Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for November, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on November 30, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Walker edges ever closer to indictment

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2012

(Image of convicted Scott Walker aide Timothy Russell from Wisconsin State Journal)

Steve Schultze of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, via Giles Goat Boy at DK:

Timothy D. Russell, a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzling more that $21,000 from a nonprofit group that raised money for veterans.

Prosecutors charged Russell, 49, in January with stealing from a nonprofit that Walker assigned him to lead to raise funds for veterans and the annual Operation Freedom picnic the governor hosted while he was Milwaukee County executive.

Russell also was charged with stealing smaller sums from campaigns of two Milwaukee County Board candidates. Those counts were dismissed as a part of a plea bargain, though Russell acknowledged he had committed those thefts, as well.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf said prosecutors will recommend a prison term of up to 2 ½ years followed by 2 ½ years of extended supervision…

it was revealed in another case that he played a role in setting up a secret computer system in the county executive’s offices that was used for campaign work.

Dee Hall, Wisconsin State Journal:

The governor on Monday said he is “absolutely” confident he is not a target of the investigation.

Posted in corruption, crimes, Republicans acting badly | 6 Comments »

Debt burden continues to decline under profligate Democrats

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2012

First, household debt:

(Image from Quartz, via Barry Ritholtz)

Now, that’s pretty easy. If the bank forecloses on your house, your debt is extinguished. This is not really the kind of debt decline we’d like to see. But actually the federal deficit has been falling since the end of the recession.

(image from FRED)

So, yes, at 8.6% of GDP as of 2011, the deficit is too high. As more people go back to work, the payroll tax holiday goes away, and the wealthy are cajoled into paying a little more in taxes, the deficit should drop swiftly… it’s already down from the 10.1% of GDP achieved by Dubya Bush in fiscal year 2009 (ending in October 2009, and therefore preceding almost all of the stimulus spending, contrary to what James “Dow 36000” Glassman thinks, only 22%–$33B– had been spent, most in the form of a special payment to Social Security recipients).

The magic number is about 3% of GDP. As long as the deficit remains under that limit, the debt burden will not rise, since it will be within population + productivity growth. Notice which presidents achieved that level of deficit or better.

Posted in deficit, Democrat-bashing, taxes | 5 Comments »

Definitely on my “to read” list

Posted by Charles II on November 28, 2012

Via Barry Ritholtz, a book by Aaron James on why some people are, well, irritating:

They aren’t mere jerks, and they aren’t rapists or murderers. Rather, James writes, a–holes populate the vast moral middle ground between the two. The true a–hole, James writes, “is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people.” He is narcissistic, self-absorbed, impolite, and permanently thoughtless to those around him—and it is almost always a him—nearly to the point of sociopathy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Hermitage, GT Group, and offshore tax havens

Posted by Charles II on November 28, 2012

A huge fraud, $230M, was committed in Russia against the Hermitage group. Jerome Taylor, The Independent:

What [auditor Sergei] Magnitsky uncovered was as follows. In late 2007 Russian police raided the offices of Hermitage Capital Management, a multi-billion pound investment fund set up by the British businessman Bill Browder, ostensibly looking for information on an investor. During that raid company seals and corporate certificates were taken into evidence. Over the following months those seals were used, with the complicity of corrupt court and tax officials, to transfer ownership of a Hermitage subsidiary and apply for a tax rebate. On December 24th 2007, tax officials signed off on a 5.4 billion rouble ($230m) rebate. The money was wired to Universal Savings Bank, a little known bank that was quickly liquidated following the transfer.

The Russian police admit that the crime took place but they have pinned the blame on a retired sawmill worker, a burglar and two others who died suddenly in the immediate months following the fraud.

Russia’s unwillingness to prosecute the real perpetrators of the scam has not stopped Mr Browder from using his own tenacity, resources and a team of disaffected Russian business experts to uncover new details through their own investigations. The results are published regularly on the website, a prominent gathering point for Russians who are angered by corruption in their homeland.

Today, Jerome Taylor and Cahal Milmo report that another witness has died suddenly:

A Russian supergrass who was helping Swiss prosecutors uncover a multi-million pound money laundering scheme used by corrupt Russian officials has died in mysterious circumstances outside his Surrey home, The Independent can reveal.

Alexander Perepilichnyy, a wealthy businessman who sought sanctuary in Britain three years ago after falling out with a powerful crime syndicate, collapsed outside his mansion on a luxury private estate on the outskirts of Weybridge. He was 44-years-old and was in seemingly good health.

The Independent has learned that Mr Perepilichnyy was a key witness against the “Klyuev Group”, an opaque network of corrupt Russian officials and underworld figures implicated in a series of multi-million pound tax frauds and the death in custody of the whistle-blowing Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. He is the fourth person to be linked to the scandal who has died suddenly.

One of the companies involved in the scandal was set up by Geoffrey Taylor/GT Group (the original article, from Barrons, is here, but most of it is behind a paywall):

The business magazine Barron’s reported that late last month documents emerged out of London that linked a shell company called Bristoll Export, registered in New Zealand by GT Group, to a scandal that some commentators claim has the potential to be Russia’s Watergate.

It centres on Russia’s largest tax fraud, which occurred on Christmas Eve, 2007, when Moscow tax officials approved a same-day refund of $US230 million to a gang masquerading as representatives of Hermitage Capital, once the largest portfolio investor in Russia.

The money was funnelled through accounts at Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse via a series of shell companies, one of which was allegedly Bristoll Export.

One of our posters, X, has drawn attention to a post over on by Richard Smith on Naked Capitalism that discusses how the GT Group is involved in half of the shell companies unearthed by the Guardian in its expose on offshore havens, which I mentioned a couple of days ago (here and here).

My question is what does it mean? Creating these shell companies is legal. If I suddenly had a brainstorm and wanted to incorporate in a hurry, I might use one. They are just tools. Knocking out a busy beaver like Geoff Taylor might inconvenience the crime figures, arms smugglers, and former Massachusetts governors/presidential candidates who use these tools, but someone else would take their place very quickly. What would seriously inconvenience these people would be a requirement that companies actually follow the rules of incorporation, like for example, having one person serve as the head of no more than, say, half a dozen companies, that the companies have annual meetings and file annual reports. Even so, there are a lot of legitimate businesses that might scream about that (don’t ask me to explain, but there are small businessmen who have complex business structures to protect themselves from liability).

This is one of those situations which excites the conspiratorially-minded, since it’s very likely that the owners of these shell companies include arms smugglers, Russian mafia, porn site operators, offshore poker sites, drug cartels, and the CIA. But that’s like saying that burglars and locksmiths both have lockpicks.

Posted in corruption, crimes, taxes | 2 Comments »

The Kool-Aid wears off

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2012

Via Greg Sargent, Bruce Bartlett on what it is to realize that being a Republican = being wrong:

After careful research along these lines, I came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s. Previously, I had thought the opposite. But facts were facts and there was no denying my conclusion.

I finished the book just as the economy was collapsing in the fall of 2008. This created another intellectual crisis for me. Having just finished a careful study of the 1930s, it was immediately obvious to me that the economy was suffering from the very same problem, a lack of aggregate demand. We needed Keynesian policies again, which completely ruined my nice rise-and-fall thesis. Keynesian ideas had arisen from the intellectual grave.

On the plus side, I think I had a very clear understanding of the economic crisis from day one. I even wrote another op-ed for the New York Times in December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman…

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right. Some have been known to pass me in silence at the supermarket or even to cross the street when they see me coming. People who were as close to me as brothers and sisters have disowned me.

Paul Krugman responds

Posted in Good Things, Republicans | 1 Comment »

China in a bull shop

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2012

Once again on my China-is-not-a-benign-continental-power rant….from Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian:

It took just one little map to create a regional diplomatic dispute.

The map, in China’s newly designed passport, claims ownership of the entire South China Sea – parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia – as well as disputed areas on the China-India border and two Taiwanese tourist destinations.

The Philippines, Vietnam, India and Taiwan have all vehemently protested against the new microchip-equipped passport, which essentially forces neighbouring countries to validate China’s position on contested regions.

Vietnam and the Philippines lodged formal complaints last week with Chinese embassies in Hanoi and Manila, respectively. India’s external affairs minister, Salman Khursid, called the map “unacceptable”.

It’s as if the US did a map with the Jamaica, Iraq, and, oh, say, France as US territories. Would not make the locals happy. And would suggest that the US is even more arrogant than it actually is.

None of this would be of much moment if the US were stable or if the nations of the South China Sea had developed to the point of being capable of mutual self-defense. But China is behaving recklessly. Evidently the lessons of the generation that suffered in war to achieve national independence have been lost, and a narcissistic generation, grasping for power, has emerged. We should know. We have been there before.

Posted in abuse of power, China, impunity, wrong way to go about it | 18 Comments »

Adventure Time: Hamlet as rendered by Ryan North

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2012

(Image from TVTropes)

From Allison Flood, The Guardian:

A choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet featuring jokes, ghosts and the previously unseen pirate fight scene, has raised more than six times its goal on Kickstarter in less than a week.

Ryan North, a Canadian comic book writer, launched his appeal on 21 November. In three-and-a-half hours it had raised its goal of $20,000 (£12,500), and today is at almost $150,000 and counting. His version of Hamlet will be called To Be Or Not To Be, and will be an illustrated, chooseable-path adventure story.

In this strange age, one of the good things to emerge is the entrepreneurship that Kickstarter aims to nurture. For a few dollars, you can buy into a venture ranging from an RFID-proof card caddy to dice rings and a silicone baking mat.

Ryan North wants to re-write Hamlet in accessible language, which one can experience from the viewpoint of various characters. While I don’t think he gets the concept of venture capital (investor rewards seem to be mostly psychic), it sounds like a product I would buy… and think would be a blockbuster as as a video game.

Posted in Just for fun | Comments Off on Adventure Time: Hamlet as rendered by Ryan North

The Voting Rights Act is Obsolete in Colorblind America

Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2012

Dara Kam and John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post:

A new Florida law that contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters, former GOP officials and current GOP consultants have told The Palm Beach Post.

Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says …“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” … “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

The GOP will say that they wanted to exclude Democrats and didn’t care what color of skin they had, that they’re criminals but not racist crininals

I’ll give odds that white Democratic precincts didn’t have lines anywhere near as long as African American or (non-Cuban) Hispanic ones.

(oh… the title of the post is ironic, in case that wasn’t clear)

Posted in 2012, election theft | 3 Comments »

Monday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 26, 2012

The best news I’ve heard in the past two weeks, courtesy of co-blogger Charles:

A leaked document reveals that the UK plans to impose its own version of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) on the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, as well as its overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands.

Fatca, which will come into force in the middle of next year, requires foreign banks to report American account holders to the US Inland Revenue Service. The draft UK equivalent, seen by the magazine International Tax Review, will require British tax havens to make similar disclosures about UK account holders to UK tax authorities.

— Maybe the planned tax-haven crackdowns will catch some of these Richie Rich tax scofflaws, who not coincidentally are the persons behind the deficit hysteria movement:

The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies’ tax bills.

The CEOs are part of a campaign run by the Peter Peterson-backed Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, which plans to spend at least $30 million pushing for a deficit reduction deal in the lame-duck session and beyond.

— Life’s little ironies: The parts of the US that use the most Food Stamps, that government program so reviled by conservative Republican guys like Allen Quist, are among the most heavily Republican:

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said in May that he’d written off votes from 47 percent of Americans who are collecting government aid. Turns out many of them are part of his political base.

Seventy percent of counties with the fastest-growth in food-stamp aid during the last four years voted for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. They include Republican strongholds like King County, Texas, which in 2008 backed Republican John McCain by 92.6 percent, his largest share in the nation; and fast-growing Douglas County, Colorado.

The Week magazine lists three possible reasons why “liberal” is no longer a dirty word. One reason not mentioned: The Occupy movement, which was the first serious and successful effort to at least slow down the slickly-oiled deficit-scold juggernaut and which has branched out to effective debt relief as well as effective hurricane relief.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

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