Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another Major Police Lie About the Boston Bomber Search

They locked down major parts of Watertown, Massachusetts and conducted warrantless searches, yet police somehow skipped the street Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnev was on. Only later, did  a private citizen discover him. 

Police originally said that Tsarnaev was captured outside the perimeter that police had set up to encircle Tsarnaev. It turns out that is a lie.

Tsarnaev was found hiding by a private citizen only  8 blocks from where Tsarnaev and his brother initially engaged in a gun battle with police.

Bloomberg news reports:
Sue Lund lives about five blocks from where police engaged in a wild shootout April 19 with the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects and about eight doors down from where the one who escaped alive was found 18 hours later.
Yet, during the all-day manhunt, she said police never searched her Franklin Street home or garden shed in Watertown, Massachusetts. Ten other neighbors had the same story and said they didn’t know of any homes that had been searched on Franklin, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was discovered by someone on the street about 30 minutes after an area lockdown was lifted[...]
It has been more than a week since police were hailed as heroes in Boston, eliciting cheers and hugs in the aftermath of the death of one suspect and capture of the other in the April 15 bombing that killed three and injured 260. As more details of the bombing and the subsequent search for Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar emerge, some residents and officials are expressing skepticism about the police work.[...] 
Authorities initially said Tsarnaev was found outside the 20-block area that was supposed to be subject to the most intensive part of the manhunt, including searches of the inside and outside of every house. Edward Davis, Boston’s police commissioner, last week said that in fact, the younger suspect had been found inside that zone.

The Shiny Asset That Has No Counter-Party Risk

The Chinese People Are Buying Massive Amounts of Gold

Gordon Chang reports for Forbes:
Mainland Chinese purchasers have been ferocious.  First, they emptied stores in their own country.  Caibai, Beijing’s largest gold merchant, had a queue 30 feet out the door on the morning of the 19th.  “So many people in line,” remarked a customer in Nanjing, where one person splashed out 2.9 million yuan on ten gold bars each weighing a kilogram.  Retailers ran out of stock in Guangzhou.  The China Gold Association reported that on the 15th and 16th retail sales of gold tripled across China.  Daily sales soared to five times the usual level at one retail chain.

Volume on the Shanghai Gold Exchange, considered a proxy for the metal’s demand in China, surged, setting consecutive records of 30.4 metric tons on the 19th and 43.3 tons on the 22nd.  The previous record was 22.0 tons on February 18 of this year.

As Chinese emptied the shelves in their own country, they also went south and swarmed shops in Hong Kong, sometimes in groups.  Chow Tai Fook, the world’s largest jeweler by market capitalization, said some stores popular with Mainland Chinese ran out of gold bars and that demand had not been as strong since the late 1980s.

Demand for “9999” bullion—99.99% pure gold—was five times normal according to Haywood Cheung Tak-hay, president of the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society.  His organization effectively ran out of holdings as members tried to meet supply shortfalls.  “In terms of volume, I haven’t seen this gold rush for over 20 years,” Cheung told the Financial Times.  “Older members who have been in the business for 50 years haven’t seen such a thing.

(ht  Christopher Barcelo)

Who Is Really Behind the Internet Sales Tax?

It's big box operators, who don't like the internet competition. OpenSecretsBlog reports:
Supporters of the proposed Internet sales tax like to make it sound as though they just care about the little guy, the shopkeeper still intrepid enough to keep the doors open at her bricks-and-mortar store on Main Street. And in fact, the matching bills in the House and Senate -- which would require online retailers to collect sales tax on all transactions and hand the money over to state and local governments -- are called the Marketplace Fairness Act.

But, like many things in Washington, especially those that suddenly start to move through Congress quickly, very big business has thrown its weight behind the proposal[...]

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the Times he was motivated to support the Internet sales tax in part by the owners of a local bridal shop, who complained to him that many customers browse in the store, then buy online for a better deal.

“They use the parking lot. They use the sidewalk. They benefit from police protection, and then the local merchant who pays for all of that doesn’t get the sale,” he told the Times. 

Blunt didn't tell the Times that three other supporters of the Internet sales tax with much deeper pockets than the bridal shop -- PACs run by Home Depot, Walmart and Target -- each gave $5,000 to his leadership PAC, Rely On Your Beliefs, earlier this year. And Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) who told the Times about a local shop in his state that lost customers looking for better deals on rifle scopes, took $5,000 from Home Depot on March 31. 

Home Depot's PAC also gave $2,500 to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who was quoted in the Times as saying he had "some concern about the legislation" but was more worried about "the fairness issue" for bricks-and-mortar businesses. Goodlatte also collected the same amount form Wal-Mart's PAC. 

The legislation's sponsor in the House, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told the Times that his constituents have reminded him that Norquist didn't elect him, and "Members that come to Washington and kowtow to special interests end up contributing to this very polarized government. These are tough decisions we have to make up here."

In the first three months of 2013, Womack received $10,000 from Walmart's PAC, $2,000 from the PAC run by Best Buy and $1,000 from the PAC run by Lowe's, the home improvement big box store. All of those companies are supporters of the Internet sales tax. 

The legislation's sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), picked up $5,000 from Home Depot and $1,000 from Walmart's PAC. However, one of his three original co-sponsors, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), seems to have attracted the most attention from supporters of the idea. Between March 20 and March 31, according to the FEC's most recent filings, he received at least $41,000 from PACs run by supporters of the Internet sales tax:

$9,000 from Home Depot, March 31
$5,000 from AutoZone, March 31
$5,000 from the Retail Industry Leaders Association PAC, March 26
$3,500 from the PAC of lobbying firm Patton Boggs (which represents Amazon and other clients that support the proposal), March 20
$2,500 from Best Buy, March 26
$2,500 from Lowes, March 20
$2,500 from JC Penney, March 26
$2,500 from Target, March 26
$2,500 from Walmart, March 31
$2,000 from Amazon, March 26
$2,000 from Lowes, March 26
$2,000 from Safeway, March 31

WSJ Editorial Board Member: Rand Paul is Just an Opportunist and Hypocrite

Time to grab some high powered antioxidants.

WSJ editorial board member and neocon Dorothy Rabinowitz obviously did not get the memo that Rand Paul is on the neocon's side on all important issues. If you understand that Rand has been shedding his libertarian-lite principles to move closer to the neocons, this video becomes very funny. Yes, Rand will do what is necessary to become president and he does take hypocritical stances, but he is doing so by moving closer to neocon positions.

What's the Note to the Prez Say?

On October 12, 2010, during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room, the President received a note from personal secretary Katie Johnson.

Anyone out there have the skilz to blow up the pic and read what it says?

The rest of you can guess and leave guesses in the comments.

(Via Vanity Fair)

Does Rand Paul Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt?

By Marc Clair
Let’s be clear. Rand Paul is almost certainly the best sitting United States Senator (well, perhaps second best, as the Senator from Washington D.C. doesn’t get a vote, and can therefore do the least harm). This of course isn’t saying much when talking about the psychopathic, ignorant control freaks that largely populate the U.S. Senate. In contrast, Rand seems to be more reasonable and often falls on the right side of many issues. We here at Lions of Liberty have not hesitated to highlight when he is right on an issue, such as his support for the legalization of industrial hemp or his attempt to ban F-16 and M1 tank sales to Egypt.
On the flip side, we do not hesitate to criticize him when he’s wrong. We’ve taken him to task on his TSA “privatization” bill and his stance on government default, among other issues.  I find that we often get flak from other libertarians when we criticize Rand Paul. This flak is typically not about the substance of the issue or our specific criticisms, but more often about the fact that we criticize him at all!  We’ll often hear things like “Well hey, he’s mostly libertarian and he’s the best we’ve got!” One of our fans on Facebook even recently commented that Rand Paul was just “tiptoeing the establishment line” because it “is the only way to trick these idiots into voting for him” (emphasis mine).
It’s a wonderful fantasy, isn’t it? Rand Paul spends years mixing libertarian and establishment rhetoric, just enough to “trick”  mainstream voters into supporting him. He then becomes President of the United States, rips off his Neocon Suit to reveal his “Ron Paul R3volution” shirt, ends the War on Drugs, brings the troops home, shuts down the Federal Reserve and ushers in a new age of freedom and prosperity!

Crony Capitalist Buffett Takes His US Government Supported Cronyism to China

Business Insider reports on Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway:

Berkshire-backed Chinese car maker BYD will begin manufacturing electric buses at a facility in California in order to take advantage of U.S. federal government subsidies that could cover up to 80% of the cost of each unit. At least one analyst who spoke to the WSJ considers the plan little more than a marketing gimmick.

(ht  Christopher Barcelo)

How 'Food for Peace' Hurts Foreign Farmers

By James Bovard

The United States government is the world's largest food donor but its aid consistently wreaks havoc abroad. The Obama administration is pushing reforms that could slightly reduce the number of Third World farmers bushwhacked by American food dumped into their marketplaces. But there is scant enthusiasm in Washington for any fix of a program that is beloved by many special interests.

The U.S. launched the Food for Peace program in 1954 during the Eisenhower administration, largely to dispose of embarrassing crop surpluses that had been encouraged by federal farm programs. To carry out Food for Peace, the U.S. Department of Agriculture buys crops grown by American farmers, has the food processed or bagged by U.S. companies, and then pays to send them overseas in U.S.-flagged ships. The annual cost to taxpayers? Last year, it was roughly $1.5 billion.

At least 25% of all U.S. food aid must be shipped from Great Lakes ports, per congressional mandate. This provides a steady stream of (taxpayer) revenue for American port towns and merchant seamen. Once the goods arrive at their destination, the U.S. Agency for International Development often takes charge or bestows the food on private relief organizations.

Because Food for Peace is structured to focus primarily on U.S. interests, it has long been notorious for putting some of the world's poorest farmers out of business. Sen. Harry Bellmon (R., Okla.) crafted a legislative amendment in 1977 that required USAID and the Department of Agriculture to certify that food aid would not devastate farmers or destabilize markets in recipient countries. But whom does Uncle Sam entrust to assure that donations won't pummel local farmers? In most cases, a foreign government or private-relief organization hoping to gain a tremendous free-food windfall from Washington.

To USAID's credit, in 2008 it began tapping an independent consulting firm, Fintrac Inc., to recommend prudent donation levels. Nevertheless, in 2010 USAID approved sending almost three times as much rice to Liberia as Fintrac recommended. That same year the agency approved massive wheat shipments for Burundi and Sierra Leone, even though Fintrac recommended against it.

The Department of Agriculture is even more reckless. In 2008, it approved sending 30 times more soybean meal to Armenia than the agency's own staff experts recommended.[...]

The Obama administration is proposing to end monetization and instead give more cash to foreign governments and private-relief organizations to buy and distribute food locally and finance preferred projects. The administration also advocates trimming the percentage of the Food for Peace program's budget spent purchasing and transporting U.S. food to 55% from the current 75%.

Not surprisingly, the administration's proposals are facing staunch opposition from the farm lobby, relief organizations addicted to manna from USAID, and the merchant-marine lobby.[...]

The resistance that the Obama administration's modest reforms are facing epitomizes how Congress and special interests don't care how much harm food aid does abroad. Unfortunately, gross negligence has long been Food for Peace's trademark.

Read the full article here.

Venture Capitalist: BitCoin Is Gold 2.0

The bitcoin boom is just getting started, two venture capitalists said Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, reports CNBC.

Get ready for a wave of new bitcoin start-ups, said Chris Dixon, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

"What the critics are underestimating is that you had a first wave of bitcoin start-ups and people were interested in it and it was kind of cool," Dixon said. "But now what I think you are seeing—if you just talk to the smartest people in Silicon Valley now—is that some of the best entrepreneurs are going to start getting into it, so I think you are going to see another wave."

Dixon, who said he has a "fair amount" invested in bitcoins, said that tech entrepreneurs have historically struggled to get into the financial tech space because of its massive size and the rigid regulations related to the finance industry. But the anonymous payment network that bitcoin provides helps avoid these obstacles and that has entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley excited, Dixon said, according to CNBC.

Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder and managing partner of the venture firm Social Capital, owns bitcoins in his hedge fund and in his private account. He said, "Everywhere you have currency pressure, everywhere you want to basically shield your assets, and after that it will probably become a payment mechanism."

Note: While it is interesting that this interest is showing in Silicon Valley, especially because SV tends to have influence in Washington D.C., it is hard to see how the government is going to allow the bitcoin market to develop into a competitor of the Federal Reserve. My view continues to be that a smackdown of BTC by the government is coming.

Quotations Of The Dread Pirate Roberts

It turns out that the founder of the online drug site, Silk Road, is a radical libertarian.

Forbes columnist Andy Greenberg writes:
In public, the pseudonymous Internet drug czar known as the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t say much. Roberts’ website, the illegal, anonymous drug-selling black market known as the Silk Road, has survived only because of its creator’s discretion. On the rare occasions when DPR speaks to the press, he (or she) does so in short messages, and–at least in my case–only through the anonymizing service Tor, the same cryptographic tool used to prevent the Feds from tracking down the Silk Road’s servers or its users. Thanks to that discretion, the Silk Road’s Bitcoin-driven narcotics trade has thrived for more than two years without being shut down by law enforcement, and its founder hasn’t been identified.

But within the community that the Dread Pirate Roberts has created, Silk Road’s founder is hardly so shy. On the Tor-hidden online forums associated with Silk Road, Roberts posts long manifestos, philosophical and political musings, love letters to Silk Road’s users, and even hosts the Dread Pirate Roberts Book Club, a reading and discussion group devoted to “agorism, counter-economics, anarcho-capitalism, Austrian economics, political philosophy, freedom issues and related topics.”

The character that emerges from those writings is no run-of-the-mill cybercriminal. (Though Silk Road site was moving $22 million worth of illicit pharmaceuticals a year at last check.) Roberts instead comes across as a principled libertarian and cypherpunk in the same vein as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Below, I’ve assembled DPR’s writings from Silk Road’s forum on every topic from the War on Drugs to Ron Paul to his own motives and ideology.

(ht Steve)

FBI Wants Power to Fine Internet Chat Providers That Don't Comply With Real-Time Spy Orders

Ryan Gallagher at Slate reports:

Bad news for telecommunications companies: New details have emerged about the FBI’s efforts to upgrade its surveillance powers—and the feds’ latest idea is to heavily fine firms that don’t comply with eavesdropping requests.

Last month I reported that the bureau said it was having a hard time monitoring services like Gmail, Google Voice, and Dropbox in real time when attempting to spy on criminals. The FBI’s general counsel Andrew Weissmann revealed in a speech that a “top priority” for the bureau in 2013 was to reform surveillance laws in order to force email, cloud services, or online chat providers like Skype to provide a wiretap function. The 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act already allows the government to mandate Internet providers and phone companies to install surveillance equipment within their networks. But it doesn’t apply to third-party providers—like Google or Facebook—which has led the bureau to claim that its ability to monitor suspected criminals’ conversations is “going dark.”

Now, according to the Washington Post, the feds have prompted a government task force to draft a proposal to update CALEA and the 1968 Wiretap Act to put more pressure on companies that do not currently fall under the scope of their powers[...] This could involve, the Post reports, “a series of escalating fines, starting at tens of thousands of dollars, on firms that fail to comply with wiretap orders.” If a company fails to comply with an order in a set timeframe, it would “face an automatic judicial inquiry, which could lead to fines. After 90 days, fines that remain unpaid would double daily.”[...]

In the meantime, however, the FBI does have some options on the table if it wants to spy on Skype calls or get transcripts of Gchats in near real-time. The bureau has a sophisticated spy Trojan that can covertly infiltrate a computer to gather all kinds of data—taking snaps of a suspect through their webcam, recording passwords, and gathering logs of conversations, as a judge in Texas disclosed last week in an order denying the tool’s use.

Read the full report here.

Liberal Suffering and Confusion

by Walter Williams

The liberal world vision and reality are often at variance, for example, with equal pay for equal work. I've often watched "Lockup," a show that features California supermax prisons, including Pelican Bay and Corcoran. Often, a recalcitrant prisoner must be extracted from his cell through brute force. I've never seen female guards remove a prisoner. If they are part of the process at all, it's to videotape the extraction for legal purposes. It's my bet that female guards receive the same salaries as male guards while not having to risk injury. Along the same lines, women on aircraft carriers earn as much as their male counterparts, but I have yet to see women hefting a hernia bar to attach a 500- or 1,000-pound bomb to a fighter jet wing. All of this suggests that liberals are for equal pay for unequal work. Or could it be sex discrimination whereby equally qualified women are denied the opportunity to extract beastly inmates from their cells and load heavy bombs on fighter planes?

Here's another bit of liberal confusion. Liberals deny that raising labor cost through minimum wages reduces incentives to hire. But if you asked a liberal for advice on how to stop rich people from shirking their tax obligations, they'd say raise the penalty. Ask low-information Harvard University doctors what should be done to stem gun violence and they answer that government should institute "a new, substantial national tax on all firearms and ammunition." Ask Illinois' Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle how to reduce purchases of bullets and guns. She'd say levy a nickel tax on each bullet and a $25 tax on each gun. Liberals demonstrate they understand the law of demand – that raising the cost of something lessens the amount taken – but they deny that it applies to labor. That's as ludicrous as suggesting that the law of gravity applies to everything in the universe except cute creatures, such as pandas and puppies.

Liberals love political correctness that conceals information. For example, how does one know whether the "chair" of a board of directors or the chair of a city council is a man or woman? This issue arose during my (1995-2001) chairmanship of George Mason University's distinguished economics department. At a chairman's meeting or gathering, I was referred to as department chair. I told the speaker that I am a chairman and that I have empirical evidence as proof. Needless to say, it didn't go over well, but academics don't like the terms chairwoman or chairperson, either, but puzzlingly, God forbid that people refer to their idol as Chair Mao instead of Chairman Mao.

How liberals identify black people must be confusing to whites. Having been around for 77 years, I have been through a number of names. Among the more polite ones are colored, Negro, Afro-American, black and, more recently, African-American. Among those names, African-American is probably the most unintelligent. Let's look at it.

Read the rest here.

End the Fed and Turn Their Buildings Into Apartments

Nashville, Tennessee shows the way.

The buyer of the Federal Reserve building in downtown Nashville plans to convert the vacant office property into a 61-unit apartment complex.

301 Eighth Avenue LLC bought the 75,000-square-foot building on 1.69 acres at 301 Rosa L. Parks Ave. for $4.25 million, according to Davidson County property records. The new owner is a local private real estate investment group, who also developed the Lofts at 30th North.

The project's initial plans have units ranging from 600 to 900 square feet, with monthly rents from about $1,200 to $1,800. All units will have one bedroom. Bigger units also will have studies. The project will include a pool and workout facility.

WSJ: ObamaCare Shocks Will Impact 30 to 40 Million

If Obamacare is not stopped, the damage that it will do to the economy will be massive. Healthcare costs will go up for millions and for many it will result in working at two part time jobs, instead of one full time job. And that's only what is obvious, the 906 page Act is sure to have many more surprises.

The Act really reads as though it was put together by a Marxist pot head, who cut a deal with Big Health Insurance, Big Pharma and Big Healthcare to get the anti-free market plan imposed on the masses. Fortunately, even some Democrats are finally beginning to realize that ObamaCare, if implemented, is going to have  major blowback against them.

Daniel Kessler a professor of business and law at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution writes at WSJ:
In recent weeks, there have been increasing expressions of concern from surprising quarters about the implementation of ObamaCare. Montana Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, called it a "train wreck." A Democratic colleague, West Virginia's Sen. Jay Rockefeller, described the massive Affordable Care Act as "beyond comprehension." Henry Chao, the government's chief technical officer in charge of putting in place the insurance exchanges mandated by the law, was quoted in the Congressional Quarterly as saying "I'm pretty nervous . . . Let's just make sure it's not a third-world experience."

These individuals are worried for good reason. The unpopular health-care law's rollout is going to be rough. It will also administer several price (and other) shocks to tens of millions of Americans.

Start with people who have individual and small-group health insurance. These policies are most affected by ObamaCare's community-rating regulations, which require insurers to accept everyone but limit or ban them from varying premiums based on age or health. The law also mandates "essential" benefits that are far more generous than those currently offered.

According to consultants from Oliver Wyman (who wrote on the issue in the January issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries), around six million of the 19 million people with individual health policies are going to have to pay more—and this even after accounting for the government subsidies offered under the law. For example, single adults age 21-29 earning 300% to 400% of the federal poverty level will be hit with an increase of 46% even after premium assistance from tax credits.

Determining the number of individuals who will be harmed by changes to the small-group insurance market is harder. According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, around 30 million Americans work in firms with fewer than 50 employees, and so are potentially affected by the small-group "reforms" imposed by ObamaCare[...]

Higher premiums are just the beginning, because virtually all existing policies in the individual market and the vast majority in the small-group market do not cover all of the "essential" benefits mandated by the law. Policies without premium increases will have to change, probably by shifting to more restrictive networks of doctors and hospitals. Even if only one third of these policies are affected, this amounts to more than five million people.

In addition, according to Congressional Budget Office projections in July and September 2012, three million people will lose their insurance altogether in 2014 due to the law, and six million will have to pay the individual-mandate tax penalty in 2016 because they don't want or won't be able to afford coverage, even with the subsidies.

None of this counts the people whose employment opportunities will suffer because of disincentives under ObamaCare. Some, whose employers have to pay a tax penalty because their policies do not carry sufficiently generous insurance, will see their wages fall. Others will lose their jobs or see their hours reduced.

Anecdotal evidence already suggests that these disincentives will really matter in the job market, as full-time jobs are converted to part time. Why would employers do this? Because they aren't subject to a tax penalty for employees who work less than 30 hours per week.[...]

In total, it appears that there will be 30 million to 40 million people damaged in some fashion by the Affordable Care Act—more than one in 10 Americans.

Full Calendar of Low Level Plotting for Jack Lew, Today

In the morning, Treasury SecretaryJack Lew will meet with leaders of several regional and mid-size banks for a discussion on the state of the economy and the financial services industry.

In the afternoon, the Secretary will meet with the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee.

Also in the afternoon, Secretary Lew will meet with Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, and Judith L. Lichtman, Senior Advisor for the National Partnership for Women and Families, to discuss the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

4 Things to Buy Before Congress Passes the Sales-Tax Law

Last week, Congress cleared the way for a May vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, which requires online retailers to collect sales tax on all purchases. Under current law, states can only require online sellers to collect sales tax if they have a physical presence in that state. E-books are exempt.

Marketwatch says these 4 things should be bought before the bill becomes law.

1. Electronics

Says Marketwatch:

 Amazon.com currently charges sales tax only on orders to Arizona, California, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Newegg.com charges sales tax on orders heading to California, New Jersey and Tennessee. A $2,998 60-inch Sony 1080p LED television would cost another $209.86 for a Vermont buyer, with 6% state sales tax and up to 1% in local taxes. The 6% sales tax for a shopper in Maryland adds $71.94 to the $1,199 price of an Apple MacBook Air.

2. Jewelry

Says Marketwatch:

 BlueNile.com collects sales tax only on orders shipped to New York and Washington; Diamonds.com, to Nevada. A $13,015 platinum ring with a 1.51-carat princess-cut diamond would cost $780.90 more for a buyer in the District of Columbia with the 6% sales tax included.

3. Designer clothes and accessories

Says Marketwatch:

.Many of the sites selling luxe brands only charge sales tax in a few states — Net-a-Porter.com on purchases shipped to New Jersey and New York; Bluefly.com on orders shipped to California, Colorado, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For a Rhode Islander buying a $3,525 Bottega Veneta tote, the state’s 7% sales tax would add $246.75 to the bill. A $13,850 Alexander McQueen gown heading to South Carolina could be as much as $1,246.50 extra, with a state sales tax of 6% and local sales tax rates of up to another 3%.

4. Furniture and fixtures

Says Marketwatch:

Overstock.com currently collects sales tax only on orders shipped to Utah; Wayfair.com, to Massachusetts, Utah and Kentucky and Build.com, to California. A New Yorker buying a $3,097 sectional sofa could pay as much as $278.73 extra, with 4% state sales tax and up to 5% in local taxes.

Brawl on Mt Everest

Nepalese mountaineering officials say they are investigating reports of a fight between three foreign climbers and local Sherpa guides on Mount Everest.

No word on whether Rand Paul or the neocons want the US to send either troops or drones.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Obamas as Clueless Personal Financial Planners

Financial Planning writes:
 The Obamas paid $45,046 in mortgage interest in 2012, which appears from the disclosure statement to be at a 5.625% interest rate with Northern Trust. That suggests an outstanding principal balance of about $800,000.

On the other hand, the bulk of their investments are in Treasury notes. Based on the disclosures, I estimate they hold about $3 million in Treasury notes (also held by Northern Trust), yielding 0.71% if averaging a five-year maturity.

By selling some of those Treasuries and paying off the mortgage, they would effectively be getting five more percentage points on the amount; they would also be about $40,000 better off each year before taxes, not to mention being less exposed to notes that could take a hit from possible rising rates.

The Obamas would pay more in taxes but make much more after taxes -- especially since they aren’t getting the full deduction anyway, due to the AMT.[...] 
A good planner may also want to investigate the $115,516 tax-loss carry-forward in Schedule D. While this could have come from many sources, these typically come when investors buy at the top of the market and then panic and sell after the plunge. But regardless of where it came from, it would take almost 40 years to utilize this loss carry-forward at the annual limit of $3,000 a year.

To increase the value from this loss by creating more taxable capital gains, the Obamas need to reverse their asset location. They currently own Treasuries in their taxable account and Vanguard S&P 500 index funds in their retirement accounts. By switching, they continue to invest in U.S. capitalism, but get a much better chance of gains

STUDY: Government is Not Good for Your Health

 Austerity is having a devastating effect on health in Europe and North America, driving suicide, depression and infectious diseases and reducing access to medicines and care, researchers said, reports HuffPo.

Detailing a decade of research, Oxford University political economist David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist at Stanford University, said their findings show austerity is seriously bad for health.

In a book to be published this week, the researchers say more than 10,000 suicides and up to a million cases of depression have been diagnosed during what they call the "Great Recession" and its accompanying austerity across Europe and North America.

The problem is real but the researchers identify the problem "austerity," when it should more accurately be identified as government intervention overall that is causing the decline in health and climbing suicides. It the result of  higher taxes and more regulations which make it impossible for an economy to operate fluidly.The researchers try to spin the problem as partly being lack of government healthcare, but it is really government interference that makes healthcare expensive and inefficient.

Obamacare is going to make things much worse.

Libertarian Presidential Hopeful Will Only Accept Bitoins and Gold as Donations

Darryl W. Perry says he's running for president in 2016 as a libertarian, and he's pledging to be the first White House hopeful to accept Bitcoin, reports Mother Jones.

 In a recent open letter to the Federal Election Commission, Perry said the Darryl W. Perry for President campaign will not accept any donations "in currencies recognized by the federal legal tender laws."

The only currencies going into Perry's campaign war chest are Bitcoin, Litecoin (another online currency), and precious metals. "I am attempting to put into practice a belief that I hold that we should get rid of the Federal Reserve, which is a central bank," he recently explained. "And unlike some who want to get rid of the Fed, I don't want the government stepping in to fill the void."

BUT since bitcoins are not yet money, that is a liquid generally accepted means of exchange, he will have to convert his bitcoins to dollars to spend them for his campaign. And once the government cracksdown on Bitcoin exchanges, he will have another point on which to rail on about government itrusiveness.

Was Bill Bergman Fired from the Federal Reserve because He Accidentally Stumbled Across Millions Being Sent by the US to Bribe Foreign Leaders

Bill Bergman-a former Federal Reserve (Chicago branch) economist and policy analyst raised concerns about unusual currency transactions pre- 9-11----including billions in one hundred dollar bills.

Bergman worked at the Chicago Federal Reserve for over 13 years as an economist and financial markets policy analyst, until he started asking questions about unusual currency movements before 9-11, He was then fired.

.Last July, on the Robert Wenzel Show I talked to him about what happened, after he started his investigation into the currency transactions.

Following my post about the millions in bribes sent to Afghan officials, Bill emails:
I think it is worthy to consider that story in light of my experience.
Below is the interview I conducted with Bill, last year.

Judge Napolitano Deconstructs Rand Paul On Drones

Lawrence Hunter discusses Judge Napolitano's commentary:
In an Interview last week with Stuart Varney on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co., Judge Andrew Napolitano pointed out that Senator Rand Paul’s endorsement the day before of the government’s using drones to kill suspected robbers is unequivocally not a change in Paul’s original position on drones. The only problem is, as the Judge pointed out, the Senator’s original position on drones was critically flawed, watered down and inadequate to begin with. Napolitano succinctly demonstrated why Paul’s 13-hour filibuster failed to go to the heart of the matter where drones are concerned.

In an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto, Senator Paul appeared to backtrack on the position he took on drones in his 13-hour filibuster, which was carefully crafted and narrowly targeted in such a way as to make it tangential to the fundamental issues surrounding drones. Specifically, Paul argued that drones should not be used for surveillance or targeted assassinations of U.S. Citizens on American soil. However, Paul claims he never intended his filibuster to preclude the use of drones altogether. He said, “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

Judge Napolitano said Senator Paul called him on the telephone after the Internet exploded in criticism of the Senator’s remarks. Napolitano related the essence of his conversation with Paul saying he believes Paul absolutely did not change is position—“an unequivocal no.” The only problem with Paul’s statement in Napolitano’s mind is Paul’s original position on drones, which he defended in his 13-hour filibuster recently, did not go nearly far enough in the Judge’s mind and did not address the fundamental question: Does the government currently have the authority to put drones in the sky over American soil for any purpose, and if not should the government be given the authority to put drones in the skies, which the Judge called “pieces of plastic” over American soil for ANY purpose? The Judge believes not.

In essence, Judge Napolitano said IF the government is authorized to put drones in the skies domestically, THEN it has the power to use the drones like any other authorized government weapon to return fire at someone shooting at a policeman or a private citizen, just as the private citizen has the right to do so in self defense or the defense of another. But in the Judge’s mind, that is a very big “IF.” Right now, the government does NOT have the authority to put drones in U.S. skies, armed or unarmed, for any purpose, therefore it is really a moot issue as to whether it has the authority to arm drones and use them to shoot at people on the ground.

In response to a wisecrack by Fox host Stuart Varney who quipped that he thinks the argument over gun control needs to be expanded to drone control because private citizens soon will be able to have their own personal drones, Judge Napolitano responded: 
“Here’s the issue: If the government derives its power from the consent of the governed, not from a monarch, but from the consent of the governed, and if the governed do not have the authority to own drones, then how can the government have the authority to own drones? Stated differently, private individuals are going to have drones to shoot down the government drones in their backyard. Do we really want a society in which that happens?

“That’s why I would argue one step beyond the Senator and say, we need more than just a consensus on drones; we need a judicial authorization that the Constitution [allows] the government in your face with a piece of plastic. In my view, it doesn’t.”

As usual, Judge Napolitano cuts to the heart of the matter and dispels the Jesuitical deceptions of slick politicians attempting to have it all ways. More than damning with faint praise, Napolitano’s defense of Paul’s consistency illustrates the constitutional weakness of the Senator’s arguments on drones and the national-security state generally.

Suspicious Package Alert at MIT

Cambridge Police and Fire Departments along with MIT Police Department are currently investigating a suspicious package located in Kendall Square near the Chipolte Restaurant


From MIT:
The suspicious package in Kendall Square has been investigated, identified and is no longer a threat.  Thank you for your cooperation.

Will ZeroCoin Be the Anonymity Lifesaver that Protects Bitcon Holders from Snooping Governments?

alan.szepieniec comments with regard to my earlier post:
Hats off to the cryptographers at John Hopkins University. However, I am afraid Zerocoin is not going to be plugged in to Bitcoin. Ever.

Firstly, while I have no reason to doubt that Zerocoin is sound, it is more heavy-weight cryptographically -- more difficult to understand than Bitcoin. I suspect that even the Bitcoin community will have a knee-jerk disgust of things they don't understand.

Secondly, Zerocoin requires a trusted set-up procedure. If the participants are corrupt (or corrupted), then the anonymity is lost forever. The requirement of trust, even for a once-in-the-lifetime-of-Bitcoin event, runs counter to the very philosophy of Bitcoin.

Thirdly, the incorporation of Zerocoin with Bitcoin would require larger blocks that take longer to verify. This is going to get a lot of pushback from the miners because they prefer shorter, easily verified blocks. Over time, this will even out because the cost of a larger block is offset by the transaction fees. However, as long as miners mine for the block reward and not for the fees, they do not stand to lose anything by rejecting blocks or specific transactions if that gives them an edge in finding the next block first.

My guess is the following will happen: the researchers publish their code and launch an alternate Bitcoin to "prove" it works. The ongoing efforts to incorporate Zerocoin in Bitcoin will fail. The stand-alone Zerocoin will thrive. However, it will never overtake Bitcoin in popularity as Bitcoin enjoys the network effect. Moreover, most people believe Bitcoin is anonymous already or at least sufficiently anonymous. They will not understand the advantages Zerocoin has over Bitcoin, and will be discouraged from learning as the mechanics are much more complicated than those of Bitcoin.

The 10 Happiest Cities For Young Professionals

It's where Bernanke is sprinkling money!

The results of a survey correlate fairly closely with where newly printed Federal Reserve money is landing: Silicon Valley, the federal government, oil, money management/banking. Philadelphia and Phoenix appear to be somewhat outliers from these categories.

According to CareerBliss.com

1. San Jose, California

2. San Francisco, California

3. Washington, D.C.

4. Chicago, Illinois

5. San Diego, California

6. Riverside, California

7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

8. Houston, Texas

9. Phoenix, Arizona

10. Boston, Massachusetts

CareerBliss.com released its list of the 10 happiest cities for young professionals based on analysis from more than 45,000 employee generated reviews between April 2012 and March 2013. Young professionals, defined by CareerBliss as employees with less than 10 years’ experience in a full-time position, were asked to evaluate ten factors that affect workplace happiness. Those include one’s relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks, and control over the work one does on a daily basis.

They then valued each factor on a five-point scale, and also indicated how important it was to their overall happiness at work. The numbers were combined to find an average rating of overall employee happiness for each respondent, and then sorted by location to find which cities had the happiest young employees.

Canadian Government To Tax Bitcoins

The Canada Revenue Agency has issued a statement in which it made very clear that it thinks Bitcoin transactions are taxable, reports Tech Week Europe.

Although steps can be taken to make tracking of bitcoins very difficult, for the most part they far from provide the anonymity that most believe.

From New Bitcoin World:
 Take for example Bitcoin's most advertised feature, its supposed anonymity. Everyone from the mainstream media to Wikileaks to the now-disbanded hacker collective LulzSec has trumpeted Bitcoin as "anonymous." But the truth is that researchers have long since proven it's anything but, since every bitcoin transaction appears on a public ledger distributed to everyone in the network (called the "block chain"), tracking bitcoins back to individuals is often trivial.
Efforts are being made to create software to make tracking more difficult, however, in the eyes of government this will be viewed as a further step toward making bitcoins a money laundering machine. From NBW:

 . Developed by cryptographers at Johns Hopkins University, Zerocoin is being proposed as a kind of "plugin" for Bitcoin clients that promises true anonymity by essentially giving the Bitcoin network its own built-in money laundering system[...]

What You Need to do with Your Bonds, Right Now

“The best piece of advice I could give long-term investors today is don’t own bonds. And if you do own them, you probably ought to move out of them,” warns Charles Ellis, author of the classic “Winning the Loser’s Game: Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing,” reports Paul Farrell.

Farrell continues:
Get it? Do not own bonds. Sell. Move out now.[...] 
Here are the numbers: “Right now the Federal Reserve is set on keeping rates down,” explains Ellis, because “the yield on a 10-year Treasury bond is under 2%. When yields go back to their historical average of 5.5%, an intermediate bond fund could go down 25% in value.”
Knowing in advance when the bond crash will occur is very difficult, if not impossible. As one former top government official told me, "It could be tomorrow or 10 years from now." Nevertheless, it will happen and it is likely to be sooner rather than later. Once the signs become obvious, many will try to head for the exit doors at the same time, that's why you need to be out in advance. Once the rush starts, the decline in bond prices is going to be very fast.

Terrorists as Enablers

By Fred Reed

In recent years, I have seen terrorism denounced as a despicable crime. I wonder whether it shouldn’t be accepted frankly as a form of war. I am not sure why blowing up ten people in a restaurant in, say, London is more despicable than blowing up ten children in Afghanistan by a drone. (They are both despicable.) Some terrorists, such as the Unabomber, are merely freelance criminal psychopaths. Others, such as bin Laden, engage in terrorism for the same reason why militaries attack countries: to make the other side do what the attacker wants.

From the point of view of cost and benefit, terrorism is a brilliantly effective form of warfare, especially against heavily armed countries of the First World. The reasons are several. First, terrorism offers no target to the basically World War Two militaries of advanced countries. If five Saudis, two Pakis, a Russian and a disaffected American blow up a building in Chicago, against whom does the US seek revenge? Is it against Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States, none of whose governments had anything to do with the attack?

Second, the return on investment is phenomenal. For example, the attack on New York cost perhaps several hundred thousand dollars. Yet it drew the US into multiple drawn-out, losing wars costing hundreds of billions of dollars, and transformed America from a reasonably free country into a rapidly deepening Orwellian gloom. A tiny input, a stunningly large effect. If terrorism were a hedge fund, it would be the hottest buy on the planet.

It is truly slick. The terrorists don’t do serious damage to the attacked country. (The casualties in New York, unusually large for a terror attack, if folded into the year’s traffic casualties would hardly have been noticed.) They stimulate the victim society to damage itself. TSA, Homeland Security, militarized police, warrantless searches in train stations, ever-tightening electronic surveillance of citizens, neutering of the Constitution and the abrogation of civil rights: bin Laden didn’t do these things. He couldn’t possibly have done them. He stimulated us to do them to ourselves. Genius.

The remarkable return on investment characterizes terrorism. Some yoyo tries to put a bomb in his shoe, and for the rest of time Americans hop around barefoot in airports. On a guess, the shoe bomb cost fifty bucks. For the price of a meal for two in a reasonably decent restaurant, you change the behavior forever of a nation of over three hundred million. Such a deal. It is what the Pentagon calls a “force multiplier.”

Another way of putting this is that terrorists, in the United States at any rate, serve chiefly as enablers. Many entities in the country clearly want expanded, very greatly expanded, police powers: Congress, the FBI, NSA, DEA, BATF, CIA, the military, Homeland Security, TSA in particular, and the police in general. They want more power and fewer restrictions for differing reasons, some less malign than others, but none have any innate attachment to civil liberties. Terrorism gives them an ideal pretext for Sovietization, and there are no longer many safeguards. Tell the public it is in danger, that you will protect it if they just give up freedoms, and bingo.

Read the rest here.

Which States Collect the Most Income Tax?

The Tax Foundation has released a map of state income tax collections per capita for 2011—the most recent data available.toThe Tax Foundation has released a map of state income tax collections per capita for 2011—the most recent data available.

The of the list includes:

1. New York, with $1,864 per capita

2. Connecticut ($1,808)

3. Massachusetts ($1,765)

4. Oregon ($1,424)

5. Minnesota ($1,404)

6. California ($1,346)

At the bottom of the list are the states that don’t levy an income tax: Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, Texas and Florida.

Of states that levy an income tax on wages, Arizona ($444) collects the least per capita.

(Via WSJ)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The CIA Gave Millions in Cash to Afghan President for Over a Decade

In order to gain access to Afghan president Hamid Karzai's inner circle, the CIA secretly sent tens of millions of dollars to Karzai's office each month for over a decade. The money, all cash, was delivered packed in suitcases, backpacks, and plastic bags, reports NYT.

More from NYT:
All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”

The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.

Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.[...]

The United States was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Mr. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.


Peter Klein tweets:

Is It Worth Paying Big Bucks to Go To College?

Unless you can get into an elitist school, don't blow your money on an expensive college, go to a community college says WSJ:

With unemployment among college graduates at historic highs and outstanding student-loan debt at $1 trillion, the question families should be asking is whether it's worth borrowing tens of thousands of dollars for a degree from Podunk U. if it's just a ticket to a barista's job at Starbucks. When it comes to calculating the return on your investment, where you go to school does matter to your bank account later in life.

Not surprisingly, research has found that a degree from a name-brand elite college, whether it's Harvard, Stanford or Amherst, carries a premium for earnings. But the 50 wealthiest and most selective colleges and universities in the U.S. enroll less than 4% of students. For everyone else, the statistics show that choosing just any college, at any cost for a credential, may no longer be worth it.[...]

Think a community-college degree is worth less than a credential from a four-year college? In Tennessee, the average first-year salaries of graduates with a two-year degree are $1,000 higher than those with a bachelor's degree. Technical degree holders from the state's community colleges often earn more their first year out than those who studied the same field at a four-year university.

Take graduates in health professions from Dyersburg State Community College. They not only finish two years earlier than their counterparts at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but they also earn $5,300 more, on average, in their first year after graduation.

In Virginia, graduates with technical degrees from community colleges make $20,000 more in the first year after college than do graduates in several fields who get bachelor's degrees. Yet high-school seniors are regularly told that community colleges are for students who can't hack it on a four-year campus.[...] 
Colleges don't like being measured by the earnings of their graduates. Defining value in such a narrow way, they argue, obscures the broader benefits of higher education. They point out that first-year salaries often have no bearing on earnings later in life. It's true that those with bachelor's degrees typically earn more over a lifetime than those with a two-year degree, but that's little consolation to those who are discouraged from going to community colleges and end up dropping out of a four-year school without a degree. 
For decades, U.S. colleges have promoted the economic benefits of higher education. But now that they can no longer ride the coattails of the national averages—which obscure the value of individual schools and make everyone look good—higher-education leaders suddenly think salary is too narrow a measure.

The Best Senator in the United States is....

Paul Strauss, the non-voting United States senator from the District of Columbia. He can do no harm.

Bastiat is Spinning in His Grave

France's total public social welfare spending as percentage of GDP:

2013 33%
2000 30%
1990 24%
1980 21%
1970 15%
1960 12%

Politico: Rand Paul Aims to Go Mainstream (By distancing himself from his father)

Very sad, more indications that Rand is being run by someone very powerful within the establishment and one important goal is to distance Rand from his father. Politico writes:

Almost from the moment Rand Paul was elected to the U.S. Senate, a team of advisers has been working over time to distance him from his father’s brand of unconventional politics — both in style and substance.

And they may be succeeding. GOP strategists say the junior senator from Kentucky has come a long way in shedding the eccentric label that dogged Ron Paul’s presidential efforts.[...]“He can be a serious presidential candidate because he represents a segment of Republicanism that hasn’t had a voice,” said Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, speaking of Paul’s libertarian views. “But he can’t just be a neater package of his dad — that won’t work. He needs to convey his own domestic and foreign vision, and continue to overcome the kook factor, which he inherited.[...]

Rand’s strategic alliance with Senate Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell (R-Ky.) has put him in a position to further garner establishment credibility. Should he run for president, GOP sources say that McConnell would be hard pressed not to support his home state colleague, paving the way for others to follow suit. Rand has endorsed McConnell’s reelection effort, and has played a pivotal role in helping McConnell ward off a tea party challenge.
“You don’t get more establishment than Mitch McConnell,” said GOP pollster and strategist Ed Goeas, who helped the party with its recent self-examination.[...]

Ask advisers to both men, how much counsel father is giving son these days and the answers are predictably aligned: not much.

What Larry Page Did Instead of Kissing His Wife

A theory.

COMING: Movie about Google (starring Vince Vaughn?)

Opens June 7.

Max Keiser: What If All the Bitcoin Exchanges Were Shut Down?

Max Keiser is out with a thoughtful essay about the very real weakness in bitcoins, the possibility of bitcon exchanges being shutdown by government. He writes:

Here’s a thought exercise. What if all bitcoin exchanges were shut down by various governments? What would the current value of a bitcoin be? 
This is an important question because of the implied outcome of the current trend by governments to shut down - or prevent the creation of - bitcoin exchanges.
He then poses the problem with the shutdown this way:
The mining of bitcoin would continue but transferring them and spending them becomes a problem since there would be no quoted price. 
I'm not sure this would be the problem. There would likely be a black market price, but since it would be a black market price it would likely be very low, with a huge spread between the bid and ask.

Keiser's solution, then does not get to the heart of the problem. He proposes:

For this reason, I have suggested that some entity, possibly the Bitcoin Foundation (and this can be done on a non-profit basis), make a market in bitcoin and broadcast a current price for bitcoin (a peg) that various exchanges and merchants can use as a benchmark. 
This market making activity should be done completely out of reach of regulators. Honesty on the part of the ‘peg’ maintainers would come by way of interacting with various exchanges (that are open) since maintaining this peg would require lots of buying and selling on the various exchanges to maintain an inventory (of bitcoin) that is necessary to maintain a peg and any resultant price gaps or arbitrage would be quickly closed by savvy traders. (By the way, if the VC community is serious about funding bitcoin start-ups they should pool their capital to fund such a mechanism). 
With this added layer of price discovery in the bitcoin’s existence as a currency, the possibility of scaling up to the multi-hundred billion valuations necessary to get it on the first rung of the global currency market becomes a possibility. Without it, we’re talking about beaver pelts.

The first problem with this "foundation peg" is that it would not be a real price. If one can not exchange back and forth between bitcoins and currencies, then in what way is this "foundation peg" a real market price? It is not. Market prices are set, well, in the market. There either is a market or there isn't. Even with a government crackdown there would possibly still be a market price, the black market price. Thus, a market price wouldn't be the problem, there still would be one.

The bigger problem is that after anaggrressive government crackdown, bitcoins would only be operating in a black market, they would not be money, that is, the most liquid commodity. You wouldn't be able to buy your Starbucks coffee with them, your gasoline or most of the other items that are bought on a daily basis. It would be too dangerous for most businesses to  accept bitcoins, if there was an aggressive government crackdown against them. Bitcoins would, thus, be relegated to the underground market. Only if the government somehow loses enforcement capabilities, and Starbucks didn't fear a government crackdown on bitcoin transactions, would bitcoins have a chance of becoming a real money. That's not going to occur anytime in the near future.

Thus, Keiser's proposal misses the point of the complication of government crackdown on bitcoins, the problem is not the exchange price, that will exist, the problem is who will accept bitcoins under conditions of an aggressive government crackdown?

Paul Krugman: The Truth about George W. Bush

I would be more impressed if Krugman called out Barack Obama for his drone attacks and meddling in Lybia and Afghanistan, to mention just two US imperial operations, but he is pretty good on GW. He writes:
I’ve been focused on economic policy lately, so I sort of missed the big push to rehabilitate Bush’s image; also, as a premature anti-Bushist who pointed out how terrible a president he was back when everyone else was praising him as a Great Leader, I’m kind of worn out on the subject.

But it does need to be said: he was a terrible president, arguably the worst ever, and not just for the reasons many others are pointing out[...]

I think there was something even bigger, in some ways, than his policy failures: Bush brought an unprecedented level of systematic dishonesty to American political life, and we may never recover.

Think about his two main “achievements”, if you want to call them that: the tax cuts and the Iraq war, both of which continue to cast long shadows over our nation’s destiny. The key thing to remember is that both were sold with lies.

I suppose one could make an argument for the kind of tax cuts Bush rammed through — tax cuts that strongly favored the wealthy and significantly increased inequality. But we shouldn’t forget that Bush never admitted that his tax cuts did, in fact, favor the wealthy. Instead, his administration canceled the practice of making assessments of the distributional effects of tax changes, and in their selling of the cuts offered what amounted to an expert class in how to lie with statistics. Basically, every time the Bushies came out with a report, you knew that it was going to involve some kind of fraud, and the only question was which kind and where.

And no, this wasn’t standard practice before. Politics ain’t beanbag and all that, but the president as con man was a new character in American life.

Even more important, Bush lied us into war. Let’s repeat that: he lied us into war. I know, the apologists will say that “everyone” believed Saddam had WMD, but the truth is that even the category “WMD” was a con game, lumping together chemical weapons with nukes in an illegitimate way. And any appearance of an intelligence consensus before the invasion was manufactured: dissenting voices were suppressed, as anyone who was reading Knight-Ridder (now McClatchy) knew at the time.

Why did the Bush administration want war? There probably wasn’t a single reason, but can we really doubt at this point that it was in part about wagging the dog? And right there you have something that should block Bush from redemption of any kind, ever: he misled us into a war that probably killed hundreds of thousands of people, and he did it in part for political reasons.

GW may not the worst, he certainly has good competition from Lincoln, FDR, LBJ and, yes, Obama, but it is good to see Krug call out at least one of the evil ones.

DSK Film Coming; Starring Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset

Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset are filming scenes for an upcoming movie about former IMF-chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

According to NyPo, Depardieu has made it known he’s happy to portray the man whose French presidential aspirations crashed when he was indicted in May 2011.

“He is very French: arrogant, smug,” the actor told Swiss TV last year.

“I will do it because I don’t like him.”

The film will focus on the paparazzi’s pursuit of DSK after his arrest on charges that he sexually assaulted a maid at Midtown’s Sofitel New York hotel.

Hating politicians and taxes, what's not to love about Depardieu?

French authorities have been displeased with Depardieu after he announced last year that he was moving over the Belgian border and switching his citizenship to Russian to avoid a new top tax rate in France of 75 percent.

Dave Gold Dies at 80; Entrepreneur Behind '99 Cents Only' Chain

By introducing the dollar store concept to middle-class and upscale neighborhoods,  Dave Gold hit gold and expanded the chain to more than 300 stores.

LaTi has the details:
Dave Gold launched his 99 Cents Only Stores empire in Los Angeles at age 50 after mulling over the idea for over a decade.

The thrifty entrepreneur took the dollar store concept and introduced it to middle-class and upscale neighborhoods. In the process, he created a chain that has become a mainstay for families squeezed during hard times or those who simply love a good bargain.

Gold died Monday at his Mid-Wilshire home from an apparent heart attack, said his son, Jeff Gold. He was 80.

Long before dollar stores dotted many street corners, Gold opened the first 99 Cents Only store in Los Angeles in 1982. It was the beginning of a chain that would exceed 300 stores in California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.

At the time, he'd been working at a liquor store originally started by his father in downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market. But Gold was itching to try out his deep-discount vision — an entire store full of merchandise priced at 99 cents.

"Whenever I'd put wine or cheese on sale for $1.02 or 98 cents, it never sold out," Gold recalled in a Times interview in 2003. "When I put a 99 cent sign on anything, it was gone in no time. I realized it was a magic number. I thought, wouldn't it be fun to have a store where everything was good quality and everything was 99 cents?"

Family and friends thought the idea was ludicrous. But the City of Commerce-based chain quickly caught on, expanded briskly and in 1996, went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

The chain added a fresh spin to the dollar store concept, which at the time was perceived as retail graveyards for expired or broken products. The 99 Cents Only stores were bigger, brighter and better organized, analysts said, and cultivated a friendly relationship with vendors, sometimes by plying them with bagels and cream cheese.

"My dad really loved the merchandise. He would come home at the end of the day when we were younger and say, 'Look at this beautiful shampoo,'" said his daughter Karen Schiffer. "He would say, 'We have 50 truckloads of this Kleenex coming in.' He would get excited and pass it out to everybody."

His sense of humor was evident in their ads: One congratulated the "Dodgers on Losing 99 Games." Another wished television personality Joan Rivers "Happy 99th Facelift."[...] 
The company was acquired in 2011 by Los Angeles equity firm Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in a deal valued at about $1.6 billion.

Rand Paul Predicts Police Cars of the Future Will Have Drones

Rand Paul appeared on the Glen Beck Show on Friday and told Beck that in the future he expected to see police cars armed with robots that could engage in gunfire and that the robots would likely be able to fly--that is, they would be a form of drone.

Incredibly, he was advancing this as justification for his support of certain drone attacks. He contrasted these type drones, with those flying 50,000 feet in the air, and seemed to prefer the drone in every police car approach.

Glen Beck then brought some sanity back to the conversation.

“I got news for you,” Beck interrupted. “If that ever happens? The Second Amendment is absolutely dead no matter what, unless we at least have fully automatic weapons. That kind of technology in the hands of a government…” he said, before trailing off.

Paul countered that we use robots to dismantle bombs and nobody seems to have a problem with that. “It’s not the technology, it’s the circumstance,” Paul said.

“You may in the end be right,” Beck conceded, “but I am against it, because I don’t want to give this government any more power.”

The audio is below.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breaking: Uncle of Boston Bombers Was Married to Top CIA Official

Well, this makes things interesting. The uncle of the two suspected Boston bombers in last week’s attack, Ruslan Tsarni, was married to the daughter of former top CIA official Graham Fuller, reports MadCow morning news.

MCMN continues:
Ruslan Tsarni married the daughter of former top CIA official Graham Fuller, who spent 20 years as operations officer in Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong. In 1982 Fuller was appointed the National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia at the CIA, and in 1986, under Ronald Reagan, he became the Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, with overall responsibility for national level strategic forecasting.

At the time of their marriage, Ruslan Tsarni was known as Ruslan Tsarnaev, the same last name as his nephews Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged bombers.

It is unknown when he changed his last name to Tsarni.  

What is known is that sometime in the early 1990’s, while she was a graduate student in North Carolina, and he was in law school at Duke, Ruslan Tsarnaev met and married Samantha Ankara Fuller, the daughter of Graham and Prudence Fuller of Rockville Maryland. Her middle name suggests a reference to one of her father’s CIA postings.

The couple divorced sometime before 2004.[...] 
Graham Fuller was listed as one of the American Deep State rogues on Sibel Edmonds' State Secrets Privilege Gallery,. Edmonds explained it featured subjects of FBI investigations she became aware of during her time as an FBI translator. 
Criminal activities were being protected by claims of State Secrets, she asserted. After Attorney General John Ashcroft went all the way to the Supreme Court to muzzle her under a little-used doctrine of State Secrets, she put up twenty-one photos, with no names. 

And get this, Tsarnaev  and Fuller:
In 1995, Tsarnaev incorporated the Congress of Chechen International Organizations in Maryland, using as the address listed on incorporation documents11114 Whisperwood Ln, in Rockville Maryland, the home address of his then-father-in-law.
It is just eight miles up the Washington National Pike from the Montgomery Village home where “Uncle Ruslan” met—and apparently wowed, the press after the attack in Boston.
The Washington Post yesterday called him a "media maven," while nationally syndicated Washington Post columnist Ester Cepeda , in a piece with the headline “The Wise Words of Uncle Ruslan” opined that he was her choice for "an award for bravery in the face of adversity.”[...]Uncle Ruslan’s spy connections go far deeper than was already known, which was that he spent two years working in Kazakhstan for USAID.
But the mainstream media was lookng the other way.
Under the headline Did 'Misha' influence Tsarnaevs? In Watertown, doubts,” USA Today reported: “Misha. A new name has emerged in the Boston Marathon bombing case—one familiar to the family of the two young men accused of the atrocity and apparently of interest to the Russian and American security services as well.”
Ruslan Tsarni was the first to bring up the supposed man's supposed name. Or rather, he brought up a first name:  Misha. But it was enough. We were off to the races…

Attention all cars: Be on lookout for chubby Armenian exorcist 

Tsarni described Misha to CNN as being "chubby, a big guy, big mouth presenting himself with some kind of abilities as exorcist . . . having some part-time job in one of the stores, not married. All of the qualifications of a loser, just another big mouth.” 

According to Uncle Ruslan, Misha was the man who over a considerable period of time had radicalized Tamerlan.

It seemed strange, then, that  in contrast to his “you are there” verbal picture of the man, even with all his supposed concerns, and given his high level of education and abundant resources (Big Sky Energy was paying him in excess of $200,00 a year, according to documents filed with the SEC) Ruslan had somehow never found out just who the bad guy was. 

He never got a name, something that in spook-dom is considered something of a faux pas. Then again, no one else had either.

Worse, Tsarni's vivid description seemed to be taken from personal observation, from, in other words…real life. But that isn’t possible. Tsarni had stated he hadn’t been physically in the presence of his Boston relatives since December 2005. And Misha, if he existed, didn’t show up on the scene until 2008 at the earliest.

Still,  just a few days later, the entire family began chiming in. Misha anecdotes were flying fast & furious, and the nation’s scribblers were busy uncritically scribbling down their every word.[...]Then Uncle Ruslan made a clear mis-step.

 “An uncle of the alleged bombers claims that Misha, an Armenian convert to Islam, had a huge influence on the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  Describing him as an "Armenia exorcist, Tsarni said, “Somehow he just took his brain.”

Armenians are a deeply-rooted Christian community, which is proud of the fact that their country was the first in the world to adopt Christianity as state religion in 301 AD.

Moreover this is the week every year when they remember the Armenian Holocaust, when as many as 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered by Turkish Muslims.

In the large and close-knit Boston Armenian community, a red-bearded Armenian named Misha becoming a radicalized Muslim would stand out.

"I've never heard of him, nor has anyone that I know," Hilda Avedissian, executive director at the Armenian Cultural & Educational Centre. "For an Armenian to convert to Islam is like finding a unicorn in a field," Nerses Zurabyan, 32, an information technology director who lives in nearby Cambridge told USA Today.

The report reveals that the bomber’s Uncle, made famous for his outspoken condemnation of his nephew’s which aired repeatedly on international news networks, is a well-connected oil executive who at one point worked for a Halliburton shell company used as a front to obtain oil contracts from the Kazakh State.

Ruslon Tsarni was implicated in an investigation involving the laundering and theft of $6 billion. But everybody loves Uncle Ruslon. At least most of America’s mainstream media does.

Be sure to check out the commentary of Armenian-American attorney Mark Geragos on CNN, when he discusses the uncle and his claim that an Armenian named Misha converted  Tsarnaevs to radiacal Muslim beliefs, here.

Little Known Fact about the Older Boston Bomber

What MSM wants you to know: He boxed without a cup protector.

Via WaPo:
The first time Kendrick Ball saw Tamerlan, at a fight in Lowell three or four years ago, the boxer stood out in a way that could get someone hurt. “He had on these tight jeans and long trench coat, and a white shirt unbuttoned halfway down, and silver boots,” said Ball, who runs a boxing club in Worcester. “I thought, either he’s going to get picked on or he’s a tough . . .”

Ball watched Tamerlan box and decided it was the latter. He invited Tamerlan to spar at his club. Tamerlan accepted, but when he arrived to fight, he had no trainer and none of the gear boxers wear to protect sensitive parts.

“No headgear, no mouthpiece and no cup,” Ball said. When he offered to let Tamerlan borrow some, “He said, ‘No, no, no. I don’t need that stuff. I’m good.’ ”  
Tamerlan was an impressive fighter with a peculiar style: He kept his hands at his sides rather than up near his face to protect it. “He was cocky,” Ball said. Even pitted against a top-ranked fighter, Tamerlan refused to don protective gear until after he was spitting up blood and holding his side.