Police acting badly

Recently in South Dakota, one of our officers was shot at by a Denver cop. On considerationg, it certainly appears that many large-city police forces are essentially counter-insurgency operations (COIN) without the screening, manpower, seriousness, or training to do the job. So it’s not surprising that like other underfunded, understaffed, undermanaged COIN agencies (say, the Baghdad Police Department), I wouldn’t trust them with my wallet:

Philly police accused of looting stores after dismantling video cameras
Philadelphia police dismantled several video cameras as they raided a bodega looking for tiny ziplock bags.

Yes, the same plastic baggies you can buy in any Walgreen’s to divide your vitamins into daily doses. Philly police consider the bags drug paraphernalia.

Obviously, things have changed in the City of Brotherly Love since our nation’s forefathers signed the Constitution in Independence Hall in 1787.

During the raid, police cut the chords of several video surveillance cameras in the store.

Then, once the cameras were not functioning, police proceeded to loot almost $10,000 in cash as well as several cartons of cigarettes, bodega owner Jose Duran told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Fortunately, science offers a way out. In the same way that evidence-based medicine makes up for superstitious doctors, widespread and effortless sureveillence will increase the ability of the citizenry to monitor their police forces. This will naturally lead to an adjustment, as many police tactics that have long been acceptable in large cities (such as theft) lead to terminated careers, and laws will have to adjust to accommodate illegal police tactics that actually do work.

Cancer victims or Wall Street bankers?

Obama’s campaign fundraisers at Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Citi seriously harmed the world economy through their greed, recklessness, and arrogance.

Cancer, neuropathy, and victims of other debilitating diseases live in constant pain.

Obama takes serious political risks to help one of these classes. Care to guess which?

More than 100,000 questions were submitted, with the idea Obama would answer those that were most popular. But after 3.6 million votes were cast, one of the top questions turned out to be a query on whether legalizing marijuana might stimulate the economy by allowing the government to regulate and tax the drug.

“I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said in the session in the East Room, drawing a laugh from his live audience, which included teachers, nurses and small-business people. “The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow the economy

Editorials in favor of the legalization of marijuana recently appeared in Time and The Economist. However, Obama is too busy mocking cancer victims and bailing out his Wall Street friends to do much about it.

Update: On Twitter, John Robb notes that Obama is using “special entities” to avoid complying with Congress’s laws regarding bailouts. No such innovation when it comes to providing pain relief to those with terminal diseases.

Obama pretends to be tough

Politico has a quote little piece about how Barack Obama is pretending to stand tough against Wall Street’s raid on the treasury.

Of course, the only reason Wall Street is actually raiding the Treasury is because of Obama and Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner.

Obama has already spent tens of billions on corporate welfare on his favorite banks and other financial institutions, such as Citi and Goldman Sachs, all while every week sees the federal government seize local and regional banks.

Citi and Goldman Sachs have enough money to spend on Washington lobbyists, and butter up the Obama administration.  More honest bankers do not.

Bailing out Citi

When people say that Geithner’s plan is needed or that mark-to-market is “unfair” because the banks have assets that they have to price at $0, they are telling untruths.  This may be because they wish to exaggerate for rhetorical effect, are ignorant, or else are lying.  Geither’s plan and the rollback of mark-to-market transparency both exist because banks bought assets at bubble-era prices, and but they can no longer sell them at bubble-era prices.

Tim Geithner is trying to change this. 

. Despite bank and Administration smoke-blowing to the contrary, the problem with the so-called toxic assets on bank balance sheets is NOT that they cannot be priced, but that banks do not like the prices on offer from willing buyers. We have read anecdotes suggesting that the gap is as big as bank valuation 90-95 cents on the dollar versus market prices of 30 cents, but the typical example is bank holding price of 80 cents versus market of 30 cents.

So let us repeat, the purpose of this program is NOT price discovery, and any claim along those lines is a lie. The purpose is to keep the banks from recognizing losses that already exist, by reversing them via unloading the paper at a fictitious high price and dumping the loss on the taxpayer.

via naked capitalism: Treasury Trying to Defend Bank Gaming of Public-Private Partnership.

With our corrupt politicians serving zombie banks, it’s no wonder the top three banks in the world are now Chinese.

Heads, the banks win, you lose. Tails, the banks win, you lose.

This is how Geithner’s awful plan works:

Consider an asset that has a 50-50 chance of being worth either zero or $200 in a year’s time. The average “value” of the asset is $100. Ignoring interest, this is what the asset would sell for in a competitive market. It is what the asset is “worth.” Under the plan by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the government would provide about 92 percent of the money to buy the asset but would stand to receive only 50 percent of any gains, and would absorb almost all of the losses. Some partnership!

Assume that one of the public-private partnerships the Treasury has promised to create is willing to pay $150 for the asset. That’s 50 percent more than its true value, and the bank is more than happy to sell. So the private partner puts up $12, and the government supplies the rest — $12 in “equity” plus $126 in the form of a guaranteed loan.

If, in a year’s time, it turns out that the true value of the asset is zero, the private partner loses the $12, and the government loses $138. If the true value is $200, the government and the private partner split the $74 that’s left over after paying back the $126 loan. In that rosy scenario, the private partner more than triples his $12 investment. But the taxpayer, having risked $138, gains a mere $37.

Even in an imperfect market, one shouldn’t confuse the value of an asset with the value of the upside option on that asset.

(Courtesy of the New York Times.)

Tim Geithner is not a confident Secretary of the Treasury. Timothy Geithner should step down.

Another Gift Debacle

What Obama campaign contributor is running the White House protocol office, how much did he or she raise, and to what extent does Obama place that loyalty over competence?

Barack Obama’s gift for the Queen: an iPod, your Majesty :: Toby Harnden
Barack Obama met the Queen at Buckingham Palace today and gave her a gift of an iPod loaded with video footage and photographs of her 2007 United States visit to Richmond, Jamestown and Williamsburg in Virginia. In return, the Queen gave the President a silver framed signed photograph of herself and the Duke of Edinburgh – apparently a standard present for visiting dignitaries.

It is believed the Queen already has an iPod, a 6GB silver Mini version she is said to have bought in 2005 at the suggestion of Prince Andrew.

Obama previously gave the British Prime Minister a gift box of DVDs that don’t play great in Great Britain.

U.S.: Senator Stevens is Innocent

Having followed the case, the only thing that surprises me is that Attorney General Holder took the step (which Bush’s A.G. never did) of publicly exposing the prosecutorial ring of corruption.

U.S. Plans to Drop Case Against Former Senator From Alaska – NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department moved on Wednesday morning to drop all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who narrowly lost his seat last year shortly after being convicted on seven felony counts of ethics violations.

In a stunning development, Justice Department lawyers told a federal court that they had discovered a new instance of prosecutorial misconduct in the case and asked that the convictions be voided. There would be no new trial in the case.

Sen. Stevens was just one of several high-profile Republicans who were prosecuted for purely political reasons during the Bush Presidency.