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Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday Quick Hits

STOCK Act May Pass, Will be a Limp­less Noodle

From Politico:

The prob­lem is this: It’s inher­ently dif­fi­cult to pur­sue insider-trading alle­ga­tions, par­tic­u­larly against mem­bers of Con­gress. Law­mak­ers are con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected from cer­tain legal actions. And many are skep­ti­cal that the STOCK Act, or Stop Trad­ing on Con­gres­sional Knowl­edge Act, which explic­itly bars law­mak­ers and con­gres­sional aides from insider trad­ing – was even nec­es­sary in the first place.

I think there are suf­fi­cient holes in the STOCK Act such [that] those who wish to cir­cum­vent it will do so,” said Jacob Frenkel, a for­mer enforce­ment lawyer for the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion.

What’s more, the bill’s most far-reaching pro­vi­sion — to reg­u­late the the flow­er­ing indus­try of con­sul­tants who pro­vide inside leg­isla­tive knowl­edge to investors was stripped out by House Repub­li­cans. That prompted Rep. Louise Slaugh­ter (D-N.Y.), who’s been work­ing on the leg­is­la­tion for years, to com­plain that the bill had been “hijacked” — a charge par­roted by Repub­li­can Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa.

Frenkel, now an attor­ney at the law firm Shul­man Rogers, said it would be dif­fi­cult for inves­ti­ga­tors to deter­mine what qual­i­fies as non­pub­lic infor­ma­tion — par­tic­u­larly infor­ma­tion that con­stantly flows through the halls of Con­gress. The SEC has never pros­e­cuted a mem­ber of Con­gress for insider trading.

“This looks to me like a pub­lic rela­tions solu­tion in search of a prob­lem,” added Karl Groskauf­ma­nis, an attor­ney at Fried Frank, spe­cial­iz­ing in secu­ri­ties enforce­ment and regulation.

That’s what hap­pens when a bill only becomes a cause cele­bre after a piece on “60 Minutes.”

Another prob­lem — The Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion was a cre­ation of Con­gress (1935’s Secu­rity and Exchange Act), thus mak­ing its bud­get a crea­ture of Con­gress.  There are immense con­cerns if future Con­gress’ don’t like the SEC snoop­ing around, they can just cut enforce­ment for the STOCK Act from the SEC’s budget.

Fed Chair Bernanke — We’re Head­ing Towards a Fis­cal Cliff

Gee, this all sounds so familiar.

Con­gress risks tak­ing the econ­omy over a “mas­sive fis­cal cliff,” Fed­eral Reserve Chair­man Ben Bernanke warned law­mak­ers on Wednesday.

In remarks that hit Wall Street stock prices, the cen­tral bank boss sug­gested the econ­omy could hit a seri­ous road­block if Con­gress allows the Bush tax rates and a pay­roll tax cut to expire and $1.2 tril­lion in spend­ing cuts to be imple­mented simul­ta­ne­ously in January.

Under cur­rent law, on Jan. 1, 2013, there’s going to be a mas­sive fis­cal cliff of large spend­ing cuts and tax increases,” Bernanke told the House Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “I hope that Con­gress will look at that and fig­ure out ways to achieve the same long-run fis­cal improve­ment with­out hav­ing it all hap­pen at one date.

All those things are hit­ting on the same day, basi­cally. It’s quite a big event.”

The tax hikes and spend­ing cuts could knock GDP growth in 2013 down from 2.6 per­cent to 1 per­cent, accord­ing to Andrew Field­house, a fed­eral bud­get pol­icy ana­lyst with the lib­eral Eco­nomic Pol­icy Institute .

There is obvi­ously a huge fis­cal drag pend­ing if Con­gress adheres to exist­ing law,” he said.

Wel­come to a world where it would appear that the gov­ern­ment is so entrenched into the econ­omy that any cut is seen as a threat to the economy.

Kudos the Hill for not­ing EPI as “lib­eral.”  All that’s miss­ing is the dis­claimer regard­ing it being almost “com­pletely financed by labor unions.”

The Most Inter­est­ing Thing in Yesterday’s PPP Poll

I’m sort of indif­fer­ent to the horse race aspects, and dif­fer­ences, between both Ras­mussen and PPP’s polls regard­ing “Walker vs. X,” what did inter­est me was this para­graph from PPP:

We looked at a cou­ple dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions of the Demo­c­ra­tic pri­mary. We didn’t test Fein­gold in either because it seems pretty safe to say that if he decided to run he would coast to the nom­i­na­tion. If Tom Bar­rett ran he would be the strong front run­ner, pulling 45% to 18% for Kath­leen Falk, 14% for Doug LaFol­lette, and 6% for Kath­leen Vine­hout. If he stayed out of the race Falk would be the leader among the most likely can­di­dates, at 41% to 23% for LaFol­lette, and 13% for Vinehout.

If you have Falk as the union-designated can­di­date and she’s poten­tially gonna get clubbed by Bar­rett in a Demo­c­ra­tic pri­mary you have to won­der two things: 1) What are the unions think­ing with a result like that? and 2) What’s going on behind the scenes to try to keep him from running?

More Irony Defined

A blog, in which mem­bers of it have been unsuc­cess­fully try­ing to get my columns pulled at the Sun Prairie Star, has to go to a guy who leaves a com­ment at the Sun Prairie Star on my most recent col­umn (which was pretty much the same thing Mike Nichols and Jim Wigder­son wrote) to try to score points against me.

Bet­ter luck next time guys.

Steel­ers to Release Hines Ward

Not the way I ever antic­i­pated him to end his career in Pittsburgh.

Hines Ward’s con­stant, ear-to-ear smile tucked behind a black face­mask has been a last­ing image for Pitts­burgh Steel­ers fans the past 14 seasons.

They won’t see it again.

At least, not in a black-and-gold uniform.

The franchise’s all-time leader in just about every mean­ing­ful receiv­ing cat­e­gory will be released some­time in the next two weeks said pres­i­dent Art Rooney II on the team’s web­site on Wednesday.

We had a con­ver­sa­tion today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his con­tract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL cal­en­dar year,” Rooney said. “Hines has been an inte­gral part of our suc­cess since we drafted him in 1998, and we will for­ever be grate­ful for what he has helped us achieve.”

A four-time Pro Bowl selec­tion and MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl, Ward will fin­ish his Steel­ers career with 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiv­ing touch­downs. He helped Pitts­burgh to three AFC cham­pi­onships and a pair of Super Bowl wins.

The only thing I could pos­si­bly equate the Steel­ers cut­ting Ward would be if the Pack­ers ever cut Don­ald Dri­ver.  Thank­fully, that doesn’t seem like a pos­si­bil­ity since Dri­ver has indi­cated he’s likely to retire at the con­clu­sion of his most recent contract.

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Second “Avengers” Trailer Released

Am I get­ting too demand­ing in my geek-dom that my utmost hope for the next trailer is that some­one screams “Avengers Assemble?”


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Cartoon of the Day

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Google: “Break Our Code, Get a Million Bucks”

(H/T Mash­able)

Well, not really a mil­lion dol­lars, but I like where Google’s going with this idea.  It’s crowd-sourcing a search for flaws in their Chrome web browser (I don’t typ­i­cally use Chrome, I pre­fer Fire­fox) and giv­ing away cash money to those who either find the most bugs, or able to bring the sys­tem down completely.

Think of it as a use­ful way for hack­ers across the planet to make an hon­est liv­ing for once with­out hav­ing to work for the FBI’s cyber-division.

The com­pany told atten­dees at the CanSecWest secu­rity con­fer­ence in Van­cou­ver next month they can get up to $1 mil­lion in cash and Chrome­books in exchange for reveal­ing the flaws.

The aim of our spon­sor­ship is sim­ple: we have a big learn­ing oppor­tu­nity when we receive full end-to-end exploits. Not only can we fix the bugs, but by study­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­ity and exploit tech­niques we can enhance our mit­i­ga­tions, auto­mated test­ing, and sand­box­ing. This enables us to bet­ter pro­tect our users,” the Google Chrome secu­rity team wrote in a blog post.

The prizes include the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories, and mul­ti­ple rewards can be issued per category:

$60,000 – “Full Chrome exploit”: Chrome / Win7 local OS user account per­sis­tence using only bugs in Chrome itself.

$40,000 – “Par­tial Chrome exploit”: Chrome / Win7 local OS user account per­sis­tence using at least one bug in Chrome itself, plus other bugs. For exam­ple, a WebKit bug com­bined with a Win­dows sand­box bug.

$20,000 – “Con­so­la­tion reward, Flash / Win­dows / other”: Chrome / Win7 local OS user account per­sis­tence that does not use bugs in Chrome. For exam­ple, bugs in one or more of Flash, Win­dows or a dri­ver. These exploits are not spe­cific to Chrome and will be a threat to users of any web browser. Although not specif­i­cally Chrome’s issue, we’ve decided to offer con­so­la­tion prizes because these find­ings still help us toward our mis­sion of mak­ing the entire web safer.

Google has said so far had a spot­less record for Chrome at past con­tests of hacker.  Most of this has noth­ing to do with the Chrome prod­uct, but mostly because hack­ers are too busy break­ing into and exploit­ing Microsoft’s Inter­net Explorer, Mozilla’s Fire­fox, and Apple’s Safari browsers.

The main rea­son Google is offer­ing the money is not to see if some­one can find the break their browser, but so that it can find the bugs which can then be fixed by Google after they’re found.

The catch to sign­ing up for the con­test; you have to reveal your hacker secrets to Google.  That might be too hard to do for many com­puter hack­ers to do, even with the cash prizes.

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Durable Goods Orders Drop 4 Percent

Blip on the radar or sign of things to come?

Today’s durable goods num­bers from the Cen­sus Bureau were dis­ap­point­ing. New orders for durable goods fell 4 per­cent in Jan­u­ary, with declines in a num­ber of major sec­tors. Keep­ing it all in per­spec­tive, though, new orders rose 4.2 per­cent and 3.2 per­cent in Novem­ber and Decem­ber, and the $206.1 bil­lion in new orders in Jan­u­ary still out­paces the lev­els from Octo­ber. New orders remain 8.8 per­cent higher than in Jan­u­ary 2011.

A num­ber of major sec­tors expe­ri­enced declines in Jan­u­ary for new orders. These were led by the trans­porta­tion sec­tor (down 6.1 per­cent), with decreases in both defense and non­de­fense aero­space orders for the month. (Non­de­fense aero­space fig­ures are highly volatile due to the tim­ing of when orders come in for new planes, and there was a large spike in sales in Decem­ber.) Exclud­ing trans­porta­tion, new orders fell by 3.2 percent.

Other sec­tors with losses include machin­ery, pri­mary met­als, elec­tri­cal equip­ment and com­put­ers. Non­de­fense cap­i­tal goods fell 6.3 per­cent, revers­ing the 9.3 per­cent and 6.8 per­cent gains in the prior two months.

Mean­while, ship­ments of durable goods rose 0.4 per­cent, below the 1.9 per­cent increase of Decem­ber. Among ship­ments, the trans­porta­tion sec­tor did the strongest, up 5.4 per­cent, with strong gains in the aero­space sec­tors and for motor vehi­cles. Exclud­ing trans­porta­tion, ship­ments fell by 1.1 per­cent. Declines in machin­ery, com­put­ers and cap­i­tal goods helped to drive this num­ber lower in January.

Unfilled orders and inven­to­ries grew 0.5 per­cent and 0.7 per­cent, respec­tively, in Jan­u­ary, con­tin­u­ing a long streak for both of them.

With my own past expe­ri­ence in ware­house man­age­ment, logis­tics, and cus­toms, I’m paused to say if this is good or bad.  It’s too early, could be a post-Christmas blip, and frankly one month never makes a trend.   Also, I’m more likely to take a look at another eco­nomic indi­ca­tor tied to man­u­fac­tur­ing (Inven­to­ries and Inven­tory to Sales Ratios) than I am durable goods orders to decide on eco­nomic growth.

Why Inven­to­ries?  Because that shows you if prod­uct is mov­ing.  That tells you if new prod­uct needs to be made.  That tells you things are get­ting shipped.   If inven­to­ries grow, it tends to mean your economy’s stalling since no one’s buy­ing much of any­thing.  If the reverse is hap­pen­ing, that tends to be a sign of eco­nomic growth.

So how are Inven­to­ries?  Cur­rently, growing:

Inven­to­ries. — Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ and trade inven­to­ries, adjusted for sea­sonal vari­a­tions but not for price changes, were esti­mated at an end-of-month level of $1,555.5 bil­lion, up 0.4 per­cent (±0.2%) from Novem­ber 2011 and up 7.7 per­cent (±0.4%) from Decem­ber 2010.

As for Inven­tory to Sales ratios, it’s hold­ing steady.  Decem­ber 2011 had a I:S ratio of 1.26.  It was 1.28 in Decem­ber 2010.  That shows a pretty stag­nant econ­omy, not one that’s in “recov­ery” as we’ve been led to believe by the main­stream press.

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Donald Driver to be on “Dancing with the Stars”

He may have a chance here. 

For starters, pro ath­letes have a very good track record on the show (the pro dancers have said they know how to take direc­tion bet­ter than TV and movie actors) and, let’s us be hon­est with our­selves, Pack­ers Nation will vote in droves for the man.

ABC announced the Green Bay Packer wide receiver Don­ald Dri­ver would be a con­tes­tant o the 14th sea­son of “Danc­ing with the Stars.” Dri­ver is the Pack­ers all time lead­ing receiver.

Driver’s part­ner will be Peta Mur­ga­troyd, who is in her sec­ond sea­son on the show.

Accord­ing to ABC’s bio of Dri­ver he “over­came a child­hood of home­less­ness to become a Super Bowl cham­pion and the all-time lead­ing receiver in Green Bay Pack­ers his­tory. After being selected in the last round of the NFL draft, he went on to hold the Pack­ers’ all-time receiv­ing records for yards and recep­tions as well as a host of others.”

Other con­tes­tants this sea­son include: Jack Wag­ner of “Mel­rose Place”, Melissa Gilbert, of  “Lit­tle House on the Prairie,” “The View” co-host Sherri Shep­herd, Jaleel White, best known as Steve Urkel from “Fam­ily Mat­ters,” ten­nis leg­end Mar­tina Navratilova, TV host Maria Menounos, Motown great Gladys Knight, opera singer Kather­ine Jenk­ins, Dis­ney star Roshon Fegan„ singer Gavin DeGraw and Telen­ov­ela actor William Levy.

The cast was intro­duced on “Good Morn­ing, Amer­ica” Tuesday.

No word yet if the next children’s book Dri­ver writes will be enti­tled, “Quickie Learns the Mambo.”

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Santorum: High Gas Prices Caused Housing Crash

Please early state GOP vot­ers, don’t make me have to vote for this eco­nomic bozo in November.

Rick San­to­rum on Mon­day blamed the hous­ing cri­sis on high gas prices.

Dur­ing a cam­paign appear­ance in Michi­gan, San­to­rum said the hous­ing bub­ble burst in 2008 because peo­ple could no longer afford to pay their mort­gages because of high gas prices.

We went into a reces­sion in 2008 because of gaso­line prices,” San­to­rum said in Michi­gan accord­ing to Buz­zfeed. “The bub­ble burst in hous­ing because peo­ple couldn’t pay their mort­gages because of $4 a gal­lon gasoline.”

San­to­rum then said Pres­i­dent Obama actu­ally wants higher gas prices.

He actu­ally believes this is a good thing for Amer­ica, I don’t,” the for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia sen­a­tor added. “We are not here to serve the Earth, but to be stew­ards of the Earth.”

The offi­cial gov­ern­ment take on the col­lapse, authored by the Finan­cial Cri­sis Inquiry Com­mis­sion, blamed Wall Street banks for tak­ing on exces­sive risk via sub­prime mort­gages, and gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors for fail­ing to sniff out the start of the cri­sis before it threat­ened the global finan­cial system.

I under­stand the pol­i­tics of today, in which the cur­rent gas spike is some­thing you want to grab onto now, but it needs to be done with some intelligence.

Gaso­line prices more often than not effect a person’s dis­pos­able income.  That means that’s less money to buy the “wants” in life, not the “needs” in life like hous­ing.  Chances are you’re more likely to not go out to din­ner on the town or a movie if gas prices rise over not pay­ing your mortgage.

If, you hap­pened to have fallen into the cat­e­gory of which Sen. San­to­rum is talk­ing about and paid for gas over you mort­gage pay­ment, chances are you prob­a­bly should have never been given a mort­gage in the first place.

Being at HUD at the time we were scream­ing at Con­gress to do some­thing to help avoid the col­lapse — only to have Bar­ney Frank block all attempts to reform — I tend to blame sub­prime mort­gages for the hous­ing market’s col­lapse.  That, and house-flipping shows on real­ity TV mak­ing it look “so easy,” lib­eral social pol­icy to get every­one in a house even if they can’t afford one, no-money down pay­ments, and a whole litany of things I prob­a­bly could think of it I cared to go on.

Far, far, far down the list is gas prices.

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Cartoon of the Day

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AWOL”">Only Dane Co. Would Call a Fugitive as “AWOL

Peo­ple, we have a runner.

Dane County Jail inmate Jef­frey Kid­well, age 32 of Leav­en­worth, KS, has been declared AWOL.

Kid­well went AWOL on Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 24th at approx­i­mately 8:30 am. He was resid­ing at an alter­na­tive facil­ity as part of the Pathfind­ers pro­gram, when he cut off his GPS mon­i­tor­ing device and fled from the facil­ity. Deputies imme­di­ately responded to the address when they received the strap alert, but were unable to locate Kidwell.

Kid­well was sen­tenced to the Dane County Jail on a bur­glary charge. Any­one with infor­ma­tion on his where­abouts is asked to call 911.

This news was only reported today, and it hap­pened on Friday.

No word if it’s pol­icy of cur­rent Dane Co. Exec­u­tive Joe Parisi to wait til the week­end has passed before you warn the pub­lic a man has cut his GPS anklet and becomes a fugi­tive of the law, or if he’s con­tinue one he inher­ited from for­mer Dane Co. Exec­u­tive Kath­leen Falk.

You know, the woman with the nick­name of “Catch and Release Katie” and who wants to be Wisconsin’s governor.

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Kallas Returns to Get Head Handed to Him Again

Think­ing of for­mu­lat­ing a full list of both Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans who run com­pletely point­less runs for Con­gress in which they appear to like los­ing while gain­ing only 30 to 40 per­cent of the vote.

On the right, you’d eas­ily have Chad Lee in WI-02 and Dan Sebring in WI-04.  On the left, you had Dot­tie LeClair in WI-08 dur­ing the last decade, Bryan Kennedy in WI-05, and prob­a­bly by 2014 we’ll be adding Rob Zerban’s name to it for WI-01.

As for WI-06, we now have Demo­c­rat Joe Kallas.

A for­mer Green Lake County Board mem­ber has announced his can­di­dacy for Wisconsin’s 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict in the Novem­ber election.

Joe Kallas, who also served on the Prince­ton Town Board, said his cam­paign will focus on the national debt and high unem­ploy­ment fac­ing the nation.

Kallas becomes the sec­ond chal­lenger to U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac. The other is Lau­ren Stephens, a con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can from Columbus.

Can­di­dates have until June 1 to file sig­na­tures to run for the office.

The 33-year incum­bent has done very lit­tle to address the needs of the work­ing men and women of the dis­trict,” Kallas said in a press release, refer­ring to Petri.

Kallas, who calls him­self an inde­pen­dent Demo­c­rat, ran unsuc­cess­fully against Petri, R-Fond du Lac, in 2010. He cited a late entry into the race as a major fac­tor in his defeat. Petri won with 71 per­cent of the vote to Kallas’ 29 percent.

Sorry to tell this to Mr. Kallas, but redis­trict­ing some­how made WI-06 more Republican.

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