Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ethics and the Science of Cutting Costs

With the cuts that are coming at the state and local levels, can you blame them for doing this?
Faced with painful choices about who will suffer most from looming budget cuts, Alexandria officials have taken the unusual step of paying a professional ethicist to help them grapple with the moral issues involved.

Just a few of the vexing decisions his advice helped Alexandria policymakers confront in recent weeks: They took apartments being built for the mentally ill and temporarily turned them into housing for the disabled. They cut a parenting counselor for jailed minors with kids but preserved aid for belligerent preschoolers. They scaled back drug prevention but kept the methadone pills available to ease the cravings of withdrawal.

"It is very uncomfortable to admit you're going to have to say no. It's very uncomfortable to make decisions that, quite frankly, are going to make some people's lives go worse," said Michael A. Gillette, an ethicist who helped mental health officials in Alexandria write guidelines for prioritizing assistance when there's not enough money to go around. At the urging of top city officials, Gillette also pushed more than 100 other senior and mid-level managers to wrestle with the ethics of shrinking government.
It's hard to conceive of a government bureaucrat taking the necessary steps to formulate an ethical approach to reducing costs, staff and open positions. How do you maintain your ethics while acknowledging that someone who can least afford to be "downsized" is actually the only person who should be let go because of their skill set or the future needs of the department?

The government has been great about hiring veterans and the disabled, and no reasonable person could oppose that policy--those who defend us and those with great need, I have no quarrel moving them to the front of any line. Well, what if you have a perfectly healthy, single, well-educated person in your department who has all of the technical skills necessary for the future of your agency? Do you keep that person and let a disabled veteran with a family who is older or has fewer skill sets? How do you wrestle with that?

The city of Alexandria went to an ethicist. What a burden that must be for them. Many, many good people are faced with awful, no-win choices ahead.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ecuador Moves Towards Economic Isolation

It's probably not a huge story when a poor South American country defaults on its foreign debt. The case of Ecuador is interesting in that it is being done as a protest against a former regime:
Ecuador is to default officially on billions of dollars of foreign debt it considers "illegitimate", says President Rafael Correa.

Mr Correa said he had given the order not to approve a debt interest payment due on Monday, describing the international lenders as "monsters".

The president said the some of Ecuador's $10bn debt was contracted illegally by a previous administration.

It is the first debt default by a country in Latin America since 2001 [Argentina].
Ecuador's problems stem from oil--it's an exporter that is suffering from the price drop. We cannot think of only ourselves at this time--the restructuring of American society along greener and more fuel efficient lines is going to impact poor oil exporting countries like Ecuador, Nigeria, and Venezuela in ways we cannot imagine. The idea the Venezuela, for example, will turn into Saudi Arabia is ridiculous. Venezuela is closer to Ecuador and being broke than it is to Saudi Arabia, especially if oil prices continue to fall.
"We'll present a proposal to restructure the debt in order to resolve this problem as fast as possible," added the US-trained economist and ally of left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

His decision follows a government audit in November which recommended that Ecuador default on almost 40% of the $10bn foreign debt, accusing former officials and bankers of profiting irresponsibly from bond deals.

The country's foreign debt amounts to about a fifth of its Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

In the past, Mr Correa has vowed to put money he has earmarked for spending on public programmes - ahead of paying foreign debt.

Correspondents say Ecuador's decision to effectively cut itself off from outside financing could lead to a budget shortfall, especially if the price of oil - the country's main revenue earner - continues to fall.

Oil is Ecuador's main source of income and accounts for 40% of the national budget.
I would opine that this another thing we had better get a handle on, and, by that I mean, the leftist movements in Latin America. We don't want a repeat of the 1980s and we don't want to be an isolated and resented partner. We need every single ally, and Latin America should be our natural ally against any other kind of influence. Want to counter the rise of a unified Europe?

Well, if the United States had more allies in South America, and I'm thinking of Brazil in particular, that would certainly help.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Relax, it's only $380 Million Dollars

 Calm down, peasants...
A prominent attorney was ordered jailed without bail Thursday after a federal prosecutor estimated losses of $380 million in an alleged hedge fund fraud.

Magistrate Judge Douglas Eaton denied bail for Marc Dreier, whom prosecutor Jonathan Streeter called a "Houdini of impersonation."

Streeter said Dreier was "in a desperate situation and the only way out of the desperate situation is to flee."

None of the little people were hurt here, you see...

The scandal has stunned Dreier LLP, a mid-size law firm that has represented celebrities, including retired football star Michael Strahan and former News Corp. publishing executive Judith Regan.

Dreier LLP partner Joel Chernov said in court papers that many lawyers have left the firm, rent is overdue and BlackBerry service is being terminated. He says $27 million appears to be missing from the firm's escrow accounts.

Dreier also is charged in Toronto with impersonation in connection with the attempted sale of $45 million of notes to a hedge fund.

Streeter cited "over $380 million actual loss."

"There's a large amount of money completely unaccounted for," said Streeter, who did not elaborate further.

This is the era of worthless paper money, where countless millions and billions of paper assets have evaporated into nothing, driven into larger and larger piles of nothing at all by greed, incompetence, and a fundamental lack of oversight. It reflects the culmination of a failed idea--the self-regulating market. I'm sad to see it die like this. I thought it would take hold and thrive. It has not.

Any country where a man can steal $380 million is a banana republic.

The Mortgage Industry is Running Around Out of Control

What the dickens is this about?

Some time after Sharren McGarry went to work as a mortgage consultant at Wachovia's Stuart, Fla., branch in July 2007, she and her colleagues were directed to market a mortgage called the "Pick A Pay" loan.  Sales commissions on the product were double the rates for conventional mortgages, and she was required to make sure nearly half the loans she sold were "Pick A Pay," she said.

These "pay option" adjustable-rate mortgages gave borrowers a choice of payments each month. They also carried a feature that came as a nasty surprise to some borrowers, called "negative amortization." If the homeowner opted to pay less than the full monthly amount, the difference was tacked onto the principal. When the loan automatically "recasted" in five or 10 years, the owner would be locked into a new, much higher, set monthly payment.

While McGarry balked at selling these pay-option ARMs, other lenders and mortgage brokers were happy to sell the loans and pocket the higher commissions.

Now, as the housing recession deepens, a coming wave of payment shocks threatens to bring another surge in defaults and foreclosures as these mortgages "recast" to higher monthly payments over the next two years.

"The next wave (of foreclosures) is coming next year and in 2010, and that is primarily due to these pay-option ARMS and the five-year, adjustable-rate hybrid ARMS that are coming up for reset," said William Longbrake, retired vice chairman of Washington Mutual. The giant Seattle-based bank, which collapsed this year under the weight of its bad mortgage loans, was one of the biggest originators of pay-option ARMs during the lending boom.

So, while everyone knew there was a problem, and while everyone realized that consumers were vulnerable to predatory lending practices, and also while everyone was trying to find ways to fix the problem, mortgage industry employees were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, planting the next bomb that is going to explode in our faces.

They greedily pocketed the money they made--money that further inflates a bubble which is tremendously unhealthy for the economy. If the economy rebounds in 2009, a wave of foreclosures and defaults on loans in 2010 will march us back to the brink. The industry needs to be gutted and restructured, and introduced to some serious regulatory guidelines. No one should be setting up loans that cause instant default when the real "terms" kick in after a few years.

The ENTIRE industry needs to be locked down and placed under heavy regulation. ANY loan that creates a balloon payment or unsustainable monthy payment that locks in after a set period of time does NOTHING to solve the problems that homeowners are facing. These loans are landmines that are waiting to be stepped on.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No, the Japanese Example Does Not Inform Our Situation

Amity Shlaes keeps trying to sell the idea that FDR made the Depression worse and that government spending to stimulate the economy is entirely bad. The historical record is mixed on this—the Second World War staved off a disaster in 1939 and some government spending, especially on defense and infrastructure, is necessary to grease the skids for American industry.  

Here, she draws a ridiculous comparison to Japan’s attempts to invest in infrastructure and stave off disaster after the collapse of the Nikkei in the late 1990s:

The spending yielded painfully little for the rest of the economy. The Nikkei stayed down. The country’s standard of living failed to keep pace with the rest of the world’s. The average Japanese’s purchasing power had been moving closer to that of the average American, Ronald Utt of the Heritage Foundation has noted. But in the 1990s the Japanese saw few advances. The gap between America and Japan widened again.

“The construction state is in some respects akin to the military-industrial complex in cold-war America (or the Soviet Union), sucking in the country’s wealth, consuming it inefficiently, growing like a cancer and bequeathing both fiscal crisis and environmental devastation,” commented Gavan McCormack, a professor at the Australian National University. The stimulus plans had the opposite effect of what was expected. Appalled at the country’s new deficits, Japanese consumers closed their wallets.

Worst, though, was the failure on jobs. Unemployment fell in many nations in the 1990s. In Japan, the ’90s were a lost decade: The unemployment rate more than doubled and surpassed the U.S. rate — an unthinkable occurrence just a few years earlier.

Even today, Japan is having trouble climbing out of its cement pit. At its high, in the mid-1990s, infrastructure spending accounted for 6 percent of its gross domestic product, double what the United States allocated for infrastructure in the ’90s and still higher than what politicians are considering spending today. In estimates of national debt, the world’s second-largest national economy is near the top of the list, perched between Lebanon and Jamaica. Last year, Japan’s public debt was far greater than the size of its economy, a burden that makes its demographic challenges more difficult to address.

What lessons should the United States take away? It is wrong to assume that construction will guarantee a two-fer for the economy — shining structures and redemptive growth. The private sector is often better than politicians at guessing what the market needs. And infrastructure projects demand so much political energy that there’s too little energy left over for everything else. Congress might want to remember all this as it debates infrastructure funding in the coming months. An edifice complex seems more likely to petrify a country than to move it forward.

Now, there’s nothing there worth debating, really. Japan’s economic collapse was due to an asset price bubble that lasted for practically the entire decade of the 1990s. The situation that the US faces is entirely dissimilar and is driven largely by credit default swaps. It is true that American “assets” became overpriced for a time, but not to the extent of Japan’s and so our “bubble” became more driven by the massive reselling of packaged debt than it did the actual prices of US homes.

Shlaes wants to argue that Japan was wrong to invest in infrastructure and that the government wasted money—sound like Ronald Reagan on acid to you? If so, you’re not alone. There’s no question that infrastructure needs to be improved in this country. In Japan, a much smaller country with a radically different style of infrastructure, the investments didn’t so much as solve their economic problems as it laid the groundwork for better use of land and resources in Japan.

As for jobs, well, that’s a public policy debacle if there ever was one. By destroying labor unions and allowing companies to outsource and hire illegal immigrants, they all but guaranteed that the economic benefits of jobs created by infrastructure spending would keep many Americans out of the labor market. If we restore living wages and dedicate ourelves to building a repaired health care system, you will see the working class in this country begin to reach a point where they can send their kids to college, and they will do exactly that. That’s how you grow an economy AND build a larger middle class.

Schlaes is never going to understand America if she continues to hold partisan ideology over her eyes. You can’t go all-bad, all-good and try to pick one slice of ideology over the other.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Abusing Your Power But Not Breaking the Law?

Autumn Leaves by Norman Rogers

Either tone down the language or spell out what Bush's FCC Chairman did and didn't do:

A year-long Congressional investigation of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin found "egregious abuses of power," though it was unclear whether the nation's top telecommunications regulator broke any rules or laws during his leadership.

The report released today on the probe, titled "Deception and Distrust" and led by Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, found Martin suppressed information and manipulated data to serve his agenda.

"Any of these findings, individually, are cause for concern," said Dingell. "Together, the findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC has operated in a dysfunctional manner and Commission business has suffered as a result. It is my hope that the new FCC Chairman will find this report instructive and that it will prove useful in helping the Commission avoid making the same mistakes."

Unless you spell out what he did that was illegal or unethical, there isn't much to go on here and the document takes on a partisan slant. Virtually every Bush appointee has behaved in a predictable fashion, if you come at the issue as a raging liberal--now tell us how it impacted the lives of average Americans. We all know that the Bush and Democrat-Congress era FCC has been a disaster for consumers--those are YOUR airwaves, by the way, but no one seems to remember that when they're letting the telecom companies write the laws--so spell it out.

What happens at the FCC is wonkish, at best. Does anyone pay attention? Probably not.

Mortgage Fraud Explained From The Inside

Here's another great example of how they did it--as in, how a handful of crooks gamed the mortgage industry and helped bring our economy to its knees...
Orson Benn, once a vice president at the nation's largest subprime lender, spent three years during the height of the housing boom tutoring Florida mortgage brokers in the art of fraud.

From his office in New York, he taught them how to doctor credit reports, coached them to inflate income on loan applications, and helped them invent phantom jobs for borrowers.

When trouble arose -- one broker got caught, another got cold feet -- Benn called his trusted fixer in Miami to remove the problem and get the loan approved: Yvette Valdes.

The 48-year-old Valdes was a key figure in helping Benn tap into one of the country's most lucrative mortgage markets during his run with Argent Mortgage, The Miami Herald found.

Benn and several associates were convicted of racketeering this year, but Valdes still sells mortgages from a nondescript storefront in Homestead.
Creating all those fraudulent mortgages that people couldn't pay back wasn't the entire story--we now know what Credit Default Swaps and lack of regulation had to do with it--but it is typical that we are getting such a simple, plain and basic example of how it was done. Typical in that if there was a layer of oversight or regulation designed to prevent it, the damage done could have been mitigated.

We cannot be naive enough to think a crook wouldn't find a way to steal--but that doesn't mean we should absolve these people of their crimes. It was too easy to steal. It was too easy to game the system. The barn door wasn't shut, in other words. Well, the barn door needs to be shut from now on, and more attention needs to be paid to the mortgage industry to lock down the bad practices that were used to rip off the consumers and, ultimately, the entire country.

CNN Cuts Science

What kind of a world is this? They fire Miles O’Brien and they keep that unfunny bag of nuts Jeanne Moos?
CNN, the Cable News Network, announced yesterday that it will cut its entire science, technology, and environment news staff, including Miles O’Brien, its chief technology and environment correspondent, as well as six executive producers. Mediabistro’s TVNewser broke the story.

“We want to integrate environmental, science and technology reporting into the general editorial structure rather than have a stand alone unit,” said CNN spokesperson Barbara Levin. “Now that the bulk of our environmental coverage is being offered through the Planet in Peril franchise, which is produced by the Anderson Cooper 360 program, there is no need for a separate unit.”

A source at the network, who asked not to be named, said the move is a strategic and structural business decision to cut staff, unrelated to the current economic downturn. Financially, “CNN is doing very, very well,” the source said, and none of the health and medical news staff has been cut. Yet the big question, of course, is whether or not the reorganization will decrease the overall amount of CNN’s science, technology, and environment coverage. CNN says no, but it’s hard to imagine that it won’t-Anderson Cooper or not, fewer people is fewer people.
Cutting reporters does not save a news-gathering organization money. It further degrades the product they’re selling to the public. When the product itself—the news content—suffers because of less and less content, the news organization becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This is How We Ended Up In Vietnam

The news media are intimidated by politicians who are smarter and more talented than they are—this is because the news media is supposed to be the top of the intellectual food chain, handing down “wisdom” and “knowledge.”
All told, of Obama’s top 35 appointments so far, 22 have degrees from an Ivy League school, MIT, Stanford, the University of Chicago or one of the top British universities. For the other slots, the president-elect made do with graduates of Georgetown and the Universities of Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina.

While Obama’s picks have been lauded for their ethnic and ideological mix, they lack diversity in one regard: They are almost exclusively products of the nation’s elite institutions and generally share a more intellectual outlook than is often the norm in government. Their erudition has already begun to set a new tone in the capital, cheering Obama’s supporters and serving as a clarion call to other academics. Yale law professor Dan Kahan said several of his colleagues are for the first time considering leaving their perches for Washington.
With regards to my Vietnam analogy, let’s be brutally honest: there’s very little chance Obama could be that stupid as to get us into another Vietnam. Stranger things have happened, but, that being said, bringing in the eggheads and the Poindexters from the Ivy League was what got us the whiz kids and the bean counters who helped LBJ get us into Vietnam. Is Obama that stupid? Let’s pray that he is not.

The GAO Weighs in on the Auto Industry Bailout

That was quick…

In addition to causing potential job losses at auto manufacturers, failure of the domestic auto industry would likely adversely affect other sectors. Officials from the Big 3 have requested, and Congress is considering, immediate federal financial assistance. This testimony discusses principles that can serve as a framework for considering the desirability, nature, scope, and conditions of federal financial assistance. Should Congress decide to provide financial assistance, we also discuss how these principles could be applied in these circumstances. The testimony is based on GAO’s extensive body of work on previous federal rescue efforts that dates back to the 1970s.

There have long been close ties between the auto industry and Congress. The recent decision by the Republican Party to essentially bail on Detroit stems from the fact that they can’t carry Michigan as a state in the Presidential race and the fact that lobbying money is going more towards Democrats than Republicans. I think that’s a mistake—Republicans should try to compete in Michigan under the banner “Democrats—aren’t they the ones who screwed up Michigan, Dawg?” If that doesn’t work, there’s always my old stand-by—“Conservatism is Cool Beans.”

The GAO also says:

If Congress determines that a legislative solution is in the national interest, a two-pronged approach could be appropriate in these circumstances. Specifically, Congress could 1) authorize immediate, but temporary, financial assistance to the auto manufacturing industry and 2) concurrently establish a board to approve, disburse, and oversee the use of these initial funds and provide any additional federal funds and continued oversight. This board could also oversee any structural reforms of the companies. Among other responsibilities, Congress could give the board authority to establish and implement eligibility criteria for potential borrowers and to implement procedures and controls in order to protect the government’s interests.

If one dollar of assistance goes overseas to prop up their job-killing policies, then the automakers should then be directed to simply file for bankruptcy protection. If they engage in positive and meaningful reform of their business model, and I would describe that as expanding efforts to make cars that run on alternative energy, then repaying those loans shouldn’t be a problem. The taxpayers should never “give” money but should “loan” money. Please pay us back with a smidgen of interest, sir.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Britain's Independent Music Industry Collapses

The company responsible for distributing music for 400 Independent music labels in Great Britain went bankrupt on Wednesday of this past week:

The independent labels trade body Association Of Independent Music (AIM) held an emergency meeting yesterday (December 4) to discuss the bankruptcy of distribution company Pinnacle Entertainment.

As NME.COM previously reported, Pinnacle - which worked with over 400 indie labels including Rough Trade and One Little Indian - was declared bankrupt on December 3.

The company had distributed records by the likes of Morrissey, The Libertines and The Strokes.

Pinnacle describes itself thusly:

As the UK’s biggest independent distributor, Pinnacle Entertainment enjoys a unique position in the market place. Having exclusive responsibility for the sales and distribution of over 400 records labels and some of the most cutting edge DVD and software labels, Pinnacle excels in handling an enormous range of music from Katie Melua, Morrissey, Moloko, The Strokes, The Libertines, Midlake, Feeder and Tricky to classic artists such as Black Sabbath, Gary Numan, The Kinks, The Pretenders, Frank Zappa, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Small Faces, Tom Waits & Richard Thompson. The company is split into a number of divisions including Pinnacle Records, Pinnacle Software, Pinnacle Vision.

Purely from a business perspective, what happens in the British music industry isn’t that important—the music industry worldwide is in serious decline because they can’t collect the right amount of money to compensate the artists for what they make. The digital distribution of music has eliminated the need for the traditional structure of the music business. Bloated artist contracts should become a thing of the past for all but a decaying and aging few. 

Instead of getting an advance on royalties to make music, one simply needs a Mac, ProTools, and the time and effort. Once you eliminate the need for an expensive recording studio, you come to distribution and publicity—and the blogs and chat rooms and word of mouth can pick up the slack there. What a band then has to do is play live (if that’s their thing) and tour, and if a band can scale that back to a low cost effort, no more record company.

The question remains—can a group of young people make enough money to live on for five or six years doing it that way? If so, goodbye labels.

Friday, December 5, 2008

An Army of Soldiers, Not so Much Linguists

It doesn’t make sense to train an army made up solely of linguists. I believe that military training should emphasize actual combat skills and job skills so that we have as many deployable and valuable troops as possible.

To speak and understand the language of a country takes an immersion in the language and a great deal of training; it’s unrealistic to suggest otherwise. We’re not sending our military into your country to speak to you; we’re sending them there with a specific mission, but it would be nice if we had enough people trained to serve as linguists:

It’s widely understood that if U.S. troops spoke the languages of the foreign populations they encounter in battle zones, military operations would be more effective and efficient. But creating a large pool of troops proficient in the languages they are most likely to encounter has proved enormously difficult.

A recent bipartisan report by the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on oversight and investigations concludes the military services have a long way to go to develop the language abilities needed in today’s conflicts. What’s more, the services’ efforts to improve skills are hampered by a public education system that fails to inculcate the importance of language and cultural studies in an increasingly globalized world.

“The Department of Defense and the services are trying to enhance these skills, but they’ve inherited a national problem that slows them down considerably,” said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., chairman of the oversight subcommittee.

According to the report, “The nation, as a whole, lacks an educational infrastructure than can produce the dramatically increased numbers of highly proficient individuals needed, not only for national security, but also for economic competitiveness.”

The problem with that line of thinking is, what languages are we talking about?

Here are the top ten countries that the US exports to:

Canada … US$211.9 billion (up 31.7% from 2002)
Mexico … $120.4 billion (up 23.5%)
Japan … $55.5 billion (up 7.8%)
China … $41.9 billion (up 89.6%)
United Kingdom …$38.6 billion (up 16.3%)
Germany … $34.2 billion (up 28.6%)
South Korea … $27.8 billion (up 23%)
Netherlands … $26.5 billion (up 44.8%)
France … $22.4 billion (up 17.9%)
Taiwan … $22.1 billion (up 20.1%)

Now, how many of these countries have we been to war with? How many are we likely to go to war with? With the exception of China, and even then, is that even a serious possibility? We have desperately needed linguists in these key areas over the last ten years: Serbo-Croatian, Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, and Persian.

If you look at the most glaring need, which is probably the Arabic language, you’ll see that there isn’t really any of the necessary infrastructure in the public schools to teach Arabic. And, in the larger sense, you’ll see that there’s virtually no economic incentive to do so. We buy oil from the Middle East; we are not culturally engaged with the Middle East.

There are vast numbers of Hispanic Americans, so the services do not need Spanish linguists (in fact, there are so many native speakers, it is one area where we are in good shape). We don’t need to speak Arabic to pay too much for their oil. And they have figured out that they can simply import labor to make up for any knowledge gaps.

The article goes on to point the finger at Paul Wolfowitz, and with good reason:

The report lauded the Defense Department’s wide-ranging goals to boost foreign language skills and cultural literacy within the services and among outside educators. But it also noted that the department’s internal efforts have fallen short of expectations.

Despite a 2004 directive from then-Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to establish strategic guidance to transform language and cultural capabilities, the department still lacks a clear understanding of what its language-related operational requirements actually are in the field. Similarly, Defense does not have a process for identifying emerging requirements.

In 2005, the department issued the “Defense Language Transformation Roadmap,” which outlined four goals: achieve a foundation of language and cultural expertise within the services; create the capacity to “surge” skilled linguists and cultural experts when necessary; establish a cadre of advanced language specialists; and develop a process for tracking the career progression of language professionals.

But the roadmap did not include long-term strategic goals and funding priorities, which congressional staffers and auditors with the Government Accountability Office say are necessary.

What Wolfowitz failed to understand is that the military is not a meet-and-greet, touchy-feely operation. Linguists should be highly skilled and trained because they have a specialty. It would be impossible to make every member of the military a linguist; by the same token, those who have proficiency in language training would likely be at an economic level where they would not choose to enlist in the military.

Creating special categories of soldiers is one answer. Recruiting experienced linguists, firewalling them from exposure to classified material, and letting them interpret blindly what they’re handed allows more native speakers to come in. Retaining trained soldiers is next to impossible when you’re in the fifth year of an endless war.

Monday, November 10, 2008

UBS hands over account information on 70 US Citizens (out of 19,000)

This is what it looks like when the shoe drops:
The U.S. government has chipped new holes in the secrecy of Swiss bank accounts, obtaining the names of American clients of the banking giant UBS as part of an investigation into the use of foreign banks to evade taxes.

In an unusual move, the Swiss have turned over information on about 70 UBS clients for use by Justice Department investigators, a source close to the case said.

The Swiss were responding to a Justice Department request for information on Americans who held "undeclared" accounts at UBS in Switzerland -- accounts that they had not revealed to the Internal Revenue Service, the source said.

Meanwhile, criminal investigators have obtained the names of an additional 30 or so American holders of undeclared UBS accounts from other parties, and people with inside knowledge of the bank have been giving federal prosecutors information about UBS's conduct, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity.
Justice takes awhile. I'm so glad I keep my money in Nevis. So glad.

How would you like to be a certain Mr. Phil Gramm right about now? The bank Gramm was a lobbyist for has essentially revealed that Gramm was lobbying for an institution used by US persons to hide their money from the US Government. How does that add up to being a patriotic American? Aren't you supposed to be helping America crush Switzerland, sir? And, I may be impolite to say this, but I will anyway. Isn't it a little odd that we're hearing about this nearly a week after Election Day?

Come on, Washington Post--try harder:
The 70 or so names turned over by the Swiss in recent months are far from a full disclosure. According to a July report by the staff of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, UBS told Senate investigators that about 19,000 Americans held undeclared accounts with the bank in Switzerland.
You mean to tell me that there could be 19,000 Americans who are illegally hiding money in a bank in Switzerland and that that same bank is now giving the Federal government full cooperation?

A whole lot of rather wealthy and influential people just soiled themselves. Expect a run at the dry cleaners.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Fine Soldier and a Fine Leader of Men

Sounds like a badass to me:
Retired Marine Col. John Ripley, who was credited with stopping a column of North Vietnamese tanks by blowing up a pair of bridges during the 1972 Easter Offensive of the Vietnam War, died at home at age 69, friends and relatives said Sunday. Ripley's son, Stephen Ripley, said his father was found at his Annapolis home Saturday after missing a speaking engagement on Friday. The son said the cause of death had not been determined but it appeared his father died in his sleep.

In a videotaped interview with the U.S. Naval Institute for its Americans at War program, Ripley said he and about 600 South Vietnamese were ordered to "hold and die" against 20,000 North Vietnamese soldiers with about 200 tanks.

"I'll never forget that order, 'hold and die'," Ripley said. The only way to stop the enormous force with their tiny force was to destroy the bridge, he said.

"The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous," Ripley said. "When you know you're not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."

Ripley crawled under the bridge under heavy gunfire, rigging 500 pounds of explosives that brought the twins spans down, said John Miller, a former Marine adviser in Vietnam and the author of "The Bridge at Dong Ha," which details the battle.

Miller said the North Vietnamese advance was slowed considerably by Ripley.

"A lot of people think South Vietnam would have gone under in '72 had he not stopped them," Miller said.
I don't recall whether or not Mr. Ripley felt he was entitled to the Presidency, do you? Sounds like he did his job and came home and lived an honorable life. And we probably don't think of Vietnam as a tank war, or a war with uniformed troops against uniformed troops, but that's how it turned out in the end. When was the last time you saw a movie about the Vietnam war that featured naval gunfire stopping tanks from crossing a river? Or tens of thousands of uniformed North Vietnamese troops? Many wars start out with small groups of insurgents with small arms and end up with large armies fighting conventionally; could that happen in Iraq or in Afghanistan one day?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Where Are All The People Going to Buy Their Crap?

Another big retailer is about to liquidate itself and close up shop for good:
Mervyns' announcement marks the latest retail obituary and represents yet another blow to the nation's malls, which are grappling with increasing vacancy rates in a deteriorating economic environment. On Tuesday, specialty retailer Linens 'n Things, which filed for bankruptcy protection in May, announced it will begin liquidation sales at its stores as early as this week after failing to find a buyer that wanted to operate the company.


The big problem with Mervyns, a 59-year-old chain, was that it had been squeezed between high-end department stores and discounters like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Before its bankruptcy filing, Mervyns had been shuttering stores and leaving states such as Oregon and Washington since 2005, after a consortium of private equity players including Sun Capital Partners Inc. bought Mervyns from Target Corp. for $1.2 billion.

In April, Mervyns appointed Goodman, who had been president and general manager of the Dockers brand - a key supplier to Mervyns - as president and chief executive. But the chain's heavy concentration in California has made a turnaround harder.

Last month, Mervyns sued the private equity firms involved in the leveraged buyout of the chain from Target, alleging the deal stripped the retailer of its real estate assets, forcing it into bankruptcy.

Mervyns said in the suit that the investment group, which included Cerberus Capital Management and Sun Capital Management, bought Mervyns in 2004, acquired its real estate and leased it back to the company at substantially increased rates. Mervyns says the increased rent was used to finance the buyout.
I cannot be certain if it was the economy or if it was your typical boneheaded business decisions. Seeing big retailers go out of business isn't new, but what's different during this economic downturn is the speed at which they are collapsing before even attempting to stay open through the Christmas retail season. I suspect quite a few store chains are going to disappear in 2009, especially music and book stores, as well as specialty retailers.

Wal-Mart is here to stay, sir. Get your Slim Jims and your Mr. Pibb whilst you can. Your bad is my good--when all of the good stores are gone, there will be nothing left but the low end and the very high end, where I will be, purchasing binoculars so that I can see your fat ass coming from six miles away.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Money Without Any Value

Sad to see this kind of money wasted--it sure would have made a useful tax cut:
A former Iraqi official estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes.

Salam Adhoob, a former chief investigator for Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, an arm of the Democratic caucus, that an Iraqi auditing bureau "could not properly account for" the money.

While many of the projects audited "were not needed -- and many were never built," he said, "this very real fact remains: Billions of American dollars that paid for these projects are now gone."
Well, the money isn't "gone." The money paid for goods and services, bombs and killings, death and destruction, you see. The money is floating through the vast cesspool of the Iraqi economy, spreading throughout the region. It's being used to buy more bombs, more guns, more vicious horror. It is changing hands, buying allegiances, and doing whatever ill-gotten gains do--it's drying up and disappearing.

Go ahead and try this on for size--steal fifty dollars from someone. Spend it. Hope they don't find out about it. If you get caught, don't blame me. I suggest this as a scenario in order to teach you something, and you're entirely on your own and I disavow you because you should not steal fifty dollars just because some old man on a fabulous blog told you to do so.

What have you really accomplished? Well, your fifty dollars bought things for you, and now you have things you didn't earn. Good for you--what are they worth? What can you do with them? Is there any pride in having them? Did you buy food for a starving family or did you buy yourself crap? How do you know the value of anything when you don't know the value of hard work?

Ethics. Don't even try applying them without a license.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oil drops to $113 a barrel

Speculation was the thing that drove it, of course. And as soon as people started to realize that, the speculators bailed. Lo and behold, there really wasn't much of a crisis, now was there?The Economist says that this is bad for us:

Now, there are several schools of thought. There's the one that says that when you use less oil, the demand and the price drops.
If speculation is to blame for the high oil price, then higher interest rates, not lower ones, may be warranted, at least in the medium term. Cheap money, after all, results in expensive assets, as the bubble in stocks then houses showed. In a research note published last month, Marco Annunziata of UniCredit argued that once the current crisis is over, central banks may return to the "unfinished job" of restoring interest rates to a less bubble-blowing level.

That the oil price may be so high because interest rates are so low is also an argument long pursued by Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University. He points out that rates now fail to compensate savers for inflation: real interest rates are negative. As a result, the return to pumping a barrel of oil, selling it and investing the proceeds is often less than can be gained by leaving the oil in the ground and waiting for its price to rise further.
Then there's the reality that speculation was the likely culprit--and I think that's true because, as soon as they moved against it, the prices dropped dramatically. The rapid fall in prices suggests not a gradual decrease in demand but rather an artificially inflated "bubble" created by greed:
"$100 oil isn't justified by the physical demand in the market.  It has to be speculation on the futures market that is fueling this." - Clarence Cazalot Jr., Chief Executive Officer, Marathon Oil (October 2007).

"The price of oil should be about $50-$55 per barrel."
- Stephen Simon, Exxon Mobil Senior Vice President (Senate Judiciary Committee April 1, 2008)

"The price has nothing to do with a shortage of oil. There's a lot of oil on the market. It's because of speculation and OPEC cannot control speculation." - Abdullah al-Badri, OPEC Secretary-General (Agence France-Presse June 11, 2008)
Take your pick...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Does Your Irish Surname Have to Do With Terrorism Anyway?

Thanks to the fact that there used to be an active Irish Republican Army, everyone with an Irish surname probably gets to enjoy hours and hours of fun waiting to get on a plane. Your government at work throws common sense out the window:
Four years ago, author James Moore released his latest book critical of President Bush.

"Bush's War for Re-election" was released in fall 2004 and raised questions about the president's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. The issue of Bush's service became a campaign issue during the 2004 presidential election.

Months later, on his first airline flight since the election, James Moore was told by the airline he was flying that his name matched a name on the government's terrorist watch list.

Airline passengers whose names match those on the watch list must provide additional information at airline ticket counters before being allowed to obtain a boarding pass.

"Traveling became very complicated," Moore said.

Since the name "James Moore" was added to the list in January 2005, Moore says, he must arrive at airports hours before his flight and is prevented from checking in electronically at home or at the airport. Depending on the level of scrutiny, he says he can actually spend several hours trying to obtain clearance before being allowed to fly.

According to the ACLU, the name James Moore is one of a million names and aliases that have a match on the so-called terror watch list.
It's possible that Moore is being retaliated against. It's far more likely that, because the database is sloppy and contains thousands of IRA names and identities, the reasons are more innocent than anyone wants to admit to.
Since the list is secret, there is no way to verify that claim. But even if we accept the claim as true, the reality is that the list impacts millions of innocent Americans with the same or similar names as the "foreign terrorists" the government intends to cover.

It may well be true that former assistant attorney general Jim Robinson is caught up by this list because he shares the name of a suspected IRA terrorist, for example. That IRA suspect is probably not a U.S. citizen - but that's cold comfort to Robinson when he tries to fly. For those whose names resemble some faraway terror suspect and find themselves hassled or worse, the fact that the suspect is not an American is irrelevant.
Very little, if any, common sense has gone into protecting Americans. If you're going to take a nation full of Irish descendants and subject them to painful security checks because someone decided that everyone who might have once have been in the IRA is a current threat in this climate of Islamic terrorism, well, I have news for you--they ain't. Notwithstanding the support that the IRA has given certain Middle Eastern terror organizations, one must conclude that it is highly impractical to take Britain's list of IRA members and inject it into the system here in this country. Again, where is the common sense?

Don't expect it anytime soon. The next President is going to have to find thousands of meticulous, patient people to find these glaringly stupid errors and fix them, and if he fails to do so, he'll be sentencing many Americans to a permanent misery. My hunch is that a fellow named McCain is going to know how to handle this issue better than a fellow who is not named McCain.

Monday, August 4, 2008

General Sherman Did Not Wreck the South

Spend any time with actual history, as opposed to the romanticized version of it that is practiced by Civil War revisionists, and you'll see enough of this to drive you nuts. Christopher Dickey writes this in Newsweek:
Last month I set out driving through Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas, roughly retracing the deepest scar in the country-the blazing track of total war left by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in 1864 and 1865. After many years away I was exploring my own blood ties (which include an ancestor named after Sherman by his slave-owning-yet-Unionist parents), but also gauging the tenor of a region that has been critical to every U.S. presidential election since 1932, and may be again...
General Sherman did not "wreck" the South, nor did his march across the South have any lasting impact on the region.

This is one of the most fundamental (and ludicrous) assertions that those who have a romanticized view of the Civil War maintain.

As historians have since pointed out, the destruction of Southern crops, livestock, factories, and railroads, and other infrastructure was anything but complete; much of the damage was repaired within a few years. The really serious economic losses can be traced to two things: the emancipation of slaves, which wiped out billions of dollars in Southern wealth, and the worthlessness of Confederate scrip, bonds, and promissory notes into which many Southerners had sunk most of their savings.

When Sherman's Army left Atlanta and severed the Confederacy, it did so as an untethered Army that traveled light, passing through Georgia and the Carolinas as it moved to link up with the Army of the Potomac. It did not burn or destroy everything in its path--in fact, one standing order was that the army would not leave poor Southerners, black or white, destitute.
General Sherman's orders were rigorously enforced, except in the case of South Carolina, which bore the brunt of the Army's wrath because it was considered to cradle of the Confederacy. I don't accept the revisionist history that says Sherman burned Columbia, South Carolina--there's plenty of evidence to suggest that drunkards were responsible. His Special Field Order 120 is especially handy for refuting the notion that his Army was on a mission of terror:

IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten day's provisions for the command and three days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be instructed the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled. V. To army corps commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility. VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or brigades. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance. VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms. ... - William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi Special Field Order 120, November 9, 1864.
The fact of the matter is, if you were a white Southerner of modest means, you had a much better time of it than any Native American or African American.

Here's a very detailed look at why this misconception lingers:  
Let me give you an example of this private myth-making at work. It comes from the unpublished reminiscences of a woman, Grace Pierson Beard, who lived about eight miles from Winnsboro, South Carolina. Her postwar account, now preserved in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC, consumes fifteen typescript, single-spaced pages. In it she describes how, returning to her home in February 1865, she encountered soldiers in her house, seated on benches taken from her piazza. They were roasting potatoes taken from her potato bank in a fire they had built in her fireplace. "I shall never forget that sight!" she writes dramatically--but then goes on to say that these men turned out to be members of Wheeler's Confederate cavalry, and nothing in her narrative suggests that she was in the least disturbed by their trespassing into her home. Instead, the purpose of the men in her narrative is to convey a message about the danger she is in. Sherman's men were coming, they told her, and when she informed them of her plan to leave before their arrival, they responded that leaving would only guarantee the destruction of her house. "Sherman's orders are to burn all vacant houses and all provisions." Thus Grace decided to remain. Next day, a group of Union soldiers arrived, killed a dog, and ate everything at her table, but left without assailing anyone. The day after a major force passed through--they ransacked her house for provisions and allegedly told her slaves not only that they were free, but also entitled to their mistress's possessions. (No one acted on this, however.) Her barn and outbuildings were burned. Some soldiers said threatening things, but another soldier deterred them with, "The first man who attempts to enter that house will have his brains blown out." Subsequently a second, self-appointed guard appeared, followed by a soldier who looked so much like her husband that her toddler son ran up to him, leaped into his arms, and called him Pa. The soldier "seemed to be much affected" by this. So was she: "I felt as if my baby was everlastingly polluted." That was the extent of Mrs. Beard's experience with the coming of Lucifer's legions: vigorous foraging, the destruction of outbuildings, the liberation of slaves, and repeated efforts to extort possessions from her--which were never pursued to the point of assault and were, in any case, countered by soldiers who actively protected her family and herself. All this information is in her reminiscences, but the tone is one of fear and outrage, and the tone governs what an uncritical reader takes away from her reminiscences. In effect, Mrs. Beard--like thousands of other white Southerners--has constructed a mythical reading of her experience that emphasizes the harshness and injustice of that experience. The influence of this myth can hardly be exaggerated. Even educated Southerners, far removed in time from the conflict, accepted it uncritically, indeed passionately. Eventually the murderous severity of the Union armies' attacks on civilian property became an article of faith. By the 1940s, one Southern historian could write, in a scholarly monograph, that "the invader did not limit himself to the property of people," but evidenced "considerable interest also in their persons, particularly the females, some of whom did not escape the fate worse than death"--without feeling the slightest need to document his lurid (and largely inaccurate) claim.
As for Sherman's status as a "war criminal, there's no shortage of stories like this:
Many myths surround the destruction of the plantations along the Ashley River Road. One is that Sherman burned them; however, General Sherman never brought his army to Charleston, rather he diverted towards Columbia from Savannah and never came through Charleston.
The left wing of Sherman's Army moved through Madison [Georgia] on November 17, 1864, burning the railroad depot and slave pens. The primary reason that many of the antebellum homes remain standing today is that, like few other towns in his path, Sherman was convinced to save the town by an old family friend Joshua Hill, a native son that became a U.S. Senator. Hill had befriended Sherman's brother when they were cadets at West Point, and Sherman felt obligated to honor his request.
But why let the truth get in the way when it's easier to simply keep repeating a myth, right? The problem is, there are modern connotations that apply here. If you keep lying, and repeating that lie, and then demonize your opponent, and then shout them down, and then call on your followers to use metaphors like "reload" and then spread vicious stories about their sex lives, well.

The truth is so much easier to ignore when the lies make us feel better.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Crumbling Bridges, Neglected Infrastructure

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty answers to one constituency—the people who give him cash. Everyone else can just go jump off a bridge.
It’s a year today since the Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people, but don’t expect Gov. Tim Pawlenty to showcase the reconstruction.

Indeed, with the Republican National Convention in St. Paul just a month away and Pawlenty reported to be high on John McCain’s running mate list, Republicans want to drive attention away from the infrastructure disaster that spotlighted the nation’s crumbling bridges and from the criticism the governor faced for what some critics said was a slow response.

The governor’s staff reports there are no plans to hold any events near the site of the bridge collapse, about 10 miles from the convention hall. And GOP convention planners have organized hundreds of buses to ease the congestion expected when some 45,000 conventioneers, guests and media commute to the hall.
I think that number of 45,000 is completely inflated—a good number of Republicans are already planning on staying away. Coupled with the infighting from the Ron Paul supporters that is sure to embarrass them, and the growing popularity of Bob Barr’s candidacy, look for reduced attendance in St. Paul. Pawlenty runs public policy in the State of Minnesota like any decent Republican—fuck the people, reward the donors, and put on a smiling face in front of the cameras. This is the future of the Republican Party—find smiling people who have no shame, no remorse, no conscience and hope to God they can skate by on their good looks while everything goes to hell around them.

Don’t look for anyone to point out that the crumbling infrastructure in Minnesota continues unabated by anything the Pawlenty administration has been doing. Dead Americans in the rubble never concern these people. Bridges keep crumbling, problems continue to blossom into full-blown action items, and one would think the Republicans would put on a better show of trying to appear concerned. Apparently not.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Importance of Getting it Right

I stumbled across a rather lazily-researched story in the Washington Post today. Not only does this story accept at face value contradictory and easily disproven statements, from the government AND a defense contractor, it fails to do one of the basic things a story should always do, and that is, inform the reader. Journalistic malpractice is unforgiveable. I realize that people need to phone it in. I phone it in all of the time--but I'm an old man with an unreadable blog. I'm allowed to phone it in. It's expected of me to phone it in, sir.

I'd like to go just go one week without stories like this:
Government auditors said yesterday that nearly half of 28 contracts to manufacture body armor for Army soldiers were completed without the gear ever going through an initial test.

Nearly $3 billion worth of body armor did not go through early inspections known as "first article testing," or FAT, that are performed before major production to ensure that a company can meet the contract's requirements and to catch any defects, according to a report by the Defense Department's inspector general. Contracting officials say the initial testing is done to save time and money.

"Army contracting officials did not require or perform FAT for 13 of the 28 Army contracts and orders reviewed," the report said. As a result, the Defense Department "has no assurance" that the equipment produced under the 13 contracts "met the required standards," the report said.

Officials with the inspector general's office said its auditors did not test the armor or look for flaws after it was made and put into use. The Army manager who oversees the body armor program told Defense Department officials that "the Army has no evidence of deaths that can be attributed to defective body armor."

A spokesman for the Army said that while some paperwork may have been missing, none of the body armor had problems. "None of this equipment in all of the tests we've done is flawed," said Paul Boyce, the spokesman. "It has not shown any signs of flaws."
Are you kidding me? Anyone with half a brain could stumble across a report such as this even if they weren't trying too hard:
In its investigative report, however, NBC interviewed Jim Magee, a retired Marine colonel who designed the current body armor in use by the military, known as Interceptor. Magee said he felt Dragon Skin was the best available -- "two steps ahead of anything I've ever seen." Other people interviewed for the show claimed that officers at lower levels tried to sabotage the use of Dragon Skin because it was not Army developed and would threaten their funding and programs.

NBC also reported that the CIA had approved Dragon Skin for its elite operatives and that select soldiers assigned to protect generals and VIPs in Iraq and Afghanistan wore Dragon Skin.
And they do that because of stories like this:
Interceptor Armor Test Sequence
The Interceptor SAPI (Level III) plate failed, and failed miserably, at the 2d round while Dragon Skin Level IIIE (Enhanced) defeated 186 Rounds (see Below) .
The Setting: "On Thursday, military members, law enforcement agents and the media were invited to the C2 shooting center in Virginia Beach for a test - Dragon Skin vs. the body armor currently being used by the military."
Choice Comment on Dragon Skin: "This is absolutely unbelievable. I've never seen anything defeat these types of rounds this close before in my life," said Marc Whedbee, a former soldier and law enforcement officer.
Next Up : "The traditional body armor being worn by troops overseas today. The plate did not hold up.
There are links aplenty here if you want to look into this yourself. I mean, if I can discover all of this material, surely, someone working for a newspaper could as well, correct? It would appear to me that they either forgot to look for the material or simply ignored whatever was presented to them. Pardon me while I roll my eyes in disgust:

A settlement in the case was reached between the parties and preliminarily approved on December 12, 2005. The lawsuit is a class action that asserts that the defendants, Point Blank Body Armor, Inc. and Protective Apparel Corporation of America, Inc. ("Point Blank/PACA") manufactured bullet-resistant vests containing Zylon®, including Galls branded vests containing Zylon®, that failed to meet the performance characteristics for which they were warranted. The defendants deny the allegations in the lawsuit.

The vests involved were sold by Point Blank/PACA and their distributors to state and local law enforcement agencies and others and include, among others, the following popular models: Fusion, Legacy, Galls ZL1, Galls ZL2, Galls ZL3, The Beast, RTZ, ZG, ZPG, ZGS-2, Z3-2 AND WF 1002. On August 24, 2005, the United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, decertified all vests containing-Zylon® and on the same date issued a warning stating "The National Institute of Justice hereby advises that it has identified…Zylon® as a material that appears to create a risk of death or serious injury as a result of degraded ballistic performance when used in body armor." Point Blank/PACA do not concur with the conclusions reached by the NIJ.
Here's another lawsuit, filed in Florida:
COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE AND OTHER RELIEF -Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission ("Commission") alleges as follows INTRODUCTION 1. DHB Industries, Inc. ("DHB") is a major supplier of body armor to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies. From at least 2003 through 2005, Defendant Dawn M. Schlegel, DHB's former Chief Financial Officer, and Defendant Sandra L. Hatfield, DHB's former Chief Operating Officer, engaged in widespread manipulation of DHB's inventory, cost of goods sold, gross profit, gross margin, pre-tax income, and other figures through fraudulent and repeated violations of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles ("GAAP"). This resulted in DHB materially misstating key financial information in its filings with the Commission and in its earnings releases.
Now, do you think the fact that the Army didn't do those tests matters? Especially when you look at the track record of DHB? It's a bald-faced outrage.

So while US troops were being handed body armor that hadn't been tested and was manufactured, at least in part, by companies like DHB, where did your tax dollars go? Into the pocket of DHB Chairman David H. Brooks.
In December of 2005, Brooks reportedly spent $10 million on his daughter's bat mitzvah party. Entertainment was provided by Tom Petty, Aerosmith, and 50 Cent.
Now, I can understand why the Washington Post wouldn't tell you that very last part, since we all love to hear Tom Petty shamble through his back catalog, but shouldn't they have done some basic, simple research into the Dragon Skin vs Interceptor controversy?

And maybe, just maybe, pointed to several years worth of embarrassing developments in the saga of a reprehensible company called DHB?