Friday, January 14, 2011

Last Call

I would have to submit that Vince McCrudden is probably not the guy I would trust to have the judgment necessary for running my hedge fund.

Vincent McCrudden, a mad-as-hell hedge fund manager from Long Island, was arrested last night for threatening to kill 47 officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

McCrudden runs a very small hedge fund called Alnbri Management, based in Melville, N.Y. He's got something of a beef with the federal government, it would seem: He filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the SEC and other regulatory agencies last year—yeah, that's $1 billion—claiming harassment. And then last month, according to government prosecutors, he started sending violent and threatening e-mails to a host of SEC, Finra, and CFTC officials with messages like, "You f****g corrupt piece of s**t! [Y]ou my friend are not getting away with this."

Can't manage your anger, can't manage a fund, ya see.   Also...bad timing on the whole "threatening government officials" thing, Vince.

Meanwhile, looks like I get to retire my Michael Steele tag for a bit.

Michael Steele just dropped out of his race for a second term as RNC chairman and threw his support to Maria Cino, who came in second place after the fourth ballot here at the GOP's winter meeting in National Harbor, MD.

"I will step aside because I think the party is ready for something different," Steele said.

I gotta say, I'm going to miss the guy.  He was comedy gold.

To a standing ovation of RNC members, Steele mournfully told the crowd, "and now I exit stage right." 

He ended his term as RNC chair as he began it:

As a cartoon character.

On the other hand, I get to break in a new tag for his replacement.

On the seventh round of balloting, the Republican National Committee elected Reince Priebus to be its next chairman.

Reince Priebus, huh.

New Tag:  Drive The All-New Reince Priebus!

A Terrible Time In Tunisia

Time to stick another flag on the global crisis board.

Map of Tunisia

Tunisia's president -- whose country has been embattled by weeks of street protests over poor living conditions and repression of rights -- has dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency, state TV said Friday.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who announced concessions to meet some grievances the day before in a nationally televised TV address, made the moves in reaction to the instability in the North African country.

Officials said the reason for the emergency declaration is to protect Tunisians and their private property. People are not allowed on the street from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

People in gatherings of three or more will be arrested or they will be fired on if they try to run away and can't be stopped.

Ben Ali also will call for parliamentary elections within six months. The government sacking comes days after the president dumped the interior minister and fired a couple of aides.

First Ivory Coast, now Tunisia.  Things are getting ugly out there in 2011.  The global recession is far from over folks, and you will see more government fall worldwide as the problem only gets larger.  MoJo's Nick Baumann has your primer on the north Africa country:

What's happening? Violent riots and protests have spread across the country over the past four weeks. Now Ben Ali's totalitarian government seems to be collapsing. (Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration official who unfortunately is rarely right about anything, thinks that if democracy can take hold in Tunisia, is could spread elsewhere in the Arab world, too.)

Why are Tunisians unhappy? Well, they don't have much freedom. But there also just aren't enough jobs. Official unemployment is 13 percent, but it's probably actually much higher. The combination of a repressive regime and a faltering economy is often bad news for the regime. Plus, the regime has diverted a lot of the country's wealth to Ben Ali's family and friends, so people are really upset about official corruption.

How did it all start? On December 19, authorities in the small, central city of Sidi Bouzid seized the produce cart that 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi was using to make a living. So Bouazizi set himself on fire. Young people in the small, central city of Sidi Bouzid rioted, and police moved to seal the city. In early January, Bouazizi died, becoming an early martyr for the cause. Brian Whitaker, the Middle East editor of the Guardian and a Tunisia expert, has a good article explaining how Bouazizi and Sidi Bouzid got the ball rolling on revolution.

The bigger picture is nearly all of North Africa is facing something of a domino effect right now, including food riots in Tunisia's neighbor Algeria, and crackdowns in Algeria's neighbor, Morocco.

There's also the possibility that WikiLeaks releasing cables showing the State Department's brutally frank assessment of the corruption of the now crumbling Ben Ali regime may have contributed to the unrest.

North Africa is in real trouble at this point, and if problems spread eastward into Libya, Egypt, and Jordan then things could get very nasty indeed.  Keep an eye on the region.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The WaPo headline:

House GOP to resume health-care repeal effort, but with more civil tone

The key paragraph:

The first debate has been about the name of the Republican bill: "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." Some Democrats want to take "killing" out of the title in deference to the Tucson victims, but Republicans have declined to change the name. 

What we have here is a failure to communicate, I guess.

Elementary, My Digital Watson

Circle your calendars for the history books as we continue to document the rise of the machines ahead of Skynet and Terminators and stuff.

The clue: It's the size of 10 refrigerators, has access to the equivalent of 200 million pages of information and knows how to answer in the form of a question.

The correct response: "What is the computer IBM developed to become a 'Jeopardy!' whiz?"

Watson, which IBM claims as a profound advance in artificial intelligence, edged out game-show champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Thursday in its first public test, a short practice round ahead of a million-dollar tournament that will be televised next month.

Later, the human contestants made jokes about the "Terminator" movies and robots from the future. Indeed, four questions into the round you had to wonder if the rise of the machines was already upon us -- in a trivial sense at least.

Watson tore through a category about female archaeologists, repeatedly activating a mechanical button before either Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter could buzz in, then nailing the questions: "What is Jericho?" "What is Crete?"

Its gentle male voice even scored a laugh when it said, "Let's finish 'Chicks Dig Me.'" 

We are so screwed.  Have generations of science fiction taught us nothing about AI, people?

In all seriousness this is a hell of a Jeopardy matchup, but I'm pulling for the humans, frankly.  I can't wait for the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy version of Watson versus Sean Connery and Burt Reynolds (hint hint, Lorne Michaels.)

Stupidinews! What A Headache Edition

WASHINGTON – Federal health regulators are limiting a key ingredient found in Vicodin, Percocet and other prescription painkillers that have been linked to thousands of cases of liver damage each year.
 Acetaminophen, which is most commonly known for being in Tylenol but appears in a wide spread of medicines, will be limited  in the future.  It is also the base for many painkillers, for example, oxycodone or codeine.  "Acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. and sends 56,000 people to the emergency room annually. About 200 of them die," the article above explains.

Alabama Blackbirds Found Dead

300 dead birds have been found in Tanner, AL.  Unlike other discoveries, these birds lost feathers, and show other indications of trauma.  There is still no evidence of what caused the event.

Scientists there will run a battery of tests to determine exactly what killed the birds, just as they've done recently, when thousands of dead birds were found in at least four other states.
 It could be a hoax.  It could be the result of the Internet broadcasting news more efficiently.  It could be a lot of things.  But the silence is making me uncomfortable.  If there is a logical explanation, I'm ready to hear it.

The Tea Party's First Scalp In 2012 Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson.  Rather than facing a promised primary challenge from the Tea Party right over the next 18 months (and especially considering the pounding she took in the state's gubernatorial race last year), she's hanging up her spurs altogether.

Kay Bailey Hutchison said today that she will not seek another term in the U.S. Senate.

"I have known since 2006 that I wouldn't seek another term," the senator said in a telephone interview. "I wanted to announce it on my own terms and in my own way."

Needless to say, the list of Republicans looking to claim the seat is, well, Texas-sized.

Contenders to fill Hutchison's seat started to emerge soon after she made her announcement.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued a written statement that said: "While my focus remains on the challenges we face here at the state level and making this upcoming session successful, I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate, and should I run, I will run with the intention of winning and continuing to serve the people of Texas just as I have done throughout my career."

Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones also issued a statement on Senate campaign letterhead just a few minutes after Hutchison spoke to The Dallas Morning News.

"I look forward to an aggressive, spirited campaign on the issues," she wrote.

Other likely Republican contenders to succeed her include Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert , state Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano , Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, Weatherford car dealer Roger Williams, and Ted Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general and candidate for state attorney general.

And you can bet with Texas Republicans having a supermajority in the state legislature, all of these candidates are going to have to fall in line with whatever tea-flavored legislation that comes down the pike.

Hutchinson won't be the last Republican senator to hang it up in 2012 either rather than face the Tea Party, and that's a shame.

Scariest Damn Poll Ever

I mentioned the debt ceiling fight in March was going to be ugly, and I also mentioned that the powers that be would never allow the Tea Party to blow up the country's sovereign debt rating.  Apparently I severely underestimated the political angle on this, because people apparently want to really, really blow up the country's sovereign debt rating.

A new poll released on Wednesday found that most Americans oppose an increase in the debt ceiling, but at the same time support few potential cuts in the federal budget.

The Ipsos/Reuters poll found that 71% of those surveyed oppose increasing the debt limit. This was true even of the half sample who were told that "not raising the debt limit would damage the US' sovereign debt rating, which is like our credit rating: it would seriously damage our credibility abroad, would make it much more difficult for us to borrow in the future, and would likely push up interest rates."

Yeah, pause and reflect time. Even when told what would happen should we default on our debt as a country, still 71% of people want to detonate our economy.  That's not even close to debatable on this being an overwhelming majority.

If I'm a Republican, I'm doing everything I can to beat Dems over the head with this poll and demand the sun, moon, and the stars in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.  They'll do it, too.

March is going to be a titanic brawl in Congress.  I guarantee it.

[UPDATE]  Felix Salmon notes that if the ceiling isn't raised, default won't be instant, but cuts will need to be made.  Coordinating all those inlays and outlays is Tim Geithner's official job at Treasury:

But maybe the smartest thing for Geithner to do would simply be to stop paying the salaries of members of Congress and their staffs. It probably wouldn’t take long, in that event, for Congress to vote Obama the debt-ceiling raise he needs.

Now there's an idea.

As Cynical As They Wanna Be

First lady Michelle Obama weighs in on the Tuscon shooting as a mother and finds a message of hope.

In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well.  The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers.  But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.

We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis.  And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us.  We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.

Ann Althouse sums up the winger response to this message of tolerance:

Shouldn't we learn to be perceptive, analytical, and aware that some of the individuals among us are, in fact, mentally sick and need something other than tolerance and wishful thinking about how good they might be? So why is the First Lady telling us to teach kids the opposite?

If you're still puzzled by such a cynical reaction as this is, this makes perfect sense if you remember wingers like to look at liberalism, with its basic tenets of tolerance, inclusiveness and togetherness, as a mental disease.  And as far as building an America that Christina Taylor Green would have been proud to have contributed to through civil service, Althouse takes a steaming dump on that notion, too.

It would make more sense to teach creationism instead of evolution than to teach these wishful lies about government since children need to learn how to be effective citizens and lulling them into passive admiration of the government undermines the democratic process. Believing or not believing in creationism, by contrast, isn't going to change what happened in the grand expanse of evolutionary time. 

The First Lady is teaching our children wishful lies about government!   Remember when Laura Bush was attacked for the same thing after 9/11?  Oh wait, didn't happen.  Wonder why.   Tolerance:  more dangerous than creationism.

Instead, we should teach our kids to focus on the differences, identify those who possess those differences as possible threats, and to keep a "critical eye" upon them. Other people aren't to be trusted, government sure as hell is not to be trusted.  Look out for Number One, just watch out you don't step in number two, as Rodney Dangerfield once said.  That of course brings up this now infamous observation about Galtism and kids from Rogers at Kung-Fu Monkey:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. 

Meanwhile, the wingers keep insisting the best way to put an end to "the climate of hate nonsense" is to attack the First Lady of the United States for her message of tolerance.

Nice guys.


Related Posts with Thumbnails