Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Give me everything you have

That's what the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said to DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based web hosting company. DOJ has asked the company for more than 1.3 million IP addresses to identify visitors to a website set up to coordinate protests on Inauguration Day .

The company argues that DOJ's search warrant is not only dealing with everything in relation to the website but also tons of data about people who visited it. The warrant is also asking for emails between the site’s organizers and people interested in attending the protests, any deleted messages and files, as well as subscriber information — such as names and addresses — and unpublished photos and blog posts that are stored in the site’s database.

Have you ever seen a white moose?

Want some fruitcake?

The above photo is of a fruitcake that is over 100 years-old. It was found in Antarctica, the coldest, windiest, and driest place on Earth, in a hut used by a British explorer during an expedition in the early 1900s. The finders claim that the cake, which was wrapped in paper and the remains of a tin, is in "excellent condition," and looks and smells almost edible.

Is this the right thing to do?

Supposedly antifascist protesters tore down a Confederate statue in Durham, NC. Did they not break the law by destroying government property?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why would you get a margin loan?

Stock brokers have been pushing securities based loans (margin loans) for quite some time. And they've been succeeding. Margin debt went from $153 billion in January 1999 to $278.5 billion by March of 2000. It may be of interest that the dot.com bust started soon after. The loans are being pushed to cover a wide range of activities - mortgage funding, tax liabilities, weddings, graduations, to buy more securities, vacations. They differ in a very important ways from your typical bank loan. Each month’s interest is added to the loan balance, thus compounding the interest expense. Borrowers have no protection from actions taken by broker-dealers to preserve their collateral. Loan accounts are susceptible to forced liquidation at unfavorable prices because, as the value of the securities declines, the borrower must either deposit additional collateral (which he often does not have) or sell multiples of the amount of his margin call. Furthermore, the broker can effect these sales without contacting or seeking the permission of the borrower. The broker can even choose unilaterally which securities it wishes to sell. 

So, why are margin loans now at a record high of over a half-billion dollars?

A Real Storm

Thoughts on Confederate Monuments

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Who is to blame? Why did it happen?

When someone is killed by the police, the question of who to blame is always raised. Never is the question of why it happened asked. Yet, if there is a plane crash, the TSA does ask the why question and conducts a very thorough investigation. The investigations ares so effective that for the last several years, the death rate from crashes of American commercial planes has been zero. Whereas, police officers in the United States now kill about 1,000 people and wound more than 50,000 every year.

Many of these killings happen during a routine traffic stop. A warrant is not required to search a car; the search efforts often trigger a confrontation. And there are many routine traffic stops. The Bureau of Justice says that about 26 million Americans were pulled over by police officers in 2011 alone — that’s over 10 percent of the population aged 16 and older. Of course, because of racial bias, a disproportionate number of those people are minorities.

Which will strike first?

Keeping the board in the loop

The Federal Reserve thinks that a bank's board is wasting time on regulatory issues, which distract the board from guiding bank strategy and adopting effective governance at their institutions. Now, Fed examiners report all regulatory matters requiring corrective action to a bank’s board as well as its senior management. The Fed wants to leave it to senior management to keep the institution’s board apprised of its efforts and its progress to remediate matters requiring attention.

The board of directors would still be responsible for holding senior management accountable for fixing supervisory flaws. This seems strange to me as who guarantees that management will tell the board.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


That stands for Foreign Military Training. Since 9/11, we have spent more than $250 billion training foreign military and police personnel in a variety of programs, such as International Military Education Training (IMET) and CTFP (Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program). Year after year, we train 200,000, from 154 countries, of these soldiers and security officers. 

Sometimes the training doesn't work out too well. According to official U.S. government documents, at least 17 high-ranking foreigners -- including five generals -- trained through IMET between 1985 and 2010 were later accused and in some cases convicted of criminal and human rights abuses. An open-source study by the non-profit Center for International Policy found another 33 U.S.-trained foreign military officers who later committed human rights abuses. 

There have been 275 military-backed coups worldwide between 1970 and 2009. In 165 (60%) of them, members of that country’s armed forces had received some IMET training the year before the coup. They succeeded in overthrowing their governments in 72 (43%) of the 165 coup attempts.

“There are no standard guidelines for determining the goals of [counter-terrorism] security assistance programs, particularly partner capacity-building training programs, or for assessing how these programs fit into broader U.S. foreign policy objectives,” reads a 2016 Center for a New American Security report. “And there are few metrics for measuring the effectiveness of these programs once they are being implemented.”


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

One way of making a yuan

A yuan is China's dollar. It's worth about fifteen cents. The women I'll be talking about were paid 200 yuan ($30) a day for helping collect debts or trying to entice people to move. They were not kids, some were as old as 70. There were more than 30 in what was actually a gang. They've been working together for the past four years. 

They did not do their job in what would be considered the usual way. Basically, they terrorized people into paying debts by cursing, spitting, beating and even stripping off and grabbing their victim’s genitals. Before actually confronting the debtor, they would harass them by using megaphones for days. When they confronted the victim, they would tear off the clothes of female victims and strip off their own clothes before confronting the men, apparently to suggest that they had been sexually assaulted. The police did eventually act and many of them went to jail for as many as eleven years.

Ten tasks to straighten out the country

Andrew Bacevich thinks we need massive change. Here are his suggestions as to what those changes should be:

  • First, abolish the Electoral College. Doing so will preclude any further occurrence of the circumstances that twice in recent decades cast doubt on the outcome of national elections and thereby did far more than any foreign interference to undermine the legitimacy of American politics.
  • Second, rollback gerrymandering. Doing so will help restore competitive elections and make incumbency more tenuous.
  • Third, limit the impact of corporate money on elections at all levels, if need be by amending the Constitution.
  • Fourth, mandate a balanced federal budget, thereby demolishing the pretense that Americans need not choose between guns and butter.
  • Fifth, implement a program of national service, thereby eliminating the All-Volunteer military and restoring the tradition of the citizen-soldier. Doing so will help close the gap between the military and society and enrich the prevailing conception of citizenship. It might even encourage members of Congress to think twice before signing off on wars that the commander-in-chief wants to fight.
  • Sixth, enact tax policies that will promote greater income equality.
  • Seventh, increase public funding for public higher education, thereby ensuring that college remains an option for those who are not well-to-do.
  • Eighth, beyond mere “job” creation, attend to the growing challenges of providing meaningful work -- employment that is both rewarding and reasonably remunerative -- for those without advanced STEM degrees.
  • Ninth, end the thumb-twiddling on climate change and start treating it as the first-order national security priority that it is.
  • Tenth, absent evident progress on the above, create a new party system, breaking the current duopoly in which Republicans and Democrats tacitly collaborate to dictate the policy agenda and restrict the range of policy options deemed permissible.
What do you think? Do you like any of them? I like all but item 4. Perhaps, item 10 is the most important.

What do you make of these quotes?

"So if you compare Facebook and Twitter, which seem pretty cool, to electricity or the internal combustion engine, or the airplane, it’s just not that important.” by Neel Kashkari, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

“The things at which Google and its peers excel, from Internet search to mobile software, are changing how we work, play and communicate, yet have had little discernible macroeconomic impact. Productivity—the goods and services a worker produces in an hour—grew just 0.4% per year over the past five years…” by Greg Ip, reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Courtesy of Wall Street on Parade.

Women were better programmers than men

That was my experience in the forty-one years I worked in the software business. They had the kind of mind and work style necessary to solve the problems of programming. In fact, it's likely that Ada Lovelace had a lot to do with the work of Charles Babbage, who played a large part in creating the computer. And, of course, Grace Hopper was very instrumental in creating COBOL, the first computer language that could be used on a variety of computers. 

I dealt with a fair number of woman, worked for some and worked with some woman executives. I saw no difference in their management skills than in the men I worked with and for.

The last Ho Jo's restaurant