National Court to open a trial against Barcelona football club for alleged tax evasion, including in the signing of Brazil striker Neymar.
    In a statement, the prosecutor called for jail terms of more than two years for the club's current president Josep Bartomeu, and more than seven years for his predecessor, Alexandre "Sandro" Rosell, as well as the imposition of large fines.
    The crime was mis-stating how much the soccer stars were paid;
    Barcelona paid at least 84 million euro (then some £72 million) for Neymar, and that by presenting a lower figure the club allegedly reduced its tax burden in a fraudulent manner.
    Meanwhile, in the USA, the NCAA somehow manages to pay its employees zero dollars to put eyeballs in front of television sets (and not only get away with it, but to seize the moral high ground). Even the President of the United States plays along.

    Saturday, March 21, 2015

    See the imperialist dogs run

    As usual, the Communists employ the kiddies in their schemes;
    “By order of the Ministry of Education, turn in tomorrow a letter directed to Obama saying: United States, don’t mess with Venezuela,” reads the assignment sheet sent to six and seven-year-old children in first grade. Venezuelan schools contacted by the PanAm Post declined to comment, claiming they needed authorization to do so.
    Government authorities were quick to enjoy photo opportunities with the mandatory demonstrations of anti-US feeling. On March 12, Vice Minister for Educational Communities Soraya El Achkar tweeted photos with preschool children, apparently enthusiastic supporters of Nicolás Maduro in his struggle against imperialism.
    Something the children of Chile have been spared, thanks to the hero Augusto Pinochet.

    High stakes testing

    You could fall and hurt yourself. In Bihar, India;
    Parents and friends of students were photographed climbing school walls to pass on answers.
    Many of those arrested were parents. At least 750 students have been expelled.
    An estimated 1.4m students are taking their school leaving exams in Bihar alone - tests seen as crucial for their chances of a successful career.
    The authorities have clearly been embarrassed by the cheating, the BBC's Jill McGivering says, with the episode prompting ridicule on social media.
    Students were seen copying answers from smuggled-in note sheets, and police posted outside test centres were even seen being bribed to look the other way.
    What do the authorities have to say? Natch, they're underfunded;
    State Education Minister PK Shahi said it would be difficult to conduct fair exams without help from parents, given the potential number of people involved.
    "Three to four people helping a single student would mean that there is a total of six to seven million people helping students cheat," he said.
    "Is it the responsibility of the government alone to manage such a huge number of people and to conduct a 100% free and fair examination?"

    No Dane gelding here

    'We're thugs and bullies, whaddya expect from us?", said the Russian Ambassador to the Danes;
    "I do not think Danes fully understand the consequences of what happens if Denmark joins the U.S.-led missile defense. If this happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles," [Ambassador Mikhail] Vanin was quoted as saying by the daily.
    Should Danes join "we risk considering each other as enemies," he added.
    If the Danes should contribute just one frigate for defense....
    [Danish Foreign Minister Martin] Lidegaard said the comments were "inacceptable" and that Vanin had "crossed the line" by saying that "everyone who joins" the shield "in the future will be a target for Russian ballistic missiles."
    There's a precedent, as Rudyard Kipling once noted;
    "We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
      No matter how trifling the cost;
    For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
      And the nation that pays it is lost!"

    Friday, March 20, 2015

    Grexit this

    The OECD thinks there's been a little too much cooperation and development going on;
     Greece has made some headway in tackling rampant graft at home but urgently needs to crack down on bribes paid to foreign public officials aimed at winning contracts overseas, the OECD said in a report on Friday.
    ....“Greece has made efforts to tackle domestic corruption in the country but it needs to give much higher priority to fighting foreign bribery,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in its report.
    ....The government should target the export, shipping and small and medium-sized business sectors, the report added.
    And, by the way, Europe is running out of patience;
    Greece’s euro-area partners are fed up with the government’s intransigence and are united in demanding that Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras spells out how he plans to break the deadlock, Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said.
    ....“We are running out of patience and the willingness to discuss these issues again and again -- we feel this approach isn’t going anywhere,” Kazimir said. “We aren’t convinced that the Greek government is playing with open cards, whether it isn’t pursuing different scenarios.”
    At least Greece is promoting European comity;
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier Thursday that Greece shouldn’t expect a breakthrough at the leaders’ meeting.
    “I’ve been going to Brussels since 2006 and I have never seen so much unity” on how to address the cash-strapped member state, Kazimir said.
    Even the socialists are fed up;
    French President Francois Hollande said Greece must propose reforms that are in line with its existing commitments to its creditors and speed up progress to implementing a deal to unlock further cash.
    "These reforms must be looked at, assessed ... so that they are compatible with Greece's commitments," he told a news conference after a meeting with other EU leaders and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Brussels.

    Can't make an omelet without stealing the eggs

    In Cuba, where the eggs belong to the state;
    A COURT IN Cuba has sentenced several government officials to prison terms of between five and 15 years for stealing and selling millions of eggs on the black market.
    Prosecutors last week requested prison sentences of up to 20 years for the 18 officials, part of a “criminal network” whose egg thefts in 2012 cost the communist island nation some $356,000 (about €330,000), the state-run Granma daily newspaper reports.
    What Granma apparently didn't say, is that the people who bought the eggs on the black market gained at the expense of the government of Cuba (i.e. the Castro brothers). Market mechanisms replaced political.
    They succeeded “thanks to unobservant and or corrupt supervisors, deficient or absent monitoring mechanisms, and complicit or tolerant attitudes,” Granma wrote last week.
    That, and the demand for eggs by ordinary Cubans without political connections.

    Bonfire of the ivories

    Let's discourage the black market by making the price rise;
    The six tonnes of tusks, carvings and jewellery were burned in the capital [of Ethiopia] Addis Ababa.
    It is the second African country - after Kenya - to burn its ivory stockpile to discourage the black market trading.
    Making the supply of ivory lower, all other things equal, should cause prices to rise.
    Ethiopia has lost more than 90% of its elephants since the 1980s. Conservationists welcomed the move.
    The move will make poaching elephants more lucrative.

    Thursday, March 19, 2015

    Pure insanity

    Steeped in feel-good-about-myselfism, Starbucks Howard Schultz didn't anticipate that Republicans and other normal people drink coffee too;
    The chain, best known for its Frappaccinos, will have U.S. workers write "Race Together" on cups. Starbucks also plans to start publishing "conversation guides" on the topic, with questions like "How have your racial views evolved from those of your parents?"
    During its annual meeting in Seattle, Schultz said the company is trying to use its massive reach for good: "Some in the media will criticize Starbucks for having a political agenda. Our intentions are pure."
    As CEO of a publicly traded corporations his intentions are supposed to be aligned with his shareholders; to improve the profitability of their company. To do otherwise is pure imbecility.

    Bitcoins para la defensa no para Castribute

    The Cuban Anarcho-capitalist Club (CAC) seeks support for a good cause;
    A month ago, the CAC became the first organization in Cuba to start accepting donations in bitcoin. With the help of supporters abroad, they opened a bitcoin wallet to raise funds for the club, since the majority of the members cannot find employment on account of their open opposition to the regime.
    [Club founder Joisy] García said the plans for 2015 will involve more “fight and enthusiasm.” They’re currently seeking to secure international scholarships in economics for young Cubans, to “show them another ideology, another vision.”
    They need donations because members can't work on la isla, thanks to the Castro regime.
    The members of the CAC, labeled opposition activists, have been banned from employment on the island and face ostracism from neighbors who are fearful of being associated with their activities.
    Anyone want to bet the Obama Administration's recent initiative will change anything?

    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    Race together to a competing barista

    One where you won't be harangued by simplistic political naifs trying to impress their boss, Howard Schultz;
    Racial inequality is a topic rarely discussed in a corporate setting and seldom encouraged as a coffee shop conversation. That is changing as Starbucks and USA TODAY embark on an initiative called Race Together.
    In the accompanying video Howard says he feels a burden of personal responsibility, not about the company, but about what is going on in America. If Schultz's goal was to provide ammunition for a stockholder lawsuit, we'd say he succeeded admirably. It's to his fellow owners that he owes a fiduciary responsibility, to put their financial stake in Starbucks first, last and always.

    If he isn't feeling that responsibility, it's time for him to step down (and enter politics?). Run for office and leave the business of selling coffee to someone who will focus on what matters to Starbucks shareholders (some of whom might be racial minorities, Howard). Maybe name Michael Jordan CEO--the man who once remarked that Republicans buy underwear too.

    When you forget that your job is to sell coffee to Republicans (and other non-racialists) too...

    Roiling the dice

    Hedge funds cash in on others' legal problems, what could be more American;
    For better or worse, the lawsuit-finance market continues to grow. Hedge funds and others speculating on litigation are making more and larger bets. ....
    Burford Capital, the largest player in the nascent U.S. litigation-finance business, today reported strong results for 2014. Revenue rose 35 percent, to $82 million, with a 43 percent rise in operating profit, to $61 million, Burford said.
    Except for the fact that Burford is based in the UK, that is. Also, that Burford funded the Ecuadoran extortion of Chevron (and then got out while the getting was good);
    Burford invested $4 million in the long-running pollution suit in 2010. Led by New York-based plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger, a group of Ecuadorians won a $19 billion judgment against Chevron in 2011. (Ecuador’s top court later halved the amount to $9.5 billion and upheld Chevron’s liability.) The oil company, however, turned the tables on Burford, Donziger, and his clients. In March 2014, Chevron persuaded a U.S. federal judge in New York that the Ecuadorian suit had evolved into an extortion scheme involving coercion, bribery, and fabricated evidence. By then, Burford had sold off its interest in the Ecuadorian judgment to another investor and accused Donziger of deceit.
    Not too surprisingly, Donziger has denied that, and has appealed the federal court ruling.
    The Chevron case notwithstanding, Burford’s “business model is helping large corporate litigants monetize legal claims,” [Bueford CEO Christopher] Bogart says.
     In itself, just another business that needs financing.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    The 'hidden' in Hidden In Plain Sight

    As promised, HSIB is back to review more of Peter Wallison's Hidden In Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again.

    Wallison's writings have provided much grist for our mill over the years. Thus, we haven't been taken by surprise by anything in his latest book. What did get our attention though was his stress, in his new book, on the extent to which the GSE's misrepresentations of the quality of their portfolios rippled through the economy. As Alan Greenspan put it in his most recent book;
    The true size of the American subprime problem was hidden for years by the defective bookkeeping of the GSEs. Fannie Mae was unable to get its books certified and had to stop reporting publicly between November 2004 and December 2006, pending an often delayed clarification of their accounts. Freddie Mac had had similar problems earlier. ....the source of loss did not become fully evident until September 2009, when Fannie Mae very belatedly disclosed significant reclassification of loans, from prime to subprime, dating back to loans that it had made and held in 2003 and 2004. More important, those revelations helped to explain how what was thought to be a relatively sound portfolio of prime conventional mortgages in mid-2007 could generate the huge losses Fannie and Freddie had been reporting. [our bold]
    Greenspan is actually understating the deception, as it wasn't until 2013 that Freddie Mac made its last disclosures of 3-1/2 million more mislabeled-as-prime loans. That brought the total to about 32 million non-traditional loans out there tick, tick, ticking. Which is about two and a half years after the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission dismissed, officially, Ed Pinto's data on the extent of the hidden problematic lending by the two 800 lb gorillas of mortgage finance. Something a reader will learn by reading Hidden In Plain Sight.

    Wallison now argues that this mislabeling deceived virtually all analysts of the American housing market. Including, rating agencies--Fitch, Moody's S&P--officially recognized by the federal government as authorized certifiers of the risk-quality of securities backed by those loans. And risk managers at major financial institutions.

    The ratings agencies everyone relied on were particularly vulnerable to the FM's tactics, because the specialists there do not inspect individual loans. They use statistics. Data that wasn't accurate for the housing market as a whole. Not rating the GSE's bonds themselves (only privately issued securities), the ratings agencies wouldn't have even had raw clues available to them, over which they might have stumbled upon the true weaknesses (and dangers). Say the way, Harry Markopolos recognized that Bernie Madoff was operating a Ponzi Scheme years before that scandal broke.

    This is in addition to the GSEs being roped into the affordable housing corral in the first place by such government policies as the GSE Act of 1992, HUD's Best Practices Initiative (essentially the CRA extended to non-bank lenders like Countrywide Mortgage) and the amendments to the CRA in 1995. Prior to that big push by politicians of both parties--Henry Cisneros, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd--Fannie and Freddie rarely bought a subprime mortgage (and few were even made, about 1 in every 200 home loans being such, prior to the affordable housing fad).

    Oh, what a tangled web.... unraveled in Hidden In Plain Sight.

    Unhidden in plain blogging

    The HSIB Committee on What's Past is Prologue, has taken note of a number of new readers clicking on this 2012 post. Undoubtedly drawn by the newly published Peter Wallison book, Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again.

    And it is, indeed, another dose of corporal punishment for Housing Cause Denialists. It's worth the price of the book just for the clear explanation of derivatives...and why they were not the cause of the financial crisis--they're not any more at fault than a fire insurance company would be for the work of arsonists.

    Though we wish Wallison had not said (p. 80) that Brooksley Born (along with Wallison, a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission) when head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, had drawn wide praise on the left for her efforts in the late 1990s to regulate derivatives and particularly CDS.... Because Brooksley Born never mentioned CDS--Credit Default Swaps--back in that day. Nor did anyone else, because very few people even knew what they were. The issue then was over who should regulate interest rate, and foreign exchange, futures. And the answer was; not the CFTC, because they were not commodities.

    To say that derivatives were unregulated by the CFTC, is not to say that firms trading in them were unregulated. In fact, those firms were heavily regulated by banking (American and international) regulators, such as the Fed and Comptroller of the Currency, and securities regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission. Or, insurance regulators at the state level.

    Which brings up another unfortunate omission by Wallison. That the one firm that did get into trouble because of its derivatives trading--the insurance giant AIG--wouldn't have been in the position it was in in 2008, but for the interference in that firm's governance by the egregiously ambitious politician Eliot Spitzer, as we detailed back in 2013;
    Anyone remember the financial crisis of September 2008? One of the reasons for that was the liquidity crisis of insurance firm AIG. A crisis that simply would not have happened, but for the interventions of one Eliot Spitzer.  Who, as NY Attorney General in February 2005, used his political muscle to oust the founder of AIG--then one of the world's soundest financial services firms--Maurice (Hank) Greenberg from his position as CEO. That action transformed AIG, and especially its Financial Products arm from a AAA rated credit risk to one seen as much riskier by its counter parties in the marketplace.
    Bolstering that was this from a 1998 Fortune article;
     Greenberg doesn't suffer smart people gladly if they happen to challenge something he holds dear--like the proper operation of his company. A case in point concerns Howard Sosin, who came to AIG in 1987 from Drexel, bringing with him a sophisticated financial-products operation that sold derivatives and the like and that became the nucleus of AIG's push into financial services. By 1992, Sosin's operation, called AIG Financial Products, was delivering around $172 million in pretax profits.
    The trouble, though, was that Sosin wanted to run things in an all-out way that accelerated the recognition of profits (of which Sosin got a rich cut) and that also created more risk than Greenberg, a financial conservative, could abide.
     But those quibbles aside, Peter Wallsion has written a very informative explication of just what the subtitle of his book says. About which, more anon.

    Blarney for Bolivarians

    Whoever is writing Fidel's stuff says, Happy Travails to You;
    [A mi amigo:] Honorable President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro:
    As the press has reported, tomorrow Tuesday March 17, an Alba Summit will take place in Caracas to analyze the outrageous policy of the United States government toward Venezuela and Alba.
    On Saint Paddy's Day.
    The idea of creating this organization came from Chávez himself, wanting to share with his Caribbean brothers and sisters the enormous economic resources with which nature had blessed his native homeland, the benefits of which had however landed in the hands of powerful U.S. corporations, and a few Venezuelan millionaires.
    And now are in the hands a few Venezuelans with political power (who operate under the thumb of Cuban secret police and military advisers).
    Corruption and squandering were the fundamental motivations of the first oligarchy with fascist tendencies, addicted to violence and crime. The violence and crime committed against the heroic Venezuelan people was so intolerable that it can never be forgotten, and a return will never be allowed to the shameful past of the pre-revolutionary era which led to attacks on commercial centers and the murder of thousands of people, the number of which no one can today confirm.
    But, in the bad ol' days, Venezuelans could walk into a supermarket and buy cooking oil, tortillas and toilet paper without waiting in lines for hours.

    Oh, Beeb!

    Jeremy Clarkson's O'Lucky Day?
    [The Top Gear presenter] was not being racist when he used the word “pikey” on Top Gear, the BBC Trust has ruled, in a decision which has sparked condemnation from the Traveller Movement.
    The presenter, whose future is in doubt following a “fracas” with a producer on the hit series, put up a placard with the words Pikey’s Peak on the BBC2 series in February last year.
    But the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) concluded that the word had been used to mean “cheap”, rather than as a term of racist or ethnic abuse.
    That, unlike Johnny Mercer, he hadn't any gypsy in his heart? But should the Sullivans of the world object to;
    A spokesman for the Traveller Movement rejected the decision, saying: “We are horrified by the BBC’s green lighting of the use of the word ‘pikey’ by the Top Gear presenters.”
    Where do we go to get our day in Beeb-court?

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    Tribal warfare

    Heap big profits from casino, lead to fighting in Indian country;
    In the federal suit filed Tuesday, tribe members who lost control of the Rolling Hills Casino last year are accused of spending $17 million on private jet travel and millions more on tickets to professional sporting events, luxury homes, expensive vacations and custom sports cars, The Sacramento Bee reported.
    As well as;
    The suit alleges the faction invested $93 million in gold, property and unproven, high-risk startup companies.
    Playing for keeps;
    They also are accused of mounting an armed attack, which authorities described as a standoff between two rival factions on a road leading to the casino in an attempt to regain control.
     Winchester '14?

    Into the valley of dearth strode the Beeb

    The cost of the BBC's blunder, last night was;
    Top Gear’s usual 8pm slot on BBC2 was replaced last night with a repeat of a Royal Air Force documentary, Red Arrows: Inside the Bubble, following Jeremy Clarkson's suspension by the BBC.
    Red Arrows drew 1.3m viewers, in comparison to last week's Top Gear, which was watched by 5.1m people.
    Kaboom! They killed 3/4 of their normal audience. Jolly Good Show.

    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    Endangered bloke watch

    The Telegraph's William Langley names a name in the Who deprived Jeremy Clarkson of his dinner? whodunit;
    Prominent among them is BBC’s designer-stubbled director of TV, Danny Cohen, the man with the itchiest trigger finger in television, whose big ambition in life is to have Clarkson’s head mounted on the wall of his library. A leading light in the PC-crazed clique of metro-liberal zealots who infest the Beeb’s high offices, it was Cohen who took the absurd decision to pull Top Gear from the schedules.
    The motoring show earned the BBC more than £50 million in overseas sales alone last year, far more than any other program.
    Langley goes on to suggest that with that amount of revenue they should provide Clarkson with his own chef and a retinue of liveried servants to cater to his gastronomic whims. After all, he is English and he had a legitimate beef about his beef;
    Only nominally about cars, Top Gear is more a forum for endangered blokedom, in which middle-aged, middle-class white men – the last minority In society that can be insulted without risk – get together and pine for the things it is no longer possible to do. Such as driving too fast, saying what you think and exacting vengeance on the man who has lost your dinner. Perhaps, as he tends to, Jeremy just went about the right thing in the wrong way.