12 December 2017

Quote of the Day

But perhaps it does explain why America’s legions of puffed-up generals have been such abysmal failures for onwards of a half-century now.
David Stockman, former Reagan budget wonk, explaining just how arrogant and stupid someone has to be to blithely lie to the FBI the way that Michael Flynn did.
I don't agree with his thesis, that the FBI laid a "Perjury Trap" with Mr. Flynn, but it is mind-boggling just how stupid he was, and I do agree that its origin comes from the toxic culture of general officers in the US military.

Linkage


See the AyePhone:

11 December 2017

Damn

After decades of deaths from collisions with ships and entanglements with fishing nets, the North Atlantic Right Whale is on the brink of extinction:
Officials with the US federal government say it is time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died so far in 2017.

The situation is so dire that American and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”

Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.

………

The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales’ deaths.
Any fix is probably going to be greeted by howls of protests from the fishing and shipping industries, but f%$# them.

Thank God for Incompetents

A would be suicide bomber in New York was such an incompetent bomb maker that he couldn't even manage to blow himself up:
A would-be suicide attacker detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his body in the heart of Manhattan’s busiest subway corridor on Monday, sending thousands of terrified commuters fleeing the smoke-choked passageways, and bringing the heart of Midtown to a standstill as hundreds of police officers converged on Times Square and the surrounding streets.

But the makeshift weapon failed to fully detonate, and the attacker himself was the only one seriously injured in the blast, which unfolded just before 7:20 a.m.

Law enforcement officials said the attacker, identified by the police as Akayed Ullah, 27, chose the location because of its Christmas-themed posters, a motive that recalled strikes in Europe, and he told investigators that he set off his bomb in retaliation for United States airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere.

It was the third attack in New York City since September 2016, and the second in two months, coming only weeks after eight people were killed in a truck attack along a Hudson River bike path. Like the earlier two, the attack on Monday appears to have been carried out by a so-called “lone-wolf” terrorist.

The explosion on Monday morning echoed through the subway tunnels just off Times Square and filled parts of the Port Authority Bus Terminal with smoke as commuters fled. Even as smoke still filled the chamber, Mr. Ullah was subdued by Port Authority police officers.

………

An immigrant from Bangladesh, Mr. Ullah came to live in Brooklyn through a visa program available to people who have relatives who are United States citizens. 
Some thoughts:
  • If the FBI weren't so fixated on sting operations on people who would never have been a threat, maybe they would have noticed the guy.
  • This is the first time I've heard of a Bangladeshi being involved, though I do know that Wahabbi/Salafist movements have been growing in strength there.
  • My guess is that his pipe bomb was insufficiently sealed, and so the gunpowder, or other low explosive, mostly just burnt, rather than generating a significant explosion.
We are lucky that this guy didn't know what he was doing.

Tweet of the Day


America's finest news source.

10 December 2017

As Atrios Would Say, "Time for a Blogger Ethics Panel"

It appears that LA Times senior security reporter in Washington DC, made a habit of taking direction from the CIA on the content of his stories:
A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.

“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”

………

Dilanian’s emails were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with reporters. They include email exchanges with reporters for the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. In addition to Dilanian’s deferential relationship with the CIA’s press handlers, the documents show that the agency regularly invites journalists to its McLean, Va., headquarters for briefings and other events. Reporters who have addressed the CIA include the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, the former ombudsmen for the New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post, and Fox News’ Brett Baier, Juan Williams, and Catherine Herridge.

Dilanian left the Times to join the AP last May, and the emails released by the CIA only cover a few months of his tenure at the Times. They show that in June 2012, shortly after 26 members of congress wrote a letter to President Obama saying they were “deeply concerned” about the drone program, Dilanian approached the agency about story that he pitched as “a good opportunity” for the government.
It appears that the AP has conducted a review and called it all hunky-dory.

Of course, Google and Facebook are doing their level best to ensure that this sort of corrupt incestuous "journalism" is never challenged, by filtering out alternate views as, "Fake News."

At Least, There is Symmetry

The Russians made an offer to stop trying to effect US elections.

It was rejected out of hand, because the US was unwilling to promise not to meddle in Russian elections:
The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference, three senior US administration officials tell BuzzFeed News.

Russia first broached the subject in July, when one of Vladimir Putin’s top diplomats arrived in Washington with a sheet of proposals aimed at addressing a top concern of the US government: A resurgence of Russian meddling in the 2018 elections.

………

To test the possibility of a mutual agreement, Putin dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Washington for a July 17 meeting with Under Secretary Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department. The official US account of the meeting offered only a bland summary of conversations on “areas of mutual concern.” But three US administration officials, including one inside the meeting, said Ryabkov handed over a document containing a bold proposal: A sweeping noninterference agreement between Moscow and Washington that would prohibit both governments from meddling in the other’s domestic politics.

After examining the proposal, which has not previously been reported, US officials told Moscow there would be no deal.

“We said ‘thank you very much but now is not the time for this,’” said a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic discussions.

………

The US official described the Russian proposal in historic terms, likening it to the 1933 accord between President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov that ended 16 years of American nonrecognition of the Soviet Union in exchange for a pledge not to interfere in US politics.

Ryabkov proposed “that we come to terms and agree not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs,” said the senior US official. “Historically, it relates back to the agreements that were done at the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration when we were establishing a relationship with the Soviet Union for the very first time,” said the senior official.

………

When asked if the president weighed in on the proposal, a spokesman for the National Security Council said only that the White House and State Department “coordinated closely on the United States’ response.” The spokesman was quick to point out that deliberations over the noninterference agreement never advanced to the stage of formal bilateral negotiations.

………

A second senior State Department official said any potential gains would come at too high a cost. “We would have to give up democracy promotion in Russia, which we’re not willing to do,” said the official.

………

Advocates of a deal point to President Barack Obama’s 2015 accord with China aimed at reducing commercial cyber espionage as an instructive case study.

“While Obama was criticized at the time for what looked to some like capitulation, experts now agree that the deal had at least some positive benefit,” said Kimberly Marten, the director of Columbia University’s program on US-Russia relations. Martin cited a 2016 report by the network-security firm FireEye finding that Chinese hackers had carried out fewer attacks on US targets.

She also said Putin’s paranoia about US meddling in Russia’s upcoming election could produce serious negotiations with Moscow. Putin “will almost certainly win another six-year term, unless the United States disrupts things by, say, releasing a cache of compromising material that turns the Russian population against him,” she wrote in a recent article. “To avoid that possibility, Putin might just find an anti-doxing agreement to be useful.”
(emphasis mine)

Apart from the misuse of the term "Doxing," these reports place allegations of meddling in elections in a different light:  The US openly, and aggressively, meddling in foreign elections.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who follows history.

Canada is Trying to Save the American Labor Movement

The Canadian government is meeting with some of the country’s biggest labor groups to discuss Nafta as talks on the deal are set to resume.

Labor Minister Patricia Hajdu will meet union leaders Friday in a round-table discussion near Toronto to get input on the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s the latest sign that labor has the Trudeau government’s ear in talks that could hinge, in part, on Canada’s push to raise working standards in both the U.S. and Mexico.

“That’s an indication of how much we value our labor movement, and we want to make sure as we go into negotiations that the rights of Canadian workers are protected,” Hajdu said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’ll do everything in our power to make sure of that.”

Nafta talks resume Monday with a partial round in Washington, without political leaders at the table. Canada wants the U.S. to undo so-called “right to work” provisions in some states, while also calling on Mexico to raise labor standards. One of Canada’s top union leaders, Jerry Dias, has met often with the Canadian negotiating team and regularly predicts Nafta talks will fail.

Trudeau has been pushing to add “progressive” elements like labor, gender and the environment into all trade negotiations -- a move derided by political opponents as “virtue signaling” that could make it tougher to get a deal. That strategy was a driving factor in the surprise false start this week of trade talks with China, a country that typically shuns the bells and whistles Canada wants in any trade deal.

Those added elements are among Nafta’s sticking points. Canada wants its two North American partners to ratify eight core conventions, including the right to organize, laid out by the International Labour Organization to make Nafta work. “We did put forward a very ambitious proposal on labor,” chief negotiator Steve Verheul told lawmakers this week. While Canada has adopted all eight and Mexico has nearly done so, the U.S. has adopted only two, Verheul said. “The U.S. is resisting that proposal.”

Canada’s call to claw back U.S. “right-to-work” laws, which ban unions from requiring workers to pay dues, is another obstacle. “The U.S. is also resisting that,” Verheul said.
As Yves Smith pithily observes, "Sounds like the Canadians are doing better by labor than our own Democrats."

The history of the modern Democratic Party does not show meaningful support for organized labor.

When Republicans pass so-called "right-to-work " laws, Democrats never repeal them, and the Obama administration dropped its support for the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check) before the last states were called in 2008.

The positions pushed by Trudeau benefit workers in all three of the signatories of NAFTA, so I expect Democrats, or at least the current Democratic Party establishment to vociferously oppose labor justice, because they have sold their souls to big donors.

09 December 2017

Best Political Tweet Ever

This encapsulates the Democratic establishment, and what needs to be done with it, in a nutshell:
This is brilliant.

My computer finally finished updating.

Light Posting Tonight

After 2 hours, Windows 10 is still updating.

Posted via mobile.


08 December 2017

Snark of the Day

A Second Chance: This Amazing Organization Helps Disgraced Pedophiles Rebuild Their Lives By Getting Them Elected To Political Office
ClickHole
We have finally found a positive social value to the Republican Party, they keep perverts off the streets.
We just had the 11th credit union closing of the year, Riverdale Credit Union in Selma, ​AL.

11 credit union failures, and only 7 commercial bank failures.

I still have no explanation for all of this.

This is Some Weird Sh%$

It's clear that the sexual harassment situation in Congress is a bipartisan phenomenon, but the Republicans have really nailed the skeevy side of things.

Case in point, Trent Franks (R-AZ) will be resigning because he tried to coerce his women staff members into renting out their uteruses (uteri?) to him:
Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who is among the most conservative members of the House, said he would resign his seat after House officials learned that he had asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.

Franks’s announcement came as the House Ethics Committee said it would create a special subcommittee to investigate Franks for conduct “that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”

His resignation, which Franks said is effective Jan. 31, will end the ethics investigation.

Franks said in his statement that the investigation concerns his “discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable.”

While Franks’s statement left the circumstances of the “discussion” murky, three Republicans familiar with the allegations said that he had asked the staffers, who worked for him at the time but have since left his office, if they would serve as a surrogate mother for his child. A spokesman for Franks did not respond to a request for comment on that claim.
Seriously, this is just f%$#ing creepy.

One would have thought that natural selection should have made them extinct by now, because it appears that the required preparation for coitus would require some seriously sick, and hard to find, sh%$.

So Not a Surprise

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is claiming that more disclosure can be a substitute for net neutrality, but his proposed changes gut disclosure.

Rule number one of Republicans is that they lie about everything.  Rule number 2 is, "See rule number 1."

Hidden fees that show up on broadband bills after customers sign up for service have long been a source of frustration for Internet users.

Because advertised prices often don't reflect the full cost of service, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. The new requirements were part of the net neutrality rules—and are therefore going to be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week.

While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to keep some of the commission's existing disclosure rules and to impose some new disclosure requirements, ISPs won't have to tell consumers exactly what everything will cost when they sign up for service.

………

Here are the disclosures that ISPs currently have to make—but won't have to after the repeal:
  • Price—the full monthly service charge. Any promotional rates should be clearly noted as such, specify the duration of the promotional period and the full monthly service charge the consumer will incur after the expiration of the promotional period.
  • Other Fees—all additional one time and/or recurring fees and/or surcharges the consumer may incur either to initiate, maintain, or discontinue service, including the name, definition, and cost of each additional fee. These may include modem rental fees, installation fees, service charges, and early termination fees, among others.
  • Data Caps and Allowances—any data caps or allowances that are a part of the plan the consumer is purchasing, as well as the consequences of exceeding the cap or allowance (e.g., additional charges, loss of service for the remainder of the billing cycle).
Pai's proposed net neutrality repeal says those requirements and others adopted in 2015 are too onerous for ISPs.

07 December 2017

First, Walk the Damn Walk


The problem here is that in order for this message to work, Democrats would have to actually support the average working man against their big dollar donors in finance.

If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you:
Democrats are ready to embrace a class war — and blame Republicans for starting it.

The GOP’s controversial dual effort to revamp the health care system and tax code has convinced Democrats they should bluntly assail Republicans as the defenders of out-of-touch plutocrats, a message party operatives have already begun to poll-test, include in attacks ads, and use against vulnerable incumbents even before Saturday’s passage of the Senate GOP bill.

And rather than wince at the inevitable retorts that the party is trying to instigate a class war, leading party strategists say they welcome the attack — confident the GOP’s legislative priorities make them a more likely culprit in the public’s mind.

“If Democrats are worried about class war, well, the Republicans started it,” said John Lapp, a veteran Democratic strategist. “And bring it on.”

Quipped one party operative: “If we’re eating the rich, they bit first.”

An avowed focus on the middle class is part of a well-worn playbook for Democrats, who traditionally regarded themselves as the defenders of workers. But they think the message has fresh resonance now, in the face of the GOP’s legislative agenda, and especially after President Donald Trump’s populist campaign promised repeatedly to defend the working class.
 Yeah.  NAFTA, TPP, CAFTA, the bank bailout, HAMP, etc.

You really build some meaningful credibility on that issue before trying to campaign on it.

Because people won't believe you otherwise, and they would be right.

Well, a Bit of Good News

MSNBC has decided to review their decision to capitulate to the alt-right pro rape flying monkeys, and so they will renew Sam Seder's contract:
Progressive radio and television personality Sam Seder will be offered his MSNBC contributor job back and plans to accept, according to multiple MSNBC sources.

Seder and MSNBC were set to part ways when his contributor contract expired next year, with reports indicating the departure had to do with a 2009 tweet from Seder surfaced by the far-right provocateur Mike Cernovich. After initially caving in to right-wing internet outrage over the tweet, MSNBC reversed its decision to not renew Seder’s contract.

………

Cernovich is a right-wing provocateur and conspiracy theorist who works in hand-in-glove with white supremacists. Cernovich dug up a 2009 tweet from Seder and claimed it endorsed rape. The tweet was meant as a satirical criticism of accused rapist Roman Polanski’s liberal defenders, but MSNBC took Cernovich’s bad-faith reading at face value and fired Seder.

“Sometimes you just get one wrong,” said MSNBC President Phil Griffin in a statement to The Intercept, “and that’s what happened here. We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”
Basically, the entire internet started going medieval on their asses for their craven cluelessness, and they realized that it was time to surrender to a different force.

What part of, "Mike Cernovich" is a pro-rape racist lying asshole don't you get?

I Hate Feet of Clay

Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday that he will resign from the Senate amid a growing number of women accusing the Democrat of kissing, groping and touching them without their consent.

Franken, who said some of the allegations were not true and others he “remembered differently,” was considered by many to be a “rising star” in the Democratic party that might have run for president in 2020.

“In the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said on the Senate floor.

“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said in reference to President Donald Trump and Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore.
Why couldn't this have been Joe Manchin?

Love Me, I'm A Liberal


Roll Phil Ochs
Liberalism is all well and good for papered staff at elite educational institutions when it doesn't actually cost them anything personally:
Georgetown University this week refused to support a movement by graduate students to unionize, arguing that teaching and research assistants are students, not employees.

The decision arrives a month after the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees asked university president John DeGioia to support their union campaign. The students said that embracing a union would align with the school’s Jesuit values affirming the dignity of labor. University leaders, however, maintain the work that graduate students contribute is fundamental to their studies and should be considered part of their education.

Georgetown’s decision echoes opposition to graduate student unions at other prestigious universities. Yale University, Boston College and Columbia University have railed against a 2016 National Labor Relations Board ruling that granted teaching and research assistants the legal protection to unionize. Yale, Columbia and Princeton posted information on their websites warning students that unionizing could alter their relationship with faculty and limit their individual rights once a union becomes their collective voice.

In a letter sent this week to the school’s graduate student alliance, Georgetown provost Robert M. Groves and Edward B. Healton, the school’s executive vice president for health sciences, said the university is “eager” to address issues that affect graduate students, but not through collective bargaining.

………

The union organizers want to join the American Federation of Teachers. To do that, they need to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for an election. Organizers say they wanted the university’s backing, but will forge ahead regardless.

“We were hoping to negotiate with Georgetown administrators about the terms of the election, but now we’ll have to proceed on our own, without their help and anticipating their active push-back,” said Hailey Huget, a doctoral candidate in philosophy and a member of the graduate student alliance. “We hoped that Georgetown would be better than this.”

University leaders say they have discussed the collective bargaining campaign with the faculty senate, academic departments and the executive committee of graduate studies, the principal policy-making body for graduate programs. That committee has since passed a resolution affirming the position that students enrolled in degree programs are students and should be treated as students, not employees.
Silly grad students, don't you realize that respect for human dignity and labor rights is only for OTHER people, and that it cannot be allowed to INCONVENIENCE the august denizens of the ivory towers of academy.

You need to focus on the bad people, you know  ……… The "Deplorables".

20 Years

Michael Slager, the former North Charleston, SC police officer filmed shooting Walter Scott in the back, and then planting his Taser on the body, has been sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison for civil rights violations after the judge determined that the underlying misconduct was murder:
Michael T. Slager, the white police officer whose video-recorded killing of an unarmed black motorist in North Charleston, S.C., starkly illustrated the turmoil over racial bias in American policing, was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison, after the judge in the case said he viewed the shooting as a murder.

The sentence, which was within the range of federal guidelines, was pronounced in Federal District Court in Charleston about seven months after Mr. Slager pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of Walter L. Scott when he shot and killed him in April 2015. The case against Mr. Slager is one of the few instances in which a police officer has been prosecuted for an on-duty shooting.

“We have to get this type of justice, because being a police officer is one of the most powerful jobs in the country, and it should be respected,” L. Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Mr. Scott’s family, said after the hearing, which was punctuated by tears and grief. “But that doesn’t mean you’re above the law. That doesn’t mean you can do as you please.”

Federal prosecutors had urged that Mr. Slager be sentenced to life in prison for a shooting that they contended amounted to second-degree murder. Mr. Slager’s defense lawyers, as well as the United States Probation Office, had recommended that the judge, David C. Norton, treat the shooting as akin to voluntary manslaughter.

On Thursday, the fourth day of the sentencing proceedings, Judge Norton said he had concluded that the killing should be considered murder for the purposes of determining Mr. Slager’s punishment. The shooting, he said, was “reckless, wanton and inappropriate.”

………

“I see him with a Taser in his hand as I see him spinning around,” Mr. Slager, who was 33 at the time of the shooting, testified later about the skirmish with Mr. Scott, who was 50. “That’s the only thing I see: that Taser in his hand.”

But Mr. Scott soon broke away, unarmed, and began to run again. Mr. Slager raised his pistol, pointed it at Mr. Scott’s back, and fired eight shots. Mr. Scott, who was at least 17 feet from Mr. Slager when the officer opened fire, fell to the ground. Moments after the shooting, Mr. Slager approached Mr. Scott and dropped his Taser near him, an action that prosecutors believed was an attempt to plant evidence and skew the investigation.

A barber who was walking to work, Feidin Santana, recorded the shooting and its aftermath on his cellphone. Mr. Santana did not immediately come forward with his recording, and the authorities initially believed Mr. Slager’s account of the encounter with Mr. Scott. But Mr. Santana’s footage transformed the case.

………

But the plea agreement with the Justice Department left open a central issue — whether the killing of Mr. Scott had been tantamount to second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. More than semantics was at stake: The answer was crucial to calculating what is known as a guidelines range for sentencing in the federal courts. Until Thursday morning, it was not clear how Judge Norton would rule.

Prosecutors argued for murder because Mr. Slager “acknowledged he willfully used unreasonable force when he shot Walter Scott, even though Scott was unarmed and posed no threat.” They also said that the judge should increase Mr. Slager’s sentence because Mr. Slager had violated Mr. Scott’s civil rights under color of law and because he had “willfully obstructed justice.”
Slager dropped the Taser moments after shooting Mr. Scott in the back 8 times.

This wasn't manslaughter, and the judge was correct in his assessment of the underlying acts that led to the civil rights violation.

Here's hoping that there are more successful prosecutions of bad cops.

Snark of the Day

Ireland To Receive €13bn From Apple After Getting Unlocked By Chinese Guy In Market
The Irish government will finally be able to collect the €13bn in taxes owed by the Apple corporation, after having the entire country unlocked by a Chinese guy working out of a shop in Moore Street called Extra Good Phone Unlock & Afro Caribbean Hair Product Store.

………

[Irish Minister for Finance Paschal] Donohoe proudly announced that the newly unlocked Ireland was now free of the tax loopholes that allowed the massive multinational corporation to pay next to no tax for a number of years, and that the 50 euro bill for the unlocking would be subtracted from the Department of Social Protection’s budget next year.

“We’ve now got a country that is not stuck in contract, so we can do whatever we want,” beamed Donohoe, picking up a few punnets of cherries while waiting on Moore Street for the country.
 This if f%$#ing brilliant.

Linkage


One of Monty Python's weirder sketches:

76 Years Ago Today

Military forces of the Empire of Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Bailey, or some-such like that.

06 December 2017

This Ain't Political Support, This is Looting


A Little Florid, but On Point
The folks at The Young Turks have come across a memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which appears purpose designed to ensure both that small dollar candidates are disadvantaged, and that consultants extract maximum money from the campaign:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is making several demands of candidates preparing for the 2018 House elections, according to an internal memo obtained by TYT. The memo dictates policies on campaign spending and sexual harassment, and outlines requirements for Democratic Party “unity.” An email accompanying the memo gives campaigns until Thursday, December 8, to respond.

The memo was sent by DCCC Executive Director Dan Sena on December 1 to candidates and campaign managers. Sena did not respond to a request for comment, nor did DCCC Communications Director Meredith Kelly.

Although the memo does not mention the highly contentious 2016 presidential primary, it includes a requirement that the campaigns must agree “not to engage in tactics that do harm to our chances of winning a General Election.” The memo does not identify what tactics it is prohibiting.

Candidates also must “hold a unity event with their primary opponents following a primary,” the memo says. What would constitute a “unity event” is also not made explicit.

………

The document also requires that candidates “establish a strong written sexual harassment policy for their campaign and all staff” and “complete an extensive online sexual harassment training, to be offered through the DCCC by a third-party vendor.” Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a freshman Democrat from Nevada, has been called on to resign by current DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luj├ín (D-N.M.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed his campaign’s finance director in 2016. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of the House, announced his “retirement” Tuesday after a slew of harassment allegations.
So, you have to pay THEIR consultant for training, even though there are a slew of non-profits out there that would do this at a minimal cost.
The memo requires that candidates hire “professional staff and consultants who can help execute a winning campaign” and says that the DCCC “will provide staff resumes and a comprehensive list of consultants” to help satisfy this requirement.

The memo mandates that candidates preserve at least 75 percent of all funds they raise for “paid communications”—which is seen as code for T.V. advertising, a method viewed by much of the new generation of Democrats as outmoded, especially for mobilizing young and minority voters who could be critical in 2018.
Again, you have to spend money on their favorite consultants, and dedicate 75% of your campaign funds to TV, which corresponds to about 22% of your campaign funds to consultants who are paid commission on ad buys.

Seriously, don't give to the DCCC, don't give to the DSCC, don't give to the DNC, give directly to campaigns, and when you do, try to ensure that they aren't overspending on overpaid Washington, DC consultants.

Right now, the entire Democratic Party establishment resembles a f%$#ing racket.

They are corrupt and incompetent.

Do not feed the flim flam men.

If There Were Only Some Proxy for Value That Could Be Use to Address Labor Shortages

Over at the NPR program Morning Edition this morning, they were reporting on the Trump administration ending the temporary protected status (TPS) for some refugees because conditions have improved in their countries

They were  because wringing their hands because ending the program might cause shortages of construction workers.

We can argue whether or not TPS status should actually be temporary, but this argument is complete crap.

If there is a shortage of construction workers, the solution is Econ 101:  You pay them more, and you pay to train them.

I understand that people like, for example, NPR correspondents don't like the idea of paying a few bucks more to have a Jacuzzi installed on their back porch, but for the rest of us, it's not a huge deal.

I am a Complete Whore, So Where is My Money

It appears that it is a not uncommon practice for brands to buy coverage on blogs.

Despite my solicitations for such filthy capitalist lucre on the front page of my blog, (right hand column toward the bottom) I have not received any offers:
Please, send me free stuff, and I will consider doing a review.

I am a complete whore, so assume that any review is the result of free stuff, and/or under the table payments.

I will do my level best to reveal such conflicts when I remember to.
I am feeling very neglected right now.

Talk About Mixed Emotions

Donald Trump just officially declared US recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.

This has been reality for 70 years, and I am a proud member of the reality based community, but I feel slightly nausious agreeing with the inverted traffic cone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Mr. Trump said from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”

The president cast his decision as a break with decades of failed policy on Jerusalem, which the United States, along with virtually every other nation in the world, has declined to recognize as the capital since Israel’s founding in 1948. That policy, he said, brought us “no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” Mr. Trump declared.
The failure of the conventional wisdom on this matter is clear, but I am less sanguine about Donald Trumps less-conventional stupidity in solving this, or anything.
The president said the decision to recognize Jerusalem should not be construed as the United States taking a position on whether, or how, the city might ultimately be shared. But he offered little solace to the Palestinians, making no mention of their long-held hopes for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been a fact for 70 years. It's an incontrovertible fact.

However, the disposition of EAST Jerusalem, which became Israeli territory only after the 6-Day War is NOT a fact, and IS up for negotiation.
At least one former Obama administration official also weighed in with sharp criticism. John O. Brennan, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said in a statement that Mr. Trump’s action was “reckless” and would “damage U.S. interests in the Middle East for years to come and will make the region more volatile.”
Well, now we know the position of the House of Saud, because Brennan has been the Saudi Princes' bitch since early in his CIA career.
Jerusalem is one of the world’s most fiercely contested swaths of real estate, with each side disputing the other’s claims. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and most of the world considers it occupied territory. Jerusalem’s Old City has the third-holiest mosque in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism, making the city’s status a sensitive issue for Muslims and Jews alike. Jerusalem is also sacred ground to Christians.
Hence the need to clearly state, which he did, that there are still negotiations to be had on this matter.

I don't think that this will make any difference in the long term situation, because I don't think that ANYTHING will make a difference in the long term situation.

It will be interesting to watch the Palestinian Authority's response.

05 December 2017

Auferre Trucidare Rapere Falsis Nominibus Imperium, Atque Ubi Solitudinem Faciunt, Pacem Appellant

I am of course quoting Tacitus:
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
It is a quote that he attributes to a speech by Celtic chieftan Calgacus, in his biography of his father in law,  Gnaeus Julius Agricola, though the whole speech is almost universally considered to be a literary creation of Tacitus.

The Agricola is more than a history though, it is a critique of the corruption and lack of freedom of the Roman Empire.

I also see it as a metaphor for Hillary Clinton, whose history evokes the Calgacus speech.

Whether it's her failure as Chair of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, her support of the Iraq war well past its sell by date, her advocacy for the destruction of Libya, her vociferous support of gutting welfare and making war on minorities through the crime bill, her 2008 campaign, her 2016 campaign, etc. she is an avatar of a hapless ruling class in a corrupt empire.

She is unable, and likely unwilling, to think beyond the conventional wisdom, she values loyalty over competence, and her staff has been the proverbial bucket of crabs, where internal conflict results in the failure of all.

This has created a record of failure, and generate a reputation for intellect, that rivals that of Richard Bruce Cheney.

She is a marker of imperial decay.

The same cannot be said for Donald Trump.  He is the very archetype of the barbarian at the gate.

He's is like the Visigoths who sacked Rome.

If you are wondering why I am drawing parallels with the decline and fall of Rome, it is because I see the something very similar going on now in the United States.

John Conyers Has Left the House

Representative John Conyers Jr., under intense pressure to resign amid multiplying allegations that he sexually harassed former employees, announced Tuesday that he would leave Congress immediately, and he endorsed his son John Conyers III to succeed him.

Mr. Conyers, 88, the “dean” of the House and the longest-serving African-American representative in history, acquiesced to weeks of pressure from fellow Democrats. But by trying to keep his Detroit-area seat in the family, he touched off a family feud between his 27-year-old son and his great-nephew Ian Conyers, a state senator from Michigan who also plans to run in a special House election.

In a phone interview, Ian Conyers said that his great-uncle encouraged him to run for the seat days before deciding to step down. Now the two younger Conyerses will most likely face off in what may become a battle over the legacy of Mr. Conyers, considered an icon to many black people.

“I said, ‘Sir, if you decide that you’re going to retire, give me a heads-up because I’m going to run for your seat and keep doing the work that you have been up to,’” Ian Conyers said. “He said, ‘Absolutely. You go for it. Run.’”
I will note that this sh%$ HAD to have become common knowledge in the Congress at some point in the past 52 years he has served.

Who were his enablers?

Really Classy, Dude

A patient with stage 4 cancer showed up to Dean Heller's (R-NV) town hall to ask about healthcare and Obamacare, he had her ejected.

Even by the standards of Republicans, this is remarkably cheesy.

Somehow or Other, They Are Going to Get Rat F%$%Ed

The Indian pharmaceutical company Laurus Labs is planning to start selling low cost HIV drugs in the US as they come off patent:
Among the coconut plantations and beaches of South India, a factory the size of 35 football fields is preparing to churn out billions of generic pills for HIV patients and flood the U.S. market with the low-cost copycat medicines.

U.S. patents on key components for some important HIV therapies are poised to expire starting in December and Laurus Labs Ltd. -- the Hyderabad, India-based company which owns the facility -- is gearing up to cash in.

Laurus is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of ingredients used in anti-retrovirals, thanks to novel chemistry that delivers cheaper production costs than anyone else. Now, its chief executive officer, Satyanarayana Chava, wants to use the same strategy selling his own finished drugs in the U.S. and Europe. He predicts some generics that Laurus produces will eventually sell for 90 percent less than branded HIV drugs in the U.S., slashing expenditures for a disease that’s among the costliest for many insurers.

………

"The savings for U.S. payers will be so huge when these generic combination drugs are available in the U.S.," he said in an interview at the factory outside the Southern Indian city of Visakhapatnam. Payers will save "billions of dollars," he said.

The patent expiries are starting this month when Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Sustiva loses protection. Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Viread follows next month. Both companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Would expect to see another round of evergreening, along with regulatory and judiciary road blocks to stop this.

After all, it's only people's lives, and the profits must be protected.

Metaphor of the Day

Over at Naked Capitalism, I suggested in the comments that, as I have here, given the problems creating a majority coalition, Frau Merkel* should at least make a proforma effort to bring in Die Linke (The Left) into the coalition.

Well, this engendered the following response, which is one for the ages:
Sid Finster:
Ain’t gonna happen. It would be the equivalent of asking ‘OK, which one of you just farted?” during an audience with the Pope.

Some things cannot be acknowledged, especially among Europeans, who have created a political system based almost entirely on pretense. Even if the assembled petitioners are turning green and retching from the rancid stank and the Holy Father has s stupid grin on his mug, everyone has to carry on like everything is normal.

Because Europe is so committed the pretense of “More Europe!”, to “fake it until you make it”, it is particularly bad form to point out that Europe is faking it.
I love the f%$#ing internet.

*Horses whinnying.

04 December 2017

Tweet of the Day


No snark shortage here.

Schadenfreude, Bill O'Reilly Edition

One of Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment victims is now suing him.

There was a settlement with him some years back, but O'Reilly could not keep his mouth site, and the agreement included mutual non-disparagement clauses, so she gets another bite at the apple:
Looking for a biography of fired Fox News host Bill O’Reilly? Try this one, with the title: “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up.”

Prophetic. The fallen cable news star was sued Monday in a New York federal court for, essentially, failing to shut up. Some background: As the New York Times reported in a career-killing April 1 article, O’Reilly, along with his employer, had settled several cases with female colleagues alleging mistreatment and sexual harassment over a 20-year career at Fox News. One of them was Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, a producer who, in 2002, ended up on the wrong end of an O’Reilly tantrum. Sexual harassment was not alleged, though Bernstein reached a settlement and left Fox News.

………

The complaint filed Monday comes from Witlieb Bernstein, who alleges breach of contract — she and O’Reilly signed non-disparage and confidentiality agreements as part of the 2002 settlement — and defamation. Written by Neil Mullin and Nancy Erika Smith of Smith Mullin, P.C., it spits at O’Reilly’s attempts to save face. The statements published in the media, notes the complaint, try to paint O’Reilly as a “target” of extortionate claims. “This is false,” reads the complaint. “In fact, he is a serial abuser and Ms. Bernstein’s complaints against him were far from extortionate.” Another element of the complaint addresses O’Reilly’s oft-repeated insistence that he was never the subject of a complaint to human resources departments over his career. “I never mistreated anyone,” he said in one interview. He also alleged that the charges against him were “politically and financially motivated.”

“In fact, Mr. O’Reilly is the liar,” says the complaint, which also lists Fox News as a defendant. “He mistreated Ms. Bernstein. She was forced out of her job at Fox News and paid a settlement because of his mistreatment.” Contrary to O’Reilly’s claims, Witlieb Bernstein did indeed go to human resources and “other company executives” to raise her complaints about O’Reilly, argues the suit. That she apparently got nowhere isn’t a surprise: The HR department at the time was a captive hive of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who was ousted in summer 2016 over sexual-harassment claims and died in May. In response to the Ailes and O’Reilly scandals, Fox News has strengthened its HR functions; the HR chief now reports to 21st Century Fox, and not to Fox News.
I am extremely amused.

Typical MSNBC

I've not watched MSNBC in a few years.

Between firing Olbermann, being in the tank for Clinton in the primaries, and Rachael Maddow's Mort Sahl style conspiracy theory meltdown, I've given up on them.

Really, the only time I notice them these days is when the unresolved mommy issues that Joy Reid addresses with her boosterism of Hillary Clinton make the Twitter machine explode.

Well, now MSNBC has fired Sam Seder because of a Tweet mocking people who wanted Roman Polanski to avoid prosecution for rape because he is a marvelous director:*
MSNBC has decided not to renew its contract with contributor Sam Seder after an old tweet emerged in which Seder joked about Roman Polanski raping his daughter, TheWrap has learned.

Seder’s contract ends in February and he has no scheduled appearances between now and then, a spokesperson for MSNBC told TheWrap.

Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,” wrote Seder in the now deleted tweet from 2009.
(emphasis mine)

It appears that alt-right bro-blogger Mike Cernovich, promulgator of the Pizzagate fraud, came across the tweet, and the Right wing rent a crowd swung into action, and MSNBC fired Seder.

By comparison, Joy "Mommy Issues" Reid was was found to use bigoted homophobic terms in an attempt to out former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and management is still cool with her:
Recently resurfaced internet archives show political commentator Joy Reid wrote a dozen blog posts in 2007, 2008, and 2009 that contained homophobic conspiracies and anti-gay jokes.

The MSNBC weekend host ran a blog called The Reid Report — which is the same name as her now-defunct cable news show — a decade ago while she wrote for the Miami Herald. As first resurfaced by Twitter user Jamie_Maz, Reid wrote numerous bigoted blog posts smearing, mocking, and attacking former Florida governor Charlie Crist. These rants included calling Crist “Miss Charlie” and sarcastically using the tags “gay politicians” and “not gay politicians” — despite the fact that the twice-married, heterosexual man has never come-out as gay.

Reid went on to spread the crackpot conspiracy theory that Crist was actually a closeted gay man who refused to come out for fear that his sexual orientation would hurt his political career. Additionally, the AM Joy host claims Crist’s marriages to women are part of this elaborate cover up.

As bad as the conspiracy theory is in itself, Reid doesn’t just suggest Cris is gay — she assumes he is gay and proceeds to attack him for it. “Miss Charlie, Miss Charlie. Stop pretending, brother. It’s okay that you don’t go for the ladies,” wrote Reid in a 2007 post.
 Casting homophobic slurs and attempting to out someone is OK, but showing the hypocrisy of people who think that the movie Chinatown is good enough to justify rape is somehow beyond the pale.

MSNBC has become a very f%$#ed up place.

*Actually, I do support an end to his prosecution, but not because of the quality of his movies.  I object to further prosecution because the misbehavior of the prosecutor(s) and judge(s) in this matter are so egregious to demand such an action. Sometimes why matters.

Something Good About the US Senate

Truth be told, I am not generally a fan of the Senate. I have referred to it as a Petri dish for narcissistic sociopaths in the past.

That being said, on rare occasions, its rather arcane rules occasionally yield positive results:
Congressional Republicans can’t use their tax cuts for the rich to define and codify the view that life begins at fertilization, according to the rules of the U.S. Senate.

The GOP’s initial tax proposals in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate each conferred 529 college savings plan benefits to an “unborn child…at any stage of development” in an unprecedented attempt to wield the tax code against reproductive rights. Republicans on Capitol Hill have long sought deeply unpopular fetal “personhood” bills that try to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as “persons,” and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to life from the moment of conception. Personhood laws, repeatedly rejected by voters across the United States, would criminalize abortion with no exception and ban many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for pregnant people.

The latest fetal personhood effort ultimately violated rules associated with the fast-track process Republicans are using to pass their tax bill. Under “reconciliation,” Republicans need a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate instead of the 60-vote threshold typically required to bypass a filibuster and pass controversial legislation. But reconciliation is subject to the Byrd rule, which puts the kibosh on provisions that are “merely incidental” to the budget.

In other words, Congress can’t wield the reconciliation process for the sake of a political agenda.
This is a good outcome, but I would still like to see the Senate more like the House, because it is a truly dysfunctional body.

There, It Wasn't So Hard

After much complaining, Apple agrees to pay over $15,400,000,000,00 in taxes to Ireland, and Ireland agreed to take it after complaining mightily.

Neither of them wanted that to happen.  Apple cut a tax deal with Ireland, that the EU deemed an illegal subsidy, and so Apple had to pay back taxes, which Ireland objected to even more than Apple.

Basically, Ireland's economic model is to be an economic vassal of multinational corporations, and so they don't want to collect taxes due.

Think of it as Amazon's 2nd city competition writ even larger.

I'd call it corporate welfare, but it's more like extortion.

Linkage



The care and feeding of cast iron cookware:

03 December 2017

Running America Like a Business: Burning It down for the Insurance Money

Case in point, Pittsburgh's increasingly privatized water system, which is now also increasingly lead tainted:
“The government should be run like a great American company,” Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser (who is also an alleged slumlord and the future broker of peace in the Middle East) told The Washington Post last March. “Our hope is that we can achieves successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.” President Trump’s administration touts private enterprise as the solution to any and all challenges faced by public projects—from budget waste to bureaucratic delays to low test scores, the market can fix it all.

………

Yet governments, local and federal, frequently look to the private sector to solve their problems. And it’s no wonder: They need help. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the entire country a D+ on its 2017 infrastructure report card. “From the crumbling bridges of California to the overflowing sewage drains of Houston and the rusting railroad tracks in the Northeast Corridor,” reads a 2016 piece in The New Yorker, “decaying infrastructure is all around us.”

Pittsburgh, in an attempt to deal with entrenched infrastructure problems, turned to the private sector in 2012 when it partnered with the French management firm Veolia North America, the same water-management company that would fail to disclose Flint’s lead-contamination problem in 2015. Alongside aging infrastructure that produced frequent water-main breaks, flush and boil advisories, and wildly incorrect billing statements, PWSA was in massive debt. Veolia promised to streamline the public utility—in fact, its Peer Performance Solutions model, which embeds private-sector consultants with public-sector employees, won the company an award from the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships in 2014, a little more than a year after it began partnering with PWSA. The organization lauded Veolia for identifying $2.3 million in new PWSA revenue and $3 million more in operating savings, a move incentivized by their contract that stipulated the company could keep 40 percent of every dollar it saved the city. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a glowing account of PWSA’s partnership with Veolia, despite reports that it laid off 23 employees, many of whom were longtime employees with critical institutional knowledge. The private sector had seemingly done its job, weeding out inefficiencies and saving the authority millions.

But this August, a consulting group hired to assess the organization’s current state announced in a public meeting that PWSA was “a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure” with “an aging system in demonstrably worse condition than any water utility of its size in the country.” Not only that, water tests showed that since the partnership began, Pittsburgh’s water had been tainted with dangerously high levels of lead.

………

PWSA, like community water systems across the country, had been dealing with the challenges of operating aging infrastructure long before the public-private partnership. And these issues were only complicated further by poor management—the authority was infamous for its high rates and billing mistakes that verged on the absurd. But at least the water didn’t boast dangerously high rates of lead.

In the summer of 2016, when Pittsburgh’s water was tested for the first time since Veolia began instituting changes, the resulting lead levels exceeded the federal limit. Before Veolia, the water authority had long supplemented its water with soda ash, a substance very similar to baking soda that lines the inside of pipes to prevent corrosion. But under Veolia’s management, it switched to caustic soda—which, while approved for use, is generally acknowledged as an inferior, cheaper, means of corrosion control. The switch to caustic soda stripped the inside of PWSA’s pipes, removing the layer of minerals previously deposited by soda ash, helping leach lead into the city’s drinking water.

The mayor and the City of Pittsburgh say they were never notified of the change. The state Department of Environmental Protection demanded immediate testing when notified PWSA had switched back to soda ash and chastised PWSA for making unapproved modifications to the water-treatment process. Veolia says it had no part in the decision, arguing the PWSA board approved the switch—a board made up of half Veolia executives and half members of PWSA’s Board of Directors. And according to The Guardian, “Under Veolia’s management, PWSA’s new executive director, James Good, a longtime Veolia employee and former private water lobbyist, became the second-highest paid public employee in the region. He earned $240,000 a year with generous benefits.”
The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and its British cousin, the QUANGO (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organization) have not proved to be successes.

It's not surprising.  When you juxtapose taxpayer money with a lack of accountability, incompetence and corruption are what you are paying for.

Not a Currency

Fundamentally, one of the critical characteristics of currency is that it be current.

It needs to be there when you need to spend it, and not appreciate by 1000% in a year or lose one-fifth of its value in 24 hours.

While there are exceptions, Wiemar Germany Deutschmarks and Zimbabwean Dollars come to mind, currency should be a relatively stable means of exchange of commerce.

Bitcoin is not this.  It's a trip to the casino:
Bitcoin slid to as low as $9,000 in volatile trade on Thursday, having lost more than a fifth of its value since hitting an all-time high of $11,395 on Wednesday. BTC=BTSP.

The cryptocurrency fell as much as 8 percent on Thursday on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange to hit $9,000 exactly, marking a fall of well over $2,000 in under 24 hours. It then edged back up to trade at around $9,400 in the hour that followed, still down roughly 4 percent on the day. (Graphic: Bitcoin searches exceeds that of Trump - reut.rs/2zSavA6)

One market-watcher attributed the fall to outages in bitcoin exchanges and the heavy price surge of recent times.

“Naturally a few of the early bitcoin traders are taking some profits off the table,” said Charles Hayter, founder of CryptoCompare.com.

“Volatility is in the market at the moment and that means both positive and negative moves.”
While the technology behind Bit Coin, the block chain, appears to be generally sound, for any crypto-currency to function as a working means of exchange, it needs to have some sort of stability engineered in.

Otherwise, it's just a speculative vehicle.

Tweet of the Day


That's gonna leave a mark.

Passed in the Dark of Night

On a 51-49 vote, the Senate has passed its version of tax cuts a few minutes ago.

I would note that, to the best of my knowledge, this was a vote on a bill that Senate Democrats literally could not read the bill because it was full of handwritten scrawls in the margins.

Needless to say, this is f%$#ed up beyond belief.

For their next act, they will try to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, though since the Senate bill contains the chained CPI, there is already a cut proposed.

This is f%$#ed up.

02 December 2017

What a Surprise, Ajit Pai is a Lying Sack of Sh%$

The FCC Chairman has been asserting that net neutrality cripples investment in broadband.

It turns out that this is unequivocally false:
You'll recall that ISPs (and the lobbyists, think tanks, politicians, and consultants paid to love them) argued incessantly that if we passed net neutrality rules, investment in broadband infrastructure would grind to a halt, leaving us all weeping gently over our clogged tubes. ISPs like Verizon proudly proclaimed that net neutrality rules would "jeopardize our investment and the development of innovation in Broadband Internet and related services." ISP-tied think tanks released study after statistically-massaged study claiming that net neutrality (and the reclassification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II) would be utterly catastrophic for the broadband industry and its consumers alike.

But as time wore on it became abundantly clear that these warnings were the empty prattle of a broken industry, using a thick veneer of bunk science to defend its monopoly over the uncompetitive broadband last mile.

Since net neutrality was passed there has been absolutely no evidence that a single one of these claims had anything even remotely resembling merit, with broadband expansion pushing forward at full speed, constrained only by the ongoing lack of competition in many markets. We've watched as outfits like Google Fiber continue to expand its footprint. We've watched as Verizon suddenly promised to deploy fiber to cities long neglected. We've watched as Comcast and AT&T rushed to try and keep pace with gigabit investments of their own. In short, nothing changed, and things may have even improved.
This is not a surprise.

There isn't a lot of money in supplying customer with better and more technically advanced service.

The money is in leveraging monopoly rents, hence things like the lobbying of state legislatures to prohibit municipal broadband.

01 December 2017

Pass the Popcorn


Lock Him UP!
Michel Flynn has just copped a plea with Robert Mueller:
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and, in an ominous sign for the White House, said he is cooperating in the ongoing probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.

When Flynn was forced out of the White House in February, officials said he had misled the administration, including Vice President Pence, about his contacts with Kislyak. But court records and people familiar with the contacts indicated he was acting in consultation with senior Trump transition officials, including President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in his dealings with the diplomat.

Flynn’s plea revealed that he was in touch with senior Trump transition officials before and after his communications with the ambassador.

………

“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

………

The records say that a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team” directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, about the U.N. resolution on Israel. That official is also not named, but people familiar with the matter said it refers to Kushner. According to one transition team official, Kushner told Flynn that blocking the resolution was a top priority of the president-elect.

Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s attorney, declined to comment.
The article implies that there was a Logan Act violation, but but there hasn't been a single successful prosecution under the Logan act in the 218 years it has been on the books, and the behaviors seem to fall under the rubric of free speech.

On the other hand, the, "The best interests of my family and of our country," comment implies that a part of the plea deal might have involved his son not getting prosecuted.

In any case, it should be an interesting time, in the Chinese curse sense, in the White House right now. (Caveat: What follows a likely a parody account)


How It's Done

Jeremy Corbyn is is in the house:
Britain’s opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Morgan Stanley that bankers are right to regard him as a threat because he wants to transform what he cast as a rigged economy that profits speculators at the expense of ordinary people.

Morgan Stanley cautioned investors on Nov. 26 that political uncertainty in Britain was a bigger threat than Brexit given the risk of Corbyn winning power and then dismantling what was once seen as one of the world’s most stable free-market economies.

“Bankers like Morgan Stanley should not run our country but they think they do,” Corbyn, a 68-year-old socialist, said in a video posted on Twitter that showed the towers of the City of London and Canary Wharf financial districts.

“So when they say we’re a threat, they’re right: We’re a threat to a damaging and failed system that is rigged for the few,” he said.

………

Now many investors fear Corbyn, who was once dismissed by his own party as an out-of-touch peace campaigner with no hope of ever winning power, could win the top job if the political turmoil continues in London.

One senior executive at a top U.S. investment bank said that at a meeting in New York recently concerns over Corbyn trumped concerns about Brexit.

“Their top concern was not what’s happening in Germany and Spain, or North Korea and Trump: their main concern was what’s happening in the UK and what Corbyn might mean for the country,” the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Big, scary, socialist Jeremy Corbyn is scaring those poor banksters.

They are afraid that they won't be able to keep looting.

My heart bleeds borscht for them.

The Joys of Hyperlinks

In a rather alarming article about the contractor looting that is the F-35 program, POGO revealed a little gem:
Military officials like to say that contractors actually cut costs and take care of the support functions, allowing the troops to focus on winning the war. Whether or not a contractor really “frees a Marine to fight” is debatable. Using contractors does provide a convenient means by which Administrations can mask the size of our military commitments to these places by adhering to caps on the official numbers of troops deployed in the strict sense of the actual number of uniformed military personnel deployed. These force caps rarely include contractor personnel. And contractors are hardly more economical. A 2011 Project On Government Oversight study found contractors can cost the government more than twice the amount (PDF) of an equivalent government employee.
Following the above link down the rabbit hole gets us to this:
Based on the current public debate regarding the salary comparisons of federal and private sector employees, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO)1 decided to take on the task of doing what others have not—comparing total annual compensation for federal and private sector employees with federal contractor billing rates in order to determine whether the current costs of federal service contracting serves the public interest.

The current debate over pay differentials largely relies on the theory that the government pays private sector compensation rates when it outsources services. This report proves otherwise: in fact, it shows that the government actually pays service contractors at rates far exceeding the cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable functions.

POGO's study analyzed the total compensation paid to federal and private sector employees, and am-1ml billing rates for contractor employees across 35 occupational classifications covering over 550 service activities. Our findings were shocking—POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services. Specifically, POGO's study shows that the federal government approves service contract billing rates—deemed fair and reasonable—that pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the total compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services.

Additional key findings include:
  • Federal government employees were less expensive than contractors in 33 of the 35 occupational classifications POGO reviewed.
  • In one instance, contractor billing rates were nearly 5 times more than the full compensation paid to federal employees performing comparable services.
  • Private sector compensation was lower than contractor billing rates in all 35 occupational classifications we reviewed.
  • The federal government has failed to determine how much money it saves or wastes by outsourcing, insourcing, or retaining services, and has no system for doing so.
POGO's investigation highlights two basic facts about outsourcing government work to contractors. First, comparing federal to private sector compensation reveals nothing about what it actually costs the government to outsource services. The only analysis that will shed light on the true costs of government is that of contractor billing rates and the full cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable work. The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan recently completed a fundamental study of costs, and found that, in certain contingency operations, although savings resulted from hiring local or third-country nationals, military and civilian employees can cost less than hiring American contractors.
I'm glad that someone else has noticed this.