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.


A simple solution to fraudulent foreclosures

It seems that banks and robosigners are now foreclosing homes of people that did not even have mortgages with them:
This is really easy to fix.
Make statutory minimum damages of $100,000 and minimum legal costs award of $20,000 for an incorrect foreclosure application, or for an incorrect entry on the credit rating of a person due to a falsely alleged mortgage default.   Make this absolute liability with no defence if the foreclosure is in fact incorrect.
Lawyers will then take these claims on contingency and the problem will go away.
For reasons that escape me, bank officials committing frauds on behalf of banks and government officials committing frauds on behalf of governments are almost never charged criminally.  In my view their station is an aggravating, not a mitigating factor, and they should generally receive the maximum sentence.   Whether they are stealing for their own benefit or not is irrelevent.
And have not just the banks, also the lawyers working for them, as potentially eligible defendants although  on a different standard [clients lie to and mislead lawyers all the time, you can’t justify absolute liability].   Lawyers are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure that their clients are not misleading the court, and in cases like mortgages where everything should be well documented, it should be quite easy to verify whether there is an arguable claim or not.

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].

More blows for continental law

Some guy that used to work for Picasso and his wife it turns out was given a couple of hundred paintings, sketches, etc.
A painter isn’t that much different in character from an electrician.   And really, how often did he really need his house rewired?
Heirs that have done nothing with themselves are almost invariably greedy with a sense of entitlement, and when the electrician went to authenticate his property, the heirs had it seized and filed a fraudulent police complaint.
Picasso’s work in my view is infantile crap, but that is a side issue.  No doubt that is why he made something over 20,000 works in his time.
The works in question are supposedly from the period 1900-1932, some 40 years before changing hands, yet they were not catelogued.   That probably means that Picasso himself did not think of them as his best work.   Said heirs had apparently never laid eyes on them and Picasso
There was no complaint by either Picasso or his wife that anything was missing.
So now, Picasso and his wife are deceased and the greedy heirs are looking to squeeze a bit more out of his legacy, on the grounds that Picasso couldn’t have possibly befriended someone of lesser social status.
Considering that most painters spend at least some time in the slums, I doubt if Picasso shared any of his family’s elitist viewpoint.
That doesn’t mean that the works weren’t stolen, but I have huges doubts.  Among other things it wouldn’t make any sense for a thief to out himself.
There is also no way to settle the issue.  The only testimony that could settle the matter is permanently unavailable.   The lack of any complaint in the intervening 40 years, and that Picasso kept the works in a manner that suggests he didnt’ think much of them, strongly suggests no wrongdoing.
The legal action can be little more than a bully action, using the power of the state to help a favored elite.  In the absence of an uncoerced confession on the part of the electrician, or new historical revelations, it is impossible to see how he could be deprived of the paintings on the merits.
In other news, the Wikileaks boss was accused of rape shortly after announcing his intentions to release American diplomatic documents and a couple of days after releasing them, he has vaulted to Interpol’s wanted list, with a red notice.
The subtext is rather obvious.   Charge him with espionage, which he is irrefutably guilty of, and seek extradition on that basis.   And if all else fails there’s black ops.
Initially the Swedish charges were dropped and the officials plainly didn’t believe them.   The timing is suspect.  One of the allegations grew mysteriously from sexual harassment to rape, without explanation.  Unless the evidence is overwhelming any conviction will make him…whatever you call somebody that is like a martyr but not dead.

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.

Who is Viktor Bout?

There is this arms dealer, who has worked repeatedly for the US in the past in gray areas, that for some reason was arrested in Thailand on a warrant from the US.
The only thing that he is accused of that is relevant to the US is that he took a deal from people alleging to be from FARC but who were in fact US agents.   That is straightforward entrapment and dubious for other reasons.   Turning anybody that acts against perceived US interests anywhere in the world into a criminal is a dangerous, Bush-like precedent and that policy ought to be squashed.
The US has a wink-wink, nudge-nudge relationship with the Columbian authorities, who are tied to paramilitaries that produce 75% of the country’s cocaine output, and who with the paramilitaries carry on assassinations and massacres.   While there are some busts from time to time for appearances the essence of the situation is that US dollars are employed to protect the interests of the same groups in charge of the drug trade.   Labelling those opposed to the Columbian regime as terrorist organizations is not terribly constructive when the US backed government is worse.   FARC are pondscum who engineer terrorist acts and kidnappings but that is in the context that it is hard to oppose a monster without becoming one.    Columbia is a country in which the US ought to be backing some insurgency with strings attached.
So the thing that Mr. Bout is accused of is something that was entirely an artifact of US agents.   He didn’t actually commit any act that would give the US jurisdiction and he was arrested in Thailand, in which country he was not accused of any crime.
Mr. Bout is a mercenary and himself pondscum, no question about that.  He’ll work with absolutely anybody that wants access to weapons and has ties to Russia as well as the United States.
There is an old saying that “hard cases make bad law”.   It is difficult to have any sympathy for Mr. Bout.   All the same it is obvious that what he is accused of has nothing to do with why the US wants him.
The US seems to be developing a Spain like vision of the world, with universal jurisdiction to grab anybody they want who is generically a bad person and put him on trial in a US court.    Universal jurisdiction is tantamount to declaring universal sovereignity.   A power to scoop up anybody in the world on the thinnest of premises and put them on trial must not be encouraged.
Probably the world would be a better place without Mr. Bout.  That’s why there’s “black ops”.   Black ops paradoxically protect the law.  Contorting the law on the record in a way that allows you to get at one problem person that has been expertly maneuvering through the cracks has the potential to affect the rights of everybody and starts a slippery slope in which law stops being about the law and starts being about the ends justifying the means.  The courts shouldn’t be contaminated with that kind of problem.   That the real reason for putting Mr. Bout out of commission isn’t disclosed- obviously if they set up an entrapment sting the government already decided he was a problem- is distasteful.   He’s really on trial for something that may not ever be in evidence.
Now that they have him in custody in the US, the authorities have no good options.   If the court glosses over the abuse of process and convicts him we lose and if he has to be released we also lose.   Either outcome damages US credibility.
The US used to be able to handle situations like this, but we now know that the CIA looks on the idea of field operatives as passe, keeping something like 90% of employees in the US, where they are presumably waiting for Bin Laden’s location to come in over the fax machine.