Time for 15 euro nations to throw in their cards

The cost of saving Europe is getting too high, and considering the direction the Eurocrats’ philosophy is taking, it’s better just to walk away.

One warning sign was the vehement opposition to the proles ever having a say in how their country or their continent is run.   Never mind that the Greek right wing had half the debt hidden with accounting trickery and derivatives so the public never had a say or notice that the debt was being run up that high.   They should just be stuck with the debt because the elites that want to enslave them say so.  That is the right wing thinking.

Personally, I emphatically agree with the “doctorine of odious debt” and strongly believe that it should be international law.   If somebody like a dictator runs up a huge tab without a mandate, I don’t accept that that there is any moral or ethical basis why the public should be bound by that evil collusion.

It needs to be held to situations where it is appropriate, and the banks colluding with a prior Greek government to run up a tab with no mandate, off the books, is well across the line.

Now another angle is that S & P is being condemned for threatening to downgrade even Germany and France.

S & P, Moody’s and Fitch should be condemned for not having already downgraded Germany and France.

These ratings agencies need to decide if they are in the public relations business or the ratings business.   If they are supposed to be publicists generating good buzz for everybody they should go work for Kim Kardashian and leave serious work to somebody else.

The traditional ineptitude of ratings agencies among other things makes market crashes worse as occurred in 2008.

In 2008 some seriously defective instruments that were given AAA ratings suffered serious losses.    Some of these packages of instruments were intentionally designed to fail and the banks selling them were shorting them at the same time.

Ratings should not be a rubber stamp.

But getting back to the recent story, the real news is not the threatened downgrades, but that the politicians and bureaucrats think that ratings agencies shouldn’t tell the truth because it might affect the markets.

God forbid a ray of truth might get through.

At the same time, half the financial press are writing on the impending market disaster while the other half write glowing nonsense about how the markets are certain to rise and we face eternal prosperity.  The direction that the politicians, bureaucrats and media are taking is Orwellian and I don’t like it.   Europe is regressing 80 years and the US is turning into the Republic of Americastan.

I take it the French have thrown veracity on the rubbish heap along with liberty, fraternity and equality.  The Germans have never espoused those values so I can’t accuse them of abandoning anything.

So there you have it.  If you are in favor of truth, justice and democracy you are an enemy of the Reich…er..European Union.   Framed that way, I know which side I’m on.

Footnote suggestion: start turning ratings hard instead of issuing them in inscrutable ways that look more like religion or astrology.

The European Union’s magic numbers were debt no more than 60% of GDP and deficit no more than 3%.   But that level will already cause significant debt stress.

The GDP is not the best figure to use.  As shown in the US, governments face significant resistance to raising taxes.  They also face significant resistance to reducing programs, any programs.  The result is often inertia.  That means that comparing the debt to the government budget is a more appropriate ratio.  The GDP is irrelevant unless the government can access more of it.  And which sounds more ominous, that the debt is 60% of GDP or that it is 240% of the annual budget?

But using GDP comparisons for a moment, as that is all that has been publicly developed, the idea that the 60%/3% should reflect a AAA rating is ridiculous.

The idea that a government is inherently a more reliable debtor is a dangerous misconception.   A government controls its’ own process in a way that no other debtor can.   A government can immunize itself from execution against assets and unceremoniously give you the heave ho.

Giving a government that is badly in debt a AAA rating because it is a government is incorrect.

If I were making the credit ratings I wouldn’t give a government with the 60%/3% debt ratios better than a BBB.

The US present debt and deficit? A BBB-…maybe. For any other country I’d put that in single or double B.

Have hard lines that result in automatic downgrades without debate, analysis or equivocating and it will help straighten things out.   There’s no need for a field that is mostly numbers to be all soft analysis.

Problems in handling Wikileaks and the freedom of speech

The biggest challenge that Wikileaks poses is how to handle the issue without impeding important freedoms and especially, without getting in the way of legitimate whistleblowers.
The concept of a whistleblower is inherently tied to misfeasance.   If there is no wrongdoing you aren’t a whistleblower, just a spy or a gossip.
There also needs to be a distinction made between Wikileaks and journalism.   A journalist will take a Watergate story and run whereever it leads, and should be able to, but a journalist that solicits any and all information without regard to the public interest (once famously noted by a judge to be distinct from an interested public), is just a criminal, a spy.
Wikileaks actively solicits treason.  It is a criminal organization.   It has published some things in the past that ought to have been published by somebody but that does not change the fact that the core mission of the organization is to solicit treason.    It is not a journalistic organization.
There need to be protections in the event of disclosure being in the public interest and that should be a relatively low threshold.   For that public interest to hold there should be an element of misconduct, which again should be broad to include for instance negligence,
I note that whistleblower protections in the United States are not nearly as strong as they should be, for legitimate whistleblowers.
We do not want to give governments too much control over the flow of information.  One of the deficiencies of the present Canadian government is that government funded scientists are not allowed to give interviews or otherwise disclose information to the public without first getting the approval of politicians.   The ruling party has used this occasionally to suppress research that shows their policies are misconceived.
A balance needs to be struck so that our society does not become more Orwellian than it already is, but others don’t for instance know our bargaining positions in important negotiations or our assessments of important organizations and people.   That needs to be a low test, but an objective test.   Just because somebody disagrees with a policy doesn’t make it misconduct.
I think that the first mistake that the US government made in response to the recent Wikileaks was not telling the press organizations involved that if they published anything from the leaks without prior approval that those involved would be prosecuted for espionage or other appropriate offence.  If they had transfered the same information to a foreign power they would be charged with treason, so why should they be exempt for providing the information to everybody, which is even worse?
For the foreign press that would not cooperate, they should have been told in advance that if they published without permission they would be banned from the United States, any assets in the States seized, and they would be pursued and prosecuted if possible as any other criminal or terrorist organization.
The government has put itself in a dilemma by allowing media organizations to do what Wikileaks has done without any threat of repercussions.   They should have been threatening to prosecute everybody publishing the information at the outset.
The ideal resolution would probably be to have a court structure for the press [including foreign press] analogous in some ways to the courts that consider police wiretaps.  Real journalists with stories from sources that might receive state disapproval could apply to a court for directions and approval for running certain types of stories, and if they have made the appropriate amount of disclosure to the court of what they propose to publish and argue an objective public interest in the information being released, and the court agrees [perhaps on terms or in part], then the journalist in question would be exempt from prosecution or sanctions for publication to the extent that they have been faithful in their presentation and in following any court directions, and their source protected.
Little if anything recently published by Wikileaks would pass the above test.  The public interest [as opposed to an interested public] is not concerned with curiousity or philosophical disapproval.   The public interest is in things like mis-spent or misappropriated public money, cover-ups such as the massacre of civilians or of the FDA overruling its’ own scientists when they say a drug doesn’t work, that kind of thing.  Objective misconduct.

Wikileaks criminal charge farce gets worse

Now one of the women involved in the criminal charges is claiming that the sexual relations between the two parties were voluntary.  There seems to have been some issue of a broken condom.
The other one seems to be a borderline personality stalker type, publicly and aggressively pursuing him.
In her complaint she goes on at great length about how on a few occasions the Wikileaks founder ignored her, including after the alleged rape.   She would be, I think, the first rape victim in history to complain that her attacker repeatedly ignored her.
What seems to have triggered the whole kafuffle is that the two women found out about each other.  Until then there wasn’t an issue.   The purspose of the initial police station visit apparently was to see if they could force Assange to get an STD test.
The actual charge in Sweden is apparently something that they call “sex by surprise”.   While everybody outside of Sweden seems indistinct what that means, a lot of people are saying that carries a typical fine of 5000 Kroner, about $700.   That isn’t going to cover 10% of the cost of the extradition, airfare and hearing.
If there is a lesson in all this, it is if you become rich and famous, stay away from the crazy types of the opposite sex that are inevitably going to pursue you.  If they feel jilted they may slash your tires or burn your house down or make false criminal allegations against you.   It really isn’t worth the headache.
Unless of course the woman was sent by somebody to create a problem, but then I would have expected the set up to be more tight and professional.   I think that the authorities were opportunistic in milking something that they ordinarily wouldn’t bother pursuing for all that it was worth.   Assange really doesn’t belong on the same list as people for whom $25 million rewards are offered for those allegations.   Maybe for what he has actually done, but not for the collateral attack.
Look at enough victim statements and you will often see a complainant with an agenda, where the alleged crime seems to almost be an afterthought while they blather on about something else.
I’ve half wondered if the whole thing was something concocted between Assange and his associates to give his releases more buzz.   Most of what I’ve heard about them sounds banal and none of them are top secret clearance.    Cables about people’s eating and drinking habits and petty squabbles reduces and degrades diplomacy to reality TV but a bunch of cloak and dagger nonsense makes this act of sabotage look more important [which should increase both interest and donations].

Wikileaks sets back real whistleblowers

A few good whistleblowers now and again are good for democracy.
Wikileaks on the other hand has become little more than vandalism.
People that are affected will  avoid having frank discussions about important things.  The last thing that the world needs is for communication to become even more superficial because anything committed to writing has to be so politically correct that it can’t offend anybody, i.e., devoid of content.     Communication that is both true and important would always be offensive to somebody.
Wikileaks has done some things that I see as falling within the whistleblower mandate, such as publishing information showing a US gunship mowing down unarmed civilians.   Cover-ups ought to be outed.
Indiscriminately dumping information on the other hand is just wrong.
I have to wonder if a foreign intelligence service is behind the site.   Now foreign agencies can act on information published online without having to admit if they had a hand in securing it.
The end result of publishing many documents that aren’t a smoking gun for any government misconduct is that it is going to be made a lot harder for real whistleblowers in the future.

Interesting issues in recent murder cases

Zahra Baker’s body was found reportedly dismembered, with the family being the culprits and having taken various steps to conceal the death.
The real issue no doubt is going to be, what crime they actually committed.
The defence which has been leaked out is that the girl was found dead and then was dismembered.   That is a singularly idiotic thing to do with a dead body- it can result in a murder charge where none was necessary and decomposition may prevent a valid defence from being maintained.
I can see some premise for it though- both the father and the step-mother are known fraud artists and if there is any way that they could receive, for example, social benefits, they may have wished to conceal the death in order to continue receiving benefits.  That tactic is not uncommon although it is generally employed with e.g. taking the social security cheques of the elderly.
On the other hand, the move to destroy certain evidence makes one wonder.
The delay in reporting the “disappearance” is suspect but the wrongful motivation is ambiguous.   It seems that three days before the reported disappearance, the birth mother made contact and wanted to speak to the daughter.  So they had to contrive something or fess up.
It will be an interesting case.
In the Chandra Levy case, justice was probably done although the verdict is suspect.   The only evidence tieing the suspect to the crime was an alleged confession to a cellmate.    Criminal informants have a great incentive to come up with such allegations in order to bargain with authorities and are already known to be dishonest.  Many wrongful convictions have resulted from bogus confessions, and some of the rats are very polished at making up stories to serve their own interests.   The only times when an alleged jailhouse confession should be accepted is when the informant is, apart from some act of stupidity, an otherwise impeccable citizen, or when the information passed on is not notorious and could only be known by the perpetrator (in which case you have to look in to the whereabouts of the informant and whether he has other contacts that could be guilty).
It is quite plausible that the accused was guilty given his past history, but I have my doubts that I could have agreed that it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
I suspect that this was what might be called a “compensation conviction”.   The accused had been convicted of two rapes (which probably means 20 or more performed) and only got ten years.   That’s somebody you bury in prison.  He was otherwise set to be released this year with obvious consequences.   I can’t say that I’m heartbroken that he’s going away.   It would be better though to improve sentencing provisions so that some later jury doesn’t decide to fix a mistake later by glossing over a weak case.
Bear in mind that if there is some other psycho out there that did this thing, it will be far harder to put him away for it and nobody’s looking.
In these cases that are iffy, we should always remember the Dugard case.   The facts were unusual and the police were right to not trust the stepfather at the time.  The profile of the attack, extremely brazen and in front of him, is atypical (which is likely in part why the outcome was atypical).   The first thing that one would suspect in such a case was that the claim looked ad hoc and improbable.
But the police at the time handled it more appropriately than most would, although their tunnel vision may (or may not) have cost them the opportunity to find the girl much earlier.   The police in most jurisdictions would put the suspect in a cell with a professional liar, who would inevitably claim a confession whether one was made or not in return for a lesser sentence or other privileges.    Then you get something like the Morin case in Canada.
The primary lesson of the Dugard case as I see it is, no wonder what the percentages are, wait for the evidence.  If you start creating it then you could have a wrongful conviction based on instinct and knowing that when a kid goes missing it is more often not the parents.
In some cases there may be other options.
In the Kyron Hormon case, there is a divorce action between the parents.  Proving death will be difficult.   Kidnapping is possible.  There is the interesting issue of what you do when you can probably prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there has been either murder or kidnapping but can’t prove either individually beyond a reasonable doubt, and neither is an included offence of the other.
I suspect obstruction could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
There may however be another option.
In the divorce action, Mr. Hormon can probably get an order for Ms. Harmon to produce the child and disclose his whereabouts.
If she doesn’t, the case looks strong enough to me for contempt of court.
In most jurisdictions, the court can keep a party in contempt of court in jail until they purge their contempt.
She could potentially be given, in effect, a life sentence already.

TSA, making everybody less safe

One of the things that Obama has done that most annoy me is that he’s done nothing to slow down the Bush administration’s priority  of turning America into a police state.
How long before we have soldiers at every corner asking for our papers?  It would would make us safer, wouldn’t it comrades?
Sure 911 was dramatic, but, get over it.  Sure it was 3,000 people but we probably had more immigrants than that and more babies than that arrive the same day.  That’s too bad.   The government is supposed to be looking after 300 million live people, not 3,000 dead ones.  I feel bad for them.  But we have to move on.  We can’t paralyse our society on the theoretical chance that something bad could happen.  In an open society it is always possible that something bad could happen.  But between births and immigration they’re all replaced the same day.   We don’t ban cars because 30,000-40,000 people die in them every year.  And ultimately, everybody will pass on one way or the other regardless of what we do.  Life has to be about life.
It seems that the only thing that matters anymore is preventing, not the probability, but the possibility of a major attack.
I’m concerned that activities like training all schools in lockdown procedures is counterproductive.    It creates the possibility of doing something in the mind of potential aggressors.  It affirms them as a target and raises their profile in that context.  That makes everybody less safe.
The TSA process has never caught anybody that was a threat and probably won’t.
Worse, it is likely to give people ideas.   Ideas are the true enemy here.  Leave the bad guys with tunnel vision.  We can’t protect everything.
Here’s an idea for you, for instance.   I see the article out there about a TSA agent busting some guy’s urostomy bag.   Now they are going to stay away from urostomy bags, and probably a few other things besides.   Never mind telling people that they can’t take their mouthwash on a plane.  Now every terrorist in the world knows that he can get liquids on a plane in something that looks like a passable urostomy bag.
Other published exceptions are going to get wheels turning in unfriendly minds.
These are things that probably nobody would have thought of otherwise.
Exposure to the x-rays is going to be a health issue, especially for frequent business flyers.  They would be advised to keep the number of their trips down and they will.
And the procedures do not address the main security risk at airports, baggage handlers.   Baggage handlers in many airports steal luggage or from luggage with impunity.  If they take something out, they could put something in.   The airlines hide behind policies of not paying for losses and don’t do anything, although you would think from a security standpoint that a dirty baggage handler ought to be a very high priority.    I note that one of the leads in the Lockerbie case that was never properly followed up was a break in at a baggage area.
Meanwhile, the administration continues various Bush policies that increase the probability of an attack.
Memo to Obama: start acting like a Democrat.  You’re more like Bush than Clinton and not in the same league as Carter.

Charging Amanda Knox with slander??

The more the Italian authorities do on this Knox trial, the more they make the girl look innocent.
When you’ve got somebody sentenced to life for murder, you don’t pursue them for slander, jay-walking, etc.   It’s malicious and a waste of public money.
If on the other hand the whole purpose was always to have a sensationalist story to take the public eye off the ruling party’s “bonga bonga” scandal and stories about Berlusconi pursuing underage girls, then it makes perfect sense.
The prosecution’s whole premise was unnecessarily preposterous and I have no doubt, let alone a reasonable one, that the storyline constructed by the prosecution was only intended to be sensationalist because it sure couldn’t be true.
It is wildly implausible that the police could get anybody to confess to such a preposterous story without extreme coercion and quite apart from the issue of her innocence of any involvement, on which I have no opinion, I believe that Amanda Knox’s confession was coerced and more likely than not she was beaten or physically intimidated as part of that.
Again, it is the Italians’ whole conduct in this matter that suggests to me a lack of faith in their case.   If you have faith in your case you don’t have to try to prejudice the trier of fact with sensationalist nonsense and you certainly don’t engage in a side attack on the defendant thats presumed only function is to deplete the resources of the defendant of resources for appeal and independent investigation.
If the state is in the right, why are they acting so guilty?